Managers and conflict management in cross-cultural workplace

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Chapter 3. Methodology

In the following section, detailed explanation about adopted methodology will be presented.

Research Philosophy

In pursuance of a dependable part of the study that helps to fulfill the thesis purpose, Ontology and Epistemology are applied as the basic research philosophical concepts. Easterby-Smith et al. (2015) illustrate that ontology can be categorized as the study of existential and natural facts whereas epistemology pertains to the investigation of knowledge and theory. Both concepts help researchers to develop a way to advance research methodological concerns.
Ontology concerns the existence of and connection between individuals, society and the entire world. The focal question is “What exists in the world?”. Following the ontological assumptions, the subjectivist view, along with a constructionist view, is employed in this study. Subjectivism and constructionism altogether constitute as one aspect of ontology, which surmises that the reality is perceived subjectively and built upon perceptions and experiences that may vary with individuals, and differs over time and situations (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). Hence, it assumes that the social reality is an outcome generated by the social interaction of social actors. With the aim of investigating how mangers manage conflicts in the cross-cultural workplace, the thesis utilizes conversational interviews as the major resource from which identical and/or distinct thoughts and behaviors of individuals are obtained. Interviews are considered as a reliable source because this thesis recognizes the reality as perceived subjectively by individuals and produced dependently through the interaction between people in cultural diversity workplace.
Epistemology deals with the nature, the resources, and the limitations of knowledge. More broadly, epistemology describes by what means knowledge can be generated and be encouraged (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). Within the boundary of epistemology, there are many possible directions, such as empiricism, subjectivism, and substantialism, which correlate to several philosophical positions, including positivism, interpretivism, and critical realism. Regarding this thesis, the subjectivism, which is related to the philosophical position of interpretivism, is adopted.
Positivism emphasizes on the knowledge acquired through the application of scientific approaches to happenings and to realist word (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). In other words, a universal truth is pursued from the experiment in which the measurement is the essence. Contrastingly, the interpretivism and constructionism focus on the shared meaning and subjectiveness. These two philosophical positions are keen on people’s explanation and understanding towards social happenings and situations, either as individuals or as a group. Meanwhile, Eriksson & Kovalainen (2008) state that the reality is constructed through social interaction. Beyond of the contents of empirical data, interpretative and constructionist researches also focus on the manner through which theses contents are generated (such as language practices). Moreover, instead of determining dependent and independent variables in advance, research conducted based on these two philosophical positions concentrates on the entire complexity of human rationalization process when situations occur. It also embraced the idea that many possible explanations can be generated from the same data, all of which are likely to be meaningful.
Additionally, reflexivity is significantly highlighted in epistemological assumptions. It asks for the transparence of theoretical claims and knowledge resources, which is relevant to the fundamental presumptions of knowledge creation, utilized theories and approaches, and to the outcome of the research (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008).
As for the logical considerations on which theories are generated, the inductive reasoning is considered as the central guidance for this thesis. There are two main basic logical models, namely deduction and induction, which are used to bring knowledge to the stage (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). Deductive reasoning refers to the methodological process by which a result regarding a particular case is derived upon a presumably true premise (Zikmund et al., 2010). It largely concerns testing hypotheses which are generated with certain related theories. On the other hand, according to Zikmund et al (2010), inductive reasoning demonstrates how a general proposition is logically built from the examination of specific facts. Contrast to the deduction, induction theories are products of empirical observations. These theories can also be viewed as corrective mode in regard to findings that emerge during the process of researches. This thesis aims at investigating the implicit and explicit behaviors of conflict management styles in multicultural workplace, while remains open to any new associated ideas. Rather than testing any plausible relationship, this study is designed to deepen the understanding of conflict management within a certain context, namely, the cross-cultural workplace. Therefore, inductive reasoning is seen as the fundamental logic model in theory building for this thesis.
Based on the ontological and epistemological positions as illustrated above, authors’ stance in this thesis will be a detached and constructionist one. Detached signifies that authors will attempt to remain a neutral position and to generate an objective evaluation during interactions with respondents while collecting data. The constructionist position, on the other hand, suggests that authors will regard data and consequent findings as the outcome of respondents’ complicated socio-cultural activities that constitute a component of a broader society.

