Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation <br />Josh Emington<br />Department of Communication<br />Michigan State ...
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU
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Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU

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The present research examines rejection letters and their effect on applicants’ opinions of the sending organization. This topic is examined through a quantitative field study of actual applicant reactions. While the study of rejection messages is in its infancy, ample attention has been paid to the delivery of negative messages in general. Results indicate that direct, personal, and positive letters were preferable to their alternatives, while other perceived message factors were insignificant. Failure to send a rejection message was also correlated with a decrease in that firm’s organizational reputation. Exploratory measures on the message medium firms employed indicated practical results and future implications were discussed.

Keywords: negative messages, rejection letters, corporate image, brand, public relations

Disclaimer: This study proposal is not approved or conducted and does not present findings.

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Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation: Research Proposal Draft MSU

  1. 1. Rejection Messages and Organizational Reputation <br />Josh Emington<br />Department of Communication<br />Michigan State University<br />March 20, 2011<br />Abstract<br />The present research examines rejection letters and their effect on applicants’ opinions of the sending organization. This topic is examined through a quantitative field study of actual applicant reactions. While the study of rejection messages is in its infancy, ample attention has been paid to the delivery of negative messages in general. Results indicate that direct, personal, and positive letters were preferable to their alternatives, while other perceived message factors were insignificant. Failure to send a rejection message was also correlated with a decrease in that firm’s organizational reputation. Exploratory measures on the message medium firms employed indicated practical results and future implications were discussed. <br />Keywords: negative messages, rejection letters, corporate image, brand, public relations <br />Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the COM 815 Organizational Communication Course. <br />Professor: Vernon Miller, Phd.<br />Correspondence concerning this paper can be sent to Josh Emington, Michigan State University, 633 W. Owen Hall, East Lansing, MI 48825. Email: emington@msu.edu. Phone: 517.977.2284.<br />Rejection Letters and Organizational Reputation <br />Well over 1.5 million students enter the job market with a new bachelor’s degree annually (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2011). Given each applies to two positions, we can conservatively estimate that a minimum of 3 million job rejections occur each year. These organizations spend billions of dollars managing their reputation and devote equally impressive resources to the selection of new work candidates. Commonly, all but one of these highly involved individuals will learn of their rejection in a way that will impact their perceptions of the firm and thus alter their likelihood to patronize, reapply to, recommend, or otherwise support that organization (Feinburg, Meoli-Stanton, & Gable, 1996; Waung & Brice, 2000). This most common result of the exhaustively studied employment interview is applicant rejection which most every individual has personally experienced (Jablin & Krone, 1984). Practical concerns for competitive advantages and economic sustainability should be considered by these organizations that produce an immeasurable mass of reputation altering rejection messages regularly. Each scenario is assumed to impact the receiving applicant, the company, and the public in a variety of ways, including the attitudes and intentions of the reader and the reputation or perceived image of the organization (Aamodt & Peggans, 1988; Fielden & Dulek, 1982; Feinberg, Meoli-Stanton, & Gable, 1996; Waung & Brice, 2000; Shaw, 2000). <br />In particular, a firm’s economic vitality is directly affected through any outcomes these messages may have on their reputation. Fielden and Dulek (1982) express this very concern: “CEOs may think that they create their company's image, but routine communications, such as insensitive rejection letters, speak louder, more often, and to many more people.” These messages also represent a unique academic opportunity to explore the process of negative message crafting in a predictable and observable environment. Ample attention has been paid to the differing recommendations of past experts, particularly in business, to those crafting negative messages however the nature of actual rejection letters remains unclear and a lack of conclusive results continues to prohibit the advance of appropriate, rigorous investigations in this domain. Despite the generous discussion of rejection letters in informal papers and qualitative reviews, very few studies have investigated reactions to rejection letter tactics. The lack of quantitative examination is further compounded by the diversity of outcomes examined. It should be noted that the past few decades have not been devoid of discussion on the topic, rather relevant conversations have primarily been housed in conference papers, text books, proprietary research, and corporate case studies. <br />Rejection messages are developing a new practical role in business that requires study. The commonly perceived decrease in traditional privacy and the rapid advance of communication technology and speed have already increased both the negative and positive potentiality of these negative messages. For instance, a decade ago, one might have assumed that the physical rejection letter they sent would only be viewed by one or two people. Conversely, a rejection email now may be easily forwarded or captured for social audiences across the globe. One vivid illustration of this concept reminds us to take great care in crafting negative messages; Bill Shapiro recently released the book “Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive,” including real rejection letters from such prestigious corporations as The New York Times. Alternatively, one might prefer to execute a simple Google Search of “rejection letter” and peruse the 1,210,000 results largely comprised of personal job rejection images. Drastic changes in communication technology not only greatly increase the importance of well-crafted rejection messages, but they also inspire questions concerning the platforms being used to convey these messages and how these choices affect relevant outcomes.    <br />In light of the remaining dearth of familiarity concerning this frequently occurring and unique messaging scenario, the present study aspires to (1) confirm the characteristics of actual rejection messages (following employment interviews), (2) appraise relationships between tactical rejection message attributes and applicants assessment of organization reputation, (3) confirm the utility of the rejection message, and (4) establish the power of particular tactical decisions in rejection messages to attain optimal reputation results. The purpose of this article then is to investigate the impact of decisions regarding job rejection letters on organizational reputation. <br />Literature Review<br />Rejection letters have typically been considered negative messages (Himstreet & Baty, 1981; Locker, 2000). That is, they primarily or solely deliver “bad news” with the hope of retaining any existing goodwill or sentiment and potentially introducing additional agendas.  Tactical decisions include 1) whether a message is sent at all, 2) the medium in which a message is sent, 3) the length of the message, 4) structural choices made in content order, and 5) choices made in regards to the content of the message. The cumulative knowledge of traditional industry handbooks, textbooks, and experts suggest that a well crafted negative message will uphold six principles:<br />1. Use a buffer (a neutral or positive sentence enabling the writer to delay the negative information)  <br />2. Explain why you are refusing.<br />3. Place the reason before, not after, the refusal.<br />4. Phrase the refusal itself as positively as possible <br />5. Offer an alternative or a compromise, if one is available. <br />6. End on a positive, forward-looking note<br />                        Figure 1. (Locker 1999 p. 5)<br />Rejection messages are typified by several contradictory tactics (accepting or rejecting the traditional tenants) identified and assessed by Jablin and Krone in 1984.  Employing these recommendations in a message is said to make that communication “indirect” through positive distortion and similar strategies meant to “soften the blow” (Gilland, Groth, Baker, Dew, Polly & Langdon, 2001). Accordingly, the form of an indirect message exemplar is as follows: buffer – explanation – bad news – goodwill. An example of an indirect letter is presented here:<br />Buffer: <br />Reason before refusal: <br />Explanation:<br />Positive phrasing:<br />Alternative:<br />Positive ending: <br /> <br />(Baxamusa, 2010 p. 1)<br />Each of these principles represents a dimension of the classic business recommendations comprised of structural and content tactics evident in the characteristics of those messages. Structural tactics specify the overall form of the message including medium, length, paragraph number, order of content, etc. Content tactics are manifest in the substance of the text. For example, a sentence may be explanatory rather than simply making an objective claim. Similar characteristics were recognized as code-able items in subsequent research, validating the already evident utility of the rejection letter analysis coding scheme (Eckberg, 1984; Locker, 1999).  Since the two studies ‘confirming’ the use of these principles (Eure, 1976; Pettit, 1969), a number of empirical analyses, wielding more rigorous methodology, have indicated that these recommendations hold a number of flaws and could use further explication and augmentation. Nonetheless, the recommendations do give a quality account of the potential choices a writer may make in crafting a message as indicated above. In sum, five tactical decisions: Salutation (subjectivity), Praise (score), Directness of rejection (score), Rejection rationale (yes/no), and Letter length (small/medium/large) distinguish messages from one another and have been the focus of scholarly debate between classic textbook advice (following the six principles for indirect messages) and the criticism of conference papers and recent publication which favors a more direct or flexible approach. Interestingly, the indirect prescriptions were largely atheoretical, developing from the injunctive feeling that politeness should naturally quell anger and disappointment. This lack of mature academic evidence describing the phenomena surrounding rejection messages has prompted this roundabout review and calls for an exploratory field study. The evolution of technical communication, business, and technology have all changed the way negative messages are viewed and an observable shift has occurred in common thinking on the subject.<br />Traditional (Indirect) Principles and the Paradigm Shift. Skeptical, informed professionals have continually experimented with tactical combinations, and it is unknown how many messages still reflect these principles. A testament to this is the diversity of results between the cited articles and the significant differences found between letters within these articles as well. A demonstration of these discrepancies can be observed in Table 2, a chart denoting the resulting suggestions of all relevant academic articles. Another clear example of the messages evolving can be found by observing the changing recommendations of textbooks concerning the use of the buffer express in Figure 1. Inconclusive scholarly results from a time when these tenants were generally accepted do not provide adequate evidence to make assertions about what mix of tactics modern rejection messages likely employ. One may, however, expect to see interesting differences in the style and of these messages based on the fairly isolated proprietary environment in which they are forged. It should not be assumed that all message crafting personnel subscribe to scholarly advice however that point is mute when academic suggestions are currently lacking in reliability, muddled, and inconclusive. Since all messages can be analyzed in terms of their directness (a continuous measure) and two camps have formed around tactics advocated by the polar ends of the scale, one would expect to see writers employing one group of suggestions dependably. On the other hand the literature suggests that many differences exist within letter strategies and differences can also be found between the reported utility of wholesale indirect and direct approaches. Many recent business, management, communication and psychology articles pertaining to the subject of rejection messages clearly indicates that a paradigm shift is being perceived in the method recommendations for rejection toward a more direct yet explanatory form. Locker also provides evidence that more recent publications such as text books are also increasingly dropping the recommendation of a buffer (1999, p.6). The most repeated trend is toward the adoption of a more “direct” form of message that respectfully conveys the “bad news” with a more reasonable honesty and reality. <br />Figure 2.