Lade Inhalt...

The effect of cultural diversity on group processes in work teams

An experiment with teams of the company Reckitt Benckiser

Bachelorarbeit 2009 77 Seiten

Soziologie - Arbeit, Beruf, Ausbildung, Organisation







1.1 Reason for choice of topic
1.2 Academic objectives of dissertation
1.3 Outline of chapters

2.1 Introduction
2.2 The “optimistic view”
2.2.1 Task conflict
2.2.2 Limited “groupthink”
2.3 The “pessimistic view”
2.3.1 Communication problems
2.3.2 Stereotyping
2.3.3 Interpersonal relationship conflict
2.3.4 Task conflict
2.3.5 Limited cohesion
2.3.6 Limited trust

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research Purpose
3.3 Research Philosophy
3.4 Research Approach
3.5 Research Strategy
3.6 Multi-method qualitative study
3.6.1 Individual interview
3.6.2 Mixture of a self-administered- and 32 interviewer-administered questionnaire
3.6.3 group interview - multicultural team
3.7 Limitations
3.7.1 Limitation of using experiments
3.7.2 Limitation of using interviews
3.8 Ethical issues

4.1 Task conflict
4.2 Group cohesion
4.3 Group trust

CHAPTER 5 ANALYSIS 5.1 Task conflict
5.2 Group cohesion
5.3 Group trust

6.1 Conclusion
6.2 Limitations and suggestions for further research



Appendix A: Short statement of learning
Appendix B: Questionnaire - English Version
Appendix C: Questionnaire - German Version
Appendix D: Interview – members of multinational team
Appendix E: Interview – members of mononational team



Figure 3.6 research choices, in bold printed line: the researcher’s method

Figure 3.6.2 types of interviews – in bold printed line: the researcher’s conducted types of interviews

Figure 4.1 average response of the multinational and mononational team concerning the category task conflict

Figure 4.1.1 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 1

Figure 4.1.2 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 2

Figure 4.1.3 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 3

Figure 4.1.4 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 4

Figure 4.2 average response of the multinational and mononational team concerning the category “cohesion”

Figure 4.2.1 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response conerning question 5

Figure 4.2.2 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 6

Figure 4.2.3 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 7

Figure 4.2.4 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 8

Figure 4.3 average response of the multinational and mononational team concerning the category group trust

Figure 4.3.1 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 9

Figure 4.3.2 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 10

Figure 4.3.3 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 11

Figure 4.3.4 comparison of multinational team’s and mononational team’s average response concerning question 12


I declare the following:

(1) that the material contained in this dissertation is the end result of my own work and that due acknowledgement has been given in the bibliography and references to ALL sources be they printed, electronic or personal.

(2) the Word Count of this Dissertation is 10.352 .

(3) that unless this dissertation has been confirmed as confidential, I agree to an entire electronic copy or sections of the dissertation to being placed on Blackboard, if deemed appropriate, to allow future students the opportunity to see examples of past dissertations. I understand that if displayed on Blackboard it would be made available for no longer than five years and that students would be able to print off copies or download. The authorship would remain anonymous.

(4) I agree to my dissertation being submitted to a plagiarism detection service, where it will be stored in a database and compared against work submitted from this or any other School or from other institutions using the service.

In the event of the service detecting a high degree of similarity between content within the service this will be reported back to my supervisor and second marker, who may decide to undertake further investigation which may ultimately lead to disciplinary actions, should instances of plagiarism be detected.

(5) I have read the University Policy Statement on Ethics in Research and Consultancy and the Policy for Informed Consent in Research and Consultancy and I declare that ethical issues have been considered and taken into account in this research.




Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


This dissertation examines teams which consist of more than two nationalities and hence cultural backgrounds.It examines especially the effects cultural diversity has on processes in work teams. Due to globalisation more and more people with culturally different backgrounds have to work together in one team. Therefore, organizations have to know how they are affected by cultural diversity.

The most important effects cultural diversity has on team processes are presented in the literature review. Furthermore, the literature review gives advice about the meaning of these effects concerning the team’s effectiveness, however, the emphasis lies on the three most affected group processes which represent task conflict, cohesion and trust. In connection with these three processes hypotheses are developed.

