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Authority Within a Discourse Community: Personal Reflection

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There are a lot of paths in life that each person takes to reach their ambitions. While they are progressing in life, those people find groups that are called discourse communities. According to John Swales, he defines discourse community as, “a broadly agreed set of common public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among its members, uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback, utilities and hence processes one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims, acquires specific lexis, and has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discourse expertise”. In short, a discourse community is a group of people who share similar ideas, goals, and ways of communication. People in the group usually take on appointed or held levels of discursive authority. This essay will elaborate on the topic of the Freight and Receiving team discourse community at Home Depot, how newcomers enculturate and gain authority in the discourse community, and personal experiences with authority within the community.

To begin with, a discourse community that I am a part of is the Freight and Receiving team at Home Depot. The group exists to maintain business at Home Depot. I was part of the overnight crew and the shared goal of the community is to come into work on the days that we are assigned to work and complete the daily work task. Our job is to restock and/or upstock in storage every item that comes out of the delivery truck all within the hours of the night and before it is time to clock out. We also have to make sure, before the store is opened for customers, that our assigned department are cleaned of any mess that was made during the night and ensure that all wing-stacks, side-caps, and end caps were presentable. Without the group, Home Depot would not have anything on the shelf to sell, and if they do not have anything on the shelf to sell, then they would not be able to create revenue and would eventually have to close the business.

In addition, the Freight and Receiving community communicates in many different ways and have terms that would only be understood by members of the group. Members of the community communicate either face to face, meetings, through the intercom, or by calling each other through the FIRST Phones that each of us have. We mostly communicate through meetings at the start of the shift in order to know what the task is for the night and who is working which department that night. Throughout the night we communicate in order to know who needs help, who is almost done or is already done, to know if there is something else that the boss wants us to also complete, or to simply see what is up. The genres of the workplace are mainly casual notes, writing reports or list, or whiteboard messages. Discourse communities come in all sizes and each community has different sets of genres and different ways of communicating.

Furthermore, for many newcomers, it is a bit difficult for them to adjust to their new discourse community and often times take a while for them to feel as if they belong. It is no different as a new member of the Freight and Receiving discourse community. Newcomers to the community acquire the appropriate knowledge, language, and genres through training within their first 2-3 weeks at the workplace. They first meet other newcomers at an orientation meeting where the hiring manager goes over the rules and basic and gives them all of their equipment and gear that are required at work. Onwards, the newcomers continue to do training while also partially working. Most of the training is on a computer and afterward, the newcomers are trained by an assistant manager or department supervisor to learn how to use all of the special machineries and become officially certified to operate those machines.

To add on, I for one had a difficult time when I initially began working at Home Depot. A day after being formally hired during the orientation at Home Depot, I was called in to work a shift. I was not supposed to be scheduled to work yet, but they were understaffed that day and needed people to come in. I got there and was pretty much lost because I had never worked a day in my life until then. My coworkers and boss assumed that I knew what to do and didn’t bother much to show me the ins and outs of the job. For weeks I didn’t know what most of the discourse terms that they communicated in. I did not know that ZMA was a program on the FIRST phones that you would use to report that a product was damaged, stolen, or defective. I did not even know that wing-stacks, side-caps, and end caps were areas of the stores that were used to temporarily display products. My friend who also worked there had to help me understand the terms and show me the ropes. It wasn’t until I started to do the online training that I started to learn the discourse of the community and everything soon started to make sense. I started to work more efficiently and earn more responsibilities within my discourse community.

Lastly, all discourse communities have different levels of learning that newcomers have to adjust to in order to begin gaining authority. In my discourse community, authority can be gained or lost. Authority can be gain by showing that you are responsible, trustworthy, and know/follow the rules that are set. When you do show that, you begin to gain respect within the community. Likewise, you can lose authority in the community by your actions, losing trust, losing respect and not following the rules. In my community, Kyle, an assistant manager who was an authority figure, lost authority because he lost the respect of other members of the community. Every authority figure should strive to earn and keep the respect and trust from other members in their community. There is a lot that goes into receiving respect and trust in a discourse community, without it authority would not be able to be gained.

In conclusion, everyone answers to an authority figure. Those figures have gained authority in the community due to the power that the members of the community have given them. In not only the Freight and Receiving discourse community, but in all discourse communities, gaining authority is not an easy task for newcomers. To even begin receiving authority you have to follow and learn the ways of communication, the skills, the expectation, and the language of the discourse community. In the Freight and Receiving discourse community, the assistant managers and department supervisors are the authority figures. Those authority figures can negatively or positively affect the members of the community and/or the discourse community altogether. Overall, Authority in a discourse community can only be gained when you have proven yourself to be worthy of authority, without it the discourse community would lose peace and order.

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Authority Within A Discourse Community: Personal Reflection. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
“Authority Within A Discourse Community: Personal Reflection.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020,
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