Dominant, Hidden and Forbidden Sensemaking: The Politics of Ideology and Emotions in Diversity Management

Elisabeth Naima Mikkelsen*, Randi Wåhlin

*Corresponding author for this work

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An important but understudied issue in the study of organisational sensemaking concerns how power and politics influence sensemaking processes, specifically the political struggles immanent in collective processes of meaning construction and organising. When people are located at different areas and levels in the organisational hierarchy and they draw on different experiences and areas of knowledge, they often develop conflicting interpretations, which may compete for legitimacy. To capture the dimension of power in sensemaking, we combine the sensemaking perspective with a poststructuralist feminist conception of power, as this allows us to explore the mechanisms through which some sensemaking becomes legitimate whereas others remain marginalised. We specifically explore the ideological resources that shape the terrain within which a diverse workforce interpret, enact and emotionally experience diversity management in a local branch of a global retail chain store. The study used in-depth interviews and participant observations to provide insight into the complex mechanisms that are employed to control the definition of a specific situation, mapping out a hierarchical system of dominant, hidden and forbidden sensemaking of diversity management. The article concludes that the political processes of sensemaking deeply implicate emotions as a central force that facilitates the ongoing reproduction of social order. Our study, therefore, highlights the need to conceive of sensemaking, power and emotions as a complex nexus of the micro-political practices in which certain terrains of action unfold, allowing collective organising to occur.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)557-577
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 1. March 2019


  • Diversity management
  • Emotions
  • Ideology
  • Power
  • Sensemaking

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