City Research Online

Sensing the room: the role of atmosphere in collective sensemaking

Knight, E., Lok, J., Jarzabkowski, P. ORCID: 0000-0001-8674-6628 & Wenzel, M. (2024). Sensing the room: the role of atmosphere in collective sensemaking. Academy of Management Journal,


Drawing on video recordings, interviews, and first-hand observations of a strategic project team at an electronic bank, we explore the role of atmosphere in collective sensemaking. By analyzing collective entanglements of bodily tonality and interaction, we show how distinctive atmospheres in strategy-making workshops are closely associated with different sensemaking styles that shape not only how, but also what sense is constructed. Our findings show that in group settings, participants’ immanent sensing of atmospheric dynamics serves as an affective and affecting background that enables and constrains collective sensemaking in relation to an issue. We also find that atmosphere can shift as dissonant moments accumulate and reach an atmospheric tipping point that enables a change in the group’s sensemaking style. These dissonant moments manifest as subtle changes in one or more participants’ bodily orientation, speech content, or vocal characteristics. The concept of atmosphere enables us to extend emotions research in sensemaking and strategic management by offering a better understanding of the role of embodied affect in collective sensemaking beyond individually felt corporeal experience.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepter for publication in Academy of Management Review. The version of record will be available at:
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: Bayes Business School
Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.

To request a copy, please use the button below.

Request a copy


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login