Current Developments in Organizational Communication

Positive Organizational Communication

(C&J 542; Section 001; Education Classrooms 201; Wednesday 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.)

Spring 2007, Course Syllabus




Instructor: Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Email: or through WebCT course site

Telephone: During the 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 graduate organizational communication course is “concerned primarily with the study of especially positive outcomes, processes, and attributes of [communication in group and organizational settings]. As such, it focuses on communicative dynamics that are typically described by words such as excellence, thriving, flourishing, abundance, resilience, and virtuousness. Positive organizational [communication (POC)] represents an expanded perspective that includes instrumental concerns but puts an increased emphasis on ideas of “goodness” and positive human potential. It encompasses attention to the enablers (e.g., processes, capabilities, structures, methods), the motivations (e.g., unselfishness, altruism, contribution without regard to self), and the outcomes or effects (e.g., vitality, meaningfulness, exhilaration, high-quality relationships) associated with positive [communication] phenomena. [POC] is distinguished from traditional [organizational] communication studies in that it seeks to understand what represents and approaches the best of the human condition” (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003, p. 4).


Topics will include theoretical considerations as well as case-study analyses. This class is a graduate seminar, and as such, students will spend significant time reading and analyzing advanced texts, generating discussion based upon these texts, and bringing in their own ideas from outside, original, research. As an instructor I will spend little time lecturing, but will rather act as moderator of discussion and a sounding board for student reflections and research.


Course Readings  (Book available at UNM Bookstore)

1.      Cameron, K. S., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R. E. (2003). Introduction. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

2.      Supplemental Readings (posted on WebCT course site). Found through login at


Important: You must have a UNM net ID to access this site and send/receive communication to class members and instructor.


Class Assignments/Requirements (Total 500 Points)


**All written assignments will be submitted via the WebCT course site “Assignment” link.

1a & b.  Semester Research Project & Presentation. Any of the following may be conducted individually or with a partner. Students are encouraged, but not required, to work with a partner on the project. Co-authors will receive the same grade—so students are advised to choose partners with care.


1a. FINAL ASSIGNMENT OPTIONS (250 Points). If there is a type of project that you would like to complete that varies from one of these, please feel free to approach me with the idea. All final projects are 20-to-25-pages in length, which includes a convincing rationale. (Please use APA style.) Assignment details are posted on WebCT under “Assignments” in an attached document. 


OPTION 1 Traditional Research Paper


OPTION 2 Original Research


OPTION 3 Organizational Training


OPTION 4 Grant Proposal


OPTION 5 Comprehensive-type exam questions.



During the final exam period, you’ll be asked to give a 10-to-15-minute oral presentation of your final paper/project. Use this as an opportunity to practice a conference-quality presentation, complete with visual aids if appropriate.


2.      Discussion-Leading. (50 points) Each student will lead discussion for the assigned readings for one day. Discussion-leading will provide an opportunity to practice concept-integration skills and presentation abilities. Dates for discussion-leading will be chosen within the first two weeks of class. Please touch base with me to discuss the readings to cover and the time range of your discussion-leading. See WebCT site for more information about discussion leading.



a.       Prepare 3-5 discussion questions for students to think about and respond to verbally in class (post under “Discussion” on WebCT at least 2 days before class)

b.      Optional: find one additional reading on the week’s topic and bring copies for all class members, preferably a popular press, newpaper, or trade journal article (as opposed to an academic journal article).

c.       Begin discussion by briefly presenting / integrating the main concepts from readings in an interactive, lively manner (in class)


Discussion leaders will be graded upon thoughtfulness and timeliness of discussion questions; thoroughness, readability and format of summary outline; liveliness and organization of presentation / discussion-leading; and command of topic.


