C&J 443

The “Dark Side” of Organizational Communication

University of New Mexico

Fall 2006 (revised 10/27/2006)


Course Syllabus


Instructor: Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Email: plutgen@unm.edu or through WebCT course site http://vista.unm.edu

Telephone: During the fall semester, the C&J building is under construction. As a result, I will have no office or telephone. I will be working out of my office at home and will provide that telephone number and my cell phone number to students at the beginning of the semester.

Office hours: By appointment; place to be arranged.



Course Description: This advanced undergraduate course builds on the 300-level course in organizational communication. It specifically examines the negative, harmful, and sometimes hostile and aggressive communication present in all organizations at some level and in a few organizations at extreme levels. The predominant focus is organizations in which humans work and on the destructive interpersonal communication in these settings. However, we will spend at least 25% of class focus on immoral and unethical communication of organizations to and with organizational stakeholders (community members, society, state, country, world, etc.). As such, the course content covers issues including:


o       Immoral and unethical communication (internal and external)

o       Harassment and bullying

o       Deceptive and false communication with stakeholders

o       Anger, verbal aggression, and social deviance

o       Stress and burnout

o       Destructive conflict

o       Racism, sexism, and other “isms”

o       Social ostracism, social exclusion


Learning Goals: The goals for student learning in the course are as follows:


  1. To become familiar with the organizational communication literature and other related research on destructive verbal and nonverbal organizational communication;
  2. To learn how to think critically about destructive organizational communication beyond simple, individualistic explanations;
  3. To work collaboratively with a team of student colleagues on a project within the course range of topics that
    1. brings in-depth understanding to the entire class regarding the topic;
    2. provides an in-depth review of secondary research on the topic; and
    3. conducts preliminary primary (original) research in the area of interest in order to add knowledge to what is currently known.


Text: There is no formal text book required for this class. The entire class will discuss potential areas of interest, and we will focus on the topics of choice for the students in this class. Readings will come entirely from peer-reviewed journals or edited books (no text books) that publish academic research. When we decide on the four central foci for the course, I will post related readings in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) files on WebCT. Students will access and print articles when readings are due in class. We will try to cover a few topics comprehensively, rather than cover many topics superficially.


Reading: Reading is a central part of this course. If you hate to read, you might think twice about taking the course. Success will be based, in large part, on your successful comprehension of published research. Reading Objectives, Extended Comments, and Readiness Assessment Test assignments are based entirely on reading content. Main Projects should also reflect an understanding of what we’ve read regarding the topic.


Class Assignments


  1. Reading Objectives                  100 points (4 x 25 points)
  2. Extended Comments               100 points (4 x 25 points)
  3. Participation                            100 points (based on journal)          
  4. Main Project                            400 points (presentation)


Assignment Details


  1. Reading Objectives: I will distribute a set of questions for each set of readings asking students to respond to key points. Reading Objectives question-sets will be posted on WebCT a week before due.
  2. Extended Comments: Students will craft two extended comments for each set of readings. The form for this assignment is posted on WebCT. There are four types of extended comments: Dialogue (agree), Dialogue (disagree), Personal Example, and Question. The Extended Comments form provides a brief explanation of each.
  3. Participation Journal: I will distribute a Class Participation Sheet to students early in the semester. For each class, students will grade their participation. They will fill in a score on the Participation Sheet based upon a pre-determined scale and provide a rationale for their score. Scores may be adjusted by the instructor if the point value is not consistent with the rational or criteria for evaluation. I will also post the participation form on WebCT.
  4. Main Project: Students will carry out some type of main project for the class. Students will present their Main Projects at the time the topic or foci is listed on the syllabus.
    1. Projects can be done individually, in pairs or in teams.
    2. The main project is presented to the entire class and, as such, should be a learning experience for all involved.
    3. This main project must will do three things:

                                                             i.      provide other students with an in-depth or new understanding of the topic,

                                                           ii.      expose other students to the body of literature about the topic,

                                                        iii.      present original research findings regarding the topic for students at UNM.

    1. Students can be as creative as they wish, and I encourage students to think creatively about their main projects. Some ideas:

                                                             i.      If you are a musician, possibly you will write and perform a piece of music that teaches. If you are an actor, you may wish to bring your acting troupe and perform your main project. If you are a slam poet, … you get the idea.

