Related research project

Research context

Globalisation and increasing numbers of cross-border M&As and joint ventures has led to significant interest in the role of language in cross-cultural teams. Studies are being carried out, on the one hand, by management scholars (e.g. Kroon, Cornelissen, & Vaara, 2015; Lauring, 2008; Reiche et al., 2015; van den Born & Peltokorpi, 2010), and, on the other hand, by applied linguists, (e.g. Ehrenreich, 2010; Kankaanranta & Planken, 2010; Kankaanranta & Wei Lu, 2013; Pullin, 2013). The literature shows that, in addition to cultural differences, language barriers can cause problems (e.g. Kroon et al., 2015). However, there is little joint research carried out by scholars of both cross-cultural management and linguistics backgrounds that includes fine-grained analyses of authentic use of language as it unfolds in the context in MCTs. This study takes an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together scholars from the two fields with the aim of enriching findings and notably applications in concrete business and training contexts.

A further focus of the study is the so-called millennium generation, by analysing interaction in Sino-Swiss teams made up of this age cohort. Researchers in applied linguistic and cultural studies have pointed to the importance of generational differences, in particular with regard to China, noting, for example that this generation is the first truly globalised generation in China (Scollon et al., 2011). Thus, they are more likely to have greater common ground with western counterparts, tend to have a higher level of competence in English than earlier generations (Graddol, 2006), and they may adapt more easily to working with different others in using English as a shared language (Kankaanranta & Wei Lu, 2013).


The aim of this project is to study Sino-Swiss teams focusing on how teams function in using or failing to use the shared language to accomplish their goals, while maintaining positive team relations.

This study of the functioning of Sino-Swiss teams focuses on the impact of English use on team effectiveness – i.e. how team members use or fail to use the shared language to accomplish team goals and to maintain positive team relations.

This research relies on a mixed method approach, with dominance given to a qualitative approach wherein we will inductively investigate the linguistic practices and strategies that members of Sino-Swiss teams deploy, over time, in i) building, nurturing, maintaining and if necessary repairing relations, ii) creating a team shared identity. Also, we investigate how linguistic practices and strategies impact team effectiveness.

The quantitative study will be conducted concurrently in order to triangulate qualitative results in terms of construct and internal validity as well as to initiate new lines of thinking through attention to possible discrepancies between qualitative and quantitative findings. Finally, this study contributes to existing literature on MCTs by integrating two streams of research (management and applied linguistics) in studying the increasing phenomenon of Sino-Western teams in relation to shared identity and team effectiveness.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Pullin

Dr. Konishi in charge of the quantitative study