Research Approach

According to the research purpose, implicit elements (such as the person’s own beliefs, skills and intelligence) are the main study subject of the thesis, thus, a qualitative research approach is applied. A qualitative approach outperforms a quantitative method when it comes to providing a thorough insight into complicated phenomena (Sofaer, 1999). The qualitative study addresses the genuine inside nuance and provides new understanding. Moreover, it is often utilized in favor of elicitation of subjective feelings, individual judgement and inner incentives (Cooper et al, 2003). That is also highly correspond to the philosophy employed in this study (ontology), where the subjectivism is focal point of reality. In contrast, the quantitative research is emphasizing objectives by analyzing numerical data to test hypothesis (Zikmund et al., 2010).

Research Strategy

Saunders et al. (2015) suggest three types of research: exploratory research, descriptive research and explanatory research. An exploratory research aims to investigate the nature of happening events, to pursue new insights, and to evaluate phenomena in a new angle (Robson, 2002). This approach is mostly adopted to examine relatively new topics because these topics are usually troublesome to be investigated in a systematic way. A descriptive research is usually utilized to depict characteristics of selected population or phenomenon (Saunders et al., 2015). The intention of a descriptive research is to provide an exact description. Questions start with ‘what’ are largely addressed by descriptive studies, while questions start with ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘why’ usually cannot be answered. An explanatory research focuses on the investigation of the cause and effect relationships, indicating that researchers’ intent to further study the relationship between dependent and independent variables based on previous researches (Saunders et al., 2015). The thesis intends to explore an in-depth understanding in conflicts management in cross-cultural workplace through a lens of cultural intelligence. The research purpose is clear and relatively new in the field. Given the novelty of assessing conflict management through cultural intelligence, an exploratory study is justified to be suitable for the thesis.

Primary and Secondary Data

Primary data is crucial for the study since it serves as the fundamental source of empirical discoveries. In this thesis, the semi-structured interview, which is undertaken with experienced people in cultural diverse working environment in organizations in Sweden, is the main source of the primary data. And the basic introduction about the company is obtained from its official website. The question guide (see appendix 1), related to the research purpose, are prescribed and asked in pursuance of openness and elasticity. Considering the suggestions from Easterby-Smith et al (2015), the questions in interviews will be deliberated and delivered in a manner that avoids the direct usage of related theories and concepts. Additionally, the questions are specially formulated with open ends in order to prevent biases. Bearing these considerations, questions related to cultural intelligence have been rephrased in a relatively common and plain way, while maintaining the essence. For example, the motivational CQ stands for the willingness of experiencing a different culture (Earley & Ang, 2003). Questions that directly concern the importance of motivational CQ are replaced by open-ended questions (such as: Are you interested in exotic cultures?). However, for the primary data, the interviewees and their companies should be anonymous when ethical issues are considered. Denscombe (2011) suggests that the researchers are expected to harm participants at a minimum level, and to do that, respondents will be anonymous, and the data will be respected as confidential information. Moreover, the voluntarily of involvement, the notice about the purpose, and discussion associated with the study were ensured by the foregoing email or message contacts.
Relevant secondary data can be used for research as complementing materials for primary data (Hanson, 2010). Second-hand data is cost-effective and time-saving; thus, it is the preferred source of information. In the study, the company’s official website of each interview is the main source of the second-hand data, and it is acquired as supplementary material to gain some background information about interviewees, for the sake of precise understanding and interpretation of empirical results.

