Ingroups and Outgroups in Complaints: Exploring Politic Behaviour in Nurses’ Discourse

Mariana Virginia Lazzaro-Salazar


The relevance of social norms for understanding appropriate behaviour in context has taken central stage in (im)politeness research in recent years, and particularly in studies of workplace interaction (Holmes, 2012). As an example of this research, this paper explores the way in which a group of nurses interacting with their colleagues negotiates complaints. The data were collected in a ward of a public healthcare institution in New Zealand and consist of audio and video recordings of four roster meetings involving nurses and nurse managers. Instances of nurses’ complaints are explored from an interactional sociolinguistic point of view, allowing the researcher to investigate emergent facework (drawing on Locher and Watts, 2005). The findings suggest that multiple ingroup and outgroup memberships, achieved through the dynamic use of personal pronouns, enact preferred politic behaviour for both, transactional and relational goals. In addition, nurses’ convergence in their display of socio-pragmatic norms governing their complaining practices suggests that this group of nurses belongs to the same workplace community. Finally, strong emphasis is placed on the role that complaining plays in the positive presentation of nurses’ identities.

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