Tonight I’m Gonna Manage Like It’s 1999

This is a bit academic (because it’s taken straight from my posting to a classmate in Organizational Theory and Design), but there’s an application after the academia, so please read through:

Eisenberg, Goodall, and Trethewey (2007) define communication in organizations through the lens of historical versus modern organizational theories. Classical organizational theory would define effective communication as “top-down clarity and the cultivation of an authoritative style” (p. 285). If the employee followed the bosses’ instructions well, communication had been successful. The human relations theorists would argue that effective communication might be measured by how the employees felt about the communication. Employees were not just the passive receivers of communication, they became active parts of the communication process. Moving into a postmodern era requires that communication take into account the cultural, social, economical, and political environment in which the communication takes place.

What this is saying is that how leaders communicated to employees during the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries didn’t cut it in the Mad Men era of service organizations, and the good vibrations of the 1960’s and 70’s don’t resonate with employees in 2011.  Are you trying to communicate to the next generation of leaders in yesterday’s terms, with old-fashioned manager-knows-best top-down directives?  Today’s generation needs you to understand the environment in which the communication is taking place, what the symbols of language represent to them, and how important a collaborative style is to them.

Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall, H. L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2007). Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.