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Navigating Change: Employee Communication in Times of Instability



Employees often perceive periods of change—no matter how warranted or beneficial—as crises, exhibiting both cognitive and emotional reactions including feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, even fear, chaos, stress, betrayal, grief, and anger. Management must have a clear strategy for communicating with employees through change, as employee expectations for open and honest communication are increased in times of shift and uncertainty. Open, honest, and regular communication is essential to keeping employees motivated and productive. Benefits of effective communication in times of change include higher employee satisfaction and engagement, lower turnover, and stronger long-term commitment. Solid internal relationships also strengthen ethics-related outcomes such as fraud reduction and reputation management.
Business and Professional
Communication Quarterly
2014, Vol. 77(4) 443 –452
© 2014 by the Association for
Business Communication
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DOI: 10.1177/2329490614544736
Communicating Organizational Change Part 1
Navigating Change: Employee
Communication in Times of
Debbie D. DuFrene1 and Carol M. Lehman2
Employees often perceive periods of change—no matter how warranted or
beneficial—as crises, exhibiting both cognitive and emotional reactions including
feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, even fear, chaos, stress, betrayal, grief, and
anger. Management must have a clear strategy for communicating with employees
through change, as employee expectations for open and honest communication are
increased in times of shift and uncertainty. Open, honest, and regular communication
is essential to keeping employees motivated and productive. Benefits of effective
communication in times of change include higher employee satisfaction and
engagement, lower turnover, and stronger long-term commitment. Solid internal
relationships also strengthen ethics-related outcomes such as fraud reduction and
reputation management.
internal communication, employee communication, crisis communication,
organizational communication
Change is inevitable and even necessary for the survival of organizations. Employees
often perceive periods of change—no matter how warranted or beneficial—as crises,
exhibiting both cognitive and emotional reactions, including feelings of insecurity and
uncertainty, even fear, chaos, stress, betrayal, grief, and anger (Frandsen & Johansen,
2011). According to Polish communication consultant, Roman Rostek (2013) when
speaking about change communication:
1Stephen F. Austin State University, USA
2Mississippi State University, USA
Corresponding Author:
Debbie D. DuFrene, Rusche College of Business, Stephen F. Austin State University, Box 13004 SFASU,
Nacogdoches, TX 75962, USA.
544736BCQXXX10.1177/2329490614544736Business and Professional Communication QuarterlyDuFrene and Lehman
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444 Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 77(4)
The Chinese sign 危機 meaning “crisis” consists of two elements: first meaning “danger”
and second meaning “opportunity.” This can be quite relevant for internal communication
during times of change. On the one hand, it is easy to make a mistake that can have
dangerous results. On the other hand, there is no better time for implementing new
solutions for a communication system and for raising the importance of internal
communication in the eyes of leaders. (p. 1)
Whether organizational change is prompted by shifting competition, financial chal-
lenges, a new strategic direction, or strides for greater efficiencies, effective commu-
nication is essential to combat inevitable dips in morale. Managers at all organizational
levels are faced with the challenging task of inspiring others to remain positive and
productive while also simultaneously implementing new procedures and
Periods of change are frequently associated with low morale, as employees struggle
to understand and adapt to shifting situations and expectations. A survey of 150 senior
executives from the largest U.S. firms revealed that 48% of respondents cited better
communication as the best remedy for low morale. Not surprisingly, one third said the
lack of open and honest communication with staff members is the primary cause of
lowered morale (Demitropoulos, 2010). Achieving effective communication is always
challenging, but particularly in situations in which people are stressed, worried, and
upset. Employees are seeking to be informed, reassured, and encouraged. They want
their concerns to be heard and responded to in a straightforward manner. Timely and
sensitive messages delivered in a sincere personal manner can go far in assuaging
fears and building a sense of optimism.
Management must have a clear strategy for communicating with employees through
change, as employee expectations for open and honest communication are increased in
times of shift and uncertainty. Even when managers do not have all the answers, their
silence is often seen by employees as evasiveness. Telling staff what is known about
impending change and related challenges reassures them that they have received avail-
able information.
