90 Organizational Communication Summary


In this chapter, you learned that an organization is a “consciously coordinated social unit composed of two or more people, that functions on a relatively continuous basis to achieve a common goal or set of goals” (Robbins 4). Organizations are dynamic and are created through our communication. Organizational communication is the sending and receiving of messages among interrelated individuals within a particular environment or setting to achieve individual and common goals. Organizational communication is highly contextual and culturally dependent.

The study of organizational communication developed as a result of the rapid changes brought on by the industrial revolution in the past 150 years. The more formal study of organizational communication took root in the mid-1900s and has gained increasing attention over the past 60 years. We examined three predominant periods of organizational communication during this time. The Era of Preparation (1900 to 1940) is the era in which practitioners and scholars focused on public address, business writing, managerial communication, and persuasion. The Era of Identification and Consolidation (1940-1970) saw the beginnings of business and industrial communication with certain group and organizational relationships becoming important. During the Era of Maturity and Innovation (1970 –present) organizational communication has worked to rationalize its existence through rigorous research methods and scholarship.

Those in the field of organizational communication study a variety of communication activity in organizational settings. Researchers focus on communication channels, communication climates, network analysis and, superior-subordinate communication. Since the 1980s, this specialization has expanded to include the study of organizational culture, power and conflict management, and organizational rhetoric. Other content areas of focus include communication in groups and teams, leadership, conflict and conflict management, communication networks, decision making and problem solving, ethics, and communication technology. Introductory organizational communication classrooms often focus on skill development in socialization, interviewing, individual and group presentations, work relationships, performance evaluation, conflict resolution, stress management, decision making, or external publics.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, perspectives regarding organizational communication have continued to be developed and refined. The initial organizational communication perspective, founded on scientific principles, is the classical management perspective which focused on specialization, standardization, and predictability in organizations. Following this perspective were the human relations and human resources perspectives which further tried to incorporate human satisfaction, needs, and participation as a means for creating effective organizations and productive employees. The systems perspective allowed researchers to understand organizations as a “whole greater then the sum of their parts.” This perspective focuses on the interactions of the people who form organizations, with the basic assumption that all people in the organization impact organizational outcomes. Finally, the cultural perspective understands organizations as unique cultures with their own sets of artifacts, values, and basic assumptions. As part of the cultural perspective we can examine the climate of an organization to reveal how an organization impacts its members, and how members impact an organization.

The future of organizational communication is complex and rapidly changing. As a result, there are many challenges to organizations. Two of the most compelling challenges are ethics and the rapid changes occurring in organizational life. As competition continues to increase, and greater demands are placed on organizations and individuals, ethics is becoming an essential focus of examination for organizational communication and behavior. Likewise, the rapid advances in technology and globalization are creating increased challenges and demands on organizational members.


  1. Think of an organization you have worked in. What theoretical perspective did the organization take towards its workers? What was it like working within the boundaries of that perspective?
  2. What kinds of organizations does the classical management approach work in today? What kinds of organizations does it not work in?
  3. What needs of Maslow’s do you want your job to help you fulfill? Why?
  4. How would you describe the “culture” of your campus? What does this tell you about your campus?
  5. Explain ethical communication in organizations. What are the challenges? What are the benefits?
  6. Review Osmo Wiio’s Laws of Communication. Give an example of a time when one of these rules has applied to you.


  • Artifacts
  • Basic assumptions
  • Bureaucracy
  • Classical management perspective
  • Climate
  • Competent communicator
  • Complexity
  • Cultural perspective
  • Defensive Climate
  • Equifinality
  • Era of Preparation
  • Era of Identification and Consolidation
  • Era of Maturity and Innovation
  • Ethical communication
  • Homeostasis
  • Human relations perspective
  • Human resources perspective
  • Negative entropy
  • Organization
  • Organizational communication
  • Permeability
  • Requisite variety
  • Sociability
  • Solidarity
  • Supportive Climate
  • Systems perspective
  • Theory of Scientific Management
  • Theory X
  • Values


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