Theorizing Communication and Race- Brenda Allen (2007)
The core of this article is to figure out whether mainstream communication theory is culturally biased. Mainstream communication theory is considered culturally biased. Mainstream communication theory is considered biased since it does not delve race in a substantive ways. Race is a fundamental aspect of identity (Brenda, 2007). According to the author, there lack enough mainstream communication studies concentrated on the issue of race. There are a number of critics that asset the bias of euro-centrism which is termed as the propensity to understand reality founded upon the western values and experiences. As a result of these tendencies, the topic obtains from and propagates white universalistic paradigms without acknowledging the Eurocentric limits, thus disseminating Eurocentric intellectual domination. This bias can potentially hinder our discipline from bringing about social change related to race (Brenda, 2007).
Race is an enduring, disputed concept that has fundamental consequences for communication studies as well as in transforming the society. The article illustrates that “race is one of the most powerful ideological and institutional factors for deciding how identities are categorized and power, material privileges, and resources distributed’’ (Brenda, 2007). There are many race-related disparities in the society today. For instance, there is reported new of racial discrimination in society today that suggest that micro regions have identical racial codes. This means that race persists and brings about social inequality. Nevertheless, some people still believe that racial discrimination is a thing of the past. Yet members of different races differ significantly in their attitudes in everyday life (Brenda, 2007).
Mainstream communication theory is found in many prominent journals and books. And since most of the people in charge of publications are white, they reflect Eurocentric and white supremacist biases. For example, mainstream communication literatures treat race as a historical and depoliticised concept of identity and power. Therefore, these literatures most at times do not refer to the racial oxymoron that describes the nature of race as a political, vibrant construction founded upon white supremacy (Brenda, 2007). Moreover, mainstream communication theory rarely delves into power dynamics of race. What it does is to mention racism in unambiguous manner that reflects on macro-level issues.
Mainstream communication theory does not mention the communication theory of Afro-centricity. Therefore, there is a growing need to cultivate theories of communication and race. Theorizing race assist to bring about social change by apprising disciplinary practices (Brenda, 2007). Our theories can expedite prolific race relation and antiracism and offer direction for implementing race policies. One way to theorize communication and race is through social construction. Social construction argues that meanings originate from social systems and knowledge is retrieved from dominant discourses related to dominant value systems. Practices of constructing social identity rely on social, historical as well as political factors. Social construction’s anti-essentialist position empowers us to create unconventional constructions of race rather than agree to the status quo (Brenda, 2007). Social construction guides up to examine the idea that every person is allocated an artificial racial category and trained how to perceive people from the racial groups and how to enact it. As a result, we can theorize discursive processes where by people are trained and perform race. Brenda (2007) argues that “organizational communication scholars can use social construction to generate theories about how organizations and their members construct race and meanings about race”.
Organizational Communication: Challenges for the New Century (Jones et al., 2004)
This article assesses different literatures with some challenges including innovation in theory, acknowledgment of the role of ethics, shift from micro issues, examination of new organisational structures, understanding of organisational change and exploration of diversity of communication (Jones et al., 2004). These challenges highlight the necessity to consider intergroup level of analysis and the role of voice in organisations. Organisation can be termed as a group of people working in a coordinated manner in search of unified goals and objectives. Organisations are created by means of communication between members (Jones et al., 2004). Organisation communication is a dynamic mix of approaches, theories, and methodologies that is established within organisational settings. The complexity of organisations in business entities have brought about communication processes from intra-individual, intra-group to mass.
There are many theories that are linked to communication such as attribution theory and role theory to name a few. Many scholars have critique the old theories of communication and developed new theories (Jones et al., 2004). For instance, the article suggests that a clear understanding of organisation require a meso level analysis. The literature acknowledges the importance of multilevel, macro-level and meso-level relationships and acknowledges the contribution that macro-level study can make. Scholars must consult other methodologies and theories in order to expand the understanding we have about organisational communication. Many scholars still view communication as only interpersonal in the organisation (Jones et al., 2004). There exist too much focus on the issue of effective communication in the organisation and the concept of micro-issues rather than concentrating on a bigger picture. Expanding our viewpoint on communication in the organisation requires interaction of both micro-practice and macro-thinking. Therefore, it is important for research to shift from micro-level to macro-level issues (Jones et al., 2004).
