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Intercultural Conflict Management Between Pakistan And China Working Teams

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1.1 Introduction

As the fastest growing economy in the world, China has achieved tremendous success in attracting foreign investment during the past two decades. Although multinational organizations continue to establish businesses in China, many of them have not achieved the success they expected. In fact, foreign managers ‘‘have often reported frustration and confusion’’ (Zhao, 2000, p. 209) when doing business in China. Kuhn and Poole (2000) concluded that the poor performance of multinational companies can often be attributed to culturally based misunderstandings. Due to language barriers, cultural differences, cultural prejudices and stereotypes, the potential for conflict in culturally diverse workgroups is greater than culturally homogeneous workgroups (Harrison et al., 1998; Triandis, 2000; Vodosek, 2007). If not managed appropriately, such conflicts may result in mistrust, lack of cooperation, stress, low organizational commitment, and high turnover rates. On the other hand, appropriate management of conflict has been found to positively contribute to organizational performance (Amason and Schweiger, 1997). Since the outcomes of conflict management in multinational organizations can ‘‘have an impact on the survival of the organization’’ (Boonsathorn, 2007, p. 204), it is imperative to study conflict management in the context of multinational organizations. Although there is a number of literature (e.g. Chua and Gudykunst, 1987; Leung, 1988; Ting-Toomey et al., 1991; Singelis and Pedersen, 1994; Chen et al., 2000; Knutson et al., 2000) on conflict from a cross-cultural perspective (comparing people from different cultures), very few looked at conflict from an intercultural perspective (examining interaction between people from different cultures) (Boonsathorn, 2007), especially in an organizational setting (Liu and Chen, 2000). Additionally, many previous studies on conflict management are predominantly quantitative, whereby scholars would rely on statistics to compare conflict styles used by people of different cultures (Chen et al., 2000). Yet sufficient explanations from participants describing why and how such styles were used remain to be researched. To address these needs, this study utilized a qualitative approach to examine how American and Chinese employees in multinational organizations (China based) manage conflict between them. Such a study will not only enrich literature on conflict management in multinational organizations, but also provide insights for cross-cultural managers, especially those who are working in China or planning to work there. The paper proceeds as follows: first, it reviews literature on conflict management styles, and cultural influences on conflict management styles; second, it presents research methods; third, it outlines major findings; and finally, it discusses theoretical contributions and practical implications of this study as well as research limitations and future research directions.

Intercultural Conflict Style Model

Theoretical Basis of the Intercultural Conflict Style Model Above, I offer Ting-Toomey and colleagues’ (2000) definition of conflict style as patterned responses to conflict across situations. Yet what is a “patterned response”? Is it, for instance, predispositions or personality traits characteristic of an individual? The problem with viewing patterned responses in terms of personal characteristics is that, as Folger, Poole, and Stutman (2005) cogently pointed

out, “although people certainly develop habitual ways of responding to conflict, they also have the capacity to change or adapt their behavior from situation to situation” (p.216). Viewing conflict style in terms of personal traits does not adequately address how our responses change depending on different demands of the situation. A second approach to “patterned responses” defines conflict styles as particular types of behavior individuals employ (Cosier & Ruble, 1981). The problem with viewing conflict styles strictly in terms of behaviors is that the same action can be used in different identified styles due to functionally different meanings of that specific behavior, depending on the situational context(Folger, et al., 2005). The Intercultural Conflict Style (ICS) model is most consistent with the view of patterned responses in terms of behavioral orientations(Folger et al., 2005)individuals adapt toward negotiating disagreements and dealing with emotional upset during a conflictual interaction. By behavioral orientation, I mean an interpretive frame within which an individual “makes meaningful” messages and behavior that arise from interaction with the other party. As Folger and colleagues (2005) remarked, “behavioral strategies and general orientations are bound up with each other because behaviors are not meaningful outside the context of the style they represent” (p. 218). On the broadest level, frames are viewed as interpretations of interaction that serve to define the activity in which individuals are engaged (Hammer, 2007). Bateson (1954/ 1972) defined a frame as “a class or set of messages (or meaningful actions)” (p. 186) that functions as a map providing cues about how the interaction is to be defined and how to interpret the communicative acts within the specific context. At a general level, framing is the process by which people attach idiosyncratic definitions, interpretations, and meaning to a class of objects, persons, and events(Watzlawick,Bavelas,&Jackson,1967).

