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Article

Elizabeth K. Eger, Morgan L. Litrenta, Sierra R. Kane, and Lace D. Senegal

LGBTQ+ people face unique organizational communication dilemmas at work. In the United States, LGBTQ+ workers communicate their gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities and experiences through complex interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, publics, organizations, and institutions. They also utilize specific communication strategies to navigate exclusionary policies and practices and organize for intersectional justice. Five central research themes for LGBTQ+ workers in the current literature include (a) workplace discrimination, (b) disclosure at work, (c) navigating interpersonal relationships at work, (d) inclusive and exclusive policies, and (e) intersectional work experiences and organizing. First, the lived experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence in organizations, including from coworkers, managers, and customers, present a plethora of challenges from organizational entry to exit. LGBTQ+ workers face high levels of unemployment and underemployment and experience frequent microaggressions. Queer, trans, and intersex workers also experience prevalent workplace discrimination, uncertainty, and systemic barriers when attempting to use fluctuating national and state laws for workplace protections. Second, such discrimination creates unique risks that LGBTQ+ workers must navigate when it comes to disclosing their identities at work. The complexities of workplace disclosure of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences become apparent through closeting, passing, and outing communication. These three communication strategies for queer, trans, and intersex survival are often read as secretive or deceptive by heterosexual or cisgender coworkers and managers. Closeting communication may also involve concealing information about personal and family relationships at work and other identity intersections. Third, LGBTQ+ people must navigate workplace relationships, particularly with heterosexual and/or cisgender coworkers and managers and in organizations that assume cisheteronormativity. Fourth, policies structure LGBTQ+ workers’ lives, including both the positive impacts of inclusive policies and discrimination and violence via exclusionary policies. Fifth and finally, intersectionality is crucial to theorize when examining LGBTQ+ workers’ communication. It is not enough to just investigate sexuality or gender identity, as they are interwoven with race, class, disability, religion, nationality, age, and more. Important exemplars also showcase how intersectional organizing can create transformative and empowering experiences for LGBTQ+ people. By centering LGBTQ+ workers, this article examines their unique and complex organizational communication needs and proposes future research.

Article

In organizational scholarship, difference is broadly conceptualized as the ways in which individuals differ from each other along the lines of socially significant identities and characteristics. As such, difference encompasses social identities related to gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and national origin. In addition to social identities, difference also encompasses individual characteristics, such as education level, family type, and health conditions. Organizational scholarship increasingly considers difference to be a constitutive feature of organizing. As such, difference is not merely one aspect of organizing that is only relevant in some circumstances, but a defining feature of organizing processes to which it is always important to attend because dominant discourses and value systems privilege certain differences over others. Central to difference scholarship is the concept of intersectionality, which holds that various identities intersect with each other to shape social and organizational experiences in ways that are intertwined with privilege and/or disadvantage. Scholarship on difference, intersectionality, and organizing has drawn from multiple critical theoretical frameworks, such as critical race theory, standpoint feminism, postmodern feminism, queer theory, and postcolonial theory. A growing amount of scholarship on difference, intersectionality, and organizing is also empirical and sheds light on how overlapping, intersectional identities matter in organizational settings and how they are embedded in power relations.

