In continuing my learning on organisational communications, I’ve discovered that there are processes that effect how people communicate. Miller (2012) identifies four areas; socialisation, decision making, conflict management and organisational change and leadership.
In these areas, I’ve come to understand that outcomes of each process determine the organisational culture, and consequently the communication that takes place. Chia and Synott, in discussing the key roles of PR professionals, identify conflict management as a necessary skill (2012). Miller presents an example of this by explaining how the threat of conflict – particularly litigation – can affect operations and communications in many fields (2012, p. 171). The author describes businesses, medical practitioners and teachers who can be marginalised through the litigation threats of a ‘litigious nation’. It seems to me that facilitating better discussion between parties in situations like this would return the organisation to functioning effectively and avoid escalation into issues and crisis territory. It could be the role of PR to frame and communicate challenging topics well, to avoid negativity and anger.
On the topic of decision making, Miller explains that many decisions are made outside pure rationality, relying on emotive factors. As a case study, the author discusses how technological development and rich information databases could remove the human element of decision making and rely solely on objective data to make complex decisions on our behalf (2012, p. 146). While this could remove errors in decisions due to emotive factors and reliance on intuition, it could also oversimplify tasks that require independent judgement. It could also cause challenges in an organisational setting. One one hand it could decrease stress caused by decision making (Stone 2013) but on the other, employees may struggle to identify with the outcome due to lack of involvement in the process (Cornelissen 2011). To me the idea of removing all emotion and intuition from decision making is an intimidating concept. I would find it hard to trust a decision that went against my choice. I think PR would play a critical role in decision acceptance though facilitating internal communication. An independent PR consultant could also be engaged to generate a more objective perspective on any relevant decisions.
In another case study presented by Miller, leadership is shown in the context of an orchestra. This example shows the propensity of natural leaders to emerge in group settings, and the benefit of sharing leadership between members of the collective (2012, p. 191). The leadership process is directly related to decision making and change in an organisation. Miller’s case study exemplifies how positive outcomes can be when the process of development is co-operative. A fundamental part of this co-operation is communication. Leadership allows the collective to bypass the cumbersome process of unanimous agreement, but still allows for consultation. From a PR perspective, leaders give the organisation direction, and set examples for others.
These examples helped me understand how organisational communication involves much more than just outward communication to publics. The processes inherent to organisational life form the context of the communication and vice versa. This relationship between processes and communication has also shown how integrated operations and communications are.
Chia, J & Synnott, G 2012, An Introduction to Public Relations and Communication Management, 2nd Ed, Oxford, Melbourne, Victoria
Cornelissen, J 2011, Corporate Communication, A Guide to Theory and Practice, 3rd Ed, SAGE Publications, London
Miller, K 2012, Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Boston
Stone, RJ 2013, Managing human resources, 4th Ed, Wiley, Milton, Queensland