Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Extending Organizational Memory and Corporate Communications Research Via Autoethnography/autobiography

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Extending Organizational Memory and Corporate Communications Research Via Autoethnography/autobiography

Article excerpt

Corporate communications research is similar to other management and management communication disciplines insofar as the discipline "trails other fields that have long since questioned objectivity in quantum and postquantum science and have learned from feminism in making the personal a valid part of scholarship" (Xifra & McKie, 2011, p. 399). In fact, corporate communications scholarly research often views subjectivity as an impure element that has no place in the realm of scholarly research endeavors. In this case example, we directly challenge this prevailing notion. One way to advance our understanding of the discipline and push the boundaries of corporate communication research is to explore underused methods and under-championed paradigms. Existing corporate communication research relies heavily on prevailing functionalist paradigms and social scientific methods of scholarly inquiry, as evidenced by the articles predominantly cited in the academic journals dedicated to corporate communication and public relations (Chappell & Moon, 2005; Frederick, 1994; Griffin & Mahon, 1997; Suchman, 1995). Many of these articles are quantitative in nature and center on business effectiveness including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) measurement and assessment.

The aforementioned is not a criticism of corporate communication research, but rather is an observation of the state of the field. Few can question the ways that CSR studies have contributed greatly to the advancement of corporate communication research. Scholars have argued that engaging in CSR activities can contribute to corporate reputation (Carroll, 1999), and strong reputations may provide firms the ability to charge premium prices, attract better applicants, retain employees, enhance their access to capital markets, and attract investors (Fombrun & Shanley, 1990). Due in part to this potential positive effect, researchers developed and further refined measures to evaluate how well organizations were meeting their corporate responsibilities (Albinger& Freeman, 2000; Luce, Barber, & Hillman, 2001; Mattingly & Berman, 2006; Turban & Greening, 1997) as well as determine relationships between corporate social and financial performance (Roman, Hayibor, & Agle, 1999; Waddock & Graves, 1997; Wang & Choi, 2013). Even qualitative scholars (see Topic & Tench, 2016) have explored how multinational corporations use CSR communication differently depending on the socio-cultural contexts of the countries in which they operate. However, a focus on CSR advancement--driven by statistical evidence and experimental designs--might create theoretical blind spots for corporate communication researchers (as researchers might see studying such topics is a more likely pathway for publication). At the very least, such a focus obscures the fact that there might exist alternative methods and lines of inquiry that might help to further the development of--as well as add further nuance to--corporate communication scholarship. In sum, organizations are cultural spaces that are present across the globe. People who compose organizations bring to their workplaces different beliefs, values, attitudes, and assumptions--especially in the day and age of the multinational corporation. These varying perspectives shape or challenge dominant organization memories. Relying exclusively on experiments or survey data, for example, likely ignores the major reasons people find work enjoyable, the reasons they strongly identify with an organization, or the reasons they might feel isolated or discriminated against. More critical and qualitative investigations are warranted in corporate, management, and business communication contexts.

In this essay we demonstrate the value of using other methods of inquiry to advance disciplinary knowledge as well as advance understanding of business practice. We argue that autoethnography, as an autobiographical method of research inquiry, has the potential to shed unique insights into the lived work experiences of key organizational stakeholders unlike other methods of inquiry. …

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