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Perspectives And Traditions of Communication Within the Organisation



Organisational communication, rooted in business communication, contained certain underlying assumptions from the start. By and large, the assumptions can be categorised into certain perspectives on communication within the organisation. Although various perspectives on the situation exist, the two that are largely oppositional to each other, but, yet, which are both seen to be equally valid by communication scholars are the positivist tradition and the interpretivist tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, and as galvanised by the Industrial Revolution, various traditions in the study of communication in organisational settings emerged from the different perspectives adopted. At the outset, the traditions concerned focused more on optimal management and on “dehumanising” the study of communication, although doing so soon proved to be impossible, if not injudicious. As a result of the above, more humanistic traditions started to emerge that considered the ways in which human beings tend to shape organisational reality, largely using comparatively interpretivist ways of understanding communication.

Three traditions specifically dominate the literature, namely the positional, the relational, and the cultural traditions. Although both the positional and the relational traditions consider the ways in which human interaction shapes organisational functioning, it is the cultural tradition that truly scrutinises the phenomenon. In this assignment, you must discuss the ways in which the study of symbols in an organisation can be approached by way of the cultural network tradition. Your discussion should outline how the study of organisational symbols through the cultural network tradition is interpretivist, rather than being positivist. Your discussion should contain an appropriate balance of theory and application. Herein, you should make use of an organisation, or of organisations, of your choice to apply the theoretical assertions that you make (on the basis of the literature studied).


1. Define and discuss the positivist and interpretivist perspectives of communication in the organisation. Your discussions will serve as a guideline for further discussion.

2. Distinguish between the two perspectives, showing how they impact on, and mould, communication, and the study thereof, within an organisation.

3. Discuss the positional, relational and cultural traditions of communication in the organisation. Ensure that you define and describe each tradition in terms of the communication process, roles and relations manifested within an organisational setting. Your discussion should serve as the broad background of your assignment topic, and it should not constitute the bulk of your assignment.

4. Discuss, in depth, the cultural tradition of communication in the organisation. Your discussion should have ample theoretical depth, and it should (as appropriate) show application to an organisation of your choice, so as to show your understanding of the tradition involved.

5. Show, through an in-depth discussion that is thoroughly supported with references to the literature, in what ways the cultural tradition is interpretivist in nature, as well as the ways in which it is not positivist in nature.

6. Discuss the ways in which the interpretivist cultural tradition can be used to study organisational symbols. Refer to your chosen organisation or organisations throughout your discussion, making use of relevant practical examples.

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