Public Relations Management: A Multiple-Case Study in Media Management
Kenneth D. Plowman
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
San Jose State University
One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192-0055
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Public Relations Management: A Multiple-Case Study in Media Management
This study examines 15 single case studies related to public relations
management conducted from 1996-1998. Graduate students at San Jose State
University conducted the studies. In a multiple-case analysis the communication
management style of these organizations leaned towards the participative theory,
but resorted to the authoritative style on certain occasions, in a mixed motive
manner. The same pattern followed for Theories Y and Z vs. Theory X, and
two-way symmetrical vs. two-way asymmetrical communications.
Public Relations Management: A Multiple-Case Study in Media Management
This study grew out of a graduate course at San Jose State University entitled,
Media Management, Economics and New Technologies. The premise of the course is
to examine how organizations manage their communication whether it be in the
fields of journalism, advertising, public relations, or integrated
communications. The course has been taught for three years, in the Spring
Semesters of 1996, 1997, and 1998. Students were tasked with approaching a
client about doing an academic case study to evaluate the primary research
question of how that organization manages its communication practices. Any type
of organization could be chosen, and any aspect of communications examined --
internal, meaning either employee relations or within the communication
department itself, or external, meaning client-orient or to strategic publics.
The purpose of this particular multiple-case study was to extract from 45
cases, those that applied to public relations management. A total of 15 were
chosen. The importance of the study is to combine for the first time, theory
normally relegated to media management, public relations theory, and the
multi-case method. This would serve to further examine the relationship between
theory and practice, and hopefully, bring any differences closer together and
promote increased understanding in the public relations field.
This multiple-case study explored three theories and a related fourth
relative to the communication management style of these organizations:
authoritarian versus participative, management, Theory X versus Theories Y and
Z, symmetrical versus asymmetrical communication, and mixed motives.
Several methods of evidence were used in this case study to develop the process
of triangulation and add to the verifiablity of the results (Yin, 1994).
Documents were selected based on the existing archives and availability.
Agendas and year-end reports were useful to show the background, past successes
and future goals of the organizations studied. Archival records such as
organizational charts and budgets provided the business aspects of the units
examined. The bulk of evidence came from conducting personal interviews with
several individuals. Those individuals varied between executive directors,
directors, managers and employees. Analysis was across the cases with the
results section focusing on explanation of patterns based on the research
questions. The evidence from this multi-case design is more compelling, and the
overall study is therefore considered more robust (Herriott & Firestone, 1983).
There were delimiters to this case study. First was the time factor. The case
studies were conducted in fewer than 16 weeks so there was a limit to the amount
of information that could be collected and examined during that time. Another
delimiter was the role of most of the researchers as participant observers.
Although this circumstance allowed for ease of access to people and information,
it also was somewhat awkward in an interview situation. Because all the
individuals involved usually worked together, the respondents knew that what
they said could affect the interviewer. Some of the interview questions were
awkward but the answers obtained still seemed more honest and in-depth than an
outsider could have obtained.
Public Relations Management
The conduct of these case studies and the multi-case analysis is an important
link in the continued viability and growth of the public relations field. After
reading this case study, the organizations' style of management should be more
This multiple-case analysis compares participative and authoritarian culture,
Theories, X, Y and Z, two-way symmetrical and two-way asymmetrical models of
communication, and mixed motives.
Understanding these theories listed above might be easier if placed on a
continuum. By definition, most of these theories fall near one end or the other
of this spectrum. However, in practice, most management styles incorporate
parts of each theory. McGregor (1960) said, "Managers can draw on both sets of
ideas depending on the situation." This would make it difficult to plot a
manager's style at a specific place on the continuum. A manager's style may
swing like a pendulum, depending on the given situation. However, patterns from
this analysis showed that managers' styles were consistent enough to plot them
at some point on the continuum. As Dozier, L. Grunig, and J. Grunig (1995)
describe, "_ the values of one culture _ typically predominate in each
organization" (p. 17).
This continuum is illustrated in Figure 1. At the extreme left are plotted
Leadership Theory's authoritarian management style, Theory X and the two-way
asymmetrical model. On the extreme right are the participative theory
management style, Theory Y and the two-way symmetrical model.
PLACE FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE
Authoritarian and Participative
An organizational structure is "the sum total of shared values, symbols,
meanings, beliefs, assumptions, and expectations that organize and integrate a
group of people who work together" (Dozier et al., 1995, p. 135). There are two
main types of organizational structure: authoritarian and participative.
