Dreaming of flying while grounded: identity narratives of laid off pilots

Dreaming of flying while grounded: identity narratives of laid off pilots

Date: 3 April 2013 Time: 4.30 pm

Presented by: Yiannis Gabriel, Professor of Organizational Theory at the University of Bath.

A seminar that will be of interest to those who work with professionals, work in Human Resources and organisational change or who are interested in the issues of work and identity.


Prof. Gabriel has researched casualisation and its effects on the piloting profession. This presentation will examine the impact of unemployment on the ways professionals construct their identities, by examining a group of airline pilots who have been laid-off (‘furloughed’) twice as a result of the far-ranging changes undergone by the US aviation industry since 9/11. Using a narrative methodology, the presentation will discuss two responses. One, the ‘moving on’ narrative, expresses the subject positions of pilots who had retrained and developed their careers in new areas while the other - the ‘stuck’ narrative - describes the position of those pilots who waited to be recalled and found it impossible to reinvent themselves in new careers. Both groups identified deeply with their profession and, ambivalently, with their company. Two interesting aspects of pilots’ identities will be explored. First, how they are anchored in a powerful childhood dream of flying, and second, how they are challenged when their careers suffer.

About the presenter:

Professor Yiannis Gabriel has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannis is known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, psychoanalytic theory, management learning and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena including leader-follower relations, group dynamics and fantasies, nostalgia, insults and apologies. He is the author of nine books, including Organizations in Depth (1999), Storytelling in Organizations (2000) and The Unmanageable Consumer (with Tim Lang) (2006). He has been editor of Management Learning and associate editor of Human Relations and is currently Senior Editor of Organization Studies. His enduring fascination as a researcher lies in what he describes as the unmanageable qualities of life in and out of organizations.

Hosted by the Industrial Relations Centre as part of their 2013 Work and Employment Seminar Series in collaboration with the School of Management. RSVP by Thursday March 28 to irc-events@vuw.ac.nz