Rethinking cross-cultural conflict management strategies - a triangulation of dispute resolution styles in transnational organisations
The aim of this research is to analyse the influence of culture in cross-cultural conflict situations that occur among professionals in a global business environment in order to understand and explore conflict management and resolution preferences. The aim is to identify conflict management style variances and develop the necessary skills and techniques of practice to resolve cross-cultural conflict in transnational businesses during international business transactions.
Through increasing mobility, widespread population migration and increasingly, advanced technology in communication and transportation, the trend towards globalisation is rapidly growing. Several studies identify globalisation as an important emerging theme that is influencing cross-cultural communication competence in business environments. However, communication problems often originate from a lack of understanding of cross-cultural differences, which may lead to or perpetuate conflicts. This research synthesises two fields of study—cross-cultural conflict management and cross-cultural communication—that have not been mutually explored or researched extensively in academic studies to date.
The thesis begins by laying the theoretical foundation found in the large body of literature. Identified gaps are then addressed by developing an emergent Multilevel Cultural Conflict Management Framework that categorises the conflict management style variances across multiple cultural identities of individuals.
The empirical phase of this thesis, applying a qualitative approach, is unique in undertaking a triangulation study between China, Germany and the United Arab Emirates contexts. This thesis is distinctive in several ways. Top executives from transnational organisations were asked to delineate a real-life conflict situation they had faced, and were then questioned during a semistructured interview in relation to that real-life conflict. Respondents were selected using a purposeful sampling method. They were executives who had worked in transnational organisations in several countries on international business assignments. This sample advances the study and practice of cross-cultural conflict analysis because these individuals appear to offer the greatest potential for new findings with regard to the purpose pursued by this thesis.
The data examination follows a thematic analysis based on transcribed primary data. The data were managed, organised and interpreted using NVivo software, version 11. Common themes were identified, and the results were interpreted to help answer the defined research questions. The role of multilevel cultures was explored based on the developed Multilevel Cultural Conflict Management Framework. Compared with previous research, this framework enables the ii investigation of the interrelatedness of individual culture, organisational culture and national culture to identify strategies for resolving conflicts. New conflict resolution styles emerged that are culturally linked and relate to the individual, and that overlap with organisational and national cultural norms. This is a major finding that challenges well-established dual-concern models for conceptualising conflict resolution styles. It demonstrates that there is a cultural overlay linked to the originally identified styles that effect a satisfying outcome, marking the start of a novel path in conflict resolution research. This thesis develops conceptual tools and analytical approaches that will benefit both researchers and practitioners.