The Selective Use of Graphical Information in Corporate Annual Reports

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Andrea Melis and Simone Aresu of the Università degli Studi di Cagliari. They recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “Analyst Following, Country’s Financial Development, and the Selective Use of Graphical Information in Corporate Annual Reports,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describes their research and its significance.

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What motivated you to pursue your research?

Data visualization is a buzzword in the corporate world today. The use of graphs is widespread in corporate reports because graphs are eye-catching and easy-to-read communication tools. They are used, for instance, in financial and sustainability reports, presentations of quarterly results, and corporate websites. Graphs are also one of the few formats in financial reporting where the preparer has an ample discretion both in the content and the design. Previous research has shown that graphs are used for impression management purposes, i.e. they systematically provide a favorable impression of the company’s results. However, no prior study has investigated whether and how the demand for information at the country-level and firm-level influences the likelihood of impression management via graphs. The demand for information might, on the one hand, exert a ‘monitoring’ effect reducing the opportunity for self-serving, non-neutral, presentations. On the other hand, it creates more pressure on the preparer to provide a favorable communication of the company’s results. The study has tried to fill this gap, by conducting a longitudinal analysis on the KPI graphs in the annual reports of 200 large European companies.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

The major economic and social event that influenced our research was the global financial crisis. This event drove our curiosity in investigating the role of the demand for information on impression management during this period of economic and financial instability. The single company’s financial results were not necessarily affected by the crisis. However, its reporting choices were likely to be affected as companies, and their senior managers, were exposed to intense public scrutiny and reputational threats.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

We found evidence that a higher demand for information, at both country and firm-levels, serves as an incentive, rather than as a curb, for a selective use of KPI graphs in annual reports. Companies are more likely to use KPI graphs selectively in those contexts where the pressure to perform is higher, i.e. in highly financially developed countries and/or when companies have a higher analyst coverage. Even when unable to affect the most sophisticated users, self-presentations can help preparers and companies to control the impressions of themselves, with self-enhancing and self-confirming messages. The study contributes to the literatures on impression management and visual language in corporate communication by showing that preparers change their communication strategies when the financial community (at both country and firm-levels) exerts a stronger pressure to perform. The study also offers practical implications. We suggest annual report readers to be aware that companies can use graphs selectively without providing a comparable, neutral account of their performance in those contexts where the pressure to perform is higher. We also suggest policymakers a clear guidance on graphs’ usage within corporate reporting.

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Readiness for Renewal

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Ryan P. Fuller of California State University, Sacramento, Robert R. Ulmer of the University of Nevada, Ashley McNatt of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Jeanette B. Ruiz of the University of California, Davis. They recently published an article in the Management Communication Quarterly entitled “Extending Discourse of Renewal to Preparedness: Construct and Scale Development of Readiness for Renewal,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations and innovations of this research.

What motivated you to pursue this research?

For over 20 years, the Discourse of Renewal has offered an alternative to theories focused on avoiding blame and repairing harm to reputations post-crisis. Some of the assumptions of the theory addressed pre-crisis elements through anecdotal evidence. Based on our research, pre-crisis preparedness is an understudied topic in crisis management. Researchers know a lot about how organizations communicate during crises and how they communicate about post-crisis recovery. As well, we knew that organizations should prepare for crises, but often focus on the day-to-day operations of running their businesses and not on what to do when a disaster or emergency strikes. We wanted to make it easier to take stock of communication practices that help the organization produce the type of post-crisis communication that will help them to return from the crisis better off than before. Consequently, we saw a great opportunity to address a gap in the research and to answer a real-world problem.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our research draws on a large body of qualitative evidence that organizations are effective in recovery if they enact certain communication practices. The novelty of our project is the foregrounding of pre-crisis communication to provide the latent potential for a strong recovery. These pre-crisis communication practices have been evidenced anecdotally but not formally tested. The value added to the field of crisis communication covers two main areas. First, we see more applied and naturalistic research opportunities using survey research, including the readiness for renewal scale. Along these lines, with the scale we developed we can see more opportunities for interventions to produce the type of desirable post-crisis communication, and for researchers take a stand about what one should or ought to do rather than after it is too late. Applied researchers could help organizations identify best communication practices, reinforce those, and change poor practices. Second, we may see other scholars use the body of qualitative evidence to create quantitative measures to test discourse- and rhetoric-based theories in crisis communication.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

We have three pieces of advice for new scholars and incoming researchers in crisis communication. First, crisis communication is a growing field, yet one that remains dominated by perspectives focused on threat, image repair, and blame avoidance. We encourage researchers to focus on developing/testing theories that are resiliency generating and identify inherent opportunities in all stages of crisis management. Second, we believe that anticipatory perspectives will continue to be an important line of research, and researchers should draw attention to effective communication practices in the pre-crisis stage. Third, we encourage researchers in crisis communication to test the limits of crisis communication theories. Such testing could occur through different methods, populations, or through applying/expanding the theory to different stages of crisis management.

