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Organisational Communication: Essential Characteristics Essay

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Updated: Oct 20th, 2020

In case study Working without papers, Long (2004) describes a story of the company Three Sources Construction – a small construction company with a multi-cultural staff base. Javier, a Latin-American supervisor within the company faces the problem of unfair attitudes towards the other Latin-American workers. Whilst the American workers do not have any problem with their pay, the Latin-American workers whose conditions are equal to that of the American’s, do not get their salary.

Javier’s English speaking abilities and skillsets enable his promotion to the role of supervisor. Javier is conflicted between the two camps of workers and obviously he should treat all workers in the same way without any exceptions with regards to ethnicity. This situation is an example of organisational communication within the particular company.

According to Weerakkody, “organisational communication helps us understand the way an organisation and its setting or context influences how its members communicate with each other and the outside world” (2010, Topic 1, p. 1). Analysis of the case study Working without papers demonstrates that there are serious problems within the working process based on the cultural ground. The owners should pay more attention to organisational climate of the company and improve its structure and communicational networks.


Ruben and Stewart (2006) indicate that since work as well as school, social clubs, political, religious organisations etc. has a significant place in the life of every worker, it is necessary to investigate the rules of organisational communication, or, according to Weerakkody, “how an organisation uses communication to define its goals, maintain its divisions of labour, control operations, establish information networks and develop its own culture, which in turn guide its members’ behavior” (2010, Topic 1, p. 1).

For Ruben and Stewart (2006), the essential characteristics of the organisational communication are the communicational network, organisational culture, organisational climate, diversity, values and ethical principles. Through communication workers can define goals, develop strategies, roles and responsibilities, and develop culture and climate. Every organisation has its goal that can be defined as “the objective that guides that activity of an organisation” (Ruben & Stewart, 2006, p. 296). In this context, the goal of Three Sources Construction is construction and supply of services, maintaining the great reputation and involving more clients.

Communicational network includes internal, external and informal ways. In our case study, communication between Javier and his wife are the examples of external network because there is no evident communication with suppliers, customers, investors, etc. Internal network includes the communication of all workers and informal includes communication within the particular group of workers: within the group of Latin-Americans on one side and between the American workers on the other. Those informal groups were not established by the managers, it happened due to the lack of understanding within the multicultural working collective.

Organisational culture should include the equal attitude toward all workers irrespective of gender, race, nationality, etc. Its major function is to control the working process from the position of law and human rights. However, analysis of the case study demonstrates that such a principle is neglected. Organisational climate and cultural diversity are closely related. Thus, diversity can cause the problems with the organisational climate. Tolerance is the base of a good healthy climate within a company. The Latin-American workers of Three Sources Construction call Javier racists. There is racial discrimination and intolerance within the working process.

Long says that there is a complicated situation in the country caused by the protests of the Americans against the immigrants. Therefore, the organisational climate and culture of this company require more attention. Eisenberg and Goodall cite Miller and Form who “claim that positive employee morale fosters productivity” (2001, p. 70). The conversation between two Latin-Americans demonstrates that the climate is not warm: “There are a lot of angry Americans around here and we just have to stay low for a while” (Long, 2004, p. 297-298).

Analysing values and ethical communication behaviours, Shockley-Zalabak (2009) indicates that both individual and organisational values have a significant impact on the working process. Moreover, within the globalised world, it is highly important to be tolerant and fair and treat all people equally. The process of globalisation dictates its rules, changing the traditional working collectives and making them multinational. It is impossible to say that ethics and values influence organisational communication of Three Sources Construction.

In our case study, Javier complains “My own people hate me and are losing respect for me, and the gringos, I mean the Americans, in this damn community hate me because I am just trying to support my family like anyone else” (Long, 2004, p. 302). Javier’s use of the word “gringos” and the subsequent change to “the Americans” demonstrates an interesting point. This change shows Javier’s respect for the workers; however, Javier tries to draw the line between himself and the other Latin-American workers. The ethical communication behaviours of the workers is influenced by the ethnical controversies, creating a negative situation.

The ethical aspects and values of this collective are low. The workers lack tolererance and this situation should be improved. Moreover, the situation when the workers are not paid their salary is illegal and criminal.

The history of organisational communication study

The history of organisational communication study helps to understand the characteristic of this area and to explore the theories described the working process. Eisenberg and Goodall investigate three early perspectives of organisational communications such as classical management, human relations and human resources (2001, p. 51). The classical theory of management was developed in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution.

