Academic journal article Journal of Positive Management

Intercultural Interactions at Multinational Corporations' Workplace: Grounded Theory

Academic journal article Journal of Positive Management

Intercultural Interactions at Multinational Corporations' Workplace: Grounded Theory

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Due to globalization and the global mobility of workforce, working in multicultural environments is a new challenge for employees and managers (Molinsky, 2007; Youssef and Luthans, 2012; HRM spreads word to the world, 2012). In multicultural work environments people interact with others whose national cultural backgrounds differ, overlap and even intertwine (Darawong and Igel, 2012). This factor has potential to create both challenges or barriers (Graham, 2010; White et al., 2011; Lauring and Klitm0ller, 2014) and opportunities (Pettigrew and Tropp, 2008; Stahl et al., 2010; Rozkwitalska et al., 2014) for those involved in intercultural interactions.

The interactions among individuals in multicultural work environments are a peculiar type of work social interactions that reflect a dynamic sequence of human actions (Przytuia et al., 2014), in which behaviors of individuals are constantly modified as they react accordingly (Molinsky, 2007). In cross-cultural settings the cultural lens provides a base for interpretation of the behavior of the other party (Webb and Wright, 1996), nevertheless a specific interaction and its outcomes may also be influenced by a given work context (Müller, 1998; Cooper et al., 2007). The work context analyzed in this paper with regard to social interactions is the workplace in multinational corporations (MNCs). It varies from any other corporations' work context as employees in MNCs encounter, among other issues, a cultural and language diversity while performing their duties (Lauring, 2009; Tanova and Nadiri, 2010; Lauring and Selmer, 2011). Hence, the authors' aim is to analyze the social interactions in multicultural environments of MNCs as well as to propose a model of intercultural social interactions in MNCs' specific context.

There is recognition within the fields of international business, international management or cross-cultural (intercultural) management what the outcomes of cultural diversity are. Ample literature and research document both problems witnessed in interactions among culturally diverse individuals and potential positive effects (e.g. McMillan-Capehart, 2005; Cooper et al., 2007; Stahl et al., 2009; Stahl et al., 2010; Roberge and van Dick, 2010). Numerous studies have also scrutinized the characteristics and skills necessary to function effectively in multicultural environments such as intercultural (cross-cultural) competence, cultural intelligence or intercultural effectiveness (e.g. Fisher and Härtel, 2006; Johnson et al., 2006; Ang et al., 2007; Spitzberg and Changnon, 2009; Panggabean et al., 2013). The researchers have referred mainly to the following theories while exploring the outcomes of cultural diversity and their antecedents, namely social identity theory further substantiated by the similarity-attraction paradigm, information-processing theory, social capital theory and intergroup contact theory (e.g. Loh et al., 2009; Noorderhaven and Harzing, 2009; Roberge and van Dick, 2010; Stahl et al., 2010; White et al., 2011).

Notwithstanding the richness of literature on cultural diversity, some irregularities have been observed concerning the outcomes of interactions among culturally diverse individuals (Mannix and Neale, 2005; Stahl et al., 2010). Moreover, Stahl et al. (2010) claim that the prior research is biased and "the problem-focused view of cultural diversity is by far predominant in research" (Stahl and Tung, 2014). Stahl and Tung prove that much less is known about the positive dynamics and outcomes of intercultural contacts than about the problems. Thus, more work is needed to delve into the positive phenomena by applying "rigorous and systematic investigation" (Stahl et al., 2010). Further, Shore et al., (2009) contend that "scholars need to move beyond old paradigms and limited ways of thinking to develop integrative and practical diversity theories that help organizational leaders create systems in which diverse human beings are able to thrive". …

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