How similar is an interpersonal encounter to a business relationship? Do we go about establishing our work relationships in an organization in much the same manner as we do an interpersonal one? Or, are they quite different? Little research has specifically been done in this area, but this paper will explore how the work relationship develops along Knapp’s “Coming Together” stages, and this paper will adapt the interpersonal model to fit the organization. It is hypothesized that the work relationship, especially in close work environments, will be very similar, if not identical, to an interpersonal relationship.
First, we must identify the term organization. Organization can be defined as “an ongoing, cooperative relationship between three or more persons who share a common purpose” (Dues & Brown, 2001). If we think of the organization as a team, working together throughout these stages, and, then, when each new member joins the team, they will each go through all of these stages with most, if not all, members of the team, then we can see how these stages can apply to the organization as well as to the individual. We must adapt the stages somewhat to accommodate the emotions felt in the organization, and change some of the language used in these stages, we can see how they will fit the organization. This paper will first explain the five stages from an interpersonal standpoint, and then use a fictional setting to explain the organizational stages.
There are five stages in Knapp’s Coming Together model. Stage one is Initiating, which includes initial encounters, greeting rituals and opening lines. Social politeness and impression management are important here. Phrases such as “Hi, how are you?” and “Fine, and you?” are used in this stage. This type of communication keeps us connected and civil.
Stage two is Experimenting, where we use small talk to grow closer to people, and use more breadth than depth when we disclose information. This is where people can establish similarities and differences, and where each person determines whether or not to pursue a closer relationship. Statements such as “I like to ski,” and “I’m not very athletic” are very general, but still disclose some personal information, where people can discover whether or not they share common interests and if they can parlay those interests into a deeper friendship.
The third stage, Intensifying, involves in-depth disclosure and emotional expression. Gossip can even be included in this stage. In the interpersonal arena, this stage goes so far as to include phrases such as, “I love you,” and “I love you, too.”
Stage four, Integrating, is when attitudes and preferences merge. This can lead to “coupling” in the interpersonal setting. People break off into different groups, and certain people become closer than others. For example, people within the same group may start to share a social network. They might join socially for dinners, barbecues, graduations, baby showers, etc., often bringing their spouse and children. This merging of the social network is crucial in interpersonal relationships
The last stage is Bonding. Within an interpersonal relationship, marriage, children, and public commitment via social ritual often exhibit this. It is obvious that many of the stages would not work as they are in an organizational setting. Team members don’t “bond” in the interpersonal sense. That is, they do not formally seal their unions with a ceremony such as marriage.