Title page for ETD etd-09282005-135714

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Leonard, Anne
Email anne.leonard@up.ac.za
URN etd-09282005-135714
Document Title Communicating affirmative action during transformational change : a South African case study perspective
Degree MPhil (Communication Management)
Department Marketing and Communication Management
Advisor Name Title
Prof AF Grobler
  • Affirmative action Transformational change communi
Date 2004-04-21
Availability unrestricted
South Africa is often described as a nation in transition since the societal and political transformation is an ongoing process. The South African employment environment is one area that now boasts a number of laws that are interrelated and aimed at achieving transformation of the workplace, as well as the economic empowerment of those who had previously been victims of racial segregation. The Employment Equity Act No. 55 of 1998 is regarded as central to the appreciation of equality of individuals in the workplace, irrespective of race, gender and/or disability.

The management of communication is central to the process of corporate transformation as a result of this Act. (This fact is confirmed by the emphasis in the Act itself on organisations’ duty to inform and consult with stakeholders and several guideline documents.) Since previous research had pointed to broadly defined communication problems, the overarching research question of this study is: “How do South African organisations manage communication about Affirmative Action (within the context of Employment Equity)?”

Chaos theory (a postmodern perspective) serves as the theoretical framework from which organisations’ approach to the duty to inform and consult with stakeholders, transformational change management, the management of communication and transformational leadership were investigated. A conceptual framework for the management of communication in this context, which is based on the ideas of the chaos perspective, is also proposed.

Empirical evidence regarding the research question was gathered by means of a qualitative, multiple case study investigation. The most senior Communication, Human Resources and Employment Equity practitioners were interviewed in each of the three organisations, while the Employment Equity communication strategy of each organisation was compared to the theoretical framework by Thomas and Robertshaw (1999).

The unique corporate philosophy of each organisation influences the manner in which Employment Equity strategies are implemented. The term “Affirmative Action” is not utilised in any of the organisations. Communication has strategic value in the external arena, while internal communication about Employment Equity is not satisfactory in two of the organisations. All types/levels of leaders have communication responsibilities in this context, while one organisation also relies on the philosophy of self-directed leadership. Only one organisation is currently managing communication according to a formalised strategy.

Recommendations regarding the management of communication in this transformational context can be summarised with the overarching requirement that transformation should be approached as a “thinking science”. The multitude of paradoxes that were highlighted by the chaos perspective should be considered constantly: herein lies the real challenge for South African organisations.

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