Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Stress and Communication across Cultural Boundaries in the U.S. Location of a Chinese Business

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Stress and Communication across Cultural Boundaries in the U.S. Location of a Chinese Business

Article excerpt


In the Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion in a Globalized World, international leaders in health promotion recognized that corporations had, "a direct impact on the health of people" and that the private sector had, "a responsibility to ensure health in the workplace, and to promote the health and well-being of their employees". (1) Those same leaders also proposed that, "Globalization opens up new opportunities for cooperation to improve health and reduce transnational health risks; these opportunities include: enhanced information and communication technology, and improved mechanisms for global governance and the sharing of experiences". (1)

In the years since the Bangkok Charter, intercultural communication became more important in the workplace because worldwide migration made it more likely that workers from one culture would work with workers from another culture. Migration was an observable part of a globalization process where international markets became more integrated as goods, services, capital, and labor increasingly moved across national boundaries. (2) In 2010 over 214 million people lived in countries other than where they were born; (3) this was up from 150 million ten years earlier. (4) Migrants represented 3.1% of the world population and the total migrants in the world would be ranked as the fifth most populous country on earth. (3) In 2009 migrants worked and sent $414 billion to other countries with the actual remittances being much higher. (5)

This article documents research about intercultural communication, stress, and health in a multicultural business setting that was created when a company from the People's Republic of China opened a facility in the United States. This article includes sections about the phenomena of interest, research method, findings, discussion, and conclusions. The discussion section includes a new way to look at intercultural communication using the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping, (6) and implications for health promotion practice and research in multicultural work settings.

Phenomena of Interest

Workers in organizations experienced communication in a number of ways. They transmitted messages up and down the hierarchical levels of their organization, and horizontally with workers on the same level. Effective communication within organizations not only contributed to worker efficiency, but communication also helped workers feel included in their organizations, experience positive relationships with other workers, (7) and avoid job dissatisfaction. (8)

Workers in multi-cultural work settings were like workers in single-culture work settings in their need for effective communication. In addition to the general work and life stress experienced by all workers, the workers in a multicultural work setting also faced challenges related to acculturation. The stress involved in migration and cultural adaptation were recognized by several researchers. (9-11) Researchers also pointed out that cultural adaptation involved the stress of a new host environment where immigrant workers struggled to meet the demands of an unfamiliar culture, strange people, new tasks and situations. (12,13)

Other researchers reported relationships between coping-and-adapting to stress and an individual's physical and mental health. (14-16) The millions of workers who joined multicultural work settings were necessarily engaged in intercultural communication, and those same workers also experienced the stress of acculturation. Without a model to guide hypothesis testing, the major purpose of this study was to take an in-depth look at stress and intercultural communication in a work setting.


A Chinese graduate student conceptualized this method in collaboration with her American faculty mentor. Her interest in this research stemmed from her own experience with stress, communication, and health as she navigated the rigors of graduate study in the United States. …

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