Talking up failure: How discourse can signal failure to change

Gavin M. Schwarz, Bernadette Maria Watson, Victor J. Callan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the predictive properties of talk as an indicator of failure to change. As part of the exploration of organizational change, researchers regularly focus on how discourse is used and applied to achieve certain processes and outcomes. This position presents change as a function of particular types of communication and its interpretation. Using longitudinal data of an organization's technology change, we propose that the way employees talk about planned organizational change, as a group, signals and can be used to recognize eventual failure to change. Extending current trends in discursive analyses, we establish talk as a reflective device, in the context of tracking failure while it occurs, by combining social identity theory (SIT) with a language and social psychology (LASP) approach. In doing so, the discourse of failure can be viewed as part of an intergroup phenomenon experienced and interpreted through organizational memberships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-352
Number of pages42
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • discourse of failure
  • organizational change
  • organizational communication
  • organizational failure
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Talking up failure: How discourse can signal failure to change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this