Being voluntarily childless (i.e., “childfree”) is a growing trend in the United States and around the world. Although most childfree people know early in life that they do not wish to become parents, the decision to forgo having children is an ongoing process that requires childfree people to construct a life that deviates from the normative family life cycle. Increasing rates of voluntary childlessness is a trend spurred by a variety of shifting social, economic, and environmental factors. Yet despite the increasing normalcy of voluntary childlessness, childfree people (and especially childfree women) face social sanctions for deciding not to become parents, being broadly perceived more negatively than childless people (who do not have children but want them) and parents. Such sanctions include social confrontations in which others (e.g., family members) question or contest the legitimacy of their childfree identity. Media coverage of voluntary childlessness forwards the notion that motherhood and femininity are inseparable and that voluntary childlessness is an issue that primarily concerns and affects women. Furthermore, childfree people face discrimination in health care contexts when seeking voluntary sterilization and in workplace contexts when “family-friendly” policies create unequal distributions of labor for those without children. Members of the childfree community use the Internet to share resources and seek support to navigate challenging interactions with outsiders. Beyond this, although some studies have begun to interrogate the roles of geographic location, race, and sexual orientation in shaping the experience of voluntary childlessness, at present, a largely White, wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heteronormative, and Western view of this topic is still perpetuated in the literature.
Perceptions of the Childfree
Elizabeth A. Hintz and Rachel Tucker
Collaboration in Organizations
John G. McClellan
Among organizational communication scholars, the term collaboration is most often used when exploring interactive practices by which a variety of organizational stakeholders (individuals, groups, or organizational representatives) engage in generative conversations to accomplish collective tasks, contend with mutual problems, or pursue mutually beneficial goals. An emergent collaborative turn in organization studies arose as the complex and interconnected challenges facing contemporary organizations intersected with increased acceptance of the constitutive relationship of communication and organizing and growing concern about the inherent politics of meaning making. Motivated by mutual understanding, rather than persuasion and control, scholars focused on collaboration in organizations to attend to the complex ways organizational decisions are made as well as how organizational practices and overall understandings of organizations are constituted and by whom. As interest in collaboration emerged, scholars increasingly recognized the value of mutual engagement as a key motivating force for generating creativity and innovative decision-making. Across the interdisciplinary research on collaboration, covering a wide range of organizational contexts and issues, several discourses of collaboration have emerged. These meta-perspectives of collaboration include collaboration as collective activity, collaboration as responsive engagement, collaboration as pursuit of equitable relations, collaboration as dialogic process, and collaboration as constituted in communication. Future research on collaboration can provide meaningful insights into contemporary organization studies especially if it is attentive to issues of diversity and intercultural communication, everyday intraorganizational contexts, new developments in collaborative technologies, and issues of power and the politics of meaning making. As scholars continue to explore varied forms of collaborative organizing, the ongoing study of collaboration in organizations is ripe with potential for contributing to understanding how communication can promote innovative decision-making in ways that realize the benefits of organizational diversity as organizations work to address today’s complex interconnected problems.
Organizational Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
Steven K. May
Given the scope of various ethical scandals in a wide range of organizations over the last several decades, research on organizational ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown significantly. Scholars have sought to better understand factors related to ethical awareness, judgment, and action through descriptive, normative, and analytical approaches. Organizations have established extensive policies and practices to enable employees to address the ethical dilemmas that they experience, drawing upon theories of duty, rights, utility, virtue, and care to facilitate compliance and, ultimately, produce aspirational ethics. In recent years, scholars have argued that organizational ethics is not only an individual-level phenomenon but also one influenced by organizational practices and societal expectations. As a result, debates regarding the role of businesses in society have also proliferated under the umbrella term of CSR, with attention paid to business initiatives such as philanthropy, volunteerism, cause-related marketing, and, most recently, strategic CSR. To better understand the opportunities and challenges of CSR, advocates and critics have turned to theories of shareholder value, stakeholder theory, corporate social performance, and corporate citizenship. In doing so, they have reintroduced an age-old question regarding the rights and responsibilities of business in society.
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.
Difference, Intersectionality, and Organizing
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.
Conflict in Organizations and Organizing
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.
Queer Studies and Organizational Communication
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.
Journalistic Organizations: Arenas for Professional and Symbolic Struggles
Florence Le Cam
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.
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.
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.