The Role of Creative Mediums in Enhancing Management Research Representation

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Lakshmi Balachandran Nair of Utrecht University, Pauline Fatien Diochon of Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Reka Anna Lassu of the University of Central Florida, and Suzanne G. Tilleman of the University of Montana, Missoula. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Let’s Perform and Paint! The Role of Creative Mediums in Enhancing Management Research Representation,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below,  They reflect on their research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointA video of an indigenous tribe member with colorful body paint and a heavy beaded necklace filming his peers with a camera in the middle of the Amazon rainforest…

An analogy of a cocktail party used to represent the complex Higgs boson phenomenon in the simplest way possible…

What do these have in common?

They are creative mediums used by scholars to display research findings in an evocative, yet informative way. Expanding on examples such as these, our article advocates for the use of creative mediums to showcase the product of an inquiry, either alone or as a supplement to traditional reporting. We provide a rationale for how these mediums trigger interest, foster a multisensory experience, convey complex meaning, and spark contemporary, inclusive dialogues.

How did we have this idea?

“Here are markers and a poster. Show us a new research idea you think will generate curiosity, conversation, and collaboration and is emblematic of The Journal of Management Inquiry’s spirit”

This was the prompt we were given by Dr. Hannah and Dr. Stackman at the concluding workshop session of the 2016 Western Academy of Management Conference after they had introduced an example of recent research about how the presence of animals influences people at work. The few of us at our table began brainstorming.

“Did you know that some PhD students dance their dissertation?” said Dr. Balachandran Nair.

This question started a discussion about how management researchers are familiar with the use of creative mediums to illustrate intricate and dynamic organizational environments. However, the majority of the researchers tend to restrict the use of creative mediums to facilitating the process of inquiry. What if these creative mediums could showcase the findings?

We quickly sketched our idea on a poster (see left).
All the participants showed each other their posters and voted on their favorites.

JMI Initial PosterThe initial poster presenting our ideas

The enthusiasm from the workshop motivated us to examine the creative practices in other fields and to see whether and how we can adapt ideas for reporting research findings to the management field. Voilà, the project was born. The article inspired by the workshop is innovative in its idea and format. While using creative mediums for research representation certainly contrasts with dominant text-based vehicles, we believe in the potential of creative mediums to increase engagement, retention, and impact – not only with fellow researchers but also with practitioners and the general public. We see creative mediums as a way to build bridges with several communities around researchers. None of us are professional artists, but we had to practice what we preach, so we challenged ourselves to include a poem, cartoon, and a collage along with our article.

Now, it is your turn to get creative!

Lakshmi Balachandran Nair, Pauline Fatien Diochon, Reka Anna Lassu, Suzanne Tilleman

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The Influence of Textual Cues on First Impressions of an Email Sender

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Shannon L. Marlow of Rice University, Christina N. Lacernza of University of Colorado Boulder, and Chelsea Iwig of the NASA Johnston Space Center. They recently published an article in the Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “The Influence of Textual Cues on First Impressions of an Email Sender,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Marlow reveals the motivation for conducting this research:]

BPCQ.indd“Our motivation in pursuing the present research was to uncover practical implications regarding how to compose an email and explore facets of virtual communication. Specifically, we were interested in emails within a business context and how subtle cues within the email would influence perceptions of the email sender. We assessed whether closing salutations would impact the email receiver’s perception of the sender. As the cues within an email are limited, we believed that such cues would have an impact. We manipulated closing salutations (i.e., no salutation, “Thanks!,” “Best,” or “Thank you”), gender of the email sender, and sending method (i.e., email sent via desktop computer/laptop as compared to email sent via a mobile device). We assessed how these manipulations influenced perceptions of positive affect, negative affect, professionalism, and competence.

We were surprised to find that, on the whole, study participants rated women senders as more professional across the majority of conditions; however, women were rated as less competent when they used the “Thanks!”salutation. It appears that women are penalized for using this particular salutation whereas men are perceived similarly, in regards to competence, across all closing salutations examined in this study. We were further surprised to find that there were no differences in regards to perceptions of senders using different sending methods. It appears individuals perceive mobile devices as a professional method of communication for business exchanges. Finally, and in line with similar findings from the literature, we found that positive affect can be conveyed through using an exclamation point (i.e., using “Thanks!” as a closing salutation) and thus punctuation may be used to convey excitement and enthusiasm about work-related matters. On the whole, our findings indicate that subtle cues within emails are capable of influencing perceptions and individuals should reflect carefully when composing an email to ensure they are doing so in a way that promotes desired perceptions.”


