Journal of Business Communication

Published by SAGE Publications
Print ISSN: 0021-9436
This paper, originally presented at the Fourth International Space Congress at Cocoa Beach, Florida, suggests some ways in which the role of the technieal writer and editor in the aero space industry has been develop ing and will continue to develop through the 1970's. It also men tions some challenges, particu larly the "human gap" prob lem, that will have to be met by communications specialists.
In this paper, we demonstrate that teams may use genre systems -- sequences of interrelated communicative actions -- strategically or habitually to structure their collaboration. Using data from three teams' use of a collaborative electronic technology, Team Room, over an eight month period, we illustrate that genre systems are a means of structuring six aspects of communicative interaction: purpose (why), content (what), form (how), participants (who/m), time (when), and place (where). We suggest that CSCW researchers, designers, implementors, and users may benefit from an explicit recognition of the role genre systems can play in collaboration.
Information is a vital—if not yet strategic—asset for any organization Gathering, storing, retrieving, and using information is costly. Information Analysis is one attempt to help an organization understand itself by identifying and documenting those data required in decision making. Such data are difficult to assess. This article reviews the relevant research approaches to measuring the values and benefits of Information Analysis, pointing out the problems and weaknesses associated with each process.
In a letter to Aristotle, the author (as Phaedrus) gives an overview of communication as it is now taught compared to what was learned in ancient times and suggests rhetorical principles that modern teachers should not forget. (PD)
A recent survey of some Association for Business Communication members highlights changes in the organization's focus over the past 40 years. Members continue to highly value pedagogical relevance, but the Association for Business Communication clearly attracts research-active academics, suggesting potential directions for the organization.
Notes that Jenny Gilsdorf and Jone Rymer offer poignant stories about their personal and professional growth in two articles in this issue. Provides an integrating framework for exploring the linkages between the ideas put forth by Gilsdorf and Rymer. Uses a psychodynamics perspective to examine the connections among individual development, an organization's developmental process, learning, teaching and research. (SG)
Interdisciplinary research is often recommended and occasionally studied, but little has been written about the personal, practical, and methodological issues involved in doing it. In this article, the authors describe one particular research collaboration between a business communication scholar and an information systems researcher. They present their observations about the political pitfalls and personal benefits of their interdisciplinary collaboration. As they attempt to generalize from their experience, the authors conclude that politics in the broadest sense of the term is the most critical challenge to the conduct of interdisciplinary research.
Importance of Journal Quality for Promotion and Tenure, Funding, and Workload Decisions
Importance of Criteria for Determining Journal Quality
This commentary describes and critiques criteria that, according to results from an Association for Business Communication (ABC) member survey, are having an impact on quality judgments about our journals. ABC members rank the Journal of Business Communication and Business Communication Quarterly as top research and pedagogical journals in business/management communication, a finding corroborated by a larger study of academics in business and technical communication. However, the growing importance of citation counts and journal rankings currently disadvantages our journals, presenting us with professional obligations and personal dilemmas in relation to them. The authors' purpose is to raise awareness of the various determinants of perceptions of journal quality, to explore the communal views of ABC members on this issue, and to seek ways of enhancing the value of business/management communication research in the academic marketplace.
An increasing number of companies are introducing artificial agents as self-service tools on their websites, often motivated by the need to provide cost-efficient interaction solutions. These agents are designed to help customers and clients to conduct their business on the website. Their role on commercial websites is often to act as online sales/shopping assistants with the hope of replacing some of the interactions between customers and sales staff, thus supplementing or replacing human-to-human communication. However, research on artificial agents and comparisons with human-to-human communication, in particular, is still scarce. The purpose of this article is to explore the similarities and differences in communication between an artificial agent and customers compared with face-to-face communication between human service providers and customers. The method employed is a qualitative comparison of face-to-face human service provision in a travel agency setting and logs of interactions between customers and an artificial agent on an airline company website. The analysis is based on the theory of “activity-based communication analysis” and makes use of a framework of specific communication features provided by this theory. The article demonstrates a number of deficiencies in communication between artificial embodied agents and humans, suggesting that artificial embodied agents still lack many of the desirable communicative aspects of human-to-human service encounters.
