What are the barriers?
A study conducted by German researchers and reported in the Jan. 2014 issue of the Journal of International Business Studies revealed some disconcerting realties about multi-national teams. Based on 90 interviews with team members, leaders and senior managers in three automotive companies located in Germany, the authors made two important discoveries:
• Multi-national team members’ cognitive and emotional reactions to language barriers influence their perceived trustworthiness and intention to trust, which in turn affect trust formation.
• Surface-level language diversity may create perceptions of deep-level diversity.
Another study covered in Harvard Business School’s article, “Language Wars Divide Global Companies”, explored language and its connection to power dynamics on global teams. “It’s volcanic, waiting for something to ignite it, and then it explodes—and this is what we see in these global teams,” says Tsedal Neeley, an associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School, who conducted the study Language as a Lightning Rod: Power Contests, Emotion Regulation, and Subgroup Dynamics in Global Teams.