A Social Psychological Perspective
Part II: Social Identities, Communication, and Gender
Communication is an everyday activity that is intertwined with human life as a whole so thoroughly that sometimes we overlook its importance and complexity. Every aspect of our daily life depends on communication with others (Giles, 2012; Giles, Reid, & Harwood, 2010). This includes messages from people we do not even know. Much research in organizational psychology has dealt with communication problems between women and men at work as essentially an “interpersonal” phenomenon (Tajfel, 1982), a phenomenon that is mainly influenced by people’s personal characteristics and preferences when they interact. According to this view, people are isolated from the social context, and social interaction is treated as a simple relationship between people (Coates & Johnson, 2001).
Thus, problems of miscommunication (Coupland, Giles, & Wiemann, 1991) in the workplace due to gender were considered as alleged personal shortcomings. Therefore, solutions based on individual education and training were emphasized: Women should be taught to communicate in a more appropriate manner (e.g., to communicate like men or use strategies that do not contradict established standards of workplace communication). Men were ← 155 | 156 → taught to avoid undesirable sexist behaviors and were punished if they did not comply (e.g., threatened with loss of promotions and even with lawsuits).
However, if we approach gender interactions in the workplace as a strictly interpersonal phenomenon, we overlook key pieces of the puzzle (Boggs & Giles, 1999). Examining the social context in the workplace where problems occur, we find evidence that the dynamics of communication...
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