Article published in:The interplay between professional identities and age, gender and ethnicity
Edited by Dorien Van De Mieroop and Jonathan Clifton
[Pragmatics 22:2] 2012
► pp. 255–277
“the older I get the less I trust people” constructing age identities in the workplace
In 2006 laws banning age discrimination came into effect in the UK. Even though unions seem to suggest that ‘age’ is a very common form of discrimination, it does not typically attract (at least as yet) the same attention as other more widely discussed cases. Age discrimination is typically associated with discourses around an ‘ageing workforce’, however it affects both younger and older employees. Looking closer at ‘ageing’ discourses it becomes apparent that the boundaries between ‘old’ and ‘young’ are not as clear cut as a first reading would suggest. Further to this, recent sociolinguistic research has repeatedly shown that (age or other) identity is not something people ‘have’ or ‘are’ but something people ‘do’ (e.g., Holmes 2006; Coupland 2009). Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to discuss and problematise the ways in which employees construct age identities in the complex system of white-collar workplaces. The paper draws on recordings of real life routine meeting data featuring primarily employees in a small/medium enterprise (SMEs). Special attention is paid here to one member of the team, Cynthia the youngest member of staff. The discussion also draws on interview data in order to further analyse perceptions and representations of ‘age differences’ in this context. The analysis shows the complex process of negotiation of identity where chronological age is related to ‘expertise’ and ‘experience’ and becomes an important resource participants draw upon in the process of self -and other- positioning.
Keywords: Young employees, Small medium enterprises (SMEs), Professional age, Age identities
Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 license.
Published online: 01 June 2012
Angouri, Jo, and Evi Angelidou
Bamberg, Michael, Anna De Fina, and Deborah Schiffrin
(2010) Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Statistics for the UK and Regions 2009. Statistical Press Release. Available from http://stats.bis.gov.uk/ed/sme/Stats_Press_release_2009.pdf Accessed January 2011 .
Bultena, Gordon L., and Edward Powers
Cameron, Deborah, Elizabeth Frazer, Penelope Harvey, Ben Rampton, and Kay Richardson
(1992) Researching Language. Issues of Power and Method. London: Routledge. BoP
Cassell, Catherine, Sara Nadin, Melany Gray, and Chris Clegg
Coupland Justine, Nikolas Coupland, Howard Giles, and Karen Henwood
(1991a) Formulating age: Dimensions of age identity in elderly talk. Discourse Processes 14: 87–106. BoP
Coupland, Justine, Nikolas Coupland, and Karen Grainger
Davies, Bronwyn, and Rom Harré
Duncan, Colin, and Wendy Loretto
Giles, Howard, Nikolas Coupland, and Justine Coupland
(1991) Accommodation theory: Communication, context, and consequence. In Howard Giles, Justine Coupland, and Nikolas Coupland(eds.), Contexts of Accommodation: Developments in Applied Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–68. BoP
(1982) Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. BoP
Harrington, Kate, Lia Litosseliti, Helen Sauntson, and Jane Sunderland
Harwood, Jake, Howard Giles, and Ellen B. Ryan
Hogg, Michael A., Elizabeth A. Hardie, and Katherine J. Reynolds
Holmes, Janet, and Meredith Marra
(2004) Leadership and managing conflict in meetings. Pragmatics 14.4: 439–462. BoP
Holmes, Janet, and Maria Stubbe
(2006) Gendered Talk at Work. Oxford: Blackwell. BoP
Holmes, Janet, Meredith Marra, and Bernadette Vine
Jablin, M. Frederic, and Linda L. Putnam
(eds.) (2001) The new handbook of organizational communication: Advances in theory, research and methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage. BoP
(1972) Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. BoP
(1994) Principles of linguistic change. 1: Internal factors. Oxford: Blackwell. BoP
Le Page, Robert B., and Andrée Tabouret-Keller
Locher, Mirriam A.
Mørck, Line L.
(2006) The impact of age discrimination legislation on small and medium-sized enterprises. Acas Research and Evaluation Section. Available from http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/k/i/research-paper-04-06-accessible-version-July-2011.pdf
Odell, Lee, Dixie Goswami, and Anne Herrington
Patrickson, Margaret, and Rob Ranzijn
Pecchioni Loretta, Hiroshi Ota, and Lisa Sparks
Roberts, Celia, and Srikant Sarangi
(2003) Uptake of discourse research in interprofessional settings: Reporting from medical consultancy. Applied Linguistics 24.3: 338–359. BoP
Schwartz, Seth J., Koen Luyckx, and Vivian L. Vignoles
Snape, Ed, and Tom Redman
Spence, Laura J.
Stets, Jan E., and Peter J. Burke
Tajfel, Henri, and John C. Turner
Terry, Deborah J., Michael A. Hogg, and Katherine M. White
Thoits, Peggy A.
Vera, Carolina F., and Michelle A. Dean
Woodhams, Carole, and Ben Lupton
Williams, Angie, Justine Coupland, Annette Folwell, and Lisa Sparks
(1997) Talking about generation X defining them as they define themselves. Journal of Language and social Psychology 16: 251–276. BoP
Cited by other publications
Rovner-Lev, Galit & Nelly Elias
Sanderson, Tessa & Jo Angouri
Zacher, Hannes, Lisa Esser, Clarissa Bohlmann, Cort W Rudolph & Donald Truxillo
This list is based on CrossRef data as of 14 january 2021. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.