Communicating Across Organizational Boundaries: A Challenge for Workplace Professionals

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Workplace professionals often communicate across organizational boundaries to fulfill both internal and shared partnership goals. Findings from a longitudinal, qualitative study suggest that, even under favorable circumstances, cross-boundary communication among governmental professionals can become an uneasy social and rhetorical struggle, resulting in some key benefits, but also in numerous internal risks and sacrifices. In particular, this study reveals that tension and "territorial battles" can arise when these professionals attempt to fulfill internal goals of their own organization unit that are incompatible with the external goals of a partnership. For example, professionals can find it difficult to simultaneously maintain authority within their own organization, while also losing some authority when relating with outside partnership units, or to preserve and build on their organization's own sense of identity in the midst of the continuous social change characterizing partnership ventures. This study reveals a variety of social strategies for coping with these tensions, including the need for professionals to acknowledge constraints on their authority; establish need for priorities; protect the interests of other partnership units; research a collaborative situation thoroughly before taking action; take a proactive versus a reactive role whenever possible; become a highly active, visible partner; and adapt well to constantly changing social boundaries in a partnership venture. This study also identifies rhetorical strategies for creating or revising documents in various ways to help an organization preserve its positive image, ensure its continued visibility, build its prestige and credibility ventures; clarify its ever-changing functions, roles responsibilities, and relationships with other partnership units; and influence a collaborative audience's reception to its ideas.

Document Type: Journal Article

Publication date: August 1, 1995

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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