The impact of language barriers on trust formation in multinational teams

Tenzer, Helene and Pudelko, Markus and Harzing, Anne-Wil (2014) The impact of language barriers on trust formation in multinational teams. Journal of International Business Studies, 45 (5). pp. 508-535. ISSN 0047-2506

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Abstract

This study systematically investigates how language barriers influence trust formation in multinational teams (MNTs). Based on 90 interviews with team members, team leaders, and senior managers in 15 MNTs in three German automotive corporations, we show how MNT members’ cognitive and emotional reactions to language barriers influence their perceived trustworthiness and intention to trust, which in turn affect trust formation.

We contribute to diversity research by distinguishing the exclusively negative language effects from the more ambivalent effects of other diversity dimensions. Our findings also illustrate how surface-level language diversity may create perceptions of deep-level diversity. Furthermore, our study advances MNT research by revealing the specific influences of language barriers on team trust, an important mediator between team inputs and performance outcomes. It thereby encourages the examination of other team processes through a language lens.

Finally, our study suggests that multilingual settings necessitate a reexamination and modification of the seminal trust theories by Mayer, Davis and Schoorman (1995) and McAllister (1995). In terms of practical implications, we outline how MNT leaders can manage their subordinates’ problematic reactions to language barriers and how MNT members can enhance their perceived trustworthiness in multilingual settings.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online 19 December 2013. Special Issue: The Multifaceted Role of Language in International Business: Unpacking the Forms, Functions and Features of a Critical Challenge to MNC Theory and Performance
Keywords (uncontrolled): interpersonal trust; language; multinational teams; cognition; emotion
Research Areas: A. > Business School > International Management and Innovation > International and Cross-cultural Management group
Item ID: 14506
Notes on copyright: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Journal of International Business Studies. The definitive publisher-authenticated version, Tenzer, Helene and Pudelko, Markus and Harzing, Anne-Wil (2014) The impact of language barriers on trust formation in multinational teams. Journal of International Business Studies, 45 . pp. 508-535. ISSN 0047-2506 is available online at:http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/jibs.2013.64
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Depositing User: Anne-Wil Harzing
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2015 10:02
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 08:34
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/14506

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