Power and Politeness in the Workplace: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Talk at Work, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Power and Politeness in the Workplace

A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Talk at Work, 2nd Edition

By Janet Holmes, Maria Stubbe


200 pages

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Power and Politeness in the Workplace has become established as a seminal text for courses in language and professional communication.

Co-authored by bestselling author Janet Holmes, this text provides insights into the way we all talk at work, including a wealth of material illustrating the way people communicate with each other in their ordinary everyday encounters in their workplaces. The analysis focuses, in particular, on how and why people "do" power and politeness in the workplace, and examines the discourse strategies involved in balancing the competing demands of meeting workplace objectives and getting things done on time with maintaining good collegial workplace relationships.

Drawing on a large and very varied corpus of data collected in a wide range of workplaces, the authors explore specific types of workplace talk, such as giving advice and instructions, solving problems, running meetings and making decisions. Attention is also paid to the important contribution of less obviously relevant types of workplace talk such as humour and small talk, to the construction of effective workplace relationships. In the final chapter some of the practical implications of the analyses are identified.

This Routledge Linguistics Classic is here reissued with a new preface from the authors, covering the methods of analysis, an update on the Language in the Workplace project and a look at the work in the context of recent research.  Power and Politeness in the Workplace continues to be a vital read for researchers and postgraduate students in the fields of applied linguistics and communication studies.


"There is no arguing with the fact that this is an exceptional piece of research and a profound contribution to the field of Discourse Analysis. The updates offer further insight into the ever broadening LWP, which are helpful to those working in fields outside the ‘white collar’ industries. What is most impressive to me, however, is that, while the authors clearly explain their own research and results, they also offer a systematic, detailed framework that later researchers might follow." - Kerry Linfoot, LINGUIST List

Table of Contents

Preface. 1. Power and Politeness and the Workplace Context 2.From Office to Production Line: Constructing a Corpus of Workplace Data 3. Getting Things Done at Work 4. Workplace Meetings 5. Small Talk and Social Chat at Work 6. Humour in the Workplace 7. Miscommunication and Problematic Talk at Work 8. Conclusion: Some Implications and Applications.

About the Authors

Janet Holmes is Emeritus Professor in Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Maria Stubbe is a senior lecturer and Director of Research in the Primary Health Care & General Practice Department at the Universtiy of Otago, New Zealand.

About the Series

Routledge Linguistics Classics

Routledge Linguistics Classics brings together key seminal books from the rich heritage of Routledge linguistics publishing. Each book is reissued with the original text, and also includes an additional new chapter, foreword or afterword to situate these titles in current scholarship. These titles have been deemed classics by leading academics and are essential reading for students and all who need to keep up to date with the field of linguistics.

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