In addition, there has been a need for communication research to concentrate more on ethics. It is essential to move from a managerial bias to alternative voices and social and political impacts of organisational processes (Jones et al., 2004). New concepts of communication ethics need to involve the values that trigger new organisational structures in order to increase engagement in decision-making process. The shift towards methodologies related to non-positivist viewpoint pose challenges for communication ethics. It is important to shift to theory-driven paradigm of organisational communication ethics and to extricate the framework of diversity, voice as well as ethics (Jones et al., 2004).
Communication is considered fundamental in planning and implementing organisational change. Effective line of communication between the management and the employees may reduce change resistance. Research has focussed on change communication by people who have power to influence behaviours of the employees (Jones et al., 2004). The inter-group aspect is noticeable during the change process and thus should be central to research. How employees perceive and manage change have implication for the change process. As organisations rely more on network structures, the importance of inter-group communication has dramatically grown over the years. But the nature of inter-groups has changed to more diverse ones. Therefore, communication now occurs across broader boundaries including cultural ones. There is therefore the need for dynamic research focus on groups as facilitating framework for communication in the organisation (Jones et al., 2004).
Guest editorial: Discourse and Organizational Change (Grant et al., 2005)
This article is aimed at analysing and examining the involvement of discourse analysis in understanding organisational change. Discourse can be termed as the practice of talking and writing, the cultural objects and visual illustration that conveys organisational related entities into being by producing, disseminating and consuming Discourse analytic framework assist in understanding organisational change in five fundamental concepts. Discourse analysis encompasses the study of organisational texts that are discursive units as well as manifestation of discourse (Grant et al., 2005). Organisational change can be considered a socially constructed reality. Discourse analysis assist in identifying the fundamental discourses where by organisational change is enunciated. Discourse plays a fundamental part in the social construction of reality. Discourse decides on the ways of taking about the change process.
In addition, organisational change can act as a negotiated meaning. To this regard, discourse analysis assists in portraying how discourse shape and influence the behaviour of employees in relation to organisational change. In consideration of socially constructed effects, change meanings are created through discursive interaction among employees involved in the change process (Grant et al., 2005). Organisational change is also considered as intertexual phenomenon. Discourse cannot be produced without context and is unlikely to be understood without taking context into account. Negotiation of meaning in relation to organisational change discloses via the interplay of socially and historically created texts. Discourse analysis can be considered a multi-disciplinary concept since it is informed by a number of socio-physiological, linguistic and communication based approaches. Therefore, discourse researches draw on several methodological approaches. There are several methodologies that can be used to study organisational change in terms of discourses. These methodologies may include narrative analysis, rhetorical devices and conversation analysis that take part in organisational change (Grant et al., 2005).
Discourse analysis is an alternative approach used to study organisational change issues. Discourse analysis in studying organisational change has resulted to studies that expand our knowledge of organisational change with respect to a range of phenomena including organisational culture (Grant et al., 2005). There are five discursive analysis of the change process. Change is polysemic in nature as it utilizes narratives as well as storytelling in terms of tragedy and comedy with players acting as hero and fool. Furthermore, organisational change can be viewed as a process of becoming. This covers the understanding of how key actors in the change process construct and interpret their situation and their exploitation of discursive resources (Grant et al., 2005).
On the other hand, change is a spatial location in discursive analysis view point. The article uses the incident of tele-working to demonstrate the dispersion of contemporary organisations. People engaging in tele-working strive to utilize discourse as coping resources. Change can also be viewed as renewal (Grant et al., 2005). The use of a number of discursive devices such as rhetoric and metaphor assist disastrous situations to be reframed and shapes the nature of organisational change. Rhetoric and metaphor can be used in an event of disaster and through discourses of sympathy. In discursive analysis standpoint, change is considered historical language continuities in relation to how language accepted and implemented in the past has the potential to shape the language in the future (Grant et al., 2005).
