Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


This article analyzes how employees in a global business organization talk about their colleagues in other countries. Employees were asked to discuss their work practices in focus group settings, and give examples of how they experience ‘the other’. Using Discursive Psychology and Politeness Theory as the analytic approaches, the article analyzes pieces of discourse to disclose social psychological phenomena such as group identity, intergroup differentiation, and stereotypes. The analyses show that talking about ‘the other’ is potentially face-threatening, and mitigating discourse features are used repeatedly to soften the criticism. We also see how uncovering stereotypes is a mutual accomplishment in the group, and how group members gradually move from relatively innocent to blatantly negative outgroup stereotypes. The analyses also show that participants engage in meta-reflections on the nature of stereotypes, which may serve as another mitigating device, and that talk about ‘the other’ is used to create intergroup differentiation. Finally, the article discusses the implications of these findings for cross-cultural communication and work practices in organizations.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abrams, Dominic , and Michael Hogg
    (1990) The context of discourse: Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Philosophical Psychology3.2/3: 219-225. doi: 10.1080/09515089008573000
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089008573000 [Google Scholar]
  2. Allport, Gordon
    (1954) The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Augoustinos, Martha , and Danielle Every
    (2007) Contemporary racist discourse: Taboos against racism and racist accusations. In Ann Weatherell , Bernadette Watson and Cynthia Gallois (eds.), Language, Discourse and Social Psychology. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 233-254.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Augoustinos, Martha , Iain Walker , and Ngaire Danaghue
    (2006) Social Cognition. An Integrated Introduction (2nd ed.). London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Banaji, Mahzarim R. , and Anthony G. Greenwald
    (1995) Implicit gender stereotyping in judgments of fame. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68: 181-198. doi: 10.1037/0022‑3514.68.2.181
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.68.2.181 [Google Scholar]
  6. Benwell, Bethan , and Elizabeth Stokoe
    (2006) Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Billig, Michael
    (1996) Arguing and Thinking. A Rhetorical Approach to Social Psychology (2nd ed.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Billig, Michael , Susan Condor , Derek Edwards , Mike Gane , David Middleton , and Alan Radley
    (1988) Ideological Dilemmas. A Social Psychology of Everyday Thinking. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Brief, Arthur P
    (1998) Attitudes in and around Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Brown, Penelope , and Stephen C. Levinson
    (1987) Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Condor, Susan
    (2006) Public prejudice and collaborative accomplishments: Towards a dialogic social psychology of racism. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology16: 1-18. doi: 10.1002/casp.845
    https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.845 [Google Scholar]
  12. Condor, Susan , Lia Figgou , Jackie Abell , Stephen Gibson , and Clifford Stevenson
    (2006) ‘They’re not racist …’ Prejudice denial, mitigation and suppression in dialogue. British Journal of Social Psychology 45: 441-462. doi: 10.1348/014466605X66817
    https://doi.org/10.1348/014466605X66817 [Google Scholar]
  13. Crandall, Christian , and Amy Eshleman
    (2003) A justification-suppression model of the expression and experience of prejudice. Psychological Bulletin129.3: 414-446. doi: 10.1037/0033‑2909.129.3.414
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.129.3.414 [Google Scholar]
  14. De Cillia, Rudolf , Martin Reisigl , and Ruth Wodak
    (1999) The discursive construction of national identities. Discourse & Society 10.2: 149-173. doi: 10.1177/0957926599010002002
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926599010002002 [Google Scholar]
  15. Edwards, Derek
    (1991) Categories are for talking: On the cognitive and discursive bases of categorization. Theory and Psychology 1: 515-542. doi: 10.1177/0959354391014007
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354391014007 [Google Scholar]
  16. (1997) Discourse and Cognition. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Edwards, Derek , and Jonathan Potter
    (1992) Discursive Psychology. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Edwards, Derek , and Elizabeth Stokoe
    (2004) Discursive psychology, focus group interviews, and participants’ categories. British Journal of Developmental Psychology22: 499-507. doi: 10.1348/0261510042378209
    https://doi.org/10.1348/0261510042378209 [Google Scholar]
  19. Edwards, John
    (2010) Language Diversity in the Classroom. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Emig, Rainer
    (2000) (ed.)Stereotypes in Contemporary Anglo-German Relations. New York: Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9781403919465
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781403919465 [Google Scholar]
  21. Fiske, Susan T. , and Tiane L. Lee
    (2008) Stereotypes and prejudice create workplace discrimination. In Arthur P. Brief (ed.), Diversity at Work. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 13-52. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511753725.004
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511753725.004 [Google Scholar]
  22. Galasinska, Aleksandra , and Dariusz Galasinski
    (2003) Discursive strategies for coping with sensitive topics of the Other. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies29.5: 849-863. doi: 10.1080/1369183032000149604
