Working abroad in a multinational organization
Thouars, Dominique Elisabeth Henriette de
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People are increasingly working and communicating in organizations with a multinational character because of the ongoing internationalization of business life. Working abroad implies that people have to participate in intercultural communication and this is only possible when communicators construct a common ground of meanings and practices that are regarded as shared. While contracting this common ground, also referred to as ‘interculture’, people have to deal with a set of four different cultures, which form together the ‘communication interculture’ Praxmarer (2007). This thesis will broaden the theory about ‘discursive interculture’ (Koole & ten Thije, 2000), and tries to define and empirically test this ‘communication interculture’. In addition, it expands the ‘communication interculture’ model by proposing a ‘communication interculture model for cultural change’ and offers a framework to empirically test this transition model through the concepts foreknowledge, attitude, and willingness’, which are derived from persuasive communication theories. Furthermore, this thesis offers a starting point for the discussion about how we can successfully reach the employees of a multinational organization by means of internal communication, and about the role of culture in this matter. The main question in this study will be: ‘To what extent should the internal communication towards employees of an international governmental organization on a culture-sensitive subject be adjusted to their intercultural experience elsewhere?’ In order to answer this question we will first need to answer our working question, which is: ‘To what extent are foreknowledge, attitude and willingness of the employees of an international governmental organization towards a culture-sensitive subject dependent on their intercultural experience elsewhere?’ We will test our hypotheses at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regarding the culture-sensitive subject of Sustainable Management. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put nine specific themes at the centre of its sustainable operational management policy: energy, sustainable procurement, transport, catering, training, paper, building, social, and waste, and expressed for these themes overall goals and specific actions. The results from the online quantitative questionnaire are gathered from a survey involving 319 employees of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 125 of whom worked at an embassy. The questionnaire measured their foreknowledge, attitude and willingness towards the subject of Sustainable Management and its themes, and asked them about their current en previous experiences abroad. Although this research showed some significant effects, we cannot give an overall answer to the main question. There are many factors that influence the foreknowledge, attitude and willingness. An overall conclusion we will draw from this research is that for the most successful communication, one has to take all the aspects of the culture-sensitive subject and the intercultural experiences of the employee into account, and adjust one’s communication, including the attitude expressed in the communication message, to these factors. Even though this research is an empirical research its main strength lies in the explorative aspects of this study. It tries to define the concept of ‘communication interculture’ with the help of the ‘discursive interculture’ and develop it further into the ‘communication interculture model for cultural change’. This model is new in the field of intercultural communication and tries to grasp what happens when people move for the second time to a different culture for work purposes. Also the methodology of this study has some innovative aspects since the construct to define attitude is newly created, and the concepts of persuasive communication, like attitude and willingness, was not yet used to measure this cultural influence.