Distant Relations: The Affordances of Email in Interorganizational Conflict

Anne Marie Bülow, Joyce Y. H. Lee, Niki Panteli

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    This article explores the role of email in the ambiguous circumstances of an established international partnership that is developing into competition. Using the naturally occurring interaction of a longitudinal ethnographic study, we study the ensuing task and relationship conflicts through the communication medium. Results show that the conflict is facilitated by email, not as an unfortunate side-effect but as a strategic choice of distance, partly for passive protection but also for active control of the interaction. We use the results to chart the multiple situated identities of the communicators that are made salient in their virtual interaction. The double aspect of social and organizational contexts is shown to have an effect on different issues, such as organizational authority at the home organization, the buyer-supplier relationship, nonnative language use, and norms of communication style in the interaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)393-413
    Number of pages21
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Published online February 26, 2016


    • Email
    • Computer-mediated communication
    • Affordances
    • Workplace conflict
    • Avoidance

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