The award recognizes Baker and his coauthors’ research on job-loss narratives and moving on after being laid off.
Losing a job, no matter what stage of life you are in, is a tremendous challenge, and every person who experiences this constructs a different narrative to help themselves move on. The very fact that people create such narratives—and the process they go through to do so—led BYU Assistant Professor Matt Baker (Editing, Business Communication) to seek answers. He worked closely with colleagues Rachel Collier Murdock (Des Moines Area Community College) and Stacy Tye-Williams (Iowa State University) to research the topic. Their paper “The Working World Is a Minefield: Counterstories of Job Loss” won the Outstanding State Manuscript Award for 2023.
In the paper, they summarize findings from interviews that they conducted with people who had experienced job loss. They write, “We discovered that . . . the master narrative of working hard and being successful was often not the reality.” The authors found that people who lost their jobs often spun “counternarratives” in which they framed themselves as being liberated from undesirable jobs, repudiating the employers that terminated them, or merely being victims of unfortunate circumstances.
The paper attracted the attention of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA), which granted Baker and his coauthors the award. The award recognizes the best manuscript at the annual CSCA conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, from March 29 until April 2. Baker and his coauthors attended the conference to accept the award.
“When people close to us lose a job and reach out for help, I hope we will push back against the social stigma that something must be wrong with them,” Baker says. “We can take the time to listen to their job-loss story without judgment, support them in their new job search, and help them realize that their identity doesn’'t hinge upon their occupation or their employment status.”