ICA PRECONFERENCE: (RE)DEFINING AND (RE)NEGOTIATING THE MEANING OF WORK, SUCCESS, HAPPINESS, AND GOOD LIFE
Organizational Communication Division
Date: May 22nd, 2014
8:00 am- 5:00 pm
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
[With an off-site visit to The Seattle Glassblowing Studio]
CALL FOR PAPERS
What is the role of work in constructing “the good life”? How have our definitions of what it means to work, be successful, and be happy evolved over the years? This preconference examines questions about work and life including the important practical, social, and theoretical concerns surrounding these issues.
Aspiring to lead a good life almost mandates that every aspect of one’s life align with the individual’s personal definition of what constitutes a ‘good’ life in the first place. This idea though unequivocally includes pursuing a professional life of passion, pride, dignity, and worthy of one’s time, skills, and energy. At this pre-conference we will bring together scholars who have an interest in examining the constraints and opportunities for a good life and how that definition is shaped discursively by the different contextual factors that determine our material work-life realities. While there are multiple lenses with which to view one’s good life, we circumscribe our pre-conference within specific frames of work and its allied implications within, between, and outside of organizations.
We invite you to submit short papers (7-10 pages excluding references) pertaining to the following five themes: Socialization and Ethics, Immigrant Experiences of Meanings of Work, Sociopathic Demands of Modern Work, Positive Emotions at Work, and Career and Personal Life Sustainability (please see descriptions below):
Facilitators and Respondents:
Suchitra Shenoy-Packer (co-organizer)
Elena Gabor (co-organizer)
Patrice M. Buzzanell
Instructions for Papers:
1. Please submit short papers (7-10 pages excluding References) in APA (6th Edition) format directly to Suchitra Shenoy-Packer and Elena Gabor by March 1, 2014.
2. Clearly state the theme to which you are submitting your paper on the cover page (include your name, affiliation, and academic position (e.g., grad student, professor).
3. The questions we provide under each theme are examples to get you started and thinking about the scope of each area. We encourage potential contributors to redefine and renegotiate the meanings of work, success, happiness, and the good life as they deem befitting the different themes.
4. A total of 24 papers will be competitively selected for the pre-conference.
Theme 1: Socialization & Ethics
The socialization and ethics themes individually or collectively, will explore discourses about work circulating in, and produced by, socialization agents (e.g., Jablin: family, friends, media, education, part-time work). Here, the interest would be in how institutional discourses such as media and education discourses-about work produce discursive resources that shape our understandings of and expectations for work.
For those interested in the ethics theme exclusively, we encourage the exploration of meaningful work as a decidedly ethical question. We spend a great deal of time thinking through the ethical dimensions of communication at work, both in general (e.g., whistleblowing) and in relation to specific occupations/professions (e.g., medical ethics). What are some of these thoughts that translate to research and contemporary visions of leading good work-life?
To submit papers to this theme, participants are invited to submit short papers that address one or more of the following questions: How do socialization discourses influence the manner in which we make sense of what work means, the role it plays in our lives, and the nature of the working world? How do they enable/constrain the choices that we make in pursuit of meaningful work in our lives? What does it look like when we consider the question of work itself from a distinctly ethical framework? What are the ethical dimensions of the ways in which we talk about work? For instance, what are the ethical implications when we elevate some forms of work, and not others, as “meaningful”? If the choices that we make about work have implications for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world, and if those choices are implicated by communication about work, what are the ethical dimensions of the ways in which we speak about work?
Theme 2: Immigrants Experiences of Meanings of Work
Finding meaning in work has been argued as being the prerogative of the fortunate few who have the choice of discriminating between the work (or non-work) options available to them. But, what happens to this choice when the desire to do so takes individuals to foreign lands in the hopes of exercising that choice and finding meaningful work? Immigration is not a single event of being uprooted from the culture of origin and leaving behind the homeland to face the challenge of assimilation into a new culture. Rather it is a lifelong, multifaceted and multilayered, complex, and never-ending experience. With this theme, we start from the assumption that voluntary immigration is a deliberate decision to change one’s life, often, but not necessarily, driven by the optimism of finding personally significant and self-defined meaningful work.
Immigrant workers are known to experience stress related to their visa status, language proficiency, money, loss of connections and status in the work context, discounting of skills acquired in their native countries, ethnic/gender discrimination, feelings of isolation and insufficient orientation to new job skills, and wages based discrimination, to name a few.
