Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL)



First Advisor

Velma J. Lashbrook

Second Advisor

Daniel Hanson

Third Advisor

Thomas H. Berkas


How do dialogue, discussion and debate occur in the workplace? I explored this question through qualitative interviews of 14 high potential leaders at a Fortune 50 company, by asking them about their conversations at work.

Through in-depth transcript analysis, I identified and quantified behavioral themes for each form of conversation. Each response was labeled as effective or ineffective and counted to determine the frequency with which it was cited. The results indicated that discussion behaviors were effectively and prevalently exhibited in 86% of examples. Dialogue behaviors were effective and common, and cited in 36% of examples. Debate behaviors were ineffective and rare, and mentioned in 29% of examples.

Different behaviors are associated with each form of conversation. Leaders engaged in discussion behaviors most frequently, even when the question solicited a debate or dialogue. The study provides the basis for further research on how to optimize conversations in the workplace.


SC 11.MAL.2011.Wocken.L