Organizational Communication - Case Study Analysis

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The course, “Communication in Organizations” has allowed me to understand the vital role that communication has in organizations and the many forms, processes and functions that communication serves. This course has given me the opportunity to explore traditional and contemporary perspectives on organizations as well as organizational communication. Through this heightened understanding I have been able to develop communication skills that are valued and necessary in organizations and I have changed my opinion of organizational communication. I now see organizational communication as a tool used in interactions with customers and coworkers, a way to create networks between organizational actors, and a symbolic process which constructs organizational reality. After reviewing, analyzing and researching problems relating to three case studies in our textbook, I feel confident about expressing my perspective, opinion and recommendations.

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Chapter six of Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes highlights a disagreement between siblings, Brandon and Gabriella. Brandon and Gabriella both work par-time jobs, with contrasting power structures, for supplemental income. Brandon works at a manufacturing firm by the name of Baxter Company for twenty hours a week. Gabriella works roughly ten hours a week for Personal Greetings, a company who does party greetings that often include “strip-o-grams.” Gabriella comments that she is making good money and that the arrangement is mutually beneficial. However, her brother thinks that she is being exploited. Both companies that the siblings work for are highly successful. However, Brandon makes minimum wage and has little control over scheduling while Gabriella is paid above minimum wage and has freedom with her scheduling.

It can be argued that both Brandon and Gabriella are being exploited. Gabriella is being taken advantage of by Personal Greetings because the compensation is generous and the hours are short, making it hard for her to want to seek out other jobs. Gabriella is being controlled by the money she earns at Personal Greetings. In conversation Gabriella is uncertain about the feminist view of her occupation but she would be pleased to know that standpoint feminists would relate to her. Standpoint feminists would argue that the nature of Gabriella’s job works to enhance opportunity for marginalized voices to be heard within societal dialog. (Miller 2014) On the other hand, Brandon is being exploited because he is making little above the minimum wage and majority of the money made at Baxter Company goes to the people in managerial positions.

Ideology is at the core of this debate between Brandon and Gabriella. Ideologies are assumptions people make about reality that influence our perceptions of situations and events. (Miller, 2014) Additionally, the book titled “Ideology” by Teun A. van Dijk says, “…ideologies express or conceal one’s social or political position, perspective or interests.” (van 1998) It is important to acknowledge that ideology is responsible for structuring our thoughts and controlling the way we interpret reality. (Miller, 2014) In the case of Brandon and Gabrielle it appears as though Gabriella thinks that political position is expressed through her parent’s ideology. This is evident when she comments that she believes her parents tend to be liberal and that the money is most important. Gabriella says this to justify her actions. Brandon responds by saying that the money being made is of little importance as is their parents political views.

In this case study, both Brandon and Gabriella are participating in a system of concertive control because of the rules and norms that they use to manage their behavior. These rules and norms in turn help them manage and construct their daily interactions. I believe that neither Brandon or Gabriella would want to be emancipated for they both feel their occupations are proper. However, a critical theorist would want to remove them both from their current positions. Brandon should search for a job that is rewarding and compensates him appropriately for his labor. Gabrielle needs to realize that although the money is good, what she is doing is not going to fulfil her hierarchy of needs. Mindy et al. comments on careers of the same nature as Gabriella’s, “…although these women may find satisfaction in their work, this satisfaction is not empowering, as it is dependent upon customer reactions. (Mindy 2009)

Chapter two of Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes presents classical organizational theories, all of which use a machine metaphor. The machine metaphor conceptualizes organizations as highly standardized, predictable and specialized. The chapter presents a case study, “The Creamy Creations Takeover.” Creamy Creations began as a small ice cream parlor that valued personal relationships, specialized service and individual attention. Roughly a year and a half after opening, Creamy Creations was sold to Burger Barn, a local fast-food chain that was looking to expand. When Creamy Creations was sold, the ice cream parlor went through many changes. Creamy Creations went from being owned by a local military veteran to being owned by a fast food chain.

At first, Burger Barn was pleased with Creamy Creations. Creamy Creations had a solid customer base and had been pulling in a modest profit from the reopening. Creamy Creation had a high customer retention rate because of the friendly atmosphere and the quality of the product. All of these things said, Berger Barn saw a need for a more efficient system of organization. After much review, the Berger Barn executives decided that instituting three workstations would be the most effective way of moving customers through their transaction. Berger Barn claimed the benefits of this system were for flexibility in scheduling and to prevent employees from being bored on the job. Six months following these changes, Creamy Creations saw an increase in profits, a substantial increase in employee turnover and an increase in “to-go” orders.

