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Review of  The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working

Reviewer: Anna Marie Trester
Book Title: The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working
Book Author: Manuela Guilherme Evelyne Glaser María del Carmen Méndez-García
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 22.1971

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EDITORS: Guilherme, Manuela, Evelyne Glaser, and María del Carmen Méndez-García
TITLE: The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working
SERIES TITLE: Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education
PUBLISHERS: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2010


This edited volume explores the intercultural context of today's workplace,
based on insights from the Intercultural Competence for Professional Mobility
Project (ICOPROMO). The project involves an ''open-weave of dialogue, critique,
and activism between academics, educators and trainers'' (67), and the volume
walks the reader through it in three sections. Part I provides a theoretical
backdrop and a review of the research that inspired and guided the project, Part
II identifies eight themes ''for professional development and scientific research
on intercultural cooperation'' (244), and Part III features ''on the ground''
experiences with ICOPROMO training models from multicultural training
practitioners across Europe.

Part II, engaging a balance of theory and practice along the eight axes of the
ICOPROMO project (Biography, Ethnography, Diversity Management, Emotional
Management, Intercultural Communication, Intercultural Interaction,
Communicative Interaction, Intercultural Responsibility and Working in
Multicultural Teams), is the real core of the volume. The editors intend for the
book to be a call to action, and a call to do more and learn more. According to
the authors, becoming interculturally competent is a goal that can ''probably
never be fully achieved. It is a process of continuous transformation that,
ideally, never ends'' (244).

In Chapter 1, ''Intercultural Conflict in Interaction Competence: From Theory to
Practice,'' Stella Ting-Toomey provides a comprehensive review of the
Intercultural (IC) conflict competence and IC adjustment training literature, by
comparing different models by how they evaluate the competency of an IC trainer.
For example, one model (called the integrative-threat theory) focuses on the
facilitator's honesty about their own mental files and biased assumptions about
the trainees and about his or her methods, while a different approach (the
conflict-face negotiation theory) considers how honoring face in the training
room leads to greater trust and facilitates openness.

In Chapter 2, ''National Occupational Standards in Intercultural Working: Models
of Theory and Assessment,'' authors Anne Davidson Lund and John P. O' Regan
describe the National Occupational Standards in the Intercultural Working (NOSIW
or NOS) project in the UK. They provide an extensive historical background,
including an overview of 16 models of assessment, with focus on the
Intercultural Assessment (INCA) Project. Although deemed ''too academic'' by
business practitioners, INCA elaborates six valuable dimensions which seem to
resonate with linguistic training: 1) Tolerance for Ambiguity, 2) Behavioral
flexibility, 3) Communicative Awareness, 4) Knowledge Discovery, 5) Respect for
Otherness, and 6) Empathy. These would seem to be the mark of any useful
training to help participants become capable of ''being aware of, appreciating
and working productively with cultural assumptions, environments, and attitudes
different from their own'' (43). The authors end with a call for more research
into the cultural demography of national workforces and more sophisticated tools
for universalized intercultural assessment.

Chapter 3, ''Training and Intercultural Education: The Danger in 'Good
Citizenship','' written by Alison Phipps, is refreshingly honest and faces
intercultural training at its worst, when it has the potential to do harm, and
when it reinforces prejudices, advocates stereotypes, and serves as a vehicle
for dehumanizing processes of 'othering,' or ascribing identity to social groups
by highlighting and reinforcing difference and distance. Phipps challenges her
readers to recognize that cultural dialogue is difficult, challenging, and not
bounded by the classroom, thus calling for intercultural training that better
prepares participants for the ''mess and struggle of dialogue, human trust, [and]
subtleties of context-based understanding'' (65) rather than approaches that get
lost in the measurement of outcomes.

Chapter 4, entitled ''Intercultural Responsibility: Power and Ethics in
Intercultural Dialogue and Interaction,'' by Manuela Guilherme, Clara Keating,
and Daniel Hoppe, explores intercultural responsibility, arguing that it
involves cultivating ''full and reciprocally demanding'' personal and professional
relationships among members of different ethnic groups. Requiring collaboration
in a ''sound and committed manner,'' intercultural responsibility goes beyond
intercultural competence or simply being able to ''communicate appropriately and
effectively across cultures'' (79). Co-workers should expect ''no more and no
less'' of each other than what they would expect of themselves or any colleague,
regardless of background. 'Black is Not White,' the sample ICOPROMO activity
described, focuses on identity construction and aspects of identity that get
erased because of binaries of thought.