This study examined the association between supervisors’ mentoring and verbal aggression and their subordinates’ perceived communication satisfaction, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. The findings of the 200 full-time working adults who participated in the study supported prior research indicating positive relationships between mentoring behaviors by supervisors and their subordinates’ communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction, and negative relationships between supervisors’ verbal aggression and their subordinates’ communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction. Results of a regression analysis indicated that supervisors’ verbal aggression was a greater negative predictor of subordinates’ outcomes than was mentoring a positive predictor, supporting the presence of a negativity bias in the supervisor-subordinate relationship. Additionally, path analysis indicated that communication satisfaction fully mediated the relationship between supervisor mentoring and subordinate organizational commitment, whereas communication satisfaction served as a suppressor between mentoring and subordinate job satisfaction.
Communication specialists have long been interested in analyzing messages. More recently, they have stressed the need for evaluative tools that account for situational ex pectations and constraints. Drawing from the literature on organizational and managerial effectiveness, we constructed an empirical model applicable to presenta tional communication. Over 100 communication professors evaluated the relevance of descriptors for six different types of business presentations: three oral and three writ ten. Their judgments were used to create similarity scores, which were submitted to multidimensional scaling. A three-dimensional model emerged. This "competing values model" illustrates the dynamic interplay between the highly contrasting charac teristics of four general types of presentational communication: relational, information al, instructional, and transformational. In conclusion, we discuss the benefits of the model and suggest its usefulness as an evaluative tool, particularly for the training of managers. Peer Reviewed
Implementers need to decide the degree to which to preview the challenges and possible downsides of a change process. Scant research has explored the announcement of planned change—especially regarding the previewing of potential painful or stressful effects of the process. This study uses a pen-and-paper experimental method with a sample of 218 working adults to examine the extent to which acknowledging potentially negative aspects of change in announcements heightens perceptions of honesty and trustworthiness of implementers. Also, we sought to explore the effects of these negative previews on initial favorability toward changes and on stakeholders’ subsequent communication targets and purposes for communication. We found that previews of possible negatives did not increase initial favorability or judgments of credibility of implementers. We found high-risk change creates a challenging context. Future research needs to consider whether refutational messages are necessary for high-risk change announcements.
This article examines structural and format changes in annual reports of U.K. listed companies from 1965 to 2004 with a particular focus on graph use. The article compares a new sample of 2004 annual reports with preexisting samples by Lee and by Beattie and Jones. Lee's identified trends continue. There has been a sharp increase in page length, voluntary information, and narrative information, particularly among large listed companies. A detailed analysis of voluntary disclosure indicates changes in the incidence and pattern of generic sections. Graph usage is now universal. However, key financial graph use has slightly declined, replaced by graphs depicting other operating issues. Impression management through selectivity, graphical measurement distortion, and manipulation of the length of time series graphed are common. Overall, annual reports continue to exhibit many features of public relations documents rather than financially driven, statutory documents, and the analysis of graph usage suggests a need for policy guidelines to protect users.