Communicating in Times of Change
In times of change, management often receives complaints and inquiries from frus-
trated, worried, and concerned employees. Those individuals with vested interest in
the organization need frequent assurances that situations are under control. A survey of
239 U.S. CEOs conducted in the midst of the recent U.S. recession reinforced that
messages from organizational leaders were critical in maintaining organizational equi-
librium . Survey participants were clear in the opinion that communication in such
times should occur often. Most CEOs in the reported study said that they communi-
cated with employees at least once a month, whereas nearly a third communicated
once a week during the challenge. Email updates and quarterly or even more frequent
extended communiqués help employees feel they are informed about current condi-
tions, even if still serious. Reassuring people that situations are being monitored and
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Communicating Organizational Change Part 1 445
appropriate steps taken can help assuage fear. Respondents also emphasized that face-
to-face time becomes more important in crisis situations, and conversational encoun-
ters often are more valued than formal presentations (Gurchiek, 2010).
Most large firms have a crisis or contingency plan that typically includes a dimen-
sion related specifically to communication with internal stakeholders (Johansen,
Aggerholm, & Frandsen, 2012). Because of strong negative employee perceptions
about change, principles that apply to crisis communication also generally are appli-
cable to periods of organizational change. Goodman and Truss (2004) recommended
that the internal portion of the crisis communication plan include the following
What information to convey to employees: Managers must determine what
employees must know (immediate and necessary information), what they
should know (details that will assist in understanding and acceptance), and
what they could know (gossip and rumors that may need to be corrected or
clarified). Another consideration is determining what information should be
sought from employees.
When to share various types and levels of information: Change messages often
filter down through the organization, with top-level management providing the
general information that is then operationalized through the various hierarchi-
cal levels. Timing and style of delivery of such messages are crucial to employee
How to share information: Media options include face-to-face, written, and
technology-assisted means such as email, video casts, blogs, and texts.
Obviously size and decentralization of an organization will largely dictate
which communication channels are feasible, at least for messages from top-
level management.
Whatever strategy is adopted, management should be the first source for informa-
tion, rather than employees relying on the grapevine or the media for updates (Dodd,
2013). Jo and Shim (2005) found a strong relationship between management’s inter-
personal communication and employees’ forming trusting attitudes. In short, employ-
ees want to see and talk to their leaders in times of uncertainty. The reality that the
CEO sets the tone for internal communication is widely acknowledged (Schein, 2000;
Tourish & Robson, 2003). An organization’s top managers are in a role to exert strong
personal influence in their relationships with other employees and to affect attitudes,
job satisfaction, and consequently how employees speak about the organization to
external stakeholders.
Message content, regularity, and transparency are, of course, crucial. Communication
strategies that generally work in more favorable circumstances may not go as planned
in a time of change. A classic premise is that bad news should be delivered clearly,
unequivocally, and with empathy. Organizational communicators must avoid glossing
over bad news by using euphemisms. For example, layoffs have been phrased as
“workforce adjustments” or “headcount reductions.” Written messages often have
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446 Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 77(4)
used such indirect language that the audience has not understood fully the bad news
embedded in the verbiage. In times of uncertainty and heightened concern, employee
response to such ambiguous messages is often anger and confusion.
French and Holden (2012) found that an organization’s culture and responsible
organizational behavior greatly impact the way bad news messages are both crafted
and received. In their study of Korean university students, Moon and Rhee (2012)
found that the appropriate type of appeal varies with the circumstances. For instance,
individuals are likely to feel anger when they perceive a crisis as internal and control-
lable. In such cases, an emotional-centered appeal may help reduce anger and elicit
more positive attitudes. When a crisis is perceived as external and uncontrollable,
individuals may experience fear and need more information to calm their anxiety.
Therefore, an information-centered appeal may be more appropriate.
