Multicultural Identities at Work
Multicultural Identities at Work
- Yih-Teen LeeYih-Teen LeeUniversity of Navarra IESE Business School
- and Nana Yaa GyamfiNana Yaa GyamfiUniversity of Navarra IESE Business School
Cultural identity, a specific form of social identity that refers to a person’s degree of identification and sense of belonging to a specific cultural group, has been extensively examined as a kind of social identity over the past decades, especially in the fields of migration, cross-cultural psychology, and applied international management. Meanwhile, exposure to settings with different cultures typically triggers a process of acculturation, enabling individuals to develop multicultural identities, whereby people see things from multiple cultural groups’ perspectives, feel at one with the cultural groups, and act according to the norms of those cultural groups. Individual organizational members serve as the conduit by which culture influences and is influenced by organizational life. There exist various forms of multicultural identities with different psychological and behavioral implications on individuals. In terms of plurality, to date, extant studies accumulated extensive knowledge on biculturalism, which focuses on individuals having two distinct cultural identities and how these identities intersect and influence the individual. Beyond biculturalism obtained through birth, ancestry, or immersive foreign experience, individuals may become multicultural by being simultaneously immersed in more than two cultures: a situation common among children of immigrants (i.e., second-generation immigrants), children raised in multicultural households, third culture individuals who spend their formative years outside their passport country, and individuals living within multicultural societies.
A key to understanding multicultural identities is how these multiple identities are structured within individuals. Scholars largely agree that the structural pattern of identities affects the outcomes and degree of synergy among multiple identities. Widely accepted modes of structuring multiple identities include relative strength of identities involved and how multiple identities relate to each other. Scholars have built on these lines of thinking to examine specific forms of multicultural identities and their outcomes. Furthermore, research indicates that multiculturals possess unique identity resources relevant to organizational life, including cognitive strengths, relational capital and belonging, and leadership-related competencies.
Although there is evidence for responsiveness of multicultural identity to situational cues, there are also strong arguments made in favor of the agency of individuals over their multiple identities. The foregoing notwithstanding, individuals with multicultural identities must balance their agentic enactments of identity with societal requirements of legitimacy. In particular, business organizations play a vital role in providing identity workspaces and other enabling factors which legitimize multicultural identities. Additionally, business organizations play the role of balancing power, status and other dynamics between multicultural and non-multicultural members.
- Human Resource Management
- International Business
- Organizational Behavior