Academic journal article Communication Studies

Metaphoric Manifestations of Talking "Team" with Team Novices

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Metaphoric Manifestations of Talking "Team" with Team Novices

Article excerpt

When Shakespeare's Juliet pondered the importance of labels, she concluded, "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But we who study human communication take labels a little more seriously. We know that words are not simply containers that carry meaning. They are not simply handy verbal pointers to the particulars in a world of things. Words carry symbolic weight that goes far beyond the referent. For example, one would be technically accurate to reference a rose as an angiosperm, and in many states the multiflora rose has been officially designated a noxious weed. But if Juliet had expressed her affection by likening Romeo to an "angiosperm" or a "noxious weed," it is quite possible that he would never have even attempted the climb up to her balcony.

The impact of the labels used in talk has been a focus for researchers exploring a wide variety of communication contexts including racial identity (Martin, Krizek, Nakayama, & Bradford, 1996; Niven & Zilber, 2000; Smith, 1992), intimate relationships (Hecht, 1984), political communication (Clemmer & Payne, 1991), journalism (Turow, Caplan, & Bracken, 2000), written communication (Tomlinson, 1988), and communication regulation (Napoli, 1999) to name a few. The organizational context is brimming with specialized labels and jargon, and communication researchers have recognized the impact of those labels on the perceptions and behaviors of organizational members (e.g., Czarniawska-Joerges & Joerges, 1988). The "team" label has been popular and pervasive in organizational settings for some time. Getting employees to work "like a team" has become a vital concern. In fact, Morgan (1997b) suggests that "teamwork has become a sacred aspect of management" and so the accusation of not being a "team player" is today "one of the ultimate corporate insults" (p. 196). Organizational groups are trading in old names like committees, task forces, boards, departments, cabinets, and commissions for the team label. Designations like "Team Xerox" and "Team McDonald's" heard in television commercials and seen on employee uniforms show that the team label has been applied not only to smaller organizational work groups, but to entire international companies. When any label is used so broadly, though, its meaning and potential impact on human perception and action become difficult to determine.

The purpose of this study is to explore what "team" means to organizational members who so often find themselves surrounded by organizational "team talk." More specifically, the focus will be on potential new employees or team novices who, due to a lack of direct experience with teams in a specific organizational context, must seek understanding by relying on associations based on their experiences in the broader culture. First, we introduce the idea of the team label as an intermediate and ambiguous metaphor and offer some theoretical grounding. This leads into the report of a study designed to give insight into team novices' understandings of the team metaphor followed by discussion of implications for organizational training and effectiveness.

THE TEAM LABEL: POWER IN THE PACKAGING

The introduction of the team approach to U.S. organizations has been treated as a distinct paradigm shift for organizational structure and strategy. However, the team approach is actually a reselling of a long established research tradition focused on the application of groups in organizations, as Sundstrom, DeMeuse, and Futrell (1990) aptly noted over a decade ago. Despite this fact, the flood of texts, business guides, and training programs carrying the "team" label and promising something on the "cutting edge" continues. This is not meant to suggest that team approaches offer nothing new. Some applications have emerged that propose clearly unique philosophies, structures, and human processes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.