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What Goes Unsaid: Studying Nonverbal Behavior in the Workplace

2177716513_8732301485_zEffective communication between employees is integral to the performance and success of any organization. Communication between individuals is much more complex than it may appear on the surface, with nonverbal cues adding depth to interactions beyond verbal exchanges. As a result, it comes as no surprise that studies of employee communication cannot be complete without considering the implications of nonverbal behaviors. In a Journal of Management paper published this year entitled “Nonverbal Behavior and Communication in the Workplace: A Review and an Agenda for Research,” authors Silvia Bonaccio, Jane O’Reilly, Sharon L. O’Sullivan, and François Chiocchio argue that nonverbal behavior should be further integrated into organizational research. The abstract for the article:

Nonverbal behavior is a hot topic in the popular management press. However, management scholars have lagged behind in understanding this important form of communication. Although some theories discuss limited aspects of nonverbal behavior, there has yet to be a comprehensive review of nonverbal behavior geared toward organizational scholars. Furthermore, the extant literature is scattered across several areas of inquiry, making the field appear disjointed and challenging to access. Current Issue CoverThe purpose of this paper is to review the literature on nonverbal behavior with an eye towards applying it to organizational phenomena. We begin by defining nonverbal behavior and its components. We review and discuss several areas in the organizational sciences that are ripe for further explorations of nonverbal behavior. Throughout the paper, we offer ideas for future research as well as information on methods to study nonverbal behavior in lab and field contexts. We hope our review will encourage organizational scholars to develop a deeper understanding of how nonverbal behavior influences the social world of organizations.

You can read “Nonverbal Behavior and Communication in the Workplace: A Review and an Agenda for Research” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Employee image attributed to jeanbaptisteparis (CC)

Sparking Dialogue: Organizational Communication through Digital Storytelling

8711865159_50ff14eaaa_zIn recent years, technology and the Internet have simultaneously expanded and reinvented the way we communicate. The change in how we communicate has been pervasive, impacting all communications in the personal and professional sphere. Advances in technology has led multimedia content to become a new frontier for organizational communications, bringing with it new potential for organizational storytellers to reach broader audiences and engage in more dialogical communication. In the recent Journal of Management Inquiry article “Digital Organizational Storytelling on YouTube: Constructing Plausibility Through Network Protocols of Amateurism, Affinity, and Authenticity,” authors Emma Bell and Pauline Leonard try to better understand how plausibility plays into the dialogical nature of digital organizational storytelling. The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we focus on “digital organizational storytelling” as a communicative practice that relies on technologies enabled by the Internet. The article explores the dialogical potential of digital organizational storytelling and considers how this Current Issue Coveraffects the relationship between online storytellers and audiences. We highlight the importance of network protocols in shaping how stories are understood. Our analysis is based on a case study of an organization, which produces online animated videos critical of corporate practices that negatively affect society. It highlights the network protocols of amateurism, affinity, and authenticity on which the plausibility of digital organizational storytelling relies. Through demonstrating what happens when network protocols are breached, the article contributes toward understanding digital organizational storytelling as a dialogical practice that opens up spaces for oppositional meaning making and can be used to challenge the power of corporations.

You can read “Digital Organizational Storytelling on YouTube: Constructing Plausibility Through Network Protocols of Amateurism, Affinity, and Authenticity” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Image attributed to Sergio Perez (CC)

Illustrating the Intricacies of Team Communication

23145538583_c70a403d74_zIllustrating communication and conversation in organizational teams is easier than it seems–all you need is a ball of string. The recent Management Teaching Review article “Web-of-Communication” from authors Gary Wagenheim and Jacqueline McAdam outlines a simple group exercise for students and organizational teams to better understand communication patterns and team development.

The abstract for the paper:

Current Issue Cover

The web-of-communication exercise is a fun, highly interactive experiential activity that facilitates learning about team communication patterns. A ball of string is used to visually map the communication pattern that emerges during a team conversation. The exercise helps participants learn how patterns they create reinforce or break down barriers that shape meaning and exert influence on behavior. This exercise requires only a ball of string for each team, is easy to facilitate, takes very little time, energizes participants, and provides substantial learning opportunities. The exercise works with student teams in an organizational behavior course with modules on communication, team development, power and influence, or conflict management. The exercise works well with organizational teams, too.

