This study offers an in-depth account of the mutual constitution of technology use and status hierarchies in a global organization by investigating the use of enterprise social media (ESM). Analyses of individual interviews (N = 32) and ESM posts (N = 1,050) showed that (a) the visibility affordance was perceived and used differently by various status groups and (b) emerging patterns of ESM use contributed to the reproduction of status hierarchies. Specifically, increased communication visibility allowed dispersed workers to obtain previously unshared knowledge; however, the very same visibility also revealed knowledge disparities between different status groups, thereby sustaining status hierarchies. Thus, visibility, which has been traditionally linked to recognition, can be also conceived as a quality that highlights inequitable distribution of knowledge and status. This study advances our understanding of social status in global organizations by delineating how communicative practices, organizational structures, and technology use jointly constitute status hierarchies.
Management Communication Quarterly: An International Journal – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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