Conflict and communication among engineers

Tootoonchy, Mahshid (2012) Conflict and communication among engineers. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The trend of cultural diversity is increasing in all organizations, especially engineering ones, due to globalization, mergers, joint ventures and the movement of the workforce. The collaborative nature of projects in engineering industries requires long-term teamwork between local and international engineers. Research confirms a specific culture among engineering companies that isassumed to have a negative effect on collaboration and communication among co-workers. Multicultural workplaces have been reported as challenging environments in the engineering work culture, which calls for more research among engineering organizations.

An everyday challenge for co-workers, especially in culturally diverse contexts, is handling interpersonal conflict. This perceived conflict among individuals can happen because of actual differences in tasks or relationships. Research demonstrates that task conflict at the group level has some positive effects on decision-making and innovation, while it has negative effects on employees’ work attitude and performance. However, relationship conflict at the individual level has only negative effects including frustration, tension, low job satisfaction, high employee turnover and low productivity. Outcomes of both task and relationship conflict at individual level can have long-term negative consequences like damaged organizational commitment. One of the most important sources of differences between individuals, which results in conflict, is their cultural backgrounds. First, this thesis suggests that in culturally diverse workplaces, people perceive more relationship conflict than task conflict. Second, this thesis examines interpersonal communication in culturally diverse work places. Communicating effectively in culturally diverse workplaces is crucial for today’s business. Culture has a large effect on the ways that people communicate with each other. Ineffective communication can escalate interpersonal conflict and cause frustration in the long term. Communication satisfaction, defined as enjoying the communication and feeling that the communication was appropriate and effective, has a positive effect on individuals’ psychological wellbeing. In a culturally diverse workplace, it is assumed that individuals feel less satisfied with their interpersonal communications because of their lack of knowledge about other cultures’ communication norms. To manage interpersonal interactions, many authors suggest that individuals need a specific capability, i.e., cultural intelligence (some studies use cultural competence, global intelligence or intercultural competence interchangeably). Some authors argue that cultures are synergic and convergent and the postmodernist definition of culture is just our dominant beliefs. However, other authors suggest that cultural intelligence is the strongest and most comprehensive competency for managing cross-cultural interactions, because various cultures differ so greatly at the micro level. This thesis argues that individuals with a high level of cultural intelligence perceive less interpersonal conflict and more satisfaction with their interpersonal communication. Third, this thesis also looks at individuals' perception of cultural diversity. It is suggested that level of cultural diversity plays a moderating role on all of the proposed relationships (effect of cultural intelligence on perception of relationship conflict/ communication satisfaction) This thesis examines the relationship among cultural diversity, cultural intelligence, interpersonal conflict and communication by surveying eleven companies in the oil and gas industry. The multicultural nature of companies within the oil and gas industry and the characteristics of engineering culture call for more in-depth research on interpersonal interactions. A total of 286 invitation emails were sent and 118 respondents replied to the survey, giving a 41.26 per cent response rate. All the respondents were engineers, engineering managers or practical technicians. The average age of the participants was 36.93 years and 58.82 per cent were male. Overall, 47.6 per cent of the respondents had at least a master’s degree. Totally, 42.85 per cent of the respondents were working in a country that was not their country of birth. The overall findings reveal that cultural diversity and cultural intelligence significantly influence interpersonal conflict and communication satisfaction.

Further, this thesis also finds that cultural intelligence is an effective competency for dealing with the perception of interpersonal relationship conflict and communication satisfaction when the level of cultural diversity is moderate to high.

This thesis suggests that cultural intelligence training is necessary to increase the level of this competency among employees in order to help them to have better understanding of other cultures. Human resource management can design these training courses with consideration for the level of cultural diversity within the organization.

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ID Code: 60241
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Price, Robin A. & Sawang, Sukanlaya
Keywords: conflict, cultural intelligence (CQ), diversity, deep level diversity, interpersonal communication satisfaction, relationship conflict, surface level diversity, task conflict
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 May 2013 02:03
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 04:36

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