- Performance pinned down: studying subjectivity and the language of performance
- Organization Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 31 | 8
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
We draw on Lacan’s notion of language to study employee subjectivity in a public sector organization (Publica) in the Netherlands. Our main contribution lies in using Lacan’s theorization of language and subjectivity as a basis for a detailed textual analysis of how local organizational discourses shape and inform the subjectivities of employees. We situate our approach within the literature on subjectivity, language and power in work organizations before describing how we carried out interviews to elicit interviewees’ accounts of performance management. The mechanisms of metonymy and punctuation, two central features of a Lacanian conceptualization of language, are analysed by means of a relational analysis of key performance signifiers that we identify in the interview texts. We show how the signification of performance in Publica is pinned down by a central empty signifier which can be understood as a ‘quilting point’ and serves as a site for employee desire and identification. Finally, we show how desire and identification are channelled in specific ways to activate employee self-regulation in achieving the devolvement of responsibility and labour intensification.
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