Internal organizational communication and structure. How do they effect employees?

An empirical analysis

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2015

331 Pages, Grade: Trés Honorable



General Introduction

A. Statement of the Problem

B. Research Questions and Hypotheses

C. Methodology

D. Rationale

E. Objectives

F. Organization

1. Review of the Literature
1.1 Organizational Communication
1.2 Organizational Communication Approaches
1.2.1 Founding Approaches Classical Approaches Human Relations Approaches Human Resources Approaches
1.2.2 Contemporary Approaches Systems Approaches Cultural Approaches Critical Approaches
1.3 Summary
1.4 Internal Organizational Communication, Internal Organizational Structure and Organizational Communication Satisfaction
1.4.1 Internal Organizational Communication Importance of Internal Organizational Communication Dimensions of Internal Organizational Communication
1.4.2 Internal Organizational Structure Internal Organizational Structure Types Dimensions of Internal Organizational Structure
1.4.3 Internal Organizational Communication and Internal Organizational Structure
1.4.4 Organizational Communication Satisfaction Organizational Communication Satisfaction and Internal Organizational Communication Organizational Communication Satisfaction and Internal Organizational Structure
1.5 Summary

2. Methodology
2.1 Research Questions and Hypotheses
2.2 Research Design
2.3 Research Variables
2.4 Case Study Setting
2.5 Sample and Sampling Procedure
2.6 Research Instruments
2.6.1 Questionnaire Demographic Questionnaire Internal Organizational Communication Questionnaire Internal Organizational Structure Questionnaire Organizational Communication Satisfaction Questionnaire
2.6.2 Semi-Structured Interview
2.6.3 Translation of the Instruments
2.7 Data Collection Procedure
2.8 Data Analysis Tools
2.9 Pilot Study
2.10 Validity and Reliability Issues
2.10.1 Reliability
2.10.2 Validity Content Validity Construct Validity Internal Validity External Validity
2.11 Summary

3. Data Description and Analysis
3.1 Findings of the Questionnaire
3.1.1 Exploratory Factor Analysis and Internal Reliability of the Questionnaire
3.1.2 Findings of the Demographics Questionnaire
3.1.3 Findings of the IOC Questionnaire Reliability of the IOC Questionnaire Comparison of the Two Organizations on IOC
3.1.4 Findings of the IOS Questionnaire Reliability of the IOS Questionnaire Comparison of the Two Organizations on IOS
3.1.5 Findings of the OCS Questionnaire Reliability of the OCS Questionnaire Comparison of the two Organizations on OCS
3.2 Research Hypothesis One: IOC Relationship with IOS
3.3 Research Hypothesis Two: IOC Impact on OCS.
3.4 Research Hypothesis Three: IOS Impact on OCS.
3.5 Research Hypothesis Four: OCS and Demographic Variables.
3.5.1 The Gender Factor
3.5.2 The Supervisory Responsibility Factor
3.5.3 The Tenure factor
3.5.4 The Age Factor
3.5.5 The Diploma Factor
3.5.6 The Service Factor
3.6 Summary of the Quantitative Findings
3.7 Findings of the Semi-structured Interview
3.7.1 Findings of the Demographics Section
3.7.2 Patterns and Themes in the Semi-Structured Interview Relationship between IOC and IOS IOC and Centralization IOC and Stratification IOC and Formalization IOC and Complexity Relationship between IOC and Employees’ Level of OCS Relationship between IOS and Employees’ Level of OCS OCS and Centralization OCS and Stratification OCS and Formalization OCS and Complexity Relationship between Demographic Variables and Employees’ Level of OCS
3.8 Summary of the Qualitative Findings
3.9 Summary

4. Discussion, Interpretation and Implications
4.1 Discussion and Interpretation of the Results
4.1.1 IOS Dimensions and IOC Dimensions Relationship IOC Components: Formal IOC and Informal IOC IOS Components: Centralization, Formalization, Stratification and Complexity IOC Composites and IOS Composites Relationship Overall IOC and Overall IOS
4.1.2 Relationship between IOC and Employees’ Level of OCS OCS Dimensions IOC Composites and OCS Composites Association
4.1.3 Relationship between IOS and Employees’ Level of OCS
4.1.4 Predictive Link between Demographic Variables and Employees’ Level of OCS OCS Differences According to Gender OCS Differences Based on Employees’ Supervisory Responsibilities OCS Differences Based on Employees’ Tenure OCS Differences Based on Employees’ Age OCS Differences Based on Employees’ Diploma OCS Differences Based on Employees’ Service
4.2 Implications
4.3 Summary

5. General



General Introduction

Communication links people together and creates complex relationships between them particularly in a workplace (Clegg et al, 2006). A workplace is created and given ‘meaning’ when employees from different organizational ranks work together towards one particular organizational goal which is unattainable if there is no communication. Communication is at the heart of the meaning-making process not only in political, economic and psychological fields but also in the organizational communication field (henceforth OC). Additionally, communication serves in the works of developing, organizing and disseminating knowledge within the organization through communicative acts (Duncan & Moriarty, 1998 reported in Wang & Pizam, 2011, p. 189). Thus, communication is more than just a transmission process. Indeed, its role is decisive in the failure or the success of any given organization (Bernold & AbouRizk, 2010). This view is not only limited to business organizations but also concerns educational organizations irrespective of their size or form. In such types of organizations, communication or particularly internal organizational communication (henceforth IOC) is considered as “the glue that binds the learning community” (Ubben et al. 2007, p. 312).

In like vein, a defining characteristic of organizations is that they are “comprised of coordinated and formal set of linkages among actors working to achieve a goal or sets of goals within an identifiable boundary” (Giles, 2002, p. 50) . Organizations, for that reason, can be defined within the recognizable boundaries of the formal relationships between their organizational members. In view of that, no organization can exist and survive without an effective IOC. It would look, then, that one effective way to find out what is really an organization is to determine the kind of IOC patterns that play vital roles in its existence.