Traditional advice in message strategy about delaying the introduction of unwel-
comed news and embedding it among justifying and conciliatory statements is not
born out in case studies involving organizational change. People can handle unwel-
comed news much better than conventional wisdom would suggest (Jordan-Meier,
2011). The voices of experience from managers within organizations that have suc-
cessfully weathered significant challenges include the following (Gillette, 2008):
Commit to communicate. When management is not upfront, the audience is
more likely to feel that the organization is at fault, uncaring, or blind to the situ-
ation. People would typically prefer to receive bad news than to be left to specu-
late about what is happening.
Be direct. Reasons for decisions and actions should be prioritized according to
audience relevance. For example, the first concern of the work staff is not that
business costs have increased, but that they might be laid off. Avoid the ten-
dency to try to soften the blow or explain from your own viewpoint.
Validate fears instead of masking the facts. Open, honest disclosure allows
those affected by changes to at least feel “in the loop” rather than fearing the
Share factual information about losses, downturns, and bad press. Do not
sugarcoat the facts, even when they are disappointing, annoying, or depressing.
Korn and Einwiller (2013) found that when internal communication is fast and
transparent, employees feel a much-reduced need to search extensively for
information from external media.
Communicate throughout the change process. Communicate preliminary infor-
mation and early signs of problems. Do not wait to disseminate negative news
all at once when the process or event is final.
Make communications personal and personable. Employees may demonize
and blame those with whom they have little connection. Verbal explanations are
usually preferred to written ones. When face-to-face meetings are not possible,
a video presentation from corporate-level management might be the next best
thing. When written messages are sent, they should come from a senior man-
ager and be written in a personal style that signals caring and compassion.
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Communicating Organizational Change Part 1 447
A handwritten message from an immediate supervisor expressing gratitude to
an employee for staying the course can make a significant positive impact.
Ask for ideas. Employees will often suggest useful strategies for coping with
problems that emerge from change. The fact that they are asked for input leads
to greater commitment and ownership of solutions and a feeling that “we are all
in this together.”
Suggest strategies. Explain what the organization has done to mitigate chal-
lenging situations, and what employees can do to lessen the severity of adjust-
ment. People will often respond to suggestions once they see that management
has already taken steps to address the problem at hand.
Talk about something other than the problems. Take the opportunity to build
relationships through personalized, open exchange. Recognize dedicated con-
tributions, and build in inexpensive expressions of appreciation for good work
and loyalty.
Maintain a positive attitude. Express confidence and remind employees of the
need for everyone to work together to find solutions.
Moving Employees Through Change
Organizational change is frequently stressful to those impacted, even when the change
is positive. Bridges (2009) argued that one of the biggest mistakes organizations make
is to focus all their energy and resources on getting people to move to the new way,
when the first challenge is actually getting them to let go of the old way. He suggests
a number of management strategies for moving forward and making the change work.
Clearly Communicate What Employees Will Stand to Lose or Have to
Leave Behind
Help employees understand why the change is happening and to take ownership of it.
Let them see the problem firsthand, if possible, so they will be more inclined to let go
of the past status quo. Changes in operations should involve the least interruption as
possible to workflow and productivity.
Spell Out Specifically What You Want Employees to Do or Stop Doing
People need to know what the behavioral expectations are under the new situation. For
instance, admonitions to “work together as a team” are not particularly explanatory.
Paint a vivid picture of what the change will look and feel like and what lies ahead.
Give each employee a part to play in the plan so all can contribute and participate.
When, for example, TD Bank Group launched an internal social-media network, select
individual employees were designated as “Connection Geniuses” to spur its adoption.
This group helped colleagues learn how to use the platform and touted its ability to
improve work quality and satisfaction (Chui, Dewhurst, & Pollak, 2013).
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448 Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 77(4)
Talk Frequently About the Transition Process and Show Understanding
of Employees’ Feelings and Frustrations
Employees who do not feel they have a forum with their supervisors for their concerns
may turn to the media or social exchange platforms to air their grievances. The Royal
Bank of Scotland actually used the power of employee social media exchange to help
them turn around their negative reputation following the economic downturn (Dodd,
2013). Management identified employees who could champion the company message
and created a support network for these engaged employees to collaborate. The Royal
Bank of Scotland provided the internal communication team of champions with insight
into the issues facing the entire workforce so they could interact with other employees
about their concerns. The company also supplied the champions with an unmoderated
comments board to share their feedback to employee complaints and suggestions, thus
helping to rebuild the bank’s internal reputation (Dodd, 2013).
