A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Organizational Communication

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Organizational communication, broadly speaking, is: people working together to achieve individual or collective goals. The field traces its lineage through business information, business communication, and early mass communication studies published in the 1930s through the 1950s.



Accomplishing Knowledge: A Framework for Investigating Knowing in Organizations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article proposes a shift in how researchers study knowledge and knowing in organizations. Responding to a pronounced lack of methodological guidance from existing research, this work develops a framework for analyzing situated organizational problem solving. This framework, rooted in social practice theory, focuses on communicative knowledge-accomplishing activities, which frame and respond to various problematic situations. Vignettes drawn from a call center demonstrate the value of the framework, which can advance practice-oriented research on knowledge and knowing by helping it break with dubious assumptions about knowledge homogeneity within groups, examine knowing as instrumental action and involvement in a struggle over meaning, and display how patterns of knowledge-accomplishing activities can generate unintended organizational consequences.

Kuhn, Timothy and Michele H. Jackson. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Knowledge Management>Organizational Communication


The Accomplishment of Authority Through Presentification: How Authority Is Distributed Among and Negotiated by Organizational Members   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The complex distribution and negotiation of authority in real time is a key issue for today's organizations. The authors investigate how the negotiations that sustain authority at work actually unfold by analyzing the ways of talking and acting through which organizational members establish their authority. They argue that authority is achieved through presentification—that is, by making sources of authority present in interaction. On the basis of an empirical analysis of a naturally occurring interaction between a medical coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières and technicians of a hospital supported by her organization, the authors identify key communicative practices involved in achieving authority and discuss their implications for scholars' understanding of what being in authority at work means.

Benoit-Barné, Chantal and François Cooren. Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication>Rhetoric


Attraction to Organizational Culture Profiles: Effects of Realistic Recruitment and Vertical and Horizontal Individualism—Collectivism   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Today's organizations are challenged with attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality employees; thus, many firms seek to improve their recruitment and selection processes. One approach involves using realistic job previews (RJPs) to communicate a balanced view of the organization. The authors explored the effects of organizational culture (hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy), recruitment strategy (RJP vs. traditional), and personality (horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism) on attraction to Web-based organizational profiles using a sample of 234 undergraduate students in a mixed two-factor experimental design. Results indicate that the clan culture is viewed as the most attractive. Traditional versus RJP recruitment produced higher levels of organizational attraction. Finally, predicted relationships between the personality framework of horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism and organizational attraction were supported.

Gardner, William L., Brian J. Reithel, Richard T. Foley, Claudia C. Cogliser and Fred O. Walumbwa . Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Management>Interviewing>Organizational Communication


Beyond Power and Resistance: New Approaches to Organizational Politics   (members only)

In this introduction to the special issue, the editors question the still-prevalent dichotomy of power and resistance when studying organizational politics. They begin by tracing the evolution of power and resistance in critical scholarship. Then, they propose that because of changing workplace dynamics, power and resistance are increasingly intertwined. More nuanced concepts are required to describe this. Finally, they argue that power and resistance should be considered as a singular dynamic called struggle.

Fleming, Peter and André Spicer. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication>Business Communication


Beyond Taxonomies of Influence: "Doing" Influence and Making Decisions in Management Team Meetings   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies of influence in organizational settings have tended to concentrate on defining categories of influence based on self-reports and questionnaires. This has tended to decontextualize and generalize the findings and therefore overlooks the inevitably temporally and locally situated nature of all social activity. Using conversation analysis as a methodology and videotaped data of naturally occurring talk, this article seeks to go beyond such taxonomies of influence. More specifically, this article seeks to provide a fine-grained analysis of how subordinates, as well as superiors, can influence decision-making episodes of talk. It is also argued that the results of such research can be fed back into practice and ultimately can be of help in allowing better decision-making practices.

Clifton, Jonathan. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Organizational Communication


Can CCO Theory Tell Us How Organizing Is Distinct From Markets, Networking, Belonging to a Community, or Supporting a Social Movement?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In order to say what organizational constitution entails, we must consider what is distinctive about an organization as compared with any other collective. Examples of other types of collectives include markets such as car sales, networks such as walking enthusiasts who communicate with each other, communities such as cities, and social movements such as gay rights. A theory of communication as constitutive of organizing must, in my view, be able to show how organizations are formed and maintained rather than say markets or networks.

