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ERIC Number: ED520032
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 210
Abstractor: As Provided
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1242-7560-4
Identification and Disidentification in Organizational Discourse: A Metaphor Analysis of E-Mail Communication at Enron
Turnage, Anna K.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
This project is situated within the interpretive tradition in organizational communication research, focusing on organizational discourse. It goes further by bringing the discussion into the 21st century through examining how communication technology--specifically e-mail--plays a role in the linguistic practices that help create, maintain and change organizational discourse. The overarching theme driving my research borrows from Conrad's (1985) notion of coordination and control, and the dialectical tensions related to this concept, specifically, identification/disidentification and power/resistance. The texts analyzed in this project were drawn from a database of e-mails from the now defunct Enron Corporation. The project is centered on three overarching questions: (1) "How did metaphor help create, maintain, and provide opportunities for potential change in dominant discourses at Enron?" (2) "How did metaphor help employees at Enron bridge dialectical tensions related to coordination and control?" (3) "To what extent, and how did e-mail function to help enable Enron employees to bridge dialectical tensions?" The first question is addressed through a rhetorical analysis of the metaphors used by employees in Enron e-mails. This analysis demonstrates how metaphor directed attention to certain ideologies and values and deflected attention away from others during two different time periods in the company's life--during its heyday as a Fortune 500 company, and as the company began to collapse. The results of the rhetorical analysis are then used to address the second question through a theoretical analysis of how the use of metaphor between the two time periods illustrates employees' attempts to identify or dis identify from the organization. This in turn illustrates how the use of metaphor helped employees to bridge the dialectical tensions of coordination and control by directing attention away from dominant discourses, making room for different perspectives. To address the last question, I conduct a theoretical analysis of Enron e-mail use through theories of extended agency, which are "grounded in action" approaches to organizational discourse stating that objects have agency just as people do in the process of organizing. People and objects combine to create a "hybrid agent" that can reinforce or disrupt certain powerful discourses in the ongoing process of organizing. The analysis demonstrates how e-mail, at the very least, served as a form of "techno-therapy" for employees as they tried to deal with the company's impending collapse. I also argue, however, that e-mail served an important role in the "distribution" of discourse pushed by Enron management, and in other cases helped them reject those same discourses in favor of alternative ones. The alternative discourses, in turn, could potentially point to a different way of organizing in future discourse. The project ends with a discussion of the Enron case as a representative anecdote (Burke, 1945) for corporate greed and corruption. Representative anecdotes are "named stories, and the attitudes they represent" (Mahan-Hayes & Aden, 2003, p. 36). As a representative anecdote, then, the Enron story is truly to be considered a warning for how certain discourses can lead to corporate corruption rather than simply as an isolated case. The "Enron story" continues to repeat itself, and so this story is representative of present and future problems. Discourses of laissez-faire, free market capitalism have obviously led to more than just the Enron case, as several recent examples demonstrate. This project illustrates how certain discourses at Enron are more common that previously thought, and how alternative discourses may help circumvent dominant discourses that have continued to create financial problems in the U.S. and beyond. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States