During this period, the structural organisation of companies was similar to empires where trade was expanded. The main goal of companies was the adaptation of “the lessons of science and technology to make perfect machines” (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001, p. 79). The preferred organisational communication was top-down and management-oriented that included the access to the primary information only for managers and supervisors. Workers, in their turn, had to get the information from the managers who told them what to do. Eisenberg and Goodall (2001) discuss the Classical Management approach of Henry Faloy and Scientific Management theory of Fredrick Taylor.

Taylor investigated the output and productivity of each worker. His time and motion studies emphasised the mechanisation of labour and the authority of the clock as the basements of the organisational efficiency (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001, p. 62). On the other hand, Faloy indicated that structure and bureaucracy can improve the working conditions (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001, p. 79). To some extent, Faloy’s approach is found in the attitude on the American managers and supervisors to their Latin-American workers in our case study. A good example of this theory is the situation when the owner of the company asked Javier to talk with the workers and explain them that the company “had yet to be paid by the general contractor” and, therefore, the owners are unable to pay their workers (Long, 2004, p. 298).

The human relations approach developed in the first part of the 20th century was based on the statement that workers can be more productive only if they were to get more attention from supervisors. The human resource approach developed indicates that informal communication plays a significant role and the right choice of human resources would improve the productivity of the company (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2001, p. 76). The situation described in our case study demonstrates that human resource management can improve the process. However, the company owner’s use and take advantage of the immigrants as a cost-saving measure.

Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy describes five levels of needs of workers as physiological needs, safety, affiliation, self-esteem and self-actualisation. The American and Latin-American workers of Three Sources Construction have salary as the psychological need. The company should provide the safe work places. However, in case of Three Sources Construction the work places are dangerous. Affiliation is a need of the social activities; as we already know, the organisational cultural of Three Sources Construction should be improved.

The self-esteem of the Latin-American workers is reduced because their pay is withheld and there is tension from the American workers who do not like the presence of the immigrants which would contribute to their lack of self-esteem. Self-actualisation can be achieved by the promotion of the particular worker; however, majority of the workers are unable to express their initiatives.

The systems perspective

Weerakkody defines system theory as a method that “explains how interdependence between components of a system is maintained through communication; and why some individual members, groups or specific stakeholders (components) of the organisation or society should not consider just their own personal needs, which can affect the whole system negatively” (2010, Topic 3, p. 2). The tragedy of commons within the working process Three Sources Construction concludes in neglect of the personal needs of the workers and there is an emphasis on the needs of the company. Our case study does not mention whether the company contributes to environmental pollution or climate change.

The system perspective includes all particular elements that can be involved in the working process (Ruben, 1992, p. 60). This issue is based on concepts as an organisation as a system with its boundaries, closed, open and living system, equifinality, cybernetic systems theory and Karl Weick’s theory of organizing. Three Sources Construction is an example of an open system because the company has an exchange with its environment.

According to Miller, the cybernetic systems theory “deals with the process through which physical, natural, and organisational systems are steered towards reaching system goals” (2009, p. 65). In our case study, the company’s goal of maintaining a good image can be achieved only if the organisational climate is improved. Karl Weick’s theory emphasises the role of environment. Thus, Weerakkody provides a good example of the impact of environment – the volcanic eruption in Iceland in April 2010. Weerakkody states “the volcanic ash that swept across the skies over most of Western Europe badly affected the airline industry worldwide, leading to huge financial losses” (Weerakkody, 2010, Topic 3, p. 3).

The cultural studies perspective

According to Eisenberg et al. (2007), a regular basis of people’s behavior is caused by their cultural background that impacts on the way workers behave during the staff meetings, how they perform reviews, etc. Culture as a symbolic structure includes the way workers dress and also what hangs on a wall. Cultural characteristics play a key role in the communication between the workers of Three Sources Construction. Moreover, the problem described in the case study is based on the cultural ground. As they are immigrants, the Latin-American workers do not want to study English. They also live in a separated community.

The American workers are referred to as “gringos” and there seems to be a clear divide between the Latin-American workers and their American co-workers. The social trends also impact on work. There is a social conflict in the city between native citizens and immigrants and there is an obvious prejudice against the growing Latino population. This outside conflict influences the workers of Three Sources Construction. Cultural differentiation and fragmentation of staff have negative effects. I think that the owners have to improve the cultural structure of this organisation. For instance, they could suggest that the workers have a party in order to spend more time together, sharing their cultural features with each other.

The critical theory perspective

Miller indicates that “critical theorists take a radical frame of reference and believe that the theorist’s job is to change organisations and through the emancipation of oppressed social groups” (2009, p. 139). Generally, the critical technique can be used in order to improve the current situation in company. Weerakkody indicates that the critical theory approach developed from the Victorian era to the modern era includes a changed attitude to workers.