Although individuals cannot always control negative situations, they do have con-
trol over their reactions. “Brightsiding” is a term coined by Shimoff (2008) to describe
a deliberate positive response to less-than-ideal circumstances. The theory underlying
the brightsiding concept is that people must be energized to have the strength and
courage to pull themselves out of hard times. According to Shimoff, each individual
has a happiness set point that provides a fixed range of happiness. Although she asserts
that the set point is 50% genetically determined through personality, it is the 50% that
is learned that can be influenced. Shimoff described various mental, emotional, spiri-
tual, and physical strategies for finding greater happiness in spite of circumstances.
Although some criticize the concept of brightsiding as simplistic and naïve, the
benefit of the technique is apparent when employees are enabled to compartmentalize
and think about things other than the negative. People can be fortified through laugh-
ter, positive thoughts, and the strength of relationships. According to corporate coach
and author Michelle DeAngelis, “Smiling causes the brain to release chemicals that
alter your mood. So faking it until you make it has some basis in science” (Worley,
2009). Deliberate positivity in light of challenge may be seen as insincere and super-
fluous if not used carefully. Helping employees find the silver lining does not mean
that challenges are disregarded or downplayed. Internal change can include elements
of fun and involvement. Contests that require teams of employees to reach certain
milestones in the transition or that solicit submissions for slogans, logo items designs,
or other such creative outlets can help to promote employee engagement.
Communicating effectively through change must be a two-way process. Although
important in every communication situation, listening is critical during a change pro-
cess (Filek, 2009). People enveloped in uncomfortable and uncertain situations have
worries they need to express, and they need assurance that their concerns are being
heard. Judith Filek (2009), president of Impact Communications, suggested strategies
for responsive listening in challenging times that include listening intently without
multitasking or interrupting the speaker, observing nonverbal language to uncover
possible hidden messages, withholding judgment, summarizing regularly for empathy
and understanding, and responding only after the speaker has concluded. Listening
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Communicating Organizational Change Part 1 449
obviously extends beyond the physical act that takes place in face-to-face encounters.
It includes being receptive to the various ways that employees communicate their
thoughts, concerns, and ideas, whether through traditional or technology-assisted
means. The proliferation of new communication channels—email, texting, video chat,
social media, and so on—has democratized internal communication in a potentially
positive way. Internal communication is increasingly cocreated between employees
and leadership. Organizations that use only traditional corporate channels to convey
messages to employees limit their capabilities to dated push approaches, missing valu-
able opportunities to engage employees in dialogue with management and one another
and to involve them in facing challenges and being part of the solution.
Assessing Communication Effectiveness
Various studies have attempted to link external communication strategies to an organi-
zation’s business performance; however, showing such an association is more difficult
when examining internal communication. Rather than focusing on the traditional
financial approach of calculating return on investment, nonfinancial indicators must
be considered, including employee satisfaction, engagement, turnover rate, and long-
term commitment (Meng & Berger, 2012; Tourish & Hargie, 2009). Solid internal
relationships bolstered by effective communication also form an important aspect of
organizational investment in ethics-related outcomes such as fraud reduction and repu-
tation management (Tilley, Fredricks, & Hornett, 2012).
Nelissen and van Selm (2008) found that employee satisfaction with management
communication is strongly related to their attitudes about organizational change. In
managing change, however, organizations also must avoid “resting on their laurels”
and should not assume that communication strategies that have appeared successful in
the past will continue to be effective. Veil (2011), for example, cautioned organiza-
tions to guard against overreliance on methods and processes that have worked in
previous situations, which limits the range of response. Overconfidence in past com-
munication processes can lead to a failure to make needed changes.
Organizations reveal their true values in the way management communicates with
employees during times of change and uncertainty. In challenging times, employees
can feel threatened, overworked, neglected, and afraid of what the future may hold.
