Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Holtzhausen, Derina

Keywords

communication, job insecurities, external environment, change, policies

Abstract

This study examined the concept of organizational uncertainty and the involvement of public relations practitioners. Understanding organizational uncertainty is imperative to the success of an organization, but the effects of uncertainty have been relatively undertheorized within public relations. To close the gap, this study blended multidisciplinary theories pertaining to uncertainty with a triangulated methodological approach. First, this study took a macro-organizational look at uncertainty by analyzing trends in the literature and conducting qualitative in-depth interviews with members of management and employees in an organization. The results of this portion of the study found uncertainty to be multi-layered and the most common causes of uncertainty to be organizational changes, unclear policies, job insecurities, and the external environment. This data was then used to conduct a micro-organizational analysis of uncertainty.

Therefore, the second step of this study expanded on the organizational findings to look at the role of public relations in uncertainty management. Through this study, a valuable survey instrument was created containing five significant factors of: job insecurities, the external environment, organization uncertainty, practitioner perceived involvement, and practitioner feelings. It was administered, primarily through use of the Internet, to members of the Public Relations Society of America (N=1,135), yielding a response rate of 31.8 percent. The results of this study indicated that public relations practitioners do not perceive four main causes of uncertainty, but instead they perceive two: job insecurities and the external environment. The results also suggest that public relations practitioners personally have low feelings of uncertainty, although they believed their organizations have moderate levels of uncertainty.

Additionally, this study found that practitioners reported being moderately involved in the management of uncertainty, with the level of involvement most influenced by job insecurities. Finally, the results found that public relations practitioners most frequently used electronic communication to help employees cope with organizational uncertainty pertaining to organizational change, policies, and the external environment. However, with job insecurities, interpersonal communication was the most popular communication strategy. Overall, the results of this study bring us a step closer in establishing a framework for public relations practitioner involvement in the management of organizational uncertainty.

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