<br />sNote. The quadratic nature of the fit line is ment to exhibit the probably shift in ideology. <br />This development may or may not be reflected in actual modern rejection messages but a sample of these artifacts is required to determine their nature. <br />To recap the literature has come from diverse sources observing dissimilar samples with disparate methods and measures resulting in the absence of significant evidence to speculate on the nature of current rejection messages. Given the fiscal importance of these messages efficacy, the desire of the academic community to develop a greater understanding of negative messages and, the existence of new media it is imperative that actual job rejection letters be collected and appraised. Such a review will need specific and predictable criteria to maintain structure and to benefit the collective knowledge of industry and academe on the subject. A terse account of the categories previously argued simplifies the letters into a dichotomy. Acceptance of the six tactics on page four (indirect) and rejection of those tenants (direct) constitute rival strategies and their dimensions. These claims are reviewed in the following sections, each concluding with the cumulative forecast of germane literature. <br />Indirect and direct approaches. The indirect approach is based on cumulative organizational plans assuming that it is advantageous to delay any anger that might be onset by the actual rejection announcement in a message (Wilkinson, Clarke, & Wilkinson, 1980). An indirect message follows the six criteria outlined in Figure 1, in an effort to avoid alienating or disturbing the reader. The use of these tactics has proven fruitful for many writers in the past particularly when compared with less tactful or more obviously negative alternative styles (e.g. Saeki & O'Keefe, 1994). One particular strength of the indirect form is that is encourages positive valance in the negative message which is often thought of as more personal, empathetic, and, for lack of a better term “sorry.” Although this form has been accepted and employed by many, a 1996 laboratory experiment comparing the “direct” and “indirect” approaches to negative messaging, Gwendolyn Smith, Rebecca Nolan and Yong Dai concluded that direct messages were perceived more positively by readers. Although many scenarios have found the indirect method to be extremely useful, the rejection letter creates exceptional circumstances which may not be suitable for these tactics. <br />The alternate approach, the direct method, begins the communication with a clear statement of the message meaning, similar to the way we were taught to write early in school (Thesis statement – Supporting sentences and evidence – Review and transition). The message then develops accordingly and does not make any special effort to disguise the negative nature of the message. Contradictory results necessitate further study of the contributing message characteristics to determine whether this dichotomy holds any value. Due to the diversity of the dimensions in the construct (direct/indirect), many have come to view a message being more or less direct, as a continuous variable. At the present time we may only speculate as to the viability of each of the six suggestions and combine those with the most utility to make further suggestions. Viewing their acceptance or rejection cumulatively will allow for a judgment of their ability to influence reader perceptions of organizations. A summary of known evidence for each dimension follows.<br />Buffer. The primary determinant of an indirect message, and the most discussed topic in rejection literature, is the inclusion of a neutral statement known as a “buffer.” This structural tactic represents a crucial component of the negative message paradigm that has pervaded epistolary conventions and the history of business writing (Alred, 1993). The rich record of speculation on the subject (buffer use) and, the many documented cases in which buffers have been recognized, suggest that this dimension holds high face validity and construct validity. A buffer can be highly effective as a business writing tool under certain circumstances.  Gerald Alred (1993) gives the example of Martian Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" which uses a buffer to establish credibility and goodwill with otherwise resentful and unresponsive Alabama clergymen.  To review this use of a buffer in a logically advantageous setting refer to Appendix D. The scenario in which this negative message is delivered differs greatly from many other forms of negative messages particularly rejection messages. For instance, in the case of a rejection letter, one might already be expecting “bad news” to be delivered based on the normative phone call successful applicants often receive. This type of disparity can guide the affect, environment, and expectations of a reader in advance of their message reception. <br /> In fact, job rejection messages are unique in a number of ways. They are messages sent in the name and image of an organization yet the disappointing news they carry is comes with a signature of an individual as well. Deciding which negative messages should include a buffer may depend on a plethora of factors.  One study of MBA students (Shelby & Reinsh, 1984) seemed to confirm the classic method of using indirect negative messages, however, as noted by Locker (1999) the valiance (+/-) and the directness (indirect/direct) of the messages tested were confounded leading to inconclusive results. Similarly in 1984 Fredric Jablin and Kathleen Krone found rejection messages including buffers to be more personal and clear. On the other hand, the previously mentioned study by Smith et al. (1996) concluded that messages void of a buffer were more valuable than indirect rejection messages. Seeing the high frequency of buffers in negative messages and the inconclusive, contradictory results of empirical study on the subject, a rigorous and recent study to determine the buffers utility as a dimension is in order. Recently scholars have defended the direct approach for rejection messages (no buffer) based on the following suppositions:<br />Buffers may violate expectations. One previously cultivated social norm suggests that acceptance messages are all conveyed via phone so candidates receiving a letter should expect a rejection message. As Douglas Salerno noted in 1988, under these auspices a buffer is irrelevant and may even create confusion or anger. <br />Buffers waste the reader’s time. In our increasingly high paced culture, time has an increased value and may be perceived as a commodity to be guarded. In 1985 Douglas Brent posed that message recipients may perceive the use of a buffer as selfish tie consuming maneuver. His pros more dramatically illustrate point: <br />As a busy person with a large pile of correspondence to get through how many neutral sentences would you tolerate? I usually tolerate one, or at most two, especially if they are in some