IOC has become salient as organizations have come to the conclusion that good IOC can “contribute to improved performance and also help resolve any issues that might give rise to conflict” (Butterick, 2011, p. 103). However, the lack of effective IOC can create mistrust in a workforce, and therefore affects negatively the effective and the efficient attainment of organizational goals. IOC is best explained with reference to “The goals of interaction in which the communication occurs” (Cushman & Cahn, Jr., 1985, p. 101).

An organization’s image is especially critical to its internal audience because employees’ perception of the organization influences their morale, productivity, goal execution, and overall satisfaction (Mathisen & Einarsen, 2004). Therefore, organizational leaders must evaluate the most effective ways to ensure that employees have a positive perception of the organization and how they are satisfied with the IOC within the organization. Here comes into play the salience of organization communication satisfaction (henceforth OCS). This can be quite challenging since peoples’ perceptions are influenced by a wide range of factors and personal attributes as researchers have found that internal organizational structure (henceforth IOS), leadership style, decision-making processes, and relationships significantly influence employees’ level of OCS in an organization as well as its effectiveness (Potosky & Ramakrishna, 2002).

IOC and IOS are two particular components of organizational aspects that are pertinent components of organizational relationships in this study. These two constructs have been chosen as organizational backgrounds because this study primarily has the objective to explore internal relational aspects within two Moroccan institutions of higher education, the Faculty of Law and Economics, Meknes (henceforth the FLEM), and the National School of Agriculture, Meknes (henceforth the NSAM) as two case organizations. Also, as it will be made clear in the research objectives (p. 11) as well as in the study rationale (p. 10), these are the factors that are supposed to affect the employees’ perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, satisfaction and attainment of goals inside organizations (Fournier, 2008; Misner, 2008).

As a matter of fact, research has shown that IOS is recognized by many scholars to have effects on the level of IOC as it facilitates the flow and the processing of information within the organization (Porter & Roberts, 1976; Hall, 1977; Frederickson, 1986; Grunig, 1992; Damanpour, 1991 cited in Terziovsk, 2007; Klauss & Bass 1982 reported in Ragusa, 2010). In this sense, Ragusa (2010) concludes that “Internal communication is so entwined with the process of organizing and with organizational structure, environment, power, and culture that many theorists of organizational communication argue that organizations would not exist without communication” (p. 20). In the same respect, Nelson and Quick (2012) back up the same idea when they say that both IOC and IOS are salient elements of any given organizational chart. Unambiguously, IOS is planned to prevent chaos through organized reporting relationships and communication channels.

The relationship between IOC and IOS is made evident by Palestini (2011) who argues that the more centralized IOS, the relatively simpler the organizational tasks and activities become, but the more complex the tasks are, the more decentralized the organizational hierarchies become. For this and because communication processes within educational organizations are complex, IOC is boosted in decentralized IOS in either open or close systems. Integration of the participative decision making, or ‘participative management’ as Swansburg and Swansburg (2002) label it, strengthens the organizational functional hierarchies with the objective to improve communication cross-service. That is, the type of IOS adopted stimulates communication and information flow in flat organic IOSs compared to organizations with hierarchical mechanical IOSs.

The other variable associated with IOC in the present research is OCS. Numerous are the definitions given to OCS as a construct since Level (1959) first introduced the term. Moreover, the first definitions of the term OCS underscore the construct's unidimensionality (Redding, 1972). Thayer (1969) defines the term as “The personal satisfaction a person experiences when communicating successfully” (p. 144). Redding (1972) in an analysis of several studies, reports that OCS is used to refer to the “Overall degree of satisfaction an employee perceives in the total communication environment” (quoted in Pace & Fauls, 1994, p. 112). However, later research has indicated that OCS is a multidimensional construct (Clampitt & Downs, 1993). Based on the results of a study conducted in various types of organizations, Downs and Hazen (1977) define the term as “An individual's satisfaction with various aspects of communication in the organization, including communication climate, supervisory communication, organizational integration, media quality, horizontal and informal communication, organizational perspective, subordinates communication and personal feedback” (Crino & White, 1981, p. 831). It is this multidimensional definition of OCS that will guide the present study.

In the context of OC, Carriere and Bourque (2009) state that research showed that IOC is related to, but not synonymous with OCS (reported in Kandlousi et al. 2010). In fact, according to Hamilton (2013), upward IOC creates less satisfaction in contrast to downward IOC which, on the other hand, would be more effective if the employees’ opinions are taken into account in the organizational decision-making process. As a result, their level of OCS would be boosted.

Indeed, little research currently exists that examines the impact of IOS on OCS. In this respect, Nahm et al. (2003) define IOS as “The way responsibility and power are allocated as well as the way work procedures are carried out among organizational members” (quoted in Smith, 2007, p. 56). Hotzhausen (2002) echoes the above definition by saying that IOS determines “Task allocation, reporting lines, and formal coordination mechanisms and interaction patterns” as well as “the pattern of relationships among the various components or parts of an organization” (quoted in Nejati & Nejati, 2011, p. 162).

In this respect, IOS comes in different kinds for instance, the functional, the simple, the matrix, the hybrid, the mechanical or the bureaucratic, and the organic or the professional. Following this, Klenke (2011) claims that contemporary IOSs are either organic which capitalize on satisfaction, flexibility, and organization development, or mechanical which look for the maximization of organizational efficiency and production.

Nimmo (1980) argues that most of IOS studies do not consider OCS and instead focus on the analysis of IOS per se or in relation to outcomes such as efficiency and productivity. However, he suggests that IOS is also a major contributor to OCS. Swansburg and Swansburg (2002), in the same respect, note that within organic IOSs, it is noticed that job design emphasizes personal growth and responsibility as decision making and control are decentralized. Surprisingly enough is that the mechanical organizations can produce higher satisfaction among co-workers in formal groups as “the classic dysfunctions of bureaucracy do not necessarily exist at lower levels of organizational structure” (Swansburg & Swansburg, 2002, p. 328). Moreover, according to Phillips and Gully (2011), “Organizational structure is related to employee satisfaction, commitment, and turnover” (p. 454).

