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Due to globalization, more interaction among Mauritian from diverse cultures, beliefs and backgrounds are increasing more than ever before in the working environment. Most people and companies are facing the need to communicate cross-culturally. Therefore, maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity has become an important issue for management today. Unfortunately, due to cultural prejudices and ethnocentrism of some co-workers, most employees form culturally diverse workgroups are unable to cooperate and work together in an organization. Thus, it consequently creates conflicts and barrier to communication resulting in an improper business environment.
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Chapter 1: Introduction
Introduction of the project
The purpose of this study is to determine the factors that cause conflicts among co-workers from culturally diverse workgroups. The link has to be established between those two factors conflicts and culture. This study target the whole Mauritian population as potential respondents, being a multi cultural country most of us have experienced at least once the impact that our culture may have on our relationship with colleagues, on our work and people reactions towards us. Communication and mutual understanding among us is sometimes the root to conflict resolution. That’s why throughout the researches and analysis of data much focus would be laid on sources of conflicts, culture impacts, double effects of diversity and communication as a solution to bridge the gap.
In a multi-cultural country like Mauritius Island, increased cultural diversity in work places has aroused considerable attention to conflict management and intercultural sensitivity. Diverse workgroups pose several challenges (Egan and Tsui, 1992; Ayoko and Hartel, 2002). However, few studies have investigated these two concepts conflict and culturally diverse workgroups (CDW’S) together. The present study aim to bridge the gap in this line of research with an examination between those two concepts situations stated below.
Some studies in this area shows that diverse workgroups are hampered by process loss (Milliken and Martins, 1996), high levels of conflict (Egan and Tsui, 1992) and low levels of cohesion and social integration (Hambrick, 1994). Although conflict is not limited to culturally diverse workgroups (CDWs), (see Jehn, 1997; Tjosvold, 1991a, b, c), the potential for conflict in Mauritian companies for CDWs is greater than culturally homogeneous workgroups because of the operation of cultural prejudices, biases and stereotypes as well as value differences (Harrison et al., 1998). These factors are proposed to affect processes such as communication in CDWs (see Larkey, 1996).
Previous studies also suggest that a group’s demographic composition influences communication between group members because people tend to communicate with those who are similar to themselves (Zenger and Lawrence, 1989). Group members, who perceive themselves as similar, tend to communicate with each other more openly. When group members perceive themselves as dissimilar, communication is impacted negatively. Specifically, demographic diversity is associated with increased problems with communication, co-ordination, dysfunctional conflict and a potential for decreased performance (Pelled et al., 1999). It is argued that communication openness is antecedent to the differing group members’ reactions to conflict events, which, in turn, are proposed to impact group’s task and social outcomes.
Aim of Study
The aim of this study is to determine whether employees from culturally diverse workgroups are ground for organizational conflicts among co-workers. The present study also aims to assess the role and impact of communication openness as a conflict resolution method among work groups of different cultural backgrounds.
Objectives of Study
The study analyses if some organizational conflicts are due to cross-cultural of colleagues, it aims to assess the following objectives:
Assessing sources of conflict that may arise in an organization
Establishing the factors that leads to cross-cultural conflict in the working environment
Assessing employees’ mindset and reactions towards colleagues from other cultures.
Assessing effectiveness of communication during conflict resolution for multicultural interaction among employees.
Outline of Study
Chapter 2: Review of Literature
Nature of Conflict
For long, conflict has been considered as one of the most important aspect of modern management (Wilson & Jerrell, 1981). Augsburger (1992:11) defined conflict as a ‘crisis that forces us to recognize explicitly that we live with multiple realities and must negotiate a common reality; that we bring to each situation differing frequently and must negotiate a common reality; that we bring to each differing- frequently contrasting- stories and must create together a single shared story with a role for each and for both’.
Commonly, conflict may be understand as a feeling, a disagreement, a real or perceived incompatibility of interests, inconsistent worldviews, or a set of behaviors (Mayer, 2000:3). In today’s organizations conflict is viewed as unavoidable in organizations and groups of people due to the complexity and interdependence of organizational life.