way relevant to the topic. . . . But don’t give me three sentences about my roses if you really want to discuss my mortgage. <br /> (Locker, 1999 p. 9)<br />One might expect to observe an adverse effect to buffer tactics based on this logic. <br />Buffers often decrease the clarity of the message. Unlike common communications which pose a thesis as the opening statement, indirect messages with buffers may confuse the reader by not properly informing them of the nature of the message. This may reflect negatively on the sender since the reader may consider such a structure as deceitful or elusive. <br />Finally contextual factors and many receiver and sender characteristics also greatly impact the way in which the message is received. These environmental variables will always play a major roll in the efficacy and utility of message tactics on perceptions. It is important to note that readers present a great many factors which are far from the control of the sending organization, from their personality to the type of day they are having when they receive the message. Overall, the question, “To buffer or not to buffer” remains important and unanswered. In spite of the movement toward rejecting buffers, more, and more robust evidence is needed to suggest whether buffers are only a matter of tailoring to an individual or if they might be a proper suggestion to make for business ‘form’ communication. <br />Explanation. The principle advocating the inclusion of an explanation (tactic 2) has received a great deal of support in the literature and has been consistently affirmed as a successful tactic in positively impacting readers. Explanation is a content tactic with known soothing powers indicated by several empirical studies. This strategy appeals to the logic of the receiver and also decreases the uncomfortable uncertainty created by the painful and emotional scenario of rejection. In 1988 Limaye suggested that explanations for negative messages be both specific and general for the highest potency. Only under circumstances in which explanations seem fictional or weak do they seem to create adverse reactions (Locker, 1999). For a discussion of specific recommendations concerning explanations refer to Gilliland, Groth, Baker, Dew, Polly & Langdon (2001), or Shapiro, Buttner, and Barry (1994). One would expect a robust effect for the use of explanations as opposed to unwarranted statements. <br />Explanation placement. Empirical results for the replacement of the reason (if included), relative to the explicit refusal (if included) reflect the recent literature of buffers. This is likely because the buffer is most easily operationalized through the tactic of placing the reason within that buffer section, at the forefront of the message. For instance, the results of Locker’s study suggest that placing a reason before a refusal does not affect the recipient’s view of the sending organization (1999). Explanation placement then, is a structural tactic that is likely confounded with the use of a buffer in most communication. Little efficacy is likely to be linked to the use of this tactic based on recent evaluations of the buffer and the autonomy of the reader to freely scan the message which is likely to decrease the value of this particular placement decision. <br />Alternatives. Alternatives have been empirically supported as means of positively impacting negative message readers (Limaye, 1993; Locker, 1999). These are, however, the only studies to have investigated this content tactic. A reader would likely receive this tactic as a concession of some value so long as it is a practical and useful alternative that is being offered. Given that the alternative is applicable to the reader it may be perceived as the supply of a valuable acknowledgment concerning the applicant’s efforts or a thoughtful provision of the firm for their future success. Alternatives may be expected to positively influence the reader, nevertheless, there is little evidence to suggest the degree this effect might have or how it will interact with other tactics. <br />Positive Ending. As the title suggests this hybrid content and structural tactic is a simple as ensuring the closing sentences of the message are phrased positively. Little support exists for the utility of a positive closing statement. For instance, ‘positive closing lines’ failed to affect perceptions of readers receiving journal rejection letters in Limaye’s 1993 study. In many cases the use of positive diction in the closing has been perceived as insincere considering the thesis of the message. Many positively framed statements include extraneous adjectives such as “great” that have been shown to aggravate people who are already in a state of negative affect. In a rejection message, such an intrusion may look like this: “Of the many highly impressive interviewees, we chose one extremely qualified applicant.” In conflict negotiation literature these statements are appropriately labeled “linguistic irritators” because they annoy the receiving party with assumptions and excessive language (Volkema, 1999). Unwarranted positivity then will likely decrease the goodwill felt toward a sending organization. The valance of the closing paragraph is unlikely to exert any impact, in and of its self, on readers’ perceptions.<br />Message Content. Messages may be classified using these criteria, however little consistent evidence suggests any clear patterns for predicting the tactical combinations used in modern rejection messages. Although inconsistencies and outright disagreements exist about the nature of actual rejection letters at present, an assessment of their current state is appropriate at this time. This study intends to answer the call of previous articles to review recent actual rejection messages. <br />RQ 1: What structural and content characteristics of actual rejection messages are present in recent materials? <br />RQ 2: How do rejection messages today compare with those found nearly three decades ago? <br />Previous Dependent Measures. In the past, impact has been measured in diverse ways that have been rather indirect in terms of known message goals and, at times, have been more focused on external stakeholders e.g. esteem of the applicant. Previous measures included applicants’ attitudes toward the message itself, applicants’ attitudes about themselves (Jablin & Krone, 1984), behavioral intentions (Waung & Brice, 2000), and attitudes toward the organization (Locker, 1999). Only two published articles attempted to directly measure the way a rejection message impacts the metrics of interest to the message crafter (Locker, 1999; Waung & Brice, 2000). These measures (potential to patronize and potential to re-apply), however practical, also fail to directly measure the impact of rejection tactics on the perceived reputation of the organization. <br />Public Relations and Human Resources personnel design these messages in hopes