Dear GEM&L Colleagues and Friends, 

We are excited to share with you below a selection of recent publications by our members. 

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Language as a Source of Epistemic Injustice in Organisations

Journal of Business Ethics 

By Natalie Wilmot 

Abstract: Although there is now a substantial body of literature exploring the effects of language diversity in international management contexts, little attention has been paid to the ethical dimensions of language diversity at work. This conceptual paper draws on the concept of epistemic injustice in order to explore how language, and in particular corporate language policies, may act as a source of epistemic injustice within the workplace. It demonstrates how language competence affects credibility judgements about a speaker, and also considers how corporate language policies can create situations of hermeneutic injustice, in which marginalised groups are denied the vocabularies to understand their own experiences. Finally, ways in which such epistemic harms can be reduced are discussed, and the possibilities for management education to create epistemically responsible managers are highlighted.

Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-024-05644-9

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French and language ideologies in a multilingual European Union institution: Re-constructing the meaning of language choice at work 

International Journal of Cross Cultural Management 

By Veronika Lovrits, Hélène Langinier and Sabine Ehrhart 

Abstract: This qualitative study investigates stances in reflective interviews to identify cultural patterns that shape the meaning of language choice within an international unit of an EU institution in Luxembourg. We employ the analytical concept of “language cringe” and propose a complementary concept, “language push,” to showcase the effects and reproduction of language ideologies in day-to-day talk about languages at work. Our analysis reveals that, within a workplace culture that encourages flexible and convivial use of multiple languages, French speakers have to deal with the effects of the “logic of honour,” which is culturally associated with the use of French in France. Based on our findings, we suggest that language choice should be considered a cross cultural dimension in multilingual environments, and that language-sensitive management scholarship should broaden its considerations beyond the traditional issues of language proficiency, namely by inspecting relational and affective factors that shape language use in multilingual workplaces.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/14705958241237 

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Exploring the language choice dilemma of international small firms: A social exchange perspective on English-only versus multilingualism

International Business Review 

By Sazzad Talukder and Wilmelm Barner-Rasmussen

Abstract: In international business, firm-level language choices are important questions that require scarce organizational resources to deal with external stakeholders’ diverse preferences. While language choices have a major impact on the success and survival of SMEs, current knowledge of these choices is mainly based on data from MNEs, which constitutes a research gap. We help address this gap by exploring from a social exchange perspective why and how decision-makers in international small firms choose between “English-only” and “multilingual” approaches to language. We find that when evaluating the cost and benefits of these alternatives, decision-makers aim for high levels of both external and internal resource sharing. However, external language diversity and limited internal availability of relevant language competencies force them into difficult trade-offs.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2024.102257

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Language and identity: The dynamics of linguistic clustering in multinational enterprises

Journal of World Business

By Komal Kalra and Wade Danis

Abstract: Research on language diversity in international business has shown that language is a core element of one’s social identity and employees in MNEs often form homophily-based clusters with those who share their native language. Such clusters can significantly influence communication and knowledge sharing processes within MNEs. However, research assumes that language-based clusters are monolithic in nature. In this study of two MNE headquarters in India, we develop a model to depict the dynamic processes by which language intersects with other salient identity attributes such as gender, regional dialects, and education to change the composition of language-based clusters and alter group dynamics and organizational processes.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2024.101541

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Language-based discrimination in multilingual organizations: A comparative study of migrant professionals’ experiences across physical and virtual spaces

Journal of World Business

By Hilla Back and Rebecca Piekkari

Abstract: We compare migrant professionals’ experiences of language-based discrimination across physical and virtual spaces. The minority status of these professionals stems from their foreign origin and lack of proficiency in the local language of their new country of residence. We conducted a case study of a multinational corporation after a shift to remote work triggered by COVID-19. Our findings indicate that while language-based discrimination takes more interpersonal and overt forms in physical spaces, it becomes more organizational and subtle in virtual spaces. We shed light on how technology dependency and dispersion affect the forms and experiences of language-based discrimination in different spaces. Our contribution lies in defining language-based discrimination as a construct of modern discrimination, which has received scant attention in previous research.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2024.101518

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What do you mean? Linguistic sensitivity and relational reflexivity in scholarly writing

Organization

By Iga Maria Lehman and Janne Tienari

Abstract: We argue that privileged forms of scholarly writing in the English language perpetuate inequalities in academia. While writing and language, on the one hand, and marginalization and exclusion, on the other, are subject to critique, we propose that these are considered together as interrelated elements of an unequal academic system. We call for linguistic sensitivity to challenge the systemic inequalities that condition our writing in English and discuss this by elaborating what relationally reflexive writing can mean in organization studies. We highlight the Polish and Finnish linguistic positions from which we speak and confront hegemonic rhetorical conventions in the English language to argue for more dialogical and inclusive forms of scholarly writing.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/13505084241233956

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What we inherit and what we create. Making the case for an interpretive approach to societal cultures

