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Organizational Communication

Second Edition

Michael Kramer and Ryan Bisel

Publication Date - October 2020

ISBN: 9780190925802

496 pages
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

The only organizational communication textbook written with beginning students in mind


Organizational Communication: A Lifespan Approach is a student-focused introduction to the field. Featuring real-world stories, helpful and unique illustrations, and practical applications of theory, this text engages students and shows them how to apply concepts, theories, and perspectives in every chapter.

Organizational Communication helps students understand their communication as participants in organizations throughout their lifetimes. It begins with how pre-career experiences influence our expectations for organizational experiences and ends with organizational exits, including retirement. This approach provides a seamless integration of theory and application while helping students at any stage of life reflect on past experiences, prepare for new endeavors and roles, and understand vital organizational theories and perspectives in new and concrete ways.

New to this Edition

  • Offers expanded sections on nontraditional careers, gender and diversity, Communication Constitutes Organization Theory, the dark side of leadership, and nonverbal communication in the workplace
  • Incorporates more than fifty new references dating from 2017-2020
  • Covers additional theories, including self-determination theory, institutional theory, and high reliability organizational (HRO) theory


  • Presents the major concepts and theories of organizational communication with an applied focus so that students can easily connect what they are reading to their current and future organizational experiences
  • Each chapter begins with a brief scenario or case study that is highlighted throughout the chapter to make it easier to apply the concepts and theories to a specific workplace example
  • Ethical issues are integrated into every chapter

About the Author(s)

Michael W. Kramer is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

Ryan S. Bisel is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Oklahoma.


"Organized around a life-span approach to organizational entry, participation, and exit, this text integrates theory, research, and application in an accessible, engaging format. This text provides ample opportunity for critical thinking; offers multiple examples to illustrate concepts; and treats organizational communication issues in for-profit and not-for-profit contexts."--Janie Harden Fritz, Duquesne University

"This is a well-written text that takes a broad view of organizations and blends theoretical and applied elements of communication with an ethical focus."--Terri Toles Patkin, Eastern Connecticut State University

"This textbook has good coverage, recognizes the importance of importance of being reader-centric, and is a welcome addition to the stable of textbooks for the introductory organizational communication course."--Chris R. Kasch, Bradley University

"This book offers a detailed and rich overview of the multifaceted process of organizational communication."--Meredith Harrigan, SUNY Geneseo

Table of Contents

    About the Authors

    1. Introduction
    Defining Communication
    Information Transfer
    Shared Meaning
    Transactional Meaning Creation
    --Applying the Three Definitions of Communication
    Working Definition
    Defining Organizations
    A Legal Definition of Organizations
    A Communicative Definition of Organizations
    A Social Definition of Organizations

    The Complexity of Defining Communication in Organizations
    Strategic Ambiguity
    --Ethical Issue: Strategic Ambiguity
    Nonverbal Communication
    --Applying the Three Nonverbal Criteria
    --Communication Challenge: Office Design
    Perspectives on Organizational Communication
    A Post-Positivist Perspective
    An Interpretive
    A Critical Perspective

    --Applying the Three Organizational Perspectives
    Other Perspectives
    Application to Different Types of Organizations
    Preview of the Book
    Key Terms

    2. Communication and Anticipatory Socialization
    Anticipatory Role Socialization

    --Communication Challenge: Realistic Expectations
    Previous Experience

    --Communication Challenge: Comparing Workplaces
    The "Real Job" Colloquialism

    --Ethical Issue: Deconstructing Our Labels
    Anticipatory Role Socialization for Volunteers
    Summary of Anticipatory Role Socialization

    Anticipatory Organizational Socialization
    Person-Job Fit
    --Résumés and Cover Letters
    --Screening Interviews
    --Communication Challenge: Improving Interviews
    Follow-up or Second Interviews
    Realistic Job Previews
    --Ethical Issue: Inappropriate Interview Questions
    --Communication Challenge: The New Technology of the Job Search
    Anticipatory Organizational Socialization for Volunteers
    Summary of Anticipatory Organizational Socialization
    Key Terms

    3. Communication and Organizational Encounter
    Uncertainty Management Theory
    Newcomer Socialization Through Orientation and Training
    Socialization Strategies
    Socialization Strategy Outcomes

    --Ethical Issue: Mixed Messages
    Newcomers and Communication Exchange
    Information Seeking
    Information Sources