of retaining the applicants’ positive image of the organization and goodwill toward it. Interestingly, the known goal of message efficiency has been consistently defined and measured by the employers of message crafting workers as the ability to maintain any positive image of the company while fulfilling the expected delivery of the rejection i.e. PR and HR messages should ideally yield positive perceptions of the company above other objectives (Fielden & Dulek, 1982; Waung & Brice, 2000). By definition Public Relations is concerned with promoting “goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution” (Merriam Webster, 2011). This is commonly embodied in the protection of an image as suggested in this lay definition from Wikipedia (2010): “Public relations (PR) is a field concerned with maintaining a public image for businesses, non-profit organizations or high-profile people, such as celebrities and politicians.” The continuous concern for maintaining a positive public image shared by nearly every major organization is well founded. <br />The proven benefits of such an image operationalized as reputation (perceived image) include: competitive advantages (e.g. Hall, 1993), economic gains via stakeholder loyalty (e.g. Deephouse, 2000), employee performance, overall financial performance (e.g. Roberts & Dowling, 2002) and improved recruitment (e.g. Belt & Paolillo, 1982; Gatewood, Gowan, & Lautenschlager, 1993; Rynes, 1991). Such sought after outcomes justify the voluminous research and dedication of marketers and corporate professionals over a long span of time. Organizational reputation is an intangible value that has respected sustainable competitive advantages through its impact on fiscal choices made by various stakeholders (Rindova, Williamson, Petkova, & Sever, 2005). <br />The value of organizational reputation indicated above suggests its utility as a common outcome for the practical study of corporate messaging. Academic evolution may also benefit from this choice. Logically, the utility of negative message examination, as a domain, would benefit greatly from the adoption of a common optimal outcome that can be enthusiastically and naturally adopted by industry practitioners. In addition to noting the similarities and differences between rejection messages in terms of tactical choices, the study will also investigate the effects of tactical combinations on organizational reputation as the main assumed dependent variable. <br />Organizational Reputation. As with any content an organization produces, the most important metric to track is the effect on the company’s reputation with a direct tie to economic outcomes. Explicitly, Organizational reputation is a robust and validated predictor of trust, loyalty, and re-patronage intentions towards a firm (Arnold & Reynolds, 2003; Maxham & Netemyer, 2002; Morgan & Hunt, 1994). The only available construct that captures this metric in a multidimensional fashion from an external viewpoint is organizational reputation i.e. an external construal of internally held beliefs about the company values (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991). Many different definitions and satellite constructs have muddled the validity of basic organizational reputation (Pace, Fediuk, & Botero, 2010; Rindova, Williamson, Petkova & Sever, 2005). Fortunately, with clearly defined stakeholders (applicants) and a scenario that focuses on their aggregated individual perceptions, the concept can be simplified through the adoption of the marketing definition by Goldberg & Hartwick (1990): “Consumers’ impressions of a company that is producing or selling a given product or brand.” The desire to compare and contrast company scores has left the domain of reputation with many scales that focus on internal or inclusive stakeholder input and very few measures that seek the assessment of external individuals alone. <br />For the purposes of this study, the construct must be measured as a perception from a consumer who is contributing to the long term value of the firm’s reputation. In 2007, Walsh and Beatty designed and tested one of the first legitimate multidimensional scales for accurately measuring this construct; The Customer-Based Reputation of a Service Firm Scale (CBR). The five dimensions, or factors, 1) Customer Orientation, 2) Good Employer, 3) Reliable and Functionally Strong Company, 4) Product and Service Quality and, 5) Social and Environmental Responsibility are each measures with a cluster of items on a 7-point Likert-type scale from strongly-disagree to strongly agree. Scores are then summed and averaged to form an overall ‘Reputation’ score ranging from low to high, 1 to 7. Only two of the organizational reputation dimensions are relevant and appropriate to the study of rejection messages: 1) Customer Orientation and 2) Good Employer. These dimensions, with six items each, measured the value an applicant placed on a particular firm’s qualities (reputation) at one given time. Although organizational reputation is cumulative and develops over time, this particular scale will seek to measure the construct as it is being effected by a single message stimuli. In order to rule out a plethora of confounds repeated measures will be employed. <br />Commissioning the scale in this way will allow for the use of reliable and valid measure as it pertains directly to the content in question. Collecting the same measure following the relevant negative message will provide a comparison demonstrating the change in attitude toward the organization as result of the massage. One may refer to Table 1 for a summary of reliability measures by a study which also vouches for the construct validity and the nomological validity of the scale (Walsh, Beatty & Shiu, 2009). Organizational reputation then, was the ideal outcome variable for this study and was used to gauge the impact of message characteristics and their combinations on interviewees. <br />As indicated in the limitation and future research sections of the above cited articles, current research is limited because it is experimental and does not fully capture the true environment while seeking appropriate outcomes. Consequently, the present research investigates perceived organizational reputation as the indicator of message effectiveness through the examination of known rejection letter characteristics and their combined efficacy. <br />RQ 3: What impact do the existing structural and content characteristics of rejection messages have on applicants’ perceptions of the authoring organization’s reputation? <br />Results indicated which tactics and tactical combinations are correlated with the most positive change in reputation. Perhaps the more pressing question is whether messages should be sent at all. <br />No Message. Another important hole in the current literature is the lack of evidence suggesting that actual rejection messages should be sent at all. One attempt