Reflection Blog Post 3 (Week 5) – Does this Prove It?

As I am thinking about this week’s blog post, my mind goes to two concepts.  First that our hegemonic reality created by the Web 2.0 world is more like a cult than Stanley Deetz’ (1991) nation-state feudal system. Deetz’ analogy of corporations to a feudal system transfers to our obsessions with technology  in several ways, but I feel the small business individualized, even hegemony with the web a cult feel because we promote our own interests. We seek out those Facebook Pages we want, and we like them. Takeovers and mergers are less likely to happen here, and there’s almost no “constraints on information flow.” (Deetz, 1991, p. 15)

My second  thought was that doesn’t sharing this blog post with all of you eagerly awaiting it mean that we are already too far gone?

The power structure of this oppressive place is behind-the-scenes. If we turn on the computer, we have certain expectations: for us to get online, for it not to shut down. We expect that wherever we are, we are connected. Here Deetz is right, “the employee is first a resource, never a citizen” (Deetz, p.15). And as much as we felt the web was trying to target and cater to our needs, we know that there’s really just a few algorithms behind getting what we want (targeted ads). Yes we say, this is only going to go so far.

You can rename the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter #hashtag the “manufacture consent”  buttons. Anytime we tag or retweet or share a link or photo , we “willingly adopt and enforce the legitimate power of the organization, society, or system of capitalism” (Eisenberg et al, 2010, p.149). With each one of these we are telling Twitter or Facebook what we want to see, what we don’t and we want Twitter and FB to then run our lives. And that’s when those targeted ads and the “sorry we missed you” post in. For a while I resisted these practices by just staying away from twitter and putting tape over my webcam. With Facebook, I would barely check-in. The less you checked-in I thought, the more control you still have over your life. But as the Borg have said “resistance is futile.” And we are back to the hegemony.

In a Web 3.0 world where sites (and sounds) are more connected and open but more monitored, the less we will have control over the hegemony of technology. Studies and articles now feature companies that will further target ads, connect hour safety and security to your smart phone, and try to keep track of everything going on in your busy life. This sounds like a loss of identity to the “corporate colonization of your tech-life world.”

Deetz, S. (1991). Democracy in an age of corporate colonization: Developments in communication and the politics of everyday life. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Chapter 1.

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

Bringing a Company Together through the Company Newsletter: Textual Analysis Project

Textual Analysis Introduction & Rationale

Introduction

Many companies have instituted the company newsletter as a way to communicate in a lasting way to their employees. But what’s in a newsletter? How does that really engage and empower employees? Throughout my full-time career, I have contributed to, started up, or edited company newsletters. The target audiences have varied from local offices and plants to company department members in various offices throughout North America. What I have noticed most is how little value is placed on the company newsletter, and how much potential is lost when a company newsletter is ineffective. However, with a little research and analysis, the company newsletter can be the opposite: engaging and empowering.

Rationale

My rationale for choosing an employee newsletter to analyze is based on my own experience writing and editing newsletters in the workplace, how employees see and use newsletters, and the parallel of the effectiveness of the company newsletter with the downfall of print journalism.

Initially, managers love the idea of a company newsletter, but many do not know what to put in it. The first several editions of the newsletter then become akin to Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood: a good diversion, a source for information to boost small talk in the break room, but providing little that can be used long-term to keep the employee engaged. Soon after, managers give additional job duties, and the company newsletter becomes an afterthought.

However, this does not mean that employees do not want to be informed or engaged. This parallels to what we see socially in the world of print journalism. Though the method with which we get our news has changed, the need for effective truth-telling journalists has not. Jay Yarow analyzed a chart correlating the decline of print journalism to the need for journalists, saying “the good news in this chart is that despite the decline in the print business, the future of journalism looks like it should be okay. Companies still want to hire reporters.”(Yarow, 2013) The public trend is moving away from getting their news in a newspaper; employees do not want to search for information they need to know or call someone to get a question answered.

This is why the company newsletter can be an effective tool. With the company newsletter, the goal should be to provide information that is needed in a manner that the employee will absorb. It can also be an opportunity to get the employee engaged in his/her company. When we take time to read or watch the news, it’s because we care about what’s going on around us. We care about the subjects the news discusses. And advertisers know this and target those consumers. The same should apply to the company newsletter. Employers should promote initiatives that keep the employee engaged, promote a feeling of ownership and importance, and appeal to the willingness to work with employees to increase productivity (rather than telling employees what to do, like an employee handbook does).

Literature Review

Katherine Miller (2009) explanation of Maslow’s theory and its possible misuses should be of note to those creating company newsletters.  The principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are useful to note when thinking of organizational communication and management, but also of equal importance is how not to exploit these needs  an further widen the gap between manager and employee. Miller also talks about the content of communication and communication flow, which can be used to explain how the “Gazette” uses the human relations approach to reach employees.

Argenti’s (1998) article gives us a good how-to guide when creating effective employee communications. He describes the new environment and the more educated employee who now requires the more in-depth company newsletter. Argenti’s findings support Maslow’s theory, and his instructions provide a good measure to analyze my own company newsletter.

Byrne and LeMay’s (2006) research outlines how effective different employee communications are based on employee satisfaction and quality of information.

Preview

In an environment of classical management, our plant newsletter provides some of what Human Relations theorists prize in their romantic visions of manager and employee.  Several sections of our newsletter appeal to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and engage employees in the workplace to build connections and to take ownership.  Through a content analysis of an edition of the “Great Gazette” my company’s monthly newsletter using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, I will bring employees and managers closer together: at least in theory.

