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short video overview (3:01).

Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 21—Critical Theory of Communication in Organizations

  1. Introduction.
    1. Stanley Deetz’ critical communication theory seeks to unmask what he considers unjust and unwise communication practices within organizations.
    2. His theory advocates “stakeholder participation.” He believes that everyone who will be significantly affected by a corporate policy should have a meaningful voice in the decision-making process.
  2. Corporate colonization and control of everyday life.
    1. Deetz views multinational corporations as the dominant force in society.
    2. That pervasive influence isn't necessarily all bad—they can use their clout for good.
    3. But corporate control has sharply diminished the quality of life for most citizens.
    4. Deetz wants to examine communication practices in organizations that undermine fully representative decision making and thus reduce the quality, innovation, and fairness of business decisions.
  3. Information or communication; Transmission or the creation of meaning.
    1. Deetz challenges the view that communication is the transmission of information, a view that perpetuates corporate dominance.
    2. He warns, however, that as long as we accept the notion that communication is merely the transmission of information, we will continue to perpetuate corporate dominance over every aspect of our lives.
    3. Deetz contends that each line item in an annual report is constitutive—created by corporate decision makers who have the power to make their decisions stick.
    4. All corporate communication is an outcome of political processes that are usually undemocratic and usually hurt democracy.
    5. Deetz offers a communication model that emphasizes the role of language in shaping social reality.
      1. Language does not represent things that already exist; it produces what we believe to be “self-evident” or “natural.”
      2. Corporations subtly produce meanings and values.
      3. Deetz moves even further away from a representational view of language when he not only says that meanings are in people, but asks us to consider whose meanings are in people.
    6. Like Pearce and Cronen, Deetz considers communication to be the ongoing social construction of meaning, but unlike CMM’s authors, he emphasizes that the issue of power runs through all language and communication.
    7. Deetz offers a 2 x 2 model that contrasts communication as information vs. communication as creating reality, and managerial control vs. codetermination.
    8. Managerial control often takes precedence over representation of conflicting interests or long-term company and community health.
    9. Co-determination, on the other hand, epitomizes participatory democracy.
    10. Public decisions can be formed through strategy, consent, involvement, and participation—the four cells depicted in the model.
  4. Strategy—overt managerial moves to extend control.
    1. Deetz contends that managers are not the problem—the real culprit is managerialism.
    2. Managerialism is a discourse that values control above all else.
    3. Forms of control based in communication systems impede any real worker voice in structuring their work.
    4. The desire for control can even exceed the desire for corporate performance.
    5. The quest for control is evident in the corporate aversion to public conflict.
    6. Strategic control does not benefit the corporation, and it alienates employees and causes rebellion.
    7. Because of these drawbacks, most managers prefer to maintain control through workers’ voluntary consent.
  5. Consent: Unwitting allegiance to covert control.
    1. Through the process that Deetz calls consent, most employees willingly give their loyalty without getting much in return.
    2. Consent describes a variety of situations and processes in which someone actively, though unknowingly, accomplishes the interests of others in the faulty attempt to fulfill his or her own interests.
    3. Consent is developed through managerial control of elements of corporate culture: workplace language, information, forms, symbols, rituals, and stories.
    4. Systematically distorted communication operates without employees’ overt awareness.
      1. What can be openly discussed or thought is restricted.
      2. Only certain options are available.
    5. Discursive closure suppresses potential conflict.
      1. Certain groups of people may be classified as disqualified to speak on certain issues.
      2. Arbitrary definitions may be labeled “natural.”
      3. Values behind decisions may be kept hidden to appear objective.
  6. Involvement: Free expression of ideas, but no voice.
    1. Truth emerges from the free flow of information in an open marketplace of ideas, and an information transfer model of communication worked well when people shared values.
      1. Freedom of speech guaranteed equitable participation in decision making.
      2. Persuasion and advocacy were the best ways to reach a good decision.
      3. Autonomous individuals could then make up their own minds.