Article

Anne M. Nicotera and Jessica Katz Jameson

Organizational communication scholars define conflict as interaction among interdependent people who perceive opposition in their goals, aims, and /or values, and who see the other(s) as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals, aims, or values. Given that organizations consist of interaction among interdependent people, conflict is inherent to organizational communication. Organizational conflict scholarship includes a rich and diverse body of literature that spans theoretical and disciplinary perspectives as well as methodological approaches and disparate goals, ranging from describing to understanding and predicting conflict behavior, impacts, and outcomes. Scholars conceptualize conflict as both a challenge to the status quo and an opportunity for innovation, creativity, and improved understanding and communication. Research on conflict in organizations has often focused on conflict styles to examine common approaches to resolving or managing conflict. Styles are often defined as predispositions, with the recognition that people also choose a conflict style based on characteristics of a specific conflict situation. The five styles are described as competing, collaborating, cooperating, accommodating, and avoiding. While there are hundreds of studies examining these styles, virtually all of them conclude that collaborating and cooperating styles are considered most appropriate and effective, while competing and avoiding styles are perceived as inappropriate and least effective, especially in the long term. Nonetheless, each style may be appropriate under specific circumstances. Other important dimensions of organizational conflict include how it is managed by leaders and members (supervisors and subordinates), intercultural conflict, and conflict within and across groups. Research has found a relationship between how organizational leaders manage conflict, their openness to the related phenomenon of employee dissent, and employee satisfaction with the organization, leadership, and their perceptions of organizational justice. An important consideration in all conflict contexts is attention to face concerns. In conflict with superiors, in intercultural conflict, and in conflict in work groups, communication that attempts to protect, rather than threaten, each party’s image is most likely to be collaborative, meet all parties’ interests, and maintain relationships. Because it can be especially difficult to manage conflict when there are power differences, it is helpful when organizations create a conflict management system (CMS) to assist organizational members. A CMS often includes a third party who can help organizational members better understand their conflict and assess their options, such as an ombudsperson or an employee relations advisor. CMSs may also provide an array of less costly alternatives to the formal grievance process or litigation, such as mediation and conflict coaching. An important arena in conflict scholarship focuses on conflict education, which examines curricula and programs for all levels, from K-12 to higher education, with the goals of creating communities grounded in shared responsibility and social justice. Research on the development of conflict education and training at all levels is necessary to help foster the innovative and transformational potential of conflict and its management.

Article

Jamie McDonald and Sean C. Kenney

As a subfield, organizational communication has been relatively slow to engage with queer theory. However, a robust literature on queer organizational scholarship has emerged over the past decade, since the 2010s, in both organizational communication and the allied field of critical management studies. Adopting a queer theoretical lens to the study of organizational communication entails queering one’s understandings of organizational life by questioning what is considered to be normal and taken for granted. Engaging with queer theory in organizational communication also implies exposing and critiquing heteronormativity in organizations, viewing difference as a constitutive feature of organizing, adopting an anti-categorical approach to difference, and understanding identity as fluid and performative. To date, organizational scholars have mobilized queer theory to queer how gender and sexuality are conceptualized in organizational research, queer dominant understandings of leadership, queer the notion of diversity management, queer the “closet” metaphor and understandings of how individuals negotiate the disclosure of nonnormative identities at work, and queer organizational research methods. Moving forward, organizational scholars can continue to advance queer scholarship by mobilizing queer theory to highlight queer voices in empirical research, interrogating whiteness in queer organizational scholarship by centering queer of color subjectivities, and continuing to queer organizational research and queer theory by subjecting both to critical interrogation.

Article

From the end of the 19th century until the present, journalists have created associations, trade unions, clubs, and major international networks to organize workers, defend their rights, set out their duties, establish rules of good conduct, and structure their professional journalistic skills. These journalistic organizations are central actors in the history of the professionalization of journalistic groups around the world. They have enabled journalists to make their demands public, exchange views with journalists from other countries, and sometimes even promote and achieve legal recognition of their profession. In general terms, they have provided journalists with fora to discuss their working conditions, their profession, and the social role of the media and journalism. In this way, they have helped to structure not only discourses and practices, but also networks of solidarity at both national and international levels. These organizations can exist in different arenas: within media companies, at the national level, or internationally. And, despite their variety over time, they have often pursued similar objectives: protect journalists’ pay and employment conditions and status; conceive strategies to maintain a certain form of autonomy in authoritarian political contexts; nourish international networking ambitions that have made it possible to disseminate ways of doing and thinking journalism; and finally generate a set of actions that aims to defend the ethics of journalism, the quality of news, and the lives of journalists.

Article

Maarit Valo

Multicommunication means interacting with several people separately but at the same time. Usually multicommunication refers to parallel conversations enabled by communication technologies. The essential element is interactivity: in multicommunication, several mutual, two-way interactions are managed between people. A few adjacent concepts related to multicommunication have also been used in the literature, including multitasking, media or electronic multitasking, polychronicity, and polychronic communication. Research interest in multicommunication is growing. Whereas the nascent phases of multicommunication research were largely concerned with observing the manifestation and characteristics of the multicommunication phenomenon, defining the concept of multicommunication, and differentiating multicommunication from similar concepts, contemporary research has spread out in many directions. Three main topics can be distinguished in multicommunication research: motivators of multicommunication, management of multicommunication, and consequences of multicommunication. The research contexts for multicommunication to date have been predominantly limited to working life. Very few studies have actually focused on family communication, contacts between friends, or other contexts involving communication in private life. For their preferred methods in empirical multicommunication research, most scholars to date have used surveys, interviews, diaries, critical incidents, and other self-reports, as well as laboratory experiments. Researchers are beginning to learn quite a bit about the motivators and consequences of multicommunication, as described by employees in the workplace. Multicommunication research would thus benefit from the observation and analysis of natural communication found in actual contexts, settings, and relationships.

