How management uses symbolic interactionism as described by Mead, Garfinkel, and Goffman to reinforce role definition and to assert dominance and control over employees
ABC Company has a total of 200 employees distributed across five departments within the organization. The company recognizes the importance of having a diverse workforce consisting of individuals from different ethnic, religious, socio-economic, racial, and sexual backgrounds. Employees at ABC Company are seen to interact peacefully with one another irrespective of their cultural variations. They strive to avoid conflict with one another though dress code, word choice during communication, dedication at work, use of gestures, body language, and spatial orientation. For instance, employees at ABC Company put on descent dresses that demonstrate high level of professionalism. In addition, all workers at the company perform their roles and responsibilities with minimum supervision. Most importantly, they ensure that they do not hurt their colleagues during communication, whether through non-verbal or verbal forms of communication. All workers at ABC Company continually adjust their behaviors to the actions of their colleagues. They are able to achieve this by abiding by the rules that have been put in place by management to assert dominance and control over employees and to reinforce role definition. When formulating these rules, ABC management largely pays attention to the concept of symbolic interactionism as described by three interactionist theorists namely Mead, Garfinkel, and Goffman. By following the rules that have been put in place by management, it can be concluded that employees at ABC Company effectively use symbolic interactionism to imply submission.
Interactionists view social life and human behavior subjectively rather than objectively by focusing on the image of humans but not that of the entire society. These theorists claim for peaceful social interaction to occur, human beings must adjust their behaviors and actions to fit the needs of other people within their immediate environments. In addition, individuals must imaginatively rehearse various possible alternatives before making adjustments and prior to acting in a manner that will benefit others. Furthermore, in order to adjust as necessary, human beings must be able to think of themselves as symbolic objects of socialization, but not as passive objects. Symbolic interactionism focuses on those social interactions that can be observed face-to-face (Blumer, 1969). Employees at ABC Company focus their interactions of what they can directly observe from others which allows them to shift their attention from the norms and values of each and every one of them towards social process that are continually changing.
Since symbolic interactionism lays emphasis on symbols and the social construction of the society, Goffman (1958) feels that it is important to analyze the roles that people play in the society. According to Goffman (1958), human beings as role-taking actors and in this manner, they are able to determine the nature of impacts that their actions might have on other people with whom they interact. Apart from role-taking, Goffman feels that role- making is another key mechanism of interaction. All situations and roles are intrinsically uncertain, which compels humans to create situations and roles before they can act. At ABC Company, the management plays the role-making role by creating situations and roles that must be performed by employees to assist the company achieve its objectives. On the other hand, employees act as role-takers because they must see how their actions will affect others. For this reason, they are able to adjust their behaviors to fit the actions of others.
According to Garfinkel (1967), people interacting in a given environment must be able to create a false impression of social order even if they unable to understand the views of other actors. For instance, when an actor fails to understand what the other person is saying, they should give them an opportunity to explain their points instead of disagreeing. This explains the importance of allowing turn-taking in a conversation. Employees at ABC Company come from diverse cultural backgrounds and the fact that they interact peacefully at work does not mean that they are in agreement with one another’s values and beliefs. Rather, they are trying to create the illusion of shared social order to avoid interrupting the daily operations of the company. Moreover, the employees might not support all rules that have been put in place by the company’s management, but they are just trying to create an environment where everyone can stay in harmony (Garfinkel, 1967).
In Mead’s views, the best language to communicate in a social setting is the use of significant symbols. In this case, significant symbols are gestures that must be understood by the actors themselves (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The actors responding to significant symbols must also use gestures to give the correct response. According to Mead, communication is a social act that requires two or more individuals to interact and it is from such interactions that meaning is generated. Again, an individual must be able to initiate a gesture, a second person must respond to the gesture, and the result of the initiated gesture must be obtained. When two or more people engage in an act of communication, the meaning can only be obtained through interactive participation (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Therefore, employees at ABC Company can maintain parity with the management by using significant symbols in communication and in a manner that will not hurt their colleagues.
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