Rudeness as a discursive strategy in leadership discourse: Culture, power and gender in a Hong Kong workplace


*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    This article reports on an ongoing research project on leadership discourse and gender in Hong Kong workplaces. It analyses excerpts from a business meeting in a small factory outlet involving three male and three female staff. The two female leaders use jocular insults and other forms of verbal abuse repeatedly, and it is argued that the two leaders' discursive strategies are best characterised as instrumental rudeness, the purpose of which is to attack their interlocutors' face and thereby (re)activate aspects of their own power. Jocular insults may function as a means by which superiors maintain their position in the workplace, but also as a socially acceptable strategy by which subordinates challenge their leaders. In the present context, however, these strategies are used predominantly by the two leaders, and it is argued that a careful consideration of the socio-pragmatic norms of the micro- and the macro-context may explain why the subordinates accept these insults. The article suggests that huge power distance and hierarchical relationships may explain why these leaders' demeaning discourses are not directly challenged. Finally, the article suggests that normatively masculine and feminine management styles may be culture specific, which reiterates the need for a careful consideration of socio-cultural values and norms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1661-1679
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Artificial Intelligence

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Confucian values
    • Hong Kong workplaces
    • Jocular insults
    • Leadership and gender
    • Power difference
    • Rudeness in discourse


    Dive into the research topics of 'Rudeness as a discursive strategy in leadership discourse: Culture, power and gender in a Hong Kong workplace'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this