Organizational Change and the Importance of Embedded Assumptions (Palmer and Dunford, 2008)
Managing change may seem a simple task. There are a number of images of managing change in an organisation. They include directing, nurturing, caretaking, interpreting, interpreting as well as navigating. The management of change is said to having a dominant viewpoint that ought to be substituted by new viewpoint (Palmer and Dunford, 2008). For instance, the change process is considered fragmented when it should be continuous. Also, it is important to address the diversity issue, instead of focusing on prescription it is important to target what are termed as managerial assumptions of change literatures. Organisational change literatures have focussed less on issues concerning context, the connection between change and performance and international comparisons which are very important and need to be considered. There are two assumptions underpinning managing. First, managing is a way of controlling outcomes and second managing is a way of shaping outcomes (Palmer and Dunford, 2008).
In the first assumption, management is characterized as planning, organising, coordinating and also controlling. The first assumption is associated with a top-down hierarchical interpretation of managing. In the second assumption, managing is considered an influencing factor rather than determining outcomes (Palmer and Dunford, 2008). There are also some assumptions of the change outcomes which include intended change outcomes, unintended change outcomes as well as partially intended change outcome. Partially intended change outcome entails an even where some and not all change objectives are achievable. Power processes and managers’ skill level influence the capacity to produce change outcomes. Intended change outcomes are an event where all the intended change outcomes are very much achievable. On the other hand, unintended change outcome represents a situation where the proposed change is unachievable since a number of forces may result to unintended outcomes (Palmer and Dunford, 2008).
Assumptions regarding the managing and change are linked to several images of managing change. In directing image, the manager is always in control leading to intended change outcomes. Therefore, management is responsible for directing employees in a manner that produces intended change (Palmer and Dunford, 2008). In the navigating image, while the management may have some control over the organisation, change outcomes are partially emergent rather than fully planned leading to partially intended change outcomes. In caretaking image, the ability of the management to control the organisation is constrained by some forces which propel change while in coaching image; management has the ability to shape the organisation through organising right sets of values and skills needed to achieve intended change outcomes. On the other hand, in interpreting mage management create sense to make sense of organisational events while in nurturing image, the smaller changes impacts the organisations and management is incapable of controlling the change outcomes (Palmer and Dunford, 2008).
The directing image focus on clarity of communication, interpreting image focus on sensemaking about a change initiative and nurturing image focuses on communicating the need to be ready for change. Communicating in the navigating image involves focusing attention to interests of the stakeholder in the change process and in coaching image, communication focus on modelling consistency in words and actions (Palmer and Dunford, 2008). While caretaking image focuses on reactive communication strategy. Resistance in directing image is a sign that employees do not welcome change while the navigating image has a sympathetic view of resistance. On the other hand, resistance is possible but not futile in the caretaking image and in the interpreting image, resistance occurs due to lack of employees’ understanding. It is hard to figure out where resistance will affect change in the nurturing image while in the coaching image, resistance is expected in the change process (Palmer and Dunford, 2008).
Organizational Discourse and New Organization Development Practices (Marshak and Grant, 2008)
There have emerged new sets of organisation development. The concept of organisational discourse offers sympathetic approaches that may assist in advancing thinking capacity with regard to new aspects of organisation development (Marshak and Grant, 2008). There are many emerging organisation development techniques that take into consideration philosophical assumptions about social reality different from classical organisation development. Original framework of organisation development entailed strong positivist orientations that are founded on social science methodologies. Classical organisation development is an objectivist orientation that is different from the newer organisation development that emphasizes on changing behaviour and that change is episodic and can be planned and managed (Marshak and Grant, 2008).
In the newer organisation development practices, many ideas have been instituted into the concept of organisation development without the intent to come up with new practices. There are about five organisation development practices influenced by newer assumptions to classical OD. The first practice is appreciative inquiry. This practice strives to effect change by concentrating on organisation individuals’ positive experiences in their aspirations. Interventions are founded upon constructionist assumptions and are meant to change system thinking of individuals to a positive consciousness (Marshak and Grant, 2008). Other practices of organisation development include common ground and social agreements, changing mind-sets and consciousness and diversity and multicultural realities to name a few. Some organisation development scholars encourage practices for encouraging the shift in mind-sets as a technique to address change rather than focusing on traditional practices that focus on relationships and rewards (Marshak and Grant, 2008).
