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Intercultural communication and cultural intelligence in the workplace

Martins, Susanne (2013) Intercultural communication and cultural intelligence in the workplace. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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In today’s increasingly intercultural workplace setting, an individual’s ability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations is paramount for the success of the organisation. The main purpose of this study is to examine and understand the intercultural communication between Australian hospital workers (nurse managers, nurses and Patient Care Assistants and volunteers) through the theoretical lens of Cultural Intelligence (CQ).

A mixed method approach was employed to collect data from multiple sources including the use of questionnaires and interviews. Items for the questionnaires and interviews were drawn from the literature on cultural intelligence. The questionnaire included 20 Likert scale items which were developed by the Centre for Cultural Intelligence based in the United States and Singapore. In addition there were six Likert scale items developed by the researcher on intercultural experiences to gauge satisfaction levels in interactions. Another seven Likert scale items were drawn from the Ali Individualism Scale to understand how culture type influenced CQ and intercultural interactions. The interview included six open-ended questions related to cultural intelligence, English language proficiency and a critical incident scenario. The interviews were used to provide detail on the cultural intelligence questionnaire statements.

A Western Australian private hospital was selected for the study where 400 questionnaires were distributed. Out of these 157 returned questionnaires, 15 voluntary interviewees were chosen based on their job roles and culture type to be interviewed. The study found that overall the hospital workers had a high level of cultural intelligence. There were two cultural intelligence factors that were low: Cognitive CQ, involving knowledge of other cultures, and Behavioural CQ, involving the ability to provide the appropriate cultural response during intercultural interactions. The study found that those with higher levels of CQ enjoyed meeting people of different cultures and had more satisfactory relationships. Those with lower levels of CQ seemed to have more challenging intercultural interactions.

This thesis concluded by recommending that the hospital provide intercultural awareness training to all staff and some form of technical training relating to introduction of common terms used in a hospital setting for employees who have lower levels of English proficiency. It was also recommended that the hospital include CQ as part of their Human Resources systems, such as recruitment, appraisals and competency assessments.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: Perry, Laura and Currie, Jan
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