Theorists are still debating throughout the researches to know whether it is beneficial or harmful to companies. Organizational conflict theorists such as Pondy (1967) and Brown (1984) suggested that conflict is of uttermost importance to the good functioning of an organization; moreover they suggest that much more attention must be focus on the causes and resolution of these conflicts (Schmidt and Kochan, 1972; Brown, 1983).
Sources of conflict/Contributors to conflict at the Workplace
The possible sources of conflict are poor communication, competition for common but scarce resources, incompatible goals and the like14. Fisher (1997) notes, “â€¦both individuals and groups have undeniable needs for identity, dignity, security, equity, participation in decisions that affect them. Frustration of these basic needsâ€¦.becomes a source of social conflict” According to Plunkett and Attner (1989), the sources of conflict include; shared resources, differences in goals, difference in perceptions and values, disagreements in the role requirements, nature of work activities, individual approaches, and the stage of organizational development.
Gray and Stark (1984) suggested that there are six sources of conflict. These are:
1) Limited resources;
2) Interdependent work activities;
3) Differentiation of activities;
4) Communication problems;
5) Differences in perceptions;
6) The environment of the organization.
According to these writers, conflict can also arise from a number of other sources, such as:
1) Individual differences (some people enjoy conflict while others don’t);
2) Unclear authority structures (people don’t know how far their authority extends);
3) Differences in attitudes;
4) Task symmetries (one group is more powerful than another and the weaker group tries to change the situation;
5) Difference in time horizons (some departments have a long-run view and others have a short -run view).
Another author Deutch in camp bell et-al (1983:187) identified a list of sources of conflict. These are; control over resources, preferences and nuisances, values, beliefs, and the nature of relationships between the parties. The classification of conflict is often made on the basis of the antecedent conditions that lead to conflict. Conflict may originate from a number of sources, such as tasks, values, goals, and so on. It has been found appropriate to classify conflict on the basis of these sources for proper understanding of its nature and implications.
Dealing with conflict/ Conflicts Resolution Methods/ Conflict Management Styles (techniques)
Researchers have identified several modes or styles people use to deal with conflict. While the most widely-understood paradigm for resolving conflict may be that of fight (i.e. to compete and win the conflict) or flight (i.e. to avoid people with whom one is in conflict), it is also common to find managers who have other styles of dealing with workplace conflict. Follett, a classical management theorist, was many decades ahead of her time when she conceptualized three styles of handling conflict – domination, compromise, and integration – and argued for an integrative approach to conflict resolution (Metcalf and Urwick, 1940). Schmidt and Tannenbaum (1960) discuss four approaches to conflict resolution – avoidance, repression, competitive and collaborative – with the most appropriate approach depending on informational, perceptual, role, and other factors.
Types and levels of Conflicts
Thomas (1976) is generally credited for popularizing five general styles or strategies for managing conflict – avoiding, obliging/accommodating, dominating, compromising, and collaborating/integrating. He also categorized these styles by two key dimensions:
(1) The degree of concern for self, which can also be viewed as assertiveness or how assertive one is likely to be in pursuing one’s interests; and
(2) The degree of concern for others, or how cooperatively one is willing to engage the other party.
Conflict management styles/modes
Research on conflict styles suggests that managers tend to use one or two styles regardless of whether those styles are most appropriate for the situation, and that managers respond to a conflict situation based on the way they feel instead of the way they should respond (Aldag and Kzuhara, 2002; Hellriegel et al., 2001; Whetten and Cameron, 2002). Several scholars (e.g. Thomas and Kilmann, 1974) have developed questionnaires to help managers gain a deeper understanding of their dominant style of conflict-resolution behavior and help them determine whether changes in their style could increase their effectiveness in resolving conflicts.
The literature suggests that:
. Variations of these styles may be appropriate under certain conditions;
. Managers should be aware of their dominant style; and
. Managers should make a conscious effort to choose the best style for each situation.
