This past week I’ve been teaching both EMBA and MBA courses. In both settings, the communication-as-constitutive-of-organizations (CCO) perspective (Ashcraft, Kuhn, and Cooren, 2009; Putnam and Nicotera, 2008) took a hold of my arguments. I’ve been trying to get the point across that an emphasis on organizational communication highlights the relations among actors rather than the attributes of the later. (Though these relations need not be communications to begin with.) In terms of organizational charts, for example, the boundaries of boxes are getting more and more blurry only to reveal the idiosyncracies of lines. If it feels a little bit like talking about networks to you, read on.
I was thinking of a good example to make my students see the importance of space and time in organizational communication, because as ephemeral as communication may be, that’s where and when it takes place. Being a die-hard fan of Friends, I immediately thought of the episode where Rachel smokes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to indulge smoking. Indeed, Rachel is a non-smoker, but she gets squeezed out of each and every important decision that her boss and colleague make during their cigarette breaks. That’s when Rachel starts smoking for the benefit of her job, of course. The importance of space and time is portrait so decisively that I had to find the scene on YouTube. See for yourself.
There are many, many other example of the importance of space and time in organizational communication. My dad used to be a chef and cook for some pretty important people in politics (among them Adenauer, that’s right, that Adenauer). He would say that the most important decisions were made over a good dinner. Nowadays we may add other sites such as golf courses or smokers lounges, though the occasional cigarette break is certainly dying out. And now you’re one step closer to think about time and space in organizational communication any time you wander the halls of your own office building. Gotcha!
- Ashcraft, K. L., Kuhn, T. R., and Cooren, F. (2009). Constitutional Amendments: ”Materializing” Organizational Communication. Academy of Management Annals, 3(1):1–64.
- Putnam, L. L. and Nicotera, A. M. (2008). Building Theories of Organization: The Constitutive Role of Communication. Routledge, New York.