Reference

Yarow, Jay. “Chart of the Day: As the Print Industry Collapsed, Demand for Journalists Rose” Business Insider. August 12, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-as-the-print-industry-collapsed-demand-for-journalists-rose-2013-8#ixzz2mGyJM3Qx

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“‘What About Melissa?'” Reflection Blog (Week 3)

Simmons Insurance Group was lucky to get such a great employee. If Melissa’s managers were Theory X  managers, they would be baffled as to what to do with Melissa; she doesn’t fit any of their molds. But prescribing under the Human Resources Approach as Theory Y managers, they see Melissa is “highly motivated to satisfy achievement and self-actualization needs” and that their job is “to bring out the natural tendencies” (Miller, 41) of Melissa and others like her. So then, they look at her as an employee.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows the managers that as an employee, Melissa is thriving at Simmons.  She is a “star performer”, “well-liked by her co-workers in all departments” and as an intern “was a star performer” (Case Study). Working at Simmons is helping Melissa fulfill her Affiliation Needs, Esteem Needs, and Need for Self-Actualization (Miller, 39).

Furthermore, the managers analyze the work that Melissa wants to do. As the new Director of Internal Support, she wants “to bridge departments to ensure consistent, open communication and excellent customer relations.” (Case Study) This will benefit the company based on the principles of the Human Relations Approach. The managers recall the  Hawthorne Studies which found that “increased attention raises productivity” (Eisenberg, Goodall, Threthewey, p.73) and remember Elton Mayo’s belief “society is comprised of groups, not isolated individuals; that individuals are swayed by group norms” (Eisenberg et al, p.72). Bridging departments supports Mayo’s belief. Also Melissa’s additional responsibilities of supporting all the departments provides the increased attention, that may help increase the productivity at Simmons.

The managers call in Melissa to further explain the potential new position. This is to keep down conflict, or a “lack of shared understanding” (Eisenberg et al, p. 74) and to be open and honest with Melissa about their concerns. Finally, because they believe that she will succeed, and because Melissa is family–after all she’s grown up with them, from intern to senior claims associate–the managers decide to keep her on in the new position for a trial basis, while they work out the rest of the cutbacks. If Melissa keeps performing and producing at her level, she may not have to be on the chopping block.

Miller, K. (2009). Organizational communication: Approaches & processes. (5th ed.). NY: Wadsworth. Chapter 3.

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

Week 1 Blog -Technology forces people into jobs they love

When I was in undergrad in the 90’s, I had a desire to be a creative writer, maybe even for a science magazine because I love nature so much.  But because it was engrained in me that that kind of job wasn’t stable, I just got my degree and got a job that was. Though where I ended up and where I would have ended up may have been two different places, the journey on one level would have still be the same, because of all the changes within the past 20 years.

1)Two of these changes affected me, and probably would have no matter which route I took 2-3a) the technology boom leading to job instability and 2-3b) a social mindset change of doing what you love instead of what you’re paid to do.

2-3a) When the boom in technology hit the way we work, many processes became more streamlined. They were also more individualized and simpler for people at different levels to use correctly. There was less paperwork, less bureacracy and faster turnaround times.

However, there also were less jobs. Though the manufacturing area was hardest and most obviously hit, what’s not talked about are the number of lower level white collar jobs that have been lost due to technological advances. Digital VoIP systems replaced switchboard operators and receptionists, Microsoft Office, Outlook, and Lotus Notes replaced traditional secretaries, online purchasing systems, such as Ariba replaced many AP billing and receiving personnel.

Because of the loss of many of these support personnel, this required middle managers and program managers to become more self-reliant and to learn how to manage not just people and accounts, but also their administrative tasks. The look of the workforce started to change: older employees who could not adapt to new technology were being pushed out, or into less complex jobs, while younger, more tech savvy workers were hired and job descriptions were changed to meet new workload demands.

Individuals had various responsesto this technological change. Many went back to school or took specialized classes to improve their computer skills. Companies realized this could make them more productive and many provided learning development classes and tuition assistance for employees. Some changed their professions, realizing support and manufacturing jobs would continue to decrease. And still others opted to retire if eligible.

2-3b) People started to realize that job stability was no longer a norm in any company; it was a lucky perk. To add to the  changes in the work landscape, the Great Recession of 2008 forced many people out of very lucrative jobs. Because of the nature of the recession, they could no longer find those jobs again.  This helped change the way people viewed work. If we’re not guaranteed a job, and we’re not going to get paid  enough to have the comforts we want outside of our jobs, we better start doing something we like.

Currently I’m affected by this change. As an administrative support professional, I realize these positions will continue to be phased out, and because of supply-demand they will not be paid at the levels they were in the past. If i’m going to spend 40+ hours a week doing something and making little monetary compensation, I should get some emotional or mental satisfaction out of what I’m doing. This is the mindset of a lot of people who were adversly affected by the Recession. What results is a number of start-up and small businesses, giving consumers more customized offerings than before. The trends in the consumer markets are moving away from big box stores, to online shopping, and small brick-and-mortar stores. People are going back into the service industry again, but as business owners. Because some want to do what they love but don’t like the idea of being out there alone, they instead contract with bigger companies, or work freelance on dedicated projects, giving them the income they need, but also the flexibility to do what they want.

Individuals are re-thinking what they want out of their jobs, and their lives, and they’re no longer thinking about those things separately.

4) When I see these changes affected our workforce on such a grand scale, i am convinced constant change is inevitable in our organizing practices. Some of these changes (like technological advancement) are spurred on by free-market forces: competition for consumer dollars, the need for the latest and greatest device. And when that happens, organizing practices can’t help to continuously change.