Managers at all levels of the organization face the daunting task of inspiring others to
remain positive and productive in spite of changing circumstances, while not glossing
over the reality of the situation. Strategic planning and careful audience analysis are
essential to assuring that message content, timing, and delivery method are appropri-
ate. The benefits of effective internal communication, although not easily measured,
can be informally assessed through consideration of employee satisfaction, commit-
ment, and effort throughout the change process.
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450 Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 77(4)
Ethical disclosure and transparency are the most important requirements for com-
munication effectiveness during change. A unified management team must focus on
supporting employees through the challenges, rather than trying to spin communica-
tion. Employees should receive vital information regularly from management, instead
of relying on the news media or employee (or ex-employee) blogs and posts.
Encouraging optimism among those who are in the midst of change can enable them
to draw energy from within themselves and each other. Employee engagement in the
change process improves worker satisfaction and moves the organization toward its
goals. Organizations involved in change should embrace a wide array of methods for
building a sense of community within the organization through active dialogue.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of
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Author Biographies
Debbie D. DuFrene is professor emeritus of business communication at Stephen F. Austin
State University. She serves as a regional ABC vice-president and is coauthor with Carol M.
Lehman of multiple editions of two business communication textbooks (Cengage). She also
serves as editor of the corporate communication book collection for Business Expert Press.
Carol M. Lehman is professor emeritus of business management at Mississippi State
University. In addition to coauthoring textbooks with Debbie, they have recent publications in
Business Communication Quarterly and Journal of Research in Business Information Systems
and a trade book with Business Expert Press titled Managing Virtual Teams.
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... Change is everywhere, organizations do not exist in static environments, and constant adaption is required for organizations to survive (Appelbaum et al., 2012;DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Kotter et al., 2021;Thomas & Hardy, 2011). How organizations adapt, in a socially responsible mannerparticularly in terms of employee well-being, is the conceptual underpinning that drives the theory adaptation proposed within this paper. ...
... How organizations adapt, in a socially responsible mannerparticularly in terms of employee well-being, is the conceptual underpinning that drives the theory adaptation proposed within this paper. Change management models, including the Kotter eight-step change model, have pervasive influence in practice (By, 2005;Cummings et al., 2016;DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Mento et al., 2002). Yet, change initiatives are synonymous with introducing increased employee anxiety and stress, and employers are increasingly accountable for providing safe work environments (Battistelli et al., 2014;Cameron & Green, 2020;Dahl, 2011;Guidetti et al., 2018). ...
... Change Management Models as the Tools of the Change Practitioner Organizations, given their design for stability, need a clear plan in place to help employees through the inevitability of change (DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Malek & Yazdanifard, 2012). It is common for those charged with managing organizational change efforts (change practitioners) to utilize a change model in the delivery of an organizational change effort (By, 2005). ...
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The Kotter eight-step change model has a pervasive influence in the practice of change management; founded on building urgency towards the desired change through convincing employees that the status quo is more dangerous than the future state. We critique this positioning of the current state as dangerous, the proposition of using it to drive urgency, and the resultant employee anxiety and stress that is synonymous with organizational change. We reveal that positioning the current state as dangerous is a combative (and futile) strategy given the inescapable nature of status quo bias. To address this complication, we propose a theory adaptation that appreciatively leverages status quo bias and recommends invoking approach motivation based on communicating the pressing importance of the future state. MAD statement Change practitioners utilize change models to support organizations to adapt, with the hope that they simultaneously support employee well-being during transition. Our theory adaption, as justified and described in this paper, provides both practical and theoretical contributions to those who want to prioritize the well-being of employees during change efforts through leveraging empirically-established status quo bias.
... There must also be regular communications between the working group and the entire staff team, as well as strategic communications from me, as CEO, and from the volunteer board leadership to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and open lines of communication throughout the process. Timely and informative sharing and requests should come directly from management and senior leadership so that employees need not rely on rumours for information (DuFrene & Lehman, 2014). The OIP will be positioned as a tangible way to support the current and future growth of the staff members individually and as a team. ...