Companies give tax exemptions to workers and increase their profits and workers can also consume goods they produce. This “trickle-down effect” (from the rich to the poor) would benefit the rest of society in the long run” (Weerakkody, 2010, Topic 5, p. 3). However, this idea was not realised and, in fact, the gap between poor and rich only increased. Interpretive research and deconstruction as the methods of the critical theory can help achieve the theoretical goals and improve the practical situation.

As it was mentioned below, Three Sources Construction has a number of organisational problems which can be improved by the development of the practical solutions that would change the attitude of workers to each other. Feminist theory analyzed by Eisenberg and Goodall (2001) cannot be considered within our case study, because this problem is not related to the current situation. This theory is based on the idea that women face more problems within their work due to the stereotype that women have less ability to cope with the difficult tasks. As a result, their salary can be significantly differing from men’s one. Our case study does not mention the situations based on the gender aspect.

The postmodern perspective

Postmodernism and postmodernity are the paradigms developed in the late 20th century. This artistic movement includes various sail, political and cultural issues that changed the traditional understanding and brought the new perspectives and practices. During the period of the Industrial Revolution, the main strategy of various companies was an integration of all parts of company in one structure.

Postmodernism brought the new approaches such as networks, narratives and performances (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2004, p. 181). The major goal of those approaches is the emphasis on the need for fluidity and adaptability, maximisation of participation through decentralisation, renegotiation of power relationships, minimisation of constrains and maximisation of individual and organisational possibility. Network forms have a number of advantages.

For instance, they are highly adaptable and flexible to changing conditions. An example of Three Sources Construction demonstrates that the company’s structure is neither adaptable nor flexible. When the conflict between immigrants and the local citizen arose in the city, the workers become involved in this conflict. On the other hand, Eisenberg and Goodall (2004) state that decentralisation is a disadvantage of networks. The process of decentralisation may lead to unproductive redundancy. Three Sources Construction is a small company; therefore, this aspect is not related to our case study.

The major concepts of Postmodernism are self-identity, self-concept, moral and ethical discourse, art and culture and globalisation. Each of those concepts has a serious impact on the working process. Globalisation changes the face of corporations and dictates the new approaches. The major characteristic of globalisation is multiculturalism, therefore, if the owners of Three Sources Construction want to survive in the modern world with its current tendency of multiculturalism, they have to provide the serious changes and improve organisational communication between all levels of company’s staff.

Although self-identity and self-concept as an idea of who we are should be prevalent among both the American and the Latin-American workers, they also have to understand the principle of cooperation and cultural integration. If the Latin-American workers came to work in another country, it is important to respect the local cultural features such as language and history. Moral and ethical discourses are common for every nationality and should be the basic principles for everyone. In this context, the owners of Three Sources Construction should treat all workers equally according to the moral and ethical principles that are common within the American society.

Reference List

Eisenberg, EM & Goodall Jr, HL 2001, “Three early perspectives on organizations and communications” in Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint, 3rd ed., Bedfort/St Martin’s, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 51-87.

Eisenberg, EM & Goodall Jr, HL 2004, “Alternatives to hierarchy” in Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint, 4rd ed., Bedfort/St Martin’s, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 180-193.

Eisenberg, EM & Goodall Jr, HL & Trethewey, A 2007, “Cultural studies of organizations and communication” in Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint, 5rd ed., Bedfort/St Martin’s, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 126-162.

Long, SD, 2004, “Working without papers” In J Keyton and P Shockley-Zalabak (Eds.), Case studies for organizational communication: Understanding and communication process, 2nd ed., Roxbury Publishing, Los Angeles, CA, pp. 295-304.

Miller, K 2006, “Critical approaches” in Organizational communication: approaches and processes, 4th ed, Wadsworth, Belmont, California, pp. 119-141.

Miller, K 2009, “System approaches” in Organizational communication: approaches and processes, 5th ed, Wadsworth, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 57-78.

Ruben, BD 1992, “The value of system thinking for communication study” in Communication and human behavior, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, pp. 60-64.

Ruben, BD & Stewart, LP 2006, “Organizations” in Communication and human behavior, 5th ed., Allyn & Bacon, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 294-323.

Shockley-Zalabak, P 2009, “Organizational communication: values and ethical communication behaviors” in Fundamentals of organizational communication: knowledge, sensitivity, skills, values, 7th ed., Pearson, Boston, Massachusetts, pp. 99-137.

Weerakkody, N 2010, Organisational Communication: Culture, Diversity, Technology and Change, Deakin University, Greelong, Victoria, Australia.

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