Sillince, John A. Management Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication


Communicative Constitution of Organization Is a Question: Critical Issues for Addressing It   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In his introduction, Bisel points out that a forum such as this is “true to the spirit of Management Communication Quarterly in that it is a scholarly discussion of research, theory, and practice from interdisciplinary and inter- national voices on the significance and meaning of organization.” This essay seeks to remain true to that spirit as well as clarify what communicative constitution of organization (CCO) is (and is not) and sort out the issues that we see as critical for building CCO theories. Our response begins by clarifying some concerns related to CCO perspectives, examining the various uses of the term organization, and focusing on Bisel’s point about the conditions under which communication creates organizations.

Putnam, Linda L. Management Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication


A Communicative Ontology of Organization? A Description, History, and Critique of CCO Theories for Organization Science   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Writing as an organizational communication scholar, I provide a brief description and history of theories encapsulated by the phrase communication is constitutive of organizing (CCO). Then, I explain that CCO theory would benefit from an explicit differentiation between which conditions are prerequisite to and which conditions ensure the constitution of organization. Specifically, I argue that communication may be better thought of as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for organizing.

Bisel, Ryan S. Management Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication


Communities of Practice: Optimizing Internal Knowledge Sharing

The key to intranet success is to provide value to employees and give them a reason to visit the site repeatedly. One of the primary ways to achieve this is to connect employees with the people and groups with whom they need to collaborate. Workgroups, or communities of practice, provide the basis for a living, growing, vibrant space in which people can access the information they need, share best practices, and contribute to a shared knowledge base. This article discusses the role of communities of practice within organizations and provides a framework for planning research and design activities to maximize their effectiveness.

Hawley, Michael. UXmatters (2009). Articles>Knowledge Management>Intranets>Organizational Communication


Content Management Systems in Organizational Communication

With the vast amounts of information, documents, and artifacts an employee must have access to in the workplace, a growing number of organizations are turning to content management systems to organize the chaos. In this paper, I will define a content management system and its need in organizational communication, analyze the benefits of implementing a content management system, and address the opposing view—that content management systems have several necessary improvements that should be implemented to be beneficial in the workplace.

Roberts, Janet. Orange Journal, The (2010). Articles>Content Management>Organizational Communication


The Current State and Success of Corporate Blogging

The positive impact of blogs on corporate communication and the benefits of implementing both external and internal blogs, justifies blogs place in the corporate world. While blogs may have been developed for a social function and initially used and developed to assist amateurs publish their emotions and everyday experiences, the evolution of the blogosphere to include corporations, both internationally and domestically, guarantees there survival and utilization for many years.

Rutt, Alyssa. Orange Journal, The (2010). Articles>Blogging>Business Communication>Organizational Communication


Debunking the Myths of User Interface Design

The software development industry is relatively young, rapidly evolving, and surprisingly little is automated. It is therefore an intensely human and social endeavor, having all the phenomena characteristic of any cultural activity -- communication issues, organizational issues, customs, values, fashions, and myths. It brings out the best and the worst in people. Personalities determine much of what happens. It is more like making movies than engineering cars. Software development would benefit greatly from extensive study by sociologists, anthropologists, and clinical psychologists. As we await such analyses, let's document some beliefs embedded in the culture of software development, specifically about user interface design. This article identifies a series of cultural myths and presents realistic conclusions from my extensive experience in user interface design.

Smith, Paul. IBM (2001). Design>User Interface>Programming>Organizational Communication


Diverse Voices and Alternative Rationalities: Imagining Forms of Postcolonial Organizational Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Argues that the subdiscipline or community of organizational communication scholars is also imagined, as much organizational communication scholarship conducted within the global context is performed and interpreted from the dominant Euro-American intellectual tradition, privileging those concepts as well as particular voices and traditions and often ignoring inequality and exploitation within the scholarly community. This forgetting and the imagined scholarly community it creates continue to reify and legitimate a particular form of rationality and, in practice, lead to further colonization, subordination, and oppression of native/indigenous/other forms of understanding and organizing within our disciplinary field.

