This blog post is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.
There is a growing consensus within corporate communication that employees are important communicators. One of the most frequently used concepts for describing employees’ active role as communicators is the concept of ambassadorship. To gain a better understanding of employees’ role as ambassadors and active communicators, the author of the current study aimed to analyze how employees relate to and experience ambassadorship. The empirical material on which this study was based comes from a four-year (2014-2018) research project which focused on how communication contributes to value creation and goal attainment. The project included 11 organizations active in both the public and private sectors. In total, 28 semi-structured interviews with employees and four focus groups of two to six employees addressed ambassadorship.
The way most of the interviewees elaborated upon ambassadorship suggested that they embraced it. For several of the interviewees, this embracement seemed to be motivated either by their interpretation of how they think external stakeholders perceive them, or how their colleagues or managers perceive them. Those who considered how external stakeholders perceive them seemed to motivate their embracement by explaining that stakeholders perceive them as ambassadors regardless of what they think of themselves. Similarly, those who motivated their embracement by referring to how colleagues and managers perceive them tended to describe ambassadorship as a responsibility of a “professional employee.” These results indicate that their imagination of the expectations of others is important for their embracement of the ambassador persona. In certain circumstances, delivering the ambassador persona can also be experienced as stressful, particularly at times when their organization has been involved in a scandal or crisis. Additionally, while most of the interviewees seemed to perceive the ambassador persona as a responsibility during work, it seemed that the persona was something that several of the interviewees experienced that they had to relate to outside work as well.
Implications for practice
Organizations should 1) be aware that when communicating expectations, educating, and training employees to make them more conscious of their communicator and ambassador role, it is important to acknowledge the identity-tensions employees experience; 2) include discussions of the circumstances that intensify identity-tensions as a first step toward a more nuanced, bottom-up approach toward ambassadorship and communication responsibility; and 3) encourage employees to participate in the creation of more communicative role expectations as a way to increase the likelihood that the concerns and experiences of employees are taken into consideration.
Location of Article
This article is available online here. (abstract free, purchase full article)
Andersson, R. (2019). Employees as ambassadors: embracing new role expectations and coping with identity-tensions. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 24(4), 702-716. DOI: 10.1108/CCIJ-04-2019-0038