Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Helen Rothschild Ewald


Change and uncertainty are integral elements of any organization, yet they are not easy to face and they elicit a wide range of responses among organizational members. This study uses a rhetorical approach to examine the communications directed to employees in one type of organizational change---mergers and acquisitions;Based on a review of the mergers and acquisitions, management, organizational behavior, and rhetoric and professional communication literature, I identify four major rhetorical challenges that need to be addressed in the early communications in mergers and acquisitions: setting the stage for cultural change, addressing emotions, dealing with uncertainty, and building an identity and encouraging identification;I use early communications collected from two research sites (a seed company merged with a competitor and an accounting firm acquired by a public company) in examining how the rhetorical challenges were addressed in these situations. I use interview data to examine employee perceptions of the communications;I use fantasy theme analysis, a method of rhetorical criticism developed by communications scholar Ernest Bormann, to determine how the communications worked in achieving a common understanding of the merger or acquisition within the organizations. I identify a number of themes used in the communications to address the rhetorical challenges;I argue that fantasy theme analysis is a valuable method to use in analyzing professional communications; it provides a way of focusing on commonalities and differences in communications used in similar types of situations in different organizations. I argue that my analysis sheds new light on genre theory. Genres are generally thought of as recurring rhetorical responses to recurring rhetorical situations. I argue that fantasy theme analysis provides a way of identifying recurring responses (fantasy themes) to situations that recur in the organizational lifeworld as a whole, even though they may not recur frequently in any one organization. I introduce the notion of "thematic genres" to refer to these genres that can be identified through common fantasy themes. I also offer a heuristic based on my fantasy theme analysis that could be used by those preparing employee communications in mergers and acquisitions and other situations of major organizational change.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Janel M. Bloch



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

252 pages