You can read “Web-of-Communication” from Management Teaching Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Management Teaching ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Twine image attributed to Derek Winterburn (CC)

Tension Between Generations Points to a Shift Away from Masculine Organizations

17281432455_2476dcef9e_z[We’re pleased to welcome Kristen Lucas of University of Louisville. Kristen recently published an article in Journal of Management Inquiry, entitled “Generational Growing Pains as Resistance to Feminine Gendering Organization? An Archival Analysis of Human Resource Management Discourses,” with co-authors Suzy D’Enbeau of Kent State University and Erica P. Heiden of College of Saint Mary.]

After being intrigued (or perhaps irked is a better word?) for quite a while about the bad rap Millennials were getting in the workplace, Erica sparked the idea for a project that would explore “kids these days!” complaints about different generations. At first, we weren’t sure how we could approach our research question in a way that wasn’t biased by retrospective judgments or insights. We contemplated blogs written by and/or about Millennials, trade books on generational differences, and interviews with HR managers. But none of those options seemed to get at how older adults complained (or not) about “kids these days.” Eventually, we realized that HR Magazine and, more specifically, archival issues of the magazine, would be just the source we needed.

One of the most fun aspects about this project was digging into the archives. Our university library stored the issues for each decade differently. The 1970 issues were available only on microfilm. The 1990 issues were bound and stored in the stacks. And the 2010 issues were available only online. Although electronic files would certainly be easier to work with, we knew we’d miss some really key information (like article placement, visual images, and ads). So we borrowed hard copies of the 2010 issues from the HR Director at Erica’s company.

The archival materials were visually striking—especially looking back on the 1970s issues with Mad Men-styled personnel men wearing skinny ties and heavy-framed glasses, and the 1990s issues with women wearing floppy bowties, big shoulder pads, and even bigger hairstyles. While the 2010 images didn’t look strange to us now, it did make us wonder what we will be saying about styles and images of work 10 or 20 years from now. (Might it be something about people sitting barefoot on couches as they work on laptop computers?) When we moved past the visual images and started JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointfocusing on the written discourse, we found even more interesting insights.

As a Gen-Xer, I (Kristen) had taken my first full-time professional job in 1991. So I expected the 1990s issues to feel like a walk down memory lane. But instead, they seemed to represent a distant history that belonged to my mother’s generation, not mine. This project really brought to light how small, incremental changes can cumulate over time and how people’s sense of “what used to be” can be distorted. For Erica, the biggest surprise came from reading the 1970 issues and seeing how the Silent Generation complained about Baby Boomers. More than once she commented in her notes, “It sounds like they’re talking about Millennials!”

We used a feminist communicology of organization framework to analyze these discourses. You can read more about our approach and our findings in the article. But in a nutshell, we found that older workers have complained about young people for generations. In that regard, Millennials aren’t any different than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. But what is different is that Millennials’ unique expectations (like those for emotional support, feedback, and mentoring relationships) are deeply, yet subtly, gendered. So when HRM practices adapt to meet those expectations, the organization itself becomes more feminine. Therefore, we raise the possibility that frustrations expressed about Millennials also could be encompassing frustrations about the way feminine organizing practices are challenging traditionally masculine workplaces.

We hope our study will serve as an entry point for people to engage in meaningful dialogue about diversity in organizations that moves beyond surface-level stereotypes and recognizes the unique ways that difference intersects in overt and subtle ways.

The abstract:

Guided by a feminist communicology of organization framework, we examine generational growing pains by analyzing discourses appearing in HR Magazine at three different points in time, which approximately mark the midpoint of Baby Boomers’, Gen Xers’, and Millennials’ initial entry into the workplace. We reconstruct historically situated gendered discourses that encapsulate key concerns expressed by human resource management professionals as they dealt with younger generations of workers: Personnel Man as Father Knows Best (1970), Human Resource Specialist as Loyalty Builder (1990), and Talent Manager as Nurturer (2010). We propose that frustrations expressed by older generations about Millennials may not be because Millennials are necessarily more demanding than their predecessors, but instead because their expectations reflect and effect gendered changes of organizing.

You can read “Generational Growing Pains as Resistance to Feminine Gendering of Organization? An Archival Analysis of Human Resource Management Discourses” from Journal of Management Inquiry  free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Building image credited to Anne Marie Peterson (CC)


LucasKristen Lucas (PhD, Purdue University) is an associate professor in the Management Department at University of Louisville and a Gen Xer. Her expertise centers on how communication—from micro-level interactions to broader social discourses—constructs organizations, gives meaning to careers, and influences human flourishing and dignity in the workplace. She has published research in journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Management Communication Quarterly, Communication Monographs, and Women’s Studies in Communication.

