Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Assessing Cultural Intelligence, Personality and Identity Amongst Young White Afrikaans-Speaking Students: A Preliminary Study

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Assessing Cultural Intelligence, Personality and Identity Amongst Young White Afrikaans-Speaking Students: A Preliminary Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

South Africa as a complex and diverse society is comprised of individuals representing at least 14 different ethnocultural groups and 11 official languages (StatsSA, 2014). This cultural diversity impacts almost every aspect of daily life for South Africans. Relationships and interactions with colleagues, friends and even strangers are perceptibly with individuals from different cultures backgrounds (Ang & Van Dyne, 2008; Booysen & Nkomo, 2014). Individuals are defining themselves constantly by drawing from and interacting in various settings and situations, namely family, work, friends, religious groups and leisure activities (Adams & Crafford, 2012). Therefore, these cross-cultural interactions require individuals who may have different expectations and assumptions about how to approach cultures other than their own and how to make decisions based on their own cultural backgrounds (Maznevski & DiStefano, 2000; Nkomo & Kriek, 2011).

As diversity is one of South Africa's greatest assets, the failure to adjust to and understand similarities and differences across cultures often results in inappropriate language and behaviour. This may come across as insensitivity to individuals from different groups and may negatively impact relationship building across different cultures (Naughton, 2010). Such a diverse society poses various challenges and threats to individuals who are not aware of the information in embedded cues in cultures different from their own (Thomas & Inkson, 2003). The result is that individuals are divided into two opposing camps: firstly, those who welcome the new challenges and strive to master the new social field and, secondly, those who resist the change and stick to their established values (Booysen & Nkomo, 2014).

Of the more than 52 million people who inhabit South Africa, over five million are young South Africans (StatsSA, 2014). The 2014 mid-year population estimates by population group indicate that 86% of youth is African, 12% mixed race, 2.08% Indian or Asian and 5.94% white (Kaus, 2014; StatsSA, 2014). The diversity that South African youth are faced with in society is reflected at many South African universities (Kaus, 2014; StatsSA, 2014). According to Makalela and McCabe (2013), Afrikaans-speaking students are still in the majority over non-Afrikaans language speakers in South African universities, even after 20 years of democracy. Makalela and McCabe mention that language policies pertaining to diversity at universities are still in their early years and will take a while to rectify. Young Afrikaans-speaking South Africans must overcome various barriers (selective perception, social categorisation, stereotyping, attribution, identity developing; Dolby, 2001; Thomas & Inkson, 2003), realistic threats (the fear of harm or a decline in one's quality of life) and symbolic threats (the fear that one's cultural group or its place in society is threatened; Harrison & Peacock, 2010) when they perform in a diverse context. Since diversity is a reality in South Africa, it therefore becomes pertinent to aid students to function effectively in a diverse society (Bikson & Law, 1994).

In this microcosm, representative of the society in which universities exist, interpretation of cultural information is often in accordance with an individual's own preconceived framework (Ng & Early, 2006). It serves as the foundation of an individual's cultural intelligence (CQ) and forms the basis for comprehending and decoding the behaviour of oneself and others (Thomas et al., 2008). Research indicates that certain abilities and attributes allow some individuals to be more effective during cross-cultural communications and allow them to become more aware of misunderstandings and miscommunications (Ang & Van Dyne, 2008). It is argued that successful cross-cultural relationships are developed by individuals who are more culturally intelligent (Ang & Van Dyne, 2008). …

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