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Managers’ and employees’ contradictory argumentations of spatial change

Jaana Näsänen (Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
Outi Vanharanta (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, School of Science, Aalto University, Aalto, Finland)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 2 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a qualitative study concerning managers’ and employees’ rhetorical evaluations of a spatial organizational change.


The approach of rhetorical social psychology is applied to study how the actors of an organization speak about a transformation from a single-room office setting to an open, multi-space office. The material consists of 36 interviews.


It was found that the responsible managers and employees used contradictory argumentation of what “real work” is like and what the change will result in as rhetorical resources when supporting and contesting the transformation. Although their set of arguments and counter-arguments drew from the same beliefs and values, they were used for opposite purposes.

Practical implications

The results of this research advance awareness of the multidimensional and contradictory nature of change rhetoric and this understanding can be utilized in supporting more effective change programs. For example, instead of constructing unnecessary polarizations between those who resist change and its supporters, the study facilitates to identify the ambiguity of argumentation related to change and the differing symbolic meanings subscribed to.


The study contributes to the organizational change literature by showing the ambiguity of change rhetoric and the contradictory nature of argumentation, both within the talk of specific employee groups and between groups.



The authors are grateful to Kari Vesala and Sanni Tiitinen for their valuable comments on the manuscript and The Future Industrial Services program and The Finnish Work Environment Fund for their financial support. The funding sources had no role in the study design (data collection and analysis), the writing process or the decision to submit the paper for publication.


Näsänen, J. and Vanharanta, O. (2017), "Managers’ and employees’ contradictory argumentations of spatial change", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 844-857.



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