Discursive strategies for internal legitimacy: Narrating the alternative organizational form

Martijn van der Steen, Martin Quinn, Alonso Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a large literature addressing organizational appeals to external legitimacy. However, there is a more limited understanding of the ways in which organizational units in hybrid organizations seek to secure internal legitimacy. This study draws on more than a century of communications in a Dutch cooperative bank to uncover how a major organizational unit enacted distinct discursive strategies to seek internal legitimacy. The paper extends prior work by showing how internal legitimacy work – the efforts to shape, reinforce, or suppress internal legitimacy judgments – in a hybrid organization is a dynamic process whereby an internal unit generates multiple complementary narratives to promote a fit between its own attributes and the legitimacy evaluations by internal audiences. In addition, it shows how internal legitimacy work can promote this fit by attempting to manipulate not only the impressions of the internal unit’s attributes, but also its audiences’ understanding of wider cultural norms of the day, on which their legitimacy judgments are based. In this vein, the paper highlights how discursive internal legitimacy work seeks to generate a taken-for-granted organizational position for the internal units concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102162
JournalLong Range Planning
Early online date10 Nov 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 10 Nov 2021


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