Discretionary Power 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 the communication practices used by front-line employees to cross language boundaries in the context of English language policies implemented by the management of three multinational corporations (MNCs) headquartered in Scandinavia. Based on an analysis of interview and document data, our findings show that employees face a number of different language boundaries in their everyday work, and that ad hoc and informal solutions in many cases are vital for successful cross-language communication. We introduce the concept of ‘discretionary power’ to explain how and why front-line employees diverge from the corporate language policies, and emphasise the role of individual agency in the implementation of language policy. With a focus on the communication practices of front-line employees, the article contributes with a bottom-up, employee-centred perspective on corporate language management, emphasising the importance of paying attention to the micro level of everyday interactions in the study of language policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe SCANCOR-Weatherhead Spring 2017 Conference: Organizations, Institutions, and Nation-States - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States
Duration: 11 May 2017 → …


ConferenceThe SCANCOR-Weatherhead Spring 2017 Conference
LocationHarvard University
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCambridge, MA
Period11/05/2017 → …
Internet address


  • English as a corporate language
  • Discretionary power
  • Linguistic diversity
  • Language policy
  • Front-line
  • Employee perspective

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