In order to test the hypotheses in a practical way and to gain an insight about multicultural teams in a real business world, the company Reckitt Benckiser is chosen. This company provides a perfect research company for this dissertation topic as it follows a true culturally diverse workplace and lays very much emphasis on teamwork. Two teams, one multicultural and one monocultural undergo an experiment with the aim of gaining a practical insight concerning the effect cultural diversity has on team processes and to test hypotheses.

Finally, conclusions are drawn from the findings and analyses that point out that the multicutlural team of Reckitt Benckiser is not a typical example concerning the effects cultural diversity is said to have on group processes, as they witness low task conflict, high cohesion and high trust. Furthermore the researcher gives advice about the meaning of the team’s effectiveness. Moreover, this case shows that contextual factors may influence the impact of cultural diversity on team processes, like year-long experience with working with other cultures in a team or a strong corporate culture that can overrule cultural diversity in work teams.


First of all, I would like to thank my parents for backing me up, not only in a financial but especially in a psychological way. Thank you for always being there, particularly when I saw no end to the dissertation process.

Furthermore, particular thanks and appreciation to the company Reckitt Benckiser, especially … and …who made it possible that I could conduct my research there.

In this context many thanks go to both teams of the controlling department that participated in my research and for their flexibility and valuable feedback.

Moreover, I would like to thank my supervisor for always giving me advice in order to set me on the right way. Many thanks for your support and patience during the time I worked on my dissertation.

Thank you!


1.1 Reason for choice of topic

As more and more people immigrate and organizations globalize (Yaprak 2002) lead to the fact that people with different cultural roots have to collaborate with one another and to work together in a local workplace (Appelbaum Shapiro 1998). Furthermore, competitive challenges and the importance of flexibility and adjustment on the part of companies there can be witnessed in a great expansion of work teams (Stewart Barrick 2000). Therefore, a commonplace practice concerning the culturally diverse composition of work groups can be recognized (Appelbaum Shapiro 1998) as is the case in organizations like Unilever, ABB, the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, IBM and Reckitt Benckiser, only to mention a few (Davison 1994).

Organizations have to develop effective multicultural teams, which means that organizations have to think more clearly about cross-cultural issues and more fully understand and value the benefits of cultural diversity in teams (Higgs 1996). Furthermore due to the continued growth of culturally diverse work teams, the understanding the effect cultural diversity has on team processes is both appropriate and pressing (Wright Drewery 2006). This fact is very important as the team effectiveness depends on the processes (Gladstein 1984).

Due to being involved in such a multicultural working environment by having different student jobs at an internationally operating company called Reckitt Benckiser, practical insight was gained into the trend “multicultural teams”. This insight and the growing trend of using multicultural teams in today’s organizations make it interesting to deepen the phenomenon within the dissertation. The author is interested in gaining knowledge of which effects cultural diversity has on team processes.

1.2 Academic objectives of dissertation

This study follows Earley Gardner’s (2005) and Watson’s (1993) perception of multicultural teams that implies that those teams consist of two or more members that have different nationalities and therefore different cultural backgrounds.

This dissertation aims to provide a deeper understanding of the effects cultural diversity has on team processes and which consequences this can have on team effectiveness.

The aim of the present study is to investigate the main negative and positive effects cultural diversity has on team processes. Existing researcher’s views about this issue are shown and confronted. The main objective of this study is to investigate three group processes – task conflict, cohesion and trust. Hypothesis will be developed concerning these three issues in order to test them in practice.

Reckitt Benckiser, was chosen as it is one of the companies that follows a really culturally diverse workplace and is very focussed on teamwork. An experiment with a multicultural team and a mononational team at the company Reckitt Benckiser should provide to what extent the hypotheses are confirmed or not and therefore how cultural diversity affects task conflict, cohesion and trust based. Moreover, the dissertation aims to try and find answers why there could or could not be a confirmation of the theory with help of individual and group interviews with the multicultural team.

1.3 Outline of chapters

This paper is composed of six chapters.

