Neil Patterson

Topics: Nonverbal communication, Communication, Distributive justice Pages: 9 (3150 words) Published: January 14, 2013
An incident by the CEO of Cerner Corporation is one of the representative email cases found in textbooks. This project studied problems observed in the case from the perspectives of communication, organizational justice, and perception. This paper began with description of the organizational case, identified communication problems, and analyzed them based on organizational justice and perception. This study incorporated the three different domains to comprehensively explore the case and suggested a unique approach to the complexity of human behanviors.

When thinking of company emails one might think of the inappropriate forwards that contain attachments of videos of cats from you tube that circulate through the organization or the necessary communications exchange confirming appointments or other important information. But sometimes there’s those heated exchanges much like the infamous email Neal Patterson CEO of Cerner Corporation, is best known for. His email is now covered in text books as “What not to do” in email communications. His email has become notorious and is now textbook material (Chapman, 2004). The email created a firestorm for the Cerner Corporation, in which the email was sent throughout the organization and on to media sites (Wong, 2001). Within days the company’s stock prices dropped dramatically. The scope of Patterson’s leadership has been scrutinized by investors, analyzed by business professionals, and lectured on by academics. Thanks to the example of miscommunication Mr. Patterson has given us, we are able to discuss in detail how the importance of proper communication, and how communication, organizational justice, and perception are all interconnected. The purpose of this project is to explore an example of the corporate incident by applying theoretical concepts in three domains: communication, organizational justice, and perception. This paper will identify specific problems of the organizational case with a focus on communication, apply concepts of organizational justice to the case, and further analyze the problems in the light of perception. Communication

Characteristics of Organizational Communication Technology
Now, this section discusses organizational communication technology and media richness theory, in order to identify specific problems perceived in the CEO’s email incident case described in the previous section. Email is one of organizational communication technologies, which has been extensively used as a central communication tool in organizations. Compared to conventional communication media, Miller (2006) described the six characteristics of the technologies: transmission speed, geographic dispersion, asynchronism, and nonverbal communication cues. Messages are transmitted faster than conventional channels, participants can geographically spread out to communicate with others, at different points in time, and nonverbal messages such as emotions are communicated using unique cues (e.g. emoticon, uppercase letters for email). The company case indicated some problems closely related to the characteristics of the organizational communication technologies. Transmission speed was relatively fast, as it took just a week until the email was quickly publicized via the Internet, attracted public attention, and resulted in the stock drop. Participants in the email were geographically dispersed, as the CEO could address about 400 managers in various locations at once. Asynchronism is observed in the one-week timelag between email transmission and publicizing on Yahoo. One of the most problematic factor was nonverbal communication cues: uppercase letters (e.g. EMPLOYEE, not CARE, SICK) and strong language communicated highly negative emotions that were interpreted in different ways from CEO’s intention. The varied interpretations were caused by ambiguity of the email message, which is a significant factor to determine media richness....

References: Burton, T. M., & Silverman, R. E. (2001, Mar 30). Lots of empty spaces in Cerner parking lot get CEO riled up: Email scolding employees gets posted on a web site; stock price takes beating. Wall Street Journal, pp. 3-B3.
Chapman, C. (2012, October 17). Cerner CEO predicts workplace changes. Retrieved from
Cropanzano, R., Bowen, D. E., & Gilliland, S. W. (2007). The management of organizational justice. Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(4), 34-48
Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32, 554-571.
Daft, R. L., Lengel, R. H., & Trevino, L. K. (1987). Message equivocality, media selection, and manager performance: Implications for information systems. MIS Quarterly. 11, 355-366.
Miller, K. (2006). Organizational communication: Approaches and processes (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2009). Contemporary theories of motivations. In Organizational behavior (13th ed.). (pp. 195-203). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Wong, E. (2001, Apr 05). Chief executive is criticized after upbraiding workers by email. New York Times, pp. 1-C1.
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