Group think and Jian’s victims

I’m posting again because, admittedly, my first post was cheeky. It did get the ball rolling, however. And it did reflect my initial struggles to compute and connect theory to practical. Now that we’re past post modernism, I feel the worst might be over. I have to say, thank goodness for Jian, because almost everything that’s happening can be pushed through the lens of the theories we are learning.

I was looking forward to the articles on organizational communication, assuming I would instantly be able to relate it back to my experience working for a global corporation with multiple layers of management. And I did. One of the components of ecological theory — a “generalized theory of change” — as expressed in the reading, is retention, which are the routines, bundled competencies that allow an organization to do what it does (Monge, P. and Poole, M.S., 2008, pp 681-682) In other words, its governance. It’s the “we’ve always done it this way” answer that resists change. Change does eventually come, usually with a merger, or new technology, or a massive reorganization (or all of the above). I witnessed this many times and it wasn’t always pretty.

But it was the second reading, Social Identity, Self-categorization, and the Communication of Group Norms that most resonated, particularly since I had just finished marking papers by my post grad PR certificate students that had them come up with a Team Charter. The assignment had them think about the norms of behaviour, the group rules, the communications principles and consequences for un-group-like behaviour. They were to talk about the four forces of small group formation: norming, storming, forming and performing, how personalities impact communications and decision-making (all part of the sociopsychological tradition). Turns out I’m teaching them organizational communications. (And after their grades, turns out they should have read this article as part of their research)! The entire article was a primer on small group work and group decision-making (or lack thereof).

Lucy DeCoutere  Photo by

Lucy DeCoutere
Photo by

photo by

Reva Seth
Photo by

When the article turned to leadership, that’s when I had my aha! What we have been witnessing with the discussion of women victimized by sexual abuse, by collective hashtags like #BeenRapedNeverReported, is group formation. When actress Lucy DeCoutere came out publicly about  the violence she experienced at the hands of Ghomeshi, she gave permission for many other women (now nine, plus one man) to follow suit, be it with a name, like Reva Seth, or anonymously. As a consequence, followers are prepared to take risks (Hogg, M.A. and Reid, S.A. 2006, p. 20) such as going public, sharing their story or even reporting it to police (three women have pressed charges). A social movement was created, and perhaps we will see a paradigm shift to rethink how women are treated in the workplace and how women can communicate harrassment in a safe environment. As the article states, “the hurdle for social mobilization is that social protest carries personal risk that inhibits participation” (Hogg, M.A. and Reid, S.A., 2006, p. 20). Nothing could be truer for these women. But it has to start somewhere. Thanks Lucy. #IBelieveLucy


Hogg, Michael A. and Reid, Scott A. 2006. Social Identity, Self Categorization, and the Communication of Group Norms, Communication Theory, pp. 7-30. Retrieved:

Monge, Peter and Poole, Marshall Scott. 2008. The Evolution of Organizational Communication. Journal of Communication, pp. 679-692. Retrieved:


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