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Case Studies in Courageous Organizational Communication

Research and Practice for Effective Workplaces

Alexander Lyon

Alexander Lyon presents 31 case studies in organizational communication that explore issues of courageous communication. Through case studies on many well-known organizations such as Google, the Miami Dolphins, NASA, Comcast, the Boy Scouts of America, Netflix, Taco Bell, Massachusetts General Hospital, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and others, the book articulates a communication-based model of courage around four themes: Courageous communication is collaborative, upward, transparent, and engaging.

The book presents both effective and cautionary portraits of organizations as they responded to complex issues. It situates the case studies in existing literature and provides practical guidance for enacting courageous communication in professional settings.


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Part I: Moving from Control to Collaboration


Part I Moving from Control to Collaboration 1Controlling Communication and Case Studies Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. —Margaret Miller Years ago, i worked briefly for a very controlling supervisor who had a raw style of interacting. Several times a day, she reminded everybody about important pro- cedures and pointed out almost every mistake we made. She was clearly the most experienced person in our department and had excellent technical skills. Still, her clipped, corrective communication short-circuited what might have other- wise been pleasant or even inspiring conversations. instead, she micro-managed everybody to the point of frustration, did little to help the organization achieve its goals, and hurt her own credibility. Strictly speaking, control is not “wrong,” is clearly one component of a manager’s responsibility, and has a place. However, she mistakenly overused it as a stock response. This chapter looks at the various ways people use control counterproductively. The first part introduces the conceptual landscape of control, and the second presents four case studies where control played a damaging role: Enron, Foxconn, Jim Beam, and the Miami Dolphins. Controlling Communication at its core, controlling communication flows in a linear, one-way direction. people with this approach spend their time steering conversations, telling others what to do, and imposing their ideas into others’ heads. This monologic form of communication involves “some form of control, utilization, domination, or 14 | Case Studies in Courageous Organizational Communication manipulation” (Yoshikawa, 1977, p. 103). You may have experienced, for instance,...

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