The second chapter presents the most essential literature concerning the effects cultural diversity has on team processes. The literature review is divided into two parts. The first part reviews the “optimistic view” which contains researchers that see the effects positively. On the other hand the second part presents the “pessimistic view” where researchers concentrate on the negative aspects cultural diversity has on group processes in work teams.

The third chapter outlines the method used in this dissertation. It includes the research purpose and philosophy followed by the approach and the research strategy. This chapter on the one hand justifies the method used and on the other hand also represents its limitations.

In chapter four the findings from the questionnaire of the experiment conducted at the company Reckitt Benckiser are presented.

Chapter five provides an evaluation of the correlation between the variables cultural diversity and task conflict, cohesion, and trust based on the experiment. These findings are compared with the developed hypotheses of the theoretical part of the dissertation and afterwards analysed.

The final chapter of this work presents first of all a conclusion. Nevertheless suggestions for further research are recommended in the area of multicultural teams.


2.1 Introduction

As the aim of this dissertation is to investigate the effect of cultural diversity on team processes (see also chapter 1.2), the literature review gives the opportunity to present the major existing theory about this issue and provides a basis for the researcher’s practical study.

There exist different agreements about the negative and positive effect cultural diversity has on team processes. On the one hand there are researchers that believe that cultural diversity is a valuable source (e.g. Cox et al. 1991) and others argue that this diversity causes intergroup bias (Pelled et al. 1999), however, the preponderance holds a more pessimistic view. The author represents in the following both effects which are related to cultural diversity on team processes based on empirical and theoretical works.

2.2. The “Optimistic” View

2.2.1 Task conflict

According to Delicia Delgardo, the inclusiveness and flexibility leader at Ernst Young in Los Angeles says that multicultural teams offer a “diversity of thought that results in better business solutions” (Gupta 2008:80).

Watson et al. (1993) identified in their 17-week empirical study that the cultural diverse groups are more creative than the cultural homogeneous groups. They outperformed cultural homogeneous ones concerning two areas: firstly, the area of identifying issues and secondly, the area of solving tasks. This study was undertaken under a laboratory setting which means that it is questionable if these findings could be transferred to the “real” business world, however on the other hand O’Reilly et al. (1998) conducted a field study in an organization with the same results. He found that there is a linear relationship between culturally diverse composition of teams and the amount of creativity in those groups.

This underlines Barinaga (2007:318) as she concluded after her review that multinational teams have due to their cultural variety a broader “available pool of resources – networks, knowledge, perspectives, insights, experiences – that the group can use to deal with complex problems, thus enhancing group creativity and improving group performance.”

Also Maznevski (1994) says that culturally diverse teams enjoy a wider variety of values, perspectives and behaviors than their counterparts who are in their national composition equal. DiStefano Maznevski (2000) theorize that teams with members of different cultural backgrounds can use this great potential for developing innovations.

Therefore, it benefits the team’s creativity and its problem-solving capacity (Jehn et al. 1999; Jackson et al. 1995).

Different theorists put emphasis on researching which process is responsible for the better creativity and problem-solving capacity.

For example, Hoffman et al. (1962) claims that task conflict is the connecting piece between diversity and performance.

This conflict, also called cognitive conflict, occurs when there are “disagreements among group members or individuals about the content of the tasks being formed, including differences in viewpoints, ideas and opinions” (Jehn 1995:258).

Jehn et al. (1999) found in their research on 92 workgroups that the diverse composition of groups is a considerable factor concerning task conflict and that the degree of diversity is connected with the degree of this kind of conflict.

Mannix Neale (2005) say that diverse teams enjoy a constructive conflict and debate team climate “in which ideas synergistically resolve into higher-level outcomes than would be achievable in more homogeneous teams”.

Elron (1997) investigated in a representative field study top management teams in a subsidiary. He obtained that cultural heterogeneity was positively related to issue-based conflict. This means that this kind of diversity causes more disagreements on a task in teams. Furthermore he researched how this conflict is related to outcomes and came to the result that there is a positive relation between issue-based conflict caused and outcomes.

Also according to Amason Schweiger (1994) group task conflict is positively related to outcomes as it offers the teammates to give enourmous views to a task.