A. Statement of the Problem

The study is anchored on the theory that communication is the soul and the lifeblood of any given organization. Starting then from the conviction that research on OC is rather fragmented and focuses on specific group or content, rather than on an integrated OC approach including all employees of an organization and that IOC is a multifaceted domain in the sense that it has a bearing on many fields that feed it, the present study is driven by the desire to discover the status of IOC in two academic organizations/institutions of higher education in Morocco.

Although some communication research links IOC to a phenomenon like IOS, most of it has been theoretical and not applied to an organizational academic context. Within such a new context where the role of both IOC and IOS and their effect on OCS is under-researched, the contribution of this dissertation to knowledge could be realized through the use of both a multilevel approach incorporating different dimensions of IOC, IOS and OCS taking place internally at all levels of an organization and different research techniques like the concurrent triangulation methodology as a data analysis and an interpretation strategy which is couched in mixed-methods case study design. The objective is to study the nature of both IOC and IOS and to assess the sort of connection between them with the idea to reveal whether they affect the employees’ level of OCS within two case organizations, the FLEM and the NSAM.

B. Research Questions and Hypotheses

Based on the stated objectives (p. 10), the following research questions are set up for the practical research:

- Research Question 1: Is there any significant relationship between IOC and IOS?
- Research Question 2: Is there any significant relationship between the existing type of IOC and employees’ level of OCS?
- Research Question 3: Is there any significant relationship between the type of IOS adopted and employees’ level of OCS?
- Research Question 4: Is there any significant relationship between demographic variables: gender, tenure, age, type of diploma, service, and supervisory position and employees’ level of OCS?
The research hypotheses then emanating from the above research questions are:
- Research Hypothesis 1: IOC strongly relates to IOS.
- Research Hypothesis 2: There is a significant predictive link between the existing type of IOC and employees’ level of OCS.
- Research Hypothesis 3: There is a significant predictive link between the type of IOS adopted and employees’ level of OCS.
- Research Hypothesis 4: There is a significant predictive link between demographic variables: gender, tenure, age, type of diploma, service and supervisory position and employees’ level of OCS.

C. Methodology

An independent mixed-methods case study design is used for the collection, the analysis, the representation and the interpretation of data with concurrent triangulation methodology as a research strategy. The study utilizes quantitative and qualitative methods with a focus on concurrent methodological triangulation strategy in an effort to strengthen the study of the two case organizations, the FLEM and the NSAM. Noteworthy is the tendency of the adopted research design to espouse the qualitative and the quantitative through using one qualitative data collection tool, the semi-structured interview, and one quantitative tool, the questionnaire.

The motivation behind the choice of the independent mixed-methods case study design is that the research problem is of such a nature that the following principles seem to be applicable for the present piece of research:

1. An insider perspective is adopted, taking subjects who have experience of more than one year and have enough knowledge of the type of IOC and IOS in the two case organizations.
2. An attempt to gain a holistic view of what is being studied is the goal.
3. Focus is on the subjective data in the minds of individuals that could be expressed in words through the use of semi-structured interviews.
4. Data is collected within the context of its natural occurrence particularly through the use of the two data collection instruments.

The purpose of the concurrent triangulation strategy is to test for consistency the results yielded by different data sources and inquiry approaches as it allows for a validity cross-check through different modes of inquiry (Patton, 2002). Rainbolt and Dwyer (2014) provide a useful explanation of the strength and the value of mixed-methods evaluation research:

A mixed-methods approach strengthens evaluation research, because no single method is without weakness or bias. Quantitative data, for example, may be objective, but they often lack the depth needed to elucidate how and why a program works. Qualitative data can enhance understanding of program implementation and operation, but are considered less objective. By combining the two, research can be both objective and rich. (p. 361)

The instruments used in this study to meet the requirements of the independent mixed-methods case study research design and the concurrent triangulation strategy are: an IOC questionnaire to collect data about the type of IOC used, an adapted version of IOS questionnaire to gather data about the kind of IOS adopted in the two case organizations, and an adapted version of OCS questionnaire to get to the level of the employees’ satisfaction with OC within the two case organizations. The three parts are combined in one single questionnaire. The second data instrument used is the semi-structured interview.

As far as the nature of the sample chosen is concerned, the convenience purposive sample is used. Many are the reasons behind the use of such type of non-probability sampling strategy. The first is the inability to collect data from all the Moroccan educational institutions of higher education which constitute the sampling frame. The second is the easiness to contact the participants, their availability and their willingness to participate. The third is that this type of sample is easier, less expensive, and timelier than a probability sampling technique. The fourth is that there exists in the two case organizations a specific type of individual class to sample, the managers and the subordinates, who are judged to be appropriate to give the required data on the variables of the study , IOC, IOS and OCS.

D. Rationale

Institutions of higher education are organizations that have commonalities with other large and diverse organizations as they strive to be competitive in every dimension of life. Out of the determinants of organizational effectiveness, some of the most important factors are work force or employees’ satisfaction with the IOC used and the IOS adopted. The Moroccan higher education sector has been chosen as the focus for this study because there is no piece of research that combined the study of OCS relationship with variables like IOC and IOS.

The motivation behind this study is the need to investigate the perceived assumptions and satisfaction of the Moroccan employees in higher education institutions with both IOC and IOS and their significance in the survival of any given organization. However, due to the fact that the knowledge and the material about what is and what constitutes IOC is limited, let alone its relationships with other variables like IOS and OCS, the measurement of the three variables and the effects they might have on the organizational performance and effectiveness of the employees in the two case organizations is seriously difficult.

Apparently, what motivates the present study is that it goes hand in hand with the objectives which target the investigation and the highlighting of the association that might exist between IOC and IOS as well as how IOC-IOS relationship plays a critical role in the existence of the two case organizations, the FLEM and the NSAM. The motivation is also to examine the impact of both IOC and IOS on employees’ degree of OCS as a predictor of organizational performance in the already mentioned case organizations. This study, to some extent, will be useful for the two case organizations to establish communication networks that take into consideration the diverse perspectives of OC including the OCS level of employees.