... Appropriate messages, messengers, and tools will be used to ensure maximum impact. For example, it is important for me in my organizational and change leadership capacity to present certain high-level messages to demonstrate transparency and to inspire the change (DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Saruhan, 2014), while it will be equally important for the working committee to provide messaging at various times directly to the broader staff team. Reiterating an important point from earlier in this chapter, frequent, honest, and informative communication must be provided throughout the entire change process. ...
... In essence, leaders of organizations can utilize crisis as risk to their organizational advantages and chance to search new fields of progressing their organization by using public and internal relations (DuFrene & Lehman, 2014). Within the dynamic positive outcomes when a crisis strikes are: leaders appear, new concepts are raised, modern policies are identified and latest strategies are implemented (Din, et al., 2021). ...
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... Dia mengakui bahwa pengetahuan adalah produk sosial, tidak dapat dipisahkan dari mereka yang memproduksinya (DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Walther, 1996;Webster, 2013). ...
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... Our discussion of environmental ethics will be of great use for increasing corporate social responsibility which, as we said earlier, is an important factor in creating a healthy moral climate Hansen et al., 2016). Effective communication is important for moral education as a trust building and knowledge sharing, and community building mechanism DuFrene & Lehman, 2014;Dehghan-Chaleshtori, M. & Zhang, J. 2020;Akbari et al. 2020;Coleman et al. 2019). Of course it has to happen in a context in which agents are morally informed and an effective code of conduct is cherished by all. ...
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In this paper, we propose a conceptual model to improve moral sensitivity in human resource development (HRD) to assist human resource (HR) practitioners in contending with moral challenges in HRD. The literature on the relationship between ethics and HRD suggests that the organizational and employee development discipline deals with ethical issues at three different levels: Individual, organizational and communal, and international levels. In section I, we elaborate on moral challenges facing HRD. In section II, we conceptualize moral sensitive HRD, and propose a conceptual model in virtue of some essential ethical theories and concepts, that assist HRD face those problems. We will show how each theory and concept can help HRD to deal with relevant problems. In section III, we elaborate on the practical approaches to implement moral sensitivity in HRD. We put forward some strategies that help HRD bring those theories and concepts to bear on the ethical problems facing this discipline. Finally, we discuss moral education through learning theories to cultivate moral concepts and ethical dimensions in HRD education.
Veränderungskommunikation ist ein Forschungs- und Handlungsfeld, das durch eine spezifische Situation – jene der organisationalen Veränderung – geprägt ist. Im Kontext von geplantem und emergentem Wandel werden ihr eine zentrale Bedeutung und verschiedene Aufgaben zugewiesen. Der Beitrag gibt einen Überblick über die Rolle von Veränderungskommunikation aus Sicht der PR- und Organisationskommunikationsforschung an der Schnittstelle zu Organisations- und Managementforschung. Er ordnet zunächst Change und Veränderungskommunikation begrifflich und theoretisch ein. Anschließend nimmt er strategische Veränderungskommunikation im Sinne einer Managementfunktion in den Blick, diskutiert ihre Ziele und Aufgaben, Stakeholder sowie Ausrichtung und Umsetzung und reflektiert diese Perspektive.
Purpose-The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to point out the importance of having an ethics-related course for human resource development (HRD) graduate programs; and second, to highlight HRD potential to minimize ethical misconducts through an ethical filter in organizations. Design/methodology/approach-This paper is conceptual in nature. The authors used their own experiences in HRD programs, looked at HRD graduate programs' curricula in different universities and reviewed literature on ethics and HRD to develop a conceptual model. The model is to guide future studies and identify the role of HRD practices to create an ethical climate in organizations. Findings-In this paper, the authors illustrate the connection between HRD practices and ethical climate in organizations by providing a conceptual framework. In the concluding paragraphs, the authors provide a discussion, implications and recommendations for future studies. Originality/value-The authors highlight the limited research conducted on how ethics and ethical dilemmas need to be represented in HRD practitioners' activities and practices. Many graduate-level HRD students do not receive enough training on ethics, whereas it is their responsibility to help improve organizational ethical climate and educate and prepare human resources to minimize ethical misconducts and wrongdoings. The paper provides a framework for HRD practitioners to create a strong ethical climate in their organizations.
