Workplace democracy and the role of social media in the contemporary corporate workplace

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Authors
Danne, Alexander
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Degree
Master of International Communication
Grantor
Unitec Institute of Technology
Date
2015-04
Supervisors
Papoutsaki, Evangelia
Dodson, Giles
Type
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Keyword
workplace democracy
internal social media
Citation
Danne, A. (2015). Workplace democracy and the role of social media in the contemporary corporate workplace. An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of International Communication, Unitec Institute of Technology.
Abstract
This study presents qualitative research that investigates the impact of social media in the corporate environment by examining two case studies located in the corporate economic sector in Auckland, New Zealand. While recognising the challenges of democracy in the workplace, this research focuses on how social media can enable workplace democracy as well as participation within organisations. In order for this research to investigate the role of contemporary networked communication tools and their possible impact on enabling workplace democracy, the study reflects on policy documents, such as codes of conduct and social media guidelines, and their involvement towards a democratic workplace. Further, this research examines how networked communication tools are being incorporated into the workplace and analyses what aspects of the workplace internal communication practices can be understood as democratising. This study uses methodological triangulation within methods by employing content analysis, in-depth interviews and focus groups. Two case studies in the corporate economic sector were selected in order to collect relevant data and answer the research questions. The findings of this study indicate that both organisations have a hierarchical internal makeup, which is heavily based on policies, guidelines and top-down communication structures. Internal communication tools are deeply embedded in the communication culture of the organisations and it seems that employers use such tools with a different perspective and understanding than employees. Further, the research reveals an ambiguity in dealing with new networked communication tools and outlines difficulties within the implementation process. Generational gaps, ineffectiveness and lack of integration of new workplace communication tools for employees make implementation difficult. The findings from this research suggest that although internal social media has great potential in creating a democratic environment, it can be considered as a supportive tool for democratic participation at best. It can be concluded that internal social media cannot create a democratic culture, but it can help an already established democratic work environment to flourish by facilitating knowledge bases and connecting employees to a professional network.
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