Authoritarian. Dozier et al. described authoritarian leadership as
emphasizing "centralized control and decision making by a few powerful managers"
(1995, p.77). Gonring and Clark declared authoritarian culture restrictive.
"Innovation is stifled, departments operate separately, with no shared goals.
Employees fear supervisors. Decision-making in the organization is centralized"
(1992, p. 26). According to Dozier et al.: "The various departments in
authoritarian organizational cultures do not share a common mission. Employees
say managers act as if the employees they supervise don't have initiative and
require constant direction" (p. 140). In this type of department, decisions are
made by the manager without consulting staff members. These staff members are
then expected to follow through on whatever decision the manager has decreed.
Overall then, authoritarian leadership is characterized by; centralized control
with the various departments lacking a common mission and employees who have no
initiative and cannot act without constant direction.
Participative. In contrast to authoritarian, Likert's (1961) research
showed that the participative management approach was successful because
increasing participation by organizational members at all levels helped build
more productive organizations. House and Dessler (1974) said managers could
enhance the psychological state of employees, giving them greater motivation to
perform and increasing job satisfaction. Matejko (1986) said, "Participation
implies a situation in which all interested parties exercise some legitimate
control over these decisions which are of vital interest to them" (p. 193).
Gonring and Clark wrote in 1992 that: "The participative culture _ is
characterized by teamwork, shared power and decision-making, and is guided by
common goals. The organization as a whole is open to ideas from outside" (p.
Dozier et al. (1995) described participative cultures/organizations as:
"Organizations _ infuse their employees with shared values, pulling employees
together as a team to accomplish a common mission. Open to outside ideas, these
organizations favor innovation and adaptation over tradition and domination" (p.
17). Also, "Participative management means involving subordinates in
decision-making and thereby sourcing the expertise of people involved in the job
- this generally results in higher quality decisions being made, which are more
acceptable to the staff" (http://www.kznpremier.co.za/GG/bullet05.htm).
These descriptions of participative leadership theory have common elements.
Every definition links participative management and culture to teamwork,
employee involvement, shared decision-making, and sense of equality.
In what could be a combination of the authoritarian and participative styles
of leadership, Barnard (1938) said that if goals were imposed from the top down,
attainment of these goals depended on the willingness to comply from the bottom
up. Barnard added that authority depends on the subordinate's approval that
goes hand-in-hand with the issues of teamwork emphasized in a department.
Two other researchers also had ideas on this theme of conflict. House (1977)
characterized effective leaders as using the authoritarian style when resistance
is encountered, but encouraging employee participation in decision making when
compliance is assured. Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1973) said successful leaders
are flexible and cognizant of their choices; directing when necessary and
allowing freedom when possible.
Another set of management styles important in discussing the functions of a
communications department is Theories X, Y and Z.
The Alphabet Theories
Theory X. McGregor (1967) was interested in the basic nature of people.
He developed two theories to describe managers' beliefs. They were Theory X and
A Theory X manager believes the average person dislikes work and will
avoid work whenever possible. These managers must respond to this
attitude with controls such as punishments if employees fail to produce.
Theory X managers also must assume that employees prefer to be directed in
order to avoid responsibility. (p. 39)
McGregor did not believe these theories were necessarily managerial strategies
but were rather underlying beliefs about human nature that influence managers to
adopt one strategy over another. He said that: "_ most people must be coerced,
controlled, directed, threatened with punishment to get them to put forth
adequate effort toward the achievement of organization objectives. The average
human being prefers being directed _ has relatively little ambition, wants
security above all" (1967, pp. 33-34).
Theory Y. McGregor (as cited in Sohn, Wicks, Lacy, & Silvie 1999) wrote about
Theory Y as an alternative to Theory X. In an attempt to understand
motivations and interactions of individuals with organizations, he said: "Theory
Y managers believe that employees find work as enjoyable as play. They are
self-motivated and self-directed. _[They] are committed to organizational
goals, _ do not need the threat of punishment, _ seek responsibility and are
creative in solving organizational problems."
There are four assumptions to Theory Y: interdependent teams, self-control, the
transactional nature of influence, and intrinsic motivation. These assumptions
lead to the central principle of Theory Y, that being integration; the creation
of conditions that provide employees the opportunity to achieve their own goals
while achieving the goals of the organization at the same time.
