Author(s), Title and Publication

Garner, J. T. (2017). An examination of organizational dissent events and communication channels: Perspectives of a dissenter, supervisors, and coworkers. Communication Reports, 30(1), 26-38. DOI: 10.1080/08934215.2015.1128454


Dissent is a vital process in organizations that results in improved decision-making, performance, and employee satisfaction. While much is known about the person to whom dissent is directed and about the ways in which dissenters express their dissatisfaction, less research has explored how previous dissent events influence future dissent. Additionally, few studies have examined the extent to which dissent expressed via social media and e-mail differs from dissent in face-to-face conversations. The author conducted a case study that examined the points of view of five faculty members at a university: a dissenter, a supervisor, a skip-level supervisor, and two coworkers. These participants were the only ones entirely familiar with the dissenter and the context around his dissent, and they represented different types of audiences (two hierarchical audiences and two peer audiences). The analysis of the semi-structured interviews allowed a detailed exploration of how dissent events chained together and how dissenters’ choices of communication channels shaped the ways that others responded to the dissent.

The two primary themes that emerged in the study were: (a) dissent event chains and (b) channels of dissent. The first theme was that the dissenter had expressed dissent multiple times and that each event could be understood in the context of other events. The second theme, which focused on the channels used in expressing dissent, included any explicit reference to the influence of channel on the dissent process, which specifically included social media and e-mails. The results of this study serve as an example of dissent events chaining together and influencing future dissent. They also press dissent scholars to more carefully consider the medium of dissent. Interactants seemed to have unwritten rules for what was appropriate and when to use each channel. The data also addresses the need to examine multiple organizational dissent perspectives.

Implications for Practice

The results suggest that dissenters should: (1) be aware of the ways in which their past communication shapes how supervisors and coworkers respond to dissent and (2) be mindful of channels when expressing dissent.

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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