3. Four (4) Research Reports.  (100 points; 25 points each) One of the key goals in the course is to expose students to as much of the literature about positive organizational scholarship as possible. To cover much more territory than we could if everyone were required to read all cited pieces in the syllabus, each student will summarize a number of other research articles. These reports should less than 2 single-spaced pages on one sheet of paper. Reports will provide everyone with an extensive abstract database of important articles. Students will choose topics of interest that coinicide with core readings for that week. Reports will be graded based on a correct writing form/style, succinct yet meaningful summary, clarity of position, appropriate use of theoretical concepts, and quality of presentation/writing. See WebCT for a report example. These 1-2 page, single-spaced reports require:

1.      Bring copies of article and report summary for all students in class

2.      Post report on WebCT prior to class it is due

3.      Discuss reports five-minute informal presentations.

4.      Written report must include

a.       Your name and date of report

b.      The full article citation (APA style)

c.       A summary of the article in full sentence/paragraph form

d.      Conclude by taking position on piece, noting one or two strengths, weaknesses/limitations, or suggestions for future research


4.      Participation (Attendance/Discussion) (50 Points). Students should complete assigned readings before class and participate in seminar discussions in an enthusiastic, informed manner. To do so, it might be helpful to make notes as you read about questions and issues to pursue in the seminar discussion. I will evaluate the participation part of the grade by making weekly notations regarding the quality and quantity of evidenced preparedness and participation. Students should strive to (1) clearly evidence their close reading and thinking about the week’s materials, and (2) be physically and intellectually present for the entire course period (avoiding late arrivals and early departures). To participate, students can offer (among other things):

a.       a simple factual question

b.      a point which reveals a methodological assumption

c.       a critique of a research piece

d.      a strong point which merits our admiration

e.       a clarification that will help everyone to understand a class concept better

f.        an application to your research project or to some other personal experience


Absences: If there is an extenuating emergency or illness that interferes with your attendance or ability to keep up with work, please let me know. If you must miss a class (for any reason), you can make up the participation points by writing an additional article report of an unassigned reading. Your makeup report will be due your next time in class.


Grading: Letter grades are figured as to the following guidelines.


Outstanding – goes beyond expectations

Good – above average

Satisfactory – meets minimum requirements

Unsatisfactory – does not meet many requirements

Failing -- Does not meet requirements or academic dishonesty

A+ 98.6-100%

B+ 87.6-89.5%

C+ 77.6-79.5%



A   92.6-98.5%

B   82.6-87.5%

C   72.6-77.5%

D       60-72.9%

E       0-59.9%

A-  89.6-92.5%

B-  79.6-82.5%

C- 69.6-72.5




Assignments, Due Dates, Late Work: Assignments are due at the beginning of class. A late written assignment will be penalized up to 10% for each day it is late up to 50%. Due to time constraints, discussion-leading and reports will only receive credit when completed on the day scheduled. All assignments must be completed in order to pass the course. No assignments will be accepted after the last day of finals week. Incompletes will only be given to students who: (1) have finished more than half the coursework, (2) experience serious illness or personal emergency, and (3) negotiate the incomplete before the final day of class. Let me know, in advance, if you will have problems completing an assignment on time.

Academic Integrity: Each student is expected to maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in academic and professional matters. 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 Students who have questions concerning scholastic regulations and procedures at the University should refer to the "General Academic Regulations" section of the University Catalog.

Papers for other classes: While it is appropriate that several graduate school papers overlap in conceptual focus, your research project should be original work devised for this class. If you plan on using material prepared for a different course in your assignments, please consult with me regarding appropriateness.


Weekly Schedule—Subject to change via an announcement in class or discussion board

Core and Report Readings Posted on WebCT


(class #)

Topic / Readings


Introduction to course and participants, overview syllabus and assignments


Introduction to Positive Organizational Scholarship

Discussion Leader: Pam

Choose Report Options and Discussion Leading Option

Core Reading (all students read)

C-1: Foundations of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Kim S. Cameron, Jane E. Dutton, and Robert E. Quinn

C-2: Positive Organizational Studies: Lessons from Positive Psychology. Christopher M. Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman.

Jane Dutton, Mary Ann Glynn and Gretchen Spreitzer (forthcoming) Positive Organizational Scholarship, To appear in the Encyclopedia for Career Development. J.H. Greenhaus and G.A Callanan, (Eds.) Sage Publications.

Part 1: Virtuous Processes, Strengths, and Positive Organizing


Discussion Leader:

Core Reading (all students read)

C-3: Virtues and Organizations. Nansook Park and Christopher M. Peterson

C-4: Organizational Virtuousness and Performance. Kim S. Cameron

Cameron, K. S., Bright, D., & Caza, A. (2004). Exploring the relationships between organizational virtuousness and performance. The American Behavioral Scientist, 47, 766-789.


