PhD Candidate: Constructing Social Safety in Written Digital Communication in the Workplace: A Study on Requests and Refusals

PhD Candidate: Constructing Social Safety in Written Digital Communication in the Workplace: A Study on Requests and Refusals

Published Deadline Location
16 May 29 May Nijmegen

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Job description

The Centre for Language Studies (CLS) is looking for a PhD candidate to work on a project entitled ‘Constructing social safety in written digital communication in the workplace: A study on requests and refusals’.

We offer you the opportunity to develop and carry out your own PhD project within the areas of expertise of your supervisors (Prof. Wyke Stommel, Dr Rebecca Van Herck, and Dr Sara Bögels). The project will be funded by a Starters Grant from the Faculty of Arts awarded to Dr Rebecca Van Herck.

The research project is organised around the concept of social safety (also known as psychological safety in the academic literature), which is an important current topic across society, especially in the workplace. Psychological safety refers to an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear, judgement or repercussion, which includes the freedom to voice concerns and admit mistakes without facing embarrassment or blame. Studies have shown that psychological safety leads to a better collaboration among colleagues and higher productivity within teams. Therefore, prioritising a socially safe environment is essential for organizations and will benefit all parties involved.

Most social safety workshops prioritise face-to-face communication to address issues like bullying. Social misconduct on written communication platforms such as email, Slack, and Teams, is typically not addressed in such workshops. Digital communication presents challenges as it may lack the nuance of face-to-face interaction, potentially leading to messages being perceived as overly harsh or impolite. Particularly requests and refusals are challenging to express in written communication as these linguistic actions imply power dynamics (e.g. between colleagues or in a hierarchical relationship) and potential conflicts.

As a PhD candidate, you will investigate the complexities surrounding requests and refusals in digital written workplace communication. Specifically, you will explore how workplace relationships relate to the construction of requests and refusals, aiming to uncover strategies for managing and mitigating such interactions while preserving mutual respect and professionalism. Your research will address questions such as how to make requests to superiors without appearing dependent, and how to refuse tasks without undermining authority. You will use mixed methods, including qualitative research methods (e.g. interaction analysis) and quantitative research methods (e.g. experimental design). By examining the prevalent strategies in the context of requests and refusals and their impact on perceived social safety, this study aims to contribute valuable insights into the development of effective organisational practices and policies that foster a socially safe environment in written digital interactions. In the research proposal that you are requested to submit with your application, you can develop your own perspective on this research project, detailing how you would approach this topic. In your proposal, you may formulate your own research questions, and choose your own theoretical lens, methodology, and/or empirical material.

As a PhD candidate at the Centre for Language Studies (CLS), you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH). Up to 75% of your time will be devoted to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and academic service to the Faculty of Arts, including teaching.


Radboud University


  • You hold an MA degree in Applied Linguistics, Communication Sciences, or a related discipline.
  • You preferably have experience with the analysis of discourse, including qualitative (interaction analysis) and quantitative (experimental) research or are willing to acquire these skills.
  • You have a demonstrable interest in social safety, organisational dynamics, and interpersonal communication.
  • You are proactive and have a proven ability to conduct independent academic research and work in a collaborative research environment.
  • You have a good command of Dutch and English and good writing skills as required for scientific publishing.
  • You are willing to perform teaching and service duties.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 23.030.24



Houtlaan 4, 6525XZ, Nijmegen

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