Sensemaking During Crisis: Untangling Uncertainty and the Creation of Resilience

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This thesis concerns the responses of a European oil and gas company and its expatriates during the Arab Spring in Libya and Egypt. I analysed 13 interviews with expatriates by using membership categorisation analysis to establish how the organisation managed the events. In doing so, I highlighted how the expatriates used categorisation devices to voice their uncertainty perceptions, sensemaking and resilience to navigate through the crisis. For each concept, I demonstrated how membership categorisation plays a crucial role as a construction mechanism. People use their category devices as instruments for their sensemaking, uncertainty experience and expression and as resources and capabilities for resilience creation. I observed how people described their states of uncertainty and constructed them as reflective narratives of a crisis situation. Regarding sensemaking, the category devices function as instruments for sensemaking to simplify the world while the creation of the ‘other’ category device, as a relational pair, helps to redefine oneself in the wake of a crisis. Last, I demonstrated how participants generated resilience while aligning decision-making with changes occurring in their environment. I cautioned that in the event that resilience is enforced as an ‘entrapment’ of employees, it has the potential to cause in employees adverse cognitive and behavioural consequences towards the organisation.
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