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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 16 While commonsensical, these illustrations of human adaptations in an organizational context hardly constitute enough evidence to hang a paradigm shift argument on. A stronger case that relies on more than just face validity must naturally be made. Some of the evidence for many of the adaptations that seem to under gird human communication comes from our very own scholarship, albeit in somewhat disguised form. Social Exchange Theories The recognition of reciprocity as a functional and fundamental component of social life is by no means recent. For instance, social exchange theorists (e.g., Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; for review see also Roloff, 1981) have long maintained that human beings develop relationships with others because of the rewards involved. More recently, Foa and his associates (e.g., Foa et. al., 1993; Berg & Wiebe, 1993; Converse & Foa, 1993) have documented the types of resources (e.g., information, status, love, etc.) we prize for exchange with others in our social and work groups. On the surface, this traditional social science work is consistent with evolutionary scholarship that places reciprocal altruism at the center of social life (e.g., Cosmides & Tooby, 1992). There is no disagreement over the position that humans reciprocate with others because they anticipate rewarding outcomes (i.e., resources or benefits) and because these outweigh the costs of exchange. However, both camps treat differently the issue of why rewarding outcomes might be worth pursuing to begin with. The traditional social exchange argument borders on tautological, as rewarding outcomes are their just reward (e.g., fulfill basic needs). On the other hand, that perspective sees reward procurement as an eminently rational enterprise. As we have seen, from an evolutionary standpoint, reciprocation is an adaptation designed to solve the types of problems our ancestors likely faced during our evolutionary past. We do not consciously weigh the pros and cons of engaging in exchange with others and then act upon such a decision. Quite the opposite seems to be true. The decision is made for us through our domain-related computational circuitry, and then we become (or not) aware of its advantages (Gazzaniga, 1998; Damasio, 1999). Now that an explanation of how reciprocal altruism differs from traditional models of social exchange has been tendered, this paper will offer a few examples of how scholarship in organizational communication can be reframed and integrated in terms of the exchange and coordination adaptations discussed above. We use Jablin’s (1994; 2001) stage model of organizational socialization as an organizing principle in our analysis, and draws from the enlightened teachings of Rousseau (1762/1987) and others, who argued that “institutions can only flourish if they are founded on a ‘social contract’ that enables human beings to pursue their individual and collective interests to the fullest extent possible (Lawrence & Nohria, 2001.p. 7; see also Skyrms, 1996). Thus, in this review, we focus almost exclusively on the employee-organization resource exchange contract.

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
16
While commonsensical, these illustrations of human adaptations in an organizational context
hardly constitute enough evidence to hang a paradigm shift argument on. A stronger case that relies on
more than just face validity must naturally be made. Some of the evidence for many of the adaptations
that seem to under gird human communication comes from our very own scholarship, albeit in somewhat
disguised form.
Social Exchange Theories
The recognition of reciprocity as a functional and fundamental component of social life is by no
means recent. For instance, social exchange theorists (e.g., Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; for review see also
Roloff, 1981) have long maintained that human beings develop relationships with others because of the
rewards involved. More recently, Foa and his associates (e.g., Foa et. al., 1993; Berg & Wiebe, 1993;
Converse & Foa, 1993) have documented the types of resources (e.g., information, status, love, etc.) we
prize for exchange with others in our social and work groups. On the surface, this traditional social
science work is consistent with evolutionary scholarship that places reciprocal altruism at the center of
social life (e.g., Cosmides & Tooby, 1992). There is no disagreement over the position that humans
reciprocate with others because they anticipate rewarding outcomes (i.e., resources or benefits) and
because these outweigh the costs of exchange. However, both camps treat differently the issue of why
rewarding outcomes might be worth pursuing to begin with. The traditional social exchange argument
borders on tautological, as rewarding outcomes are their just reward (e.g., fulfill basic needs). On the
other hand, that perspective sees reward procurement as an eminently rational enterprise. As we have
seen, from an evolutionary standpoint, reciprocation is an adaptation designed to solve the types of
problems our ancestors likely faced during our evolutionary past. We do not consciously weigh the pros
and cons of engaging in exchange with others and then act upon such a decision. Quite the opposite seems
to be true. The decision is made for us through our domain-related computational circuitry, and then we
become (or not) aware of its advantages (Gazzaniga, 1998; Damasio, 1999).
Now that an explanation of how reciprocal altruism differs from traditional models of social
exchange has been tendered, this paper will offer a few examples of how scholarship in organizational
communication can be reframed and integrated in terms of the exchange and coordination adaptations
discussed above. We use Jablin’s (1994; 2001) stage model of organizational socialization as an
organizing principle in our analysis, and draws from the enlightened teachings of Rousseau (1762/1987)
and others, who argued that “institutions can only flourish if they are founded on a ‘social contract’ that
enables human beings to pursue their individual and collective interests to the fullest extent possible
(Lawrence & Nohria, 2001.p. 7; see also Skyrms, 1996). Thus, in this review, we focus almost
exclusively on the employee-organization resource exchange contract.


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