Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Culturally Competent Behaviors at Workplace: An Intergroup Perspective for Workplace Diversity

Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Culturally Competent Behaviors at Workplace: An Intergroup Perspective for Workplace Diversity

Article excerpt


Intergroup theory views social groups as units embedded in a larger social context. These units are connected to its surroundings through its members and through its activities with other groups (Alderfer and Smith, 1982; and Berg and Smith, 1990). When this social context is the organization itself, Intergroup perspective offers due importance to identity groups as well as organization groups. Identity group members are those who share a common identity in terms of either or all these three: (a) biological characteristic (such as sex or race); (b) participation in equivalent historical experience(s); and (c) certain social forces, and a result share similar world views (Alderfer, 1986). Most commonly recognized identity groups are those based on gender, family, ethnicity, and age (Alderfer and Smith, 1982). On the other hand, organization groups are those where members share common organization positions based on the principles of division of labor and hierarchy of authority. In these groups, members have common work experiences and hence, have similar organizational views. Thus, the identity of people in an organization is a function of both their identity group membership and their organization group membership. Alderfer and Smith (1982) use the term "embedded intergroup relations" for intergroup relations involving the interaction between identity groups, organizational groups and the suprasystem in which they are embedded. For example, because the upper management positions in the western countries are usually occupied by White older males, this identity group can be seen as embedded with the organization group of upper management positions in those countries (Clegg et al., 2006, p. 525)

Alderfer and Smith (1982, p. 39), taking inputs from variety of intergroup perspectives explain five characteristics of intergroup relations. The first characteristic is 'group boundary' that defines group membership and has certain degree of permeability to facilitate and regulate intergroup transactions. The second is intergroup 'power difference' in terms of access to resources. The dimensions of power differences and discrepancy among groups also affect the boundary permeability between groups. Third, 'affective patterns' determine the "degree to which group members associate mainly positive feelings with their own group and mainly negative feelings with other groups". And finally, cognitive formations, including 'distortions' - a function of these three characteristics are the common languages (elements, social categories) which identity groups develop amongst themselves, and 'condition their members' perceptions of objective and subjective phenomena, and transmit sets of propositions-including theories and ideologies-to explain the nature of experiences encountered by members and to influence relations with other groups'. The fifth characteristic 'behaviors' of leaders and representatives of groups reflect these four characteristics and serve as both cause and effect of the total pattern of intergroup relations.

This study views identity groups from the diversity perspective. Hence, these could be various cultural identity groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, social class, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. (Ely and Thomas, 2001). From the intergroup perspective, this study explores the role of cultural competence as behaviors of leaders and representatives of organizations towards other identity groups within the large microcosm group(s) in the context of managing cross-cultural situations in organizations.


The identity group members share their workspace with various other identity groups as well as organization groups. Members of several identity and organization groups form 'organizationally based groups' called microcosm groups 'in which representatives of the salient groups are present'. Identity group members in such groups are often characterized by 'individual differences' based on variables such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, family, etc. …

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