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The Walt Disney Company and its theme parks have drawn the interest of organization and management scholars for decades. Books and articles praising Disney management began appearing in the 1960s. The runaway 1982 bestseller, In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, remains in print and lauds the Disney organization as a “best example” of customer service and employee relations.Peters, T. J., & Waterman, R. H., Jr. (1982). In search of excellence: Lessons from America’s best companies. New York: Harper & Row. The high profile of the Disney theme parks in U.S. and global culture have prompted studies not only by industrial psychologists and management scientists, but by scholars who take interpretive, critical, and postmodern approaches to organizational communication.For example, see Boje, D. M. (1995). Stories of the story-telling organization: A postmodern analysis of Disney as “Tamara-land.” Academy of Management Review, 38, 997–1035; Van Maanen, J. (1991). The smile factory: Work at Disneyland. In P. J. Frost, L. F. Moore, M. R. Lewis, C. C. Lundberg & J. Martin (Eds.), Reframing organizational culture (pp. 58–76). Newbury Park, CA: Sage; Van Maanen, J. (1992). Displacing Disney: Some notes on the flow of organizational culture. Qualitative Sociology, 15, 5–25; Van Maanen, J., & Kunda, G. (1989). Real feelings: Emotional expression and organizational culture. Research in Organizational Behavior, 11, 43–103.
One innovative study, though conducted some 30 years ago, reads like today’s news. The Disneyland theme park in California was dealing with the economic effects of a recent recession. Since the park was founded in 1955, management had succeeded in building up an unusually close-knit organizational culture. So a 1984 strike by park employees, protesting a management proposal to freeze wages and reduce benefits, made national headlines. Two organizational communication researchers, Ruth Smith and Eric Eisenberg, decided to investigate these labor troubles by taking an interpretive approach to the Disney organizational culture.Smith, R. C., & Eisenberg, E. M. (1987). Conflict at Disneyland: A root-metaphor analysis. Communication Monographs, 54, 367-380. They interviewed managers from several departments, reviewed company documents, and found that management carefully cultivated the metaphor of Disneyland as a “drama” or “show.” Customers were “guests” and employees, as the “cast,” were expected to play their “roles” by talking in approved phrases that followed the “script.” Dress codes and grooming requirements were called “costuming.” The park’s “on-stage” and “back-stage” areas were clearly delineated.
Then Smith and Eisenberg interviewed striking workers and were surprised by what they discovered. The company founder, Walt Disney, had died in 1966. His successors worked diligently to carry on his legacy so that the show might go on. In fact, according to Smith and Eisenberg, management was so successful in cultivating this idea that the park employees also took satisfaction in being caretakers of the Disney legacy. And with Disneyland’s emphasis on family entertainment, park employees began to see their workplace as a “family.” When management was compelled by the recession to emphasize the bottom line, employees believed the company was forsaking the Disney legacy and violating the spirit of the “Disney family.” Management responded by suggesting that families go through hard times, but to no avail. The strike lasted 22 days, the union went public with its concerns, management implemented a separate wage scale for new employees, and the organizational culture was profoundly changed.
In Chapter 4 "Modern Theories of Organizational Communication" we learned that theorists must make decisions about ontology, epistemology, and axiology. Select the answer below that gives the definitions of these three terms in the order of ontology, epistemology, and axiology.
The belief that a social phenomenon (such as an organization) has a subjective existence, and that it naturally tends toward order, are characteristic of which approach to organizations?
The belief that a social phenomenon (such as an organization) is known by applying prior theoretical knowledge to the phenomenon, and that it naturally tends toward conflict, is characteristic of which approach to organizations?
The belief that a social phenomenon (such as an organization) exists independent of human perception, and that its structures are created through human agency, is characteristic of which approach to organizations?
Which model depicts communication as a process by which communicators send messages/feedback simultaneously to one another?