Silencing Emotions: Survival through Narrating and Narrating for Survival

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


In this paper, we address how individuals cope with emotional distress when working in extreme contexts. To address this issue, we examined 53 personal diaries of medical professionals working with "Doctors Without Borders" in war-torn environments. These environments are characterized by a "culture of silence", where despite being encouraged to share and speak about their experiences and emotions, individuals tend to remain silent and some resort to writing narratives (personal diaries) as a way to cope. By analyzing their narratives, we illustrate how new entrants to the field initially attempt to disrupt the unwritten rule of "silencing" emotions but soon succumb to maintaining that culture of silence despite not being told by colleagues to remain silent. Our findings contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how individuals deal with emotional distress by introducing the notion of "silencing emotions" and offer contributions at the nexus of emotions, organizational silence and institutional contradictions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019: Understanding the Inclusive Organization - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 79


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Silence
  • Grand challenges
  • Emotions
  • Narratives
  • Institutional contradictions
  • War zone

Cite this