has been made to investigate the question (Brice & Waung, 2000) although the hypothetical situations proposed by the experimental setting lacked the necessary mundane realism for accurate results. Further, the unclear inductions of the study were clouded by the frequent self-selection by respondents of which company they wanted to respond to. Conclusions were consistent with a negative a response to the perceived failure of a company to send a rejection letter. The same business professionals (Brice & Waung) conducted a study in 1995 finding that well over 60 percent of companies sent no response when they decided to reject an applicant. Unfortunately, the two researchers mentioned above continue to represent the only public effort to investigate the impact of rejection failure resulting in the lopsided review of relevant literature. It has been speculated that applicants form a tacit psychological contract when they are invited to an interview resulting in the expectation that they will be informed of their status soon (Brice & Waung, 2000; Gilliland, Groth, Baker, Dew, Polly & Langdon, 2001; Shaw, 2000). The driving force of these expectations is reciprocation. This more informal and basic reason why a rejection message may hold value to applicants is the natural human need for reciprocation and validation, however small. Similarly, it has been noted that many would consider a long delay or perceived ‘failure’ to send a message as one indication of the organization’s responsibility and character, or lack thereof (Brice & Waung, 1995). <br />The well documented and validated psychological principle of reciprocation suggests that recipients of any type of behavioral investment feel a strong urge to return a similar value (Regan, 1971; Gruner, 1996). As Robert Cialdini notes in his book Influence; Science and Practice (2009) reciprocation is a powerful determinant of daily actions, evident by the way we feel obligated to give gifts to those who remember our birthdays with gifts and as Kunz and Woolcott (1976) found return Christmas cares even to total strangers. Reciprocation’s prevalence guides the psychological contracts felt by each of us so that one would expect to be compensated for their actions such as laboring over a resume, cover letter, example works, interview preparation and the delivery of these items. Betraying such a basic trust often results in social exclusion and resentment, or in this case it would likely result in a more negative feeling toward the sending organization. In sum, violation of the existing social norm, indicating rejection notes of some fashion should be sent, will likely result in interviewees’ experiencing negative affect. <br />In times of economic downturn especially the cost of rejection stationery is said to be one of the first budget cuts (Brice & Waung, 1995). It would be wise to consider the effect such a decision has on major indicators of “the bottom line,” such as reputation (externally perceived company image). If Brice and Waung’s descriptive statistics (1995) are at all indicative of the typical corporate practice it would seem that the majority of companies do not send any type of message to their rejected applicants; at what cost? <br />Hypothesis 1: Failure of an organization to send any message of rejection will be correlated with lower organizational reputation scores than scores associated with informing organizations.<br />The Medium. The question of how these messages are sent and what effect this decision has on operating costs should interest many business practitioners in human and public relations yet few public attempts have been made to investigate. In the depth of this review, the only known paper to document the medium used for sending rejection messages was Brice and Waung’s Applicant Rejection Letters: Are Businesses Sending the Wrong Message? (1995). Table 3 presents informative figures produced by a sample of 113 application packets sent to companies that illustrate the medium chosen by rejecting firms and the lag time each message took. These data are not particularly generalizable since they include pre-interview responses, are limited to the Detroit metropolitan area, and were taken over 15 years ago. For example the exponential adoption of email technology for sending messages of this nature was not recorded as a means of sending any of the messages in this study whereas today we would expect a solid block of messages to be conveyed on the email platform. Empirical research on negative messages would also greatly benefit from direction concerning how newly available technologies mediate communication. <br />A great wealth of narrative study and linguistic investigations have perceived and examined the shift in preference business communications have made from paper to primarily electronic messages, chiefly email (e.g. King & Xia, 1997; Rettie, 2003). Because these electronic communication media are relatively new phenomena the majority of available reviews consist of primary research which rarely recommends the use of a medium over another for specific external business communication tasks. On the other hand, obvious differences and between the communication methods are known to favor specific mediums for specific purposes and scenarios (e.g. Yates, 2000). For instance, phone calls are inherently harder to immediately chronicle than email or hard copy letters due to the telephones hardware. Social norms and mores also surround communication tools and contribute to their perceived value. For example, it is a commonly discussed social practice to call rather than to text or write a long time significant other when “breaking-up” with them. In sum one can expect to observe companies to use different mediums based on their own values, their perception of tool’s cost, social value, and ability to portray the message, and ease of logistical use. <br />Given the lack of evidence specific to this scenario very basic and exploratory statements made here are written with caution. As suggested above, rejection messages may hold psychological or physical value to an applicant. Recent revolutions in communication technology have naturalized the use of a variety of mediums in business communication (Orlikowski, Yates, Okamura, & Fujimoto, 1995). No known research evaluates the actual efficacy of competing platforms e.g. letter, email, fax, phone call. Little is known to suggest which format would be preferred for conveying negative messages or which would be found to hold the most value to an average applicant. This scenario requires an exploratory venture to determine the most used and the most useful form of media to use when serving rejections. Further attention may then consider differing publication costs, speeds, and cultural stigmas. <br />RQ 4: What contact forms are typical for today’s rejection messages? <br />Study 1<br />Subjects. Participants were secured through the cooperation of the Michigan State University Business College. Current MBA students interested in securing employment (n=200) agreed to record the next year of their efforts (January 1, 2012 – January 1, 2013) and fill out the appropriate scales. Of the committed students #% returned their completed scales package via a web-based survey instrument at the conclusion of the year. The participant population consisted of 56% males (112) and 44% females (88) with a mean age of 25. 