Dear Gem&L friends and colleagues,

As the holiday season approaches, we hope this message finds you in high spirits.

On the research front, the late autumn and winter have proven to be productive for many colleagues. Please find below the list of the most recent publications.

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Understanding professional migrant women’s successful career progression within the Big Four in Luxembourg

By Helene Langinier, Aline Pereira Pündrich and Akram Al Ariss

Abstract: This paper identifies the resources used by professional migrant women (PMW) from Asian countries, Mauritius and Eastern Europe to succeed in their careers in the context of the Big Four firms in Luxembourg. Our study builds on 39 interviews, 21 of which are with PMW, and the remaining 18 are with leaders working in this field. We draw on the Theory of Practice of Bourdieu to highlight how a population who is a priori discriminated against can rebalance an unfavorable power dynamic through the identification of resources necessary to develop agency in order to succeed in a specific context. Understanding the role of the interplay between local and organizational factors in shaping the power logic that defines career progression provides the opportunity to alter the reproduction of a notoriously elitist field in favor of more diversity.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2023.102174

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Language in international human resource management: Current state of research and future research directions 

By Alfred Presbitero, Fabian Jintae Froese, Vesa Peltokorpi, Markus Pudelko and Helene Tenzer

Abstract: Research on language in international business has grown substantially during the last two decades. However, research that links language to human resource management (HRM) has remained scarce. This is unfortunate because attracting, developing, motivating, and retaining a multilingual workforce is essential for the long-term success of organizations in today’s global business world. The present special issue on language in international HRM contributes to tackling this gap. We provide an overview of the current state of research on language in international HRM and preview the papers in this special issue. Building on and extending current knowledge, we propose future research directions in terms of 1) a nuanced understanding of HRM functions, 2) language as part of multinational diversity management, 3) consideration of different actors and different contexts, 4) robust theorizing at multiple levels, and 5) more diverse methods to capture complex realities of a multilingual workforce.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2023.2274659

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Expatriate-host country national interactions: A bibliometric, thematic, and content analysis review

By Michal Wilczewski and Guro Refsum Sanden

Abstract: This article systematically reviews the literature (197 empirical articles extracted from Scopus) on interactions between expatriates and host country nationals (HCNs), published in 126 journals between 1989-2022. We combined bibliometric analysis with thematic and content analyses to identify the most impactful journals, countries, and authors, as well as to map the thematic structure of the field, explore major research findings, and establish future research directions. Subsequent analyses consistently revealed three major research streams in the field: adjustment, language and communication, and expat-HCN relationships.

Link: https://doi.org/10.5465/AMPROC.2023.18241abstract

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Language as a source of Otherness

By Natalie Victoria Wilmot, Mary Vigier and Kristina Humonen

Abstract:  Language is now firmly on the research agenda for international business and management. However, although attention is now being given to the effects of language on social interactions, rather than purely focusing on language as a matter of strategic priority, there is relatively little known about how language contributes to Othering processes in which employees experience marginalisation and exclusion as a result of evaluations of their linguistic competences. This conceptual paper highlights a number of ways in which linguistic evaluations drive such processes, and particularly draws on postcolonial perspectives in order to explore language as a tool of marginalisation and oppression. We demonstrate that language is closely tied to ideological constructions of the ideal worker, and highlight that English-language competence in particular, is often positioned as an essential skill for managerial roles, which can lead to exclusion of those who do not confirm to this expectation. Additionally, we draw on research which explores language as a key component of social identity, and thus an important factor in the construction of in-groups and out-groups within the workplace, in order to demonstrate not only the influence of context on the salience of language as a marker of identity, but also how language intersects with other identity characteristics in processes of exclusion. We conclude by demonstrating the possibilities to resist Othering in order to create more inclusive workplace environments.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/14705958231216936

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Language in intercultural business interactions: A self-perceived power perspective 

By Maria Ivanova-Congne, Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, Lasse Torkkeli and Maria Elo

