ABSTRACT

FEW events are as dramatic or have impacts as profound as organiza-tional crises. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents, theBhopal Union Carbide explosion, the Tylenol poisonings, the Challenger space shuttle disaster, Wall Street's Black Monday, the dangerous design problems of the Ford Pinto and A. H. Robins's Dalkon Shield, the asbestos scandal, the crashes of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 and ValuJet Flight 592, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill can all be described as organizational crises. Each disrupted the lives of employees, executives, members of

the community, and customers; cost hundreds of millions of dollars; damaged the reputations of companies and industries; and affected the psychological and physical health of workers and community members. Each served as the impetus for investigations and created social and organizational changes. In the following review, we organize the dynamic and growing body of communication and organizational literature dealing with crisis, including decision making, public relations, rhetorical approaches to organizational crisis, and organizational legitimacy. We define organizational crisis, examine the role of communication in crisis, and explore the various developmental approaches used to describe crisis. We also review the methodologies used and problems encountered in the investigation of communication and organizational crisis. Finally, we identify research themes and propose new directions for research.