37% were currently employed (n = 74) and the average number of interviews previously experienced was 5. The native industries attributed to applicants were as follows: 29% marketing, 32% management, and 10 % accounting, general or unspecified business positions were of interest to the remaining participants. <br />Procedure. Students were contacted via department email and asked to participate in a study regarding company messaging following initial (screening) interviews. Participation was encouraged by professors and incentivized by a drawing for one thousand dollars. Respondents were given an explanation of the study (instructions), provided with a few demographic questions and required to complete an informed consent form to begin the study (Appendix #). Anonymity was assured and information on how to easily capture and send or forward rejection messages was included as a guide to promote low study mortality. Participants were instructed to fill out Questionnaire A (Appendix #) directly following any initial interview during the year period. As soon as a communication was received from the company subjects were expected to record the message via picture, screen capture, copy, or scan to a secure email address designed as an archive for the study. When a copy of the message was sent, the subjects completed Questionnaire B (Appendix #), including repeated measures scales and items regarding the time the message was received and the method by which it was sent. In the case that no message should be received prior to December 27th, Questionnaire B was to be completed during the final four days of the study. Of the enrolled subjects, # (#%) completed both questionnaires for each company they indicated, # (#%) returned a copy of their rejection message along with their completed Questionnaire B. Upon the final data collection at the end of the year analyses were run to evaluate the relevant evidence to the research question and hypothesis. Descriptive statistics drawn from content analysis evaluated research questions 1, 2 and 4. Inferential statistics examined hypothesis 1 and research question 3. The questionnaires were formed around the dependent construct of organizational reputation.<br />The Questionnaires. The initial post interview questionnaire (Questionnaire A) consisted primarily of a 28-item Organizational Reputation scale adopted for its validity, reliability, and utility. Similarly, the second questionnaire for each company (Questionnaire B) included the same scale, in addition to uni-dimensional practical questions about the lag time for the message and the message medium. For each questionnaire, in order to ensure the validity of the construct and for comparison with previous empirical results, a single uni-dimensional item was added asking each subject to indicate their feeling toward the organization on a Likert-type 7- point scale. A single item in Questionnaire B also gauged how representative the message was of other rejection messages received by the participant: “How typical is this message of other post interview rejection messages you have received?” This 7-point, Likert-type scale, from very typical (7) to very atypical (1), should indicate how representative the sample’s letters are of mundane industry messages. All items were counter balanced to control for order effects. <br />Three previous assessments of the CBR scale’s reliability, validity, and dimensionality have indicated significant and acceptable composite reliability, internal consistency, discriminant validity among dimensions, and coefficient alpha reliabilities of centering around 7.5 (Walsh & Beatty, 2007). Current reliability analyses indicated internal consistency as well with “Cronbach alphas of the five CBR scale dimensions ranging from .71 to .93. The composite reliability coefficients for the five sub-scales range from.88 to .90 and all indicators<br />have coefficients of determination above .40. The results of a five-factor structure assessment, using LISREL 8.7, indicate that the model represents the data well (GFI=.92, NNFI=.92, CFI=.97, RMR=.04, RMSEA=.08, and χ2/df=2.9 (pb0.001)) (Walsh, Beatty & Shiu, 2009 p. 925).”<br />Method. Research employed a double blind, within-subjects, association design centered around a single dependent variable. To avoid such confounds as previous affect toward a brand, reputation is measured both directly after the screening interview and again after the rejection message is received. This process yields a ‘change in organizational reputation’ value to be correlated with combinations of the tactics discussed the literature review. Alternatively, the subject indicates that employment was achieved or that the firm failed to respond with a message. In the absence of a message, the scale will be completed concerning that organization at the end of a year’s time. <br />Results<br />Rejection Messages. Copies of actual rejection letters received from participant applicants were coded via content analysis using the criteria, previously discussed to identify message tactics. Below is the coding scheme used by a sole coder and verified by an additional solitary coder with respect to item ratings. As was noted in the original use of this scheme, substantial agreement between coders suggests an adequate reliability to coding letters according to the following twelve ‘analytic categories.’ <br /> (Jablin & Krone 1984 p. 393)<br />Consequent ratings are discussed. <br />Similarities. Observed consistencies noted in the content analysis of actual rejection letters included…<br />Differences. Job rejection messages differed in both structural and content tactics employed…<br />Data Analysis. Tactics of actual rejection messages were computed using descriptive statistics to describe the population coded by two reviewers. The impact of these tactics and tactical combinations was determined through the use of Multivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVA) … ########. #####. ######. Note Cronbach’s Alpha and Power etc.<br />Bibliography <br />Aamodt, M. 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Journal of Business Research, 62(10), 924-930.<br />Waung, M., & Brice, T.S. (2000). Communicating negative hire decisions to applicants: Fulfilling psychological contracts. Journal of Business and Psychology, 15, 247-263.<br />Yates, Simeon. (2000). “Computer-Mediated Communication: The Future of the Letter?” Letter Writing as a Social Practice. Ed. David Barton and Nigel Hall. