A chorus of different tongues: Official corporate language fluency and informal influence in multinational teams

Felipe A. Guzman & B. Sebastian Reiche

Organizational Behavoir and Human Decision Processes 182 (2024) 104334



Multinational team members commonly face challenges to influence their peers to attain shared work goals in a
language different from their mother tongue. However, the mechanisms linking multinational team members’
official corporate language fluency and their displays of informal influence are not well understood. Drawing
from status characteristics theory, we propose that peer-granted status mediates the relationship between fluency
in the official corporate language and informal influence. We tested this prediction across two field studies and
two experiments utilizing three different operationalizations of informal influence: voice behavior, voice quality,
and leadership emergence. Overall, we demonstrate that members fluent in the official corporate language
receive higher peer-granted status than their less fluent peers, and this relationship is stronger in teams whose
members primarily converse in a common non-corporate language. In turn, high-status members engage in voice
more frequently, and are more likely to convey voice quality and emerge as leaders.