The term 'rhetoric' is widely utilized within writings on employment relations, typically to signify emptiness, manipulation or as a contrast with reality. This paper critiques such usage and argues for employment relations to engage with the discipline of rhetoric. In outlining the parameters of rhetorical analysis in relation to the indeterminacy of the employment relationship and significance of persuasion, it describes how rhetorical studies have featured within the field of industrial relations. The paper ends with a consideration of the social constructionist implications of focusing on discourse and on how rhetorical studies could be further developed. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd/London School of Economics 2001.