Core Reading (all students read)

C-5: Positive Organizing and Organizational Tragedy. Karl E. Weick

C-6: Acts of Gratitude in Organizations. Robert A. Emmons 

Goei, R., & Boster, F. J. (2005). The roles of obligation and gratitude in explaining the effect of favors on compliance. Communication Monographs, 72, 284-300.


No Class WSCA Conference


Core Reading (all students read)

C-7: Organizing for Resilience. Kathleen M. Sutcliffe and Timothy J. Vogus

C-8 Investing in Strengths. Donald O. Clifton and James K. Harter

Gunnestad, A. (2006). Resilience in a cross-cultural perspective:How resilience is generated in different cultures. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 11.


Core Reading (all students read)

C-9: Transcendent Behavior. Thomas S. Bateman and Christine Porath

C-10: Courageous Principled Action. Monica C. Worline and Ryan W. Quinn

Miller, M. G., Fitzgerald, S. P., Murrell, K. L., Preston, J., & Ambekar, R. (2005). Appreciative Inquiry in building a transcultural strategic alliance. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41, 91-110.

(Speaker today)

Tamar (Intercultural cooperation in organizations)


Part 2: Upward Spirals and Positive Change



Core Reading (all students read)

C-11: Positive Emotions and Upward Spirals in Organizations. Barbara L. Fredrickson

C-12: Positive and Negative Emotions in Organizations. Richard P. Bagozzi

Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Prevention and Treatment, 2, 300-319.




Core Reading (all students read)

C-13: New Knowledge Creation in Organizations. Fiona Lee, Arran Caza, Amy Edmondson, and Stefan Thomke

C-14: Positive Deviance and Extraordinary Organizing. Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Scott Sonenshein

Tucker, M. L., Meyer, G. D., & Westerman, J. W. (1996). Organizational communication: Development of internal strategic competitive advantage. Journal of Business Communication, 33(1), 51-69.


Core Reading (all students read)

C-15: Toward a Theory of Positive Organizational Change. David L. Cooperrider and Leslie E. Sekerka

C-16: Authentic Leadership Development. Fred Luthans and Bruce Avolio

Egan, T. M., & Lancaster, C. M. (2005). Comparing Appreciative Inquiry to action research: OD practitioner perspectives. Organization Development Journal, 23(2), 29-49.

Bloch, S. (2001). Positive deviants and their power on transformational leadership. Journal of Change Management, 1, 273-230.

Part 3: Positive Meanings and Positive Connections



Core Reading (all students read)

C-17: The Power of High-Quality Connections. Jane E. Dutton and Emily D. Heaphy

C-18: A Relational Theory of Coordination. Jody Hoffer Gittell

Sias, P. M. (2005). Workplace relationship quality and employee information experiences. Communication Studies, 56, 375-395.


Core Reading (all students read)

C-19: Finding Positive Meaning in Work. Amy Wrzesniewski

C-20: Fostering Meaningfulness in Working and at Work. Michael G. Pratt and Blake E. Ashforth

Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People's relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.



Core Reading (all students read)

C-21: Positive Organizational Network Analysis and Energizing Relationships. Wayne Baker, Rob Cross, and Melissa Wooten

C-22: Empowerment and Cascading Vitality. Martha S. Feldman and Anne M. Khademian

Pacanowsky, M. E. (1988). Communication in the empowering organization. Communication Yearbook, 11, 356-379.

Conclusion, Critique, and E-Sources


Discussion Leader: Pam

Core Reading (all students read)

C-23: Developing a Discipline of Positive Organizational Scholarship
Kim S. Cameron, Jane E. Dutton, Robert E. Quinn, and Amy Wrzesniewski

Fineman, S. (2006). On being positive: Concerns and counterpoints. Academy of Management Review, 31, 270-291.



Final Project Presentations

Final Papers due today via WebCT “Assignment” link by 11:55 p.m.





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 Quantitative Research Proposal”

III.   Then follow these instructions:

  1. Login at
  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 Foundations of Communication Research 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 “APA,” place cursor on APA, 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.

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