Linguistikzirkel 31.03.2021

31. März 2021

Dr. Carolin Debray, Institute of Intercultural Communication, University of Hildesheim: Constructing good relations through troubles talk in intercultural teams (17-19 Uhr, virtuell über Zoom)


Building good relationships at work is crucial for individual wellbeing and workplace satisfaction. Yet, managing these relationships is far from easy and concerns over relationship management and getting along well are integral to people’s daily lives (Knobloch, 2010). Research indicates that good relationships are particularly scarce in intercultural teams (Mannix & Neale, 2005; Stahl, Maznevski, Voigt, & Jonsen, 2010), yet comparatively little pragmatic research has been undertaken to investigate how team members and colleagues do get along (as opposed to how they don’t), and how they relate around working together.

I will address this topic by drawing on a case study of an intercultural team of MBA students, whose team meetings were observed and recorded for a period of 8 months. Throughout this time one talk activity stood out due to the positive relations that were constructed: Troubles talk (Jefferson, 2015). Troubles talk refers to talk in which interactants jointly complain about a variety of issues that are perceived or constructed as problems or troubles, but that are not directly addressed to a participant. In this talk, I will examine the interactional strategies employed in troubles talk to show how positive relationships are constructed pragmatically and discuss some of the implications of this work for politeness theory more broadly. I argue that this social discourse makes an important contribution not only to relations and wellbeing at work, but also to work completion itself. I will also discuss this by briefly introducing a new research project that investigates the relational work done amongst colleagues while working remotely, a situation which seems to have sparked new relational practices in many workplaces.


Carolin Debray has recently joined the Institute of Intercultural Communication at the University of Hildesheim, after working at the Department for Applied Linguistics (University of Warwick) where she also obtained her PhD. Her main research interests lie in intercultural and interpersonal pragmatics and include relating and rapport enhancement in intercultural encounters as well as discrimination and marginalisation in interactions and the processes that underlie these. Experiences of living, studying and working in Brazil, Syria, Norway, Palestine and the UK have shaped her research interests and her approach to intercultural communication.

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