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4: Modern Theories of Organizational Communication

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    In this chapter, we will expand our view of organization and communication in ways that allow us to consider some new perspectives: Did your boss yell to assert power over you? Was this assertion of power rooted in historical prejudices or in attitudes that prevail in the surrounding society? Is aggression tied to the very nature of organizing itself? Or is aggression rooted in the culture of your particular organization, a pattern that employees past and present have established, so that yelling is way that people “make sense” of a super-competitive work environment?

    • 4.1: Introduction
      Yet by expanding your view of “organization” and “communication,” you can better understand the often bewildering and messy realities of everyday life on the job. Modern theories of organizational communication—the subject of this chapter—are driven by a recognition that “real life” in the workplace seldom conforms to such ideals as smoothly operating hierarchies and clearly transmitted messages.
    • 4.2: Rethinking the Organization
      When you think of an “organization” you probably think of it as an object with its own existence. Most people do. A corporation, for example, is considered a “person” under United States law for purposes ranging from taxation to free speech. Clearly, however, thinking of an organization as an object is a metaphor. Nevertheless, the way that we conceptualize an “organization” has very real consequences for organizational communication theory.
    • 4.3: Rethinking Communication
      In this section we will consider the two questions: how communication works and what communication is. The SMCR model, for example, suggests communication works by traveling in a straight line from source to receiver. But scholars have largely moved beyond this simple linear model and have described communication as an interactional model of communication which holds that communication travels in a circle as a sender transmits a message and then the receiver responds with feedback.
    • 4.4: Representative Modern Theories
      To speak of “interpretive organizational theory,” or “critical organization theory,” or “postmodern organization theory” is not to speak of any one single theory. Rather, each is—along with the postpositive perspective—a general approach to the looking at the problem of organizational communication. Each approach is informed by its own ontology (belief about the how things exist), epistemology (belief about how things can be known), and axiology (belief about what is worth knowing). Then, out of
    • 4.E: Exercises

    Thumbnail: international model of communication. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA-NC; anonymous).