Conceptualizing organizational discourse as situated symbolic action

  1. Loizos Heracleous

    1. Templeton College, University of Oxford,
  1. Robert J. Marshak

    1. American University/NTL Institute Masters of Organization Development Program in Washington, DC,


This article presents a conceptualization of organizational discourse as situated symbolic action, drawing from the fields of speech act theory, rhetoric, ethnography of communication and social constructionism. This conceptualization is illustrated through analysis of an episode of negotiated order accessed through an organization development intervention; a meeting of senior managers of Systech, a major IT organization, to decide on a new business model. This perspective helps to respond to some of the key challenges facing the organizational discourse field in terms of developing more clearly specified conceptualizations of discourse suited to the organizational level of analysis, achieving a more holistic and discourse-sensitive understanding of empirical contexts by organizational researchers, and illustrating that organizational discourse analysis is not simply an intellectual luxury but can have pragmatic, relevant implications.

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