Cross-border management: Any evidence of cultural adaptation in short-term interactions?

Cross-border management: Any evidence of cultural adaptation in short-term interactions?

By Dr. Katerina Pouliasi

Presentation for the Academic track at the

IACCM-IÉSEG 2019 Congress
Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2019 – Paris, France


In our interdependent economies even large companies will form cross-border alliances to survive international competition.  Yet, consideration of how cultures clash and how feelings of cultural conflict affect the effective operation of employees and managers often lag behind.

Ample studies have focused on the process and the psychological consequences of long-term cultural adaptation (immigrants, expats, expatriate assignments).  However, little or no empirical research focuses on the process and the emotional experience employees of international organizations go through due to short-term interactions at-a-distance.

The present focus is on the massively increased cross-border interactions between employees of local branches of  multinational corporations that physically live in different countries but engage in short-term intercultural interactions

The question

We have investigated a very basic question in the field of Cross-Cultural Management, namely,

Would individuals involved in cross-national interactions show any evidence of the so-called short-term cultural adaptation (Molinsky, A., 2007), or in another common term  ‘Intercultural Competence‘ (ICC) i.e. respond appropriately to the different values and norms imposed by the foreign culture settings (Deardorff, 2011; Earley & Ang, 2003)?

Are managers and employees able, for example,  to adapt their behaviour to interpretations of an episode that are conflicting with the ones they are chronically used to, the familiar ones in their own culture?

Another aspect to be seriously considered is that those interpretations of a behaviour take place spontaneously and unconsciously. No direct relation with a specific culture is realized!

How can we measured them, identify culture in them and transform this insight  in a personal skill or at a company level in valuable human asset?

This study answers such questions!

The population and the focus

The current study involved managers and IT specialists working in own country but co-operating across the borders.

In a pilot face-to-face interviews involving all hierarchical levels, from the operational to the higher CEO level, we applied the incident-based and semi-structured process (Rasmussen & Sieck, 2015).

In a subsequent on-line survey, enrolling the majority of the actors in the cooperation line, we assessed to what extent issues  raised during the interviews are shared within the whole company and at all levels again. Complementary, in a within-between organizational design we also assessed some of Hofstede’s cross-national dimensions the most reliable ones. Yet, ‘attitude to hierarchy’ a sensitive issue  arisen through the interviews have had to be measured in a more subtle and indirect way! Therefore, we used a thoroughly designed scenario inspired by real life situations to identify what managers and subordinates believe as the most appropriate way to operate in a given situation and in hierarchical context.

Most important in the sense of Intercultural Competence, is to evaluate this skill among the individuals of each unit. We applied  the well-established Cultural Frame Switching design (Hong et al., 2000) that can capture  whether responders exhibit  this ‘short term’ ICC ability.

A  certain novel added valued of this study is that investigates these questions among individuals who experience another different and in many respects conflicting culture, from a distance! Many of them have never physically been in the country of the people they often daily communicate with virtually! Would these participants show cultural adaptation to the norms and values of the foreign culture?

We tested this question on their self-presentation expressions, interpretations of a social happening, behaviour towards superiors and the reversed, what they value mostly  at a working context, whether and how feeling cultural conflict with the óther’ side’affects their behavior and attitude, their positive experience from dealing with the ‘other’ and much more..

Findings and implications

We discuss the findings and implications for individuals and for companies!

We have conducted analysis at the individual and the within-between organizational level. Both results are critical for improving the long ago underestimated low levels of effectiveness and satisfaction in cross-border co-operations (Mohr & Spekman, 1994). Findings are also significant for those interested in effective design in tailored training. Next to, or as a serious complement to the often used cross-cultural dimensions with long questionnaires!

One is for certain: Traditional criteria like ‘time spend abroad’ or personality traits tests have to be complemented with tests on  ‘feelings of Conflict with a target culture in staffing selection or in specific assignments internal or expatriate!


Cross-border management, short-term interactions, cultural adaptation, multinational companies, IT experts

Time and place

To be discussed at the Academic track of the RESEARCH CONFERENCE: IACCM-IÉSEG 2019 Congress in Paris,

on Friday, 01.11.2019, 16:30-18:00, room 111 

Registration please visit  here 

Location: Paris | France