MANIFEST AND LATENT CAUSES OF ORGANISATIONAL CONFLICT BETWEEN WESTERN EXPATRIATES AND HOST-NATIONALS IN EAST ASIA
 
Brew, F., Macquarie University, Australia
 
In an era of global workplaces, scant research has addressed the nature and causes of organisational intercultural conflict. This is particularly important for organisations in East Asia involving Western expatriates from individualist cultures and host-nationals from collectivist cultures. It has been shown that, traditionally, individualists tend to be more confrontational or direct when dealing with conflict than collectivists, who value harmony and face preservation and, therefore, tend to avoid conflict. This paper investigated whether such traditional dichotomous differences in conflict approaches were reflected in contemporary causes of workplace conflict by examining the descriptions of the latent and manifest phases of a number of intercultural conflict incidents reported in a multinational organisation with subsidiaries in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. Using critical incident methodology, 35 respondents (17 expatriates, 18 host-nationals) were asked to recount a recent incident of intercultural conflict in which they were involved. Reasons given for the manifest causes of each conflict and causal explanations for the a priori latent features were analysed using grounded theory coding and a multidimensional scaling technique. It was shown that reasons for manifest causes varied across a number of categories, 75% of which are likely to be found in any workplace. However, causal explanations of the latent aspects were found to involve two broad communication themes related to cultural variability, indirect versus direct communication styles and perceived lack of communication competence. The results were discussed in relation to increasing employees' awareness of communication differences as a major factor in the causal history of intercultural conflict.