Language and Knowledge Work in Multicultural Teams
with Prof. Dr. Helene Tenzer
October 4, 2022. 4pm CET | 3pm BST | 10am EDT | 7am PDT
Helene Tenzer is Professor of International Management at LMU Munich School of Management. Her research focuses primarily on language diversity in international management, multinational teams, and organizational behaviour. She has published on these topics in outlets such as the Journal of International Business Studies, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Leadership Quarterly and Journal of World Business. In addition, she has founded a research network on language issues in management with currently over a hundred international members.
To keep up with changing economic conditions and global competition, multinational corporations increasingly form multinational teams (MNTs) to locate and integrate diverse knowledge from all over the world. These knowledge processing activities rely on intense communication between MNT members. Language as the vehicle of communication therefore affects team-based knowledge work profoundly.
In this webinar, we will discuss recent research on knowledge processing in multilingual MNTs. We will explore how diversity in team members’ mother tongues creates evident language barriers if speakers lack lexical and syntactical proficiency in the team’s working language and how it creates hidden language barriers if speakers transfer their mother tongue’s pragmatic and prosodic conventions to the working language. Whereas evident barriers reduce participation in MNT communication, hidden language barriers impair joint sensemaking, thus affecting knowledge processing in MNTs. We will also discuss why language barriers in MNTs impede personal more than task-related communication and emotional more than neutral communication. These communication impediments hamper mutual understanding of the task and of each other, thus constraining the development of shared knowledge repositories among team members. These findings are remarkable given that language-sensitive management research so far has focused mostly on task-related and neutral communication, neglecting personal and emotional communication.