This paper reviews linguistic structures in a series of management messages in the annual reports of Cross & Trecker, a machine tool manufacturer. The docu ments cover the years 1984-1988, which began with prosperity and ended with severe losses. An analysis of how the company communicated this information to its shareholders offers some insights into the motivation and priorities of the Cross & Trecker management. This analysis suggests that a company's public communications are more complex than has been thought. Specific methodology used is based on systemic theory, developed by Halli day (1976, 1978, 1985a, 1985b) and others and employs the systems of transitivity (verb structures), thematic structure (subjects), context and cohesion, and condensations. Verb structures show a predictable increase in passive constructions as the years pass and profits decrease. Regarding other verb structures, however, the results were more complex, including an increase in the use of verbs of "being." Combined with the analysis of thematic structures, which show an increase in nonhuman agents, and contextual features shown by cohesion and condensa tions, the conclusion is that, as the news becomes more negative, linguistic structures suggest a factual, "objective" situation caused by circumstances not attributable to any persons who might otherwise be thought responsible. Peer Reviewed
This ongoing study summarizes 1980-81 data from 1158 newly promoted executives in the United States who answered this question: "Assuming the study of business administration best prepares a young person for a career in general management, how important are the following courses as a part of that preparation?" Business Communication-oral and written- was the course selected as Very Important more often than any of thirteen courses. Peer Reviewed
This study extends previous research by examining the relationship between communication apprehension (CA) and learning preferences in an organizational setting. Findings suggest a correlation between employees’ high CA and a preference for the reflective observation learning mode as well as the diverging and assimilating learning styles. Conversely, results revealed a correlation between employees’ low CA and a preference for the concrete experience and active experimentation learning modes as well as the accommodating learning style. The author discusses the theoretical and practical significance of these results as well as proposes future research directions.
This study was conducted to determine which of two different ap proaches should be taught to best meet the objectives of the business communications class. An Experimental Group received formal instruc tion in theory and a reduction in writing assignments. A Control Group received no formal instruction in theory and had 32 percent more writ ing assignments. Results of tests indicated a significant difference in knowledge of theory and ability to analyze in favor of the Experi mental Group. No significant differences were found in scores on the objective tests on principles and writing ability.
This paper surveys treatments of business communication ethics in Association for Business Communication (ABC) Publications for the last 30 years. Pedagogical papers reveal an almost unanimous opinion that business communication is inherently a moral subject and that ethics has a place in the classroom. Consensus on how to teach or to evaluate moral behavior has not, however, been achieved. Nonpedagogical papers have usually been conceptual or descriptive, and have rarely been part of program matic research. Consequently a unified body of knowledge that could guide future re search or provide a basis for moral instruction does not exist. Future research in both pedagogical and nonpedagogical areas is recommended.
This article examines the notion of a communication metamyth that transcends organizations. This communication metamyth assumes that more communica tion is better, and is posited as a fundamental belief that organization processes such as the desire for greater participation "map onto." Results from the analysis of data from five different kinds of organizations revealed a general belief in this communication metamyth. Regardless of how much information organization members reported receiving, they wanted more. This study raises several issues that warrant further inquiry including our conceptualization of communication processes in organizations, methods of studying communication in organiza tions, and the role of researchers in perpetuating this communication metamyth.
Mean satisfaction Scores for each Category
Communication audits have now featured in the literature for 50 years, and many audit approaches have been evaluated. However, follow-up studies designed to chart the actual impact that an audit makes upon communication performance have not been reported. Rather, audits are typically presented as one-shot events, whose impact is not measured. It is as if the audit is an end in itself rather than part of a process of measurement and performance improvement. This paper is therefore timely, since it employs a follow-up audit to track the effects of an initial audit upon a major health care organization. The findings do not support the view that the frequently expressed desire of staff for greater communication is a metamyth, and that an increased flow of information simply produces a demand for more. Rather, and consistent with the precepts of Uncertainty Reduction Theory, the provision of information reduced uncertainty and generated increased satisfaction with communication processes. The results from this study also illustrate how the audit can play a useful role in an organization’s communication strategy.
Thesis (Ed. D.)--Arizona State University, 1974. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 66-67).
In this study, we explore the effects of channel choice (e-mail vs. voice mail) and message structure (direct vs. indirect) on the receiver’s perception of bad-news messages. We conducted an experiment in which bad-news e-mails and voice mails were presented to participants who evaluated their response to the messages via a questionnaire. The results indicate that e-mail is more comprehensible, while voice mail is more persuasive and effective for maintaining a personal customer relationship. Furthermore, messages with an indirect structure (explanation → bad news) are valued more highly than direct messages (bad news → explanations). We also found interaction effects of channel and structure, the most important being that the preference for the indirect structure is limited to e-mails.