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Semi-structured Interview

An interviewee can be conducted in (a) structured (2) unstructured or (3) semi-structured manner (Saunders et al., 2015). A structured interview is performed on the basis of predetermined interview questions while an unstructured interview requires no predetermined interview questions at all (Saunders et al., 2015). Semi-structured interview is designed with open-ended questions that focus on a specific topic. Generally speaking, open-ended questions intend to obtain knowledge regarding the attitude, experience and described behaviors of the interviewee without predetermining answer options or guiding interviewees to any particular response. Furthermore, it allows probing, which means addition reasoning and descriptions can be gathered during the discussion with interviewees (Zikmund et al., 2010). The thesis aims to gain a thorough understanding of managers’ conflict management styles with the help of conceptual CQ model. Managers’ thinking and behaviors are studied and analyzed in order to achieve the research purpose. Therefore, the semi-structured interviews are selected as a suitable manner for this thesis.

Sample Selection

According to the purpose of the research, the research aims at finding managers who have relatively rich experience in a multicultural environment with a base in Sweden. Through interviews with them, the goal is to obtain their views and behaviors in handling conflicts occurred in interactions with others who have different culture backgrounds. The sampling method, which is set upon prescribed categories from literature, is described as purposive sampling by Easterby-Smith et al. (2015). For purposive sampling, researchers seek individuals that satisfy specified criteria on the basis of research purpose. Given that the thesis plans to discuss conflicts management styles in culturally diverse workplace, managers with long working experience in that cross-cultural environment in Sweden are considered as target interviewees. Due to the significant role of multinational corporations (MNCs) as channels for the international integration of global business and human resources usage to a specific area (Ponce-pura, 2014), the probability of being in a culture diversity workplace is higher in MNCs. In order to reach target interviewees, HRs in MNCs, as well as managers who work for MNCs in Sweden, were contacted. As a result, eight managers from different companies who have relatively rich experience in culturally diverse workplace were selected and interviewed. The basic information of these ten people will be shown in table 1.

Data Collection

As discussed above, the interviewees have been chosen for collecting data. Before each interview, the preparatory works were conducted, which include the explanation of the central topic and confirmation of voluntary participation through emails. Either having a telephone or face-to-face interview has been decided by interviewees, depending on their time schedule and preference. The details of each interview will be presented in table 2.

Data Analysis – Content analysis

Standing from the research purpose, the thesis intents to study the types of conflicts occurred, in what styles experienced people practically manage conflicts in culturally diverse workplace, and if and which dimensions of CQ could benefit the process of conflict management. The content analysis was the selected data analysis method. Easterby-Smith et al. (2015) show that the content analysis is grounded on methodical assumptions that are derived from qualitative data with a set of concepts. Via content analysis, researchers are able either to examine collected data based on predefined classifications from literature, or to allow findings and categories arise from data through open conversations.
A four-step analysis procedure introduced by Bengtsson (2016) is employed in the thesis (see figure 2). The first step is decontextualisation. Researchers must be familiar with transcriptions of interviews in order to fully understand them. Researchers must determine the smallest unit of view that containing the insights the researcher seeks to respond to the research goals (Bengtsson, 2016). The second step is called recontextualisation, which requires the researchers to ensure the totality of the text has been scrutinized with regard to the study purpose. Researchers could begin with categorization on the basis of the similarities and dissimilarities of responses. The examination of original data should be in consonance with conceptual theories, which facilitates the construction and analysis of the data. The labels are designated to chosen content data according to the in-vivo coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The information should be examined in order to see if it is helpful for the purpose of the study. In case of any detected ‘dross’ that appears meaningless for the study purpose, authors can advise that irrelevant content should be discarded.
Categorisation is the third step. Bengtsson (2016) stresses that it is necessary to summarize implicit messages in a way that keeps the original meaning before categorisation. Bearing such intention in mind, Bengtsson (2016) recommends that the theoretical framework from which the questions are derived or equivalently integrating factors (such as the questions used for interviews) can be utilized as the base of division for categorizing the essence. The answers regarding (a) types, (b) application of conflict management styles and (c) comments on CQ can be separately classified. The information that fails to fit any categories will be placed into Other category. After the collation of all data, the Other category will be scrutinized in order to discover whether common subjects or types exist or not. The examination of Other category enables a clear outline of similarities and differences of data from different interviewees, which contributes to the conclusion of common and/or distinct behaviors regarding conflict management. Lastly, Compilation is conducted as the final stage, which focuses on the display of data and analysis. The level of analysis that researcher can accomplish is determined largely be the data collection approach. A manifest analysis aims to provide a precise reading by focusing on the spoken content from interviewees, whilst a latent analysis provides a deep reading by discussing the unspoken yet intended content from interviewees. Bengtsson (2016) emphasizes that regardless of selected analysis level, researchers need to preserve an unbiased and neutral viewpoint towards collected data.