Organisation development practices based on diversity and multicultural realities relates to how groups of people reinforces exclusionary paradigm. New organisation development practices that address diversity include interventions to illustrate how power may be utilized by dominant groups (Marshak and Grant, 2008). There has been the need for models of change that is reinstated on assumptions different from classical organisation development model. For instance, there is need to shift from thinking about change in terms of episodic concept to continuous framework (Marshak and Grant, 2008).
New organisation development practices take into consideration socially constructed realities, shifting mind-sets, operating from diverse realities, searching different assumptions of change and imitating social agreements derived from different realities (Marshak and Grant, 2008). These may results to interventions that de-emphasizes on episodic and developmental change and emphasises on transformational change. The article argues that “further development of New OD such that it increases its influence and relevance may require a professional discourse that is more accepting, if not embracing, of power dynamics” (Marshak and Grant, 2008). New organisation development practices indirectly take into consideration meaning making, language as well as discursive framework. Language can be theorized as a constructive concept and political concept.
To sum up, in the article by Jones et al., (2004), it is important to expand our theoretical perspectives regarding organisational communication. Brenda (2007) agrees with Jones et al. (2004) and argues that mainstream communication theory is biased. In addition, the author says that the literatures about communication theory are limited. There is a lack of communication literatures about race. Race is considered a powerful factor that affects communication in the society. As a result, communication and race should be theorized in order to expand the mainstream communication theory and its relationship with race. One way to theorize communication and race according to the article is through social constructions. Emerging theories of communication according to Jones et al., covers a numerous contextual factors that can be incorporated in the mainstream communication literatures.
Diversity need to be incorporated in organisational communication literatures whether at interpersonal or intergroup level. It is important to use an intergroup paradigm to explore organisational communication. Organisational communication is very important in planning and implementing change. According to Grant et al., (2005), understanding of organisational change will be clear if we rethink and re-conceptualise different processes and forms associated with it. The re-imagined paradigm of change can be attained by use of discourse analytic tool. Organisational change can be understood as a discursively constructed object. Discursive analysis gives a better understanding of organisational change as compared to behaviourist and cognitivist approaches. According to Grant et al., (2005), discourse analysis highlights the role of discourse or communication in the organisation change program.
Grant et al., (2005) concur with Brenda (2007) that social construction assist in explaining the role of communication in organisation change. However, in contrast to Brenda (2007) article, Robert, Marshak and Grant argue that there is need for new professional discourse that is more approving of power dynamics and practices. The article highlights that new organisation development practices take into consideration socially constructed realities, shifting mind-sets, operating from diverse realities, searching different assumptions of change and imitating social agreements derived from different realities. These may results to the emphasis on transformational change. In addition, organisational changes need to be managed effectively. According to Palmer and Dunford (2008), there are a number of assumptions about change outcomes; intended change outcomes, unintended change outcomes as well as partially intended outcomes.
From these assumptions, we can conclude that change outcomes are emergent and may be influenced by external factors such as employee resistance. Palmer and Dunford have linked change to communication. The article concur with Brenda (2007) and Jones et al., (2004) that communication influences organisational change. The article illustrates that organisational change is depended on communication, vision and resistance. Overall, communication is important in planning and implementing change process. Therefore, scholars should adapt new challenge in order to make organisational communication research more consequential in order to address the available social concerns.
Brenda J. Allen (2007). Theorizing Communication and Race, Communication Monographs, 74:2, 259-264, DOI: 10.1080/03637750701393055
Grant D., Michelson G., Oswick, C. & Wailes N. (2005). «Guest editorial: discourse and organizational change, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 18 Iss: 1, pp.6 – 15
Jones E., Watson B., Gardner J., and Gallois C. (2004). Organizational Communication: Challenges for the New Century, Journal of Communication, p. 722-750
Marshak R. J. and Grant R. (2008). Organizational Discourse and New Organization Development Practices. British Journal of Management, Vol. 19, S7–S19 (2008) DOI: 10.1111/j.1467 8551.2008.00567.x
Palmer I. and Dunford R. (2008). Organizational Change and the Importance of Embedded Assumptions. British Journal of Management, Vol. 19, S20–S32 (2008) DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2008.00568.x