The Polyphony of Values and the Value of Polyphony

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Abstract

While human communication is inherently symbolic and thus potentially vague, ambiguous and polyphonic, there is a growing emphasis on certainty, accuracy and consistency in everything contemporary organizations say and do. Organizational messages about corporate values, in particular, are expected to accurately and unambiguously depict the organizational sender “behind” the words. Current communication principles, in other words, seek to reduce or eliminate the polyphonic potential of symbolic communication. In this paper we challenge this trend, arguing that the polyphony of corporate values is valuable because it facilitates change by inviting alternative interpretations and stimulating participation and critique. Lack of accuracy in organizational messages – including inconsistencies between what organizations say and what they do – may be an important driver of organizational and social change, because such differences have potential to raise expectations and apply pressure on organizational actors to improve their practices
Original languageEnglish
JournalE S S A C H E S S - Journal for Communication Studies
Volume8
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)9-25
ISSN1775-352X
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Symbolic communication
  • Polyphony
  • Aspirations
  • Change

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