Critical Theory of Communication Approach to Organizations


Stanley Deetz is a theorist who uses critical communication theory to balance corporate and human interests.

His work is based on the premise that corporations are political as well as economic institutions.

He believes that critical communication theory can be used to diagnose distorted corporate decision making.

Deetz believes that workplaces can be made more productive and democratic through communication reforms.

Corporate colonization of everyday life:

Deetz views multinational corporations as the dominant force in society.

He believes that corporate control has sharply diminished the quality of life for most citizens.

Deetz scrutinizes the structure of the corporate world. His theory of communication is 'critical' because he questions the primacy of corporate prosperity.

Information vs. Communication: A difference that makes a difference

Deetz challenges Shannon and Weaver's theory that communication is the transmission of information. He believes that corporate information perpetuates corporate dominance.

Deetz's communication model emphasizes language's role in shaping social reality

  1. Language does not represent things that already exist i.e. golden hand-shake
  2. Corporations subtly produce meanings and values. i.e. down-sizing

Deetz considers communication to be the ongoing social construction of meaning, but he emphasizes the issue of power runs through all language and communication.

  1. Managerial control often takes precedence over representation or long-term company health.
  2. Codetermination, on the other hand, epitomizes participatory democracy.
  3. Public decisions can be formed through strategy, consent, involvement and participation.

Strategy-overt managerial control

Managerialism values control above all else

The desire for control can even exceed the desire for corporate performance

The quest for control is evident in the corporation aversion to public conflict

Strategic control does not benefit the corporation, and it alienates employees and causes rebellion.

Because of these drawbacks, most managers prefer to maintain control through voluntary consent.

Consent-covert control without objection

Consent is the variety of situations and processes in which someone atively, though unknowingly, accomplishes the interests of others in the faulty attempt to fulfill his or her interests.

Consent is developed through managerial control of elements of corporate culture, workplace, language, information, forms, symbols, rituals and stories.

The force of organizational practice is strongest when it is unrecognized or associated with common sense. i.e. Letter grades, Grade Point Average, Admission Standards. The hierarchy built into the professorate. i.e. Sessionals, Instructors, Professors.

Involvement-free expression of ideas:

Through open discussion, employees air their grievances, state their desires, and recommend improvements.

But free expression is not the same as having a 'voice' in corporate decisions, and knowledge of this difference creates worker cynicism. i.e committees

Participation-stakeholder democracy in action

Meaningful democratic participation creates better citizens and social choices while providing economic benefits.

Deetz advocates open negotiations of power

There are six classes of stakeholders, each with unique needs.

  1. Investors
  2. Workers
  3. Consumers
  4. Suppliers
  5. Host communities
  6. Greater society and the world community

Some stakeholders have taken greater risks and made longer-term investments than have stockholders and top-level managers.

Managers should mediate, rather than persuade, coordinating the conflicting interests of all parties.

Calgary-Based WestJet Airlines Ltd. exemplifies Deetz's recommendations

All workers should think and act like owners

Management should be reintegrated into production

Quality information must be widely distributed

Social structure should grow from the bottom rather than be forced from the top



Wood, Julia. (1997) Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction Wadsworth Publishing Company.

McClish, Glen. (1997). Instructor's Manual to Accompany EM Griffin's A First Look at Communication Theory McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Griffin, EM. (1997) A First Look at Communication Theory. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.


THE FIRM-Interview

G.I. JANE-First scene of the hearing proceedings


Stanley Deetz is a theorist who uses critical communication theory to balance corporate and human interests.

His work is based on the premise that corporations are political as well as economic institutions.

Corporate colonization of everyday life Information vs. Communication

  1. Strategy-overt managerial control
  2. Consent-covert control without objection
  3. Involvement-free expression of ideas:
  4. Participation-stakeholder democracy in action


CHART P. 288