Gen X/Y Interpretive Focus Group
Stage 1 Data Sets
Employing the feminist interpretive focus group method, findings in this study demonstrate how different generational perspectives of professional women, socialized at different periods of time, intersect in the current workforce to explain conflict around work and life. In particular, the authors found conflict centers around two well-documented discourses thematic in their focus groups, which organize the way people think about work—paying one’s dues and face-time. Using interpretive focus groups to draw out the different interpretive frames of the generations, this study deconstructs the interpretations, providing a hopeful place to begin a theoretical and practical conversation that bridges the different perspectives of women across generations as they negotiate work and life. Findings have implications for organizational, work/life, and qualitative communication studies.
In this study of the business communication that connects an organization with others in its environment, we link boundary spanning with network theory and propose the concept of an extended network of communication. This extended net work is the structure of business communication which flows in work-related ties that organization members maintain both within the organization and across its boundary. We study the relationship between boundary-spanning communication and individual influence in a network with 108 organizational members. We find that boundary spanning correlates with influence, regardless of hierarchical level. There is also a curvilinear relationship between boundary-spanning communication and individual influence. Thus, managers need to balance their communication within and across the organizational boundary.
Presents a review of creativity principles, a brief discussion of class activities (brainstorming, surrogating, questioning, analyzing, etc.), a short description of nine audiovisual aids with several ordering sources, and a bibliography. (PD)
Study 1: 20 Most Frequently Identified Communication Behaviors 
Study 2 Factor Structure of Workplace Communication Behavior Inventory Items 
Study 2 Descriptive Statistics and Correlations With Workplace Communication Behavior Inventory (WCBI) 
Comparisons of Most Important to Most Effective Communication Behaviors at Work 
This two-part study with working adults examines which communication behaviors occur at work and how these communication behaviors are evaluated. Through an analysis of organizational communication publications (articles, organizational case studies, textbooks), the authors identified 343 communication behaviors; sorting analysis reduced this list to 163 verbal communication behaviors used in the workplace. In Study 1, using an online survey, 126 working adults identified which of these communication behaviors had been heard or observed the previous day in the workplace. Forty-four communication behaviors were identified by 50% or more of the participants, indicating their frequent use in the workplace. In Study 2, 331 working adults evaluated their effectiveness on the 44 verbal communication behaviors. Factor analysis reduced that list to 36 verbal workplace communication behaviors composed of four factors: information sharing, relational maintenance, expressing negative emotion, and organizing communication behaviors. The Workplace Communication Behavior Inventory is presented.
Stresses teaching the importance of including "reader benefits" in business correspondence. (Defines "reader benefits" as rewards which the reader will receive for doing what the writer asks.) Reviews research which explains why threats won't work, how reader benefits influence attitudes and behavior, and why nonmonetary benefits are sometimes the most effective benefits. (PD)
Describes "Research in Technical Communication" as a superb resource appropriate for anyone interested in business, technical, even legal communication. Notes that the book contains a wealth of bibliographic citations as well as comprehensive coverage of a diversity of topics. (JD)
Do we need a new communication model? This article suggests that you can expand and refine any part of the basic sender-channel-receiver model to increase its usefulness. A communications analyst may need to look at a part of the model, as through a magnifying glass, to ex amine that part in detail. To magnify all parts simultaneously would make the model too cumbersome. Therefore, the author presents several designs, each highlighting a particular aspect of the communication pro cess. Environments, separate or shared, internal or external, may add to or subtract from a message. Feedback may be included or excluded. All of these may be represented graphically, but not in a single model.
Discussions in ethical theory literature attempt to present the diversity of ethical opinions. However, discussions of teleology, deontology, and ethical pluralism present no organic base for the study of business ethics. (The papers in this special issue sug gest a more focused position for understanding business ethics. This paper, for ex ample, examines the question of self-interest via a study of Western Civilization.) The authors hold that history provides the necessary framework in which both to discuss and to seek answers to the three necessary and sequential questions about business ethics: (1) What is ethics and what does it mean to be ethical; (2) why be ethical; and (3) how can one be ethical?