Article

Brenda L. Berkelaar and Millie A. Harrison

Organizational socialization is the process by which people learn about, adjust to, and change the knowledge, skills, attitudes, expectations, and behaviors needed for a new or changing organizational role. Thus, organizational socialization focuses on organizational membership, which includes how people move from being outsiders to being insiders and how people move between organizational roles within and across organizations over time. To date, research has focused on how employment organizations encourage newcomers to align with existing role expectations via tactics that encourage assimilation. However, organizational socialization is a dynamic process of mutual influence. Individuals can also influence and shape the organization to align with their desires, via personalization tactics. Thus, organizational socialization describes the process by which an individual assumes a new or changing role in ways that meet organizational and individual needs. Most research on organizational socialization focuses on how newcomers enter paid work environments. Researchers often focus on the tactics organizations use to encourage people to assimilate into the organization during the early or entry stage. Less attention has been given to the later stages of organizational socialization (active participation, maintenance, exit, and disengagement), non-work organizations, and transitions between roles within an organization. However, a growing body of research is considering organizational socialization into volunteer roles, new or changing roles, and later stages of socialization such as exit and disengagement. Scholars and practitioners also increasingly recognize how individual, organizational, contextual, and technological factors (e.g., socioeconomic status, race, gender, new information and communication technologies, time, and boundaries) may alter how organizational socialization works and with what effects—thereby offering insight into the underlying processes implicated in organizational socialization. Future areas of research related to context, time, boundaries, communication, and the ethics of organizational socialization are highlighted.