In Chapter 5, ''Emotional Management: Expressing, Interpreting, and Making
Meaning of Feelings in Multicultural Teams,'' author Alexandra Karr addresses the
affective (making sense of team members' emotions and feelings) level of
intercultural interactions. As she explains, when working in multicultural
teams, the perception of difference may trigger emotional reactions, especially
at the beginning stages of team formation. Furthermore, the display of emotion
tends to be culturally determined, which may increase a sense of distance or
alienation. As such, the author suggests the need for developing intercultural
emotion perception skills and ''an awareness of when it is appropriate to show
particular emotions openly'' (99). The ''Why Do I Trust You?'' ICOPROMO activity
provides insight into how emotions feed into trust and cultivates the practice
of recognizing emotions, understanding their causes, and managing their
expression with 'Emotional Intelligence' in multicultural settings.

In Chapter 6, ''Intercultural Interaction: A Sense-Making Approach,'' authors
Terence Mughan and Greg O'Shea engage the topic of interaction through 'sense
making,' an organizational theory located in ''experiences and interaction and
the individual's responses to unexpected stimuli or incomprehensible events''
(111). While they identify communication as being of central importance in
showing how situations, organizations, and environments get talked into being,
and point to the role of language in framing or constructing hypothetical mental
models, they provide little analysis of communication in their case study of the
1994 purchase of Rover by BMW. Instead, the bulk of the chapter details the
social, political, and organizational background of the failed merger,
apparently from a business/human resources paradigm. In considering culture and
language as interactional factors alongside elements such as strategy,
leadership, politics, or personality in their training activity, the authors
contend that intercultural actions are never simply intercultural, and that
there are a range of other stimuli, constraints and imperatives which must
always be taken into account (118).

In Chapter 7, ''Communicative Interaction: Intercultural Verbal and Nonverbal
Interaction,'' María Luisa Pérez Cañado and María del Carmen Méndez García draw
attention to linguistic differences across cultures in the areas of, for
example, talk vs. silence, topic management and turn-taking, and direct vs.
indirect styles. Additionally, they call attention to understudied non-verbal
aspects of communication that they identify as being important, including
Kinesics (facial, bodily, and gestural movement), Oculesics (eye contact),
Vocalics (vocalic behavior related to accent, pitch, volume, tempo etc.),
Haptics (norms around physical contact and touch), Proxemics (interpersonal
spatial boundary regulation), and Chronemics (the understanding and
interpretation of time). By introducing all of these factors, and through a
description of ICOPROMO activities, the authors achieve their objective of
raising awareness of communication, including asking participants to prepare a
presentation about human communicative interaction while imagining an alien
audience that uses telepathy to communicate. For this activity, students are
asked to observe communicative interaction in public places for 30 minutes and
write down all of the relevant aspects in a notebook. The ideas raised in this
chapter would be enriched by inclusion of some of the interactional
sociolinguistic literature that is positioned to offer examples of accessible
yet challenging application of these concepts in intercultural exchanges (c.f.
Gumperz 1982, Scollon and Scollon 2003, and Tannen 2005 [1984]).

In Chapter 8, ''Ethnography: The Use of Observation and Action Research for
Intercultural Learning,'' author Katalin Illes gives a useful review of
ethnographic studies done in the business setting from an etic (outsider's)
perspective. Exemplifying this position as an outsider to the social science
research tradition, she reflects on presuppositions made by so called
'naturalistic' approaches, exploring the interpolation of method and methodology
in ethnography. This is refreshing, as this approach is seldom adopted from
within the disciplines of anthropology or linguistics. Concluding that ''it is
rather difficult to give a practical feel for ethnography in the classroom''
(142), the given activities ('The Risks we Take' and 'Making Decisions') focus
more on personality types.

In Chapter 9, ''Biography: The Role of Experience in Intercultural Learning,''
María del Carmen Méndez García and María Luisa Pérez Cañado argue that before an
individual can engage with ''otherness,'' (an understanding of cultures that are
not one's native culture) he or she must begin with a critical exploration of
the self. The authors compellingly engage with the literature on narrative
identity, locating their work within a theoretically informed conceptualization
of identity creation. By critically engaging with the taken-for-granted aspects
of culture, this chapter sheds light on the central role of individual biography
in intercultural encounters. The ''My Biography'' activity is designed to raise
awareness of the ''glasses'' that we wear, which are ''manufactured'' by experiences
in our first culture, and how these are ''ornamented'' by individual experiences,
which, crucially, filter our perception of reality (152).