The Creamy Creations takeover is a classic example of a locally owned business being taken over by big businesses and abandoning their values. One of those things being efficiency. Burger Barn’s focus when taking over Creamy Creations was to increase efficiency to eliminate the preexisting extended wait times. To do this, they created specialized stations. When this transition took place, Creamy Creations moved from a specialization model to a cross trained model. In addition, they experienced an increased employee turnover. This highlights that Creamy Creations began to neglect the individual needs of the employees because of their replaceability. Machines are designed so that the parts of one machine are similar to those of another- making them easy to replace. Per Raza et al., “…whenever organizations want to introduce any change intervention that alter the human resource policies, employee turnover intention increases.” (Raza 2018)

While I predict the future of Creamy Creations to be bright, I see facts that went unnoticed in Berger Barns predictions. Firstly, when Berger Barn took over Creamy Creations, it was still relatively new and the reputation was still forming. Creamy Creations went from being a small, local business where communication flowed vertically to being takeover by a much bigger chain. This allows for top management requests and orders to become convoluted or to not reach the hands on, behind the counter workers. This can be problematic due to the fact of using a hierarchy level communication flow and the employees being unfamiliar of the functions of big organizations.

Chapter seven of Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes presents a case study titled, “The Church Search.” In summary, Marsha is searching for a new job. A church in Michigan is looking for a new pastor. Both parties seem to fit each other’s needs. The case study explains three scenarios. Firstly, the deliberation over posting a job description for the church online, second Marsha finding the open position online, and lastly, Marsha’s interview.

Before entering the organization, the anticipatory socialization process begins. Anticipatory socialization is defined as, “…the process of adopting attitudes and beliefs of a reference group before obtaining a membership.” (Merton 1968) In Marsha’s case, she has organized a notebook of many churches looking for a new pastor. Throughout this process she can learn about the work offered by each organization, specifics of the occupation she is applying for, and general knowledge about the organization being reviewed. All of the research that Marsha has done has helped her learn and get a better sense of what is expected of her, and what she has to offer.

Marsha should expect her interview to consist of mostly job related questions. Per, The Truth About the Interview, “The 80-20 rule of interviewing should apply: you do 20 percent of the talking and let the candidate talk the remaining 80 percent.” (Evock 2007) She should be prepared to ask questions of her own, but understand that eighty percent of the talking should be her, the applicant. For example, she could ask what the organizations goals are or how the organization contributes to society. Interviews allow both parties, the interviewer and the applicant, to gain information and insight about the other. Additionally, the interview process allows the interviewer to know more about the applicants, background, communication skills, personality, knowledge and motivation. In the case of Marsha, I believe she will be dedicated to the position she is applying for because she applied for a position which matched her commitment and value needs.

If Marsha takes on the role as the new pastor of the church, she must begin the anticipatory socialization step before she moves to Michigan. This would consist of studying the facts of the new church and the history surrounding the church. Once she arrives in Michigan, the encounter stage will begin. This is the stage where Marsha learns her role in the new church. During this process it is important that Marsha abandons her ideas of how previous systems she has worked for have run. The final stage Marsha will go through is the metamorphosis stage. This will be once Marsha feels comfortable around the members of the church and has been accepted by everyone. This would mean she has learned the norms in the organization and has been given the rules of what she can and cannot do in the church. To guide the transition from the encounter stage to the metamorphosis stage I would suggest that Marsha engages in formal and informal conversation with the members of the church. The informal conversations will help her fit in with others around the church, and the formal conversation will allow her to ease her way through the organization.

To conclude, it is important to view organizations as forms of communication, not simply places where communication takes place. Each case study I have presented has been a prime example that communication serves many different functions within organizations. Through this course, I have had the opportunity to analyze myself as well as those around me in the way in which we communicate. I now have a greater understanding of how to communicate and act professionally, process emotion and manage conflict in the workplace, as well as deal with organizational change. Organizational communication can be a tool to respond to complexities and better understand ourselves as well as our environment.

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