Coping on the Front-line: A Bottom-up Perspective on Corporate Language Management

Guro Refsum Sanden, Dorte Lønsmann

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


This article investigates how front-line employees respond to English language policies implemented by the management of three multinational corporations (MNCs) headquartered in Scandinavia. Based on interview and document data the article examines the ways in which front-line employees cross language boundaries in their everyday work. Despite official English language policies in the three companies, our findings show that employees face a number of different language boundaries, and that ad hoc and informal solutions in many cases are vital for successful cross-language communication. Drawing on Lipsky’s (1980, 2010) work on street-level bureaucrats and the implementation of public policy, we discuss the role of individual agency in the implementation of language policy in the private sector, and argue that it is in fact front-line employees who are the ultimate language policy decision-makers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event77th Annual meeting of the Academy of Management: At the Interface - Georgia, Atlanta, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20178 Aug 2017
Conference number: 77


Conference77th Annual meeting of the Academy of Management
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Language management
  • English as a corporate language
  • Language policy
  • Front-line practices
  • Coping mechanism
  • Street level bureaucrats

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