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183032000149604 [Google Scholar]
  23. Garrett, Peter
    (2010) Attitudes to Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511844713
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511844713 [Google Scholar]
  24. Giles, Howard
    (1979) Ethnicity markers in speech. In Klaus Scherer and Howard Giles (eds.), Social Markers in Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 251-290.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Goffman, Erving
    (1967) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Harré, Rom , and Peter Stearns
    (1995) Discursive Psychology in Practice. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Haslam, S. Alexander , Penelope J. Oakes , Katherine J. Reynolds , and John C. Turner
    (1999) Social identity salience and the emergence of stereotype consensus. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 25: 809-818. doi: 10.1177/0146167299025007004
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167299025007004 [Google Scholar]
  28. Hobman, Elizabeth V. , Prashant Bordia , and Cynthia Gallois
    (2003) Consequences of feeling dissimilar from others in a work team. Journal of Business and Psychology17.3: 301-325. doi: 10.1023/A:1022837207241
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022837207241 [Google Scholar]
  29. Hogg, Michael A
    (1993) Group cohesiveness: A critical review and some new directions. European Review of Social Psychology4: 85-111. doi: 10.1080/14792779343000031
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14792779343000031 [Google Scholar]
  30. Hogg, Michael A. , and Dominic Abrams
    (2003) Intergroup behavior and social identity. In Michael A. Hogg and Joel M. Cooper (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Psychology. London & Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 407-431.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Hogg, Michael A. , and Deborah J. Terry
    (2001) Social Identity Processes in Organizational Contexts. Hove, Sussex: Psychology Press & Philadelphia, PE: Taylor & Francis.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Hornsey, Matthew
    (2008) Kernal of truth or motivated stereotype? Interpreting and responding to negative generalizations about your group. In Kashima , Fiedler and Freytag (eds.), pp.Stereotype Dynamics. Language-Based Approaches to the Formation, Maintenance and Transformation of Stereotypes,316-337.
  33. Janney, Richard , and Horst Arndt
    (2005) Intracultural tact versus intercultural tact. In Richard Watts , Sachico Ide and Konrad Ehlich (eds.), Politeness in Language. Studies in History, Theory and Practice. Berlin: Mouton, pp. 21-41.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Jost, John , and Mahzarin Banaji
    (1994) The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology 33: 1-27. doi: 10.1111/j.2044‑8309.1994.tb01008.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1994.tb01008.x [Google Scholar]
  35. Kashima, Yoshihisa , Klaus Fiedler , and Peter Freytag
    (2008) Stereotype Dynamics. Language-Based Approaches to the Formation, Maintenance and Transformation of Stereotypes. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Klein, Oliver , Scott Tindale , and Markus Brauer
    (2008) The consensualization of stereotypes in small groups. In Kashima , Fiedler and Freytag (eds.), pp.Stereotype Dynamics. Language-Based Approaches to the Formation, Maintenance and Transformation of Stereotypes,263-292.
  37. Knudsen, Anne
    (1996) Her går det godt – send flere penge [Everything is fine – send more money]. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Ladegaard, Hans J
    (1998a) Assessing national stereotypes in language attitude studies: The case of class- consciousness in Denmark. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 19.3: 182-199. doi: 10.1080/01434639808666351
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01434639808666351 [Google Scholar]
  39. (1998b) National stereotypes and language attitudes: The perception of British, American and Australian language and culture in Denmark. Language & Communication18: 251-274. doi: 10.1016/S0271‑5309(98)00008‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5309(98)00008-1 [Google Scholar]
  40. Ladegaard
    (2001) Popular perceptions of standard language: Attitudes to ‘regional standards’ in Denmark. Language Awareness10.1: 25-40. doi: 10.1080/09658410108667023
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09658410108667023 [Google Scholar]
  41. Ladegaard, Hans J
    (2007) Global culture – myth or reality? Perceptions of ‘national cultures’ in a global corporation. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research36.2: 139-163. doi: 10.1080/17475750701478729
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17475750701478729 [Google Scholar]
  42. (2008) Pragmatic cooperation revisited: Resistance and non-cooperation as a discursive strategy in asymmetrical discourses. Journal of Pragmatics41.4: 649-666. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.09.021
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.09.021 [Google Scholar]
  43. (2009) Politeness, power and control: The use of humour in cross-cultural telecommunications. In Winnie Cheng and Kenneth Kong (eds.), Professional Communication: Collaboration between Academics and Practitioners. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, pp. 191-209.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. (2011a) Stereotypes in the making: Prejudice and cultural generalizations in Hong Kong students’ discourse. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication21.1: 121-146. doi: 10.1075/japc.21.1.10lad
    https://doi.org/10.1075/japc.21.1.10lad [Google Scholar]
  45. (2011b) Discourses of identity: Outgroup stereotypes and strategies of discursive boundary-making in Chinese students’ online discussions about ‘the other’. Journal of Multicultural Discourses(forthcoming).