    2. The information transfer model does not work well in today’s pluralistic, interconnected world.
    3. Advocacy is not negotiation.
    4. Free expression is not the same as having a “voice” in corporate decisions, and knowledge of this difference creates worker cynicism.
  7. Participation: Stakeholder democracy in action.
    1. Meaningful democratic participation creates better citizens and social choices while providing economic benefits.
    2. The first move Deetz makes is to expand the list of people who should have a say in how a corporation is run.
    3. Deetz advocates open negotiations of power among those who have a stake in what an organization does.
    4. There are at least six classes of stakeholders, each with unique needs: Investors, workers, consumers, suppliers, host communities, and greater society and the world community.
    5. Since some stakeholders have taken greater risks and made longer-term investments than stockholders and top-level managers, Deetz believes these stakeholders should have a say in corporate decisions.
    6. Managers should coordinate the conflicting interests of all parties—be mediators rather than persuaders.
    7. Deetz offers his appraisal and previews his solution: Taken together, corporate “stewardship, government regulation, and markets offer weak mechanisms for value inclusion and virtually no support for communication processes that create win/win situations where multiple stakeholders can successfully pursue their mutual interests.”
  8. Politically attentive relational constructivism (PARC).
    1. Deetz proposes an extension of his critical theory that describes six types of conflict that must be addressed in organizations. He labels it politically attentive relational constructionism (PARC).
      1. Deetz maintains that most organizational theories are based on some form of social construction.
      2. Because he is just as concerned with the process of construction as he is with its end product, he uses the designation relational construction rather than the more common term social construction.
      3. Deetz lays out nine conditions that must be met in order for diverse stakeholders to successfully negotiate for their needs and interests.
    2. Deetz uses the term political to refer to the presence of power dynamics in relationships.
      1. He sees power as an ever-present part of our relationships—certainly so in our organizational lives.
      2. To be politically attentive means to honestly explore the power in play behind so-called neutral facts and taken-for-granted positions.
      3. An organization’s stakeholders need to recover the conflict that was repressed so that all interests are on the table and openly discussed.
      4. When stakeholders come together to discuss corporate policy, managers should make sure all areas of conflict are considered. PARC suggests six that are almost always an issue.
        1. Inner life
        2. Identity and recognition
        3. Social order
        4. Truth
        5. Life narratives
        6. Justice
  9. Avoiding meltdown—Putting theory into practice
    1. Given entrenched managerial power and privilege in corporations, most economic observers are skeptical that the workplace participation Deetz advocates will become reality.
    2. But Deetz’ recent work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) might give naysayers cause for pause.
    3. Deetz’ ultimate goal is to reach a point where all stakeholders voluntarily do the right thing because they see it’s in their own interest or the interests of those they love.
  10. Critique: A quality critical theory, but is workplace democracy just a dream?
    1. Applied to organizational life, Deetz’ critical approach is an exemplar of what this type of interpretive theory should be.
    2. He clarifies the harmful values of managerialism, provides a new understanding of managerial control, sets a reform agenda, offers rich qualitative data, to support his theory, has generated a wide community of agreement, and presents it with wit and humor that makes make the theory aesthetically pleasing.
    3. However, many organizational scholars regard the possibility of managers voluntarily giving up power as unrealistic.
    4. As CCO theorist Robert McPhee (ch. 20) puts it in his ironic summary of Deetz’ theory, “If we just didn’t find it natural and right and unavoidable to hand power over to managers, everything would be different and all our problems would be solved.”
    5. Deetz understands the difficulty in altering entrenched power, but the number of problems like those faced in nuclear power plants may put the forces of a changing world on the side of collaboration between management and workers.
    6. Deetz’ summary of his life work emphasizes his desire to remove “structural and systemic features of life” that hinder “creative mutually beneficial choices.”

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

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Resources
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Instructors can get
additional resources.
Read more

New to Theory
Resources?

