Communicative Coworkership

Part IV: What has been told?

If we are to develop a thorough understanding of how communication generates organization we must know more about the unexplored communication of coworkers – not only in relation to leadership, but also in relation to other organizational processes.

(Heide & Simonsson, 2011, p. 202)

Within organizational research, communication is no longer seen as just another of several factors in service of organizing. A perspective that it is through communication which organizations are composed, designed and maintained has evolved, and has been termed Communicative Constitution of Organization (CCO) (Coreen et al, 2011; Putnam & Nicotera, 2009; McPhee & Zaug, 2000). Associated scholars encourage a constructive dialogue between communication and organizational literature to create a more integrated understanding of the role of communication, in order to create meaning, form, and even the possibility of organizational life (Coreen et al, 2011). It is from this approach that we can understand a research project such as Communicative Organizations, which creates an opportunity to change the epistemological and ontological positions on organizing (Nothhaft & von Platen, 2015).

rachel-cusk

The notion of a communicative leadership exists both in academia and in practice (Simonsson, 2002; Axäll, 2004). The concept is based on the idea that modern organizations tend to be less hierarchical, with a view of the leader as a person who cannot make sense on their own or impose their interpretation on employees. In its place, this is seen as a social mutual process, dependent on dialogue between managers (understood as the official position) and coworkers (Simonsson, 2002).

On the other hand, leadership researchers recognize that leadership is about influence, and therefore there is always an unequal balance of power between a leader and a coworker, as for example manifested in that the manager’s superior position offers interpretive prerogative (Axäll, 2004). Although organizations are dependent on coworkers who are motivated, productive and healthy, research from a coworker perspective is underrepresented in organizational research and in the field of strategic communication (Heide & Simonsson, 2011).

Tengblad (2007) however, argues the viewpoint of coworkership as a field of knowledge itself, more than as an appendage to the leadership – and organizational development literature. The idea of coworkership can be linked to the organization being post-bureaucratic where the manager is stressed as a facilitator for independent employees, which places new demands on both the coworker and the employer; coworkers expect more than a salary out of the employment organization such as development of their professional skills and expertise, while the coworker on the other hand is expected from organizational management to be participative and socially competent (Tengblad, 2007).

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Ciulla (2004) on the other hand, argues how this form of demands on employees are not realistic, since they are not given the conditions required in order to comply with the demands. The participation and engagement of the coworker thus becomes a notion that has poor value, in that it falls in priority when the traditional instrumental values, such as time and money, in effect are the most valued in the organization (Simonsson, 2002). The concept of participation entails ironies, contradictions and paradoxes when coworkers on the one hand are expected to show commitment and involvement, but on the other hand rarely have a decision-making mandate (Ciulla, 2004; Stohl & Cheney, 2001). These strains clarify how the power aspect is important to highlight in order to understand tensions that exist within the organizational life of the coworker, as well as their consequences.

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Communicative Coworkership

Part III: Communication as Constitutive of Organizing

A perspective acknowledging this central role of communication, is the viewpoint regarding communication as constitutive of organizing (CCO), which has evolved within the field of organizational communication (Putnam & Nicotera, 2009). This perspective offers a significant value to organizational research since it recognizes organizations as continuous products of sense-making practice, which is always political in the sense that they could have been produced differently (Coreen et al, 2011).

CCO is especially valuable in looking at the understudied perspective of coworkers, since it highlights how their sense making processes and communication is fundamental in constituting the organization (Heide & Simonsson, 2011), and has emphasized how discourse is an essence of organizational life (Coreen et al, 2011). Despite this however, the aspect of power is placed in the background of the CCO-perspective (Rose, O’Malley & Valverde, 2006; Leclercq-Vandelannoitte, 2011) and is therefore something that should be developed in order to further a significant contribution to organizational communication research.

Mikhail Pavstyuk

There is thus a need of a study with aim to analyse power relations in the communicative organization, where the focus is on the coworker. With a critical approach it should be examined how this communicative coworkership is described, practiced and experienced, what conditions this entails for the coworker and what the consequences are.

The purpose is two-fold: 1) to develop the CCO perspective in organizational studies by adding a power perspective, 2) to address a deficit of research in strategic communication regarding coworkership. A study should wish to shed light on the power aspects of organizational communication in studying the organizational tensions a communicative coworkership entails for the employee, and what the consequences are. It should acknowledge but also problematize the coworker as an active communicator and creator of meaning.

The aim is to further a development of constitutive communication models for organizational research. A study could do so by developing the analysis of organizational communication from the Montreal School’s CCO-argument by adding a Foucauldian perspective where power relations are in focus, highlighting the tensions that arise for the coworker when communication is considered essential. The study could do this through case studies in which the framework is formed by a concept model based on Foucault’s ideas (see Figure 1 above). The cases will exemplify how organizations are constituted by dynamic power-knowledge relationships, which mobilize discourse, structures and subjectivity.

 

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