An institutional theory of organizational communication

John C. Lammers, Joshua B. Barbour

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


For many years, reviewers have argued that organizational communication research is overly concentrated on microphenomena to the neglect of macrophenomena, but macrophenomena have generally remained unspecified. An institutional theory of organizational communication is proposed to fill that gap. Drawing on institutional theory in organizational sociology and on concerns in organizational communication, we define institutions as constellations (i.e., relatively fixed arrangements) of formalized rational beliefs manifested in individuals' organizing behaviors. Key concepts for the analysis of institutions include membership, rational myths, isomorphism, and decision hierarchies. Based on our definition and armed with these concepts, the paper formally specifies propositions of an institutional theory of organizational communication. Applying the propositions to a published case of organizational identification demonstrates how an institutional perspective offers additional explanatory power, especially concerning professional roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-377
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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