یک سازمان خوب، خوب صحبت می کند: یک مورد نمونه برای مدیریت بحران سازمان های مذهبی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|1056||2002||14 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Public Relations Review, Volume 28, Issue 4, October 2002, Pages 347–360
Arguing that too much organizational apologia research focuses on the mistakes of big, for-profit corporations, this study examines the discourse of a religious institution that faced allegations of wrongdoing and cover-up. Specifically, this essay analyzes the discourse that surrounded the disclosure by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) that a number of students at Mamou Alliance Academy in Guinea, West Africa, had been abused over a period of time (1950–1971) while their parents served as missionaries. The authors argue that the C&MA is engaged in ethical crisis management and is paradigmatic of what George Cheney has called “the good organization speaking well.
In May 1995, allegations of abuse began to surface within the 328,000 member Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination. The accusations originated from children who were boarded at the C&MA Mamou Alliance Academy in Guinea while their parents served as missionaries in Africa.2 The charges alleged that from 1950 to 1971 over 30 children had suffered abuse in all its forms at the hands of the Mamou staff—physical, psychological and even sexual.3 At first the C&MA showed a great deal of institutional resistance in responding to the grass-roots efforts of the five-person Mamou Steering Committee, led by spokesperson Richard Darr, which had attempted to get the C&MA to resolve the matter privately.4 But confronted with the growing number of stories of abuse as well as the threat of more public exposure, the C&MA created a panel later in 1995 to investigate the allegations. The denomination in 1998 released the panel report, which admitted the truth of the allegations and also detailed the abuse that occurred at the hands of nine individuals. In addition to identifying those who committed the abuse, the report faulted the denomination for negligence in oversight of the school.5 During a retreat at the Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center in suburban Atlanta, C&MA President Peter Nanfelt (among others) apologized to the 80 adults present who had suffered the abuse as children.6 The response of the C&MA constitutes what scholars of rhetoric have typically described as an apologia—a speech of defense that has as a motive the clearing of one’s name.7 In this case, the C&MA used what Kruse has described as a non-denial form of apologia.8 An elastic form of discourse, the study of the genre of apologia increasingly has been applied to the study of organizations engaged in crisis management, using the strategies first articulated by Ware and Linkugel to repair their damaged images and reputations.9 It is our position that there is undue tendency on the part of many (the current authors included) to focus on the crisis management of large, for-profit corporations and their all too common behavioral and communication mistakes. Conversely, we assert that the C&MA Mamou case presents a unique opportunity to focus on an organization that comes to grips with the problem of its institutional guilt. In so doing, we take a Burkean perspective that views religious rhetoric as a paradigmatic of all language use,10 and use it to argue that the C&MA offers a model of how an institution can respond ethically and creatively in a crisis situation. To support this thesis, we first situate this paper within the study of organizational and institutional apologiae; second, we discuss the details of the tragic case at the Mamou school; third, we analyze the communication efforts of the C&MA in coming to grips with this problem; and finally, we offer a number of conclusions as to the nature of institutional apologiae, recommending the example of C&MA as particularly instructive in situations of corporate guilt.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
C&MA’s choice to subordinate scapegoating to mortification proved successful in facilitating the process of reconciliation and healing, but also provides several insights, at once pragmatic and theoretical. Pragmatically, the Mamou case avoided two of the potential pitfalls of crisis communication: increased media scrutiny and managing internal publics. The former is of particular concern for religious institutions, for the media do not cover religious news especially well. C&MA’s deft handling of the issue minimized widespread media attention and actually received favorable comment with the media that covered the story. Internally, the denomination not only worked with the Mamou victims, but achieved some success in deterring church members’ demands for severe punishments for the perpetrators. Although the evidence is thin (and, we recognize, perhaps biased), it is interesting that a letter to the Alliance Life magazine’s editors, decrying the lack of severe punishment for the obvious scapegoats, received two follow-up letters, both expressing a compassionate tone more consistent with the stance of the institution.63 Particularly noteworthy about the apologiae is that, in addition to accepting full responsibility, they featured two additional strategies that helped them to deal with victims. First, there was considerable use of corrective action strategies. While with individuals a confession is seen as enough, it is apparent that when dealing with institutions, there is an expectation that along with confession will come a strategy of corrective action.64 Corrective action is a strategy by which an organization or institution communicates that it has learned from its wrongdoing and has taken steps to ensure that said transgressions will not recur. In this way a strategy of corrective action is powerful rhetorically because it reassures key publics that said immoral actions will not occur again. The report by the Board of Managers is notable in that after it apologized for the wrongs that had occurred, it quickly turns to address corrective action strategies in order to ensure that a similar problem never transpires again. To this end, the Board promised changes in the following areas: giving missionary parents “choice” in where to educate their children while overseas; better training procedures; more rigorous screening policies; on-sight supervision of the schools, and the creation of a network to be more sensitive to future allegations of abuse—a “Boarding School Advocate.”65 This use of corrective action is powerful rhetorically because it offers constituents reassurance: reassurance that the problem has been identified, dealt with, and is unlikely to reoccur again.66 Not only was corrective action used by the C&MA, but, like other institutions, C&MA utilized compensation to deal with the consequences of the harm that its failure to act had caused. Kennedy notes that C&MA agreed to pay the bulk of the therapy bills for those who suffered abuse.67 We disagree with Benoit who argues that “compensation functions as a bribe.”68 Instead, we assert that compensation is a form of “proportional humiliation” designed to deal with the consequences