Broadfoot, Kirsten J. and Debeashish Munshi. Management Communication Quarterly (2007). Articles>Workplace>Organizational Communication>Ethnographies


Does Email Communication Increase Participation in Organizational Decision Making?

One of the main issues crossing the fields of organization theory, communication theory, and information technology is whether email communication does increase participation in decision making. Common sense and some case studies suggest the so-called "democratization argument": since email allows direct (non-filtered) communication between people and identity/status concealment, it enhances more freely and easy participation in decision making.

Biggiero, Lucio. Social Science Research Network (2008). Articles>Collaboration>Organizational Communication>Email


The Effect of the Organization’s Culture on Conversational Technical Writing

Lately, when I’m writing for training, I’m thinking of actually having a conversation, of talking to a real person. When I write other documents, for some reason I’m not thinking this way. It’s a problem because my user assistance content probably comes out dry as a desert in summer. In addition to not being as conscious of users as I should, perhaps there are a couple of organizational factors affecting my mindset.

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Technical Writing


The Effects of Supervisors' Verbal Aggressiveness and Mentoring on Their Subordinates   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study examined the association between supervisors' mentoring and verbal aggression and their subordinates' perceived communication satisfaction, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. The findings of the 200 full-time working adults who participated in the study supported prior research indicating positive relationships between mentoring behaviors by supervisors and their subordinates' communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction, and negative relationships between supervisors' verbal aggression and their subordinates' communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction. Results of a regression analysis indicated that supervisors' verbal aggression was a greater negative predictor of subordinates' outcomes than was mentoring a positive predictor, supporting the presence of a negativity bias in the supervisor-subordinate relationship. Additionally, path analysis indicated that communication satisfaction fully mediated the relationship between supervisor mentoring and subordinate organizational commitment, whereas communication satisfaction served as a suppressor between mentoring and subordinate job satisfaction.

Madlock, Paul E. and Carrie Kennedy-Lightsey. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Organizational Communication


Emotions in Organizations: Joint Laughter in Workplace Meetings    (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Humor and laughter are emotion-involving activities that can be jointly constructed in interaction. This article analyzes instances of joint laughter in leader-member meetings where laughter may or may not be associated with humor. The method applied is conversation analysis in which the focus lies on laughter's role in the microlevel organization of interaction. The results show that the instances of laughter do not occur in accidental locations but are clearly connected to specific activities. First, humor and laughter can be strategically used by team leaders to create collegiality and a good working atmosphere in their teams. Second, laughing together is connected to closing down a topic or a phase in a meeting in a way that displays mutual understanding. Third, shared laughter initiated by team members appears to be a resource that can be used to reduce tension in challenging situations such as the accomplishment of difficult tasks or the treatment of delicate topics. Finally, laughing together can be used to do remedial work in problematic or conflicting situations. Ultimately, joint laughter appears to be a resource that can be used to improve the task performance and, through this, the achievement of the goals of the organization.

Kangasharju, Helena and Tuija Nikko. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Emotions


Enterprise Networking Web Sites and Organizational Communication in Australia   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article aims to report initial findings about networking in organizational settings in Australia through the use of enterprise social software.

Zhang, Allee M., Ynxia Zhu and Herbert Hildebrandt. Business Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Social Networking>Organizational Communication


Finding Solutions by Being Aware of the Way You Think   (members only)

It is the task of the project manager to be aware of the larger environment in which a project is operating. One approach that helps achieve this insight is systems thinking.

Fischer, Karl. Global Knowledge (2006). Articles>Project Management>Organizational Communication>Collaboration


Guide to Communication and Corporate Culture

This guide explains one way of classifying corporate cultures and how to recognize different cultures as a job-seeker or adapt to them as a new employee.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication


How Change Management is Influenced by Differences in Professional Discourses: A Preliminary Conceptualizing Study on the Adoption of an ICT Tool for Service Engineers   (peer-reviewed)

