Communication that counts: A sociolinguistic ethnography of globalized accounting work
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 19:21 authored by Pia Patricia Tenedero
This research explores the idea of 'good communication' in globalized accounting work. Accountants are widely stereotyped as poor communicators and significant training efforts are invested in improving accounting communication. Taking the occupational stereotype of shy quants who are good with numbers but bad with words as its starting point, this thesis examines language and communication practices and ideologies in accounting education and work in the Philippines. As an emerging global leader in offshore accounting, the Philippines provides an ideal context for this study as it allows for an exploration of multilingual, multimodal, and transnational workplace communication. Conceptually, the study draws on the literature related to language for specific purposes, commodification of communication, and the performativity of language in the workplace. Methodologically, the study takes a sociolinguistic ethnographic approach. In addition to participant observation in top-performing accounting schools and workplaces in Metro Manila, the study also uses corpus analytic methods to analyze how communication skills are constructed in curricular documents and employment ads. With regard to accounting education, the study finds that communication skills constitute an expected graduate attribute and are taught across the accounting curriculum. However, what is considered to constitute 'effective' communication varies considerably. The notion of 'accounting communication' includes the achievement of interpersonal goals, specific forms of spoken and written expression, the ability to communicate digitally, and proficiency in English and Filipino. The relationship of the latter is embedded in tensions between students' academic and professional aspirations, between conveying knowledge and building rapport, and between practitioner teachers and academic teachers. With regard to accounting workplaces, findings show that 'excellent communication' is considered a key criterion for employability. 'Excellent communication' is mobilized as a key criterion in recruitment rituals, often at the expense of technical skills. At work, 'effective communication' plays out on a digital global stage. In this context, 'effectiveness' of communication becomes embedded in yet another set of tensions: between accountants' linguistic performance of global competence and of local identity, between their compliance with workplace language policies and their individual agency, and between participation in and resistance to digital surveillance. Overall, the thesis argues that 'effective communication' ultimately proves an elusive target that is constantly shifting relative to factors such as the organization's desired corporate image, the power and rapport status between interactants, the mode of interaction, and the linguistic and cultural capital of clients, bosses, and co-workers onshore and offshore. The thesis closes with implications for complementing the competence view of communication in accounting education with the performance lens and for expanding sociolinguistic epistemology with perspectives from the Global South on what counts in global, professional communication.