Managing Tensions In A Globalizing Environment
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Globalizing processes often place the social cohesion of organizations at risk when multinational people experience and exhibit tensions from their diverse cultural and language norms. This study uses discourse analysis and dialectical theory to understand the intersection of organizational tensions and multinationalism as they appear at a bilingual Swiss higher education institution. I define multinationalism as the intersection of communities who self identify with a national heritage and perpetuate that identity through daily communication and interaction. This case study is approached from a social constructionist perspective. I use grounded theory and dialectical analysis to analyze the fifty-nine interviews in order to identify the tensions that intersect with multinationalism and how they are managed. The tensions identified include: choosing a language where two are privileged, providing an intercultural environment as described by the mission statement, and managing pedagogy/co-teaching practices. Choosing a language is often described in a dual dimension between choosing French/choosing English where language groups are sometimes seen as oppositional and vying for privileged status even though the organization privileges both languages. Providing an intercultural environment is described as a global endeavor and yet sometimes becomes dialectical when balancing how the organizational environment is actually managed/not managed based on national and organizational cultural perspectives. Practicing pedagogy/co-teaching activities are often framed as oppositional and dialectical when trying to reconcile French pedagogy/Anglo-Saxon pedagogy and co-teaching practices, especially in regard to American influence. Multinationalism emerges when participants use group identity descriptors and intersects in a variety of ways depending on the intensity of the tensions. Managing tensions result in ambiguity because of undefined language fluency and competency. While ambiguity allows for social cohesion and time for interpreting messages, it sometimes is used strategically to deny messages and retain privileged positions. Disorienting interactions for some employees result in paradoxical situations, and in some extreme cases, participants reported schizophrenic behavior when paranoid statements are made which reflect their paralysis, uncertainty and loss of power. This study advances dialectical theory by redefining totality as including regional, national, and global contexts that also influence organizational agency and discourse. In addition this study adds to the understanding of knots of contradictions by illustrating how tensions evolve in their own right and also spin off simultaneous and interconnected tensions. Finally, results from this study suggest that using ambiguity could be seen as another management option as well as a result when dealing with dialectical and paradoxical tensions.
Shoemaker, Martha McArdell (2009). Managing Tensions In A Globalizing Environment. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from