The organizational communication subdiscipline has made great strides in theory and research in recent years, but little is known about the workplace communication experiences of Latinas and Latinos in the United States. Even less is known about these sociocultural group members’ experiences when they work in lower status, blue-collar roles in organizations. To fill this gap, this research study examined everyday communication experiences of 25 Latina and Latino immigrant custodial workers at a large public university in the southwestern United States, for the purpose of generating theoretical and practical knowledge about routine organizational communication from the standpoint of these traditionally marginalized social actors.
In-depth interviews were conducted with custodians to gain a deeper understanding of their everyday communication experiences with supervisors, coworkers, and customers. Additionally, this study sought to gain knowledge regarding the extent to which socially significant social identity categories, such as race-ethnicity, social class, immigrations status, and occupation, played a role in custodians’ communication experiences.
Findings showed that language use played a vital role in Latina and Latino immigrant custodians’ communication experiences in and out of the workplace. Participants cited daily communication challenges, host society members’ unwillingness to accommodate them, and their desire to integrate into U.S. society as issues connected to language use. Communication with supervisors was mostly negative, whereas interactions with coworkers were mutually supportive and affirming. Communication with customers yielded both negative and positive outcomes. Regarding social identity, participants felt that their race-ethnicity (i.e., Latina/o) was a primary reason for the verbal and nonverbal hostile communication directed at them from host society members. Participants also stated that social class, immigration status, and occupation were equally related to host society members’ aggressive communicative behaviors toward them.
Keywords: Latina, Latino, Immigrant, Custodian, University, Race, Ethnicity, Social Class, Co-cultural Communication, Language, Supervisor, Subordinate, Coworker, Customer, Occupation