Svensson & Hällgren – Sensemaking in sensory deprived settings: The role of non-verbal auditory cues for emergency assessment

Emergency calls are high-stake situations characterized by volatile and time-critical conditions. The use of the telephone restricts sensory perception to a single modality—hearing—which makes both sensemaking and embodied sensemaking more difficult. Using observations, interviews, and organizational documents, we unveil how attention to the non-verbal cues of callers and their surroundings assists emergency operators to make sense of incoming calls for help. We find that operators use two practices to prioritize the calls: a frame-confirming practice and a frame-modifying practice. The practices are underpinned by configurations of verbal and non-verbal cues, wherein caller’s emotional expressions and environmental sounds are both considered as distinct input. The non-verbal focus in this study extends our understanding of first-order sensemaking within the emergency domain but also in other sensory deprived settings in high-consequence industries. The contributions of this analysis to sensemaking research reside in the revelation that non-verbal cues contextualize and consequently frame the discursive elements of sensemaking. More specifically, this research offers the insight that embodies sensemaking benefits from attention being given to callers’ non-verbal cues, rather than valuing only one’s own bodily experiences and mere verbal descriptions about events.

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Kent – Giving Meaning to Everyday Work After Terrorism

Global terrorism in the early 21st century appears to be an inevitable part of organizational life. Even among people not personally injured in an attack, the immediate aftermath can be a period of hardship, stress and sensemaking. This paper develops theory about how people give meaning to their work after terrorism. In contrast to views of everyday work as something that loses significance in times of such tragedy, I outline the conditions under which individuals are also likely to find positive meaning in it. Doing so, I integrate varied findings about workplace responses to terrorism and provide a basis for empirical testing rooted in theories of work meaning, sensemaking and the cultural response to disaster. The paper concludes with implications for research and practice.