Most organizational communication scholars would agree that management has, at least until very recently, played a central role in the communication flows within the organization. At the very top usually sits a small group of senior managers who often make the organization's strategic decisions and have been the ones who could decide which information to share, when to share it, and which channels to use. In larger organizations they are often supported by a specialized communication department in charge of broadcasting the message to both internal and external stakeholders (Miller, 2014, pp. 188-194).
Given the structure of most organizations a substantial communication role has also been trusted to middle managers. Apart from distributing the more operation and task-related information they usually are key in ensuring that messages broadcasted from the top are also translated and clarified to larger sections of the workforce. The system of cascading the information from top to bottom clearly illustrates the idea of Johnson et al. (1994) that "formal hierarchical structures organize the flow of information (Stieglitz, Riemer, & Meske, 2014, p. 3)."
In order to better understand the role of management and their reaction towards the introduction of ESS it is useful to explore the concept of "gatekeeping". According to Shoemaker and Vos (2009, p. 1) "gatekeeping is the process of culling and crafting countless bits of information into the limited number of messages that reach people each day." If we adopt the terminology used in the gatekeeping theory and apply it to organizational communication we could label management as "gatekeepers" and employees as "the gated". In acting as gatekeepers management has the power to affect employees' social reality (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009, p. 3). Management may therefore use this power to install unobtrusive forms of control. This reasoning is in line with the wider management literature in which the concept of scientific management has given way to the idea of systematic management, emphasizing a shift from systematizing work processes to systematizing the process of decision-making, which is deemed more suitable for work in the service industries (Wijnberg, van den Ende, & de Wit, 2002, p. 411).
With the introduction of ESS the gatekeeping role of management is being challenged. In many organizations information still equals power, which may explain why the practices of knowledge sharing are not yet embedded in all organizations. The desire to uphold the status quo could offer a partial explanation to the question why so many organizations are not getting the results they expected from introducing social technologies. A hesitant reaction from management can also be related to the widespread conviction that the managerial agenda is already full and that managing different communication channels in a responsive way is impossible given the existing workload (Robson & Tourish, 2005, p. 214). Quirke (1996) has additionally emphasized that managers are poor at evaluating their effectiveness as communicators.
Notwithstanding the fact that communication is often mentioned as an important factor in ensuring organizational information flows, there is still little understanding as to what the effects of ESS are on managers' ability to manage staff (Huang, Baptista & Galliers, 2013, p. 115). We are convinced that gatekeeping theory could prove valuable in analyzing this question. In the following section we will approach questions related to the adoption of ESS from an communication perspective.
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