Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2001, page 27-48.
The article suggests some tools for and demonstrates the applicability and usefulness of linguistic analysis in organizational theory.
The data are tape-recorded appraisals carried out in a major Danish high tech company. The company is rather high profiled in terms of subscribing to and implementing such concepts within contemporary management theory as ‘the learning organization’ and ‘coaching’. In many respects, the company has successfully implemented a learning environment.
However, the linguistic analyses of the appraisal interviews give a different statement. It turns out that employees play a more subordinate role and managers a more dominating role in regulating the flow of communicative events, setting the agenda, defining the future of the work, defining key concepts such as career development – than recommended by human management theory for learning and coaching environments. The asymmetry does not seem to be explicable as a product of managers’ behavior alone. The data indicate that the asymmetry is co-constructed, i.e. that employees and managers are harmoniously cooperating in creating asymmetrical and in this respect non-dialogical dialogues.
The linguistic methods used vary from quantitative word counts and measurements of length of turns to qualitative discourse analysis focussing on such concepts as recontextualization and initiative and response.