                                                           ii.      Projects can also be conventional: a final paper, a standard presentation, and so forth.

                                                        iii.      For performance-based projects, students will also write a two-page description of the project’s goals and how the performance meets those goals.


Class Policies


Attendance and Participation: Attending the class and actively participating in the discussions about the readings is required. Students will earn participation points based on their attendance and contributions to intellectual discussions. In order to earn these points, you will not only have to read and comprehend what you read, but come to class with something to add or critique regarding the readings. Students will maintain a Class Participation Journal and grade themselves on participation.


Grading Scale: (I do not round up…so don’t ask)





















< 59.9





Academic Integrity:  You will be expected to maintain the highest standard of academic integrity. Violations include, but are not limited to, cheating, fabrication, tampering, plagiarism or facilitating such activities. These actions are grounds for immediate failure. The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, against any student who is found guilty of academic dishonesty or otherwise fails to meet these standards. In this graduate course, you are expected to know APA style for citing outside sources. Plagiarism is one of the most serious ethical missteps a scholar can make, so it is imperative to give credit where credit is due. See for UNM academic honesty policy and statement at http://handbook.unm.edu/D100.html. Students who have questions concerning scholastic regulations and procedures at the University should refer to the "General Academic Regulations" section of the University Catalog.


Written Work Guidelines

  1. Bring a hard-copy to class to use for discussion
  2. Submit via WebCT course “Assignments” link
  3. Word-processed, 12 font, left-hand justified, double-spaced (unless otherwise instructed), 1” margins
  4. Accurate written form (structure, punctuation, spelling, etc.)
  5. Late assignments subject to Late Work policy below.


Late Work Grading Policy:

  1. I will not accept Reading Objectives and Extended Comments late from students who attend class the day these reading assignments are due.
  2. If a student misses class due to illness or some other unforeseen situation, they may turn in their Reading Objectives and Extended Comments but will lose points according to the following:
    1. - 10% of possible points for each day late including -10% for assignments submitted anytime after class period in which it is due
    2. Maximum late deduction 50%


Make-up Assignments:

Makeup issues will be negotiated between the student and instructor.


Course Schedule

(May be changed, depending on how class develops over semester)




Assignment Due


Introduction to course; topics decisions; main project exploration


Topic Foci #1: “Dark” Organizational Communication With Stakeholders (Deceptive and false communication with stakeholders)



Film, “Wal-Mart, The High Cost of Low Prices”






Film, “Wal-Mart, The High Cost of Low Prices”

Discussion Wal-Mart film


Reading Assignment:

1.      Conrad, C. (2003). Stemming the tide: Corporate discourse and agenda denial in the 2002 “corporate meltdown.” Organization, 10, 549-560.

2.      Benoit, W. L. (1995). Sears’ repair of its auto service image: Image restoration discourse in the corporate sector. Communication Studies, 46, 89-105.

Reading Objectives 1

Due before class via WebCT


Extended Comments 1

Due before class via WebCT


Discussion/Application: “Dark” Organizational Communication With Stakeholders



Discussion/Application: “Dark” Organizational Communication With Stakeholders

Video: “Royal Treatment” SAS


Discussion/Application: “Dark” Organizational Communication With Stakeholders

Assessing organizational communication


Discussion/Application: “Dark” Organizational Communication With Stakeholders

Assessing organizational communication


Topic Foci # 2: Harassment and bullying


Reading Assignment: (4 articles)

Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2005). Bullying in the workplace: Its impact and management. Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, 8, 335-373.

Lutgen-Sandvik, P. , Tracy, S. & Alberts, J. (2006). Burned by bullying in the American workplace. Unpublished manuscript.

Rospenda, K. M., Richman, J. A., Wislar, J. S., & Flaherty, J. A. (2000). Chronicity of sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse: Effects on drinking outcomes. Addiction, 95, 1805-1820.

Richman, J. A., Rospenda, K. M., Nawyn, S. J., Flaherty, J. A., Fendich, M., Drum, M., et al. (1999). Sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse among university employees: Prevalence and mental health correlates. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 358-363.