E. Objectives

The present study is undertaken to find out the current situation of both IOC and IOS, to identify and to categorize their different types as well as to explore thoroughly the role and the extent to which these two variables impact the employees’ level of OCS in two case organizations, the FLEM and the NSAM.

Taking into account all the aspects mentioned above, the issue at stake then and which this study sets out to examine is to research the relationship that apparently exists between IOC and IOS after having discovered the nature of IOC used and the kind of IOS embraced. This study also aims to get a detailed insight into the degree of the employees’ level of OCS in the two case organizations through a case study on the basis of which the present study will try to achieve these specific objectives:

1. To identify the nature of both IOC and IOS.
2. To examine the nature of the relationship between IOC and IOS.
3. To investigate the nature of the relationship between overall OCS and both IOC and IOS.
4. To identify the potential influence of IOC, IOS and some demographic variables on employees’ level of OCS.
5. By fulfilling the above mentioned objectives, this study is an attempt to help organizations to make a better use of their existing IOC plan and fix any flaws affecting the adopted IOS as well as make sure whether their organizational members are satisfied with the previously mentioned variables, IOC and IOS.

Figure 1 (p. 12) clearly illustrates the interrelationships between the variables of the study: IOC, IOS, and the demographic variables as independent variables, and OCS as a single dependent variable.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Interrelationship between the Key Research Concepts

F. Organization

This dissertation is made up of one general introduction, one general conclusion and four chapters including the review of the literature, the methodology, the data description and analysis, and the discussion and interpretation of the results obtained. The introduction sketches the purpose and the context of the present study, as well as the four key research questions and hypotheses that will be examined. The first chapter explores the background of the study, outlines key OC theories, definitions and studies related to the main concepts of IOC, IOS and OCS. Chapter two deals with the methodology used with a focus on the kind of research design adopted, the data collection, the analysis instrumentation, and the type of sampling procedure used. Chapter three details the results of the study through the analysis and the description of the findings with a view to answer the research questions and to confirm or disconfirm the research hypotheses. Chapter four provides a discussion of the results on the light of the research questions advanced and the overall contributions and implications of the study. Finally, a general conclusion is provided summarizing the general content of the dissertation’s findings.

Chapter One:

1. Review of the Literature

Communication is essential to any kind of organization, simple or complex, and plays a decisive role in the attainment of coordination and understanding among participants as well as in the effectiveness of organizational performance (Raina, 2005). It follows from here, then, that OC as a relatively new field within the studies of communication is concerned with communication mechanisms in organizational contexts (Zaremba, 2010). Additionally, the essence of this type of communication can be summarized in the act of sending and receiving messages following the lines of organizational authority, using various message channels, and interacting either formally or informally in the workplace as “A coordinating force that allows for organized behavior among people” (Mills et al. 2007, p. 359). Obviously, OC can be broadly defined as “the process of creating and exchanging messages within a network of interdependent relationships to cope with environmental uncertainty” (Goldhaber, 1993 quoted in Sylvie & Witherspoon, 2002, p. 16).

Furthermore, while OC literature tries to establish an understanding of the way communication flow and processes are influenced by the context of the organization and the way organizational behavior makes it different from other types of communication, some theoretical and empirical work still remains to be done to investigate how OC operates in educational organizations mainly those of higher education. Specifically, the main thrust of this work shall be the investigation of how both IOC and IOS influence the OCS level of employees in the workplace (Manning, 1992; Kovačić, 1994; Mills et al. 2007; Lutgen-Sandvik & Sypher 2009; Miller, 2011; Pierce & Jussila, 2011; Downs & Adrian, 2012).

This chapter reviews current literature defining OC, the significance of its background, and the development of various schools that have strongly influenced its scholarship and practice. The approaches of OC, the founding and the contemporary, will serve as a basis for further considerations of the main variables of the study, IOC, IOS and OCS.

1.1 Organizational Communication

Before embarking on the definition of the concept organization, it is deemed important to delineate the particularities of the related term organizing in an attempt to set the scene for OC as the central concept of this section. To this end, Urwick (1952) considers organizing as “the process of designing the machine” (reported in Swansburg & Swansburg, 2002, p. 297). This echoes the classical approaches to OC and how these approaches view job and the organizational actors. The word “process” in Urwick’s (1952) definition permits personal alterations including clear instructions of job duties, responsibilities, types of social and organizational relationships, and criteria of organizational achievement. The objectives of a department, service or unit are facilitated when organizing is seen as another side of organizational structure as Naidu (2006) notes: “Organizing refers to the creation of the formal structure of the enterprise in order to facilitate the fulfillment of its objectives” (p. 71).

From a different perspective, Swansburg (1986) states that organizing “is the grouping of activities for the purpose of achieving objectives” (p. 321). The supervision mission of these groupings is assigned to a manager with authority for directing and coordinating the efforts of different levels of organization towards attaining organizational objectives. Fineman et al. (2005), in this sense, claim that whether an individual has a formal job or is part of “organizing in project groups at school, sports meetings, family holidays, Christmas dinners, pub crawls, cinema outings with friends, trips to clubs and so forth” (p. 1), s/he tends to be socially acquainted with the peculiarities of organizations.

Following the same line of reasoning, Fineman et al. (2005) define organizing as “A set of social activities through which we try to make our lives more predictable, effective and stress-free” (p. v). Organizing is used in this definition to denote an orderly process where interpersonal organizational relationships are decisive in attaining the desired organizational performances or goals. Nonetheless, organizing also involves “Conflicts and compromises with others and a constant attempt to make sense of what is going on around us” (Fineman et al. 2005, p. 5). Organizing, then, seems to be not always a fixed state of affairs but a dynamic process that leads to sense-making where “Active agents construct sensible, sensable events” (Huber & Daft, 1987 quoted in Weick, 1995, p. 4). Organizing, in this sense, includes “tensions, preferences, interruptions, politics, power and personalities” (Fineman et al. 2005, p. 5). It is a lively process for when people interact with each other within an organization, they have a tendency to create meanings for themselves and for the others, trying to find some sort of common ground against which understanding can happen.