Members of ABCA and other experts in business communication may disa gree with Weeks's assessment of "current issues" in this paper presented to our Japanese colleagues at the annual meeting of the Japan Business Eng lish Association in Tokyo, October 18, 1975. There were other matters which could have been discussed, had it not been for the limitations of time. Basic, however, to good business writing nationally and internation ally is solving problems of the best psychological approach to readers, organization, writing style, and English usage.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the problems inherent in teaching business ethics. The problems concern what, where, and when ethics should be included in the business curriculum It is suggested that business ethies should be a topic of discussion in all business classes but that the best qualified instructors to teach a process-oriented analysis of ethical problems and their solutions are business communication educatois General semantics approaches are proposed as the ideal means of teaching a process-oriented analysis of ethical standards and related human behavior A number of general semanties principles are discussed to demonstrate the applicability of those principles to the analysis and teaching of business ethies.
Many of the earliest business and administrative letters written in English fol lowed a set of rules called the ars dictaminis, a formal and complex model that prescribed a certain writing style and organization. The necessary pattern of organization was the following: address, salutation, notification, exposition, dispo sition, valediction, and attestation and date. The dictamen almost completely dis appears in the sixteenth century. Did the dictamen disappear suddenly? If so, why? In this paper, I argue that the dictamen disappeared slowly by attrition over the hundred years previous, and further, that it was never universal, as previous scholars have argued. The evidence for the claim that the dictamen was widely used and suddenly disappeared consists mostly of Chancery and government docu ments. When we take into account the mass of business documents involving ordi nary business people, including the largest surviving collection of business docu ments in English before 1500, the Cely papers, we see that by the late fifteenth century, ordinary business people were not following the dictamen's conventions. Peer Reviewed
The intent of the experimental course described here was to involve students actively in discussions of communication theory beyond the elementary level and to allow them to design and perform laboratory experiments to test their hypotheses.
This paper discusses the communication problems of the German expatriate em ployee in the United States, and notes some differences in oral and written means of communication as seen by the expatriate. Interviews with both Germans and Ameri cans, in Germany and the United States, lead to the conclusion that technical com petence outweighs cultural awareness; that Americans are often unaware of cultural differences between themselves and foreign employees; that language incompetence is more an American problem; and that cultural variances do affect oral and written modes of communication. Peer Reviewed
Based on ten months of field research in a high technology start-up, and using ethnographic and grounded theory methodologies, this study identifies six basic narrative types (founding, visionary, marketing, strategy, historical, and conventional) in three main categories (personal, generic, and situational) that are essential in founding and governing a new company. These stories enable founders to (a) justify the existence of the company; (b) convince others to devote funds and other key resources to the company; and (c) make key decisions in the short and intermediate term. Also described in the paper is the interaction of these narratives, which in this case were often conflicting and even contradictory. The paper argues that a key competence of the founder and entrepreneur is not only the ability to develop narrative competence across the three categories but also to develop a command of their interactivity, or intertextuality. oui
The authors compared 214 letters of inquiry written by native and nonnative speakers of English to test the assumption that cultural factors beyond language greatly affect communication, factors such as the knowledge of the business communication prac tices and of the cultural expectations of other countries. Letters written by native and by nonnative speakers of English differed significantly from each other in number of mechanical errors in the complimentary closings, in tone (primarily through exag gerated politeness), and in length. The two groups also differed significantly in the type of information in the letters, specifically, unnecessary professional and personal information and inappropriate requests for evaluation or intercession. These findings indicate that the native speakers' letters overall deviated less from US business com munication practices than did the nonnative speakers' letters.
