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PC Organizational Communication Case Study

PC Organizational Communication Case Study


Case studies are provided for students to analyze, evaluate and synthesize course material. Each prompt and questions are derived from the course text. Please make sure each case study is written in APA format and style.

The paper must consist of:

1. A cover page in APA format
2. One to two paragraphs in response to each question
3. At least 1 in-text citation per question
4. A list of at least 3 sources (textbook

Miller, K., & Barbour, J. (2020). Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes (7th Edition). Cengage Learning US.

and at least 2 outside sources)


Inexplicable Events

  • On November 18, 1999, on the campus of Texas A&M University, the Aggie bonfire collapsed, killing twelve students and injuring many more. The collapse of the bonfire was a hugely emotional event for students at Texas A&M, for faculty and staff, and for members of the sur- rounding community. Investigations regarding the decades-old tradition followed, and no on-campus bonfire has been burned since.
  • •On September 11, 2001, planes piloted by terrorists were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Another plane crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field. Thousands were killed, and 9/11 will forever be a dividing day in history, marking the beginning of an era in which terms such as war on terror and homeland security became common parlance. The emotional toll of September 11 on our individual, national, and global psyches will last for untold years to come.
  • On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the gulf coast of the United States. Hours later, many levees were breached in New Orleans, leading to the flooding of over 80% of the city. For days, New Orleans residents sought refuge in shelters, in the ill-prepared Superdome, and in neighboring and distant states. More than 1,800 people died, and many more lost homes or were displaced for many months. Criticisms of local and national authorities for their handling of the storm were widespread.
  • On April 16, 2007, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. In shoot-ings two hours apart, Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally ill English major at the school, shot thirty-two people before committing suicide. The campus community mourned the loss of both students and faculty, and the incident led to national discussions regarding issues ranging from gun control to campus security to the treatment of the mentally ill.

These events—spread over less than a decade— took place in various locations of the U.S. geography. These events can be attributed to very different causes: terrorism, a natural disaster, a deranged student, a tragic accident. These events varied in terms of their long-term influence on our national and global con-sciousness—from a ripple in the aftermath of the bon-fire collapse to the huge changes in both institutional systems and individual mind-sets brought on by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But these events—and others like them in the intervening years such as the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut—also share important characteristics. Although in retrospect they can be “explained” to a greater or lesser extent, at the time they occurred, the events were seen as somehow inexplicable. They were a breach to our beliefs about how things happened in a rational and predictable world. They shifted our organized ways of coping— sometimes for a few days or a few weeks and sometimes forever. Thus, individuals working with and around these events can shed important light on the role of emotion in organizational communication. Consider just a few of the possibilities.


In each of these events, “first responders” worked with the immediate onset of the disasters. Firefighters rushed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Rescue teams hovered in helicopters, plucking New Orleans residents off of rooftops. Campus police worked to secure the safety of students on the Virginia Tech cam-pus. Emergency medical personnel worked in the early morning hours to pull injured students out of “the stack” in College Station, Texas. These first responders were, in one sense, just doing their jobs. These were highly trained men and women who understood the needs of individuals in disasters and understood the ways that the work needed to be accomplished. First responders understand the emotional aspects of their jobs and have special education to deal with stress. However, that does not mean they are immune to the emotional effects of working in the midst of a disaster. Indeed, recent research suggests that social workers who work with disaster victims have a heightened chance of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (Adams, 2007).


In the days and weeks following these events, a variety of workers had to cope with a huge number of organi- zational problems. In my experience as a professor at Texas A&M University following the bonfire collapse, I found that instructors and staff members were asked to deal with an incredible range of student emotions, and we weren’t trained for it. As I wrote afterward, “As professional academics, we were prepared to impart knowledge, to conduct research, to serve on committees, to provide career counseling, and so on…. We weren’t prepared to deal with the emotional turmoil that ensued when 12 young people were wrenched from a community in the prime of their lives” (Miller, 2002, p. 589). And there are a myriad of other job tasks that must be accomplished in the aftermath of a disaster. In New Orleans, thousands of people needed to be housed and fed, paperwork needed to be processed to provide money for immediate needs and long-term relief, funds needed to be solicited from donors around the country, and planning needed to be started to consider ways in which the next hurricane could be coped with in a better way. Many of these tasks are bureaucratic and, on the surface, highly ratio-nal. However, in the aftermath of the inexplicable, even these rational tasks can be overridden by emotion.


And finally, we move past the disaster and beyond the inexplicable. Or do we? Can our personal and organi- zational lives ever return to the rationality of the times before the inexplicable? Do we just recreate new sets of logic to encompass that which we do not want to accept? Or was any of it ever all that logical to begin with? In the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we have—in many ways—returned to a new normal. But this is a new normal in which media reports regarding war and terrorism are commonplace. It is a new nor-mal when we know that we need to take off our shoes in airport security lines. It is a new normal when a widespread power outage causes rampant speculation about what group might be attacking us. It is a new normal when the possibility of surveillance from our government—and the organizations we work for—is much more conceivable than it was a decade ago. In all these ways in which the inexplicable has somehow been made explicable, we find the tight weaving of emotion and rationality in our lives and in our work.


1. In what ways do the special cases of organizational life discussed in this case bring processes of rationality and emotion into sharp relief? Is emotion more “present” in these cases? Are different kinds of emotion brought to the forefront? How does the everyday nature of most of our work lives blind us to processes of emotion?

2. How are the specific processes of emotion dis-cussed in this chapter—emotional labor, emotional work, and compassion, stress, and burnout— illustrated in these examples of the inexplicable? Are particular processes of emotion in the work-place especially apparent in the midst of the inexplicable, in the aftermath of the inexplicable, or in living in the new normal?

3. How could organizations and employees in those

organizations be better prepared to cope with the emotion of these inexplicable events? And could those lessons be translated into practices that lead to more healthy and happy organizational life during the more mundane days, as well?

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