In Chapter 10, ''Diversity Management: Negotiating Representations in
Multicultural Contexts,'' authors Clara Keating, Manuela Guilherme, and Daniel
Hopper adopt a ''critically creative mindset'' in exploring concepts like
'diversity' at the personal, interactional, and institutional levels. The
authors call for a ''different kind of education,'' one that creates ''spaces of
multicultural intersubjectivity,'' and gives emphasis to ''partiality,
uncertainty, exclusion, or difference'' (174). To illuminate the ideological work
that comes up in 'managing diversity,' and what is made visible and what is
erased in this context, the 'Cultural Layers,' activity visually conceptualizes
the ''living, changing interactive space that requires constant adaptation and
reframing from its participants'' (183). The authors conclude by calling for
activities that further develop ''critical awareness of language, languages, and
the semiotic representations at play in individual, group, and institutional
interaction'' (169).

In Chapter 11, ''Working in Multicultural Teams,'' Evelyne Glaser shows how
diversity manifests itself in multicultural teams in ''different communication
and working styles, different ways of problem solving and different preferences
for conflict resolution'' (186). This last chapter in Part II unites all of the
aspects of the ICOPROMO project. As the author explains, to work in a
multicultural team, members need to be self-reflective (Biography Ch. 9), keen
objective observers (Ethnography Ch. 8), and effective communicators
(Communicative Interaction Ch. 7). At the personal level, they need to be in
control of their emotions (Emotional Management Ch. 5), at the interpersonal
level, they need to be able to interact successfully with people from different
cultures (Intercultural Interaction Ch. 6), and at the institutional level, they
need to be thinking critically about diversity (Managing Diversity, Ch. 10).
Finally, they need to have an approach that is socially responsible
(Intercultural Responsibility, Ch. 4). Glaser ends by describing the ICOPROMO
activity Chapter 4 entitled ''Intercultural Responsibility: Power and Ethics in
Intercultural Dialogue and Interaction'' by Manuela Guilherme, Clara Keating,
and Daniel Hoppe, explores intercultural responsibility, arguing that it
involves cultivating ''full and reciprocally demanding'' personal and professional
relationships among members of different ethnic groups. Requiring collaboration
in a ''sound and committed manner,'' intercultural responsibility goes beyond
intercultural competence or simply being able to ''communicate appropriately and
effectively across cultures'' (79). Co-workers should expect ''no more and no
less'' of each other than what they would expect of themselves or any colleague,
regardless of background. 'Black is Not White,' the sample ICOPROMO activity
described, focuses on identity construction and aspects of identity that get
erased because of binaries of thought. 'Tension in Teams,' drawn from a
collection of reflective essays written in English by American and Austrian
university students over the course of a multicultural team project, which argue
compellingly for the importance of skills-building and reflection in this arena.

PART III: Voices from the ''Real'' World
In Chapter 12, ''Intercultural Relations at the Workplace,'' authors Guenther
Zoels and Thomas Silbermeyr consider the results of interviews and
questionnaires conducted with employees in the field of plant engineering and
construction in the UK, US, France and China, when interacting with their
Austrian colleagues. Their research uncovers many understudied aspects of social
interaction well worthy of further linguistic attention, such as the ways that
Russian businessmen exploit their awareness of the German relationship to time
in forcing decision making, the unconscious ways that native speakers of English
may dominate teams, and behaviors surrounding mistakes that promote silence.

In Chapter 13, ''Sharing Reflections on Intercultural Learning,'' Isabel Ferreira
Martins describes her experiences with the 'Entreculturas' project in Portugal
launched by the Ministry of Education. She maintains that intercultural learning
should involve a perspective change and a paradigm shift, arguing that
''intercultural education and training addresses, respects, and challenges
society as a whole. It is not a minorities', immigrants', or any other specific
group of professionals' problem'' (217). This chapter also features a very useful
review of the adult learning literature, including a list of personal skills
required for dealing with adult learners. For example, the author states that
facilitators must do work to elicit participants' experiences, actively listen
in order to deconstruct and decode unexpected and contradictory information, and
be prepared to deal with anxiety, stress, and frustration while always working
to cultivate an environment of respect and trust.

