The influence of national culture on communication practices : a case study on Malaysian organisation

Amir, Sabrina (2009) The influence of national culture on communication practices : a case study on Malaysian organisation. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

National culture is deeply rooted in values, which are learned and acquired when we are young (2007, p. 6), and „embedded deeply in everyday life. (Newman & Nollen, 1996, p. 754). Values have helped to shape us into who we are today. In other words, as we grow older, the cultural values we have learned and adapted to will mould our daily practices. This is reflected in our actions, behaviours, and the ways in which we communicate. Based on the previous assertion, it can be suggested that national culture may also influence organisational culture, as our „behaviour at work is a continuation of behaviour learned earlier. (Hofstede, 1991, p. 4). Cultural influence in an organisation could be evidenced by looking at communication practices: how employees interact with one another as they communicate in their daily practices. Earlier studies in organisational communication see communication as the heart of an organisation in which it serves, and as „the essence of organised activity and the basic process out of which all other functions derive. (Bavelas and Barret, cited in Redding, 1985, p. 7). Hence, understanding how culture influences communication will help with understanding organisational behaviour. This study was conducted to look at how culture values, which are referred to as culture dimensions in this thesis, influenced communication practices in an organisation that was going through a change process. A single case study was held in a Malaysian organisation, to investigate how Malaysian culture dimensions of respect, collectivism, and harmony were evidenced in the communication practices. Data was collected from twelve semi-structured interviews and five observation sessions. Guided by six attributes identified in the literature, (1) acknowledging seniority, knowledge and experience, 2) saving face, 3) showing loyalty to organisation and leaders, 4) demonstrating cohesiveness among members, 5) prioritising group interests over personal interests, and 6) avoiding confrontations of Malaysian culture dimensions, this study found eighteen communication practices performed by employees of the organisation. This research contributes to the previous cultural work, especially in the Malaysian context, in which evidence of Malaysian culture dimensions of respect, collectivism, and harmony were displayed in communication practices: 1) acknowledging the status quo, 2) obeying orders and directions, 3) name dropping, 4) keeping silent, 5) avoiding questioning, 6) having separate conversations, 7) adding, not criticising, 8) sugar coating, 9) instilling a sense of belonging, 10) taking sides, 11) cooperating, 12) sacrificing personal interest, 13) protecting identity, 14) negotiating, 15) saying „yes. instead of „no., 16) giving politically correct answers, 17) apologising, and 18) tolerating errors. Insights from this finding will help us to understand the organisational challenges that rely on communication, such as during organisational change. Therefore, data findings will be relevant to practitioners to understand the impact of culture on communication practices across countries.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 30321
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Bartlett, Jennifer
Keywords: national culture, malaysian culture, culture dimensions, communication practices, respect, collectivism, harmony
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 09 Feb 2010 04:05
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:55

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