Theory Z. This theory could be construed as a combination of Theories X and Y
although Theory Z examines and makes assumptions about the culture of
organizations, whereas X and Y makes assumptions about individuals within
organizations. Theory Z was developed by Ouchi (1981), who described this
management style as, "_long-term employment, often for a lifetime, although the
lifetime relationship is not formally stated (p. 71).
Lacy et al. (1999) said that Ouchi contrasted American organizations (Type
A) with Japanese organizations (Type J). Type A organizations were
characterized by short-term employment, specialized career paths, rapid
promotion, formal control, and individual responsibility. They value
individuality over group membership. Type J organizations, in contrast, are
characterized by lifetime employment, slow advancement, informal control,
consensus decision making, and generalized career paths. Loyalty to groups is
of primary concern and more important that individual achievement. The Theory Z
organization that Ouchi proposed attempts to blend the best of A and J by
retaining individual achievement and advancement while also providing a
continuing sense of organizational community. Theory Z is important because it
draws attention to the human relations approach to management.
Two-way Communication Models
The asymmetrical and symmetrical or two-way models of communications also make
a major contribution to these case studies. "In asymmetrical practices,
communicators use attitude theory, persuasion, and manipulation to shape public
attitudes and behaviors. In symmetrical practices, communicators use theories
and techniques of conflict resolution and negotiation to increase dominant
coalition understanding of publics" (Dozier et al., 1995, p. 46).
Asymmetrical Communication. The goals of this type of managerial communication
1 Persuade a public that your organization is right on an issue
1 Get publics to behave as your organization wants
2 Manipulates publics scientifically
3 Use attitude theory in a campaign (Dozier et al., 1995. p. 46)
Under the two-way asymmetrical model, communicators collect information about
their important publics not to modify their own goals, objectives, or other
forms of organization behavior. Instead, those managers of communication use
that information to persuade publics to think and behave as they desire. They
want to manipulate or persuade publics that the organization is all knowing and
to do what the organization desires.
Symmetrical Communication. The task for a symmetrical manager is to:
4 Negotiate with an activist public
5 Use theories of conflict resolution in dealing with publics
6 Help management to understand the opinion of particular publics
7 Determine how publics react to the organization (Dozier et al.,
1995, p. 46)
Two-way symmetrical communication allows organizations to build long-term
relationships that are satisfactory to both sides. It seeks to manage conflict
and promote mutual understanding. "Communicators can play a somewhat
paradoxical role as advocates of the organization's interest in negotiations
with key publics but advocates of the publics' interest in discussions with the
organization's strategic planners and decision-makers" ( p. 13). Symmetrical
practices emphasize change in the management and key publics' attitudes and
behaviors. Whereas, asymmetrical practices emphasize changing the attitudes and
behaviors of those same key publics, without similar changes in the
Using both symmetrical and asymmetrical communication is not unusual. Murphy
(1991) developed the term mixed motives from game theory that suggest both sides
pursue their own interests, but both sides also realize that the game's outcome
must be satisfactory to both parties. A combination of these two types of
managerial communication is the new model of symmetry as two-way practices
(Dozier et al., 1995). The new model of symmetry applies when "_communicators
try to persuade dominant coalitions to move towards the public's position" (p,
49). Plowman (1996) expanded on this new model further and encompassed both the
asymmetrical and symmetrical communications within a mixed motive model for
Having examined leaderships theory in the form of authoritarian and
participative management styles, the alphabet theories and combination thereof,
and the combined asymmetrical and symmetrical communication practices, it could
be concluded that a mixed motive model would be most appropriate for this
Although contingency theory might best describe the gamut of options for
managers of communications in actual practice, it might be best to separate the
various options in the research questions to cover all the contingencies that
might arise in the actual case studies. The following research questions were
common to these case studies.
1 Is the organizational culture of the organizations studied more
authoritarian than participative?
2 Are the managerial styles of communicators more Theory X or
Theories Y or Z ?
3 Do the communication practices tend to be more asymmetrical than
4 Are the management of communication practices more reflective of a
mixed motive model, a combination of the authoritarian and participative,
Theories X, Y and Z, and the two-way models?
This section explains why a multiple-case study and case studies in general are
effective. It describes briefly the 15 organizations chosen for the individual
studies. It also discusses the data collection process and the issue of bias,
and the type of analysis chosen for the study.
