Gauging Openness to Written Communication Change: The Predictive Power of Metaphor
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This study gauges workers’ degree of openness to significant changes in the organization, style, and design of a written report by analyzing metaphors that emerge from their talk about their report-reading and decision-making tasks. Workers at two work sites—in Maryland and in Washington DC—responded to two typical work reports: one written in the style currently in use and another in a fundamentally different style exhibiting features that make documents easy to read and understand. The dominant metaphor that the Maryland workers used was “the whole-man” approach, which represented the workers’ flexible approach toward work tasks that resulted in their willingness to accept the fundamentally different report. In contrast, Washington DC workers used the metaphors “paint by the numbers” and “stay within the lines” when describing their work. These metaphors suggest the workers’ adherence to organizational routines and uncomfortableness with change that caused them not only to reject the new reports but also to have strong emotional reactions toward them. These results indicate that assessing organizational talk, particularly the metaphors people use, is a useful tool in gauging workers’ perceptions about and degree of openness toward communication change.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1050651914536187
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