Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 2–3, pp 105–118 | Cite as

“People First—Always”: Euphemism and Rhetoric as Troublesome Influences on Organizational Sense-Making—A Downsizing Case Study

  • Margaret H. Vickers


The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of euphemism and rhetoric in influencing organizational members' constructions of reality and sense-making abilities. The discussion opens with a return to the role of the sociology of knowledge, before exploring the purpose and outcomes of euphemism and rhetoric. Heideggerian phenomenology was used to collect this particularly poignant story from Adrian (a pseudonym), who was made redundant from his workplace after heart bypass surgery. Weick's theoretical exposition of sense-making in organizations is used to examine Adrian's story, with the purpose of demonstrating that sense-making is highly influenced by the use of rhetoric and euphemism (K. E. Weick, 1995, Sense-making in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage). When the “truth” finally comes out, the outcome is seen to be serious—even life threatening.

sense-making phenomenology euphemism rhetoric downsizing 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret H. Vickers
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Management, College of Law and BusinessUniversity of Western SydneyNew South WalesAustralia

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