    --Communication Challenge: Trusted Colleague
    Information Giving
    Communication Exchange

    Encounter Outcomes
    Boundary Passages
    --Functional Boundaries
    --Hierarchical Boundaries
    --Inclusionary Boundaries
    --Ethical Issue: Vocabulary of Hierarchy
    Differences Between Expectations and Experiences
    General Newcomer Adaptation

    Newcomers in Volunteer Organizations
    Key Terms

    4. Communication and Management Theory
    Classical Management Theory
    Frederick Taylor's Classical Management Theory
    Henri Fayol's General Management Theory

    --Communication Challenge: Communication and Span of Control
    Weber's Bureaucratic Theory
    Douglas McGregor's Theory X
    Classical Management Today

    Human Relations Management
    Hawthorne Studies

    --Communication Challenge: Are Happy Workers Productive Workers?
    Human Relations Management Today
    Human Resource Management
    --Ethical Issue: Humans as Resources
    Some Roots of Human Resource Management: McGregor's Theory Y
    Principles of Human Resource Management
    Human Resource Management Today

    --Communication Challenge: Motivation at Despair, Inc.
    Teamwork or Theory Z Management
    --Ethical Issue: Top-Level Management and Organizing for the Short Term?
    Principles of Teamwork
    Teamwork and Concertive Control

    --Ethical Issue: Is Control Ethical?
    Teamwork Management Today
    Management Approaches to Volunteers
    --Communication Challenge: Communicating to Reduce Volunteer Turnover
    --Applying the Three Organizational Perspectives to Management Theory
    Key Terms

    5. Communication Channels and Structures
    Traditional Communication Channels and Structures
    Formal Downward Communication
    Issues with Downward Communication

    --Amount of Information
    --Nature of Feedback
    --Information Distribution
    Formal Upward Communication
    Issues with Upward Communication

    --Communication Challenge: Technology Application for Suggestions Boxes
    --Lack of Receptivity
    --Power Differentials
    --Communication Challenge: Dealing with the Normal Alteration of Upward Communication
    --Upward "Distortion"
    --Self-Promotion or Ingratiation
    Horizontal or Lateral Communication
    Issues with Lateral Communication

    --Lack of Incentive
    Informal Communication
    Issues with Informal Communication

    --Ethical Issue: Gossip's Messiness
    --Mid-Level Employee Participation
    --The Competence Network
    Integrative Communication Structures
    --Quality Circles
    --Project Teams
    Limitations of Traditional Communication Channels Approach
    Communication Networks
    Collecting Network Data
    Characteristics of Networks

    --Linkage Characteristics
    --Individual Roles
    --Communication Challenge: Reducing Employee Turnover by Cultivating Network Density
    --Group-Level Characteristics
    --Organizational or System-Level Characteristics
    Impact of Communication Networks
    Limitations of Network Analysis
    Nonprofit Organizations and Volunteers
    Key Terms

    6. Communication and Organizational Culture
    Defining Organizational Culture
    Interactions of Various Members

    Structuration Theory and Culture
    --Communication Challenge: Communicating a New Value
    Organizational Norms
    Types of Norms
    Communication Norms
    Norm Development
    Creating Conformity to Norms

    Three Approaches to Culture
    An Integrated Perspective
    A Differentiated Perspective
    A Fragmented Perspective

    --Applying Martin's Three Perspectives on Organizational Culture
    A Critique of Applying the Three Perspectives
    Analyzing Organizational Culture
    Script (or Narrative) Analysis
    Ritual Analysis
    Metaphor Analysis

    --Ethical Issue: Enron's Metaphors
    Reflective Comment Analysis
    A Comparison of Five Methods of Cultural Analysis

    --Applying Three Research Perspectives to Organizational Culture
    Key Terms

    7. Communication with Organizational Members
    Supervisor-Subordinate Communication
    Average Supervisor Communication Style
    --Interaction Patterns
    --Openness to Communication
    --Upward Distortion
    --Upward Influence
    --Semantic Information Distance
    --Communication Challenge: The Pelz Effect
    --Effective Versus Ineffective Supervisors
    --Systemic Factors
    --Communication Challenge: "Living" Versus "Having" an Open-Door Policy
    Differentiated Supervisor Communication Style
    --Partnership Relationships
    --Overseer Relationships
    --Middle-Group Relationships
    --Relationship Development
    Outcomes of Supervisor-Subordinate Communication
    Summary of Supervisor-Subordinate Communication
    Peer Communication
    Peer Social Support
    Types of Peer Communication Relationships
    Outcomes of Peer Communication
    Workplace Friendships