At a more precise level of meaning, frames reflect a person’s expectations about the issues at hand. According to Lewicki, Saunders, and Minton (1999), frames “are abstractions, collections of perceptions and thoughts that people use to define a situation, organize information, determine what is important, what is not, and so on” (p. 31). Yet frames do not exist as abstract forms disconnected to how people behave. As Gray (2006)cogently pointed out, “how we frame a situation also affects how we respond to it” (p.194).Frames, as applied to conflict interaction, are interpretive lenses through which individuals perceive and behave in relation to a particular issue, problem, or concern.

The Intercultural Conflict Style (ICS) Model

Based on the above discussion, conflict style and intercultural conflict style are defined as “the manner in which contending parties communicate with one another around substantive disagreements and their emotional or affective reaction to one another” (p. 679).

♦ Direct Versus Indirect Cultural Patterns

Two intercultural dimensions of cultural difference provide the foundation for how individuals solve problems and resolve conflicts: (1) direct versus indirect approaches for communicating about substantive issues (disagreements) and(2) emotionally expressive versus emotionally restrained strategies for dealing with emotional upset. 3 Direct culture strategies focus attention on the specific words participants use when discussing particular issues. That is, direct cultures emphasize precise, explicit language use to increase understanding of the issues or disagreements. For direct cultures, it is each party’s responsibility to verbalize their own concerns and perspective and to verbally confront misperceptions and misunderstandings that can arise in a dispute. Direct cultures prefer direct face-to-face methods for resolving conflict. From this perspective, there is a greater opportunity for productive dialogue and resolution of the disagreement when the parties can finally sit down and talk to one another. In fact, for many direct culture systems, the process of conflict resolution is considered to be finally initiated and maintained when the contending parties are able to directly address their disagreements with one another. Direct cultures value individuals who speak their mind and can verbally assert (albeit tactfully) differences in viewpoints. Direct cultures value persuasion that is conducted largely through logically ordered arguments supported by verifiable, objective facts, concluding with logically related recommendations or solutions. In this sense, direct cultures emphasize a “solution oriented” approach to problem solving. In contrast, indirect cultures look to identify meaning in one another’s statements and actions by looking outside the verbal messages being exchanged between the parties. This includes greater attentiveness to history ,context, and nonverbal behaviors. Words are more often used in indirect cultural systems to meet social or situational expectations and less to communicate what each party actually believes or wants. Indirect cultures prefer to use third-party intermediaries (TPIs) to mediate a conflict-resolution process. From an indirect culture view, engaging in direct, face-to-face meetings when tensions are escalating only increases discomfort among the parties. Indirect cultures value discretion in voicing one’s own views and goals as direct statements may threaten the harmony that needs to be maintained during the conflict episode. Consequently, indirect culture systems prefer to “talk around” disagreements through such strategies as hinting, analogies, historical examples, and metaphors. For indirect cultures, persuasion is accomplished by sensitivity to face—publicly supporting the social position or reputation of the other party. This influence is wielded incrementally and framed relationally, with less overt emphasis on the factual basis of the dispute. Evidence is suggested more than asserted, relational connections and obligations are reinforced, and solutions are “adjusted” depending on the response of the other party. In this sense, indirect cultures employ a “relationship repair” framework for dealing with substantive issues.

Emotionally Expressive Versus Emotionally Restrained (Controlled) Cultural Patterns

