Project – S. Hazel

Interactional dynamics in a world on the move: Navigating the new social ecologies of the contemporary workplace


A central hypothesis for LINGCORP is that even though ideological norms of the host society may hold some sway over norms brought in by non-local members of the community, in social settings where changing constellations of local and non-local members are the order of the day, we will also witness an emergence of alternative norms. As participants negotiate joint activities from positions where the dominant ideological discourses of their individual cultural backgrounds will be less and less relevant, we may witness an emergent, flexible orientation to social order. This sub-project has a particular interest in institutional settings characterized by the cultural and linguistic diversity of their participants.

Spencer Hazel

Senior Researcher, University of Nottingham, Associate, RUC

Research questions

The project is concerned with interactional practices as playing a major role in the process of an individual’s integration within the multilingual and multi-cultural workplace. It investigates the opportunities and challenges such environments hold for the participants, focusing on social action as locally negotiated interactional accomplishment. This entails that the project seeks to explicate the interactional practices that are used in negotiating in-group membership by co-workers in workplace settings characterized by a mobile and linguistically and culturally diverse workforce.

The sub-project will also investigate the ways in which the norms of the given workplace are implicated in the creation of social action and interaction between colleagues, and how an orientation to such institutional norms and expectations is brought into play as relevant frames for the workplace activities that members are engaged in.

In line with the theoretical approach, the current project applies a strictly bottom-up approach, developing themes from what is found in the recorded data. Drawing on my own previous research into multilingual and transnationally mobile settings (see K. Mortensen & Hazel, 2011; Hazel, 2012; Hazel & J. Mortensen, forthc.), this sub-project will concern itself with the following questions:

  1. Are staff-members held back from participating in the workplace, professionally and/or socially, due to lack of skills in a particular language? If so, how is this addressed?

  2. What position does informal talk have within the workplace, and how is it managed between employees with different cultural backgrounds? How important is such small talk in generating in-group communities within mobile workforces?

  3. How do staff members, local as well as international, accomplish complex activities together in languages in which they may not be fully proficient? How could this be further supported?

  4. In which settings and activities can we detect evidence for the benefits for maintaining an internationally hybrid workforce? How can this be extended to other settings within the workplace?

  5. How do employees express their social identities as members of an international workforce or community, and which features of this are displayed as positive attributes?