Beyond possession and competition: Investigating cooperative aspects of power in multilingual organizations.

Item Type Journal paper

This article examines power issues related to language diversity in organizations, thus answering the need to investigate the role of language in cross-cultural management. More specifically, it contributes to a better understanding of how intraorganizational power relations are (re)defined through language use. Building on insights from language-sensitive research in international business, the article suggests that a further conceptual development of power is needed to study multilingual organizations and their “politics.” Inspired by the writings of Michel Foucault, it aims at developing a differentiated notion of power that allows moving beyond possessive, competitive, and limitation-oriented understandings. It investigates power from a discursive perspective and thus suggests conceptualizing power as an effect of speaking acts. From this point of view, people contribute to the creation of power relations by adopting a multiplicity of subject positions when they talk about their and others’ experiences in multilingual organizations. These processes were empirically investigated by conducting a qualitative case study of a multinational company located in Switzerland. The findings show a variety of subject positions for members of multilingual organizations, ranging from “winners on the rhetorical battlefield” to “helpers paving unskilled speakers the way.” While being in the position of the “battle winner” means discursively constructing competitive power relations, being a “helper” entails the discursive construction of cooperation-oriented power relations. Adopting a discursive approach thus allows to move the focus from “having”/“not having” power and from conflicts to a broader perspective on power relations. Power is then considered as productive in a general sense, and this productivity might engender competition as well as cooperation.

Authors Gaibrois, Claudine & Steyaert, Chris
Journal or Publication Title International journal of cross cultural management : CCM
Language English
Keywords Discourse analysis, Foucault, language diversity, multilingual organizations, power
Subjects social sciences
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
HSG Profile Area SHSS - Kulturen, Institutionen, Maerkte (KIM)
Refereed Yes
Date 13 April 2017
Publisher Sage Publ.
Place of Publication London [u.a.]
Volume 17
Number 1
Page Range 69-84
ISSN 1470-5958
ISSN-Digital 1741-2838
Official URL
Depositing User Dr. Claudine Gaibrois
Date Deposited 03 Feb 2017 12:03
Last Modified 04 May 2017 14:19


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Gaibrois, Claudine & Steyaert, Chris (2017) Beyond possession and competition: Investigating cooperative aspects of power in multilingual organizations. International journal of cross cultural management : CCM, 17 (1). 69-84. ISSN 1470-5958

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