Workplace culture

Language plays an important part in creating a particular kind of work environment.

When we join a new workplace we may need to learn new technical terminology and new in-group jargon, and we definitely need to acquire the workplace's norms for interaction. For example:

  • What are the appropriate ways of addressing and referring to people?
  • How formal are meetings?
  • Is there a difference between large and small meetings?
  • How formal am I expected to be with people of a higher status than me?
  • What is the appropriate balance between 'business talk' and 'social talk'?

Using language appropriately is a crucial aspect of becoming an accepted workplace member. In our research we have focussed on workplace culture from two different angles:

  1. The first approach has focused on humour as a way of building a picture of the culture of a team i.e., How much humour do they produce? Is it in the form of one-liners or extended sequences? Is it supportive or challenging? How many people contribute to the humour?
    Humour as an indicator of workplace culture
  2. The second approach has been to describe patterns of workplace interaction using a community of practice framework. The central focus of this approach to discourse analysis is what group members do in interactions. This involves identifying and analysing those shared discourse practices or activities which indicate that people belong to the group, including the extent to which they are core or peripheral members. This entails building an understanding of the attitudes, beliefs, values and social relations which underlie these interactional practices.


Please see our list of publications on Workplace Culture in the Bibliographies section.