The impact of culture on the construal of organizational crisis: Perceptions of crisis in Dubai

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Corporate Communications


©Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1356-3289 Purpose – Despite the rising significance of the Arabian Gulf on the global corporate landscape, research is lacking in the area of organizational crisis communication. The purpose of this paper is to present a preliminary contribution to this gap in the form of an initial investigation of the conceptualization of crisis among female Emirati nationals in Dubai. Design/methodology/approach – With reference to Pearson and Clair’s (1998) list of organizational crises, the authors designed a survey to elicit perceptions of crises, their severity, and their likelihood of occurring in the United Arab Emirates; the authors administered this survey to 105 female Emirati respondents. Given the heavy delineation of gender roles that exists in the region, the authors limited this initial study to a single gender, women. The authors discuss the crises respondents identified as most severe and most likely to occur in the country in terms of culture, Islamic values, and business in Dubai. Findings – Responses indicate that perceptions of crisis differ vastly from those that typically obtain in western countries and that particular religious and cultural factors influence these perceptions. Research limitations/implications – Given the divergence between the construal of crisis in the Gulf and in western contexts, further investigation of how organizational crisis is perceived and responded to in Gulf contexts is warranted to inform corporate communication management in a region whose economic influence is increasingly important. Future research also needs to investigate a broader sample, including male respondents, in order to construct a framework of culture and crisis in the region. Practical implications – As more MNCs are attracted to Dubai, and other Gulf cities, it is imperative that they are well informed of the differing perceptions of, and reactions to, potential crises that may affect them directly or indirectly. Originality/value – The present study is the first the authors know of that assesses how organizational crises are perceived in a Gulf context. It brings to the fore certain particularities that could serve as hypotheses for an innovative research stream. While it is an exploratory study, it highlights salient issues that can be formulated into hypotheses in further research.

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