of its guilt. Here the institution is forced to “suffer” in a similar way; this time in the form of capital costs. Furthermore, as illustrated in this case, the use of compensation is more of a repayment of debt than a form of punitive penalty. On a purely theoretical level, not only does this case demonstrate that all three of Burke’s purgative strategies may be used in concert, but it is noteworthy of how the apologiae were performed. Given the religious vocabulary and underpinnings of this form of speech, we argue that apologiae are particularly informed by an understanding of ritual. Ritual, according to Rothenbuhler, “is the voluntary performance of appropriately patterned behavior to symbolically effect or participate in the serious life.”69 The guilt that occurs as a result of negligence is substantive though symbolic; subsequently, the repair to reputation is done in a thoroughly expressive means.70 As a social actor, an apologist is in many ways subject to criticism as to the quality of his or her performance; in communication terms this means the degree to which communication competence was demonstrated.71 Rather than having the “performance” occur through an advertisement or open letter in the denominational magazine or only from the Board of Managers in a semi-public document, C&MA instead took the unusual step to have its apology come from multiple sources in order to ensure that it was thoroughly disseminated. C&MA’s apologies came from the Board of Managers and two denominational leaders. Particularly noteworthy as it relates to institutional crisis discourse was the context of one of the apologies: a religious retreat that was in many ways akin to a church service in which the guilty go before the congregation and confess their sins and plead for forgiveness. Participants, then had a vehicle by which to judge the depth of sentiment that the church felt for the harms that had been done. Bob Fetherlin, the Vice-President for International Missions, stated: “This weekend we were able to turn an important corner.”72 Beverly Shellrude-Thompson, a parent of a victim of abuse said: “As for the Alliance, for the first time in the 5 years we’ve been formally working with them, I heard real grief expressed for what happened.”73 Richard Darr, who led the initial charge to seek recognition for what occurred at Mamou, asserted: “The retreat gave the broader missionary community permission to grieve together, to confess, to repent.”74 Said another way, the ritualistic expression of guilt by the C&MA allowed participants to gauge the sorrow and repentance of the denomination and found it genuine. This analysis illustrates that in institutional apologiae there are multiple considerations that must be balanced by the apologist. First is the deliverance of a public apology. Public apologies by institutions alone, however, are not enough; instead they are often coupled with some form of compensation as evidenced by C&MA’s willingness to pay for therapy or President Clinton’s apology and payment to survivors of the Tuskegee experiments.75 Obviously, at an institutional level a simple apology means little and only as it is coupled with restitution does it bear some weight in terms of measuring the wrongdoing committed. Furthermore, due to complex social factors present here, the object of a public apology cannot be, in and of itself, about forgiveness. First, those who were in charge of the institution and ultimately responsible at the time of the abuse have long since passed on, and hence, are unable to offer an apology. What is present in an institutional apology is, in effect, the children apologizing for the sins of the fathers. Second, it is inconceivable that an institution could “feel” pangs of guilt and seek forgiveness to ease its conscience. While individual actors within an institution are capable of such sensitivity it is inconceivable that the institution qua institution is capable of such emotion, for at root institutions are sociopaths.76 Rather, we submit that an institutional apologia is a secular remediation ritual that places the institution’s name and reputation on the public record as acknowledgement and accounting of the wrongdoing. Unlike a private apology in which the wrongdoing is between two private individuals and the exchange is done in private, a public apology offered by the agents of an institution becomes a permanent part of the institution’s history. It should be noted, however, that part of what facilitated the ethical response of the C&MA was the fact that, unlike contemporary organizations caught in a crisis, C&MA was dealing with events that had happened, in some instances, almost 45 years before, and for whom the perpetrators, with few exceptions, were in their mid to late seventies. As a result, the question of liability, while present, never was front and center. Furthermore, the fact that C&MA is a religious institution as opposed to a for-profit company meant that it had a relationship of trust with its constituents as opposed to a fiduciary association with customers—constituents who were concerned about how the airing of the denomination’s “dirty laundry” would affect the dissemination of the Gospel. Hence, while this case can and should serve as a paradigm case, more research should be undertaken before generalizing its findings to all crisis management situations. This point aside, the case does serve as an exemplar for institutions, particularly religious institutions who face crises, particularly of an abuse nature, for which they must offer apologiae in order to repair their image. Finally, it should be noted that the study of apologia in particular is informed by religious terminology. Apologetic crisis management struggles with the problem of guilt, for which mortification or a scapegoat is offered, in order to restore Order.77 Particularly notable in this case is the location of the apologia in the form of a religious ritual, one that presents an apologia as a ceremonial performance, which, like a religious litany offers a listing of the sins committed by the faithful and offers a plea for forgiveness. For in the performance of a ritual, victims can see the repentant heart of the penitent and offer forgiveness. In many ways, then, while the events that precipitated the crisis faced by the C&MA were indeed tragic, the discourse proffered by C&MA realized an opportunity to transcend what Burke calls the rhetorical situation common to all of us in the human condition: separated from each other by physicality and our own perceptions, we use symbols to bring people together.78 For while most organizations caught in wrongdoing engage in self-interested crisis management rhetoric in order to extricate themselves from an undesirable situation, the case of C&MA represents an example of ethical discourse that, to paraphrase and adapt Quintilian, presents “the good organization speaking well.”79 This essay has analyzed the crisis management rhetoric of the C&MA and found that, while the denomination was slow on the uptake in responding to the initial charges, its overall actions serve as a paradigm case for institutions struggling with issues of guilt and forgiveness, who desire to both act and communicate ethically.