Based on an extensive review of scientific studies, Rahim (2001) concluded that there appears to be agreement among scholars that the collaborative or integrative style is the superior approach to handling workplace conflicts because it promotes creative problem solving and fosters mutual respect and rapport. They point out that a consistent application of this style offers the greatest probability of producing win-win results for both involved parties. Consequently, in an attempt to achieve win-win outcomes, many scholars (e.g. Fisher and Ury, 1982; Dana, 2001; Cloke and Goldsmith, 2000; Rahim, 2001) have offered specific “to do” lists or steps. A review of these approaches to conflict resolution suggests that although there is general consensus regarding the basic principles of developing a win-win strategy (see following list), there is no structured, systematic approach to developing win-win solutions to organizational conflicts.
The four points of principled negotiation (Adapted from Fisher and Ury, 1982) are as follows:
(1) Separate the people from the problem.
(2) Focus on interests, not positions.
(3) Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
(4) Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.
Recently, Hoffman (2005, 2007) argued that diagrammatic reasoning is useful for bringing hidden knowledge to the surface so it can be explicitly considered by participants in a negotiation or conflict. Hoffman proposes a system referred to logical argument mapping to make such knowledge explicit and makes a strong case for the benefits of diagrammatic approaches in general in communicating and resolving conflicts. We believe Goldratt’s evaporating cloud provides a structured, systematic way to resolve conflicts while it provides the benefits of the collaborative/integrative conflict resolution style. In addition, the EC is a logical diagramming approach that we believe provides the significant benefits enumerated by Hoffmann (2005). In essence, it provides managers and co-workers a mechanism to effectively manage their reaction to conflict and be a part of the solution to difficult situations.
Another conflict resolution method used today is Mediation is another way of conflict management. Bentley (1996) describes mediation as a form of problem solving process where a neutral third party assists disputants to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Culture and Conflict / Cross-Cultural Conflict
Culture refers to ‘systems of meaning – values, beliefs, expectation, and goals – shared by a particular group of people distinguishing them from members of other groups’ (Gooderham and Nordhaug 2003 pg 131Í¾ Schneider and Barsoux 2003, cited in Martin G. 2006). People in different cultures quite often have different ideologies, and such differences are important to decide the way they respond and react in a conflicting situation. Throughout this study, researchers would determine the link that exists between culture and conflict.
Culture is “the manifold ways of perceiving and organizing the world that are held in common by a group of people and passed on interpersonally and intergenerationally” (Yuan, 2006, p. 5). According to David Victor, it is “the part of behavior that is at once learned and collective,” and is therefore, “taught rather than instinctive or innate” (2001, p. 30). Starting at birth, “the infant mind is somewhat like a blank tape, waiting to be filled,” culture plays a large part “in the recording process” (Fisher, 1988, p. 45). Handed down from members within the larger community, it is gradually reinforced and imprinted into individual’s mind as time progresses. Culture directly influences the way in which people within the context communicate, and the way in which they perceive each other (Victor, 2001). As a result, one organization’s conduct, developed in a particular environment and reflecting the local staff’s cultural identity, may not be applicable to another culture.
People around the world are similar as well as different, they are similar since they share common characteristics, and at the same time they are different since each one of them have been born and brought up in different cultures having different set of values. According to Naylor (1997), all human beings are fundamentally the same, but culture makes them different and distinguishes them from other groups by creating and developing their “own version of culture” to meet their needs, desires and goals. In other words, culture serves as an element that helps humans to identify and define themselves.
Therefore, Naylor (1997) defined culture as “the learned way (or ways) of belief, behavior, and the products of these (both physically and socially) that is shared (at least to some degree) within human groups and serves to distinguish that culture group from another learning different beliefs and behaviors” (p. 1). Ting Toomey (1999) also made a similar definition of culture. She defined culture as “a learned meaning system that consists of patterns of traditions, beliefs, values, norms, and symbols that are passed on from one generation to the next and are shared to varying degrees by interacting members of a community” (Ting Toomey, 1999, p. 10).
