Internal Social Media: A New Kind of Participatory Organizational Communication? Two Explorative Studies of Coworkers as Communicators on Internal Social Media

Publikation: Ph.d. afhandling/ kandidat/ diplomPh.d. afhandlingForskningpeer review


More and more organizations develop the social media features on their intranet and encourage coworkers to communicate, connect with each other and share knowledge across departmental and geographical distance. The question is however how this internal social media (ISM) influences organizational communication and the organization, and the purpose of the dissertation is to explore internal social media and coworkers as communicators on internal social media from a communication perspective to answer the overall research question: Does internal social media create a new kind of participatory organizational communication? And if yes, in what way? And what are the dynamics driving coworker communication on internal social media? The dissertation builds on a social-constructivist approach and a communication constitutes organizations (CCO) understanding of organizations, and the theoretical framework of the dissertation especially draws on theories of employee voice and silence (Brinsfield, 2014; Morrison, 2011, 2014) and of imagined audiences on social media (Litt, 2012; Marwick and boyd, 2011) in order to understand the dynamics driving coworker communication on ISM. Additionally, ISM adoption literature (Chu, 2012; DiMicco et al., 2008; Treem and Leonardi, 2015), theories of employee participation (Stohl and Cheney, 2001; Wilkinson et al., 2013b), the rhetorical arena theory from the field of crisis communication (Frandsen and Johansen, 2010; 2016), as well as theories of organizational identity (Ashforth and Mael, 1989; Gioia et al., 2013; He and Brown; 2013) are used in order to shed light on the phenomenon of ISM.The dissertation builds on two explorative qualitative studies in order to explore the phenomenon internal social media: A multiple case study in ten Danish organizations and a single case study in Jyske Bank. The three articles included in this thesis are based on these two studies and presents three different perspectives on ISM. The first article “Challenges of Introducing Internal Social Media: ISM coordinators’ Roles and Perceptions of Communication on ISM” views ISM from a managerial perspective”. ISM coordinators across ten different types of organization, and across different industries and organization sizes were interviewed and based on their perceptions, it was found that half of the organizations were struggling to make coworkers communicate on ISM. The article concludes that coworker interpretation and sensemaking of ISM is decisive to how ISM is used, and that the ISM coordinator can play an important role as a facilitator and sensemaker in relation to ISM.The second article “Constructing Organizational Identity on Internal Social Media: A Case Study of Coworker Communication in Jyske Bank” explores from a CCO perspective the actual communication on internal social media in Jyske Bank based on a study of screenshots during three months in the fall of 2014. During the time of observation, coworkers engaged in at least 40 significant discussions. These discussions were studied in detail to understand what happened in the interactions between coworkers. The analysis found that four overall themes were discussed: (1) customers and products, (2) working conditions, (3) organizational issues and (4) ISM specific issues, and that certain patterns occurred in the communication. In this respect the communication was both predictable and unpredictable. Finally, the analysis found that coworkers in Jyske Bank contributed to the construction of organizational identity when they challenged, negotiated, and discussed organizational issues on ISM. The third article “Self-censorship on Internal Social Media: A Case Study of Coworker Communication Behavior in a Danish Bank” explores coworkers’ communication strategies and behavior on ISM. Based on interviews with 24 coworkers in Jyske Bank the article explores if and how self-censorship influence their communication on internal social media. The article finds that coworkers consider carefully what they write on ISM in order to not annoy imagined audiences, damage their own self-presentation, violate unwritten rules, or run into a storm of comments from other coworkers. They use several strategies to ensure that their content is constructive and relevant.Based on the findings from the explorative study of the ISM coordinators perceptions, and the case study at Jyske Bank, it is possible to shed light on the overall research question whether ISM introduces a new kind of participatory organizational communication. The ISM communication provides organizations with a communication arena, where multiple voices can act and interact. Since the communication on ISM is visible and persistent to all coworkers as well as to managers it calls for commitment to answer questions, and this commitment encourage coworkers to communicate to the whole organization on ISM. Thus, it can be reasoned that ISM can pave the way for participatory organizational communication. The case study in Jyske Bank at least showed that when multiple voices act in the ISM communication arena and are critical to the organization, it has a potential to become an important communication arena. However, the use of ISM is contingent on the organization, and organizations with an open communication climate and a supportive management are more likely to develop participatory organizational communication. The dissertation makes three overall contributions. In contrast to previous research that has had mainly focused on ISM as technology, this dissertation provides a communicative approach, and views ISM as a multivocal communication arena, where coworkers and managers can interact and make sense of the organization. Furthermore, the thesis develops an understanding of coworker communication behavior on ISM, and it sheds light on how coworkers challenge, negotiate and construct organizational identity on ISM. In this way the thesis add valuable empirical insights into how the CCO principle works.
StatusUdgivet - 2016
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • Medier, kommunikation og sprog


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