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I observed a social setting of meeting in the office of the company I work in. It was a typical monthly discussion of the work done and plans for the next month. The meeting was held at the conference goal. The representatives of each department were to present the reports on the work of their departments during the past month and outline the perspectives of the future work in accordance with the plans of the company.
Each representative had a personal place at the table and presents the report in a particular order. The meetings are essential for the work of the company and control of the employees’ performance. The atmosphere was formal, however, some tension was present because of the presence of the director and, due to the strained relations among some members of the team.
In attendance, there were a total of 11 people. Consisting of 3 women in their 30s, 5 men in their 30s, 2 women in their 40s, and a director in his 40’s.
Blumer and Goffman: Sociological Theories
Once everybody arrives, mutual greetings and informal conversation before the official beginning of the meeting were friendly, however, there was tension. It was due to the conflict between two women which was noticeable through their looks, manners, and behavior. They did not take part in a common conversation and sat at opposite sides of the table. Everybody presented at the meeting was aware of the interpersonal conflict between two women.
However, they were trying to avoid situations in which an open conflict could occur. The women tried to be calm and friendly during formal communication. According to Goffman (1959), “self-control is exerted so as to maintain a working consensus”. So, such behavior can be described as “working consensus”. However, I noticed that each of them was trying to show her dominance. I noticed it from their body language: head up postures, intonation, and ignorance of each other. They were intended to show their high status “a social position that a person holds” (Macionis 2008, p. 95).
According to the theory of symbolic interactionism described by Blumer, the actions of every person can be defined, first of all, by the setting of the formal meeting and rules of behavior and interaction that it presupposes, and their working position, “human behavior is the product of various factors that play upon human beings; concern is the behavior and with the factors regarded as producing them” (Blumer 1986 p. 3).
Thus, the behavior of every member of the meeting was dictated by his/her social role and social pressure, status, psychological and sociological characteristics, as well as the character of the interpersonal relations of every individual with other participants of the meeting. Their behavior was based on the fact that they are the members of one team and personal attitudes should not be mixed with working relationships.
Consequently, according to Blumer (1986), the behavior and interaction between all participants of the meeting can be defined through the cultural concept “custom, traditions, norms, values, rules” (Blumer 1986, p. 6), and social structure which they formed at that moment (formal meeting) which is represented by “social position, status, role, authority, and prestige” (Blumer 1986, p. 7).
Without reading the studies by Blumer and Goffman, I would probably be not able to notice the details of the people’s behavior. Moreover, I would not be able to interpret them in an appropriate way. I noticed such “social rituals” as greetings, informal conversation, and traditional coffee break after the meeting.
As I am a new person in the team, I was not introduced to the details of the team relationships. Thus, the conflict between the women was not very important for me, but I felt that it influenced the working environment in the office.
Blumer, H. (1986). The nature of symbolic interactionism. In Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method (pp. 1–7). Ewing, NJ: University of California Press.
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Random House Anchor Books.
Macionis, J. J. (2008). Society: The basics. (10th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.