Wirtschaftskommunikation – mehrsprachig & multikulturell/ Professional communication across languages and cultures

Research into communication at the workplace across languages and cultures is often based on interviews, in which employees or entrepreneurs talk about their communicative job routines and social practices in the workplace (e.g. Schnurr/Zayts 2017, Spencer-Oatey/Franklin 2009). This kind of data reflects participants’ perspective and their first order concepts of leadership, organization, culture, language and other matters relevant to the workplace.

This project aims at gathering data of a more spontaneous character. Our key method is the discourse completion task (DCT) (e.g. Sweeney / Hua 2016, Ogiermann, to appear) which can be tailored to the specific demands of the business or organizational setting studied. In cooperation with a representative of a given organization or company we identify recurrent situations of a more or less critical character (e.g. communicating a delay in delivery or a denial of service to customers, pointing out an error in documents to be signed) and design an appropriate online survey. In this survey, respondents (employees or colleagues regularly dealing with this task) can read about the chosen scenarios at work or at home and immediately specify their preferred or usual reaction online. This methodology reduces the impact of an interviewing researcher and – to a certain degree – the moment of self-reflection, providing access to more authentic data. It also offers the opportunity to collect larger amounts of data from diverse workplace settings, which is difficult to manage with other methods (e.g. audio- or video-taping).

These data allow for an analysis of strategies used in the management of critical incidents at different workplaces across several cultures and languages. Additionally, the results pave the way for empirically informed steps for the improvement of communication and communicative skills in the workplace. Consequently, we are looking for organizations or small and medium-sized businesses interested in participation and we welcome participants from all over the world to get engaged in this project and help us expand our data focus to a variety of languages and cultures.

Furthermore, we encourage students interested in writing their B.A. or M.A. theses at our department to contact us. The project offers an innovative opportunity to combine an academic approach with real-life challenges of professional communication. Contact with organizations or companies established in the context of an internship or side job may be sufficient to develop an appropriate discourse scenario. Please do not hesitate to contact us!

Project team: Nadine Thielemann (Institute for Slavic Languages nadine.thielemann@wu.ac.at) and Angelika Hechtl (Institute for Slavic Languages angelika.hechtl@wu.ac.at)

Scientific counseling by colleagues from the Institute for Romance Languages and the Institute for English Business Communication

Duration: 2017 – [open end]