The communication consequences of downsizing trust, loyalty and commitment.
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What does the future hold for the theory and practice of management? What role, if any, is there for organisational communication in these deliberations? Exactly which aspects of communication contribute centrally to the core of corporate practice? This book addresses itself to these and other key issues. In this chapter our objective is to contextualise the book by examining a number of areas central to this overall ambition. • We look at the business context in which most organisations now work. Many if not all are under enormous external pressure. The agenda faced by managers is crowded to breaking point. These pressures sometimes see organisations fragment rather than cohere. A primary focus on the bottom line has often elbowed other considerations, including communication, to the sidelines. In the process, the theory and practice of management has entered into crisis. Many aspects of this crisis are explored in this book, and we showcase some of the main themes in the present chapter. • We explore whether organisational communication makes any difference to how organisations function and how their internal relationships are managed. Recent years have seen a voluminous research literature into the human dimensions of organisational functioning. Communication has contributed tothis, directly and indirectly. Our discussion of these issues does not presume that all members of organisations share a common set of interests and a readily agreed set of priorities or goals - what some researchers would describe as a ‘unitarist’ or ‘functionalist’ bias. Rather, it is to emphasise that while many management theorists have been developing inclusive agendas of involvement, participation and empowerment, most management practice has been marching to a different drum, and in the opposite direction. • We discuss precisely what we mean by the terms ‘communication’ in general, and organisational communication in particular. Our intention is to alert readers at the outset to the themes that they will find in the chapters to follow. Contributors to this volume repeatedly discuss the communications implications of issues that have been deemed vital to the theory and practice of management. It is essential that readers appreciate the full range of issues implied by any discussion of communication, the better to grasp their full implications. • We summarise some key debates in the field concerning the parameters of organisation science and organisational communication. Thus, we acknowledge that there is no one agreed agenda guiding communication research, or a single theoretical paradigm that is employed when communication processes are analysed. For example, some researchers adopt a critical management perspective, in which a principal concern is to explore relationships of power and domination. Others pursue a more positivistic agenda, characterised by a search for causal explanations of observable phenomenon. Readers will find a variety of approaches in the text, and are alerted here to some of the main issues involved.Clearly, therefore, this book is not intended as an introductory text on organisational communication or management. While we outline some basic principles of communication in this chapter, the main thrust of the book is to explore the brutal dilemmas that now confront organisations daily, and illuminate many of the debates engulfing the field from the often neglected perspective of communication studies.