Emotionally expressive cultures value more overt displays of emotional experience during a conflict event. There is a sense that when someone is upset, it is important to braid how one feels with one’s position on the substantive disagreement. For emotionally expressive systems, emotional upset is controlled by externalizing, or letting out emotion. Trying to control or hide emotional upset can escalate rather than deescalate the situation. More visible displays of affect through nonverbal behaviors along with more expansive vocalization characterize emotionally expressive approaches. Sensitivity is found toward perceived or actual constraints being placed on an ability to fully express one’s emotional reality. The sometimes-well-intentioned comment to “take a break so we can all calm down” is often negatively perceived by emotionally expressive individuals. Advice to calm down or soften one’s emotional expressiveness is experienced as a statement that directly challenges one’s sense of authenticity. From this cultural perspective, to divorce how one feels from how one addresses substantive issues. during a conflict is to be insincere to the difficult process of “working through our issues.” Emotional authenticity is central for resolution as it is through emotionally expressive commitment that relational trust is gained, and credibility established. In emotionally expressive cultures, conflict is deescalated after the personal credibility and sincerity of each party is demonstrated through more emotionally expressive and authentic displays. In emotionally restrained systems, the focus is on maintaining emotional control even when one is upset. Strong feelings should be hidden to some degree to avoid upsetting the other party. Emotions are controlled by internalizing. Unlike emotionally expressive cultures, where humor is a comfortable strategy to reduce tensions, humor for emotional restrained cultural systems is risky when tensions are high because it may be negatively interpreted as diminishing the situation or the experiences and feelings of the other party. Minimaldisplaysof emotionthroughnonverbal behavior and a more constrained vocal pattern characterize resolution strategies often employed in emotionally restrained cultures. Sensitivity is directed toward not hurting the feelings of the other party; thus, emotionally controlled cultures are uncomfortable with more overt expressions of emotion. Relational trust and credibility is established and maintained through emotional control or suppression. Maintaining calm in the face of emotional upset also communicates sincerity. More overt displays of emotion send a message of insincerity, questionable intentions, and suspicious motives. Each of these approaches, when combined, produces four distinct conflict resolution styles.

The Four Intercultural Conflict Styles

Table 17.2 presents the four-quadrant model of intercultural conflict style differences.

The discussion style uses direct strategies for communicating about substantive disagreements and emotionally restrained or controlled approaches for dealing with emotional upset. This style resolves issues through a focused, problem-solving process in which objective facts and information are presented in a logical argument format. Clarity in expressing one’s goals or position is important as is maintaining emotional calm when tensions rise. This style follows the American maxim, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Strengths from the discussion style perspective include an ability to directly confront problems and elaborate arguments so people do not misunderstand your views and a willingness to maintain a calm atmosphere. From the perspective of other styles, however, the discussion style can appear logical but unfeeling and appear to overemphasize verbal clarity to the exclusion of recognizing other, more emotional and relational concerns that arise during a conflict. A few exemplar cultures that normatively function largely within a discussion style are those of the United States (European American), Australia, and northern Europe. 4 The engagement style also emphasizes verbal direction in communicating about substantive issues. Unlike the discussion style, however, the engagement style couples this form of directness with an emotionally expressive demeanor. This style is comfortable with more emotionally intense dialogue and in fact participants feel that when each party “puts their emotion on the table” the resolution of the dispute is satisfactorily progressing. This style, because of its more emotional expressive focus, follows the Irish proverb, “What is nearest the mouth is nearest the heart.” Strengths from the engagement style viewpoint include an ability to provide detailed information and explanations and a sincerity and commitment to the other party through more emotional expressions and a positive sense that sharing one’s feelings is how conflicts are successfully resolved. From the orientation of other styles, the engagement style can appear unconcerned with the views and feelings of others and dominating and rude. A few examples of engagement-style cultural systems are those of African Americans in the United States and people of southern Europe, Cuba, Nigeria, and Russia. The accommodation style uses indirect strategies for solving problems coupled with an emotionally restrained approach. This style emphasizes ambiguity, stories, metaphors, and use of third parties to soften verbal confrontation between contending individuals. Relational harmony is maintained in a tense conflict situation by masking or controlling one’s own emotional discomfort. The accommodation style follows the Japanese maxim, “Hear one and understand 10.”