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Artist Communication: An Interdisciplinary Business and Professional Communication Course

ghozt_tramp_-_business_communication_duplicat_model-e1533666580253.jpg[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Stephen Carradini of Arizona State University. He recently published an article in the Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Artist Communication: An Interdisciplinary Business and Professional Communication Course which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Carradini briefly describes his research and its significance.

BCQ_72ppiRGB_powerpointI was motivated to pursue the work behind “Artist Communication: An Interdisciplinary Business and Professional Communication Course” because I had an opportunity to design an interdisciplinary course. My professional background in arts and my current research and teaching interests in communication made a course on the professional communication of artists an easy fit. Many universities are moving toward interdisciplinary initiatives, so I thought that writing an article about the experience of developing and running this interdisciplinary course could be a strong contribution to the literature on interdisciplinary pedagogy.

The most challenging aspects of running this course and writing this article were in the interdisciplinary nature of it. I had to decide how to foreground the concepts of business communication while maintaining a focus on the artist’s work. This was not an art appreciation course, nor was it a strict business communication course. Instead, it was a course that blended the arts, business, and communication. This meant that some things I would definitely include in a more discipline-oriented course didn’t appear, such as reports. Things that I generally wouldn’t have included in a business communication course, such as press photos, became whole assignments of their own.

One good example of this interdisciplinary blend was an in-class assignment about playlists that I wasn’t able to mention in the larger article. I wanted students to understand streaming services as part of an artist’s career. To do this, I had my students create playlists on a streaming service that told a story. Students had a great deal of fun playing around with playlists and sharing them with each other. This interaction allowed students to see streaming services as a unique way to communicate (via playlists) and as a tool that musicians needed to use to distribute their music effectively. Drawing on that second point, I was then able to have a discussion about the career economics of music and the communication genres that artists engage in as part of their career-development process.

I hope this article begins to fill a gap in literature on the communication work that artists do. Not much work has been done in research or pedagogy on artist communication, and much of the research that has been done is housed in the field of Arts Entrepreneurship. Business communication does not have much in the way of literature on artist communication, despite the large amount of business and professional communication that artists must do. As a result, this article sits in a specific interdisciplinary space of artist communication. I hope that others will take up the interdisciplinary interest in the professional communication of artists.

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Communication Photo attributed to Free-Photos (CC)

How Anonymity and Visibility Affordances Influence Employees’ Decisions About Voicing Workplace Concerns

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Chang M. Mao and David C. DeAndrea of Ohio State University. They recently published an article in Management Communication Quarterly entitled “How Anonymity and Visibility Affordances Influence Employees’ Decisions About Voicing Workplace Concerns,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivation and impact of this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are very interested in studying the extent to which the prevalence of communication technology in organizational settings encourages or discourages employees from voicing their concerns at work. Some evidence suggests that technology increases employee participation whereas other research suggests that technological surveillance dampens employee participation. We designed an experiment to examine how features of communication technology affect the degree to which employees view channels to voice concerns as safe and efficacious. We first obtained some interesting findings from a college student sample (study 1). Then we replicated our findings with a more diverse population (Study 2).

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

In 2017, thousands of people disclosed their workplace sexual harassment on publically available social media under the #MeToo movement. The proliferation of the movement emphasizes the importance of our research. We discussed how important it is for management to establish safe and efficacious communication platforms for employees to voice their concerns within the boundaries of an organization. The #MeToo movement reveals the existing problematic status of many organizations; employees feel unsafe or ineffective in pointing out the malpractices of their organizations. As a consequence, people may seek out other ways to express themselves, such as posting on publically available social media, which may result in a lose-lose situation; the individual would face greater personal risk and the organization would lose the opportunity to correct problems and may have to manage a more deleterious public image crisis.

Were there any surprising findings?

We found significant support for the opposite of two of our hypotheses. We hypothesized that the more anonymous or the more public a communication platform was perceived to be, the less effective the platform would be. But, the data suggested the opposite: the less anonymous and less public a platform was perceived to be, the more effective the platform was. Considering that all safety hypotheses were supported, whereas efficacy hypotheses were not, we have speculated that employees evaluate safety before efficacy when they decide whether to voice their concerns or not. That is, when employees feel as though a voicing channel is unsafe, they do not envision using the channel and thus do not begin to consider whether voicing their concerns will lead to desired changes. Thus we would remind practitioners to pay close attention to employees’ safety concerns when management wishes to encourage participatory decision-making at work.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

In this study, we adopted a perceived affordance lens to understand the effects of communication technology. In contrast to the inherent technology affordance perspective, the perceived affordance perspective emphasizes how people subjectively evaluate the qualities of communication technologies. We argue that what matters most is employees’ subjective evaluation of the communication platforms, such as the degree to which they perceive them be anonymous and the degree to which they believe their messages are private. We hope to emphasize the voluntaristic perspective of communication technology and its impact on organizational behaviors.