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Lippmann, Walter
    (1965) [1922] Public Opinion. New York: The Free Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Mackie, Marlene
    (1973) Arriving at ‘truth’ by definition: The case of stereotype inaccuracy. Social Problems20.4: 431-447. doi: 10.2307/799706
    https://doi.org/10.2307/799706 [Google Scholar]
  48. Mey, Jacob
    (2001) Pragmatics. An Introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Mey, Jacob , Hartmut Haberland , and Kerstin Fischer
    (2010) Editorial. Pragmatics and Society1.1: 1-8. doi: 10.1075/ps.1.1.01edi
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ps.1.1.01edi [Google Scholar]
  50. Operario, Don , and Susan T. Fiske
    (2001) Causes and consequences of stereotypes in organizations. In Manuel London (ed.), How People Evaluate Others in Organizations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 45-62.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Pomerantz, Anita , and Alan Zemel
    (2003) Perspectives and frameworks in interviewers’ queries. In van den Berg , Wetherell and Houtkoop-Steenstra (eds.), pp.Analyzing Race Talk. Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Interview,215-231.
  52. Potter, Jonathan
    (2003) Discursive psychology: Between method and paradigm. Discourse & Society 14: 783-794. doi: 10.1177/09579265030146005
    https://doi.org/10.1177/09579265030146005 [Google Scholar]
  53. Potter, Jonathan , and Margaret Wetherell
    (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Reynolds, Kate J. , and Michael J. Platow
    (2003) On the social psychology of power and powerlessness: Social power as a symptom of organizational division. In S. Alexandra Harlem , Dan v. Knippenberg , Michael J. Platow , and Naomi Ellemers (eds.), Social Identity at Work: Developing Theory for Organizational Practice. New York, NY & Hove, Sussex: Psychology Press, pp. 173-188.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Reynolds, Jill , and Margaret Wetherell
    (2003) The discursive climate of singleness: The consequences for women’s negotiation of a single identity. Feminism and Psychology 13.4: 489-510. doi: 10.1177/09593535030134014
    https://doi.org/10.1177/09593535030134014 [Google Scholar]
  56. Said, Edward
    (1978) Orientalism. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Speer, Susan A
    (2002) ‘Natural’ and ‘contrived’ data: a sustainable distinction?Discourse Studies4.4: 511-525.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Stubbe, Marie , Chris Lane , Jo Hilder , Elaine Vine , Bernadette Vine , Meredith Marra , Janet Holmes , and Ann Weatherall
    (2003) Multiple discourse analyses of a workplace interaction. Discourse Studies5.3: 351-388. doi: 10.1177/14614456030053004
    https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456030053004 [Google Scholar]
  59. Tajfel, Henri
    (1981) Social stereotypes and groups. In John Turner and Howard Giles (eds.), Intergroup Behavior. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 132-145.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. (1982) Social psychology of intergroup relations. Annual Review of Psychology33: 1-39. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ps.33.020182.000245
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ps.33.020182.000245 [Google Scholar]
  61. Tajfel, Henri , and John Turner
    (1979) An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In William G. Austin and Stephen Worchel (eds.), The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, pp. 33-35.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. (1986) The social identity of intergroup behavior. In Stephen Worchel and William Austin (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, pp. 7-24.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Tileaga, Cristian
    (2005) Accounting for extreme prejudice and legitimating blame in talk about Romanies. Discourse & Society 16.5: 603-624. doi: 10.1177/0957926505054938
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926505054938 [Google Scholar]
  64. Tusting, Karin , Robert Crawshaw , and Beth Callen
    (2002) ‘I know ’cos I was there’: How residence abroad students use personal experience to legitimate cultural generalizations. Discourse & Society 13.5: 651-672. doi: 10.1177/0957926502013005278
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926502013005278 [Google Scholar]
  65. Van den Berg, Harry
    (2003) Contradictions in interview discourse. In van den Berg , Wetherell and Houtkoop-Steenstra (eds.), pp.Analyzing Race Talk. Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Interview,119-137.
  66. Van den Berg, Harry , Margaret Wetherell , and Hanneke Houtkoop-Steenstra
    (eds.) (2003) Analyzing Race Talk. Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Interview. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Van Dijk, Teun
    (1992) Discourse and the denial of racism. Discourse & Society 3.1: 87-118. doi: 10.1177/0957926592003001005
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926592003001005 [Google Scholar]
  68. (2008) Discourse and Power. Basingstoke & New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Verkuyten, Maykel
    (2001) ‘Abnormalization’ of ethnic minorities in conversation. British Journal of Social Psychology40: 257-278. doi: 10.1348/014466601164849
    https://doi.org/10.1348/014466601164849 [Google Scholar]
  70. Wetherell, Margaret
    (2001) Debates in discourse research. In Margaret Wetherell , Stephanie Taylor and Simeon J. Yeates (eds.), Discourse Theory and Practice. A Reader. London: Sage, pp. 380-399.
    [Google Scholar]
  71. (2003) Racism and the analysis of cultural resources in interviews. In van den Berg , Wetherell and Houtkoop-Steenstra (eds.), pp.Analyzing Race Talk. Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Interview,11-30.
  72. Wetherell, Margaret , and Jonathan Potter
    (1992) Mapping the Language of Racism. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Wodak, Ruth , Rudolf de Cillia , Martin Reisigl , and Karin Liebhart
    (2009) The Discursive Construction of National Identity (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error