Trustworthiness of the Study

Given’s framework (2008) serves as the guide in this thesis for the sake of academic value of qualitative researches. It consists of four parts: transferability, credibility, dependability and confirmability. The criteria for transferability focus on the applicability of research results to different situations, whether broad or narrow. The contiguity of respondents to the research background and its boundaries constitute two determinants of transferability. Considering the proximity of participants to the investigated situation, a satisfying outcome appears to be achieved, despite of various limitations. The access to 8 interviewees with relative plentiful experience in diverse workplaces was gained. Their opinions, and behaviors, related to conflicts management styles and CQ were obtained. Saunders et al. (2015) suggest that a trustworthy sample size should vary from 5 to 25. Furthermore, clearer boundaries of the thesis will be presented through a deep depiction of every interview respondents in the Analysis section Credibility should be infused throughout the whole thesis as the thesis is based on scrupulous assessment and judgement from researchers (Given, 2008). The consistent credibility appears to be retained in this thesis largely because that the data collection and analysis method are aligned with the research purpose, hence yielding a sound case. The thesis aims at analyzing experienced managers’ implicit and explicit behaviors of conflict management styles in cross-cultural workplace, with the help of CQ model. Hence, the five-style conflict management theory and the conceptual model of CQ can provide an appropriate theoretical framework which enables the analysis of conflict management from individual perspective within a cross-cultural environment. Semi-structured interviews appear to be a credible method choice because free discussion regarding central topics can thrive during semi-structured interviews. To enhance dependability, a substantial theoretical framework which provides the base for the research is needed. Lastly, Confirmability is based on the theoretical framework which provides the review criteria for researchers’ interpretation of qualitative data, given that qualitative data usually requires interpretative analysis. Therefore, Confirmability represents the extent to which research results correspond to the purpose of the study, instead of the investigator’s previous intentions and biases. In order to maintain the verifiable nature of the research, the authors strive to criticize the research results and present the results in a transparent manner.

Table of Content
Chapter 1. Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2. Problem
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Delimitation
1.6 Definitions
Chapter 2. Theoretical framework
2.1 Manager
2.2 Cultural Diversity
2.3 Conflict
2.4 Managers and conflict management in cross-cultural workplace
2.5 Cultural Intelligence (CQ)
2.6 Conflict Management Styles and CQ
Chapter 3. Methodology
3.1 Research Philosophy
3.2 Research Approach
3.3 Research Strategy
3.4 Primary and Secondary Data
3.5 Sample Selection
3.6 Data Collection
3.7 Data Analysis – Content analysis
3.8 Trustworthiness of the Study
Chapter 4. Empirical Results
4.1 Description of studied interviewees
4.2 Description of coding process
4.3 Conflicts in culturally diverse workplaces
4.4 Cultural intelligence
4.5 New insights
Chapter 5. Analysis
5.1 Conflicts in culturally diverse workplace
5.2 Cultural Intelligence
5.3 Conflict Management Styles and Cultural Intelligence
Chapter 6. Conclusion
Chapter 7. Discussion
7.1 Contribution
7.2 Practical Implication
7.3 Limitations
7.4 Future research

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