Successful organizing hinges also upon a good planning policy as “Planning provides a clear sense of direction to the activities of the organization and to the job behavior of managers and others” (Tulsian & Pandey, 2008, p. 184). Conversely, a bad type of planning cannot but bring calamities as it does not allow for much space of improvisation and intelligent ways of coping with conflicts, crises and uncertainties.

Organizing, thus, is considered as “A social, meaning-making process where order and disorder are in constant tension with one another, and where unpredictability is shaped and ‘managed’” (Clark, 2013, p. 79). That is, the main constituents of organizing cannot be predicted and success or failure depends on a smart dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability. What is more, the organizing process promotes “flexibility in structure and communication, depending on the needs and resources of the context” (O'Connor & Netting, 2009, p. 47). The OC patterns and behavior have to shift with the needs of the different situations if organizational goals are to be achieved.

The second important concept to the understanding of OC is the concept organization. People are organizationally obliged to enter social relationships which have some “contractual basis” (Dupuy, 1998, p. 232). This shows that the management process has always been at the heart of the organization of people into effective working groups. Organizations are therefore “Mechanisms through which many people combine their efforts and work together to accomplish more than any one person can achieve on his/her own” (Gamage & Pang, 2003, p. 60). To this aim, setting up an organization means to conveniently use joint efforts to accomplish what an individual alone cannot do if left to his/her own devices.

With the same token, Miller (2006) states that most scholars “would agree that an organization involves a social collectivity (or group of people) in which activities are coordinated in order to achieve both individual and collective goals” (p. 1) [italics in the original] emphasizing therefore that an organization is a collectivity of individuals coordinating their activities to achieve individual and collective goals in a favorable structured organizational environment . Patently, this helps explain why Fineman et al. (2005) think that everybody knows what an organization is. They cited many examples of organizations ranging from large ones like multinationals to smaller locally based ones, such as schools, family owned restaurants or small firms. For them, organizations are called so because they are part of our lives in many different ways: "We work for them, we consume their products, we see buildings which house their offices, we read about them in the newspapers and absorb their advertisements" (Fineman et al. 2005, p. 1).

Given then the broad-ranging definitions of organization, it is obvious to realize the complexity of OC and the large number of situations where its application is possible. Keyton (2005) thinks that a good way to deal with the definition of an organization is to identify its commonly fundamental elements. First, an organization exists thanks to the people comprising it. Second, people whether “salaried, hourly, or contract employees or volunteers […] interact with one another and the organization’s clients and customers in purposeful goal-oriented activity” (p. 4).

In this regard and in the study of organizational behavior, the term organization is typically defined as “A structured social system consisting of groups of individuals working together to meet some agreed-upon objectives” (Greenberg & Baron, 2002 quoted in Zarate, 2006, p. 3). This definition highlights the fact that organizations comprise multiple people and parts which need to be integrated into larger, interconnected wholes. Obviously, an organization is a “hierarchically organized group of people so large that personal relationships with every member of the group are impossible” (Fernandes, 2005, p. 192). Over all, it seems that there is agreement between the previously quoted scholars about the idea that organizations tend to be regulated by formal structures and rules.

In fact, there are two approaches currently existing in the organizational literature and which define the way people organize things and ideas: The Objectivist and the Subjectivist. These paradigms and worldviews go by many names, such as “the machine versus organic, the positivist versus the relativist, the bureaucratic versus the democratic, or the functional versus the interpretive” (McMurray et al. 2004, p. 9). Because it is a discussion of two divergent worldviews, the difference between the two is potentially conflicting. First, the Objectivist Approach, which some view as the container view of organizations, looks at the organization as “A physical, concrete thing, that is a structure with definite boundaries” (Pace & Faules, 1994, p. 7). The organization here is seen as a substantive kind of organism that glues people together and fixes their goals although from this perspective it is seen as “an essence in itself” and has an existence of its own separate from its immediate environment (Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010, p. 323). Second, the Subjectivist paradigm “assumes that reality is a creative process in which people create what is going on, or the reality in which they exist” (McMurray et al. 2004, p. 10). The OC subjectivists seek then to understand the activities people do to understand the world around them. Specifically, the focus is on process-organizing behavior. The organization from this second perspective relates to the organizational behavior upon which the organization itself is built. The amount of significance placed on behavior/process or on structure is determined by the sort of approach adhered to.

In spite of the fact that organizations seemingly look organized through their superficial overall organizational goals and forms of interaction, it is very likely that not all organizational members communicate with each other. The obscure side of the story then can reveal miscommunication or communication crises in any given organization be it social, economic/financial, academic or human .

As a matter of fact, literature abounds in historical, theoretical, and methodological issues concerning OC. Nevertheless, rather than exhausting the relevant literature, this section discusses selected theoretical frameworks and related literature perspectives on OC.

Many organizational theorists have identified the importance of communication in organizational functioning. Dayal et al. (1996) believe that in an organization, communication is similar to the nerve system of the human body, and for Olmstead (2012), it “is the essence of organized activity and is the basic process out of which all other functions derive” (p. 119). Obvious as it looks for Keyton (2011), there is no organization without communication. That is, the development of any products or services in any given organization cannot be achieved if there is no communication among the organizational actors. Accordingly, Vasqueze and Marroquin (2008) state that communication is the site from where an organization emerges and gets maintained by the interaction of its members.

