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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 II: Moving from top-Down to Upward Communication

Extract

Part II Moving from top-Down to Upward Communication 4Top-Down Communication and Case Studies Years ago, i sat in on an exit interview. The lead interviewer asked, “What do you think is already working well at this organization?” and made careful notes about the organization’s strengths. Finally, he asked the magic question, “What are some things we could do to make it better here?” The exiting member offered several thoughtful suggestions that very likely would have improved our organi- zation. as she did, the lead interviewer stopped taking notes and listened with a stone-faced expression. in awkward fashion, he then explained in defensive tones point-by-point problems with each of the exiting member’s ideas. Unfortunately, the dynamic in this conversation is too common. This meeting was meant to collect upward feedback, but the conversation flipped back into a top- down communication pattern. Most organizational members notice fairly early that communication typically flows down the organizational hierarchy. The pres- ident or CEO along with the other top executives pass their messages down through the various director- and managerial-level ranks, who continue to pass the messages down through department or shift supervisors, who make sure that employee-level members finally get the message. Nothing is wrong with downward communica- tion. in fact, organizational members at all levels need to know what leaders think, including the goals, priorities, and vision for the organization. However, when organizations overemphasize top-down communication, they inadvertently over- whelm the supply of needed upward communication. The first part of this chapter looks...

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