This article describes the process of organizational change due to technological evolutions, suggesting that community-specific differences in discourse may have a considerable influence on its success. The questions for this study focus on: 1) how do we define a technically oriented employee who has to cope with organizational change? 2) Which factors determine the reaction to organizational change projects in which these technically oriented employees are involved? And 3) what are the consequences of these specific characters of technically oriented employees for implementing change programs in the most effective manner? First, while the present studies on professional communication do not pay any attention to change management, the current models of change management also barely pay attention to (professional) discourse. Second, we examine culture, which can be divided into national culture (NC), organizational culture (OC), and professional culture (PC). In this case study, we focus on the professional cultures of specific (change) managers and technicians and their discourse in the utilities sector. After this, we describe the case study, which exemplifies how change results can be influenced. It seems that within a technical environment, the change process and interventions need to be specific, concrete, and to the point. However, there also seems to be a dilemma between universal (e.g. mechanistic and formal) and contingency (e.g. organic, informal and emergent) approaches to the change process. The results of this study show the need to analyze cultures through discourse and through PC as a way to differentiate discourse between technical and non-technical employees. We suggest further research on three aspects that interfere and influence the change effort: context, discourse, and professional cultures of (change) managers and technicians.

Pieterse, Jos, Jan Ulijn and Thijs Homan. Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization (2011). Articles>Technology>Organizational Communication


Impact of Coherent Versus Multiple Identities on Knowledge Integration   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This paper addresses the influence of two competing views of social identity on knowledge integration. One view sees social identity primarily as a coherent characteristic of organizations, which can leverage knowledge integration by unconditional cooperative behaviour, shared values, mindsets, trust, and loyalty. The opposing view considers social identity as multiple and fragmented. This fragmented view emphasizes the problematic nature of social identity for knowledge integration and states that social identity is an additional barrier to knowledge integration in organizations. The aim of this paper is to examine these competing accounts and to develop insight into the underlying mechanisms that lead to the different effects of social identity on knowledge integration. Two polar case studies illustrate the different effects of a coherent versus multiple identity on knowledge integration and the need for a coherent company-wide social identity, instead of a multiple community or group based social identity, to leverage knowledge integration in organizations.

Willem, Annick, Harry Scarbrough and Marc Buelens. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Knowledge Management>Organizational Communication>Collaboration


The Importance of Articulation Work to Agency Content Management: Balancing Publication and Control   (peer-reviewed)

This paper describes the initial results of a qualitative field study of the work required to review and approve the content on government agency web sites. The study analyzes content management work in terms of Strauss’s conceptualization of articulation. The analysis describes examples of high and low level articulation in content review and approval including using paper, personal contact, and surveillance. Study results suggest that the articulation work present in non-software based review and approval processes helps to balance conflicting agency goals of publishing content and achieving absolute oversight over published content. It also suggests that software based content management systems may prove helpful for the management of some types of content in some situations, but it hypothesizes that actors will choose paper and face to face communication mechanisms to review and approve large amounts of new content and sensitive content.

Eschenfelder, Kristin R. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (2003). Articles>Content Management>Organizational Communication>Workflow


In Search of Subtlety   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

What is the role of contradiction in organizational rhetoric? This article argues that existing research tends to focus on contradiction at an institutional level and then develop a distinct but complementary perspective that views contradictory rhetoric at an interactional level and as a practical concern, especially when routine is disrupted and repair tactics are required. Drawing on data from a study of a quality improvement initiative in the United Kingdom, the authors examine the contradictions that were constructed when a 'change champion' attempted to deal with resistance to change. They conclude by depicting how contradiction can emerge when actors reflexively shift their identifications to portray themselves and their actions in a contextually appropriate manner.

Whittle, Andrea, Frank Mueller and Anita Mangan. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication>Rhetoric


Inspiring Change Through Research

Organizational communication is centered on inspiring and managing change, so it makes sense that communication professionals are seeing a more critical role for research in understanding and reaching their most important stakeholder relationships (employees, customers, suppliers, dealers, etc.). When a company is undergoing significant changes (i.e., a merger, acquisition, slumping sales, a product launch), research can pinpoint exactly where the issues and communication needs are. Oftentimes, such information is considered and then only used in limited ways. So how does a company proceed in bringing research results to life? It’s important to review how the research and tactical elements of communication vehicles are matched up.

Powell, Nancy. Communication World Bulletin (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Research



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