978-1319052348 Chapter 2

Document Type
Homework Help
Book Title
Organizational Communication: Balancing Creativity and Constraint 8th Edition
Angela Trethewey, Eric M. Eisenberg, Marianne LeGreco
Defining Organizational Communication
Chapter 2 begins by introducing the four most prevalent definitions of organizational communication:
(1) communication as information transfer, (2) communication as transactional process, (3) communication as
strategic control, and (4) a balance of creativity and constraint. Information regarding each theory includes defi-
nitions, assumptions, advantages, and limitations. The chronological list of perspectives closes with the authors’
view of organizations as dialogues. The chapter places emphasis on four features of dialogue that reveal respect
for different worldviews: (1) dialogue as mindful communication, (2) dialogue as equitable transaction, (3) dia-
logue as empathic conversation, and (4) dialogue as real meeting. The chapter concludes by examining the role
of dialogue in working with integrity and ethics.
Emphasize the importance of definitions.
List the prevalent approaches of communication.
Provide the basic history and assumptions that guide each of the preliminary theories: information
transfer, transactional process, strategic control, and a balance of creativity and constraint.
Discuss the benefits and critiques of each model.
Identify the contributions of communication scholars such as Buber, Berlo, Berger and Luckmann,
Giddens, Wentworth, and Mead.
Explain the situated-individual model of organizational communication.
Define dialogue, and describe the four basic levels of collaboration that are possible through this pro-
Explain what it means to work with integrity and speak ethically as well as the relevance of these con-
cepts to organizational communication.
This chapter introduces new material to instructors who have never taught organizational communication. Stu-
dents who are not communication majors might find the new concepts confusing. Students taking their first
communication class may find the theories hard to keep straight. Table 2.1 is a useful summation of the prelim-
inary theories of organizational communication. Working with the whole class, guide students to create a chart
summarizing the theories in their own words. Discover concrete examples to illustrate these theoretical premis-
es. It is important to emphasize that even as new theories emerge, they rarely replace older ones. New ideas are
often built on previous work with fresh perspectives and questions. These new ideas expose and explain previ-
ous theoretical limitations.
Exercise 1
Have students work with the concept of situated individuals by making a list of the multiple contexts or organi-
zations that they have encountered in the past or are currently a part of. These organizations could include al-
most any situation that requires working or interacting with a group of people. After completing the lists, have
students reflect on the following questions:
1. How many of the contexts have similar norms about communication and behaviors and how many have
conflicting ideas?
2. Do the multiple contexts and varying expectations lead to any complexities or conflicts in your life?
How do you manage these situations?
Exercise 2
Have students imagine that their lives are organizations in which each person is part of the business. For exam-
ple, their parents are the finance department, their professors are the research and development department, their
friends are the human resources department, and they are the CEO. Have each student create a unique theory of
organizational communication for their organization by extracting features from each of the models discussed in
the chapter. Have them name the theory and then provide a brief description of why certain features and as-
sumptions were included and how they enhance this unique organizational atmosphere. Is it possible to run the
entire organization by using only one theory? What advantages do multiple theories have when trying to man-
age diverse groups and departments?
Exercise 3
As an individual writing exercise, ask students to compile a list of elements that constitute an ethical speaker.
Likewise, have students compile a similar list of elements that make up an unethical speaker. Then, in small
groups, ask students to share stories of ethical and unethical speakers that they have encountered. How do your
students really “know” that these individuals are ethical or are not? As an alternative, show students a clip from
Netflix’s House of Cards (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvGL42rywPM) and discuss the ethics of Frank
Underwood. See other clips in Classroom Media Resources.
Exercise 4
The What Would You Do? box in Chapter 2 provides a timely example of how strategic ambiguity can lead to
problems with organizational policy. The story focuses on a meteorologist who was fired from her position at a
Louisiana news station for responding to comments about her hair on the station’s Facebook page. Have stu-
dents consider how they would have responded if they were the meteorologist. Then, take the discussion a step
further and ask students how they would have responded if they were the meteorologist’s boss. Also, ask them
to make connections between the strategic control perspective and the increased need for dialogue in communi-
cation contexts.
Exercise 5
The Everyday Organizational Communication box in Chapter 2 offers a nice way to connect issues of organiz-
ing, structuration theory, and the management of self with a set of cultural artifacts that many of your students
might be familiar withFacebook, Hulu, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. Be prepared to give a brief overview
of online meeting places. Encourage students to share the newest social media venues, and ask students to talk
about their experiences with these websites. Encourage your students to make connections between these web-
sites and the practices of dialogue discussed in this chapter. Help them consider how Facebook and Twitter ac-
complish some similar but mostly different goals when it comes to dialogue. For example, Facebook tends
toward social networking and building relationships, while Twitter has been identified as a power news aggre-
gator. Finally, ask them to identify the challenges of balancing creativity and constraint when it comes to con-
structing an online profile.
