Episode 18: Meetings and conflicts

Meaningful meetings: a closer look at context and conflict

Episode 18 is on meetings and conflicts, so for the academically minded among our listeners, here are three sources of linguistic and conversation analytical research into meetings:

  • Handford, M. (2010). The language of business meetings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Incidentally, Michael Handford was our first ever interview guest, way back in episode 1.]
  • Handford, M., & Koester, A. (2019). The construction of conflict talk across workplace contexts: (Towards) a theory of conflictual compact. Language Awareness, 28(3), 186-206.
  • Holmes, J., & Marra, M. (2004). Leadership and managing conflict in meetings. Pragmatics, 14(4), 439-462.
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The study about “collaboration overload” that Bernard cites at the beginning of the episode is reported on here. The second study he refers to, by online scheduling service When Is Good, is reported on here. (Note that the article also mentions the Quaker practice of starting a meeting with silence, which anticipates our first interview later in the episode.) Erika follows up on this with a study that demonstrates how the time of day when an earnings conference call is scheduled can influence the positivity (or lack thereof) of analysts’ and managers’ tone:

  • Chen, J., Demers, E., & Lev, B. (2018). Oh what a beautiful morning! Diurnal influences on executives and analysts: Evidence from conference calls. Management Science, 64(12),  5461-5959. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2017.2888

It’s important to note that meetings take very different forms, involve different people and have different purposes. The categorisation of meetings that we refer to looks like this:

from: https://www.lucidmeetings.com/meeting-types

Moving on to conflicts, Erika and Veronika have written about types and stages of conflicts, and about people’s conflict styles, in chapter 9 of their textbook:

  • Darics, E., & Koller, V. (2018). Language in Business, Language at Work. London: Palgrave Macmillan Education.  

You can test your own conflict resolution style with the Thomas-Kilmann questionnaire.

In the first interview, with coach and workplace mediator Allegra Stone, we talk about how her Quaker beliefs influence her work. Quakers in Britain have published a toolkit about engaging with conflict that is based on their peace testimony. 

Our second interview guest, Bernadette Vine, is a member of the Language in the Workplace project at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (Te Herenga Waka, Aotearoa). A few of her recent publications are:

  • Lazzaro-Salazar, M., Marra, M., Holmes, J., & Vine, B. (2015). Doing power and negotiating through disagreement in public meetings. Pragmatics and Society, 6(3), 444-464.
  • Vine, B. (ed.) (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Vine, B. (2020). Introducing Language in the Workplace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Bernadette mentions Janet Holmes, who leads the Language in the Workplace project; she has indeed published several articles on humour in the workplace, including:

  • Holmes, J. (2000). Politeness, power and provocation: How humour functions in the workplace. Discourse Studies, 2(2), 159-185.

Members of the project team have looked at aspects of workplace discourse such as humour, politeness and leadership and have published on the role of gender and ethnicity. For the latter, see e.g. 

  • Holmes, J., & Marra, M. (2011). Leadership discourse in a Maori workplace: Negotiating gender, ethnicity and leadership at work. Gender and Language, 5(2), 317-342.
  • Holmes, J., Marra, M., & Vine, B. (2019). Telling stories: Analysing Māori and Pākehā workplace narratives. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 49(sup1), 104-117.

In the last part of the episode, we analyse the now infamous Handforth parish council meeting from February 2021. Impoliteness features strongly in it, something that our interview guest from episode 4, Jonathan Culpeper, has written about:

  • Culpeper, J. (2011). Impoliteness: Using language to cause offence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In the next episode, we’ll be looking at the related topic of negotiations.

Listen to the episode here

Full transcription of the episode

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