A Handful / Hand Full of Colorful Beads
Critical studies of cummunication
The last issue of the 16th volume of the Management Communication Quarterly presented a forum on ‘Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility.’ This forum – coincidentally or otherwise – blazed the way for the first issue of the 17th volume which is dedicated to corporate meltdown, the 2002 experience in the USA in which citizens were confronted with ‘corporate scandals’ such as at Enron, Global Crossing, Arthur Anderson, and WorldCom. This issue concludes with a forum in which points of view about teaching business ethically are presented.
After an introduction by Charles Conrad to the special issue on corporate meltdown, in which he dwells on ethics, corporate governance, Enron, and corruption, the major part of this number is dedicated to a ‘general’ contribution (Kuhn and Ashcraft) and two detailed ones on Enron (Seeger and Ulmer; Boje and Rosile). The keywords of these contributions – theory of the firm, practice theory, corporate scandal, constitutive communication (Kuhn and Ashcraft); leadership, responsibility, ethics, plausible deniability, accountability (Seeger and Ulmer); storytelling, narrative, Enron, critical dramaturgy, antenarrative (Boje and Rosile) – clearly indicate how shocked North-American society was.
The forum is a ‘logical’ result of the 2002 crisis: from different points of view the contributions ‘(…) reflect on our responsibilities as organizational scholars. In a familiar nutshell, we are called to analyze organizational practice (both generally and specifically), identify the positive and negative consequences of that practice, and articulate sound practices while seeking to ameliorate the negative practices’ (Barker, Forum Introduction, p. 127). Two quotes as incentives for reading and thinking about this topic:
Ethics are not only about values. They are also about structures, processes, and the relationships that endure, get reproduced, and that generate outcomes that affect all of us. If business schools taught these things more effectively, then there would presumably be less chance for companies that look like winners really to be losers, and there would be less chance for corporate fraud and scandal. (DiTomasso, Parks-Yancy and Post, 2003, p. 149).and:
The current rash of corporate scandals should present a challenge to us as teachers in the business school. It is an ethical challenge. But rather than issuing a call for teaching business ethics, I emphasize the need for more ethical business teaching. (Stablein, 2003, p. 154).In other parts of the globe, less scandalous situations bring about less critical research into other communication practices. Interesting contributions are Barker (2003), Bille (2003), Petit (2003), and Saunders and Scialfa (2003).