The Critical Approach to Organizations & Communication

The Critical Approach to Organizations & Communication
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  • 0:03 What Is the Critical Approach?
  • 0:55 Power in the Critical Approach
  • 2:10 Control in the…
  • 3:24 Challenges of the…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reed

Danielle works in digital marketing and advertising. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and an MBA.

The critical approach considers power and control central to the organization. In this lesson, we examine sources of power, ways to achieve control, and challenges with the critical approach.

What Is the Critical Approach?

The critical approach to organizational communication defines that organizations are locations of domination, with power and control as central. It is based on the idea that power is not equally distributed. The critical approach is based on a traditional hierarchy with several organizational levels of power.

It stems out of the belief that communication often results in discourse with potential transformations made after resistance occurs. This approach challenges the average worker to reconsider his or her place in a work organization.

The roots of the critical approach came from beliefs from Karl Marx. He saw life as a constant struggle with authority, and this approach applies those principles in power versus control. The approach called 'the organization as a battleground where rival forces strive for the achievement of largely incompatible ends,' as stated by economist Gareth Morgan.

Power in the Critical Approach

The critical approach of organizational communication depends on power and discourse being locations of domination. Some sources of power within a company (which are sources in nonprofits, governments, and even small businesses) include:

  • Direct power, which is to give employees an exact direction and then monitor their behavior. For example, clocking in and out is a form of control.

  • Technological power is the technology used by an organization used to control behaviors like speed, communication, and type of work. For example, if your machine only puts on buttons, you cannot take on another task at work.

  • Bureaucratic power is the system of rules, structures, and 'red tape' that control the activities of a member. For example, without a set lunch schedule there may not be a skeleton crew of employees to cover shifts.

  • Ideological power is the development of values and beliefs that employees should identify with strongly. This is the defining culture of the place. For example, Disney employees go through a culture boot camp when they are hired.

  • Disciplinary power is a type of self-control or regulation put in place by individual employee production. An example of this are production standards put in place by the staff to distinguish who is or is not producing well.

Control in the Critical Approach

Just as power is important in the critical approach, control also dictates communication. You can achieve control within an organization through the following methods:

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