This study used a qualitative grounded theory approach to explore disaster experiences of law enforcement officers (LEO)s ( n = 56), in two high disaster areas of the United States. Respondents indicated that disasters cause increased stress on LEOs from fatigue, extended shifts, changing duties, increased workload, work–family role conflict, and new operational expectations and challenges within the agency during disasters. Family safety was also identified as a critical stressor and pre-occupation for LEOs during disaster policing, as well as an enhanced reliance on critical thinking as an adaptive response to untrained for challenges that are unique to disasters.
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The aim of this paper is to present and discuss some of the main findings from a large survey of internal crisis management and crisis communication conducted in the spring of 2011 among public and private organizations in Denmark (the ICMCC survey). The survey was conducted among the 367 largest private companies (selected from DK 1000, established by Børsen business magasin) and among 98 public organizations (municipalities). The overall goal was to get a preliminary idea of how these companies or organizations perceive, plan, coordinate and implement internal crisis management and crisis communication activities before, during and after a crisis. The survey questionnaire comprised 36 questions and was sent to respondents who typically are responsible for the crisis-preparedness of their organizations. The results from the survey show that the vast majority of organizations have a crisis or contingency plan, and most of these plans contain an internal dimension relating to the management and communication with the internal stakeholders during a crisis. Thus, the study shows a rather professional and formalized behavior towards crisis management in general, but also when it comes to managing a crisis in relation to the internal organizational stakeholders in specific. In addition, the results clearly indicate a strong relation between organizational size and crisis management; the larger the organization the more likely to have a crisis plan. This particularly pertained to the private organizations. The ICMCC survey forms part of a major collaborative research project, financed by the Danish Council for Independent Research/Social Sciences (2011–2014), entitled Internal Crisis Management and Crisis Communication in Danish Organizations. The purpose of this three-year long project is to shed light upon the role of internal crisis management and crisis communication before, during and after an organizational crisis and/or a societal crisis leading to downsizing or major changes within an organization or an organizational field.
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All crises emit warning signals. And yet, organizations do not typically see the warnings in time to learn and adapt to prevent a crisis. This conceptual analysis bridges a theoretical gap by connecting current crisis management literature to rhetorical theories that identify barriers to organizational learning. Two connecting models are introduced to outline the barriers to learning, propose the inclusion of learning throughout the crisis cycle, and encourage the adoption of a mindful culture. Previous crisis models are described and an explanation of the similarities between Burkean philosophy and crisis research is presented. The Mindful Learning Model demonstrates how, if barriers are overcome, learning can not only lessen the impact of a crisis but also potentially prevent a crisis from occurring. Contentions of this analysis are detailed and a research agenda to extend mindful learning is outlined.
Auditing Organizational Communication is a thoroughly revised and updated new edition of the successful Handbook of Communication Audits for Organizations, which has established itself as a core text in the field of organizational communication. Research studies consistently show the importance of effective communication for business success. They also underscore the necessity for organizations to put in place validated techniques to enable them to systematically measure and monitor their communications. ThisHandbook equips readers with the vital analytic tools required to conduct such assessments. Owen Hargie, Dennis Tourish and distinguished contributors drawn from both industry and academia: provide a comprehensive analysis of research, theory and practice pertaining to the communication audit approach review the main options confronting organizations embarking on audit discuss the merits and demerits of the approaches available provide case studies of the communication audit process in action illustrate how findings can be interpreted so that suitable recommendations can be framed outline how reports emanating from such audits should be constructed. This second edition arrives at a time of considerable growing interest in the area. A large volume of research has been published since the last edition of the book, and the text has been comprehensively updated by reviewing this wealth of data. In addition, new chapters on social network analysis and auditing the communication revolution have been added, together with new case study chapters illustrating audits in action.
