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"The naive notion that communication is merely the transmission of information
perpetuates `   `
     
     of everyday life.
Language is the principal medium through which social reality is produced and reproduced. Managers
can further a company's health and democratic values by coordinating stakeholder participation in
corporate decisions" (In Griffin, 3rd ed., p. 495)
ʹStanley Deetz, 1982, Critical interpretive research in
organizational communication. Western Journal of Speech
Communication, 46, 131-149

Stanley Deetz, u  


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         ,
Hampton, Cresskill, NJ, 1995, pp. 97-126.

Ontological Assumption: The nature of human social interaction in the critical approach focuses on the
two-way relationship between management and the other members of the organization. Here, the
primary unit of analysis is the interaction of CEOs, managers, and stakeholders (investors, workers,
consumers, suppliers, host communities, greater society and the world community). Communication
behavior is contextual. Hence, this approach is humanistic in the sense that humans are seen as actively
and purposely creating meaning. People make real choices to the extent that they plan their behavior
to meet future goals and their understanding of an idea or situation has practical implications for action
(pragmatism).

Epistemological Assumption: In Stanley Deetz͛s Critical Theory, involvement and participation help
shape the work world. Different members of the organization, each with their own positions and
interests, bring their own realities to the table. Hence, knowledge is not certain; rather it is relative and
people mutually shape their reality. The central question that Deetz raises is not ͞what is the meaning
of this?͟ but ͞whose meanings are these?͟

Axiological Assumption: Scholarship in the critical tradition is designed to achieve change. In fact, one
of Deetz's goals with his theory is to make a more democratic workplace by changing communication.
This theory is very value subjective since it considers thoughts and influence as able to flow from all
individual members of the group and not only from the top to down.

THE CONFLICT TRADITION


In social science, conflict theories emphasize the dominance of some social groups by others,
see social order as based on manipulation and control by dominant groups, and view social change as
occurring rapidly and in a disorderly fashion as subordinate groups overthrow dominant groups.Ͷ
George Ritzer, p.234, Classical Sociological Theory, 1996

KEY IDEAS OF THE CRITICAL TRADITION


âp Seeks to understand taken-for-granted systems, power structures and beliefsͶor ideologiesͶthat
dominate society

Who does and does not get to speak?


Deetz believes that the most dominant force in society is multinational
corporations that ͞control and colonize͟ modern life in ways that no
government or public body since the feudal era ever thought possible. He also
believes that allowing employees to let off steam by giving them chances to air
grievances or state suggestions for better working conditions is inconsequential
when their ideas do not get to be represented in the final decision anyway, as
when the boss mandates ͞the bottom line.͟

What does or does not get said?


Top level executives and managers do not bother to know the hopes, dreams,
fears, values, and needs of their subordinates. Management craves control and
managers simply impose, through memos, orders, reprimands, etc.

Who benefits?

âp ncovers oppressive social conditions and power arrangements in order to promote a more fulfilling
society

Deetz thinks that the issue of power runs through all language and communication.
Cm m 
 m
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 Deetz͛s communication
approach differs from the information approach that regards language as neutral and neutered.
Deetz presents a shift from managerial control or discursive closure, which systematically excludes
the voices of people who are affected by corporate decisions, to a practice of codetermination,
which represents the ͞collaborative collective constructions of self, other, and the world.͟

Instances of discursive closure: The janitorial staff at a factory is not allowed to make
suggestions about improving work conditions, the boss says, "It's my way or the highway," the
company monitors employee work stations in order discourage negative talk about the company

Instances of codetermination: Workers are given a chance to take pride in their labor as when
they are complimented for their work, leaders are chosen by team members so accountability flows
both ways, members are allowed to ask questions and enhance standard operating procedures

âp Makes a conscious attempt to fuse theory and action (reading the world with an eye towards
shaping it)
Deetz͛s theory of communication questions the primacy of corporate prosperity and is critical of
the assumption that what benefits the corporation also benefits the society; but it does not end
there. Aside from exposing the political and economic nature of corporations, Deetz͛s critical theory
also aims to reclaim the possibility of open negotiations of power: ͞The rights and responsibilities of
people are not given in advance by nature or by a privileged, universal value structure, but are
negotiated through interaction.͟

Managerial
Codetermination
Control


INFORMATION
Strategy Involvement
MODEL

COMMNICATION
Consent Participation MODEL


  ×      

INFORMATION OR COMMNICATION: The Difference That Makes a Difference

Deetz challenges Shannon and Weaver's theory that communication is the transmission of
information, a view that perpetuates corporate dominance. Information assumes an independent
reality wherein things that already exist are represented by language. On the other hand, Deetz
subscribes to a communication model that emphasizes the role of language in shaping social reality.
Language does not represent things that already exist; it produces what we believe to be ͞self-evident͟
or ͞natural.͟ When ordinary citizens adopt economic lingo, they unknowingly reinforce and expand the
influence of corporate thinking in life, and here on out is how corporations subtly produce meanings and
values.
Like in the theory of coordinated management of meaning, Deetz considers communication to
be the ongoing social construction of meaning, but he emphasizes that the issue of power runs through
all language and communication. From a critical perspective, representation and long-term company
health take a backseat to managerial control. Deetz favors codetermination, which epitomizes
participatory democracy.

FORMATION OF P LIC DECISION

MANAGERIAL CONTROL: Strategy and Consent


Strategy consists of overt managerial moves to extend control. Managerialism is a discourse
that values control above all else and it is the real mechanism that keeps the corporation from being
moved by non-financial concerns. The quest for control is evident in the corporate aversion to public
conflict, which is hastily dealt with using a ͞love it or leave it͟ approach. This limitation of choice for the
worker is a form of control which, based in communication systems, impede any real worker voice in
structuring their work. The desire for control can even exceed the desire for corporate performance.
Voluntary consent is the preferred method of modern managers in maintaining control.
Consistent with this process is control of workplace language, clothing, rituals and other elements of
corporate culture. 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.