Exercise 6
Table 2.1 arranges the main points of organizational communication theory. Divide students into working teams
to create a visual representation of this chart. Students may use infographics, slide decks, Prezi, or any instruc-
tional tool to help other students visualize communication as information transfer, transactional process, strate-
gic control, and a balance of creativity and constraint.
Exercise 7
Place students in research teams and allow them time in class to find examples of organizations that use the bal-
ance of creativity and constraint as part of the company’s culture. Leave time for students to report findings.
Taking exercises online: Many of these suggested exercises can be made digital for those teaching hybrid or
online classes. Simply conduct discussions on your online forum, discussion boards, or course management
systems. In particular, Exercises 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7 lend themselves to this conversion.
The Big Short (2015, 130 minutes, Rated R). This is the true story, or three separate but parallel stories, of the
U.S mortgage housing crisis of 2005. The movie’s complicated plot is threaded with banking language. Exam-
ine the communication and banking language used in the movie. According to the textbook, “[D]efinitions are
shorthand terms for situations.” Students can make a list of words they do not understand. Consider how these
organizations depend on this language to communicate with efficiency.
Chopped (2009, Season 1, Episode 1, 42 minutes, Not Rated). This reality show offers an excellent example of
balancing creativity and constraint in professional settings. Four trained chefs must compete through three
rounds of cooking. During each round, contestants are given a mystery basket of ingredients. They are given a
set time to construct a tasty dish, which is reviewed by a panel of judges. After each round, one chef is eliminat-
ed. The show illustrates how the chefs work in creative and innovative ways, based on the wacky ingredients
found in their mystery baskets. This particular episode features octopus, duck, and animal crackers as key in-
Food Stamped (2010, 60 minutes, Not Rated). If you did not show Food Stamped as part of Chapter 1, the doc-
umentary provides an excellent illustration of balancing creativity and constraint. This documentary follows a
nutritionist and her filmmaker husband as they attempt to eat on a budget allotted to recipients of the Supple-
mental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly and still popularly known as the Food Stamp program). The
film shows how individuals who eat on a food-stamp budget are bound by certain rules and limitations of the
program and how the filmmakers were forced to get creative in constructing healthy meals.
House of Cards (2016, Season 4, Mashup, 12:17 minutes, Not Rated). Observe the dialogue in these Season 4
clips. Frank Underwood has used unethical dialogues throughout his career to get him to the presidency.
Iconoclasts (2006, Season 2, Episode 6, 47 minutes, Rated TV-14). This television series features iconic indi-
viduals interviewing each other in an effort to “break down” their iconic status and engage in real meeting. Alt-
hough any of the episodes are great examples of dialogue at different levels, the conversation between Dr. Maya
Angelou and Dave Chappelle in this episode from Season 2 does a particularly good job of illustrating points
about dialogue and social construction.
Scandal (2013, Season 2, Episode 16, 43 minutes, Rated TV-14). This fictional television series focuses on the
work of Olivia Pope, a crisis communication expert. In this particular episode, Olivia and her team work to
manage a crisis surrounding the CEO of a corporation, her extramarital affair, and its relevance to the corpora-
tion’s morality clause. The episode opens up a conversation about working with integrity, moral policy, and the
line between our workplace and personal lives.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, 240 minutes, Rated R). Leonardo DiCaprio plays real-life stockbroker Jordan
Belfort who spent twenty-two months in prison for defrauding investors. Consider the role ethics and integrity
played in the organization Belfort built.
Dialogos (http://www.dialogos.com). This is a site for a business that was started by William Isaacs, one of the
founders of the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT and director of the MIT Dialogue Project. Have stu-
dents navigate the site to gauge how it defines dialogue and its importance to organizational communication.
Harvard Business Review (http://www.hbr.org). Harvard Business Review, published by Harvard Business Pub-
lishing (a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvard University), provides professionals around the world with rigor-
ous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively. Ask your students to
look up concepts such as organizational communication and dialogue to examine how this high-profile periodi-
cal addresses these issues.
Inter-American Dialogue (http://www.thedialogue.org). The Inter-American Dialogue, founded in 1982, is an
organization that brings together 100 of the most influential citizens from throughout the Americas to discuss
important political, business, academic, and community issues in Western Hemisphere affairs. The site focuses
on some of their conversations.
LunchBox (http://www.voicenet.asia/category/lunch-box). This website provides readers with a series of case
studies regarding how individuals and organizations are challenged to act ethically and with integrity. They fo-
cus on issues of voice and dialogue as part of the process.
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Business Ethics (https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/business-ethics/).
Santa Clara University hosts the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. According to their website, the mission
statement for the Ethics Center includes helping individuals make ethical choices that serve others and shape
character. In addition, the Center offers a framework of practical and ethical questions.
National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (http://www.ncdd.org). This website offers unique resources
for individuals and organizations as they attempt to promote changes within society. Have your student examine
how this website advocates conversation as a method of social change.
Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character (SILEC) (http://siegelinstitute.kennesaw.edu/index.php).
The Siegel Institute exists to promote study, research, reflection, and understanding of ethics and leadership
through workshops, teaching, events, and scholarly teaching. SILEC was formed in 2000 by Kennesaw State
University president emeritus Dr. Betty Siegel.
Discuss the model of communication as information transfer. Provide a brief definition, basic assump-
tions, potential problems, and criticisms.
Why is leadership an important arena for the transactional-process model?
Explain the concept of strategic ambiguity. Provide an example from an organizational setting in which
this strategy could be beneficial and an example in which it might be problematic.
Explain the dichotomy of balancing creativity and constraint in organizations.
What is meant by the term situated individual? Why is this concept important to our understanding of
organizational communication? What role can the situated individual play in constructing organization-
al reality?
Define what dialogue is, and outline the four levels of increasing collaboration associated with this
concept. Explain the advantages or disadvantages of each level when considering organizations as dia-
Explain the difference between mindless and mindful forms of dialogue. Offer some examples of each
Discuss the importance of dialogue as equitable transaction. To what extent should this perspective of
dialogue be encouraged within a business organization?
What makes dialogue as real meeting so difficult to achieve? What practical limitations keep us from
developing authentic relationships and dialogues with others?
What does it mean to work with integrity and speak ethically as we engage in organizational communi-
cation practices?
information-transfer approach Defines communication as “the exchange of information and the
transmission of meaning” and views communication as a metaphoric
pipeline through which information flows from one person to another.
transactional-process model A model of communication that does not differentiate between the
roles of message sender and receiver, but instead asserts that people
play both roles simultaneously.
strategic-control perspective An approach that regards communication as a tool for influencing and
shaping the environment in which a competent communicator may
have multiple goals and therefore must choose effective strategies to
achieve the desired outcome.
strategic ambiguity Part of the strategic-control perspective of communication that de-
scribes the ways in which people may communicate unclearly but
still accomplish their goals.
balance of creativity and constraint A definition of organizational communication that recognizes the
tension between thinking and acting innovatively, while working un-
der the constraints of social realities, rules, and norms.
duality of structure Focuses on the creative and constraining features of the rules, norms,
and expectations that we face as we act on a daily basis. These rules
and norms can be reproduced or transcended and changed.
theory of structuration A theory that sees human behavior as an unresolvable, productive
tension between creativity and constraint.
self A term to describe who we think we are, our self-concept, formed in
part from the social relationships we have with others and from oth-
ers’ responses to what we say and do.
situated individual Recognizes that all individuals are situated in multiple contexts. The
situated individual is a person constructing and maintaining the social
realities in which he or she lives.
mindless Communication without conscious intent or purpose.
mindful Communication that is purposeful and strategic and occurs on both
mental and relational levels.
equitable transaction A communication perspective in which all participants have the abil-
ity to voice their opinions and perspectives.
voice The ability of an individual or group to participate in the ongoing
organizational dialogue.
empathic conversation Dialogue in which the communicators have the ability to understand
or imagine the world as another person understands or imagines it.
real meeting A genuine communion that is made possible through communication
in which people transcend their differences in role or perspective and
find a common ground.
integrity A mindful state of acting and communicating purposefully to fulfill
the promises and commitments you make to others.
ethics The systems of rules, duties, and morality that we use to guide our
everyday practices and behaviors.
Open the discussion by emphasizing that whereas most groups have a practical interest in organizational
communication, the definitions and assumptions that they ascribe ought to remain diverse.
Ask students to consider how different organizations might use different languages. For example, busi-
nesses rely on things like accounts payable (sometimes called AP) and accounts receivable (known as
AR), but other organizations might have different phrases and jargon that they rely on. Why is it im-
portant to know this language?
Ask students to reflect on why we need an assortment of approaches to organizational communication.
How might the communication needs of an advertising firm differ from those of a church? How would
the definition of organizational communication vary for these groups?
Provide a summary of the information-transfer model. Include a basic definition, assumptions, potential
problems, and critiques.
Discuss the overall principles of the transactional-process model.
Provide a summary of the strategic-control perspective of communication, and emphasize the role of
strategic ambiguity within organizational communication.
Discuss the view of communication as a balance of creativity and constraint.
How do these preliminary theories of organizational communication have an impact on our approach
Describe how the self operates as a primary element of communication relationships and provides a
foundation for dialogue.
Summarize the situated-individual model of organizational communication. Explain the connection be-
tween this model and the idea of multiple contexts.
Discuss the concept of dialogue. Address the differences between mindless and mindful forms of commu-
nication as well as the styles of dialogue.
Address the roles that working with integrity and ethical communication play in organizational commu-
Summarize the relationship between dialogue, integrity, and ethics, especially as they relate to our partic-
ipation in modern organizational communication practices.

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