As the trend of the relationship between task conflict and multicultural teams is obvious and presents one of the major objectives of this dissertation (see also chapter 1.2) the following hypothesis is developed.

Hypothesis 1: Cultural diversity in work teams is positively related to task conflict.

2.2.2 limited “groupthink”

According to Janis (1972:9) groupthink “is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” Janis (1982) theorized that cultural diversity prevents the negative phenomenon “groupthink”, which can cause grave errors in the decision-making process.

According to Adler (1990:139) groupthink is limited in multicultural teams because the great amount of variety makes those teams less vulnerable to groupthink which she makes clear by saying “they are less likely to subconsciously limit the range of perspectives, ideas, conclusions, and decisions they consider to those supported by the majority or by the team leaders”.

Furthermore, Adler (1990) compared culturally diverse teams with monocultural teams and concluded that the multicultural team is less likely to be vulnerable to the symptoms of groupthink established by Janis (1982). The first factor represents “self-censorship of deviation”, as team members in monocultural teams tend to restrain themselves concerning scepsis or arguments against someone in their group. Secondly, she concluded that the culturally diverse teams are less likely to share an “illusion of unanimity”, which is the effect of “self-censorship deviation” and the mindset that silence means agreement. Thirdly, such a team is less likely to pressure any member who argues against the group’s stereotypes, illusions or commitments. Multicultural teams don’t suffer from “self-appointed mindguards” or teammates who like to save the team from negative messages that could destroy the team’s satisfaction about its performance and morality of decisions.

2.3 The “Pessimistic” View

According to Davison (1994) the interaction processes between teammates are more impeded in a multicultural team than within single-culture teams.

Therefore teams composed of members with different cultural roots are more vulnerable to witness inefficient group processes (Thomas 1999), which will be dealt in the following part.

2.3.1 communication problems

Adler (1990) claims that in the communication process there is a sender who expresses his ideas and behaviour in a symbolic presentation or message –verbally or nonverbally. Afterwards the receiver of the message has to decodes it.

Therefore, the most effective communication according to Triandis et al. (1994:774) is “in which the participants of the interaction perceive and evaluate the message in terms of the intended idea or behavior.”

People who have the same “categories of thoughts” or interpret a situation similarly, follow a more effective communication and prefer each other more than those that interpret the situation in a different way (Triandis, 1959).

Heterogeneous team members suffer from less common ground for communicating effectively with each other (Campion et al. 1993).

According to Jackson, May Whitney (1995) who theorized after their review that cultural diversity has a negative effect concerning the amount of communication between members in work teams.

Rogers and Bhowmik (1971) detect that diverse teams signalize delayed transmission of messages, message distortion and limitation of communication channels (cited in Triandis et al. 1994).

Following Zenger Lawrence (1989) members of a monocultural team communicate better than members of a multicultural team as they have different communication behaviours (cited in Gudykunst 1997).

Differing styles of communication as direct versus indirect communication can cause communication difficulties in multicultural teams. They cause barriers to effective teamwork as information sharing is slowed down. Moreover, issues can arise due to implicit versus explicit communication. For example Americans say “yes” when they agree and the Japanese mean in this case that they pay attention (Triandis 1976 cited in Behfar et al. 2006). As a consequence “checklist-oriented” managers can understand this as a lack of agreement (Behfar et al. 2006).

Samovar Porter (1988) stated that language differences may interfere communication and is a source for errors with regard to message transmission and decoding (cited in Triandis et al. 1994).

Brett et al. (2006) found in their research study that misunderstandings and frustration can arise due to non-native speaker’s lack concerning accents and fluency as well as translation and usage issues in culturally diverse groups. Moreover a negative effect of this phenomenon is the potential influence on perceptions of status or competence.

Behfar et al. (2006) underlined this by saying that less fluent teammates are not respected to the same extent as their counterparts. They are treated with more impatience due to the difficulty in understanding them.



ISBN (eBook)
672 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Northumbria University – International Business Administration, Studiengang International Business Management
reckitt benckiser



Titel: The effect of cultural diversity on group processes in work teams