Considers some ways that past research equips educators to tackle research challenges they are now facing. Suggests two challenges for consideration, convergence and commonality. Notes that convergence and commonality challenge educators to let go of the search for disciplinary identity, to stop seeking uniformity in methods, and to use diversity and concentrate research efforts more deliberately around the shared purpose. (SC)
Offers a glance at the changing set of languages that English is becoming. Considers how to respond to a need to teach in a world where the English of business is polymorphic. Presents seven suggestions to give educators a start. (SG)
This -7rticle contains guidelines for research that were presented to the ABCA Board of Directors by the Research Committee of the Association for 1969-71. The editors of the Journal feel that a number of the specific topics recommended here may prove to be useful areas of investigation for our members in the next several years.
Introduces the special issue dealing with discipline formation in business communication. Notes that the special issue is meant to capture a critical juncture in the field as it struggles between competing impulses to make the field more clear, coherent, and compact and yet more tolerant, open, and dynamic. (SR)
Communication research knows no geographic boundaries. Yet, when an American wishes to do communication research or consulting in a foreign country there arise a series of issues that can impede solid investigation. To understand some of the issues along with suggestions on meeting those issues is the purpose of the following article. Peer Reviewed
This article presents the findings of a large-scale, multifaceted investigation into the use of English as a business lingua franca in Hong Kong’s key service industries. The findings were derived from four sources: semistructured interviews with 28 Chinese professionals; four “week-in-the-life” case studies, which include an all-day office observation; analyses of telephone conference recordings and email chains; and a questionnaire survey involving more than 2,000 respondents. The evidence suggests that English, particularly its written form, plays a crucial role in business communication, although the nature and extent of its use vary according to an array of institutional and individual factors, such as a company’s ownership and a professional’s duties. The qualitative data illustrate the interplay between the two written (English, Chinese) and three spoken codes (English, Cantonese, Putonghua) in workplace communication, and particularly the symbiotic relationship between written English and Cantonese.
This paper looks at three hypotheses: that regardless of the financially good or bad years of a corporation, the communication in the annual let ters to the stockholders will be predominantly positive; that negative words are less frequent in a financially good year than a bad year; and that German readers also tend to accept the same preferred, positive words as Americans. All hypotheses were sustained after viewing 12 annual letters to stockholders in 1975 and 12 letters in 1977. The Pollyanna Hypothesis provides a fertile area for further research: into business letters, business speeches, or other areas which fall into the genre of written or oral business communication. Peer Reviewed
This is a seminal statement on the pre-eminent position held by business communication in China's largest business school—specializing in interna tional trade—the Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade. The authors provide some historical background, review three courses in business communica tion in China, summarize the method of instruction, and end with con cludions and opportunities for closer academic ties with China in making business communication a truly international discipline. Peer Reviewed
Offers an editorial, in an experimental spirit, that develops a narrow definition for communication, organization, manager, and business and narrow definitions for organizational communication, management communication, and business communication. (MG)
Discusses the essential difference between the writing process and its product; namely, that the former is a private and unique activity, whereas the latter is an observable artifact that can be publicly evaluated. Argues that even proponents of the process approach to writing cannot escape basing their discussions on products. (JD)
Describes the process of rewriting a poorly-written document into plain English. The process includes redefining the audience, altering the content, reorganizing the content, changing the verbal and visual style, and retaining the document's legal force. (JMF)
This article examines the “hybrid” discourses of neo-capitalism at play in the emerging economy context of India through the case study of a prominent Indian company, which launched an ambitious organizational project in 2006-2008: the cheapest car in the world. I critically analyze the company’s media releases with attention to the genre, social construction of actors, and macro relations between them. Findings address how the organization was crafted as a social actor, the organization-State relationship, and the organization’s engagement with opposing interests. The results contribute to global business communication studies by problematizing the “neocapitalist firm” in the emerging economy context and focusing on the peculiar socio-politico-economic organizational processes herein.
Top-cited authors
Paul E. Madlock
  • Texas A&M International University
N. Lamar Reinsch
  • Georgetown University
Jonathan Clifton
  • Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France
Elaine Henry
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
Gail Fann Thomas
  • Naval Postgraduate School