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Organizational behavior: Communication in the workplace

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  1. Introduction
  2. Organizational context of communication theory
  3. The bidirectional flow of information
  4. The New York Times report
  5. Collective action theory
  6. The case at Future Shop
  7. The significant problem in technical communication
  8. Understanding modernization theory
  9. Conclusion
  10. Works cited

Communication theory presupposes the ability of different members in a conversation, the interlocutors, to be able to exchange language with each other which leads toward a comprehendible meaning. Unfortunately, if neither of these individuals speak the same language, or are not suitably proficient in the language in which they converse with one another (second-language speaks of English, for instance), the ensuing conversation could prove difficult to follow. When I was working at Future Shop in February, 2009, I observed two of my co-workers facing this exact difficulty. Sorting through a receivable shipment of electronic components and computers, they could not devise a system whereby one would unload the boxes and the other would check with the inventory control sheet to ensure that the proper materials had been delivered. Essentially, the problem resulted with the differing accents (one Portuguese, the other Sri Lankan) each speaker possessed. When one employee would shout a numbered bar-code at the other, they would muddle up the list and inadvertently check the wrong items. The result was predictable: believing that they had received too many items from one product and an insufficient number of the other. Once they realized that a mistake had been made, and the lengthy project would have to begin from the start, the recriminations and hostilities flared.

Thayer and Barnett refer to the organizational context of communication theory as originally divided between the manager and the employee in a hierarchical structure: managers inform employees the most efficient methods required to complete an assignment, repeating the instructions if it is misunderstood or performed incorrectly until the task is finished or the employee sacked [Thayer and Barnett, 1997]. This classic example of one-sided communication served as the business standard, and was particularly effective in industry and manufacturing where the manager would usually possess developed skills (literacy, for instance) which the employee did not; and there was no reason for him to offer his ?feedback' on any given topic.

[...] In this case study, poor communication practices have resulted in the exchange of physical or political symbols the detained plant director and associates being held until the detained pay is released. Communication methods in business is not always expressed verbally. Secular hegemony, or the subjugation of the spiritual, privileges particular worldviews that dominate disciplinary discourses. Buzzanell and Harter maintain that these worldviews privilege managerialist and consumerist ideologies and foster identity constructions that elevate one side of binary thinking to the exclusion of other ways of constructing our worlds and our faith(e.g., instrumentality, work, and individual benefits to the neglect of emotionality, family or volunteer pursuits, and community) [2006]. [...]

[...] Warren proposes that a significant problem in technical communication is persuading the user that the information is accurate, valid, and useful. All too often, technical communicators treat users as members of their own culture. When authors do consider cultural issues, they often focus on matters such as vocabulary, visuals, and organization. Other strategies, however, can be useful in gaining acceptance of technical information in cross-cultural situations. For example, the communication theory of compliance-gaining offers suggestions for how the technical communicators can adapt the text to enhance user acceptance when communicating to members of their own culture as well as when communicating across cultures [Warren, 2004]. [...]

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