Interviews between employees and customers during a company restructuring process
Use this link to citehttp://hdl.handle.net/2183/626
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TitleInterviews between employees and customers during a company restructuring process
Discourse and society, n. 16 (Mar 2002), pp. 225-268
This work is the result of the discursive research carried out at a company involved in a restructuring programme, aimed at implementing a series of changes following the awarding of a new contract for the management of the city’s water supply and sewerage system. This change in management from a public (the City Hall) to a semi-private enterprise resulted in a great deal of confusion among certain sectors of the population. As a result, employees found themselves having to deal with large numbers of complaints on a daily basis without having received any prior communicative training in order to help them resolve these situations. Our empirical data (audio taped data) consists of 16 interviews between company employees and citizens analysed from the methodology based on Interactional Sociolinguistics, Ethnography of Communication, and Critical Discourse Analysis. Our study focuses on conflicts caused by situations of interactional asymmetry between the discourse of employees and customers, the result of the social inequality that exists in terms of citizens’ access to institutional discourse. An analysis of all the interviews reveals that employees use two different strategies in order to mitigate conflicts. These strategies can be classed as personalising or depersonalising. Our analysis shows that the use of these strategies is not always appropriate, and that their success or failure depends on the type of customers and their discursive resources. The problem is also frequently made worse by the employees’ rather limited communicative repertory and their consequent inability to redress the asymmetrical imbalance associated with this type of discourse and provide an effective approach and response to the various types of customers visiting the company’s offices.