Language as a resource in project management: A case study and a conceptual framework

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This study sheds light on how project managers can use language as a resource for communicating with local communities and stakeholders alike, and protect the legitimacy of their decisions and actions. The verbal accounts produced by a senior project management team are examined in-depth. The accounts address the claims raised by residents affected by the expansion of the Heathrow airport. The context for the talk-in-interaction is one of conflicting interests: the promoter undertakes actions to mitigate the impacts of the construction works, but some residents feel frustrated that the business can grow at the expenses of their welfare. The findings reveal that managers tend to acknowledge all claims even when perceiving they lack legitimacy. The analysis of the words and phrasing in the conversational turns that form the accounts reveals three tonescaring, assertive, and apologeticthat managers use intentionally to frame linguistically the acknowledgements. The study discusses how the tones fit with the extent to which, first, managers consider that the claims are factually correct, fair, and precise as opposed to unfair, exaggerated, or opportunistic; and second, managers find technical or institutional references available for constructing the accounts. It also discusses the effects of congruenceor the lack of itbetween what managers mean to say about what the project team will do, what managers actually say, how listeners interpret what was said, and what the project team actually gets done. © 2009 IEEE.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5280373
Pages (from-to)450-462
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Communication
  • language
  • legitimacy
  • local communities
  • project stakeholder


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