This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Employees play a vital role as organizations’ problem-solvers and information seekers during organizational turbulence. This study explored two types of employees’ communicative behaviors – i.e., information seeking and voicing – during organizational crises. Information seeking refers to employees’ willingness to acquire crisis-related information for their organization, and voicing is defined as employees’ willingness to express ideas, concerns, opinions, or suggestions about organizational crises. In addition, the author studied employees’ motivations for engaging in seeking and voicing by incorporating a cross-situation factor – employee-organization relationships, and a situational factor – employees’ cognitive perceptions of a crisis. Employee-organization relationship refers to how much an organization and its employees trust each other, experience satisfaction with each other, commit to each other, and agree on the rightful power to influence. Employees’ crisis perceptions consist of problem recognition, that is, realizing something important is missing; involvement recognition, defined as a perceived connection or relevance with the problem; and constraint recognition, the perceived obstacles to solving the problem. The author also examined the role of symmetrical internal crisis communication on employees’ seeking and voicing behaviors.

The author conducted an online survey with 449 full-time employees in the U.S. who worked in large-sized organizations (with more than 300 employees). The final sample consisted of 47% female and 53% male with an average age of 34 years old. Most participants had a bachelor’s degree or higher and had worked for their current organizations more than four years.

Key Findings

  • Employees who perceived favorable relationships with organizations were more likely to seek out and forward relevant information, provide constructive feedback and suggestions to help solve the internal crisis.
  • A positive relationship with the organization also encouraged employees to be more cognitively aware of the crisis (i.e., recognizing the organizational crisis as a serious issue, believing the crisis was personally relevant to them, and having more confidence in making a difference in solving the crisis).
  • When employees had high cognitive perceptions of the crisis, they were more likely to seek out and acquire relevant information and share it with their organizations.
  • Organizations’ symmetrical internal communication during a crisis, featured by active listening, participation, and collaboration, facilitated employees’ seeking and voicing behaviors.

Implications for practice
Organizational leaders and communication practitioners should 1) recognize the value of employees in providing crisis-related information and solutions and thus prioritize communicating with employees, 2) include symmetrical communication in their crisis communication strategies, and 3) solidify employees’ supportive behaviors by establishing good pre-crisis relationships with them.

Location of Article
This article is available online at:  (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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