A multiple-case study uses common criteria to analyze a number of
individual case studies that have close or similar criteria. Those criteria can
be similar to the concept of triangulation. Triangulation allow researchers to
review a wide range of issues, including "historical, attitudinal and behavioral
issues" that may affect organizations under study. Any finding or conclusion is
more likely to be convincing if "converging lines of inquiry" can be found (Yin,
This convergence of analysis was referred to by Yin (1994) as replication
for multiple- case study design. Essentially he said that to pursue one set of
theoretical replications might involve up to three single cases. This study
considered from four to seven theories depending on a particular viewpoint of
theory-connectedness. For a multiple-case study of this size, Yin cited
theoretical replication as the best design and that it would produce contrasting
results but for predictable reasons 9p. 46). This case study then, is one of
multiple embedded cases, meaning each individual case also has multiple units of
As far as case studies themselves, as Yin (1994) said, "In brief, the case
study allows an investigator to retain the holistic and meaningful
characteristics of real-life eventsDsuch as_organizational and managerial
process_" (p. 3). The case study helps answer the "how" and "why" through
qualitative methods of evidence instead of statistical data. In an effort to
answer the four research questions for this case study, several sources of
evidence will be used.. According to Yin (1994), "_the various sources are
highly complimentary, and a good case study will therefore want to use as many
sources as possible" (p. 80). Triangulating for the 15 cases, four sources of
evidence were used: documentation, archival records, interviews, and participant
observation. Before describing that evidence, though, the 15 organizations
should be briefly described.
In this multiple-case study, 15 of the 45 total case studies were chosen for
evaluation purposes because of their use of the theories examined in the
literature review and their similarity in method. Most of the organizations
were located in the Silicon Valley area of California. Actual interviewees are
not listed because of guarantees of confidentiality to insure depth and quality
of data collected. Organizations are listed in no particular order.
The San Jose Downtown Association, a non-profit organization that markets
downtown San Jose
KSBW TV_8, a television station serving Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz
counties for over 40 years
Shotwell Public Relations Agency, founded in 1985, focuses on the high-tech
industry -- located in Santa Clara
The Community and Physician's Relations Department at the Lucile Packard
Children's Hospital at Stanford University
The Office of External Affairs at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett
The Semiconductor Industry Association represents US-based semiconductor
manufacturers -- established in 1977 and in San Jose
Pigliaro/Kuhlman, Inc., a high-tech advertising agency in San Jose -- founded in
Netcom On-line Services in San Jose -- the nation's largest internet service
AMC Theatres, Inc. - 14 in Saratoga -- a chain of movie theatres
Tom's of Maine, a $20 million a year company that manufactures "natural personal
care products" including toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and deodorant -- in
The Marketing Communication Office of De Anza Community College in Cupertino
The Marketing Department of the Valley Fair Shopping Center in Santa Clara
San Jose State University's media communications as an element of its two-year
Academic Priorities Planning Process that began in 1993
The Strybing Arboretum Society, a non-profit educational and cultural
organization that operates Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in San
The van Bronkhorst Group, a business-to-business marketing communications agency
that services technology-based companies in Santa Clara.
According to Yin (1994), documents have three main purposes: verifying correct
spelling and titles or names of organizations, providing specific details to
corroborate information from other sources, and helping the researcher make
inferences. He cautions that while documents are an important means if
confirming and adding to information already gathered, they should be used
carefully. Documentary evidence should not be accepted as a literal recording
of events as that have previously taken place. Upon reviewing documentation,
the researcher must remember that the documents were written for a particular
purpose, other than that of the case study being conducted. Keeping this in
mind, the researcher(s) is less likely to be misled by the evidence presented
On the other hand, document review as a source of evidence in a case study has
four main strengths, according to Yin (1994): It is stable, it is unobtrusive,
it is exact, and it enables broad coverage of material.
According to Yin (1994), archival records have the same four strengths as
documentary records, with one addition - they provide information that is
precise and quantitative (p. 80). As with documentary evidence, he warns that,
"Most archival records were produced for a specific purpose and a specific
audience_and these conditions must be fully appreciated in order to interpret
the usefulness of any archival records" (p. 84). Records used for these case
studies included previous budget information and organizational charts, and
prior survey data about the effectiveness of the communications function.
