Managing transitions through discourse at work
Keywords:discourse, intercultural communication, sociopragmatics, transitions, workplace
Workplace transitions provide rich material for understanding intercultural interaction. Research on transitions has typically focussed on the sociocultural effects of moving between nations and/or on examples of career change. Boundary crossing at this macro level has provided insight into how newcomers negotiate novel cultural expectations. As workplace discourse analysts our particular interest is the interactional negotiation that occurs as these newcomers move from one environment to the next. In this paper, using the reflections of those who have experienced such transitions, along with an analysis of recordings of professional migrants in new workplace contexts, we demonstrate how micro-level instantiations of these transitions offer a lens on the contrasting and sometimes conflicting societal norms and sociocultural practices which must be managed in these contexts. The analysis makes use of our social realist model for understanding workplace talk (Holmes, Marra and Vine 2011) and our interpretations are supported by ethnographic observations and discussion with those who have observed or experienced these transitions. We conclude by outlining ways in which this approach to understanding interaction can be used to help prepare newcomers to navigate new workplace contexts.
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