D'Enbeau, Suzy

Suzy D’Enbeau (PhD, Purdue University) is an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies at Kent State University and a Gen Xer. Her research explores how social change organizations navigate competing goals in domestic and transnational contexts; problematizes dominant ways of thinking about, constructing, and performing gender in different organizational contexts and in popular culture; and unpacks some of the challenges of qualitative inquiry in terms of analysis and researcher identity. In addition to numerous book chapters, her work has appeared in leading journals such as Communication Monographs, Feminist Media Studies, Human Relations, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Qualitative Inquiry, Qualitative Communication Research, and Women’s Studies in Communication.

HeidenErica P. Heiden (MA, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is a Millennial who works at Bailey Lauerman, an independent digital marketing and brand agency in Omaha, Nebraska. In her role as the agency’s Knowledge Strategist, she “makes people really smart, really fast.” In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member and head coach for the Speech Team at College of Saint Mary, also in Omaha. She has coauthored an article on the dark side of mentoring in Australian Journal of Communication.


How Leaders Succeed and Fail at Communicating Change to Subordinates

Spending Review Briefing, Birmingham, November 2010.

[We’re pleased to welcome Timothy Hartge of University of Michigan-Dearborn, who co-authored an article published in International Journal of Business Communication, entitled “Leaders’ Behaviors During Radical Change Processes: Subordinates’ Perceptions of How Well Leader Behaviors Communicate Change” with co-authors Thomas Callahan of University of Michigan-Dearborn and Cynthia King of Naval Post Graduate School.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

As a member of the research team and a former senior manager in the marketing and advertising for 35 years, I was always fascinated by what management communications methods and techniques propelled subordinates into action. Change being the constant in business, and so critical to management success, it seemed appropriate to look at effective communications and quantify what leadership communication behaviors worked and what didn’t during critical change periods.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

What was a pleasant surprise, when we sat back to look at what we had done, to us, we seemed to quantify the meaning of “Walk the Talk”. Also, some surprising findings; the expectations of management, communicating frequently critical behaviors suchBPCQ/IJBC3.indd as providing resources, soliciting feedback and driving change, the results showed that this may lower subordinate perceptions of change. By not meeting subordinates’ expectations, the communications change messages are not successful in affecting change. In reality, not all subordinates believe that these leader communications behaviors are relevant or important. The high frequency of behaviors that they consider unimportant can result in lower perceptions of successful change.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We believe that future research should focus on samples from a larger number of firms experiencing significant change. We believe a unique contribution to leadership communications is related to the validation and refinement of findings from qualitative research through quantitative methods. From the King, Brook, and Hartge. (2007) Interviews with senior executives, we derived communications, and behavioral factors that senior executives said were effective during times of financial and market crises and we tested that hypothesis. More work should be done to validate both of these contributions to the literature of management change communication.

The abstract:

This research asked 252 upper-, middle-, and first-line-level managers in organizations experiencing radical change to assess the effects of their own leaders’ communications and behaviors on their perceptions of the change process. Results indicated that the frequency of exhibition of most behaviors by leaders positively affected subordinates’ perceptions of change. For three types of behaviors, soliciting upward feedback, driving change, and providing resources, the importance of these behaviors to the subordinates’ moderated perceptions of the change process. Discussion of these results and their implications conclude the study.

You can read “Leaders’ Behaviors During Radical Change Processes: Subordinates’ Perceptions of How Well Leader Behaviors Communicate Change” from International Journal of Business Communication free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from International Journal of Business CommunicationClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Meeting image credited to highwaysengland (CC)


Timothy Hartge is participating marketing communications faculty at the College of Business, at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Intermittent Lecturer at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research focuses on leaders and how they make high quality connections (HQC’s), also, improving management communications during change, or transformation.

Thomas Callahan is an emeritus faculty at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. His research interests have included buyer-supplier relationships, employee pay, and retirement plans, educational and career choice, and leadership. He has been the recipient of the Scholarly Achievement Award from the Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management.

Cynthia King is assistant professor of Management Communication and associate director of the Center for Defense Management Reform at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. King’s research focuses on rhetorical criticism and discourse analysis of spoken and written texts, with an emphasis on the relationship between language and meaning in organizational contexts.