Cultural Stereotype and Preconceptions
Stereotype refers to the simplified viewpoint that one social group holds for the other. Cultural stereotype is attributed to over-generalization, which claims that the cultural characteristic of one individual can also be applied to the group, and ignores the mobile and changeable nature of culture as a whole (Beamer & Varner, 2009). Considering mankind’s limited capacity to process messages, and today’s overwhelming volume of information, it may be helpful for people to try to summarize cultural differences, and establish cultural models. In this sense, some extent of qualified stereotype could be instrumental for it facilitates mutual understanding and learning between cultures.
However, when this strategy is adopted generally, undesired effects arise. Generally, because of the stereotyped preconception in our mind, we want to see what we think we will see. “One’s cultural belief system learned during socialization, one’s experiences, and one’s currently salient roles all contribute to the composition of what Bruner has called the individual’s ‘expectancy set’; what he is set for perceiving in a situation and in other people” (Simmons and McCall, 1966, p. 63). Furthermore, due to this mentality, we are not only attracted to things that we anticipate seeing and try to interpret them based on our limited knowledge, but we also disregard or belittle things that deviate from expectations.
Cultural Prejudices, Ethnocentrism and Bullying
When dealing with cultural aspects there are two aspects that we need to keep in mind, cultural prejudice and ethnocentrism. Cultural prejudice refers to the formation of opinion on certain members of the group grounded on the previous perception, attitude, and viewpoint of the group, heedless of the particular characteristic of the individual (Zhang and Xu, 2007). In cross-cultural communication, people often rely on their first impressions and assumptions, drawing on previous knowledge of the common features of a culture to make conclusions about an individual instead of analyzing behaviors specifically.
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Ethnocentrism means that “a tendency exists within every individual to view his or her own culture as intrinsically better than other cultures” (Victor, 2001, p. 36). When we grow up in a particular culture, not only does it shape our disposition and insert certain values and beliefs into our minds, but it also teaches us how to navigate within the environment. The older we grow and the deeper we immerse ourselves in one culture, the more likely we will see the world through a stained-glass window. Thus, it is natural for people to establish a sense of superiority regarding one’s own culture over the “other,” generating a comfort zone in which we live and with which we are familiar. Moreover, self-reference criterion is employed in evaluating the surroundings. Nevertheless, this subconscious sense of cultural supremacy acts like a stumbling block in cross-cultural communication in that it forms a narrow-minded and defensive cultural identity that affects meaningful cultural exchange.
In addition, it trains people into the mindset of drawing on a finalized conception to perceive other cultures. Just as cultural scholar and organizational sociologist Geert Hofstede, once said, “Everyone is used to seeing the world from their own living room’s window; everyone has the tendency to view foreign cultures as strange while consider their own features as standard. This narrow mentality opens the door for future cultural imperialism, abasement, isolation and dependence which disrupts cross-cultural communication” (Yang and Yi, 2006, p. 77).
Consequently, with workers mindset of cultural prejudices and ethnocentrism there is a tendency that the employee who is culturally different suffers most of the time from bullying. Einarsen (1999) defines bullying as deliberate or unconsciously repeated actions and practices directed to one or more workers (victims) with the result of causing humiliation, offence, distress, and interference with performance on the job. Especially, bullying behaviors include: aggressive eye contact (glaring or meaningful glances), intimidating physical gestures (including finger pointing, slamming or throwing objects), yelling or screaming at the target, angry outbursts and temper tantrums, rude or hostile behavior toward the target, accusations of wrongdoing, spreading false rumors about the victim, breaching the victim’s confidentiality, and making unreasonable work demands on the target (Keashly, 1998).
Einarsen (2000) identified two general types of bullying behaviors. Predatory bullying occurs where the victim has personally done nothing provocative to justify the bullying behaviors. In this case, the victim is an accident of a bully’s demonstration of power. In contrast, conflict-related bullying occurs as result of highly escalated conflict (Einarsen, 2000). In some instances, the social climate at work creates conflict that escalates into harsh highly personified conflicts where the total destruction of the opponent is seen as the ultimate goal to be gained by parties (Van de Vliert, 1998). In such highly escalated conflict, aggressive behavior is a common tactic used to show resentment about perceived wrongdoings by one’s opponents. Although many interpersonal struggles and conflicts are a natural part of human interactions, there is a thin line between interpersonal personal conflict and the aggressive behaviors that are labeled as bullying. In conflict-related bullying, opponent’s value as a person is denied leading to manipulation, retaliation elimination and destruction (Einarsen, 2000).
