Organizational Communication Theory

Instructor: Bill White
Office: Room 305, 192 College Avenue (SCILS Annex)
Hours: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. (3rd period)
Phone: (732) 932-8512/1723/7304

Class Location: CIL 212 (SCILS Building, Rm. 212)
Meeting Times: MW 1:10-2:30 p.m. (4th period)

Textbook: Conrad, C.  & Poole, M.P. (1998). Strategic organizational communication: Toward the twenty-first century (4th ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.


The question of how organizations work -- or, more precisely, how people work within organizations -- is central to an understanding of modern society, for two reasons. First, organizations are the instruments through which society accomplishes its social, political, and economic functions. Second, organizational membership plays a powerful role in shaping individual experience. The study of organizational communication addresses the question of how organizations work by focusing on the structures and dynamics of interaction among individuals within an organizational setting. It tries to understand how those interactions are shaped by organizational contexts, and how those interactions in turn give rise to the organization itself, as an "emergent property" of interaction.

In this course, we will explore the topic of organizational communication by examining the different models and metaphors through which scholars have attempted to understand organizations, from the mechanistic perspective of "scientific management" to the ecological or organismic view of systems theory. We will discuss the implications of these models in terms of what they imply about the nature of human behavior and motivation, the role or function of organizations within society, and the role of communication within organizations.

Topics of interest to us over the course of the semester will include leadership, decision-making, organizational socialization and acculturation, the effects of organizational culture, intra- and interorganizational communication networks, structures of formal and informal communication, supervisor-subordinate communication, organizational conflict, issues of power and ethics, and a variety of others. By the end of the course, you will hopefully gain an understanding of how our "theories of organization" -- native and scholarly -- shape our behavior in organizational life.

Assignments & Grading
Assignment Description Weight
Midterm Exam An exam covering the first half of the semester. 25%
Final Exam A cumulative exam at the end of the semester. 30%
Literature Review A 10 to 12 page paper that describes research relevant to an org. comm.-related topic of your choice, due at the end of the semester. 30%
Topic Statement A short description of the topic of your literature review, probably about 2-3 pages in length.  See the Literature Review guidance for more details. 5%
Article Summaries 5 one-page summaries of articles relevant to your literature review.  See the Literature Review guidance for more details. 5%
Various Other Assignments A handful of short assignments given over the course of the semester. 5%

Due dates for most of these assignments are indicated on the class schedule below. No late assignments will be accepted other than for religious or medical reasons, which must be documented.

Midterm & Final Exams. These will probably be multiple-choice exams based on the textbook and classroom lecture and discussion.

Literature Review. I want you to identify a fairly specific topic or problem in organizational communication and then go see what the organizational communication and related literatures have to say about that problem. The result of your efforts will be a short summary of the current state of knowledge related to that topic.

Topic Statement. This is intended to get you started thinking about a topic for the literature review, and give me an opportunity to give you feedback and guidance on the project.

Article Summaries. One- or two-page summaries of the main theoretical points or findings of articles related to the topic of your literature review.

Various Other Assignments. These will be announced in class at various times, and may consist of quizzes, in-class exercises, or take-home assignments.

Course Schedule
Wed., Sept. 1
Admin. Business
Wed., Sept. 8
Intro to Org. Comm.
Read Chapter 1
Mon., Sept. 13
Traditional Models
Read Chapter 2
Wed., Sept. 15
Traditional Models
Ch. 2, cont.'d
Mon., Sept. 20
Relational Models
Read Chapter 3
Wed., Sept. 22
Relational Models
Ch. 3, cont.'d
Topic Statement due
Mon., Sept. 27
Cultural Models
Read Chapter 4
Wed., Sept. 29
Cultural Models
Ch. 4, cont.'d
Mon., Oct. 4
Read Chapter 5
Summary 1 due
Wed., Oct. 6
Ch. 5, cont.'d
Mon., Oct. 11
Read Chapter 6
Wed., Oct. 13
Ch. 6, cont.'d
Mon., Oct. 18
Review for Midterm
Summary 2 due
Wed., Oct. 20
Midterm Exam
Mon., Oct. 25
Go Over Midterm
Wed., Oct. 27
Take the day off
Mon., Nov. 1
Read Chapter 7
Summary 3 due
Wed., Nov. 3
Ch. 7, cont.'d
Mon., Nov. 8
Read Chapter 8
Wed., Nov. 10
Ch. 8, cont.'d
Mon., Nov. 15
Read Chapter 9
Summary 4 due
Wed., Nov. 17
Ch. 9, cont.'d
Mon., Nov. 22
Read Chapter 10
Mon., Nov. 29
Read Chapter 11
Wed., Dec. 1
Read Chapter 12
Summary 5 due
Mon., Dec. 6
Ch. 12, cont'd
Wed., Dec. 8
Review for Final
Turn in Lit Review
Tue., Dec 21 (8 am)
Final Exam