Abstract: Intercultural business interaction has received limited scholarly attention in business-to-business (B2B) marketing research, with language and culture particularly being largely neglected topics despite the literature noting their importance in B2B marketing. This study addresses this omission by focusing on how managers make sense of the role of language in intercultural business interactions. We also explore the role of language as a potential source of individual power in international business (IB) relationships. The empirical enquiry focuses on an extreme case of Russians’ intercultural business interactions with Finns or in Finland before the war in Ukraine. The findings show that context and language, as well as translation power dynamics are intertwined, generating an additional level of power dynamics that emerge from the business per se. Language particularly influences self-perceived power in business relationships and can lead to dependence or frustration due to linguistic limitations. The study contributes to research on B2B marketing and IB by highlighting that individual-level exposure to intercultural business interactions entails significant linguistic challenges that cannot be solved only by using English. Specifically, it contributes to addressing the issue of language in use, which has rarely been examined in the literature on intercultural interaction in the B2B environment.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2023.10.004

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Mind your language: An empirical investigation into the role of language in Indian expatriate professionals’ adjustment abroad

By Arup Varma, Akanksha Jaiswal, Vijay Pereira, Parth Patel, Daicy Vaz and Y.L.N. Kumar

Abstract: Expatriates are an integral part of international human resources, enabling multinational corporations (MNCs) to implement and execute strategy. Yet, the issues related to the expatriates’ adjustment to their new environments can negatively affect the ability of MNCs to do business. As the major currency of communication, language is among the most complex issues related to adjustment in a new host country. In this study, we contribute by utilizing social learning and linguistic relativity as two key theoretical lenses to identify and examine the dimensions of expatriate adjustment. To do so, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 Indian expatriates in several countries around the world (English and non-English speaking). Our findings revealed five dimensions including (i) nuances of language (ii) role of language (iii) mechanisms to overcome language issues (iv) support and (v) expatriates’ adjustment. We analysed the data using the Gioia methodology. We discuss our findings’ theoretical and practical implications and offer suggestions for future research.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2023.2275128

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A fifth wheel? Local language skills and work-related outcomes among foreign employees 

By Alexei Koveshnikov, Ingmar Björkman and Perttu Kähäri

Abstract: Drawing on person-job fit theory, we theorize and empirically analyze the effects of host country language skills on two work-related outcomes: workplace social support and perceived overqualification. We further examine how these outcomes are related with job satisfaction. Empirically, we analyze these relationships using data from three sub-studies of foreign academics in the Nordic region. The first is a survey filled in by 496 foreign academics working at 18 universities in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The second is an interview study of 41 foreign academics employed by a large international university in Finland. The third consists of nine interviews across Finland, Sweden, and Norway where we followed up on the analysis of the data from the first two sub-studies. Whilst we use the quantitative dataset to test our hypotheses, our qualitative data allows us to dig deeper into how making investments in local language skills does not necessary lead to positive work-related outcomes as perceived by foreign academics, and what HR implications these perceptions have for international organizations, such as universities. Overall, our findings provide important insights into the complex and contextual nature of host country language skills’ role and effects in international organizations.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2023.2237873

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The effects of language-related misunderstanding at work 

By John Fiset, Davashees P. Bhave and Nilotpal Jha

Abstract: Demographic, technological, and global trends have brought the language used at the workplace to the forefront. A growing body of research reveals that language could result in misunderstanding at work, and influence employees’ performance and attitudinal outcomes. Language at work encompasses standard language (e.g., English) as well as several hybrid forms of language (non-native accents, code-switching, and jargon). We delineate how these forms of language could result in misunderstanding. We then identify relational, affective, and informational mechanisms that underlie the relationship between language-related misunderstanding and employees’ performance and attitudinal outcomes, and highlight key boundary conditions. In doing so, we uncover research gaps and identify areas for future research. We conclude with implications for theory as well as for practitioners to navigate language-related misunderstanding at work.

Link: https:/doi.org/10.1177/0149206323118165

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Language, migrants and internationalization of small-and medium-sized enterprises: A literature review 

By Johanna Niskavaara and Rebecca Piekkari

Abstract: In this chapter, we review previous research on migrants, language, and firm internationalization from the perspective of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We undertake an interdisciplinary review of 59 publications in the fields of International Business, International Entrepreneurship, Industrial Marketing and Purchasing, and Economics that have been published between 1968 and 2019. Our review shows that previous research has seldom addressed these topics simultaneously. We find that language skills—or the lack thereof—significantly affect the internationalization of SMEs. In particular, the native language proficiency and cultural knowledge of migrants may play a key role in encouraging SMEs to target migrants’ country of origin in their internationalization. We conceptualize native languages of migrants as a resource for SME internationalization. Since many societies today are destinations for increasing migration, these incoming talents could assist SMEs in achieving their targets for international growth.

