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Intercultural Workplace Communication  

Malgorzata Lahti and Maarit Valo

The workplace is a highly meaningful context for intercultural communication where persons who come from different countries, identify with different ethnic groups or speak different languages get to collaborate and develop relationships with one another. Needless to say, interpersonal communication in the workplace has always been a primary area of interest for intercultural communication research. Early scholarship focused on the preparation of U.S. military personnel, diplomats, business people, and missionaries for overseas assignments. However, the increasing pluralization of the social landscape has bolstered research endeavors. These days, the scope of intercultural workplace communication inquiry comprises everyday face-to-face and technology-mediated interactions in encounters, relationships, groups, and teams in a variety of working arrangements, and across a range of public and private sector organizations worldwide. The scholarship also draws on the organizational approaches of antidiscrimination and diversity management that emerged in the United States and have subsequently been exported to and reinterpreted in workplaces around the world. Researchers have looked into such workplace communication processes and phenomena as social categorization, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, conflict and its management, organizational satisfaction and identification, socialization, supportive communication, interpersonal relationship development and informal interaction, negotiation of shared workplace culture, knowledge sharing, decision-making, learning and innovation, or leadership and management. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the ways languages are used in interactions at work.

Article

Contextual Theory of Interethnic Communication  

Young Yun Kim

The contextual theory of interethnic communication is an interdisciplinary theory that provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the associative and dissociative communication behaviors of individual communicators when interacting with ethnically dissimilar others. Integrating a wide range of salient issues, concepts, theories, and related research findings across disciplinary lines of inquiry across social sciences, the theory offers a multidimensional and multifaceted model explaining a full spectrum of interethnic decoding and encoding communication behaviors from highly dissociative to highly associative. Grounded in an open-systems perspective, the interethnic behavior and the context surrounding the behavior are conceived as co-constituting the basic interethnic communication system, operating simultaneously in a dynamic interplay. In varying degrees of salience and significance, all contextual forces are regarded in Kim’s theory to operate in any given interethnic communication event, potentially influencing, and being influenced by the nature of individual communication behaviors of association and dissociation. The theory identifies eight key contextual factors of the communicator (identity inclusivity/exclusivity and identity security/insecurity), the situation (ethnic proximity/distance, shared/separate goal structure, and personal network integration), and the environment (institutional equity/inequity, relative ingroup strength, and environmental stress). Eight theorems are proposed for empirical tests, linking each contextual factor with associative/dissociative behavior. Together, the eight theorems explain the dynamic and reciprocal behavior-context interface in interethnic communication. The theory also provides a conceptual blueprint for conducting case studies on specific interethnic communication events, and suggests pragmatic insights into ways to strengthen the social fabric of an ethnically diverse society from the ground up.