“Do You Want to Negotiate with Me?”– Avoiding and Dealing with Conflicts Arising in Conversations with the Young Unemployed


  • Daniela Boehringer University of Hildesheim
  • Ute Karl University of Luxembourg


avoiding conflicts in co-present interaction, conversation analysis, German job centre, social services, transformation of the welfare state


This paper addresses conflict talk in social services. We focus on naturally occurring face-to-face conversations between claimants and personal contact persons in German job centres for young people under the age of 25. Using conversation analysis we identify conflict episodes arising in these conversations. We show how the participants display disagreement/agreement and how they escalate or terminate conflict episodes. We show that participants tend to avoid full confrontation in co-present interaction (both the ‘customer’ and the ‘personal contact person’). They tend to maintain social continuity. On the other hand, many ‘customers’ file a complaint against the decisions of job centres concerning their unemployment benefits. There seems to be a lack of conflict solution potential in this social service organisation. There are not enough intermediate ways to deal with conflicts, which interactants tend to avoid but which are of course still there.

Author Biographies

Daniela Boehringer, University of Hildesheim

Social Work and Organisation Studies

Ute Karl, University of Luxembourg

Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Work, Social Pedagogy and Social Welfare/Integrative Research Unit on Social and Individual Development (INSIDE)




Special Issue: "Labour Market Policy at Street Level"