TWO school years ago, I had a class on inter-intra communications in organizations. The subject of the learning outcomes were the students themselves. So, it was easy to rewrite the syllabus following the Outcomes-based Education format as suggested by the Commission on Higher Education. The course focused on communication competency as a linchpin of organizational change and effectiveness. The nature of that competency is at the individual, group and organization-wide level. Toward this end, intellectual discourse focused on communication theories on organization, motivation and leadership; organizational climate and stress; information, power and empowerment; and how these contribute to effective organization communication and ultimately, to the achievement of organizational goals. We wrapped up the course with actual practice in various communication skills such as holding meetings and class presentations. To support such presentations, I shared with the class an earlier column on guidelines on preparing power point slides, a favorite app of graduate students. Of the theories they encountered, they had one four-hour session which, according to them, enlightened them on what, when and why they would think twice before communicating to co-workers some information they deeply felt could be shared or not shared with others.
Communication privacy management (CPM) in organizations. A theory on CPM boundaries seemed to catch much interest in the class, who were mostly professional, graduate students holding positions in their respective organizations. They know that communication at all levels of an organization is critical to organizational productivity. When we communicate, we mean to be understood as intended. Hence, we need to get our message across, having in mind that what we say does matter. Being in whatever rung of the organization, higher or lower, is no excuse for being less honest in what is communicated. Still, in any circumstance, honesty is the best policy, as one student’s capstone emphasized. Hence, how do we deal with private matters about our organization which to our mind should be discussed. But with whom? Maybe, with higher ups? However, in such cases, we who are at the lower rungs and with the best of intentions, might like to open up about such matters with whoever we feel are significant individuals in the organization, and who could better articulate this concern to higher-ups. Except that our uncertainty about some details presents the need to clarify facts with someone in the organization before bringing this matter further up. But we are uncertain that such conversations on details are kept private. We are unsure of the boundaries adhered to by individuals to whom we intend to discuss what to us is a significant matter in the life of the organization. So, how do we manage with our selfless and honest intentions to handle this uncertainty?
Utilizing CPM. How do people make decisions about revealing or concealing private information? What are their privacy boundaries and those of their respective organizations? The term “boundary,” a metaphor, determines the limits of what may be considered private from being made public. Referring to the web, the class came across policies on CPM — consisting of guidelines to constituents, specifying certain rungs, in revealing or concealing information to others within or outside of the organization. The class looked into whether the system has clear rules for coordination of information, specifying characteristics of disclosure as well as the attributes of the nature of boundaries. Are accessibility levels of certain information specified?
<https://www.revolvy.com/page/Communication-privacy-management-theory> Armed with class-made questions, the class looked into certain features of an organization’s CPM policy. They then discussed how much control and ownership one has on certain information. They agreed, based on their experience, that the perceived benefits and the costs of information disclosure would guide people in an organization to maintain the limits they are willing to share with various communication partners. <https://www.revolvy.com/page/Communication-privacy-management-theory> Proximity, whether physical or relational, often helps people decide “the extent to which they confine their boundaries.” The decision to open our boundaries to others would depend on unsoiled relationships — offices physically close to ours or with employees who have worked well with us in trying times.
Boundary turbulence. When communication privacy rules are not followed, private information boundary turbulence occurs. Conflicts ensue from mistakes made with regard to boundary expectations and regulation. The class shared their actual experience of boundary turbulence and candidly clarified as needed. Thereafter, as a class on leadership, they tried reframing boundary limits and managing these limits anchored on the course on Philippine values system and the Filipino personality, which they took in the previous trimester. Discussions were very lively, and as in any leadership and management class, they kept to the usual ethics — sealing their lips outside class about turbulence incidents in their respective organizations.
Managing privacy boundaries. What is private to a person or organization is usually “inherently special or sensitive to them.” <.https://www.revolvy.com/page/Privacy> The “boundaries” metaphor and individuals protecting these limits of the boundaries provide us a clear understanding of Sandra Petronio’s (1991) CPM five core principles, much applicable to organizations, too. CPM principles hold that “people believe they own and have a right to control their private information” (so do organizations); which they control “through the use of personal privacy rules” (in organizations, through CPM policy); they “ become co-owners of that information when others are told/given access to a person’s private information” (trade partners); “co-owners of private information need to negotiate mutually agreeable privacy rules about telling others” (memorandums of understanding on trade secrets); and “boundary turbulence is the likely result when co-owners of private information don’t effectively negotiate and follow mutually held privacy rules.” <https://www.revolvy.com/page/Communication-privacy-management-theory>
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