The bulk of evidence for the case studies came from 2-4 personal interviews
with key staff members such as department heads and relevant members of
departments. Individual researchers used survey, open-ended, and focused
interviews. Focused interviews was predominant in that "_the interviews may
still remain open-ended and assume a conversational manner, but you are more
likely to be following a certain set of questions derived from case study
protocol" (Yin, 1994, p. 85). The focused interview was developed "_to provide
some basis for interpreting statistically significant effects of mass
communications" (Merton, Fiske, & Kendall, 1956, p. 5). The focused interviews
worked better for these case studies for two reasons. First, the schedules of
the respondents were known so it was easier to capturing an hour of their
valuable time. Secondly, and more importantly, because of the close
relationship of the primary researcher with each of these individuals it was
easy for the interviewer to follow unexpected directions in the interview. Most
of the case studies involved a researcher as a participant-observer.
There are several obvious benefits to being a participant observer in a case
study. The researcher had access to all the documentation and archival records.
The researcher worked closely with those being interviewed so scheduling time
with them was easier than with an outsider. And finally, the researcher had an
understanding of the organization, the department, and the key publics it
Concerns of being a participant observer included innate bias from the
researcher's viewpoint of job, department, staff, etc. Backer (1958) said this
was a main problem of this research method because the investigator has to
assume positions or advocacy roles at certain times that may interfere with the
interest of good scientific practice. On the other hand, a strong disposition
toward the organization worked to the benefit of these case studies because of
the depth of research that was accomplished.
Using these multiple sources of evidence represents the process of
triangulation that is an important advantage. It means that "_any finding or
conclusion in a case study is likely to be more convincing and accurate if it is
based on several different sources of information, following a corroboratory
mode" (Yin, 1994, p. 92). Again, the basis for collection of the information
for this study was guided by the parameters of the research questions. A
research protocol (Lindlof, 1995) was developed from the research questions for
all of the cases. Examples of several of those are found in Appendix A. The
interviews were evaluated and analyzed according to pattern-matching analysis.
One of most preferred strategies to use in case study analysis is
"pattern-matching logic" according to Yin (p. 106). Trochim (1989) said that
pattern-matching "compares an empirically based pattern with a predicted one."
If the patterns match in two or more instances within a single case study and
then among the several cases at the multiple-level then it will be strengthened
as to internal validity (p. 106). By reviewing all the documentary and archival
material and comparing them to the responses received during the personal
interviews, the results should triangulate to evaluate the research questions
posed in the literature review. The ultimate goal of the analysis is to compare
the results to the theories and then, according to Yin (1994), generalize to
theory, analytic generalization, and not to a population as in quantitative
research. This will allow the research to confirm or adapt the theories to the
actual practice of public relations management.
If the majority of cases support the same theory, replication may be claimed.
It is predicted that participative, Theories Y and Z, two-way symmetrical and
mixed motives will be the predominant patterns. The research questions
themselves provide the initial framework of analysis (Lindlof, 1995) to guide
the organization of the Results section next.
Major patterns resulted from the four methods of data collection. Resulting
patterns among the 15 organizations were mixed overall. The four patterns in
evidence related to the four research questions and were: 1) The leadership
style trends toward participative with definite instances of authoritarian in
certain situations or when someone had to make a final decision; 2) Theories Y
and Z were the stronger pattern, but Theory X also was in evidence; 3) Again,
there was a trend toward two-way symmetrical but that did not rule out the use
of two-way asymmetrical communication when needed; and 4) The strongest pattern
was a mixture of the use of all these theories, mostly in a mixed motive or
Participative vs. Authoritarian
Most managers or directors of communication said they practice participative
management, but to varying degrees. The method of participant observation,
however, usually revealed more of a leaning to authoritarian management than
managers would admit. For example, at the hospital the director hopes her staff
sees her as "collaborative" and that she tries to present things in a
"palatable" way to make things OK with everyone. She said, "Teamwork is very,
very important to me in how I manage." She said she tries very hard to be a
good listener and tries to be as available as possible when staff need her and
helps them problem solve as necessary. The director also said she gives as much
authority as possible to her managers, but she will stay more involved if she
feels she has more of a history in the situation or that her relationships with
others will help in a particular situation. The two managers seemed to
corroborate much of what the director said she tries to do.
The two managers, however, said the director needs to give more authority to
them. One manager said she has about "70% of the authority" over her area that
she should have which she attributes to the director's fear of burdening her
staff and her innate nature as a perfectionist who is used to doing things
The other manager held the opinion that although she has the "responsibility"
for all her programs, she only has "authority" over some. She said that the
director does expect communication on everything although she doesn't "just hang
around all the time" interfering.
