The Role of Gossip in the Creation and Miscreation of Company Identity from the Perspective of Actor-Network Theory

The Role of Gossip in the Creation and Miscreation of Company Identity from the Perspective of Actor-Network Theory

Magdalena Bielenia-Grajewska (Department of Translation Studies, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/IJANTTI.2015100104
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Abstract

In this paper an attempt will be made to show how the grapevine shapes the relations between companies and stakeholders. To narrow the scope of the research, attention will be focused solely on one type of colloquial corporate socializing, namely gossiping. The company, its organizational environment and its relation with gossip are studied by implying the notion of company identity. The interrelation between gossiping and company identity has not been discussed by many researchers, although informal communication as such spans a number of disciplines. Consequently, in this work the author will try to show both the negative and positive sides of gossip in forming corporate communities and their character. Taking into account the growing role of networks in creating and sustaining different types of communication, gossiping is studied through the perspective of Actor-Network Theory that facilitates an understanding of how human beings and non-living entities shape the way company identity is constructed and maintained.
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1. Introduction

Gossip and other forms of informal communication have been the topic of interest for various specialists; however the interrelation between identities in organizations and gossiping has been researched by very few scholars (e.g. Noon & Delbridge, 1993). Moreover, Actor-Network Theory has not been used so far to discuss gossiping and its role in creating and maintaining organizational personae. Thus, the aim of this contribution is to elaborate on the role of gossip in organizational life, by paying special attention to ANT and its implications for grapevine as well as its influence on company image. There are many corporate areas which can be studied from the communicative angle. One of them is the concept of identity researched within the corporate setting that has been one of the author’s interests for some years. In the case of this research, the notion of company identity and its complexities, which will be discussed in the coming sections, can be used to highlight some tendencies related to gossiping in companies. Since company workers are not willing to share detailed information on gossiping in their company, this paper lacks an empirical part showing the data on gossip at work.

The paper has the following purposes. First, the author wants to discuss the importance of informal communication, and especially gossiping, in organization studies. The second aim is to show the notion of company identity and its complexities as well as their applications in studies on gossiping. Thirdly, the goal is to present the double nature of gossiping, both its creative and destructive power, especially in relation to some selected aspects of company identity. In the author’s opinion such studies can be important for both managers and workers who can understand that gossiping is not just an unimportant organizational activity, often applied for relaxing or just killing time, but it is very powerful and its potential can be used for both positive and negative aims. The mentioned discussion is supported by the ANT methodology that offers a deep insight into organizational and linguistic studies.

The paper starts with the concept of company identity which is introduced and explained. Since social identity influences knowledge integration (Willem, Scarbrough & Buelens, 2008), company identity determines knowledge creation and diffusion, which, on the other hand, cannot take place without communication, also an informal one. Taking into account the characteristics of the twenty-first century, determined by the role of technological advancements, the discussion will be centered around the role of non-living entities in gossiping and its influence on company identity.

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