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The multicultural workplace: interactive acculturation and intergroup relations

The multicultural workplace: interactive acculturation and intergroup relations

This is the case when both groups prefer assimilation, or when both groups prefer integration. Next, problematic relational outcomes emerge when acculturation orientations of the two groups are partially in conflict (i.e. Bourhis et al. refer to this as partial disconcordance). For example, this would be the case when one group prefers integration, whereas the other group prefers assimilation. As such, the two groups would share similar acculturation orientations on one dimension (e.g. culture adaptation) but not on the other dimension (e.g. culture maintenance). Finally, conflictual relational outcomes are predicted when the host community group and the immigrant group are in full disagreement as regards to their acculturation orientations (Bourhis et al. refer to this as full disconcordance). For example, one group prefers assimilation, whereas the other group prefers marginalization. As such, the two groups would share disagreement on both dimensions of culture adaptation and culture maintenance.

Bourhis et al. (1997) proposed that the quality of intergroup relations on a social-psychological level includes verbal and non-verbal cross-cultural communications; interethnic attitudes and stereotypes, intergroup tension, acculturative stress, and discrimination. Furthermore, consensual, problematic, and conflictual relations should not be interpreted as three distinct clusters of relational outcomes, but rather as a single continuum ranging from consensual to conflictual relations.

In line with the IAM, a study of Jasinskaja-Lahti et al. (2003) demonstrated that immigrants who differed in their acculturation orientations from the host population experienced either more discrimination or more stress than immigrants with more concordant acculturation orientations. Similarly, Zagefka and Brown (2002) showed in their study that a mismatch in preferred acculturation orientations between hosts and immigrants increased the perception of in-group bias and discrimination while decreasing the quality of intergroup relations for both groups.

The role of intergroup contact and group vitality. The definition of acculturation states that sustained first hand contact is required for consequences of acculturation to occur (Redfield et al., 1936). An extensive review of Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) demonstrated that intergroup contact reduced feelings of prejudice and led to more consensual intergroup relations. Hence, intergroup contact is likely to positively moderate the negative relationship between disconcordance in acculturation orientations and intergroup work-relations.

In addition, the host community group usually enjoys what Bourhis et al. (1997, 2009) referred to as a “strong vitality position,” whereas immigrant groups often have a “weak vitality position.” Group vitality is defined as that what makes the group likely to act as a collective entity within a particular context (Giles et al., 1977). Several factors such as demographics (i.e. the number of people belonging to the same ethnic group), institutional control (i.e. whether groups gain representation in decision making levels) and status (i.e. sociohistorical status and prestige) contribute to the relative strength and vitality of ethnic groups. As a consequence, immigrant groups often experience pressure to adapt to the cultural values of the host community group. As a result, immigrant groups may be more prone to experiencing poorer intergroup relations as a consequence of disconcordance in acculturation orientations compared to the host community group.

1.2. The present study Interactive acculturation in the workplace. In this study, we applied the IAM of Bourhis et al. (1997) to the workplace to examine if disconcordance in acculturation orientations

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impact the quality of intergroup work-relations. We specifically focussed on acculturation orientations of host community (Dutch) workers versus immigrant workers from “non-western cultures.” Cultural values between Dutch workers and non-western immigrant workers are likely to be higher compared to immigrants who originated from western cultures (Hofstede, 1984).

Furthermore, we examined “blue collar workers” for two reasons. Non-western immigrant groups are overrepresented in blue-collar jobs in The Netherlands (CBS, 2007), but at the same time this group is underrepresented in organizational research (Peeters and Oerlemans, 2009). Second, selection procedures at higher levels in organizations often suffer from “cultural bias” (van de Vijver and Tanzer, 2003). Cultural bias stimulates the recruitment of personnel that is culturally similar to the dominant (host community) group. As such, this would reduce the probability of finding differences in acculturation orientations between the two cultural groups.

