Embrace It or Resist It? Employees' Reception of Corporate Language Policies

Dorte Lønsmann

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Corporate language policies and particularly the use of English as a corporate language have been studied in multinational corporations (MNCs) for almost two decades now. Despite these volumes of research, very little has been written about the process of implementing a corporate language and even less about the employee perspective. The article contributes to the field of language in cross-cultural management by exploring when and why corporate language policies encounter resistance among employees. The study uses observational and focus group data to investigate reactions to a new corporate language policy in one Danish MNC. Drawing on sociolinguistic stancetaking theory and ethnographic methods, the study seeks to understand how contextual factors influence employees’ stances towards the introduction of English as a corporate language. English language competence, the local linguistic context and different temporal perspectives are found to be key factors. The study suggests that new language policies are likely to be resisted when they are introduced to support a long-term strategic goal but lack immediate relevance in the daily life of employees. These results have implications beyond the scope of corporate language policies but reach into the study of the implementation of strategic organizational changes more generally with the suggestion that understanding employees’ local context and outlook is necessary for management to successfully implement change in the organization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Cross Cultural Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101-123
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Corporate language
  • Focus groups
  • Language competence
  • Language policy
  • Organizational change
  • Policy implementation
  • Stancetaking

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