Exercising power while you are not intrinsically vested with any

Chung Kwong Ho

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


This chapter describes how the members of three communities of practice (Wenger 1998) exercised power while making requests of their peers through internal e-mails. The three communities of practice were (1) a group of Chinese English language teachers, (2) a group of native-speaking English language teachers, and (3) a group of information technology professionals. They differed from one another in terms of the nature of their joint enterprise, cultural composition, and size. The members of the communities of practice communicated with one another primarily through internal e-mails for a number of purposes, with requesting others to perform certain tasks for the members or the community of practice as one of them. As peers, they did not have the intrinsic "position power" (Einstein and Humphreys, 2002, p. 16) to get one another to perform acts. They therefore needed to employ a number of strategies, primarily discursive in nature, to make the request e-mail recipients feel that they had the necessary power to get them to act in order to effect request compliance. By analyzing the representative request e-mails of each of the communities of practice, I will illustrate the ways the e-mail authors portrayed themselves as a powerful figure to get the e-mail recipients to do as requested by using various discursive strategies. I will draw upon mainly Halliday and Matthiessen's (2004) systemic functional grammar, Sarangi and Roberts' (1999) notion of workplace discourse, and Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper's (1989) scale of directness of request strategies in analyzing the data. The findings of the study will contribute to a deeper understanding of professional communication in general and the exercise of power through discourse in the workplace in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Power
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781619424869
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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