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The Role of Communication to Local Workers’ Organizational Identification in Chinese MNCs in North A

In Chinese multinational corporations (MNCs) in North America, lack of organizational identification is viewed as an organizational problem that causes negative effects. Communication is seen as an effective tactic to foster local worker’s organizational identification and improve organizational outcomes. Organizational communication can be defined as an internal and external information exchange performed to reach the organization’s aims of planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and evaluating activities. It often helps workers make appropriate decisions and can be used as a tool to motivate workers. The influence from the different perspectives of communication and culture to organizational identification (OI) are explained below.

Communication Climate

Communication climate encompasses the extent to which communication in the organization motivates employees to meet an organization’s goals and makes them identify with the organization. It includes estimates of whether people’s attitudes toward communication are healthy in the organization. Pratt stated that the effect of a positive communication climate on OI can be linked to the social identity theory as catering to the needs of categorization and self-enhancement. Categorization involves clarifying in-group/out-group boundaries; self-enhancement involves making favorable group comparisons. An open climate in which active participation is appreciated will increase feelings of being part of the in-group (and thus self-categorization), whereas the experience of being taken seriously and being listened to may create feelings of self-worth (thus fulfilling self-enhancement needs).

Communication with Superiors

Communication with superiors is thought of as more important to organizational identification than communication with coworkers. Some scholars refer to it as vertical communication. Communication with superiors can strengthen identification by creating a sense of ownership in the goals and values of the organization, making employees active participants rather than merely passive subordinates, and helping them experience greater control over work processes. Communication by management results in shared meaning across the hierarchical strata, which in turn fosters a sense of belonging among employees.

Communication Content

Categorized by communication content, the communication includes in role-related communication, person-related communication, task-related communication, organization-related communication. Organization-related and role-related communication have been identified as having a strong relationship with OI. Organization-related communication refers to the communication at work that takes place about the internal structure of the organization. Role- related communication refers to the communication at work that takes place about the content of your job.

Communication Patterns

Communication patterns include face-to-face, documents, electronic (e.g., text message, email) and telephone. Typically, face-to-face communication is an important medium available to employees working in a traditional workplace. It is possible that face-to-face contact is more critical for creating organizational identification which can then be maintained through other, less rich communication media. In the virtual context, electronic communication has altered the patterns and content of communication and has a vital influence on to member’s OI.

Communication also has a potential dark side-effect, such as Ullrich et al.’s finding that higher complexity in communication channels only intensified the perceived stress and pace of change. Indeed, Marks and Mirvis found that certain communication mechanisms, such as Q&A sessions, presentations and official grapevine sources, can have deleterious effects resulting in conflict intensification.

According to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, the USA and China have big differences in power distance and individualism. Chinese culture has a higher power distance and less individualism than America culture. Power distance is identified from the organizational perspective; it can be defined as the degree of inequality among people that the population of a country considers as normal: from relatively equal (that is, small power distance) to extremely unequal (large power distance). Individualism is the degree to which people in a country prefer to act as individuals rather than as members of a group.


High power distance is negatively related to the organizational communication. Erden stated that in a high-power-distance organization, the direction of communication would be downward, and the amount of communication would decrease. Thus, the psychological distance between more the powerful and less the powerful leads to information gaps. The superior in a high-power-distance organization will make decisions without consulting his or her subordinates, because subordinates may view their involvement in superiors’ decisions as a sign of incompetence or weakness on the part of the superior. In turn, it decreases the employee’s emotional attachment to the organization.

Because Chinese culture is high-power-distance, Chinese subordinates are more accustomed to paternalistic leadership styles when it comes to interacting with their supervisors than those in the USA. Luo et al. demonstrated that among Chinese subordinates, commanding, being dominant, and using fierce wording are attributed to prototypical communication behaviors. On the other side, American subordinates feel more equal to their leaders and like to communicate with their leaders.


The individualism dimension has a positive relationship with communication, and the individualism members will have difficulty in high-context communication with high-collectivism members. Bashir stated that high-context communication is more prevalent in a collectivist society. High-context communication means many things are intentionally not said, letting the culture explain. So, he posited an individualism member will have difficulty in a high-context communication style with low individualist members. Ardichivli et al. also stated that collectivism could be a barrier in knowledge transfer in online communities in practice. This is one reason why in the Chinese MNCs the individualist American has a communication problem with the collectivist Chinese leaders.


· For building OI, the managers of Chinese MNCs should establish an open, listening and bottom-up communication climate in the organization and change the Chinese paternalistic and high-power-distance management style and top-down communication process.

· The managers should strengthen the communication between managers and local workers, notice their individualist characteristic, and build a consultative management style.

· Use a face-to-face communication pattern to create local workers’ OI, and use various media (e.g., phone call, email) to maintain it.

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