Stories as artworks: Giving form to dignity in connections at work

Stories as artworks: Giving form to dignity in connections at work



Journal of Business Ethics, February 2016




This paper is a conceptual essay rooted in two basic observations. First, felt dignity—the subjective sense people have of their own autonomy and self-worth—ulti- mately emerges from, and is thus most evident in the connective space between people. Second, stories are everyday works of art that afford unique insight into the subtle complexities of the socio-emotional realities of work. Building on these observations, we describe how personal stories about episodes of interpersonal connec- tions and disconnections at work—moments in which we feel mutual appreciation and empowerment or a sense of separation and distancing from another—can help us better understand the felt experience of dignity at work. In attending to such personal stories as art, we become more attuned to their felt, aesthetic qualities, which then helps us develop a more holistic and visceral appreciation of how actors experience, make sense of, and (re-)claim felt dig- nity. In support of our ideas, we present a few illustrative story excerpts and briefly consider how a select few aes- thetic qualities—the way the stories’ elements are config- ured, the stories’ acuity or sharpness, and their rawness—enhance the felt impact of the stories and help to remind of their and the storytellers’ intrinsic value.