Comm 585 Theories of Organizational Communication Fall 2013

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COMM 585

Theories of Organizational Communication

Fall 2013

Instructor: Patti Riley

Office: ASC 2OIB

Office Hours: 3-6 T, and by appt.

Phone Numbers: (213) 740-3949 (o), (323) 224-1196 (h)


Recommended Texts: (Chapters from these books will be on Blackboard)

Cheney, C. (2002). Values at Work. Cornell University Press. ISBN: 0801488168

Deetz, S. (1992). Democracy in an Age of Corporate Colonization. SUNY Press. ISBN: 0791408647

Fairhurst, G. (2007). Discursive Leadership. Sage Publications [paperback] ISBN 13: 978-1412904254

Giddens, A. (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN: 0520057287

Jablin, F. & Putnam, L., (Ed.s) (2000). New Handbook of Organizational Communication. Sage. ISBN: 1412915252

Leonardi, P., Nardi, B.A. & Kalinkos (2013). Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World. Oxford University Press. 

Putnam, L. & Nicotera, A. (2008). Building Theories of Organization: The Constitutive Role of Communication. Routledge [paperback] ISBN-13: 978-0805847109

J.L. Simpson (Ed.) (2006). Engaging Communication: Transforming Organizations. Hampton Press ISBN 1572736194

Tompkins, P. & Tompkins, E. (2004). Apollo, Challenger and Columbia. The Decline of the Space Program (A Study in Organizational Communication). Roxbury Publishing Co. ISBN: 1931719322

Taylor, J.R. & Van Every, E. (2011). The Situated Organization. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-88168-5
Weick, K. (1995). Sensemaking in Organizations. Sage ISBN: 080397177X

Background link:

Other Interesting Texts:

Buzzanell, P. (2000) Rethinking Organizational and Managerial Communication from Feminist Perspectives. Sage ISBN: 0761912797

Clegg, S., C. Hardy and W. Nord (Eds.) (1999). Managing Organizations: Current Issues (Handbook of Organization Studies, Volume 2. Sage

Putnam, L. & Krone, K. (Eds.) (2007) Organizational Communication. SAGE Library in Business and Management

Salem, P. (Ed.) (1999). Organizational Communication and Change. Hampton Press.
Course Rationale:

This class exposes students to the basic theoretical perspectives in organizational communication, and to a lesser degree, organizational theory and organizational behavior. The class focuses on the change in theoretical perspectives over time as well as on new approaches to the study of organizational communication.

As the area of organizational communication continues to expand, it is important to examine the relationship of organizational communication studies to other related “disciplines” in light of historical events as well as alternative agendas in academic discourse. As part of the course, students will be exposed to both “classic” readings and current perspectives, as well as alternative/diverse methods of research. Because organizations and their problems have been much in the news (think ENRON and FEMA) we will also have a focus on organizational change and the practical issues of organizational members. The class has some lecture, uses case studies and documentaries but is primarily a seminar and students are expected to be active participants. Laptops are for note-taking only .


Wiki and website weekly projects 25%

Every week student groups will post either a new wiki entry or a blog entry on the Blackboard discussion site and after any necessary editing they will be uploaded on

Class participation 10%

Book Review 15%

Book Review Presentation 10%

Students will choose a new(ish) book related to organizational communication (or organizational or institutional studies or one that features communication technology impacts on organizations, etc.) and do a review in the style of those published in journals. There will be an oral presentation. Please prepare a handout or slides for class. Some of them will end up being published.

Final Project 40%

Students will write a research proposal for a field study in organizational communication. The proposal will include an introduction, theoretical rationale, literature review and methods section. The project may be quantitative or qualitative. Students can work individually or in groups. The proposal should be set up so that data can be collected and analyzed in time for the NCA deadline in February.

Class Schedule

August 29 Introductions, course review, explanation of Wiki and web projects, the short and not always glorious history of org comm

September 5 Background—Baker chapter on Blackboard; Putnam, Jablin & Roberts (Eds.) Handbook of Organizational Communication chapters, watch “The Smartest guys in the Room”, create wiki teams

September 12 Fairhurst, Discursive Leadership (Chapters 1, 3, 4, 7 & pp. 191-201), leadership case

September 19 Chapters from Deetz, Democracy in an Age of Corporate Colonization, excerpts from the documentary “The Corporation”

September 26 Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory Chapters 1-3

October 3 Articles on structuration, adaptive structuration

October 10 Weick chapters from Social Psychology of Organizing and Weick, Sensemaking in Organizations Chapters 1-4, crisis case

October 17 Leonardi et al. chapters and articles on Organizational Culture Change

October 25 COO Theories from Putnam and Nicotera, chapters 1, 2 & 7 and Bisel article

October 31 Theories of communication technologies and networks, Guest lecturer Janet Fulk

November 7 Organizational Discourse (articles on Blackboard), Tompkins & Tompkins, Apollo, Challenger & Columbia, Chapters 1, 3, 4 & 8

November 14 Book Review Presentations

November 21 Organizational Communication and Engagement--Chapters from Simpson, Engaging Communication and Chapters from Cheney, Values at Work (NCA—will need to be rescheduled), hospital case

November 28 Happy? Turkey Day (no class)

December 5 Strategic Communication—merging Organizational Communication and Media studies, guest lecturer, Gail Thomas

December 12 Final Paper/Project presentations (will involve food)

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