Find out more
in this short
video overview
(3:01).

Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 21—Critical Theory of Communication in Organizations

  1. Introduction.
    1. Stanley Deetz’ critical communication theory seeks to unmask what he considers unjust and unwise communication practices within organizations.
    2. His theory advocates “stakeholder participation.” He believes that everyone who will be significantly affected by a corporate policy should have a meaningful voice in the decision-making process.
  2. Corporate colonization and control of everyday life.
    1. Deetz views multinational corporations as the dominant force in society.
    2. That pervasive influence isn't necessarily all bad—they can use their clout for good.
    3. But corporate control has sharply diminished the quality of life for most citizens.
    4. Deetz wants to examine communication practices in organizations that undermine fully representative decision making and thus reduce the quality, innovation, and fairness of business decisions.
  3. Information or communication; Transmission or the creation of meaning.
    1. Deetz challenges the view that communication is the transmission of information, a view that perpetuates corporate dominance.
    2. He warns, however, that as long as we accept the notion that communication is merely the transmission of information, we will continue to perpetuate corporate dominance over every aspect of our lives.
    3. Deetz contends that each line item in an annual report is constitutive—created by corporate decision makers who have the power to make their decisions stick.
    4. All corporate communication is an outcome of political processes that are usually undemocratic and usually hurt democracy.
    5. Deetz offers a communication model that emphasizes the role of language in shaping social reality.
      1. Language does not represent things that already exist; it produces what we believe to be “self-evident” or “natural.”
      2. Corporations subtly produce meanings and values.
      3. Deetz moves even further away from a representational view of language when he not only says that meanings are in people, but asks us to consider whose meanings are in people.
    6. Like Pearce and Cronen, Deetz considers communication to be the ongoing social construction of meaning, but unlike CMM’s authors, he emphasizes that the issue of power runs through all language and communication.
    7. Deetz offers a 2 x 2 model that contrasts communication as information vs. communication as creating reality, and managerial control vs. codetermination.
    8. Managerial control often takes precedence over representation of conflicting interests or long-term company and community health.
    9. Co-determination, on the other hand, epitomizes participatory democracy.
    10. Public decisions can be formed through strategy, consent, involvement, and participation—the four cells depicted in the model.
  4. Strategy—overt managerial moves to extend control.
    1. Deetz contends that managers are not the problem—the real culprit is managerialism.
    2. Managerialism is a discourse that values control above all else.
    3. Forms of control based in communication systems impede any real worker voice in structuring their work.
    4. The desire for control can even exceed the desire for corporate performance.
    5. The quest for control is evident in the corporate aversion to public conflict.
    6. Strategic control does not benefit the corporation, and it alienates employees and causes rebellion.
    7. Because of these drawbacks, most managers prefer to maintain control through workers’ voluntary consent.
  5. Consent: Unwitting allegiance to covert control.
    1. Through the process that Deetz calls consent, most employees willingly give their loyalty without getting much in return.
    2. Consent describes a variety of situations and processes in which someone actively, though unknowingly, accomplishes the interests of others in the faulty attempt to fulfill his or her own interests.
    3. Consent is developed through managerial control of elements of corporate culture: workplace language, information, forms, symbols, rituals, and stories.
    4. Systematically distorted communication operates without employees’ overt awareness.
      1. What can be openly discussed or thought is restricted.
      2. Only certain options are available.
    5. Discursive closure suppresses potential conflict.
      1. Certain groups of people may be classified as disqualified to speak on certain issues.
      2. Arbitrary definitions may be labeled “natural.”
      3. Values behind decisions may be kept hidden to appear objective.
  6. Involvement: Free expression of ideas, but no voice.
    1. Truth emerges from the free flow of information in an open marketplace of ideas, and an information transfer model of communication worked well when people shared values.
      1. Freedom of speech guaranteed equitable participation in decision making.
      2. Persuasion and advocacy were the best ways to reach a good decision.