    Summary of Peer and Friendship Relations
    Interaction of Supervisor and Peer Communication
    Summary of Supervisor-Peer Relationship Interaction
    Mentor(ing) Communication
    --Communication Challenge: Mentoring Communication
    Summary of Mentoring
    --Communication Challenge: Upside Down Mentoring?
    Emotion Management in Interpersonal Interactions
    The Nature of Emotions in Interactions
    --Ethical Issue: The Moral "Signaling" Function of Emotions
    Types of Emotions
    Emotion Management

    --Communication Challenge: Peer Communication and Emotion Management
    Volunteers and Interpersonal Relationships
    Key Terms

    8. Communication and Leadership
    Managerial or Group Leadership
    Managerial Leadership as Traits
    Models of Management Styles
    Situational Models of Managerial Leadership
    Contingency Models of Managerial Leading
    External Communication Focus of Managers
    Dialectical Theory and Managerial
    --Communication Challenge: African American Women Executives' Leadership Communication
    Managerial Leadership and Volunteers
    Summary of Managerial Leadership

    Organizational Leadership
    Charismatic Leadership
    Visionary Leadership
    Transformational (versus Transactional) Leadership
    Institutional Leadership
    Framing Theory

    --Communication Challenge: Framing and Managerial Leadership
    Organizational Leadership of Volunteers
    --Ethical Issue: Leaders' Moral Talk Is Contagious (in a Good Way)
    The Dark Side of Managerial and Organizational Leadership
    Comparing Managerial and Organizational Leadership
    Key Terms

    9. Communication and Decision-Making
    A Prescriptive Model of Decision-Making
    The Model
    --Communication Challenge: Improving Decision-Making Through Brainstorming
    Descriptive Models of Decision-Making
    Phase Models
    Alternative Descriptive Models
    The Spiral Model
    Vigilant Interaction Theory

    --Communication Challenge: Leading Group Decisions
    Multiple Sequence Model
    Alternative Decision-Making Processes
    Garbage Can Model
    Retrospective Rationality

    --Ethical Issue: Retrospective Rationality
    Faulty Decision-Making

    Other Characteristics of Ineffective Decision-Making
    --Communication Challenge: Avoiding Groupthink and Ineffective Decision-Making Practices
    Overcoming Faulty Decision Making: HRO Theory
    Decision-Making in Volunteer Organizations
    Key Terms

    10. Communication and Conflict
    Defining Conflict
    Typologies of Conflict
    Level of Conflicts
    --Intrapersonal Conflict
    --Interpersonal Conflicts
    --Intergroup Conflicts
    --Interorganizational Conflicts
    Content of Conflicts
    Visibility of Conflicts

    Conflict as Dysfunctional and Functional
    Conflict Styles
    Bargaining and Negotiation in Conflict
    --Ethical Issue: Ethical Bargaining
    Managing Conflict Through Third Parties
    Communication and Conflict with Abusive Coworkers
    Workplace Bullying
    --Defining Workplace Bullying
    --Ethical Issue: Wanting to Belong and Participation in Social Bullying
    --Characteristics of Perpetrators
    --Characteristics of Targets
    --Environmental Factors
    --Effects of Bullying
    --Coping with Bullying
    --Addressing Bullying
    Sexual Harassment
    --Defining Sexual Harassment
    --Ethical Issue: Sender or Receiver Priority
    --Causes of Sexual Harassment
    --Effects of Sexual Harassment
    --Coping with Sexual Harassment
    --Addressing Sexual Harassment
    Conflict in Nonprofit/Volunteer Settings
    Key Terms

    11. Communication, Power, and Resistance
    Power and Influence
    Ideology (or Ideologies)
    Surface and Deep Structure Power

    Surface Level Power
    Types of Power
    --Communication Challenge: Increasing Personal Power
    Reasons for Power Relationships
    --Power as Resource Dependency
    --Power as Social Exchange
    --Power and Personal Characteristics
    Deep Structure Power
    --Communication Challenge: Muting Voices of the Mistreated
    Resistance to Power
    --Ethical Issue: Ethics and Decaf Resistance
    Voice and Resistance
    --Ethical Issue: Boat Rocking and Whistleblowing
    Upward Dissent Strategies
    Silence, Resistance, and Voice