At the TV station, five managers said they practices participative management,
one practices both styles but they all said the station itself practices mostly
authoritarian management. The researcher observed that most of the managers
practice more authoritarian than participative and would just not admit that to
themselves. The one manager who admitted to both said he believed in
participative management on as long as "everything gets done." He feels that
authoritarian is appropriate in situations "when employees aren't on top of
things, or aren't doing what they're supposed to." Most of the managers
condemned employing authoritarian techniques because it made them look "mean" or
because they have had bad experiences working for or with authoritarian managers
The on-line services company was going through a merger at the time of the case
study so part of the study was on communication about the merger. Documentary
evidence showed the company was participatory, "This is truly a team effort" and
"ICG.and Netcom recognize that our employees are our biggest asset." A
department head described Netcom's management style as "open door." She said,
"There were no obstacles in the implementation of our communications strategy"
(regarding the merger). Another manager, however, described Netcom's management
policy as being open door only on the surface, with much more reliance on the
chain-of-command. He said: "_there are a lot of mirrors. The door has the
open sign on it but when you go in, there's not any info. Most of the middle
managers interviewed at Netcom seemed to indicate that at the upper levels, the
management style was very much chain-of-command, but under them, the management
style differed from department to department and from manager to manager. For
example, one said he practiced a very participative form of management, but that
a counterpart practiced a more authoritarian style.
Theories X, Y, and Z
Another pattern emerged with regard to whether managers considered themselves
to be Theory X, Theory Y, or Theory Z practitioners. All the managers that
responded claimed to be a combination of Theory Y and Theory Z.
At the agencies, the interviewees stated that Theory X did not exist at
all. One partner jokingly said, "Like many people I hate Monday mornings, but
everyone who works at the agency has self-confidence and is motivated to
accomplish the job at hand."
Other employees agreed with the Theory Y assessment. One said, "I feel we
have a good working environment and everyone enjoys what they are doing."
Another added, "I enjoy what I am doing and I am learning from _____ (the
founding partner), who I consider to be a good mentor because he is very
positive and productive." In the founding partner's survey he said, "The agency
definitely practices Theory Y. All of my employees want to work here and are
self-motivated and self-directed."
The executive director as the San Jose Downtown Association also practiced
Theory Y management. Yet, while the employees agreed that this was his style,
they did not agree that it was effective. The executive director was often
heard to say, "everybody wants to work at the San Jose Downtown Association,"
his employees felt differently. "I don't feel lucky to work here, " the
marketing director stressed. "They are lucky to have me."
At the TV station, the same manager that sometimes used the authoritarian
style, also used Theory X. He said he believed, in some cases, "employees
dislike work and avoid responsibility whenever possible." It is with those
employees that he used Theory X. Otherwise he treats employees on a case by
case basis and uses whichever theory he feels appropriate. If all of his
employees were "reliable and did their jobs," he would choose to use a
combination of Theory Y and Theory Z. The other managers considered themselves
to be a combination of Theory Y and Theory Z exclusively. One said, "I'm glad I
can choose to be a combination of these theories because I'm definitely not one
or the other." Interestingly, when the managers were asked which theory best
describe the organization as a whole, most of them said they viewed the station
as being overwhelmingly Theory X. They maintained this opinion even after
claiming to be mainly Theory Y and Theory Z.
At Tom's of Maine, the emphasis on the mission and company values fit
Theory Z style of management. Worker participation was encouraged in a recent
internal newsletter. Employees were asked to answer a series of questions about
their preferences for community involvement and alternative suggestions were
encouraged. The founder of the company has written in detail about the
importance of his personal relationships with employees, another distinction
ascribed to Z-culture. Tom's was recently named, for the fourth straight year)
to Working Mother magazine's list of 100 top companies for working parents for
its salary, child care and family friendly programs.
Two-way Symmetrical and Two-way Asymmetrical Communication
Although two-way symmetrical communication seemed to be the preferred choice,
two-way asymmetrical communication was a stronger pattern here than either
authoritarian or Theory X.
Both the agencies said they practiced two-way symmetrical communication
especially with clients. One partner said; "We are always looking our for our
client's best interests." He went on to elaborate that, "We guide our clients
but we are neither seen or heard_. We are ultimately in the business to make a
profit and gain an excellent reputation by building good relations with our
clients. Another agency employee said: "The agency uses two-way symmetrical
communication usually 90% of the time." The founder of one of the agencies
wrote down that, "Public relations is very 'relationship-based,' so we have to
constantly communicate our services to them, since it's not a tangible that
requires lots of two-way talking."