Self-perceived strengths of the accommodation style are an ability to consider alternative interpretations of ambiguous messages and sensitivity to the feelings of the other party. From the view of other styles, however, the accommodation style can reveal difficulty in clearly voicing one’s own opinion, problems in providing detailed explanations, and an appearance of being uncommitted and perhaps dishonest. Some cultural exemplars of the accommodation style are those of Native Americans(United States),Somalians, Mexicans, Japanese, and Thai. The dynamic style uses indirect messages to negotiate substantive disagreements along with more emotionally intense and expressive verbal and nonverbal communication. This style may use language elements that include strategic hyperbole, repetition of one’s position, ambiguity, stories, metaphors, and humor along with greater reliance on third party intermediaries for resolving an escalating dispute. Prioritization of concerns may be communicated more through the level of emotional expression than a direct statement of what is important and what is unimportant. Individuals with a dynamic style may describe themselves in terms of being comfortable with other people interjecting themselves into a disagreement and offering solutions to the contending parties, skilled at observing behavior, and comfortable with strong emotional displays. From the perspective of the other styles, a dynamic style may be seen as unreasonable, too emotional, volatile, and rarely able to “get to the point.” Some dynamic cultures include those of a number of Arab Middle Eastern countries and Pakistan. resolving conflicts. 5 Based on an extensive review of the literature, a total of 122 items were generated that reflect direct and indirect strategies and emotionally expressive and emotionally restrained approaches for resolving conflict. Once these items were identified, a panel of 16 intercultural conflict experts rated these items in terms of the degree to which they are clear indicators of the cultural dimensions examined. Following this review, 52 items were retained for further statistical analysis. A total of 510 respondents from a variety of cultures then responded to the (randomly assigned)items using a Likert agree/disagree scale format. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was then completed. The results clearly indicated that the dimensions of direct/indirect and emotionally expressive/ restrained provided a good fit to the data. A review of these items (e.g., factor/item correlations, redundancy of meaning) resulted in an 18-item direct/indirect scale and an 18-item emotionally expressive/restrained scale. The reliability (coefficient alpha) for the direct/indirect scale was .71 and .86 for the emotionally expressive/restrained scale. Additional analysis was then conducted examining the effects of gender, educational level, and previous experience living in another culture. No significant differences were found on either scale by gender, education, or previous intercultural experience. The ICS items were then formatted as follows: The nine direct style items and the nine indirect style items were paired with one another as two separate options (A, B) to the question, “In general, when resolving conflict with another party, my preferred approach is to. . . .” This produced nine questions. The same was then done for the nine emotionally expressive items and the nine emotionally restrained items. These questions were than randomly arranged in the questionnaire. This newly formatted questionnaire was then administered to a new sample of 487 culturally

1.2 Problem statement

The apparent reason that why China is severely focused on advancement within Pakistan is to make safety strains in the interior the Islamic state. Pakistan, since the partition from India in 1947, has struggled with revolutionaries and radicals operations inside the boundaries and also on the border alongside with Afghanistan, said (Malik, 12). The Pakistani region “Baluchistan” is most bothered regions, disposed to insurgents. This China-Pakistan economic interest and development is all intend to increase the employment opportunities to an unemployed region of Pakistan. Hence, the monetary growth has been identified as one of the anticipatory events in case of violence as well as radicalization (World Bank.). It is a so thoughtful idea of China to work toward lessening the revolt in the capacity.

[bookmark: OLE_LINK8][bookmark: OLE_LINK9][bookmark: OLE_LINK7]Subsequently, on one side, China has extremely milieu culture; that needs to understand acutely whereas, Pakistan can have highly communist Society, said (Bashir, 2003). Therefore, comprehensive analysis and considerate of Chinese’s philosophy and values are mandatory to interrelate with Chinese pros, (Li, et, al. 2012). It is myth for all the professionals involved in deployment of project administrations; required to sincerely comprehend this assortment. However, both of them can manage better each other’s by strongly perceiving the social variances and improve learning from their social setting (Chipulu, et, al. 2014). According to Joslin (2016), if the immediate executives are well aware of social and cultural substances and guarantee the operative communication within the teams, so probably they will be capable to accomplish the squads in an effective method and the optimistic consequences will be found over professionally and competently cohesive teams and this developmental approach will effect in worthy governance. Also, the harmony and cooperative constructive operational approach makes the overall working terms efficient and pleasant, said Ahmad (2013). Glover (2013), have further strengthened the dilemma of positive contribution, which is required to control or bridge the communication barriers or gap, which is backbone to make the development process strong and positive.

