3rd EAWOP WorkLab Sarah Brooks

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    • 00:04

      SPEAKER 1: I'm at the Worklab 2014 in Vilniuswith Sarah, who's been very involvedin organizing this Worklab.Sarah, do you want to introduce yourself?

    • 00:14

      SARAH BROOKS: Yeah.So my name is Sarah Brooks.I'm a research fellow at the University of Sheffield,and I'm in my third year of a PhD.And I'm looking at the role of former and informalcommunication, and how that affects the way that employeesspeak to their managers.

    • 00:30

      SPEAKER 1: OK.So tell us a bit more about your research.What are you looking at in more detail?

    • 00:37

      SARAH BROOKS: So I'm working with the police,and what I'm particularly interested inis understanding how do people define informal and formalcommunication.So what types of channels would theyuse in order to speak to their manager.And the real thing that I'm interested inis-- the literature would suggestthat formality causes silence.

    • 00:59

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: And what I'm interested in understandingis how do employees use informal communication.So maybe chats in the corridor or chats over coffee.And how do they use that in orderto give managers information in an informal wayrather than being constrained by the formality thatoften prevents people from talking to each other?

    • 01:20

      SPEAKER 1: And what sort of things are you finding?

    • 01:22

      SARAH BROOKS: Yeah, it's been really interesting.So I've done my research in two different organizationsat the moment.I did a pilot study in a local authority organization.And what I found, looking at peopleat the bottom of an organization, soemployees and first-line managers, and what I foundthere was that there was very little evidencethat they were unable to speak to their manager.

    • 01:45

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: And that seems to be because they work very closely.So they sit in the same space, they share the same desk space.And therefore, the first-line managerwas very involved in the day-to-day operationalbusiness.And therefore, there was very little fearof speaking to their manager.So that was interesting, because that kind of went against whatthe literature would suggest.

    • 02:06

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: My main study is going to be done in the police force.So I did a pilot study in the policeto see whether the preliminary results wouldbe the same as they were in the local authority.And I found something completely different.So I used constables and sergeantsare the two bottom levels of the organization.And again, I found that there was very little evidence

    • 02:27

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: of silence, because they were, again, very closely togetherinvolved in day-to-day operations.But I'm particularly interested in understanding how employeespass bad news or difficult information,because that's what the literature would suggestwe are naturally predisposed to withhold.And what I found was that the culture in the police

    • 02:48

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: has successfully managed to reverseany natural predisposition that we haveto share difficult information.So as an organization, they need to knowbad information, bad news, quicklyso they can deal with it.So they've incentivized the constablesto give them bad news as quickly as possible.

    • 03:08

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: And if they don't do that and they're later found outto have withheld information, theycan get in a lot of trouble for that.So I thought that was really interesting,the cultural aspect of that.

    • 03:18

      SPEAKER 1: Do you have any thoughtsabout how some of those findings and someof the work of communication organizationscan be more generally important for organizations?

    • 03:31

      SARAH BROOKS: Yeah, I mean that's an interesting question.So I think there's-- there's a view about case studies.So in fact, my PhD will be a case study,because it's only looking at one police force in the country.However, within the police force,I think there's a general recognition that many policeforces are the same, because of the very strong hierarchyand their command and control culture.

    • 03:53

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: So what I'm hoping is that, although Ifound what I found in one police force,it will be largely generalizable to the other 41that are in the country, and that they'llunderstand and be able to take lessons from that, as well.

    • 04:07

      SPEAKER 1: And what are some of the toolsthat practitioners can use to try and improvecommunication in organizations?

    • 04:15

      SARAH BROOKS: So one of the ones that we've used at the Worklabhere is something called communicative space.And this is a fairly revolutionary idea,I think, and certainly not very widely used in organizations.So if you think of the power differences in organizationsand how employees often withhold information from managers,

    • 04:36

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: because managers have the power to allow careers to progress,or they could prevent it also, communicative spaceis a way of allowing employees to speak openlywith each other, so no manager involvement,and be responsible for having their voice heardand deciding what they think is important to them,

    • 04:57

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: and not having a manager decide what they think is important.And I think that's quite a difficult conceptfor many people to understand, because we're so usedto the different power levels that we'vegot in all levels of society.So we've been looking at that in the Worklab,and having a look at how that can completelychange the things that we know about employees.

    • 05:19

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: And it can make them feel safer and, therefore, more willingto speak up.

    • 05:22

      SPEAKER 1: So is communicative space a physical space?

    • 05:25

      SARAH BROOKS: Yeah, it can be.It can be a physical space.So I think what my research showedis that if you sit-- if your manager and your employeesit together, a lot of the natural barriersare broken down so people communicate more freely.Also, I think it's about mental space,and it's about allowing people to understand the things

    • 05:47

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: that they feel constrained by.So questioning why don't they speak up,and allowing them to realize that they're no longer there.And I think often people are verysurprised by the types of things they say,because we naturally withhold things,and I think we don't necessarily realize.So yeah, it can be a physical and a mental space.

    • 06:06

      SPEAKER 1: And if people were interested in learning moreabout the communicative space, can youpoint them at some resources that they could use?

    • 06:15

      SARAH BROOKS: Yeah.So I work with a lady at Sheffield University, DianeBurns, who's pioneering this method.And she's a voice and silence researcher, too.And she's very committed to allowing marginalized groups,or people that are often unable to beheard-- she's very committed to making sure that that happens.

    • 06:35

      SARAH BROOKS [continued]: So there's a number of papers that I'dbe able to provide to the Worklab participants thatcould allow them to get more of an ideaabout communicative space.

3rd EAWOP WorkLab Sarah Brooks

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Abstract

Sarah Brooks is a Ph.D. student studying communication. In this presentation for Worklab, she discusses a pilot study analyzing office culture and staff/management communication.

3rd EAWOP WorkLab Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks is a Ph.D. student studying communication. In this presentation for Worklab, she discusses a pilot study analyzing office culture and staff/management communication.

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