At De Anza the Marketing Communication Office used two-way symmetrical
communication to raise money from corporations and members of the community.
However, concerning student recruitment, the office practiced asymmetrical
communication. Although the demographics of the students were known, the office
was not in charge of outreach to the local high schools. Instead the office
produced advertisements, brochures, and movie slides that for prospective
students. This asymmetrical communication with students proved ineffective when
a student protest against the administration was held.
The community relations manager as the TV station said: "I think KSBW is
two-way asymmetrical. They are really ignorant about our publics and their
needs _ unless it's about money - then they'll pay attention. That's when they
are two-way symmetrical. I think it is my job to pay attention to our publics'
needs." Then later she said of the station/public relationship, "I like the
idea of finding win-win situations." Another manager jokingly answered,
"win-win is what our station practices. Win-lose is what our sales department
In the case of the Downtown Association, the executive director seemed to
practice two-way asymmetrical communication, especially in employee relations.
The communications manager there stated, "ideas from staff are rarely
implemented." The marketing assistant remarked, "the executive director can't
always implement ideas from staff," while the marketing director said, "the
executive director may listen to ideas from staff, but hardly ever are any of
our ideas implemented into SJDA goals."
Another pattern emerged in the staff's evaluation of the executive director
as a manipulator. "The executive director often communicates in a patronizing
way, and uses sarcasm when dealing with serious issues," said the communications
manager and added, "I don't think this is appropriate." The administrative
assistant answered similarly, "he does manipulate situations to put himself in a
better position." The marketing director concurred as well.
At the hospital, the researcher referred to what was happening in her
department with the two-way models as relationships. Each person interviewed
used this word and it is used several times in the 1995 year end report.
The director said, "The focus of this department is around relationships with
the community, physicians, patients and volunteers." She said the CPRD helps
the hospital "deal with the inside and outside world" since they serve publics
in both. The healthcare marketplace is "cut throat" right now and her
department's goal is to do their best for less or "at least convince the payers
and physicians - our market - that we are."
The manager of the Pediatric Telecenter said its goal was to "develop
relationships with all the community - patients, families and physicians."
According to the 1995 CPRD Year-End Report, "PIRC plays a significant role in
the promotion of the most appropriate use of health care resources." Most of
this manager's programs could be quantifiably recorded and verified by the
researcher. She has statistics, graphs and tables that show how many calls they
have received, referrals to the hospital, number of emergency room visits they
have preempted, etc.
The other manager had a completely different role as the Community Outreach
Manager. She was in charge of community education, educational outreach,
hospital tours, SafeKids Coalition of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and
serves as a liaison between the hospital and other community organizations and
the public. She sees her role as having the hospital out there in the
professional community by being involved in coalitions, and committees. She
said the "hospital needs to be seen as a player in community programming."
She builds "relationships" with schools, organizations, businesses, physicians
and the general public in her job. The LPCH wants to be "collaborative" and
they realize that "taking care of kids is a community effort - not just one or
more programs." Her main public is the general community and more specifically,
the parents. Unlike the manager of the Pediatric Telecenter, this manager said
she "cannot measure our success accordingly because it is immeasurable." She
could show the number of events attended, tours conducted and promotional
supplies distributed, but there is not an accurate way to show the impact this
area has on the hospital, and definitely not a way to show it financially. Each
of these areas has very different focuses, but they are all similar in that they
build relationships which is one of the goals listed in the year end report.
From the first three patterns can be seen a tendency toward participative
leadership, Theory Y and Theory Z, and two-way symmetrical communication.
However, much of this evidence is qualified by the situation and the relative
influence of internal and external publics. The intent seems to be symmetrical
but the reality is often asymmetrical. In the case of the TV station, although
most managers claimed to practice participative management, many said they felt
authoritarian management styles were predominant.
The agencies and the hospital achieved and maintained positive client
relationships. The agencies did this through sound corporate image objectives
via established personal contacts with reporters, editors, and publishers of
media outlets. The interviews, however, also revealed that that where issues of
payroll, new hires and location were concerned, a certain amount of input was
taken but the final, authoritarian decision rested with senior management.
Throughout the cases were instances participatory, Theory Y and symmetrical
overall management but employees still desired more autonomy and authority. In
fact, an outside communication assessment at the Downtown Association in 1996
stated, "we recommend restructuring staff with greater autonomy and authority
for department directors."
