Sub-theme 31: Perspectives on Management Expertise and Advice in Global and Linguistically Diverse Organizational Contexts [merged with sub-theme 42]

Stefan Heusinkveld
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Martyna Śliwa
University of Essex, UK
Andrew Sturdy
University of Bristol, UK

Call for Papers

The role and effects of language(s) have increasingly been acknowledged as an important domain of inquiry in organization studies. Research into multilingualism, corporate languages and linguistic diversity at both organizational and individual level contributes to enhancing our understanding of the impact of language(s) on organizational processes and practices in globalized contexts. The aim of this sub-theme is to extend and enrich the debate on language and organizations by developing interdisciplinary approaches to exploring how language(s) produce organizational effects. We are specifically interested in notions of linguistic diversity; both in terms of the diversity of languages used in globalized organizational contexts, and in terms of the diversity of ways of speaking or otherwise communicating in a particular language. For this purpose we call for the development of interdisciplinary approaches which allow for rich insights into the practices and effects of linguistic diversity.

There is no doubt that the processes of globalization have transformed the way we think about society and organization. Especially since the 1980s, previously unprecedented expansion of global mobility coupled with intensified commercial and cultural exchanges have brought about a qualitatively new hybridity, multiplicity and social complexity at a global level (Coupland, 2010). As a result, contemporary societies and organizations have been described as characterized by superdiversity (Vertovec, 2007), with linguistic diversity constituting an important aspect of it.

Within international management and organization studies, international firms have repeatedly been demonstrated to be, in effect, multilingual organizations (Barner-Rasmussen & Björkman, 2005, Luo & Shenkar, 2006, Steyaert et al., 2011). Scholars have discussed linguistic diversity as a potential challenge to communication and trust (Barner-Rasmussen & Björkman, 2007; Kassis Henderson, 2005) or a barrier (Harzing & Feely, 2008; Harzing et al., 2011) that might be overcome through the introduction of a common corporate language (Brannen & Doz, 2012). At the same time, attention has been paid to how efforts to manage a multiplicity of languages by introducing a common language might also bring about disintegrative outcomes (Neeley, 2013; Piekkari et al., 2005) and the emergence of an organizational hierarchy of languages and competing language uses (Marschan-Piekkari et al., 1999; Vaara et al., 2005).

Researchers have also pointed to the prevalent choice of English as the corporate language that follows from its status as the globally dominant lingua franca in business (Ehrenreich, 2010; Gerritsen & Nickerson, 2009), and the consequences this has for different groups of organizational members. Examples include divisions between native versus non-native English speakers in organizations (Steyaert et al., 2011) and the relative position of non-native speakers with varying fluency, such as corporate elites versus blue-collar employees (Barner-Rasmussen & Aarnio, 2011). Further, the widespread use of English has resulted in so-called World Englishes, which are valued differently in organizational contexts (Gilsdorf, 2002). Variations in speaking English that exist within organizations have potentially significant but hitherto little studied consequences (e.g. Śliwa & Johansson, 2013).

Building on extant contributions that have addressed organizations from a linguistic perspective, we suggest there is still scope for further research. As such, we are looking to investigate how linguistic diversity intertwines with the production of organizational hierarchies through drawing on relevant bodies of work that have so far been underexplored by scholarship addressing linguistic diversity in organizations. Against this background, the specific aim of this sub-theme is to reflect on the processes associated with, and implications of, linguistic diversity in organizational contexts. We suggest doing this through an interdisciplinary engagement with theories and concepts from, for example, sociolinguistics.

We invite conceptual and empirical papers that respond to, but are not limited by, the following questions:

  • How can a sociolinguistic perspective on globalization inform our understanding of organizational processes within linguistically diverse settings?
  • What is the role of linguistic diversity in the formation and perpetuation of organizational hierarchies and power relations?
  • How do different ways of using an official corporate language affect the evaluations made about employees and managers in linguistically diverse organizations?
  • How does language relate to other perceived attributes such as competence and trustworthiness, which might affect individuals' careers?
  • How does linguistic diversity create and shape the roles of boundary spanners, bridgemakers, or compradors, especially with regard to what power they may exert and with what kind of organizational effects?