Hypotheses. Non-western immigrant groups in The Netherlands usually prefer integration above assimilation, whereas segregation and marginalization are the least preferred acculturation orientations. The Dutch usually prefer immigrants to assimilate towards the Dutch culture, followed by integration, while segregation and marginalization are least preferred (Arends-Tóth and van de Vijver, 2003, 2004; Ouarasse and van de Vijver, 2005). Therefore, we first hypothesized that:

H1. Assimilation is the preferred acculturation orientation of Dutch workers, followed by integration, while separation and marginalization are the least preferred acculturation orientations.

H2. Integration is the preferred acculturation orientation of non-western immigrant workers, followed by assimilation, while separation and marginalization are the least preferred acculturation orientations.

In this study, we conceptualized disconcordance in acculturation orientations in two ways. First, we examined disconcordance on a location level by examining variations in acculturation orientations between the group of non-western immigrant workers and the group of Dutch workers across four locations of one organization. Second, we examined disconcordance on a relational level by comparing acculturation orientations of individual workers to their out-group (i.e. host community or immigrant group) at the same locations. Based on the IAM model of Bourhis et al. (1997), we hypothesized that:

H3. Disconcordance in preferred acculturation orientations between the host community group and the non-western immigrant group results in a poorer quality of intergroup work-relations on a location level.

H4. The higher the degree of disconcordance in preferred acculturation orientations between individual workers compared to their out-group (i.e. host community or immigrant group) at the same location, the poorer the intergroup work-relations as perceived by individual workers.

Furthermore, we examined whether intergroup contact would moderate the relationship between disconcordance in preferred acculturation orientations and intergroup work-relations. The organizational context usually provides important conditions, e.g. striving towards common goals, intergroup cooperation – for optimal outcomes of intergroup contact to occur (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew and Tropp, 2006).

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As a consequence, disconcordance in acculturation orientations may relate less strongly to poorer intergroup work-relations under conditions of high intergroup contact between host community and immigrant workers. Therefore, we hypothesized that:

H5. The negative relationship between disconcordance in acculturation orientations and intergroup work-relations is positively moderated by the frequency of intergroup contact.

Finally, host-community workers in this sample had a stronger vitality position compared to immigrant workers. For instance, host community workers had a higher organizational tenure, were in the numerical majority, and were overrepresented in higher functional levels compared to immigrant workers. Based on this discrepancy in vitality positions, we expected that immigrant workers would be more prone to experiencing poorer intergroup work-relations as a consequence of disconcordance in acculturation orientations compared to host community workers. To our knowledge, there are no studies that tested such a hypothesis before. Therefore, we formulated the explorative question that:

Explorative question 1. Do immigrant workers experience poorer intergroup work-relations compared to host community workers as a consequence of disconcordance in acculturation orientations?

2. Method Sample and procedure The data were collected in a postal service company in The Netherlands. The company had no specific information about the cultural diversity of their workforce. Based on information provided by location managers about the degree of cultural diversity within their locations, we selected four locations that were to some degree multicultural. Participants filled out a paper and pencil questionnaire during a break from work. Questionnaires were not translated into other languages based on the fact that translation itself can also diffuse interpretations (van Oudenhoven, 2002). Research assistants were present at each location, and emphasized that answers would be treated confidentially by university researchers. The research assistants visited the four locations during multiple days, allowing participants to take their time and fill out the questionnaire.

The response rate within each location was 50 percent (n ¼ 25), 58 percent (n ¼ 29), 27 percent (n ¼ 54), and 38 percent (n ¼ 82). The sample consisted out of 49 non-western immigrant workers and 141 Dutch workers. The Central Bureau of Statistics (2007) in The Netherlands identifies persons as non-western immigrants when a person originated from countries in Africa, South America, Asia, or Turkey. About 43 percent of the non-western workers had a Surinamese, 23 percent an Indonesian, 16 percent a Turkish, and 14 percent a Moroccan background. Furthermore, 78 percent were “first generation,” and 22 percent were “second generation” immigrants. First generation immigrants are born in the respective countries of origin, whereas second generation immigrants are born in The Netherlands, but one or both parents were born in non-western countries.

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