Reflection of Organizational Communication Over the Years (Week 1)

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pakorn via freedigitalphotos.net

I think that the landscape for organizing has changed significantly in the past twenty years, particularly as it relates to company loyalty. My Aunt worked for a large company for almost thirty years, from the 1980s until 2011, and was laid off abruptly due to a merger. She was incredibly upset and viewed the lay off as a personal affront. She was devastated and viewed it as a relationship break-up, full of betrayal, hurt and emotion. She had a sense of loyalty with her company that she felt was reciprocal.

As Eisenberg and Goodall explain, the old social contract between an employer and employee silently conveyed that an employee would be rewarded for loyalty with lifelong employment and a nice pension (2010, p. 19)[1]. This is certainly no longer the case.  I’ve been laid off two times in the past ten years at my employer. At neither occasion did I take the lay off personally and I didn’t feel betrayed. I simply engaged my network and found another position at the company. This is due to the “new social contract” (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2010, p. 19) [2], which is the understanding that there is no such thing as job security. The only constant is change in corporate America and employees understand that they must always position themselves for change.

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jscreationzs via freedigitalphotos.net

Another example of this sense of loyalty changing over the last twenty years is with my father. He began working for a large company right out of high school and he worked while pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree. He worked there his entire life, always working late and putting his job first. He was also laid off after approximately thirty years and had to start over with his career It devastated him, sending him into a depression. In the current work landscape, both myself and my peers are aware that we are expendable. I am well aware that I must continuously ensure I’m adding value in my organization. If I believe that my current skill set isn’t meeting the organizational needs, I must take it upon myself to ensure I take training, learn a new skill or make a change to ensure I meet the needs of the future organization.

Jeanne Claire Maarbes on freedigitalphotos.net

Jeanne Claire Maarbes on freedigitalphotos.net

I think that the implications of these changes are that employee’s are less loyal to their employers. An article by Robinson, Kraatz and Rousseau (1994)[3] evaluated the organizational psychological contract between employees and employers by evaluating a study conducted in 1987 of the alumni in a masters in business administration (M.B.A.) program at a Midwestern university. This study evaluated the obligations that employees feel towards their employer, as well as the obligations they perceive their employers owe them. This study found that employees expect their employer to fulfill certain obligations, including long-term job security, training and development. The relationship between the fulfillment of the employee obligations resulted in the employee’s organizational commitment. As a result, this creates a psychological contract. This study found that the result of this psychological contract was that an employee would gauge the commitment of the organization in fulfilling these needs and if the organization was not meeting their obligations, the employee was less likely to fulfill his/her perceived obligations. For example, employees felt that the employer was obligated to develop an employee and promote him/her based on their experience (1994)[4] If an employee felt that this wasn’t occurring, they would then purposefully not fulfill one of their perceived obligations, such as working long hours or volunteering for non-required tasks. Therefore, I think what we see in today’s workforce is a less engaged workforce who are not loyal to one company, but rather look for how the company can benefit them in navigating their career ladder.

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watcharakun via freedigitalphotos.net

I think that these changes have impacted our organizational strategies as organizations are looking for new ways to engage employees. An article by Miles, Snow, Meyer and Coleman evaluated organizational strategy, structure and process (1978)[5]. This article was published in 1978 and acknowledged changes made in the 40s, 50s and 60s to the organizational structure. They mentioned how the Depression and World War II both changed the landscape and resulted in the Human Relations Model, which was the decision making model that addressed the employees need for recognition (Miles, et al., 1978, 560)[6]. We’ve seen even more movement in this area over the years and a move away from the traditional model, in which manager’s dictate employee behavior, and more towards a model in which the manager is a facilitator for employees to enable them to perform their roles.

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renjith krishnan via freedigitalphotos.net

Given that employers can’t offer guarantee of longevity of employment as a reward for loyalty, they must think of other ways to reward employees for performance and gain loyalty. One example of this is work-life balance programs. Although Eisenberg and Goodall have identified a recent downward trend in these offerings, until recently this has been a focus of organizations in recruiting and retaining top talent. Eisenberg and GoodalI reported that a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that in 2002 64 percent of organizations offered flextime, while only 57 percent of organizations offered it in 2009 (Eisenberg & Goodall, 2010) [7]. I think that employees have different values and respond to these programs in different ways. While a parent in the workplace may value having on-site childcare, a single young professional without kids will probably not care about that perk. Employers must evaluate their strategies and processes based on their employee population and values.

Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

In my opinion, the only constant in corporate America is change. I’ve said this many times, as I especially see this in my industry. Strategies, approaches, priorities and projects change daily in my organization. To succeed, one must embrace change and not be resistant to it. I had a meeting just today in which I responded to a question, “This is how we do it today, but I’m open to doing it differently in the future based on the needs of the business.” I think that we must be adaptable, flexible and agile to succeed, as change is constant. We must consciously keep our finger on the pulse of the organization to understand the current needs and adapt quickly to them.

What do you think? What changes have you seen in corporate America over the decades? What changes do you think we’ll see next?


[1] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[2] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[3] Robinson, S.L., Kraatz, M.S., Rousseau, D.M. (1994). Changing Obligations and the Psychological Contract: A Longitudinal Study. Academy of Management Journal, 37(1), 137-152. Doi: 10.2307/256773

[4] Robinson, S.L., Kraatz, M.S., Rousseau, D.M. (1994). Changing Obligations and the Psychological Contract: A Longitudinal Study. Academy of Management Journal, 37(1), 137-152. Doi: 10.2307/256773

[5] Miles, R.E., Snow, C. C, Meyer, H.J. and Coleman, H.J. (1978). Organizational Strategy, Structure and Process. The Academy of Management Review, 3(3), 546-562.

[6] Miles, R.E., Snow, C. C, Meyer, H.J. and Coleman, H.J. (1978). Organizational Strategy, Structure and Process. The Academy of Management Review, 3(3), 546-562.

[7] Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall Jr., H. L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (6th ed). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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