This article provides an overview and critique of the extant research on work-place resistance. It argues that much of this research has developed around an implicit duality of resistance and control. In other words, critical studies have highlighted either the growing ubiquity and subtlety of managerial control or have privileged workers’ abilities to carve out spheres of autonomy within these control mechanisms. It suggests that, in contrast to this implicit dualism of control and resistance, a dialectical approach better captures the notion of resistance and control as mutually constitutive, and as a routine social production of daily organizational life.
The need for and benefits of proactive and transparent communication about corporate social responsibility (CSR) are widely acknowledged. This study examines CSR communication undertaken by the top 100 information technology (IT) companies in India on their corporate Web sites, with an analytical focus on the dimensions of prominence of communication, extent of information, and style of presentation. The findings indicate that the number of companies with CSR information on their Web sites is strikingly low and that these leading companies do not leverage the Web sites to their advantage in terms of the quantity and style of CSR communication. Although the findings do not necessarily imply absence of CSR action on the part of IT companies in India, they attest to a general lack of proactive CSR communication. The article concludes with managerial implications for CSR communication on corporate Web sites.
Although considerable research has linked workplace bullying with psychosocial and physical costs, the stories and conceptualizations of mistreatment by those targeted are largely untold. This study uses metaphor analysis to articulate and explore the emotional pain of workplace bullying and, in doing so, helps to translate its devastation and encourage change. Based on qualitative data gathered from focus groups, narrative interviews, and target drawings, the analysis describes how bullying can feel like a battle, water torture, nightmare, or noxious substance. Abused workers frame bullies as narcissistic dictators, two-faced actors, and devil figures. Employees targeted with workplace bullying liken themselves to vulnerable children, slaves, prisoners, animals, and heartbroken lovers. These metaphors highlight and delimit possibilities for agency and action. Furthermore, they may serve as diagnostic cues, providing shorthand necessary for early intervention.
Recent theories underscore the indefinite, conflicted, and discursive character of labor identity and resistance, highlighting local practices and meanings. This article examines an empirical and political dilemma provoked by such models: what to do when once-dominant voices resist a loss of control. Drawing on interviews conducted with commercial airline pilots, the author examines how privileged professional men engage gendered threats. The analysis demonstrates how organizational efforts to induce crew empowerment threaten pilot identity, as well as how pilots resist emasculation by embracing mandatory changes. The study illustrates ways to grapple more fully with the implications of discursive, dialectical models of resistance. In particular, the author urges attention to tales of declining control as discursive realities that engender emotional resistance to social change.
Within the personal branding movement, people and their careers are marketed as brands complete with promises of performance, specialized designs, and tag lines for success. Because personal branding offers such a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification, the phenomenon invites a careful and searching analysis. This essay begins by examining parallel developments in contemporary communication and employment climates and exploring how personal branding arises as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response. The contours of the personal branding movement are then traced, emphasizing the rhetorical tactics with which it responds to increasingly complex communication and employment environments. Next, personal branding is examined with a critical eye to both its effects on individuals and the power relations it instantiates on the basis of social categories such as gender, age, race, and class. Finally, the article concludes by reflecting on the broader ethical implications of personal branding as a communication strategy.
Although the influential role of word-of-mouth communication has been known for decades, a more recent phenomenon is the emergence of explicit organizational efforts to stimulate “buzz” (contagious talk about a brand, service, product, or idea). Buzz marketing organizations either pay people, or seek volunteers, to try new brands and then have agents “talk them up” among their social networks. This article contends that the practice of buzz marketing is usefully framed within the study of everyday communication, which has shown considerable growth in the field of communication studies over the past decade. This framework provides a reliable scientific source and basis on which to base further claims about the effectiveness and ethics of buzz marketing.
