Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Eric E. Peterson

Second Committee Member

Kristin M. Langellier

Third Committee Member

Nathan E. Stormer


This study explores the phenomenon of paradoxical communication in Office Space. Office Space is a humorous film about several employees who work at a software company called Initech. The film offers many examples of how paradoxical communication functions in an organizational setting and is easily understood by various audiences, specifically those who work in an office setting. The examples in Office Space fall into two categories of paradoxical communication, including the managementemployee paradox and paradoxes of race. This study uses semiotics to analyze the examples in the film. Ultimately, this study attempts to answer the following questions: why is a communication perspective of paradox important and what does this perspective have to offer to the meaning or understanding of paradox? How does paradox function in an organizational setting and how does paradox affect the relationships of those involved in organizational paradox? The study is broken down into four separate chapters. The first chapter introduces the film and follows with a literature review that addresses the foundations of paradox, the importance of context in paradox, and an explanation of paradox in organizations. The second chapter explores semiotics as a method to analyze paradox specifically focusing on signs, codes, signification systems, and ways to identify paradox in the film. Chapter three uses semiotics to analyze the management-employee and racial paradoxes in the film. Finally, chapter four offers conclusions about the communication perspective of paradox, functions of paradox as a communication phenomenon, and insight into further study of paradox.