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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 21 organizational communication. It is not even a fully detailed analysis of researched practices and processes that permeate socialization scholarship. It merely serves to further illustrate how documented human adaptations can help us reframe extant scholarship in terms of one dominant exchange contract, that which binds employee to organization. Hopefully, it adequately demonstrates that reframing organizational communication scholarship in terms of reciprocal altruism and exchange coordination can assist us in integrating seemingly disparate areas of scholarship, as well as produce novel insights into why we communicate the way we do in organizational settings. As we shall see next, an evolutionary perspective can be especially enlightening to current communication scholarship if we choose to center our attention on emotion in the workplace. The primacy of emotions Several organizational scholars have already alerted us to the importance of emotions in organizational life (e.g., Waldron, 1994). We echo the call, given the primacy of emotions in regulating human adaptations and consequent behaviors. More specifically, we believe that emotions can serve as a starting point for much communication inquiry in organizations. After all, many of the emotions we experience in an organizational context are tied to resource exchange and are universal (e.g., Trivers, 1971; Wright, 1994; Cosmides & Tooby, 2000). For instance, we feel guilt (i.e., overdue in reciprocating), gratitude (i.e., pleased with a conferred benefit), betrayed (i.e., cheated upon), and trust (i.e., assured of contract stability). So, we avoid others, we bestow gifts and compliments, we retaliate overtly or covertly (i.e., depending upon the cost to benefit structures), and we gossip, plot and confide. Equitable exchange is really at the center of all of these emotions, and as might be expected, coordination of exchange technologies (e.g., grievance committees, the role of ombudsperson, mediation and arbitration procedures) exist in organizations to lower coordination of exchange costs and favor gains in trade over zero sum outcomes. Placing emotion at the center of our theory-building efforts can help us overcome persistent debates in communication by shifting our focus away from causal mechanisms for human communication that make little sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ongoing debate over how to both define uncertainty and information-seeking, and articulate their relationship (see Berger, 1986; Sunnafrank, 1986, 1990; also, Kramer, 1999; then Journal of Communication Special Issue on Uncertainty, Evaluation and Communication, e.g., Bradac, 2001; Brashers, 2001, etc.; and Human Communication Research Colloquy on Information Seeking, e.g., Afifi & Weiner, 2002; Morrison, 2002, etc.). Despite falsification of the early Berger and Calabrese (1975) axioms (e.g., Kellermann & Reynolds, 1990) scholars in organizational communication have persisted in assuming the association. All socialization scholars who have documented instances of new hire proactivity (e.g., Miller & Jablin, 1991; Morrison, 1993a, 1993b; Teboul, 1994, 1995, 1999) frame information-seeking behavior as a

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
21
organizational communication. It is not even a fully detailed analysis of researched practices and
processes that permeate socialization scholarship. It merely serves to further illustrate how documented
human adaptations can help us reframe extant scholarship in terms of one dominant exchange contract,
that which binds employee to organization. Hopefully, it adequately demonstrates that reframing
organizational communication scholarship in terms of reciprocal altruism and exchange coordination can
assist us in integrating seemingly disparate areas of scholarship, as well as produce novel insights into
why we communicate the way we do in organizational settings. As we shall see next, an evolutionary
perspective can be especially enlightening to current communication scholarship if we choose to center
our attention on emotion in the workplace.
The primacy of emotions
Several organizational scholars have already alerted us to the importance of emotions in
organizational life (e.g., Waldron, 1994). We echo the call, given the primacy of emotions in regulating
human adaptations and consequent behaviors. More specifically, we believe that emotions can serve as a
starting point for much communication inquiry in organizations. After all, many of the emotions we
experience in an organizational context are tied to resource exchange and are universal (e.g., Trivers,
1971; Wright, 1994; Cosmides & Tooby, 2000). For instance, we feel guilt (i.e., overdue in
reciprocating), gratitude (i.e., pleased with a conferred benefit), betrayed (i.e., cheated upon), and trust
(i.e., assured of contract stability). So, we avoid others, we bestow gifts and compliments, we retaliate
overtly or covertly (i.e., depending upon the cost to benefit structures), and we gossip, plot and confide.
Equitable exchange is really at the center of all of these emotions, and as might be expected, coordination
of exchange technologies (e.g., grievance committees, the role of ombudsperson, mediation and
arbitration procedures) exist in organizations to lower coordination of exchange costs and favor gains in
trade over zero sum outcomes.
Placing emotion at the center of our theory-building efforts can help us overcome persistent
debates in communication by shifting our focus away from causal mechanisms for human communication
that make little sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ongoing
debate over how to both define uncertainty and information-seeking, and articulate their relationship (see
Berger, 1986; Sunnafrank, 1986, 1990; also, Kramer, 1999; then Journal of Communication Special Issue
on Uncertainty, Evaluation and Communication, e.g., Bradac, 2001; Brashers, 2001, etc.; and Human
Communication Research Colloquy on Information Seeking, e.g., Afifi & Weiner, 2002; Morrison, 2002,
etc.). Despite falsification of the early Berger and Calabrese (1975) axioms (e.g., Kellermann &
Reynolds, 1990) scholars in organizational communication have persisted in assuming the association.
All socialization scholars who have documented instances of new hire proactivity (e.g., Miller & Jablin,
1991; Morrison, 1993a, 1993b; Teboul, 1994, 1995, 1999) frame information-seeking behavior as a


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