The study aims to explore the problem exists in organizational approach of Pakistan-China work settings. Just as; Wiewiora et al. has advocated that cultural integrity and values have positive effect on familiarity among affiliates of various bands and hence the project is leading in Pakistan so the majority staff serving in project are Muslims, so their Islamic Work Ethics will surely play a moderating character to recuperate the performances. Also, the language is the biggest barrier, the local Pakistani and Chinese are not able to openly and confidently communicate with each other; which effects their work efficiency and ends-up with the macro-management; where the managers have to oversee the workflow time-to-time to keep workflow effective.

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1.3 Significance of Research

The study highlights the conflicts exist between China-Pakistan developmental work settings. Also, this current research aims to study the cross cultural workforce challenges and negotiations to make the mainstream working environment friendly and informal. Since the beginning, Pakistan and China has proven a good terms and stood by each other, be it armed help, monitory help or the civil services. But CPEC has emerged as one of the mega project over, which will be beneficial for both the Countries, China and Pakistan.

This study will also highlights the significant evidence of Pakistan-China intercultural conflict at workplace; which has massively influenced the success of project. Since, both the countries are culturally intricate and have found their own individual grounds in term of linguistics and moral values towards official ethics. So, it is significant to explore the individual work approach and to learn how to overcome the conflicts aroused because of conflict management. The core purpose of this study is explore the organization’s repercussions, the Cultural range and its influences on executive activities can never be ignored due to the administrators needs to be cautious regards to the variety and the substances correlated to it. It will help managers to learn and mold the diversity structures hooked on prolific practices to make harmony and collaboration between their groups.

This current study also approves that acting managers and immediate authorities may recognize the diversity to cope teams and be conscious of worker’s performances and individual work approach etc. Because better indulgent of employees may effect in better administration and work efficiencies. Though every culture has its own explicit morals, standards and patterns but rudimentary ethics are usually engaged as mutual standards that people have faith in to be respected and significant. Lastly, this research has hereby settled the constructive influence of diversity between both the teams which upshots in joint synchronization.

1.4 Research Objectives

The study aims to;

  1. Examine the relationship between Intercultural Conflict Management and working teams.
  2. Analyze how intercultural conflict management effects on team work.
  3. Identifying the barriers between Chinese and Pakistanis at work place and to make strategies for friendly work atmosphere.

1.4 Research Methods

This research is Quantitative and Explanatory in nature .It contributes to the existing body of knowledge of important areas of Organizational Behavior like organizational intercultural conflict and team work.

The hypotheses have been tested by collection and analysis of quantitative data obtained from the relevant respondents to establish causal relationships between various variables and thus explaining the nature of relationships between those variables.

Data has been collected through questionnaires. Respondent were

The sampling technique in this study was random sampling. The SPSS 22.0 and Smartpls are used as a statistical Software for analysis of data.

Conceptual Framework

(Discussion Style

Engagement Style

Accommodation Style

Dynamic Style

Team Work)

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  1. Ahmad S, Mallick DN, Schroeder G (2013) New product development: Impact of project characteristics and development practices on performance. Journal of Product Innovation Management 30: 331-348.
  2. Bashir S, Nasir M (2013) Breach of psychological contract, organizational cynicism and union commitment: A study of hospitality industry in Pakistan. International Journal of Hospitality Management 34: 61-65.
  3. Leung K (2012) Editorial, Indigenous Chinese management research, like it or not, we need it. Management and Organization Review 8: 1-5.
  4. Li PP, Leung K, Chen CC, Luo JD (2012) Indigenous research on Chinese management: What and how. Management and Organization Review 8: 7-24.
  5. Malik, Hasar Yaser. ‘Strategic Importance of Gwadar Port.’ Journal of Political
  6. Studies 19.2 (2012): 57-69. Web.
  7. Chipulu M, Ojiako U, Paul G, Williams T, Mota C, et al. (2014) Exploring the impact of cultural values on project performance-The effect of cultural values, age and gender on the perceived importance of project success/failure factors. International Journal of Operations & Production Management 34: 364-389.
  8. Joslin R, Muller R (2016) The relationship between project governance and project success. International Journal of Project Management 34: 613-626.

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Intercultural Conflict Management Between Pakistan And China Working Teams. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from
“Intercultural Conflict Management Between Pakistan And China Working Teams.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
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