Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly


Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly


Article excerpt

When basketball superstar Isiah Thomas resigned his position as general manager and part owner of the Toronto Raptors, James Christie (1997, November 22) reported in the Toronto Globe and Mail that the American Thomas "basically said it was a mistake coming to Canada [and] that he should have informed himself better about the business landscape" (p. A24). Christie's coverage of the controversial resignation compared Thomas to a slick televangelist, a "cult leader," and emphasized this player's roots in the Chicago housing projects "with a drug dealer as one of his brothers." The coverage demonstrates that Canadian business leaders failed to understand Thomas as much as he, an American entrepreneur, failed to understand Canadian business.

We may not think of Canada as being all that much different from the US, but US entrepreneurs, like Isiah Thomas, have discovered significant differences between the two countries' business systems, differences that can affect the success or failure of cross-border business transactions. Since the US-Canada trading relationship is the world's largest, we need techniques for creating and maintaining a better understanding between these two nations. More specifically, as academics in the field of business communication, we can start by approaching Canada as a unique culture, worthy of the same attention we give to understanding business communication in Japan, Germany, and the US. This article attempts to approach Canada as a unique business culture by providing an overview of Canada's own significant business communication research efforts.

Definition and Scope

On one level, Canadian research in business communication shares some similarities with business communication as a research discipline in the US. The January 1998 Special Issue of The Journal of Business Communication, edited by Margaret Baker Graham and Charlotte Thralls, describes how researchers are struggling to define this interdisciplinary discipline at a time when many are isolated, underfunded, and over-worked. Canadian business communication researchers are no exception, but for many Canadian researchers inside and outside Canada, disciplinary identity is a small part of the struggle for cultural identity. Canada is a culture undergoing major transition in an effort to define itself. Canada is moving from a colonial to a post-colonial condition, from a natural resource-based economy to the information age. The search for disciplinary identity in Canadian business communication research is inherently tied to Canada's cultural identity crisis.

My purpose in this article is to provide a brief overview of the ways in which Canadian researchers inside and outside of Canada have been building a profile for Canadian business communication research. I describe some major research efforts, themes and topics for Canadian research, and key ways in which Canadian research is disseminated.

Issues Facing Canadian Researchers

As elsewhere, Canadian researchers in our field come from a range of disciplines, including scholars in English, technical communication, rhetoric and composition, applied language studies, and management communication. Our interdisciplinary discipline encompasses scholarship from a wide range of fields and disciplines, all with the same object of studying communication in the workplace (Locker, 1998).

Gaining an Institutional Presence

Doing research in business communication has not always been acceptable in Canadian academe. We can thank such pioneers as Margot Northey, Kathleen Slaughter, and Ron S. Blicq for raising the profile of business communication research in Canada and for paving the way for other researchers. These and others have earned recognition for business communication by starting or maintaining programs at Canada's most prestigious institutions. In addition to these programs, business communication textbooks by Northey (1998); Slaughter, Long, & Bell (1990); and Blicq (1985) have further institutionalized business communication in Canada, particularly by presenting Canadian business examples and cases. …

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