In Chapter 14, ''Intercultural Education in International Management,'' Anneli
Kansanen and Leena Voohlonen describe an evaluation conducted of the ICOPROMO
learning activities and other material, suggesting practical limitations and
solutions. They claim that activities need to be based on real-life situations
and phenomena, with interesting and descriptive names to the activities that
suggest their relevance. Additionally, they feel that more training should be
conducted in web-based, virtual learning environments. Genre-based social media
seem to be particularly desirable, for example, blogs, wikis, and 'Facebook.'
Given that participants in training are often well-educated, multilingual, and
already working in multicultural environments, the authors suggest that learning
activities must be designed to attract interest and motivate involvement in
something that might at first glance seem trivial to someone under all of the
pressures that a manager faces.


Informed by both practice and theory, and indeed serving as a model for how one
necessarily must feed the other, this volume is timely and deeply important. Its
real strength is its ability to view intercultural training work in and of
itself as an intercultural encounter among the practices of training and
education, various academic disciplines, the fields of academia and business,
and the worlds of theory and practice. Unfortunately, some contributors engage
this dialectic more compellingly than others, and in places, the book fails to
live up to the promise of the radical stance that the editors adopt in
advocating for ''an ontological and epistemological shift whereby we look for the
Other in ourselves'' (3). At moments, authors make statements like Asian cultures
''live by the principle of saving face'' (210), which begs further illumination
(c.f. Yuling Pan 2000), or they conceptualize cultures to binaries of ''high
context'' or ''low context'' or even reduce cultural interaction to a list of ''do's
and don'ts.'' At one point, the volume even serves to perpetuate the oft-misused
Eskimo snow myth (see Pullam 1991). However, those authors who do hit the mark
are richly worth reading. Thus, the book demands an engaged and critically
thoughtful reader, as does intercultural learning itself, as we see so
poignantly argued by Alison Phipps in Chapter 3, when she suggests that
''intercultural training and intercultural education, at their best, offer a
praxis of discernment,'' (65) representing a continual process, where the self is
both the subject and the object of the learning.

The volume seems to have been written for an audience quite familiar with
business practices, perhaps those already working as business consultants who
are well-acquainted with the frustrations and limitations inherent in
facilitating ''dialogue among academic institutions, professional training
organizations, and communities of employers'' (6). As someone with only a bit of
background and experience in the business world, I was at times left wanting
more data and more examples, given the rich insight and perspective that these
researchers are in a position to offer about the work context. Given
ethnography's central concern with cultivating awareness of the perspective of
the researcher, the project as a whole would have benefitted from a greater
integration of ethnography, illuminating how theoretical frameworks and research
paradigms come to life in practice. Finally, although practice-based insights
are likely to be most immediately accessible to all audiences, the last section:
''Voices from the 'Real' World,'' is unfortunately by far the shortest in the
book. I found myself jumping to it almost immediately so as to ground my
understanding of the context surrounding the work. For a reader with little to
no background or experience in the business context, it may be quite difficult
to make sense of the remarkable interdisciplinarity and the real achievement of
the editors in putting these disparate voices into conversation.


Gumperz, John. 1982. Discourse strategies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pan, Yuling. 2000. Politeness in Chinese face-to-face interaction. Stamford, CT
Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Pullam, Geoffrey. 1991. The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent
Essays on the Study of Language. University of Chicago Press.

Scollon, Ron and Suzanne Wong-Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place: Language in
the Material World. London / New York: Routledge.

Tannen, Deborah. 2005 [1984]. Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among
Friends. Oxford University Press.

Anna Marie Trester received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2008, where she is currently the Co-Director of the M.A. in Language and Communication (MLC) in the Department of Linguistics. Her work for the MLC involves exploring professional applications of linguistics and analyzing language use in professional contexts. Her research interests include language and performance, ethnography, combining approaches to style, intercultural communication, and stancetaking in interaction. Her dissertation focused on a group of improvisational theater performers and currently she is working on a project exploring the framing of silence at a Quaker vigil for peace.

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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1847692869
ISBN-13: 9781847692863
Pages: 264
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1847692850
ISBN-13: 9781847692856
Pages: 264
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