  • Barner-Rasmussen, W., & Aarnio, C. (2011): "Shifting the faultlines of language. A quantitative functional-level exploration of language use in MNC subsidiaries." Journal of World Business, 46 (3), 288–295.
  • Barner-Rasmussen, W., & Björkman I. (2005): "Surmounting interunit barriers: Factors associated with interunit communication intensity in the multinational corporation." International Studies in Management and Organisation, 35 (1), 28–46.
  • Barner-Rasmussen, W., & Björkman, I. (2007): "Language matters! Language fluency, socialization mechanisms and their relationship to interunit trustworthiness and shared vision." Management and Organization Review, 3 (1), 105–128.
  • Brannen, M.Y., & Doz, Y.L. (2012): "Corporate languages and strategic agility: trapped in your jargon or lost in translation?" California Management Review, 54 (3), 77–97.
  • Coupland, N. (ed.) (2010): The Handbook of Language and Globalization. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Ehrenreich, S. (2010): "English as a business lingua franca in a German multinational corporation: meeting the challenge." Journal of Business Communication, 47 (4), 408–431.
  • Gerritsen, M., & Nickerson, C. (2009): "BELF: Business English as a lingua franca." In: F. Bargiela-Chiappini (ed.): The Handbook of Business Discourse. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 180–192.
  • Gilsdorf, J. (2002): "Standard Englishes and World Englishes: living with a polymorph business language." The Journal of Business Communication, 39 (3), 364–378.
  • Harzing, A.-W., & Feely, A.J. (2008): "The language barrier and its implications for HQ-subsidiary relationships." Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 15 (1), 49–61.
  • Harzing, A.-W., Köster, K., & Magner, U. (2011): "Babel in business: The language barrier and its solutions in the HQ-subsidiary relationship." Journal of World Business, 46 (3), 279–287.
  • Kassis Henderson, J. (2005): "Language diversity in international management teams." International Studies of Management & Organization, 35 (1), 66–82.
  • Luo, Y., & Shenkar, O. (2006): "The multinational corporation as a multilingual community: Language and organization in a global context." Journal of International Business Studies, 37 (3), 321–339.
  • Marschan-Piekkari, R., Welch, D.E., & Welch, L.S. (1999): "In the shadow: The impact of language on structure, power and communication in the multinational." International Business Review, 8 (4), 421–440.
  • Neeley, T. (2013): "Language matters: Status loss and achieved status distinctions in global organizations." Organization Science, 24 (2), 476–497.
  • Piekkari, R., Vaara, E., Tienari, J., & Säntti, R. (2005): "Integration or disintegration? Human resource implications of a common corporate language decision in a crossborder merger." International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16 (3), 330–344.
  • Śliwa, M., & Johansson, M. (2013): "Playing in the academic field: Non-native English-speaking academics in UK business schools." Culture and Organization, online first:
  • Steyaert, C., Ostendorp, A., & Gaibrois, C. (2011): "Multilingual organizations as linguascapes: Negotiating the position of English through discursive practices." Journal of World Business, 46 (3), 270–278.
  • Vaara, E., Tienari, J., Piekkari, R., & Säntti, R. (2005): "Language and the circuits of power in a merging multinational corporation." Journal of Management Studies, 42 (3), 595–623.


Stefan Heusinkveld is an Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His research focuses on the production and consumption of management ideas and in particular the role of management consultants and management gurus.
Martyna Śliwa is Professor of Management and Organisation Studies at the University of Essex, UK. She is interested in issues of language and Englishization within contemporary organizations, migration and transnationalism, and intersectionality. She has co-convened a sub-theme on language and organizations at the EGOS Colloquium in Montréal (2013).
Andrew Sturdy is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Bristol, UK. His research interests are on power, management consultancy and organisational change and his most recent book is "Management Consultancy" (Oxford University Press, 2009). He is currently researching the organisation and influence of both internal and external consultancy.