To submit papers to this theme, participants are invited to submit short papers addressing how immigrants construct the meaning of work in their lives? Within the larger frame of meanings of work, some examples of questions are: How does voluntary or involuntary immigration influence work values and transform (or if it does) work ethic? On the other hand, how do lessons learned about work in one’s native country complicate workplace relationships in a host country? Do degrees of adaptations/assimilation change immigrants’ meaning-making initiatives? Are meanings of work consciously constructed and do they differ across types and scope of work? How are (or are they?) meanings of work differently enabled and enacted by immigrant entrepreneurs versus working professionals versus unskilled laborers versus those compelled to immigrate as refugees or asylum seekers?
Theme 3: Sociopathic Demands of Modern Work
Sociopathy is arguably an entrenched feature of modern capitalism. For-profits institutionalize sociopathy in the relentless pursuit of profits and market growth. Non-profits and government organizations, including universities, increasingly resemble for-profits in operations and decision-making logics. The result of this focus on growth and profits include resource exhaustion, environmental degradation, social antipathy, and the degradation of the human spirit. Instrumentalization and prioritization of unrestrained growth constrain praxis, that is, they constrain the possibilities for making socially proactive meanings out of everyday work activities as daily activities are typically subordinated to the demands of efficiency, expediency, growth and/or profitability.
Participants are invited to submit short papers that address the following questions: How can alternative, socially pro-active meanings be generated from the instrumental and often sociopathic demands of modern work? How can alternative meanings be introduced into institutional life so as to counter or temper sociopathic practices and decision-making? Is it possible to transform capitalism itself from the ground up so that opportunities for generating alternative and socially pro-active meanings are actually institutionalized in organizational decision-making and practice?
Theme 4: Positive Emotions at Work
Notwithstanding the tendency to focus on the pitfalls and problems of organizational life, being an organization member can also provide extraordinary, positive experiences. Sensing others’ appreciation can make endeavors feel worthwhile and open creative channels in previously unrecognized directions. A heartfelt thank you can contribute to an overall sense of contentment, infusing a positive mood workers subsequently bring home. Positive emotion is associated with improved overall health and longevity; increased altruism, courtesy, and conscientiousness in organizations; enhanced tendencies to assist others; and increased creativity and innovation at work and the experiences that evoke positive emotions.
Although a number of experiences elicit positive affect for employees, one of the most powerful is positive managerial communication (PMC). In fact, people point to these experiences as nothing less than life changing, the effects of which last years after the experiences. The Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions suggests that “positive emotions … broaden peoples’ momentary thought-action repertoires,” which are the possibilities for actions or responses we contemplate and then use when in an emotional state. The theory also argues that “positive emotions promote discovery of novel and creative actions, ideas and social bonds, which in turn build that individual’s personal resources; ranging from physical and intellectual resources, to social and psychological resources” (Fredrickson, 2004).
Participants are invited to submit short papers that address the following questions: Within the framework of meanings of work/meaningful work, how do negative emotions contribute to positive emotions in terms of organizational life? How do positive communicative events at work contribute to positive upward spirals? How does emotional contagion work in terms of positivity and how might this influence meaning making? Why do praise, reward, and appreciation mean so much to workers and what cultural forces might be behind the importance of these to workers? What is the state of our current knowledge about communication and positivity at work?
Theme 5 Career and Personal Life Sustainability
Returning to the overarching theme of “the good life” and the role that the meaningfulness of work has in constructing a good life, this section centers on ways to research, challenge, and design meaningful career and personal life sustainability. This theme has three parts. First, work-and-life communication scholarship and everyday discussions typically prioritize work over other life considerations. In this preconference theme, the focus is on the sustainability of career, as the theme and structure that underlie and make coherent the work that people do, and of personal life, as the value of friendship, family, leisure, volunteering, spirituality, and other activities. Yet it is not simply sustainability but ways to fuse and transcend career and personal life intersections that requires attention from communication scholars. Second, the emphasis is on design as a process for achieving the good life and meaningfulness. Design is the architecture of and processes within and across career and personal life. Design can be predictive, adaptive, visionary, and/or transformative in its problem setting and solving capacities. Transformative design engages inner and outer environments in ways that create alternative stories from which designers choose. Designers construct visions of valued futures, of which the good life would be prominent. Finally, this preconference theme does not assume that everyone has an equal chance and choice to achieve the good life.
Participants are invited to submit short papers that address the following questions: How can individuals, potentially living dilemmatic lives amidst agency and constraints construct meaningful and “good” work lives? How can our interpretations of meaningful careers and personal life sustainability get defined and redefined in today’s turbulent work environments? How can we sustain work-life balances that transcend personal gains and embody holistic mindfulness that recruits partners, family members, community, and others as co-scripters of a good life?
Due Date: March 1st, 2014
Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Management Communication Quarterly