Organizational Symbolism: An Overview of the Tourism Industry

Organizational Symbolism: An Overview of the Tourism Industry

Bekir Esitti (Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey) and Buket Buluk (Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1474-0.ch011


This chapter discusses the issue of organizational symbolism, which is frequently encountered in business life, and its meaning in the tourism industry. Symbols are the most apparent and observable aspects of organizational life; simultaneously, symbolic elements are the most subtle and comprehensive. Due to the nature of the hospitality sector, the workflow takes place instantaneously. Therefore, employees, managers, and tourists search for some of the generally accepted symbols used in the organisation during this rapid workflow. If symbols are removed from this relationship, communication suffers and as a result harms the overall functioning of the organization. This chapter proposes that it is important to look at the origins of the organizational symbolism and to comprehend the role of symbols in the tourism industry. In this sense, this chapter should be seen primarily as an effort to review and systematize the overall understanding of organizational symbols in the tourism industry.
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Background On Organizational Symbolism

From a historical point of view, the evolution observed in the tourism business world in the last century has shifted the existing cultural structures and thus the symbols used in organizations and labor markets. The term “organizational symbolism” conjures up a wide variety of meanings within the organizational community. A review of the organizational symbolism literature indicates that several conceptual views have emerged (Fuller, 2008). Some researchers have addressed organizational symbolism as it relates to organizational culture (Louis, 1983; Alvesson & Berg, 2011). A second popular approach to organizational symbolism follows logically from the first. According to Peters (1978) symbols could be used as tools to affect change in organizations; he asserted that managers should manipulate symbols to create their preferred interpretations. Symbols are mechanisms organizations can use to signal their management philosophy to workers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Value: The monetary worth of something, market price and also means a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged. On the other hand, value has been taken to mean moral ideas, general conceptions or orientations towards the world or sometimes simply interests, attitudes, preferences, needs, sentiments and dispositions. Values reflect what one feels is important in their life. At an individual level, values could include concepts such as caring, empathy, or trust, among many others. At the organizational level, examples of values might include accountability, customer service, and safety.

Physical Organizational Symbols: Physical objects and commodities in organizations transmit messages to employees as symbols. Physical symbols used by individuals and organizations include; clothes and accessories, buildings and offices, technology and especially technological tools and other symbolic objects. The analysis of the physical or material aspects of organizations (such as things, objects, materials and buildings), answers to questions such as how these objects mediate, how these objects are shared, how they affect organizational processes are important sources of information for understanding organizations.

Norm: Ways of behaving that are considered normal in a particular society. It means formal rule or standard laid down by legal, religious, or social authority against which appropriateness (what is right or wrong) of an individual's behavior is judged. Norm is also defined as informal guideline about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) social behavior in a particular group or social unit. Norms form the basis of collective expectations that members of a community have from each other and play a key part in social control and social order by exerting a pressure on the individual to conform.

Symbolism: The use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another, to give an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. For instance, “smile” is a symbol of friendship. Similarly, the action of someone smiling at you may stand as a symbol of the feeling of affection which that person has for you.

Culture: The characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. It also means the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning. Culture consists of activities such as the arts and philosophy, which are considered to be important for the development of civilization and of people's minds.

Non-Physical Organizational Symbols: Some symbols in organizations do not exist in material forms, but are perceived, known and accepted by employees and customers. Ceremonies, rituals, stories, myths, heroes and business language are the examples of of such symbols.

Organizational Symbolism: The study of an identifiable action, object, or language that conveys an abstract meaning. The term “organizational symbolism” refers to those aspects of an organization that its members use to reveal or make comprehendable the unconscious feelings, images, and values that are inherent in that organization. Organizational symbolism is the study of the expressive functions of organizational life.

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