Linguistic strategies used in the construction of performance assessment discourse in the South African workplace

Jones, Tamiryn (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates the construction of Performance Assessment Discourses in three companies in the Western Cape, South Africa. The specific interest of is in how Performance Assessment Interviews (PAIs) are performed in terms of content, form, structure and social practice, and how managers and employees experience and make sense of this organizational practice. The study further investigates how individuals express their membership to communities of practice (CofPs) within the workplace, and seeks to identify obstacles (boundaries) in terms of acquiring and maintaining membership. This study is conducted within the broader framework of discourse analysis (DA) and employs genre theory and small story analysis as analytical tools. The 31 participants in this study are managers and employees of three participating companies in the Western Cape. They are L1 speakers of Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa and isiZulu, and are representative of a wide range of employment levels (lower-level employees to top management). Each individual participated in either a one-on-one interview or in a focus group discussion, which were audio-recorded and transcribed. During these interviews and discussion groups, individuals frequently resorted telling small stories in order to explicate their feelings, perceptions and positions on certain matters. The data confirms that several generic features of PAIs are identifiable and across all three companies, but that some unique features are also reported. Furthermore, the analysis shows that Performance Assessments are sites of struggles as dominant and competing discourses emerge from the data. Additionally, the study reveals that acquiring membership to CofPs in a diverse workplace is a complex endeavour and that language plays a determining role in acquiring membership, as well as in the construction of workplace identities. In conclusion, this study argues for further linguistic research within professional setting in South Africa, and suggests that CofP theory be revised and further developed to be more descriptive of diverse communities.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek hoe Prestasiebestuur (PB) diskoerse in drie maatskappye in die Wes-Kaap gekonstrueer word. Die studie stel spesifiek belang in hoe prestasiebestuur gesprekke (PBG) uitgevoer word in terme van inhoud, vorm, struktuur en die sosiale praktyke wat daarmee saamhang. Verder word die manier waarop bestuurders en werkers PBGs ervaar en interpreteer ondersoek. Die studie ondersoek ook hoe individue hul lidmaatskap tot praktyk gemeenskappe (verskeie groeperinge wat praktyke deel) binne die werksplek beskryf en die struikelblokke identifiseer wat hulle verhoed om lidmaatskap te verwerf en te behou. Hierdie studie is uitgevoer binne die breër raamwerk van diskoersanalise (DA) en gebruik genre analise en klein verhaal analise as ontledingsmetodes. Die 31 deelnemers in die studie is bestuurders en werkers van drie deelnemende maatskappye in die Wes-Kaap. Hulle is eerstetaalsprekers van Afrikaans, Engels, Xhosa en Zoeloe en is verteenwoordigend van ʼn wye reeks posisies (vanaf junior posisies tot topbestuur). Elke individu het deelgeneem aan óf ʼn individuele onderhoud óf ʼn groepsbespreking. Hierdie onderhoude en besprekings is opgeneem en getranskribeer. Tydens die onderhoude en besprekings het die deelnemers telkens van ‘klein verhale’ gebruik gemaak om hul ervaringe en gevoelens te verwoord. Die data bevestig dat verskeie generiese eienskappe in PBGs geïdentifiseer kan word in al drie maatskappye maar dat daar wel sommige unieke eienskappe voorkom. Verder wys die analise uit dat binne PBs daar baie teenstellings bestaan en dat daar dominante en mededingende diskoerse in die data geïdentifiseer kan word. Die studie wys ook dat lidmaatskap tot ʼn praktykgemeenskap in ʼn diverse werksomgewing ʼn komplekse onderneming is. Dit blyk ook dat taal ʼn bepalende rol speel in die verwerwing van lidmaatskap, sowel as die manier waarop professionele identiteit gekonstrueer word. Verdere navorsing in professionele kontekste binne ʼn linguistiese raamwerk word aanbeveel. Die waarde van klein verhaal analise om diskoerse in professionele kontekste te ondersoek word beklemtoon en voorstelle word gemaak oor hoe die konsep ‘praktykgemeenskappe’ verder ontwikkel kan word om dit meer relevant te maak in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80171
This item appears in the following collections: