Why I chose to research EDI
It is suggested that cultural identities carry a pre-conceived importance that individuals passively enact but become embedded with meaning in organisational actors’ interpretations. I chose to explore the communication challenges and complexities of a culturally diverse workplace.
My study aimed to provide an explanation that did not include diminishing complex problems to simple ones, but rather replacing an unclear complexity with a more understandable one. The dynamic of a complex work environment where different cultural differences come into play is an interesting one, and of critical interest to the study of EDI.
My research question and the method I used to explore it
Data collection: This study takes a qualitative approach, using interviews as the means of data collection. The interview process included expatriates working and based in the United Arab Emirates from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The study included a total of 20 participants with a total of 12 different nationalities. Participants worked in different fields and industries in MNC’s spanning across various entry-level, mid-level and senior roles. Age range of participants was 23-55 with 8 females and 11 male participants. Employment tenure at current organisation ranged from 1 to 15 years. All companies represented in the interviews were classified as multi-national companies, operating in more than one country. The reason MNCs were chosen was to ensure participants were working in a diverse culture where expatriates are the majority.
Data analysis: Inductive reasoning was used to reach a result of observations. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview transcripts. This method aims to identify certain patterns and themes.
The first phase consisted of open coding mainly using the Nvivo software, by inserting all interview transcripts into the software to identify concepts and dimensions in the data collected and they were grouped into categories to improve the validity of the study. The interview transcripts were carefully analysed, and certain words or sentences were highlighted to determine emerging codes from the text. The second step in this process included axial coding, to explore relationships between categories and relate them to higher order themes and eventually gathering second-order codes into aggregated dimensions.
Some of the thought-provoking findings that practitioners should be aware of
The study aimed at identifying issues individuals face while working at MNCs in diverse work environments where there is no one dominant culture. Having looked at practical implications of this study, on a theoretical level, studies exploring expatriation and cross-cultural communication issues lack in including studies on organisations in multicultural environments rather than bicultural ones. This study found and illustrated issues including: the perception of language skills and proficiency in creating communication challenges, the use of non-Lingua Franca in building professional relationships and the role of the cosmopolitan citizen in bridging cross-cultural relationships in diverse work environments.
Some ideas for future research based on the study I conducted
In addition to the study’s theoretical contribution, it suggests a practical relevance to multi- national organisations in the UAE and those operating in a similar environment and context. Based on the findings of this qualitative study, managers might be able to better facilitate complex cross-cultural communication in the diverse workplace. This would entail going beyond focusing on the “host” or “local” culture solely but shifting the focus from bi-cultural challenges to multi-cultural challenges in the workplace. Furthermore, this study emphasised the role of the Cosmopolitan in brokering cross-cultural interactions in the organisation, but also adapting suitable changes as a manager to fit different cultural behaviours. However, future research could explore the different types of cosmopolitan individuals in multi-culturally diverse work environments. Finally, the role of perceived language skills and understanding could help managers create better mediums and systems of communication and knowledge transfer to ensure employees do not continue to face difficulties in an environment with diverse language skills.
Advice I have for others looking to study EDI
If you are passionate about a certain aspect of EDI, commit to it and try to develop your understanding of it further. Understand the context of your study and examine the different aspects to consider all possible areas of exploration. Conducting qualitative research methods helped me in incorporating a diverse set of interpretive techniques that provided me with a deeper, fuller understanding of the issues of diversity under investigation.