Interpreting Nicknames: A Micropolitical Portal

Bruce Fortado
  • Journal of Management Studies, January 1998, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/1467-6486.00082

What is it about?

Nicknames are used in various, interactive, dynamic and complex ways at work. Some nicknames are brought to work, while others are coined at work. Some are embraced by the subject, some are used by his/her colleagues to his/her face, and others are used behind his/her back. There are individual and group nicknames. Some people have multiple nicknames. A literature review and six cases from the U.S. are used to inductively explore nicknames at work.

Why is it important?

Nicknames can serve many different purposes: including, furthering social control, contributing to socialization, marking group boundaries, building camaraderie, catalyzing joking, conveying discontent, venting frustrations, equalizing social exchanges, and adjusting to being labelled a deviant. Nicknames sometimes appear with other social activities: such as, story telling, joking, gossiping, caricaturing, and carrying out defiant acts. In sum, nicknames are often key symbols that can unlock many meanings when they are properly interpreted.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Fortado Bruce