      3. Autonomous individuals could then make up their own minds.
    2. The information transfer model does not work well in today’s pluralistic, interconnected world.
    3. Advocacy is not negotiation.
    4. Free expression is not the same as having a “voice” in corporate decisions, and knowledge of this difference creates worker cynicism.
  7. Participation: Stakeholder democracy in action.
    1. Meaningful democratic participation creates better citizens and social choices while providing economic benefits.
    2. The first move Deetz makes is to expand the list of people who should have a say in how a corporation is run.
    3. Deetz advocates open negotiations of power among those who have a stake in what an organization does.
    4. There are at least six classes of stakeholders, each with unique needs: Investors, workers, consumers, suppliers, host communities, and greater society and the world community.
    5. Since some stakeholders have taken greater risks and made longer-term investments than stockholders and top-level managers, Deetz believes these stakeholders should have a say in corporate decisions.
    6. Managers should coordinate the conflicting interests of all parties—be mediators rather than persuaders.
    7. Deetz offers his appraisal and previews his solution: Taken together, corporate “stewardship, government regulation, and markets offer weak mechanisms for value inclusion and virtually no support for communication processes that create win/win situations where multiple stakeholders can successfully pursue their mutual interests.”
  8. Politically attentive relational constructivism (PARC).
    1. Deetz proposes an extension of his critical theory that describes six types of conflict that must be addressed in organizations. He labels it politically attentive relational constructionism (PARC).
      1. Deetz maintains that most organizational theories are based on some form of social construction.
      2. Because he is just as concerned with the process of construction as he is with its end product, he uses the designation relational construction rather than the more common term social construction.
      3. Deetz lays out nine conditions that must be met in order for diverse stakeholders to successfully negotiate for their needs and interests.
    2. Deetz uses the term political to refer to the presence of power dynamics in relationships.
      1. He sees power as an ever-present part of our relationships—certainly so in our organizational lives.
      2. To be politically attentive means to honestly explore the power in play behind so-called neutral facts and taken-for-granted positions.
      3. An organization’s stakeholders need to recover the conflict that was repressed so that all interests are on the table and openly discussed.
      4. When stakeholders come together to discuss corporate policy, managers should make sure all areas of conflict are considered. PARC suggests six that are almost always an issue.
        1. Inner life
        2. Identity and recognition
        3. Social order
        4. Truth
        5. Life narratives
        6. Justice
  9. Avoiding meltdown—Putting theory into practice
    1. Given entrenched managerial power and privilege in corporations, most economic observers are skeptical that the workplace participation Deetz advocates will become reality.
    2. But Deetz’ recent work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) might give naysayers cause for pause.
    3. Deetz’ ultimate goal is to reach a point where all stakeholders voluntarily do the right thing because they see it’s in their own interest or the interests of those they love.
  10. Critique: A quality critical theory, but is workplace democracy just a dream?
    1. Applied to organizational life, Deetz’ critical approach is an exemplar of what this type of interpretive theory should be.
    2. He clarifies the harmful values of managerialism, provides a new understanding of managerial control, sets a reform agenda, offers rich qualitative data, to support his theory, has generated a wide community of agreement, and presents it with wit and humor that makes make the theory aesthetically pleasing.
    3. However, many organizational scholars regard the possibility of managers voluntarily giving up power as unrealistic.
    4. As CCO theorist Robert McPhee (ch. 20) puts it in his ironic summary of Deetz’ theory, “If we just didn’t find it natural and right and unavoidable to hand power over to managers, everything would be different and all our problems would be solved.”
    5. Deetz understands the difficulty in altering entrenched power, but the number of problems like those faced in nuclear power plants may put the forces of a changing world on the side of collaboration between management and workers.
    6. Deetz’ summary of his life work emphasizes his desire to remove “structural and systemic features of life” that hinder “creative mutually beneficial choices.”

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

Back to top



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