Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Organisational Physical Environments: Environmental Reading, Communication and Embarrassment

Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Organisational Physical Environments: Environmental Reading, Communication and Embarrassment

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Human societies, including organisations, are located in space (and time) and "the world of everyday life is structured both spatially and temporally" suggest Berger and Luckmann (1966:26), As humans, our relationship with other humans is affected by the physical world we live in, claims Schiffer (1975). These authors imply that we relate to each other through our senses and interactions, through objects and objectivations that we select, create, modify, use and value. If it is true that the physical environment is important, then we can expect it to figure prominently in the ways people structure their existences, their lives, and their relations with others, even in organisations.

Scholarship in the area of organisations and physical environments has largely taken an instrumental perspective with research focusing on: (a) how environmental features, such as space, noise, lighting, temperature, humidity, or ventilation affected persons and how controlling these could help them perform better (for overview see Sundstrom, 1986; Parsons, 1976; Wineman, 1986); (b) how psychological perceptions, cognitions/ and attitudes affect organisational behaviour (Wineman, 1986); and (c) how physical environments can effect organisations to perform more efficiently (and in instances effectively) (Brill et- al., 1984; Stokols, 1986; Becker, 1981; Becker & Steele, 1995; Ellis, 1986; Zeisel, 1986; Vischer, 2005; Davis, 1984; Dolden & Ward, 1986).

Besides "the instrumental approach however, there is a symbolic view that posits that the physical environment, objects, and artifacts can also be invested with symbolism, used as a means of non-verbal communication, wherein people communicate by the way they select, arrange, display (or not display) objects and artifacts (see Reusch and Kees, 1966; Hall, 1959; Athos and Coffey, 1968; Rapoport, 1982; Knapp, 1980 for examples). Office desk arrangement sends messages regarding how and how far a visitor to the space may approach (Joiner, 1971, 1976; see also Zweigenhaft, 1976). Several writers have mentioned that office accouterments become status markers and that organisations set the stage for this by linking position in the organisational hierarchy with eligibility for and provision of specific accessories (Duffy, 1969; Konar and Sundstrom, 1986; Vischer, 2005). Though status markers are discussed in general terms, there are no universal or widely followed standards for positions or appurtenances- Organisations seem to create their own idioms and members of organisations attach values to specific artifacts. There is little scholarship on how organisational members create and use symbols, what these mean to them, and whether these are solely status markers or are they viewed in other ways as well (scholarship in other areas seems to suggest this, see Goffman, 1967; Gross and Stone, 1973; Sagarin, 1973; Fussell, 1983)? The symbolic perspective also suggests that artifacts can be invested with meaning.

Organisation theory has viewed organisations as economic and financial enterprises, systems of production, profit-generating mechanisms, as machines, organisms, objects, as real estate or other tradable assets, closed and open social systems, as sociotechnical systems, among others (Morgan, 1986; Pfeffer, 1982). How one treats an organisation depends in part on one's view. Three approaches are promising for our purpose. Organisations are viewed as communication systems (Rogers and Agarwala-Rogers, 1976) but here nonverbal" communication involving physical elements is mostly overlooked. Related to this is the organisations as symbolic systems approach (Salancik and Pfeffer, 1978; Peters, 1978; Pfeffer, 1981; Ornstein, 1992; Doxtater, 1990). Arid the organisations as cultures view (Deal and Kennedy, 1982; Ouchi and Wilkins, 1985; Jelinek, et. ah, 1983; Kanter, 1977; Louis, 1980; Doxtater, 1981; 1994; Schein, 1985) suggests that organisations located in a cultural milieu are influenced by the larger culture (Pascale and Athos, 1981; Jelinek et. …

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.