Reading Objectives 2

Due before class via WebCT


Extended Comments 2

Due before class via WebCT


Discussion/Application: Foci 2

Mark: Corporate v. Collaborative Organization Communication


Discussion/Application: Foci 2

Video: “The New Boss”


Discussion/Application: Foci 2

John: Media and work


Discussion/Application: Foci 2

Erika: CIW


Discussion/Application: Foci 2

Paul: Dark side leadership communication

Topic Foci # 3 Stress and burnout






Gaines, J. & Jermier, J. M. (1983).  Emotional exhaustion in a high stress organization.  Academy of Management Journal, 26, 567-586.

Meyerson, D. E. (1998).  Feeling stressed and burnout out:  A feminist reading and re-visioning of stress-based emotions within medicine and organizational science.  Organizational Science, 8, 103-118.

Ray, E. B., & Miller, K. I. (1991).  The influence of communication structure and social support on job stress and burnout.  Management Communication Quarterly, 4, 506-527.

Reading Objectives 3

Due before class via WebCT


Extended Comments 3

Due before class via WebCT


Discussion/Application: Foci 3

Anna: small organization communication


Discussion/Application: Foci 3

Sam/Nicole: Human Rights


Discussion/Application: Foci 3

Gina/Caitlin: safety and danger at work


Discussion/Application: Foci 3

Main Projects


Discussion/Application: Foci 3


Topic Foci # 4 Racism, sexism, and other “isms”


Discussion/Application: Foci 3




Bratton, V. K., & Kacmar, K. M. (2004). Extreme careerism: The dark side of impression management. In R. W. Griffin & A. M. O'Leary (Eds.), The dark side of organizational behavior. San Francisco: John Wiley & sons.

Leets, L., & Giles, H. (1999). Harmful speech in intergroup encounters: An organizational framework for communication research. Communication Yearbook, 22, 91-137.

Reading Objectives 4

Due before class via WebCT


Extended Comments 4

Due before class via WebCT


Discussion/Application: Foci 4

Phil/Jon: stress & burnout


NO CLASS (NCA Conference)



Discussion/Application: Foci 4

Michelle: nursing home abuses





Discussion/Application: Foci 4

Film: “Swimming with the Sharks” part 1


Discussion/Application: Foci 4

Film: “Swimming with the Sharks” part 2 & discussion


Discussion/Application: Foci 4



Last Class—catch up/final discussion and course evaluation

Main Projects Michael/Melissa

Participation Journals due in class


Finals Week

Written element of Final Projects due via WebCT 11:50 p.m.



Assignment Submission:


Reading Objectives, Extended Comments, and written elements of Main Projects will be submitted via WebCT, at date/time indicated on course schedule. Here are the instructions for posting assignments:





I.       Save all word-processed work into a rich text file (or submit in Word). I cannot download or open other word-processed formats.

II.     Save assignments with your last name and a brief assignment title: i.e., “Smith Reading Objectives 1”

III.  Then follow these instructions:

  1. Login at http://vista.unm.edu
  2. Type in your username and password
  3. The courses for which you’re registered, that instructors have WebCT course sites, will appear on left hand side as underlined links
  4. Click on the Dark Side or Org Comm link
  5. The course site has an index that will come up on the left hand side and icons in the main page. Either will get you to these areas.
  6. To submit assignments,
    1. Put mouse cursor on “Assignments” in left-hand margin index or on the icon with the file box, underneath which is the word “Assignments”
    2. Then left-hand single mouse click
    3. Choose the assignment you’re submitting

                                                             i.      For example, if you’re submitting “Reading Objectives 1,” place cursor on Reading Objectives 1, underline will appear, single mouse click to choose

                                                           ii.      Click “Add Attachments” button

                                                        iii.      A new window opens with a “My computer” icon on the left-hand side

                                                          iv.      Click “my computer”

                                                            v.      Go to where you saved your assignment on your computer (A drive, C drive, etc.)

                                                          vi.      Double-click your assignment file (in Word or rtf)

                                                       vii.      The file will then appear above the “Add Attachments” button

                                                     viii.      Click “Submit”

                                                         ix.      You will be asked if this is “okay”

                                                           x.      Click “Okay”

                                                         xi.      The site should display your assignment as a link.

                                                      xii.      You’re finished.

    1. There are separate assignment submission links for all assignments due in the class.