In fact, most researchers in OC studies recognize the importance of OC, but it seems that no agreement on the definition of the term is achieved especially when it comes to putting it into practice in a suitable field of study. The definitions are miscellaneous and it is normative in the academic literature that it is problematic as to the accuracy of producing one final and standard definition. To exemplify this diversity in defining OC, Schonfelder (1998) jokingly compares OC to the act of crossbreeding three living beings: a donkey, a crocodile and a bird. The outcome is a creature that can walk, swim and fly all together. For her, OC “is a mix of internal communication, human resources management and other practical skills” (Nadoh, & Podnar reported in Svetlik & Ilič, 2006, p. 214). Essentially, the multidimensional nature of OC process is an obstacle to finding consensus on a universally accepted definition. Dance (1970), in this respect, reports that there are about ninety-five definitions with different themes that suggest various conflicting perspectives to the understanding of OC (cited in Gamage & Pang, 2003).

Tracing back the history of OC, Stacks and Salwen (2008) argue that studies of OC date back to the Egyptian epoch when guidebooks about bureaucracy were written; however, as an academic area, OC is rather a recent field. It officially became a specialized area of speech communication departments in the early 1950s (Redding, 1985 cited in Hamilton, 2010; Redding & Tompkins 1988 reported in Grunig, 2008). Overall, the foundation of this area is built on three bases: “(a) Traditional rhetorical theory (the study of formal public discourse, structured public discourse, with an emphasis on persuasion); (b) human relations “models” of informal, interpersonal interaction; and, (c) early versions of management-organization “prototheories”” (Redding & Tompkins 1988 quoted in Stacks & Salwen, 2009, p. 383). Moreover, a wide-ranging definition is given by Eadie (2009) and summarizes the entire miscellany of OC:

A program that focuses on general communication processes and dynamics within organizations. [It] includes instructions in the development and maintenance of interpersonal group relations within organizations; decision-making and conflict management; the use of symbols to create and maintain organizational image, missions, and values; power and politics within organizations; human interaction with computer technology; and how communications socializes and supports employees and team members. (p. 18)

In such a broad definition, OC is seen as an all-embracing guide of processes and dynamic forces driving communication within an organization. It monitors the organizational actors’ relations, decision-making and conflict management. It is also the act of placing the organization’s image and defining its value and mission in the marketplace and society stressing its complex politically interwoven interpersonal team or individual relationships and the particular proactive or passive use of information communication technologies.

Particularly, OC is considered as “the process of creating and exchanging messages within a network of interdependent relationships to cope with the environmental uncertainty” (Goldhaber, 2011 reported in Sengupta, 2011, p. 185). In case where the tasks and the activities done within the organization are mutually adapted or overlap through appropriate communication and common future organizational vision and purpose, the term process is used (Bouwman et al. 2005). The realization of the organizational goals is also done through the existence of varied interrelated hierarchical levels. Undoubtedly, the organizational performance relies on responsibility shared at all organizational echelons with a view to minimize the environment uncertainty that might affect the organizational achievement.

In the same vein, Richmond and McCroskey (2005) view OC as “The process by which individuals stimulate meaning in the minds of other individuals by means of verbal or nonverbal messages in the context of a formal organization” (p. 20). The word ‘process’ specifies that communication is dynamic and non-static. The phrase ‘stimulate meaning’ is intended to suggest that OC does not consist of the transmission of meaning because “Meanings are not transmitted, nor transferable. Only messages are transmissible, and meanings are not in the message, they are in the message-user” (Berlo, 1960 quoted in Tubbs, & Carter, 1978, p. 28). That is, information is shared, feelings or ideas are shaped and formulated “in a manner that there is common understanding of meaning, intent and use of the message” in symbols either spoken or written (Kumar & Hansra, 2000, p. 50).

As for Champoux (2010) however, OC should be looked at as a “Message behavior” that “includes the purpose, flow, and direction of messages and the media used for those messages” and “happens within the complex, interdependent social systems of organizations” (p. 321). Accordingly, because messages oral or written, intentional or unintentional are in constant change following different directions, inside or outside the organization, diverse meanings and functions are attached to them.

Not all OC is limited to exchanged messages between organizational actors, but some of it takes place for the sake of socializing the newly arrived members. Moreover, some OC is used for managerial control, serves the function of enhancing work productivity through negotiating and coordinating work activities; whereas, some OC is devoted to placing the organization in the marketplace and society as a whole (Keyton, 2005).

Organizations are social institutions where people interact in a complicated way. The institutions of higher education, which are the concern of the present study, are such social organizations. Within such educational organizations there are students, teachers, administrators, managers, housing officers and several other service personnel. Members of each of these groups occupy distinctive positions and perform different tasks and roles. Institutions of higher education are also hierarchical organizations. The president is usually placed at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the councilors, the deans, the teachers, the students and others. In terms of responsibility, the deans are responsible to the president; managers of academic affairs divisions, students’ affairs, financial and administrative affairs are responsible to the deans; and students are responsible to teachers. The role expectations of these groups and norms ascribed to them are different from each other. Clearly, the relationships among many people in institutions of higher education are varied and complex. Only after those relationships are understood, and generally accepted, can these institutions function effectively.

Structurally, there is a series of superordinate-subordinate relationships within institutions of higher education. Functionally, this hierarchy of relationships, president, deans, managers of divisions, and so on, is the basis against which roles are assigned to working staff to achieve the recognized school’s objectives. Operationally, educational organizations like any other type of organizations are famous for their social interaction for the sake of sharing information and meaning with the view to effectively and efficiently achieve good performance. In turn, the quality of the interaction and information diffused among the organizational actors defines the quality of the internal OC.

It might be important which OC’s conceptualization is dominant, but it is more important to recognize the key theoretical foundations authors employ when dealing with OC in theory and practice.

1.2 Organizational Communication Approaches

This section discusses the diversity of the theoretical perspectives and the conceptual approaches related to the field of OC. This multiplicity of views has resulted from the fact that OC theorists come from different intellectual disciplines, such as “speech, journalism, philosophy, education, information science, and the social sciences, including sociology, anthropology, management, political science, and psychology” (Goldhaber & Barnett, 1988, p. 35). These scholars, when entered the field of communication, brought with them their distinctive paradigms and theoretical views inspired by their original fields.