Link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-38886-6_5

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Corporate language policy and its implementation in Asia-Pacific businesses 

By Anna J.C. Hsu and Kevin Au

Abstract: To facilitate cross-border communication within the multinationals, corporate language policy or language standardization has been transferred from the West to the East. Given that English is regarded as a lingua franca in international business, adopting English as a common corporate language (CCL) has become a de facto policy of multinational corporations (MNCs) regardless of company origin or headquarter location. However, such “one language fits all” policy may not be applicable to Asia-Pacific business. First, solely using English is not always meaningful in the Asia-Pacific because Asians tend to build close interpersonal relationships and emphasize the long-term guanxi development with the local institutions and communities by speaking the local languages. Second, adopting English as the CCL has substantially different strategic meanings for Asia-Pacific MNCs because it is an essential way to overcome “liability of Asianness” and to attract global talent. With different functions and meanings, corporate language policy for MNCs in the Asia-Pacific should be a “product of deliberate choice.” With an attempt to address the complexity of corporate language policy in Asia-Pacific business, this chapter first reviews existing literature, which the authors regard as taking the competence-based view. This perspective has paid exclusive attention to language competence and language-sensitive human resource activities at non-English speaking subsidiaries because it is suggested it solves communication problems by improving the linguistic competence of employees. To enrich current understanding beyond competence, the authors advocate a legitimacy-based view to explain employees’ responses to corporate language policy. This alternative perspective provides novel insights and imperative implications into how MNCs in this region can leverage language as resources and devise inclusive corporate language policies.

Link: https://doi.org/10.4337/9781802202250.00025

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Language and communication in international students’ adaptation: a bibliometric and content analysis review

By Michal Wilczewski and Ilan Alon

Abstract: This article systematically reviews the literature (313 articles) on language and communication in international students’ cross-cultural adaptation in institutions of higher education for 1994–2021. We used bibliometric analysis to identify the most impactful journals and articles, and the intellectual structure of the field. We used content analysis to synthesize the results within each research stream and suggest future research directions. We established two major research streams: second-language proficiency and interactions in the host country. We found inconclusive results about the role of communication with co-nationals in students’ adaptation, which contradicts the major adaptation theories. New contextualized research and the use of other theories could help explain the contradictory results and develop the existing theories. Our review suggests the need to theoretically refine the interrelationships between the interactional variables and different adaptation domains. Moreover, to create a better fit between the empirical data and the adaptation models, research should test the mediating effects of second-language proficiency and the willingness to communicate with locals. Finally, research should focus on students in non-Anglophone countries and explore the effects of remote communication in online learning on students’ adaptation. We document the intellectual structure of the research on the role of language and communication in international students’ adaptation and suggest a future research agenda.

Link: 10.1007/s10734-022-00888-8

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Finally, here’s a paper on gendered language:

The gendering of job postings in the online recruitment process 

By Emilio J. Castilla and Hye Jin Rho

Abstract: Gender segregation remains a significant problem in many occupations and organizations. To solve this problem, many U.S. employers now seek to craft gender-neutral job postings. In this article, we investigate whether such employer recruitment efforts are successful in encouraging women and men to apply equally for jobs. Specifically, we move beyond the well-studied effects of the gender typing of occupations, organizations, and industries to study the extent to which the recruiting language used in job postings influences the actual preapplication behavior of job seekers of different genders. Using unique data from both a large-sample observational field study (Study 1) and a field experiment study (Study 2) of real online job postings, we first assess the gendered language mechanism by testing whether stereotypical femininity in the wording that recruiters use to advertise otherwise identical jobs differently influences female and male job seekers’ interest in applying. We then assess the recruiter gendering mechanism by testing whether the gender of the recruiter and the femininity in the wording recruiters use when presenting themselves to job seekers further contribute to gender job search disparities. Our analyses ultimately show negligible effects for both the gendering of job postings or of the job poster, and we therefore conclude that, in practice, employers’ efforts to simply tweak the language of recruitment messages do not matter much for gender equality and diversity.

Linkhttps://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2023.4674

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If we have inadvertently missed any noteworthy work, kindly reach out to us. We are always eager to facilitate the sharing and dissemination of research, events and ideas within our community.

Wishing each of you a restful and enjoyable break, and a joyous New Year! May all your research endeavours flourish in 2024. 🎉

Warm regards,

Kristina Humonen (on behalf of Gem&L)