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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 III: Moving from Secretive to transparent Communication


Part III Moving from Secretive to transparent Communication 7Secretive Communication and Case Studies It’s not the crime that gets you. It’s the cover up. —Journalism Saying From the 1990s to the 2000s, penn State’s athletic department ignored reports that a football staff member was sexually abusing young boys he brought to campus. The abuse continued for decades even after some leaders knew about it. When enough victims finally stepped forward and the issue went public, the head coach was fired, the football team was stripped of its titles, the college was fined over $60 million, and the team was ineligible for title games for four years. Unfortunately, the past fifteen years of front-page headlines announced a seemingly endless string of scandals from the nation’s largest organizations. as redding (1996) points out, “The preponderance of everyday problems that plague all organizations are … problems that are patently ethical or moral in nature” (p. 18). No organization is immune to difficulties or the temptation to hide them (Mesmer-Magnus & Viswesvaran, 2005). What separates organiza- tions that prosper, however, is how they respond when non-routine and poten- tially damaging issues emerge (Ulmer, Sellnow, & Seeger, 2010). Organizations practice secretive communication within their walls that frequently makes their problems worse. This chapter first explores secretive communication and the trouble it can create. Second, four case studies show organizations that strug- gled with it: GlaxoSmithKline, the Boy Scouts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and General Motors. 178 | Case Studies in Courageous Organizational Communication The Trouble with...

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