The four research questions were answered in this study and the results
corroborate earlier predictions with some qualifications. For example, the
management style of the Community and Physician Relations Department (CPRD)
definitely leans towards the participative theory, but will resort to the
authoritarian style on certain occasions, in a mixed motive manner. Two-way
symmetrical and two-way asymmetrical communications also are in evidence.
Authoritarian and Participative
Using the Shotwell Public Relations Agency as representative, the management
style swayed greatly toward participative management but sometimes the owner has
no choice but to use authoritarian management especially in such matters as
payroll and new hires. The agency did not operate as authoritarian organization
"in which the organizational cultures do not share a common mission and
decisions are made by the manager without consulting staff members" (Dozier et
al., 1995 p. 140). The agency operates in a participative organizational
structure where all employees "feel part of the team, work together, foster
interdepartmental coordination and maintain responsibility in getting the job
done" (p. 138). At the TV station, managers said they practiced participative
management but that the organization generally had an authoritarian culture.
While at San Jose State, university leaders were trying to change the culture to
participatory and while the resident culture was somewhat disbelieving and
resistant. There seemed to be mixed motives depending on viewpoint, at what
level of management you were or if the focus of the particular communication was
internal to employees or external to strategic publics. In some cases,
organizations were authoritarian internally participative externally.
Pagliaro/Kuhlman was an example.
Theories X, Y, and Z
For these theories, KSBW was exemplary and representative of all the cases.
Each manager described their style as a combination of the three theories,
citing degrees of mixed motives. The majority, however, indicated they were
predominately Theory Y and Theory Z practitioners. With one exception the
managers did not say that employees prefer to be directed to avoid
responsibility (Lacy, Sohn, & Wicks, 1993, p. 39). Also, the pattern among the
cases indicated that Theory Y workers were creative in solving organizational
problems (p. 39).
Exemplifying Theory Z, Tom's of Maine always sought close relationships
with its employees, emphasizing their participation in decision-making,
suggestions, involvement in assessing the mission. Though not proven, holding a
company-wide meeting to revisit the company's volunteer effort does increase the
effectiveness of the program.
In one exception at Netcom, the researcher conclude that the company did
not practice a Theory Z style of management as Ouchi said in 1981 to retain
individual achievement and advancement while providing a continuing sense of
organizational community. Instead, the researcher thought the company practices
more of a Theory X style in the guise of Theory Y.
Defining themselves as managers of two-way symmetrical communication, most
of the organizations were looking at their external strategic publics. In the
hospital, the roles of each department are quite different and impact different
publics. Some programs are designed with input from the community or based on
community needs. Some decisions are just made by the hospital without such
input. Therefore, the CPRD implements the asymmetrical and symmetrical forms of
communication with their publics. In the case of Netcom, one-way asynchronous
would best describe its management style, although once again senior management
gave the impression of the two-way asynchronous style. It was apparent that
management preferred the two-way method, but did not have enough trust in its
employees to do so. These two case where mixed motives and one-way
communication predominated were the exceptions to the multi-case study when
referring to the two-way models. The reset of the organizations preferred
symmetrical communications in that they negotiated and compromised between
organization and publics to produce "win-win" situations for both sides (Dozier
et al., 1995, p. 47)
The results of this study did not address mixed motives as defined by Dozier et
al., 1995, Murphy, 1991, and Plowman, 1996. A definition of public relations as
a mixed motive game helps reconcile the divergent asymmetric versus symmetric
models, as a multi-directional scale of competition and cooperation in which
organizational needs must be balanced against constituents' needs, but never
lose their primacy. In this study, however, mixed motives was not a combination
of the participative and authoritarian, Theories X, Y, and X, and the two-way
models as management deals with separate internal and external publics. The new
model of symmetry as two-way practices seems to indicate conditions where mixed
motives can be practiced with the same public. This study indicates that
separate management strategies can be practiced in a mixed motive manner from
one public to the next. In a number of the cases in the multi-case study, a CEO
would be asymmetrical to external publics and symmetrical to internal publics.
Just the opposite was true in another case. Or, the managers said they
practiced participative management while the organization itself was
authoritarian or Theory X. Different management styles could exist in the same
organization between upper and lower management and between departments in the
same organization as well. In other cases, and this was the strongest pattern
of the study, Dozier et al. (1995) was justified in that, overall intent was
participatory, Theory Y, and symmetrical, but there were situations where final
decisions had to be made and they were done quite authoritatively.
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