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Exploring the Determinants of Becoming a Mentor in Turkish Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Muhsine Itir Ozgen of Koc University, Tojo Thatchenkery of George Mason University, and James William Rowell of MEF University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Exploring the Determinants of Becoming a Mentor in Turkish Organizations,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the research and its significance.]

JAB_72ppiRGB_powerpointIn 2014, I was invited to facilitate a panel of international organizations at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey. The Learning and Development Directors of several well-known companies from a range of sectors were invited to discuss their learning and development strategies. Participants included – Coca-Cola, Denizbank (a Russian and Turkish cooperative venture in the banking industry), Migros (one of the largest supermarket chains). They discovered, through the conference, that they had a common strategy in learning and development, and agreed on the importance of mentoring programs in organizations. The L&D Director of Migros emphasized the value of his mentoring relationship as he stated: “I carry my mentor on my shoulders holding his feet, not to make him fall down but I keep his hands free so that he can direct me where to go”.
That was so intriguing for me and I started my inquiry about the workplace mentoring; the literature supports the notion that positive outcomes are related to employees engaging in either traditional or informal mentoring relationships.
My major motivation to pursue this research was to understand the reasons which make those individuals be part of these relationships. In the end, mentoring is a two-way relationship between mentor and mentee. The benefits are more obvious for the mentees but for the mentors, in a sense, is an additional task, adding to their workload. So what makes potential mentors want to be part of this relationship? What incites those individuals who are willing to mentor? My interest in answering these questions formed the gateway to this quantitative study.
The major challenge in the research was the research design. In order to achieve rich contextual results, a mixed method study design could be used by including employee interviews. In-depth interviews could enrich clarifying the results and understanding how the individuals interpret the items of the instrument.

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Japanese Women Managers’ Employee-Oriented Communication Styles

[We’re pleased to welcome author Kiyoko Sueda of Aoyama Gakuin University. Dr. Sueda recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “Japanese Women Managers’ Employee-Oriented Communication Styles: An Analysis Using Constructivist Grounded Theory,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sueda briefly describes the research and its significance.

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I was motivated to pursue this research for mainly two reasons. First, although the number of women managers in Japan is relatively small, they are generally thought to be good communicators at work. However, with the exception of a few quantitative studies, little empirical research exists on how they communicate with their colleagues. Thus, this study should complement the current limited quantitative study by exploring women managers’ communication styles qualitatively. Second, as most of the existing research was conducted in Western cultural contexts, many of their discoveries about female communication styles may not be transferrable to Japanese managers and executives.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Some of the traditional characteristics of Japanese employment system, such as permanent employment and internal promotion systems, have become unstable in recent years, and an external labor market is growing. Thus, various schemes of employment exist within the same organizations. Moreover, shortages in the Japanese labor market are increasing to serious levels. Thus, organizations in Japan inevitably need to diversify their employees at all levels.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

As the number of female managers is still small, recruiting participants of the study was very challenging.

Although the existing literature has generally contrasted the “relationship-oriented” communication styles of women managers with the “task-oriented” approaches of their male counterparts, this study extends beyond the question of whether Japanese women managers are relationship or task oriented. The research found Japanese women managers engage in employee-oriented communication by making their work environment open and friendly, flexibly changing their communication styles depending on with whom they are talking, and using multiple channels of communication to achieve their professional goals.

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The Pragmatics of Financial Communication. Part 1: From Public Sphere To Investors

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Rudi Palmieri of the University of Liverpool, Dr. Daniel Perrin of Zurich University of Applied Sciences, and Dr. Marlies Whitehouse of Zurich University of Applied Sciences. They recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “The Pragmatics of Financial Communication. Part 1: From Sources to the Public Sphere,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the research and its significance.

JBC_53_2_Covers.inddResearch in financial communication has long been dominated by scholars in accounting and finance, who largely focused on the extratextual aspects of financial disclosures, such as the choice (not) to reveal information or the impact of new regulatory standards. In contrast, the past decade and a half has witnessed a significant shift of attention toward the linguistic and textual elements of financial communication. Finance scholars have started to develop text analysis approaches to investigate, in particular, market sentiment and its impact on stock prices. At the same time, accounting scholars have engaged in the so-called narrative turn by investigating the rhetorical aspects of voluntary disclosure. Recent developments in the field, however, dig deeper and are beginning to shed light on the crucial functions of language use in financial communication. There is a growing interest throughout the disciplines to analyze the interplay of micro and macro structure in financial communication, which has been clearly reflected in academic initiatives and rapidly evolving subject areas in recent years. Bringing together these initiatives on a higher level, the AILA research network in financial communication, set up in early 2018, enables scholars from all over the world to strengthen and elaborate on their research and its dissemination. The two parts of the special issue “The Pragmatics of Financial Communication” aim to reflect these recent developments and to foster current and future initiatives in the field.

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