Concept of Diversity
The issue of addressing diversity is still a difficulty for organizations in this 21st century (Jackson & Aparna 2010). Previously, diversity was defined as a characteristic of groups of two or more people and that commonly relates to demographic differences of one sort or another among members of a working team (McGrath, Berdahl, and Arrow, 1995).Van Knippenberg and Schippers (2007) define diversity as a characteristic of social grouping that reflects the degree to which objective or subjective differences exist between group members.
Research in workplace diversity has quadrupled in the last few decades, yet, most of the outcomes demonstrate that diversity has paradoxical effects on team processes and outcomes (Joshi, Liao & Roh, 2011, Jackson, Joshi and Erhardt, 2003, Milliken &Martins 1996, Williams & O’Reilly 1998). Diverse teams have been found to experience process and performance losses, as evidenced by less positive attitudes, reduced communication, and a higher likelihood of leaving a working team (Riordan & Shore, 1997). Recent works have also identified the conditions, such as employee involvement that must be in place for diversity to generate organizational benefits (e.g. Yang & Konrad, 2011).
Cultural Diversity Double Effect and Dimensions
Diversity is a subjective phenomenon, created by group members themselves who on the basis of their different social identities categorize others as similar or dissimilar: “A group is diverse if it is composed of individuals who differ on a characteristic on which they base their own social identity” [O’Reilly, Williams, & Barsade 1998, p. 186]. Loden & Rosener  define diversity as characteristics which differentiate one group of people from another along with primary, secondary and tertiary dimensions as shown in the table below
Table 1. Dimensions of Diversity
â€¢ Sexual orientation
â€¢ Thinking style
â€¢ Geographic origin
â€¢ Family status
â€¢ Economic status
â€¢ Political orientation
â€¢ Work experience
â€¢ Group norms
Source: based on R. Rijamampinina, T. Carmichael, A Pragmatic and Holistic
Approach to Managing Diversity. Problems and Perspectives in Management,
1/2005, p. 109.
In sum, the presented above research debates that diversity might have positive and negative contributions to organizational functioning depending on its level. The most negative outcome of cultural and workplace diversity was found to be conflict (Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999; Pelled, 1996; Olson, Parayitam & Bao, 2007). Workgroup diversity is associated with conflict in teams, both task conflict and relationship conflict (Ayoko, Hartel, & Callan, 2002, Chatman & Flynn, 2001; Jehn, Chadwick, & Thatcher, 1997; Jehn et al, 1999; Pelled, 1996; Pelled, Xin, & Weiss, 2001).
The conflict resulting from workgroup diversity has the potential to benefit performance if it generates the elaboration of more possibilities and perspectives in problem-solving discussions (van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004). The Meta-analytic research linking both task and relationship conflict to poorer performance have demonstrated that workgroup conflicts often do not result in positive outcomes (De Dreu & Weingart, 2003). Additionally, new evidence emerging from another meta-analytical study (de Wit, Greer & Jehn, 2011) suggests that while relationship and process conflict are negatively linked with performance, the effect of task conflict on outcomes is even more complex indicating that task conflict is only associated with positive outcomes when the link between task and relationship conflict is weak.