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 233–54.<br />Table 1.<br /> (Walsh, Beatty & Shiu, 2009)<br />Table 2.<br />Article Stance Summary<br />Table 3. <br /> (Brice & Waung, 1995)<br />Appendix A<br />Participant Introduction <br />Informed Consent Form<br />Welcome to the POST INTERVIEW MESSAGES study and thank you for your time and consideration. This research project investigates the communications made by different real companies following initial interviews. You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in this study. If you choose to participate in this study, you will answer questions regarding your perceptions of companies following your interviews with them and complete questions following the companies’ later message for a one year period. <br />Your responses will be recorded anonymously and results will be reported in aggregate, averaged across all participants. Data will be kept for 10 years in a password protected laptop owned by the author. Should you participate in the study, your identity will remain completely confidential and your privacy will be protected to the maximum extent allowable by law. <br />Participating in this research offers the potential benefit of learning about research regarding company messaging. There are no perceived risks associated with participating.<br />Participation in this study is voluntary and should take ten minutes or less per scale. You will receive compensation for your time and effort in the form of ticket entry toward winning an iPad. Note that you may withdraw from the experiment at any time or refuse to answer questionnaire items without penalty. At the end of this introduction you may sign up to receive a full description of the study design and results when the data have been collected and analyzed.<br />The experimenter can answer any questions you have about the study. Please contact Josh Emington (phone: 517.977.2284; office 2379 TechSmith Corporation; email: emington@msu.edu) if you have any further questions or concerns regarding the study. If you have questions or concerns regarding your rights as a study participant, or are dissatisfied at any time with any aspect of their study, you may contact - anonymously if you wish - the MSU Human Research Protections Program by phone: 517.355.2180; fax: 517.432.4503; email: irb@ores.msu.edu, or regular mail: 202 Olds Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824.<br />Thank you,<br />Josh Emington<br />****************************************************************************************************<br />By clicking the Accept button below, you voluntarily agree to participate in the ONLINE PROFILES study.<br /> INCLUDEPICTURE "https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/vQJcF45xwDWz5yi3z4pURiTNyv3qhaxz77FRShXNxLBfMjazZzmQI5lcIll-fkYyiGnB5o-aeBGdcjon1ntAO08WRKC2QNoxvNyjODYLKtMPA7ZAp3Q" * MERGEFORMATINET INCLUDEPICTURE "https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/vQJcF45xwDWz5yi3z4pURiTNyv3qhaxz77FRShXNxLBfMjazZzmQI5lcIll-fkYyiGnB5o-aeBGdcjon1ntAO08WRKC2QNoxvNyjODYLKtMPA7ZAp3Q" * MERGEFORMATINET *Decline INCLUDEPICTURE "https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/vQJcF45xwDWz5yi3z4pURiTNyv3qhaxz77FRShXNxLBfMjazZzmQI5lcIll-fkYyiGnB5o-aeBGdcjon1ntAO08WRKC2QNoxvNyjODYLKtMPA7ZAp3Q" * MERGEFORMATINET INCLUDEPICTURE "https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/vQJcF45xwDWz5yi3z4pURiTNyv3qhaxz77FRShXNxLBfMjazZzmQI5lcIll-fkYyiGnB5o-aeBGdcjon1ntAO08WRKC2QNoxvNyjODYLKtMPA7ZAp3Q" * MERGEFORMATINET *Accept<br />I would like to receive a full description in article form following the completion of the study. [ ]<br />*Insert directions for the study completion here.<br />Codebook Study 1<br />Post Interview Questionnaire<br />Demographic Questions<br />Follow Up Questionnaire<br />Under what circumstances are you completing this questionnaire?<br />Rejection Message [] 1<br />No Response (end of study) []2<br />Employment was secured []<br />*If Rejection Message then additional item: How many days, in your estimation, has it been since your initial interview? <br />*If “Employment was secured” then display message: No additional action is required with this organization. Thank you for your help and congratulations on your success! <br />… … … … … … …<br />Appendix B<br />A visual illustration of the data collection method.<br />Appendix C<br />An illustration of physical contributors in the process between the 2 within-subjects measures. <br />Appendix D<br />"Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]"<br />The “buffer” is highlighted for ease of recognition and the “goodwill” ending is also highlighted for convenience in green. <br />16 April 1963My Dear Fellow Clergymen:While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.<br />I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.<br />But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.<br />Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.<br />You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.<br />In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.<br />Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.<br />Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.<br />You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.<br />One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.<br />We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."<br />We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."<br />Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.<br />Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?<br />Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.<br />I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.<br />Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.<br />We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.<br />I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.<br />I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.<br />In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.<br />You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."<br />I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.<br />Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.<br />I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.<br />But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.<br />When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.<br />In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.<br />I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.<br />I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"<br />Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.<br />There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.<br />But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.<br />Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.<br />It is true that the police have exercised a degree of d

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