    Power and Resistance in Nonprofits and Volunteers
    Key Terms

    12. Communication and Work-Nonwork Issues
    The Changing Workplace
    General Causes of Work-Life Conflict
    --Time-Based Conflict
    --Strain-Based Conflict
    --Behavior-Based Conflict
    Specific Causes of Work-Life Conflict
    Social Norms That Increase Work-Life Conflict

    --Ethical Issue: To Work or Not to Work, That Is the Question
    Outcomes of Work-Life Conflict
    Managing Work-Life Boundaries
    --Communication Challenge: Choosing Communication Media for Boundary Management in Global Virtual Organizing
    --Ethical Issue: Segmenting Salaried Workers
    Family-Friendly Work Policies
    Positive Effects of Family-Friendly Policies
    --Communication Challenge: Unintended Consequences of Family-Life Policies
    Problematic Issues of Family-Friendly Policies
    --Career Repercussions
    --Difficulty Negotiating Leave Policies
    --Peer Pressure Against Using the Policy
    --Resistance to Work-Life Integration
    Work-Family Third-Place (Life Enrichment) Balance
    Volunteer Roles
    Types of Volunteering
    Work-Family-Life Enrichment Balance
    --Ethical Issue: Disingenuous Volunteering?
    Key Terms

    13. Communication and the Changing Work Environment: Technology, Diversity, and Globalization
    Systems Theory
    Defining Change
    Reactions to Change
    Diffusion of Innovation
    Change and Emotion

    --Communication Challenge: Resisting Changes or Change Communication
    Communication and Change
    --Communication Challenge: Design a Ceremony
    Changing Communication Technology
    Media Richness Theory
    Changes in Communication Expectations

    --Changing How Meaning Is Established
    --Ethical Issue: Organizational Image Versus Personal Social Media Use
    --Changing Decision-Making Expectations
    --Communication Challenge: Creating a Collaborative Organizational Policy of Internet Usage
    --Changing Interpersonal Communication Interactions
    --Ethical Issue: Using Social Media to Convey and Express Private Opinions
    Summary of Changing Communication Technology
    Cultural Diversity: The Changing Workforce
    Cultural Diversity and Communication
    Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

    --Ethical Issue: Creating Teams
    Influence of Diversity on Group and Organizational Effectiveness
    Summary of Cultural Diversity
    Change and Nonprofit Organizations and Volunteers
    Changes in Funding and Collaboration
    Changing Volunteers
    Culturally Diverse Understandings of Volunteers
    Globalization and Volunteers

    Key Terms

    14. Communication During Career and Organizational Transitions
    Sensemaking Theory
    Individual Career Transitions
    Communication and Promotions
    Promotion Selection Context
    --Ethical Issue: Promotion Types and Bias
    The Selection Process for Promotions
    Promotion Process

    Communication and Job Transfers
    Communication and Domestic Job Transfers
    --Purposes of Domestic Job Transfers
    --The Process for Job Transfers
    --Pre-Move or Loosening Phase
    --Effects on the Workgroup
    Communication and International Job Transfers
    Communication and Career Plateaus

    Organizational Transitions
    Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As)
    The M&A Process
    --The Pre-Merger Phase
    --The In-Play Phase
    --Communication Challenge: Rumors and Sensemaking
    --Transition Phase
    --Ethical Issue: Leading the Combining of Two Cultures
    --The Stabilization Phase
    Reductions-in-Force or Layoffs
    Pre-Announcement Phase
    Announcement Phase
    Post-Layoff Phase

    Individual and Organizational Transitions for Volunteers
    Key Terms

    15. Communication During Organizational Exit
    Social Exchange Theory
    Voluntary Exit
    Planned Exits
    Gradual Disenchantment
    Mixed Reasons for Voluntary Turnover

    --Network Location
    --Career Opportunities
    --Career Changes
    The Voluntary Exit Process
    --The Preannouncement Phase
    --The Announcement Phase
    --The Exit Phase
    --Exit Interviews
    --Communication Challenge: Exit Interviews with College Interns
    Involuntary Exit
    Immediate or Summary Dismissal
    Progressive Discipline

    --Ethical Issue: Fired over Facebook
    --Communication Challenge: The EAGR Approach to Giving Corrective Feedback
    A Third Form of Exit
    Exit and Volunteers
    Key Terms
    A Dark Side of Organizational Membership
    Socialization and Individualization