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Dissertation: Communicating interculturality in the workplace


24.10.2015 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki, L304
MA, FM Malgorzata Lahti defends her doctoral dissertation in Speech Communication Communicating interculturality in the workplace” on 24.10.2015. Opponent Professor Fred Dervin (University of Helsinki) and custos Professor Maarit Valo (University of Jyväskylä).The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Malgorzata Lahti, kuvaaja Agata AnttonenMA, FM Malgorzata Lahti defends her doctoral dissertation in Speech Communication ”Communicating interculturality in the workplace”. Opponent Professor Fred Dervin (University of Helsinki) and custos Professor Maarit Valo (University of Jyväskylä).

The theme of intercultural communication in the workplace has mostly been examined from organisational perspectives, utilising theoretical frameworks that see culture as an objective set of national/ethnic attributes and experiences that shape interaction. This has resulted in the production of polarised images of intercultural issues as either an organisational challenge or an asset. The study at hand deepens our understanding of workplace interculturality by focusing on the very interpersonal communication processes through which people’s different cultural memberships may surface at work. Informed by critical constructivism and ethnomethodology, the study seeks to develop insights into how people may perceive and perform interculturality across a variety of workplace arrangements, relationships and communication situations. 

The study comprises four articles. The first one is a critical review of intercultural workplace communication scholarship. The other three articles are empirical research reports that explore relational development, cultural identification and cultural knowledge sharing. They are respectively based on interviews with employees of a Finnish recruitment agency and metal workers recruited from Poland, interviews with female Russian immigrants in Finland performing interaction-intense knowledge work, and records of Skype™ chat conversations of a four-member team embedded in a Finnish organisation and dispersed in Finland and Russia.

The findings suggest that understandings and manifestations of interculturality are in constant motion. National and ethnic identities are social constructs that may emerge as relevant in different ways across interpersonal relationships and communication situations. Language is a social tool intertwined with the process of communicating interculturality. Linguistic choices and competences can be a powerful means for identification, and they may affect the patterns of interaction. Constructions of interculturality may become imbued with ideologies and have material extensions. At the same time, interculturality is only momentary and not a stable feature of communication.

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Malgorzata Lahti