A Case Study on the Nature of Informal Conversation in an Organization Utilizing Microblogging Technology Open Access
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The purpose of this case study was to determine the nature of conversations that occur within an organizational microblog and compare them to traditional informal conversations. Since informal conversations are closely associated with reaction to change, this study explored how organizational microblog conversations may be understood to affect outcomes resulting from organizational change. A sequential transformative design was used to collect four sources of evidence (Yin, 2009): microblog responses for 90 days; focus groups at the beginning, middle, and end of the 90-day period; pre and post organizational culture assessment surveys; and on-site participant observation. The site selected for this study was the healthcare innovation section of a nonprofit science, technology, and strategy organization located in Northern Virginia.Overall, in HCD the rate of microblog messages was low, constrained by employee fear (Ford et al., 2008), in a working environment characterized by top-down leadership (Meyer & Davis, 2003), organizational silence (Morrison & Milliken, 2000), and resistance (Ford & Ford, 1995; Ford et al., 2002, 2008; Marshak, 2006; Piderit, 2000; Weick & Quinn, 1999) expressed often by ambivalence (Piderit, 2000). Eight conclusions emerged from the findings of this study: the suppressed and constrained nature of microblog conversations, the presence of resistance, the use of power, the expression of emotion, the limited impact of gender on microblog use, microblog participation and organizational controls, organizational change as continuous and multidimensional, and mixed views on power and the benefits of informal conversation in the workplace. The phenomenon of counter-resistance (Karreman & Alvesson, 2009) served as an explanation for study findings associated with participants' compliance to power, their unwillingness to openly express resistance, and the inhibition of emotion and affect at work.Given the security requirements associated with enterprise computer technology, the background conversations of "complacency, resignation and cynicism" (Ford et al., 2002) may never surface in a microblog. However, with employees' geographical dispersion and increased telecommuting options, the microblog may be a perfect tool for increased social interaction and self-disclosure within the organization while concurrently serving as an intraorganizational knowledge management system.