Accepted paper:

"Never from the horse's mouth": the problem of corporate internal communication in a multiethnic corporation in Hawai`i


Kyung-Nan Koh (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses various corporate internal communication practices of a multilingual corporation in Hawai`i; and specifically how different communication methods and language use shaped patterns of information circulation, which, in turn, was reevaluated as a problem of corporate groupness.

Paper long abstract:

In theories of corporations, we often read that corporate internal communication is a matter of corporate hierarchy; information necessary to perform one's job duty is communicated top-down along the chain of command, which is diagrammed out in the organisational structure chart. However, ethnographic research reveals that corporate internal communication is more than the giving and receiving of orders and requests. Corporate internal communication is also a matter of information sharing among group members; and the employees often view effective communication—or the lack of it—as linked to the broader problems of employee morale and corporate culture. Then, what happens when the corporation in question is multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural? In this paper, I discuss corporate internal communication practices of a corporation I call Hawaiian Lands Company and specifically the way employee communication was mediated by concerns as to how to relay information as to what is happening overall at the level of the corporation. I examine how uses of (a) different communication mediums, (b) different languages and registers of languages, and (c) different traditions of knowledge transmission (e.g., oral vs. written), in sum, created the unforeseen effects of the unequal distribution of knowledge and the resentments among the multilingual employees who feel left out. The analysis focuses on how the methods and the languages employed for corporate communication purposes shape the pattern of information circulation; and how information circulation is ideologically and socio-relationally reevaluated as a problem of teamwork and thus corporate groupness.

panel P075
Cultural diversity and multiculturalism in enterprise (Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)