Interpersonal communication and diversity climate: Promoting workforce localization in the UAE

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International Journal of Organizational Analysis


© Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – This paper aims to identify the rudiments of an organizational communication framework which can serve as a facilitator of a positive diversity climate, which, in turn, could enhance the integration of locals into the expatriate-dominated workforce of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As UAE citizens constitute a small minority of the workforce, the local style of communication is not, ipso facto, the dominant one in organizations. Design/methodology/approach – The study elicited 458 Emirati respondents’ narratives of positive and negative workplace communication experiences. The authors identified emerging themes to highlight the key features of interpersonal interactions likely to foster or hinder a supportive diversity climate. Findings – The critical incidents reported are interpreted in terms of UAE cultural traditions, more specifically, the communication patterns valued by local workers. Research limitations/implications – Outside of the Arabian Gulf, there are perhaps no other national workforces that are so multicultural that local communication strategies are overshadowed. This research is, therefore, a pioneering attempt to re-establish a preference for indigenous communication practices to facilitate the workforce localization policies that are present in many Gulf countries. Practical implications – The communication preferences identified could inform the implementation of an organizational communication model centered around indigenous communication preferences, including the communication strategies that would be most effective for organizational leadership to use. At the same time, this could contribute to the creation of a positive diversity climate that, in turn, could decrease levels of attrition among Emirati employees and enhance workforce localization. Originality/value – This study represents an innovative attempt to construct a communication model around which a positive diversity climate can coalesce and, in so doing, it serves as an initial contribution to the management of diversity within the context of Arabian Gulf workplaces.

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