Two major types of approaches that have strongly impacted scholarship and practice in OC will be considered in this section. These approaches are the Founding which contain the Classical, the Human Relations, and the Human Resources, and the Contemporary which comprise the Systems, the Cultural, and the Critical.

1.2.1 Founding Approaches

Though the field of OC emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a reaction against the need of organizations to be more effective, its roots date back to the age of the Industrial Revolution in the UK after which the nature of business was thoroughly and quickly changed (Miller, 2006; Steinberg, 2007). Because OC is different from other types of human communication as it takes place in extremely structured situations, organization specialists focused primarily on structure, mainly the objectivists’ view, rather than on communication behavior, mainly the subjectivists’ view (Miller, 1994).

The founding approaches to OC originated in different disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, management, business and industry and offer the basis against which the field of OC was shaped. They encompass the Classical, the Human Relations and the Human Resources Approaches which are mainly prescriptive in nature (Miller, 2006).

Even though these approaches were not designed to explain how communication functions within organizations, they clearly had an impact on the understanding of organizational context. Furthermore, for the reason that there are no appropriate theories of OC for all fields of study, an effort is being made to discuss how current organizational theories like the founding ones might help in elucidating the communication of organizational theory emphasizing each specific organizational approach along its historical line (Sinha & Reddy, 1991). Classical Approaches

The Classical approaches to OC, which emerged towards the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, were strongly impacted by the Industrial Revolution. During this revolutionary period, the assembly-line technologies that were created specifically for factories use were used by other types of organizations too (Miller, 2006). So, “looking at organizations through the lens of a machine metaphor points out the ways in which organizations are specialized, standardized and predictable” (Miller, 2011, p. 19).

In addition, the Classical approaches, which are sometimes labeled Taylorism, are a collection of theories that influenced OC in the early twentieth century. The central principle of these approaches is the consideration of the organizational actors as if they were parts in a machine. In these approaches, Taylor the scientific management theorist contends that a job functions the way a machine operates and hence can be studied in the same way as biological phenomena (Kunisch et al. 2011, p. 91).

Given this state of affairs, the best way to get most of the machine performance is to manage or to structure it with a goal to better operate. In the workplace, humans can also complete tasks under the guidance of the management/managers who should dictate to them what and how to do the job; the very same way as a machine is told and adjusted to operate.

Classical theorists argue that leadership stems from the leader being authoritarian and the “Rules have to be clearly communicated not only to ensure an understanding of how the organization functions but also to explain who has authority and who does not” (Zaremba, 2010, p. 59). A key feature of the Classical Approach is that the workers do not feel any bond with the organization or have pleasure in working except that they merely exist there and perform tasks dictated by the managers. This is represented by the sharp distinction between the private and the work lives of employees.

Steinberg (2007), in this respect, describes the organization as a machine and the workers as “cogs in the machine” (p. 291) stressing therefore the importance of the individuals in the functioning of the machine/organization, and that anyone can be substituted for another while the smooth running of the machine is assured. The Classical approaches, then, put weight on “order, logic, and efficiency, and view organization members as replaceable human logs” (referenced in Kovačić, 1994, p. 82).

Additionally, Classical approaches underscore the salience of efficient management and high productivity. According to these approaches, “Communication functions mainly to establish managerial control, provide worker with job instructions, and enable managers to gather information for planning” (Steinberg 2007, p. 291). That is to say, the direction of communication in the organization from the managers to their subordinates is mostly upward.

Nevertheless, insofar as structure, division of work and work units are concerned, scholars divide over two strands. The first is exemplified by Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management, and the second is represented by Fayol’s Theory of Classical Management and Weber’s Theory of Bureaucracy (Miller, 2006). Taylor emphasized the establishment of firm management rules that specify work roles and duties. These “scientific” ways of organizing work were regarded as leading to higher production by considering the workers as extensions of the machinery and the technologies they use. Sinha and Reddy (1991) put it concisely when they say that “Organization communication might best be seen in terms of a formalized system for relaying messages (commands, instructions, etc.) in a downward direction from manager to subordinate with no concern for upward feedback” (p. 9).

Whereas Fayol and Weber, representing the Scientific Management approach and the Administrative Management approach respectively, concerned themselves with principles and elements of management, and with organizational structure stressing the efficiency of the job. Scalar chains, work regulation and discipline, authority and span of control are of great concern to these scholars (Miller, 2006). It should be noted here that the flow of communication within the formalized structure of the organization, like in the first strand, goes also downward in an attempt to “deal with issues of authority, delegation of responsibility, coordination and control” (Sinha & Reddy, 1991, p. 9).

There is no wonder that communication processes take on a particular machine-like itinerary in the Classical approaches. Consequently, the implications of the communication processes in these approaches are based on four components: Content of communication, direction of communication flow, channel of communication and style of communication.

Fayol’s principle of subordination of the employees’ interests, perceptions and needs to the ultimate organization goals, proves that the communication flow in these approaches is task-based. For instance, innovation-based communication and maintenance-based communication have no place in the classical organization since the communication of new ideas is restricted by the scientific management and the socio-psychological factors (Hülsmann & Pfeffermann, 2011). Obviously, social communication that stresses the satisfaction of human/workers’ needs and desires is discouraged in favor of a scientifically determined type of task-related communication.

Concerning the direction of communication, it revolves around the way “messages are routed through the organizational system” (Miller, 2011, p. 30). Communication here flows downward, from the managers to the workers. It is one of the shortcomings of Classical approaches as downward communication “has the objective of ensuring that employees act in the best interests of their supervisor and the organization” (Barker & Angelopulo, 2005, p. 124). Therefore, the value of democracy and employees engaged in the organizational policy-making is neglected for the glorification of the managers’ prerogative and the hegemony of the organization.

Further, the Classicists seem to be explicit about using written directives against which good productivity is gauged. In brief, there is exigency of using written rules and instructions through the compiling of employee booklets and guides which are to be a “bible” for all the employees/machine cogs (Miller, 2006).