This article brings together previous research efforts by the authors and reviews a wide range of relevant literatures to explain and analyze paradoxes of employee participation and workplace democracy. Although the authors do not take the position that all or even most of these paradoxes are necessarily harmful, they do maintain that there are a variety of practical avenues for dealing with them. The heart of the essay analyzes several main categories of participatory paradoxes: those of structure, agency, identity, and power. Following that, the authors offer practical suggestions for the management of paradoxes (and related tensions and contradictions), linking those recommendations to relevant theoretical and empirical propositions.
In his exploration of nationalism and imagined communities, Anderson (1991) claims that nations are "imagined" (that is, they are constructions), insomuch that people are convinced of the comradeship of unknown fellow compatriots, often ignoring any actual inequality and exploitation that exists in such an imagined community. In a similar fashion, the authors argue 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 article explores the question on how do people recover alternative rationalities, worldviews, and voices on the processes of organizing in diverse contexts. For those scholars actively at work within the field of organizational communication, much of Mumby and Stohl's essay rings true. Few people would contest the fact that problematics are indeed important to the field of organizational communication as people know and practice it.
According to communication privacy management (CPM) theory, people manage the boundaries around information that they seek to keep private. How does this theory apply when employees are monitored electronically? Using data from 154 face-to-face interviews with employees from a range of organizations, the authors identified various ways organizations, employees, and coworkers describe electronic surveillance and the privacy expectations, boundaries, and turbulence that arise. Privacy boundaries are established during new-employee orientation when surveillance is described as coercive control, as benefiting the company, and/or as benefiting employees. Correlations exist between the surveillance-related socialization messages interviewees remember receiving and their attitudes. Although little boundary turbulence appeared, employees articulated boundaries that companies should not cross. The authors conclude that CPM theory suppositions need modification to fit the conditions of electronic surveillance.
This study empirically identifies the dimensions and initiates the development of a measure of emotional labor. Phase 1 of this project generated items for an exploratory questionnaire to which a broad sample of service workers responded (N = 358). Analysis revealed two dimensions of emotional labor: emotive effort, a construct never before identified in the emotional labor literature; and emotive dissonance, an acknowledged dimension that is further validated by this study. Several viable antecedent constructs of emotional labor also were identified and incorporated into an emerging model of emotional labor. In Phase 2, revised scales were administered to a second sample of service workers (N = 427) for reliability and validity purposes. Structural equation modeling also was used to establish relationships among emotional labor’s dimensions and various antecedent variables, facilitating development of a model of emotional labor.
Because of the rapid growth in literature on emotion and communication in organizations and the many disciplinary homes of this work, scholars use many conceptualizations of emotion in the workplace. In this article, the authors map the terrain of emotion and communication in the workplace. They first review extant literature and argue for five types of organizational emotion: emotional labor (inauthentic emotion in interaction with customers and clients), emotional work (authentic emotion in interaction customers and clients), emotion with work (emotion stemming from interaction with coworkers), emotion at work (emotion from nonwork sources experienced in the workplace), and emotion toward work (emotions in which work is the target of the feeling). They then explore these types of emotion through an analysis of workplace narratives from the books Working (Terkel, 1972) and Gig (Bowe, Bowe, & Streeter, 2000). Themes that characterize workplace emotion are considered, and directions for future research are proposed.
Research exploring corporate culture management has identified cynicism as a significant way some workers resist attempts to control their identities. The metaphors of defense and distancing are popular ways of explaining this cynicism. The article argues that these metaphors posit an already-present self as the object of protection. Drawing on empirical research of a communications firm, it is suggested cynicism might also be understood as the on going production of subjectivity rather than its defense or distancing from cultural controls.
The civil society sector is a growing sector of societies across the globe. With 1.8 million registered nonprofits in the United States alone, it provides an exciting landscape for organizational communication scholars to explore. This article develops an argument and some starting points for organizational communication researchers to begin work in the area. The article reviews four potential starting points: social capital; mission, effectiveness, and accountability; governance and decision making; and volunteer relationships. In each area, the article points to a set of important dynamics and constructs, references important works in the nonprofit organization literature, and suggests directions for future research for organizational communication scholarship.
