Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Looking for a Few Good Sources: Exploring the Intraorganizational Communication Linkages of First Line Managers

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Looking for a Few Good Sources: Exploring the Intraorganizational Communication Linkages of First Line Managers

Article excerpt

Weber (1945) viewed bureaucracies as a special type of organization oriented toward the pursuit of relatively stable and specific goals and characterized by relatively high degrees of formal role definitions and written rules. The sanctioned communication channels or links within this structure were in accordance with the traditional and very formal vertical chain of command. This type of organizational structure offered little encouragement or acknowledgement of the need for horizontal or diagonal interaction among organizational members.

Although Weber's bureaucratic model has been very influential in organizational research, there has been considerable criticism of this type of mechanistic design (Katz & Kahn, 1966; Scott, 1981). Burns and Stalker (1966), in particular, argued that, under some conditions, organizations should have a more flexible, or organic, structure that allowed communication across various organizational departments and hierarchical levels. A number of authors have suggested new organizational designs that are based on organic principles, such as open systems, adhocracies and matrix structures (Davis & Lawerence, 1977; Drucker, 1988; Katz & Kahn, 1966; Miles & Snow, 1986; Mintzberg, 1979; Peters, 1988).

The proponents of these more organic designs suggest that, in order to cope with internal organizational uncertainty and increase work effectiveness, organizational members should develop and use a variety of intraorganizational links (Beer, 1980; Mintzberg, 1979; Weick, 1979). Specifically, organizational members may use these links to communicate with other organizational members who could be helpful in providing the information and resources necessary to accomplish work goals and reduce the amount of task uncertainty. Consequently, forming intraorganizational links may be crucial for conducting the informational search activities needed for smooth organizational functioning and problem solving under conditions of high uncertainty (e.g., Mintzberg, 1979; Scott, 1981; Thompson, 1967).

Consequently, one reason organizational members form intraorganizational links is to identify other organizational members who might be good sources of work-related information. While organizational members may have many opportunities to form a variety of intraorganizational communication links, all individuals may not be equally effective in identifying sources of information and in forming intraorganizational links. Rather, individual differences, such as cognitive style, may affect an individual's ability to form appropriate intraorganizational links. For this reason, the crossing of organizational boundaries is likely to depend on an organizational members cognitive ability to identify appropriate sources of information in order to reduce perceived uncertainty. To date, the possibility that individual differences in information processing capabilities may influence the formation of intraorganizational links has not been widely considered in the organizational design and communication literatures.

This focus on intraorganizational communication links raises another important issue: the specific channel, or direction (that is, vertical, horizontal or diagonal) of the link (Blair, Roberts & McKechnie, 1985; Jablin, 1982; Lee & Zwerman, 1975; Porter & Roberts, 1976). An organizational member's choice of what channels or direction of link to use to access the information or resources needed may also be influenced by individual differences such as an individual's cognitive style. These relationships will be discussed in greater detail below.

Literature Review

Crossing internal organizational boundaries to gather information and resources is often considered to be a formal part of a managers role (Mintzberg, Raisinghani, & Theoret, 1976) and is considered an integral part of leadership ability (House, 1971; Yukl, 1989). Managers and supervisors are in formal organizational positions that usually allow them easier access to sources of information and resources outside their units than are non-managers. …

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