The style of communication from the classicist perspective is formal (Barker & Angelopulo, 2005, p. 122). The formality of the style is justified by the argument that employees are said to operate by the written rules and hence are obliged to stick to using titles, such as supervisor, secretary Mr., Mrs. etc. (Turner, 2003). Slang and colloquial language are avoided as they result in keeping the distance between employees of all ranks. Miller (2006) puts it tersely when she described this type of communication style: “The bureaucratic and professionalized climate of these organizations will often lead to formal-some might say sterile-styles of communication” (p. 19). Communication in the Classical approach is summarized in table 1 below.

Table 1: Communication in Classical Organizations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Adapted from Miller (2006, p.16)

From the Classical perspective then, communication is seen as an instrument of command and control as it is “vertical, moving mainly downward from the authority residing at the organization’s top” (Fisher, 1993, p. 68). However, lateral communication is an exception to this formal vertical type of OC, a fact that suggests that there are other approaches that could make up for these shortcomings. Human Relations Approaches

The Human Relations approaches appeared mainly due to the fact that the Scientific Management Approach of Taylor, the Administrative Management Approach of Fayol, and the Bureaucracy Theory of Weber have been unsuccessful in sustaining the efficiency of production and stability within the organization. The chief factor behind this failure is the negligence of human relations (Singla, 2009).

Classical organizational approaches declined to leave way to other new management approaches. The criticisms leveled against them were many: They tend to over-focus on attaining efficiency in a mechanical way, and they are also a characteristic of any bureaucratic organization as both the line of authority and communication commands move downwards, from top to bottom justified by the pyramidal organizational structure. In addition to this, the clear division of tasks and the rigid rules are prescribed (Barker & Angelopulo, 2005, p. 15). These approaches also insist on effectively consummated jobs; a feature that the Human Relationists share with the Classicists, with a clear neglect of the organizational actors’ feelings and desires in the workplace (Naidu, 2006).

The Classicists assume that material and financial enticements boost the workers’ energy and contribution for a good organizational productivity. Nevertheless, the Human Relations approach tried to make up for this weakness by stressing that not only material and financial rewards are important but also the psychological and the social needs of workers if the outcome is effectiveness in achieving the prescribed goals and efficiency in making good use of the given resources (Rashid, 1983).

Human Relations approaches are considered to have started with a series of studies known as the Hawthorne Studies by Mayo and his associates between 1927 and 1933 which heavily impacted the administrative theory. This series of studies consisted of many experiments and an interview program involving 21.126 employees, and it was conducted to discover the likes and dislikes of workers about their environment (Miller, 2006). The results of the interview program and the observations confirmed that the progress in productivity is “due to such social factors as morale, a feeling of belongingness, and effective management in which such interpersonal skills as motivating, leading, participative decision making, and effective communication were used” (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2011, pp. 7-8). The researchers concluded, therefore, that incentives either psychological or material are decisive in understanding the human organizational behavior.

Apart from Mayo and his associates, there are many other strong intellectual contributors to the Human Relations approach. Worth noting here is Lewin, a scholar who enriched the theory and practice of organizational group dynamics. Lewin and his circle concluded that under democratic groups context, where group dynamics function and members participate energetically in the organizational decision-making process, performance is higher and human satisfaction is guaranteed if compared to authoritarian groups context (Miner, 2007).

In addition to Lewin’s work, Rogers’s should not go unnoticed. His metapsychological and clinical theory is strongly related to the principles of the Human Relations approaches. The Rogerian person-centered approach stresses that “Building a warm and caring client-social worker relationship is the cornerstone of social work practice” (Greene, 2008, p. 114). Central then to this approach is the ability of the organizational actors to be self-aware by being optimistic and believe in their potentials as human beings.

Moreno’s significant work is of great relevance to the Human Relations movement, too. The interpersonal relationships within the workplace were his great interest. He developed a sociometric technique which stipulates that people tend to find common things they could share with others and on the basis of which they could weave social relationships that are liable to allow them perform organizationally well if compared to other groups who do not possess such skills of effective preferences (Williams, 2002; Singh & Sachdeva, 2012).

Communication in classical organizations tends to be task-based, vertical, downward, written, and highly formalized. Yet, communication in Human Relations organizations is greatly different. The communication process in this approach is organized and based on the same four components as in the Classical approach: content, direction, channel and style of communication. The content of communication is specifically maintenance-oriented as it takes into consideration the quality of human factors and relationships in the workplace. Miller (2006) specifies a theory of relevance here, the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to Maslow, there is need for human interaction that must be fulfilled before the individual can move on to higher order needs like self-esteem and self-actualization.

As far as the direction of the communication flow is concerned, the vertical flow is not the only one encouraged but also the lateral or horizontal. McGregor (1960) focused on the ability of the employees to achieve well in organization if spared from the heavy direction of the managers (cited in Miller, 2014).

For the channel of communication, a premium is placed on face-to-face communication. Human Relations approaches favor channels with high social presence (Short et al. 1976 reported in Miller, 2006, p. 39). The social presence maintains that the amount of emotional and social content transmitted along the communication channels is important for the satisfaction of higher-order needs. This is justified by the fact that written communication lacks the nonverbal pattern and feedback unlike face-to-face communication.

Regarding the style of communication, it is formal because these approaches put emphasis on the organization as a social enterprise and the workers’ needs are to be satisfied first before seeking any efficiency in gaining organizational goals. The attempt to ‘revolt’ against the formalities that distance the managers and workers is done through the encouragement of informal means of communication (Miller, 2006). Communication in the Human Relations approaches is summarized in table 2 below.


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Internal organizational communication and structure. How do they effect employees?
An empirical analysis
Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University  (Fes Saiss)
Organizational communication
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internal organizational communication and internal organizational structure and organizational communication
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Bani Koumachi (Author), 2015, Internal organizational communication and structure. How do they effect employees?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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