This study of cruise ship activities’ directors analyzes emotion labor, self-subordination, and discursive construction of identity in the context of a total institution. It opens with a review of social theories of emotion and emotion work and Foucauldian concepts of power and identity. The case, based on fieldnotes, documents, and interview data, analyzes (a) the arbitrary nature of emotion rules; (b) the dispersion of emotion control among supervisors, passengers, peers, and the self; (c) employee self-subordination and privatization of burnout; and (d) identity as coconstituted through resistance and consent to emotion labor norms. The article concludes with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications.
Counterinstitutional Web sites are often portrayed as publicizing the outbursts of disgruntled employees and customers. However, they also enable participants to take part in discussions normally discouraged within traditional work environments. These sites permit individuals to publicly and anonymously voice their concerns and frustrations with particular institutions with reduced fear of retribution or termination. A close examination of one of these counterinstitutional Web sites (RadioShackSucks.com) illustrates the dissent and resistance functions that such sites provide to a wide variety of stakeholders. The authors' analysis of 1,095 site postings during a 1-month period finds that participants use these sites to engage in voice and resistance efforts outside formal organizational boundaries. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
Organizational discourse has very little meaning outside its context. To understand any discourse's meaning, we must theorize about both the discourse's possibility and the circumstances of its constitution. Otherwise, we abstract text, sundering it from context. The present article asks what is context and what types of discourse structures and discourse strategies construct context? The author develops four distinct dimensions of context: when, where, as whom, and why people speak. To collaboratively construct meaning, an organization's members use several discursive means whereby a discourse from one context can be inserted, reframed, appropriated, and recursively placed into a discourse from another context—to achieve cross-contextual organizing of their accounts. Through such cross-contextual discursive work, members strive to balance these four (sometimes conflicting) contextual dimensions.
Community collaboration has become an influential interorganizational phenomenon that provides innovative solutions for social problems. This critical case study uses dialogic theory to investigate how collaboration stakeholders negotiate creative and democratic outcomes. Findings demonstrate how a dialogic moment, although embedded in a homogenous partnership that facilitated discursive closure, constituted meaningful organizational change. The study empirically extends the theoretical claim that diversity resides in the communication situation and reveals that collaboration practices and stakeholder models are better understood when grounded in dialogic theory.
Managers have increasingly implemented knowledge databases and knowledge-sharing training to improve team effectiveness. The authors examine whether intranet-based repository use and perception of accurate team knowledge of who knows what were related to perceived team effectiveness. They found that the perception that one's team had accurate who-knows-what knowledge is positively related to perceived team effectiveness. Repository use is not positively related to perceived team effectiveness. Remote work and tenure are not significant moderators of these relationships. These findings imply that perception of an accurate cognitive map of who knows what is more important to perceived team effectiveness than accessing information from repositories, regardless of remote work status or organizational tenure.
In this study, Foucauldian theory is used to interpret a corporate social report published by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group to reveal the contours of an emerging corporate discourse of sustainability and the knowledge-power dynamics entailed by social reporting. The report could be read simply as a corporate attempt to reestablish discursive regularity and hegemonic control in the wake of challenges by environmentalists and human rights activists. However, the author interprets it in the context of the larger sociopolitical discursive struggle over environment and social justice and finds that Shell’s “embrace” of the concept of sustainable development has transforming effects on the company and on the notion of sustainability itself. This contradictory and ambiguous result is characteristic of discursive struggle, which is where, according to Foucault, power is played out and social change occurs.
This article used the concept of discursive positioning to explore the narrative construction of professional identities among women engineers. The analysis of interviews with 15 women in a variety of engineering specialties suggested that they adopt a variety of distinct and sometimes contradictory positionings to present themselves as qualified professionals. In general, participants were reluctant to acknowledge gender relations as consequential for their careers and were also ambivalent about the implied focus of this research on female engineers as a “marginalized group.” A case is made for including and examining female engineers’ selfdetermined identities to arrive at more adequately complex descriptions of their work realities.