We investigate the everyday work-life of managers in multilingual companies. How do they communicate? What languages are used and how? How is speech, writing and IT tools used? What are the links between communication, leadership, identity and agency?

Professional Communication and Digital Media is a research project with two researchers from the Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism:

Mona Blåsjö/Carla Jonsson/Sofia Johansson/Zahraa Zeir Photo: Elsa Adrielsson/Eva Dalin/Pia Nordin/Private
Mona Blåsjö/Carla Jonsson/Sofia Johansson Photo: Elsa Adrielsson/Eva Dalin/Pia Nordin

Project Manager: Mona Blåsjö

Project Participant: Carla Jonsson

Project Assistant: Sofia Johansson

Project period: The project was launched in the autumn of 2016 and will last until June 2019.

Financier: Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation.

What is the project about?

Today’s working life has become increasingly complex. People from different countries work together and interact, often through digital media. In the so-called ‘desktop professions’, many employees and managers do not have their own desks. Instead they work in a mobile manner with laptops and mobile telephones. Project organizations and global business make executives and staff move in and out of different groups, travel a lot, interact digitally with people on the other side of the world, and work irregular hours. Executives and staff are expected to do many things at the same time: they write text messages while traveling, they revise documents during Skype meetings, and they write in English while speaking another language. These conditions place new demands on workplaces, management and employees.

The aim of the project

The project aims to provide new knowledge about communication in the complex work-life and to develop new methods for such investigations. The focus of the project is on how senior staff handle complexity in order to maintain good leadership and the ability to work efficiently. The project consists of case studies about the everyday work-life of mangers in multilingual companies. How do they communicate? What languages are used and how? How is speech, writing and IT tools used? What are the links between communication, leadership, identity and agency?

The theoretical framing

The theoretical framing for the study is sociolinguistics, and within this field the study is grounded in linguistic ethnography and mediated discourse analysis. The project relates to a current scholarly discussion of how new conditions for human communication can be investigated. This discussion deals with, for instance, the view of languages as either fixed units or as social constructs. Since multilingual people do not necessarily view their languages as separate entities, research should work to avoid categorizations based on monolinguist norms which are based on the assumption that languages should be kept apart. Advanced methods are needed to study complexity and mobility. Mediated discourse analysis is a method that is neither entirely new, nor entirely established, which is suitable for studying how people handle complex situations.

The study is conducted in close cooperation with the companies being researched and will contribute to the in-service training at these companies, as well as to working life in general. The results of the project can also contribute to the development of education for specific professions and to education in communication.