International Journal of Cross Cultural Management

By Sylvie Chevrier

Abstract: To deal with the omnipresence of otherness in today’s culturally-complex world, Cross-Cultural Management (CCM) investigates the interrelations between culture and management. The most recent research denaturalizes culture to emphasize the construction of otherness as an instrument of power plays. Thus, it refutes the very possibility of vast national cultures, given the cultural diversity found in modern societies. This conceptual article revisits the notion of culture and provides a definition that makes it possible to grasp both what is inherited and what is created in ‘otherness’. It draws upon an interpretive approach to culture which, although still overlooked in English-language research on CCM, has for several decades been developed in France. The socalled Gestion & Societ´ e approach posits that the root causes of otherness lie in the diversity of culturally- ´ shared major fears and ideal ways of living together to counteract them. This approach breaks new ground by emphasizing the inherited cultural references underlying the individuals’ sense-making and by acknowledging the individual agency of the stakeholders who use these references to create new intercultural arrangements in cross-cultural encounters at work. A language metaphor is used to show how the inherited part of culture and the part that is created are articulated. Examples of empirical findings illustrate the benefits of this approach to overcome the critical effects of otherness. The value of its contribution to the understanding of otherness is assessed in comparison with other interpretive approaches, and avenues for future research are discussed.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/14705958241227774

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Managing legitimacy in a cross-border post-merger integration context: the role of language strategies

The International Journal of Human Resource Management

By Ashish Malik, Paresha Sinha, Pawan Budhwar and Vijay Pereira

Abstract: This paper develops a conceptual framework of language strategies in the cross-border post-merger and acquisition (M&A) context as firms seek legitimacy for integration from their internal stakeholders. We contribute by developing a framework for advancing the debate that cross-border bidder firms employ rationalistic and nationalistic rationales to legitimise their M&A choices, including the role of language, which is an embodiment of culture to help create synergies in a post-merger integration (PMI) context. Based on our review of social identity, legitimacy, and strategic integration literature, our conceptual model outlines language strategies to achieve the twin goals of PMI and legitimising their choices. We offer a critical review of the approaches used in cross-border PMI and integrate the role of language in gaining legitimacy for the internal stakeholders, such as its impact on employees and managers. From an international human resource management perspective, we highlight the importance of language strategies for each of the four integration scenarios for the bidder and target firm employees and managers, primarily when neither the target nor the bidder firm uses English as their native language. Finally, we develop propositions to advance future research in this area. The role of international language training and other approaches is also highlighted.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2023.2237878

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The language barrier as a springboard towards (team) creativity: An exploratory study of foreign language use in teams

International Business Review 

By Anja Loderer, Katrin Muehlfeld,  Robert Wilken, Alexandra Moritz, and Veronique Slomski

Abstract: Prior research shows that in multilingual teams, using a foreign language may adversely affect various work processes and outcomes, resulting in a language barrier. Using a qualitative interview-study approach, this study explores whether such barrier effects of foreign language use (FLU) also apply to team creative processes. The results show that FLU-induced barrier effects may extend to team creative processes and can hinder them—especially if language skills are lacking—due to reduced comprehension, increased workload and complexity, and foreign language anxiety. In addition, extending prior research, this study documents unexpected positive springboard effects of FLU on team creative processes. At the individual level, FLU may prompt linguistic detours, multiplicity of meanings, and alternative (e.g., acoustic, visual) associations. At the team level, spillover effects from the language domain may effectuate a generally more error-tolerant and less timepressured team environment. Overall, this study enriches literature on language in international business by uncovering counterintuitive springboard effects of FLU and by integrating it with literature on collective creativity. It adds to research on collective creativity by advancing FLU—a characteristic central to international business—as a boundary condition of team-level creative synthesis, thereby illustrating the potential for crossfertilization of these largely separate research fields. Finally, we highlight implications for international business practice.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2023.102247

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Bridging the Boundaries of Corporate Language Competence in Multinational Teams

Business and Professional Communication Quarterly

By Maria-Luisa Weinzierl

Abstract: Few studies to date examined the emotional unrest that results from communication across cultures in multinational teams (MNTs). Through examination of 12 in-depth interviews and a focus group of respondents from MNTs, this study investigates the impact of language-induced emotions in MNTs resulting from a corporate language mandate. Even with highly proficient linguists, MNTs still experience collaborative difficulties caused by language differences and associated emotions. Issues identified include loss of information, ambiguity over equivalence of meaning, variability in sociolinguistic competence, and problems of adjustment to cultural norms. The research also pinpointed several lingua-culturally adaptive behavioral strategies relating to international leadership.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/232949062312211

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And finally, here’s an upcoming book that may be of interest to some of you:

“Homo Anthropologicus” – a humanistic management perspective

Edward Elgar Publishing

By Jean-François Chanlat

Review by  Prof. Christoph Barmeyer: Homo Anthropologicus is an extraordinary exploration of the multifaceted dimensions of management and its deep-rooted connections to the human experience. Jean François Chanlat’s anthropological perspective illuminates the historical and cultural context that birthed contemporary management. Chanlat skilfully navigates the tapestry of human existence within organizations and urges a re-evaluation of prevailing management paradigms. The book encourages critical self-reflection and serves as an indispensable guide to a humanistic and ethical approach to organizational life.’

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Congratulations to all authors! It’s great to see language-sensitive research thriving! 

As always, if we have missed any work or if you have a new publication, upcoming event to announce, or ideas to share, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Any contributions that enrich our community are highly valued. 

Warm regards, 

Kristina Humonen (on behalf of Gem&L)