Article

In 2009, one of the most powerful executives in the world, Goldman Sach’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein, asserted that his firm was “doing God’s work.” This comment was made in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, a crisis that Goldman Sachs and other U.S. and European investment banks played important roles in creating. The comment’s audacity did not escape notice, raising eyebrows even in the mainstream news media given its historical situatedness at the tail end of the crisis. Although Blankfein’s comment was coded negatively in the cultural consciousness, it was also represented as iconic of the culture of Wall Street’s “Masters of the Universe,” as referred to in the popular vernacular. Blankfein’s comment is deployed to illustrate the conceptual models and methodologies of those fields of study known as critical and cultural organizational communication research. These closely coupled but distinct fields of study will be delimited with special attention to their objects of investigation and methodological deployments using this example. Cultural and critical organizational communication represent closely coupled fields of study defined primarily by their phenomena or objects of study—organizational communications. Scholarship maps and analyzes communications to understand how organizations are constituted through communications that decide organizational policies, programs, practices, and values. Typically, organizational communications include all formal and informal signifying systems produced by members of the particular organization under investigation. Cultural approaches to organizational communication emphasize how these communications produce meaning and experience, while critical approaches address the systemic and historically sedimented power relations that are inscribed and reproduced through organizational communication signifying systems. Organizational communication scholarship from a cultural approach would ordinarily seek to represent the organizational culture primarily using ethnographic methods aimed at disclosing an organization’s employee articulations, rituals, performances, and other circulations of symbol systems in the course of workaday life. However, the challenges to accessing Goldman Sach’s hallow grounds might defeat even the most intrepid ethnographer. Lacking direct access to the day-to-day practices and experiences of investment bankers, challenges of access to work-a-day spaces have encouraged researchers to adopt rhetorical and/or discourse analytical methods to understand the culture as represented in available cultural texts, such as internal communications, press announcements, available corporate policies, shareholder reports, and so on. Ethnographies of communication and rhetorical/discourse analysis together represent the primary nonfunctionalist methodologies commonly used to study how organizational meanings are produced, disseminated, and transformed. Across disciplines, organizational cultural analysis, particularly when pursued ethnographically, is typically rooted in an interpretive tradition known as verstehen, which understands meaning as agentively produced through a temporally emergent fusion of subjective horizons. Culture is therefore regarded as emergent and is believed to be actively constructed by its interlocutors, who are afforded great agency within the tradition of verstehen. The emergent aspects of culture are fertile and seed subcultures that produce novel cultural performances as members delineate symbolic boundaries. Power is regarded by this tradition as largely visible to the everyday interpretive gaze, although admittedly fixed in institutions by rules, roles, and norms. The relatively visible character of institutional power hierarchies is believed to beget open conflict when disagreement exists over the legitimacy of power relations. Power is believed to circulate visibly and is thus subject to re-negotiation. This emergent and negotiated social ontology encourages researchers to adopt a pluralist view of power and a more relativistic approach to evaluating the social implications of specific organizational cultures. However, the Blankfein example raises complex moral questions about organizational cultures. Does everyone at Goldman Sachs really think they are doing God’s work? If they do, what does that actually mean, and is it a good thing for society given the firm’s demonstrable appetite for risk? More deeply, what are the conditions of possibility for the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful organizations saying that his firm is pursuing God’s work? Critical organizational communication adopts the methods of verstehen, in addition to methods from other critical traditions, but interjects ethical interrogation of systemic inequities in access to power and resources that are found across many social institutions and are deeply embedded historically. For example, a critical scholar might interrogate whether Goldman Sach’s cultural exceptionalism is found across the financial sector’s elite organizations and then seek to explore the roots of this exceptionalism in historical event and power trajectories. The critical scholar might address the systemic effects of a risk-seeking culture that is rooted in the collective belief it is doing God’s work. Critical organizational communication research seeks to understand how organizational communications naturalize or reify particular organizational interests, elevating them above the interests of other stakeholders who are consequently denied equitable opportunities for agency. Cultural and critical organizational communication studies have prioritized various discourse-based methodologies over the last 20 or so years. The challenges with ethnographic access may have helped drive this shift, which has been decried by those who see discourse analysis as too disconnected from the daily performances and meaning-makings of organizational members. However, the primary challenge facing these fields of study is the one long recognized as the “container metaphor” (Smith & Turner, 1995). The study of organizational communication too often represents its field of study as a self-contained syntagm—a closed signifying system—that too narrowly delimits boundaries of investigation to communications produced in and by particular organizational members with less examination of the material and symbolic embeddedness of those organizational communications within a wider social milieu of networked systems and historically embedded social structures. In essence, organizational communication has struggled to embed its observations of discrete communications/practices within more encompassing and/or networked social systems and structures.

Article

The critical study of cultural and creative industries involves the interrogation of the ways in which different social forces impact the production of culture, its forms, and its producers as inherently creative creatures. In historical terms, the notion of “the culture industry” may be traced to a series of postwar period theorists whose concerns reflected the industrialization of mass cultural forms and their attendant marketing across public and private spheres. For them, the key terms alienation and reification spoke to the negative impacts of an industrial cycle of production, distribution, and consumption, which controlled workers’ daily lives and distanced them from their own creative expressions. Fears of the culture industry drove a mass culture critique that led social scientists to address the structures of various media industries, the division of labor in the production of culture, and the hegemonic consent between government and culture industries in the military-industrial complex. The crisis of capitalism in the 1970s further directed critical scholars to theorize new dialectics of cultural production, its flexibilization via new communications technologies and transnational capital flows, as well as its capture via new property regimes. Reflecting government discourses for capital accumulation in a post-industrial economy, these theories have generally subsumed cultural industries into a creative economy composed of a variety of extra-industrial workers, consumers, and communicative agents. Although some social theorists have extended cultural industry critiques to the new conjuncture, more critical studies of creative industries focus on middle-range theories of power relations and contradictions within particular industrial sites and organizational settings. Work on immaterial labor, digital enclosures, and production cultures have developed the ways creative industries are both affective and effective structures for the temporal and spatial formation of individuals’ identities.

Article

George Cheney and Debashish Munshi

Alternative organizational culture is an evocative yet ambiguous term. In disciplines like communication, sociology, anthropology, management, economics, and political science, the term leads us not only to consider existing models and cases of organizing differently from the norm but also to imagine paths and possibilities yet to be realized. The ambiguity and referents of the term are important to probe. The term and its associations should be understood historically as well as culturally. Alternative organizational culture also implies certain dialectics, leading to questions about both principles and applications.