There is substantial literature which argues that diversity has performance advantages over homogenous work structures [Cox, Lobel and MacLeod 1991]. First, multicultural organizations have an advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent. The capabilities of women and minorities offer a wider labor pool. Organizations that is able to attract and retain qualified minority group members and keep faith with them through fair and equitable career advancement treatments, gain competitive advantage and derive high quality human resources dividends. Second, a multicultural organization is better suited to serve a diverse external clientele in a more increasingly global market. Such organizations have a better understanding of the requirements of the legal, political, social, economic and cultural environments of foreign nations [Adler
1991]. Third, in research-oriented and hi-tech industries, the broad base of talents generated by a gender-and ethnic-diverse organization becomes a priceless advantage. “Creativity thrives on diversity” [Morgan 1989]. Fourth, multicultural organizations are found to be better at problem solving, possess better ability to extract expanded meanings, and are more likely to display multiple perspectives and interpretations in dealing with complex issues. Such organizations are less susceptible to “groupthink.” Fifth, multicultural organizations tend to possess more organizational flexibility, and are better able to adapt to changes. Women, for instance, are said to have higher tolerance for ambiguity than men [Rotter & O’Connell 1982].
Diversity has some drawbacks which moderate its significant advantages. In problem-solving situations, extraordinary costs in time and financial resources can negate the benefits of synergy, and can even degenerate into dysfunctional conflicts. Diversity does not fare as well under conditions of uncertainty and complexity which may lead to confusion and frustration. Diversity can make it harder to arrive at an agreement on a particular course of action, and can result in negative dynamics and cultural clashes that can create work disadvantages for women and minorities. Traditionally, cultural conflicts between majority and minority group members are usually resolved in favor of the majority groups. This, in turn, creates significant barriers to full participation by minority members in potentially conflict situations. In an analysis of 151 work groups, Tsui, Egan and O’Reilly  found diversity to be associated with lower levels of psychological identification with group members which would tend to detract from overall performance and result in adverse effects on organizational measures of productivity, absenteeism and turnover.
Homogenous groups have been reported to outperform culturally diverse groups especially where there are serious communication issues which make it more difficult for everybody to make optimal contributions to the group effort. Higher turnover and absenteeism are special problems identified with multi-cultural organizations. Several research studies since the 1960’s have found women and other minorities to be consistently higher on absenteeism and turnover than their majority-member counterparts. In a study of twenty work units, O’Reilly, Caldwell and Barnett  concluded that heterogeneity in groups was associated with lower levels of group social integration which resulted in higher individual turnover. They concluded that out-group members were more likely to leave the organization.
Using a hypothetical company of 10,000 employees, Cox estimated that absentee differences attributable to multiculturalism would cost a company an average of three million dollars per year [Cox 1993, p. 25].
Milliken and Martins  argued that diversity can affect an organization’s functioning through four types of mediating variables. First, diversity can have “affective consequences”, such as lower organizational commitment or lower satisfaction, because people prefer interactions with similar others. Second, “cognitive outcomes” refer to an increase in creativity and innovation. Diversity can enhance a group’s ability to gather and process information and therefore it could result in a greater creativity. Third, a diverse organizational workforce is a symbol of equality. These “symbolic effects” are important for an organization’s reputation. And last, diversity also has clear implications on the communication process within a group or organization, i.e. “communication effects”. Milliken and Martins’ typology takes into account the fact the diversity can have both positive and negative effects on the functioning of organizations. Also Benschop  argued that their typology provides a clear view on the effects of diversity on an organization’s functioning.
Role of Communication Openness
Stuart Sillars(1998: pg 21) define communication as the giving, receiving or exchanging of information, opinions or ideas by writing, speech or visual means or any combination of the three so that the material communicated is completely understand by everyone concerned. Communication has been seen to assist organizations undergoing change by breaking down the resistance among workers and increasing their trust in the impending changes (Graham and LeBaron, 1994). Communication is also considered to be a means of resolving conflicts. When a group is meeting a goal, there are internal and external problems and one of the only ways to resolve the problem is via communication (Appelbaum et al., 1999). Communication is considered to be particularly beneficial when new recruits enter a work place. To make sense and to settle into the new environment, communication is considered to be particularly important (Jablin and Krone, 1987).
Communication openness is defined as the ease of talking to each other in the group and the extent of understanding gained when people talk to other group members. According to Pelled et al. (1999), demographic diversity is linked with increased difficulties in communi
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