Purpose The purpose of this research is to investigate how senior communication executives measure the effectiveness of organizations’ internal communication efforts and link the efforts with organizations’ business performance. Design/methodology/approach An online international survey of 264 experienced business communicators was analyzed to identify those specific aspects of internal communication initiatives that have been measured by the organizations on a regular basis. In‐depth interviews with 13 senior communication executives were used as a supplementary approach to share their experiences and insights about measurement challenges in communication practices. Findings Results suggested that most business communicators and organizations recognized the importance of measuring organizations’ internal communication initiatives; however, limited metrics have been applied to the assessment process. Several specific aspects of internal communication initiatives (e.g., improved job performance, changed employee behaviors, concentrated employee engagement, etc.) have been given special attention in measurement. Research limitations/implications Future research would benefit from the discussion and findings in current measurement challenges and focus on testing the causal relationship between effective internal communication and improved business performance. Practical implications Business communicators should demonstrate a stronger request for a consultative leadership direction in the organization to be able to develop and test sets of reliable and consistent metrics and measurement approaches. Originality/value This research investigated the measurement challenges that senior communication executives have faced. It is important to recognize current trends and constraints in measurement to be able to leverage the value of communication practices in the organization.
Purpose This article aims to report the results of an international survey (USA and New Zealand) that tested relationship effects on ethical behaviour. The findings point to the impact of perceived social bonds on ethical decision‐making. They also reinforce the cultural specificity of ethics. Both these findings confirm the importance of participatory, ground‐up, discussion‐based approaches to developing organisational ethical standards. The article discusses some implications of these findings for internal communicators involved with ethics programmes in organisations. Design/methodology/approach The research used an established scenario‐style survey to test respondents' ethical decision‐making behaviours under different circumstances. Findings This article discusses two results that will impact on internal communication approaches to stimulating ethical attitudes and behaviours: the positive influence on people making ethics‐related decisions of a perceived relationship with those affected by the decision, and cultural differences. Research limitations/implications The research is limited by the functionalist, hypothetical, descriptive survey design which identifies responses but not motivations, and findings are limited to the specific scenarios described. The results show the importance of future research to elaborate connections between perceived relationships, ethics, and culture. Practical implications The paper offers practitioners a research method, which they can use to stimulate personal and group reflection among staff about ethical decision‐making and the different factors that can influence ethical choices. In confirming a connection between perceived relationships and choosing more ethical behaviour towards others, the findings may also reinforce the importance of internal relationship building as an important aspect of organisational investment in ethics‐related outcomes such as fraud reduction and reputation management. Originality/value The research provides evidence for some connections that have not previously been explored in the organisational context, between perceived relationships and ethical outcomes. It also confirms the cultural diversity of ethics, but shows that enhancing perceived relationships may help bridge cultural differences on ethical norms.
Purpose – This research aims to investigate how critical media coverage of an organisation affects its employees. The authors expect the effects to be similar to the way media coverage about an individual would affect this person, termed “reciprocal effects”. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on a framework for the analysis of reciprocal effects of mass media by Kepplinger and qualitative interviews among employees of 14 different organisations undergoing a crisis, the authors develop an employee-model of reciprocal effects for the context of organisational crises. Findings – This qualitative research shows that employees are affected by media coverage on a critical issue about their employer. Mass media are an important source of information for employees in critical situations. The data indicate interpersonal conversations with colleagues are also important for obtaining information and coping with the situation. Employees show emotional reactions, such as helplessness or shame, and a tendency to defend their employer. The better employees feel informed by their organisation's internal communication, the better they know how to cope with the situation. The data indicate that the effects vary with the employees' level of organisational identification. Practical implications – The findings imply that open and constant internal communication with employees during a crisis fosters reactions that stabilise the organisation in critical situations. Originality/value – The study presented here is the first systematic analysis of the impact of media coverage of an organisation on its employees.
In this study, the concept of forgiveness was proposed as an outcome variable to crisis management, and relationships among message appeals, causal attributions, and forgiveness were investigated. A 2 (causal attributions: internal vs. external) × 2 (message appeals: information-centered vs. emotion-centered) between-subjects design experimental study was conducted. The two types of causal attributions had significant main effects, and the different types of causal attributions and message appeals had interaction effects on forgiveness. This suggests the importance of selectively determining message appeals based on the public’s perception of causal attributions during a crisis.