Interpersonal conflict between employees and managers: The Chinese immigrants experiences of acculturation in New Zealand public sector workplaces
With the increase in globalisation and migration, the future workplace will become more culturally diverse. Significant literature points out that culturally diverse workplaces can create organisational conflict because of the workers’ differences in cultural values, attitudes, and work styles. New Zealand, like other countries, has also faced the challenge of an increasingly diverse workforce. Although the associations between cultural diversity and conflict management styles in different countries have been widely discussed, the existing literature focuses more on comparison studies with participants who are from different countries. There is a lack of research investigating Chinese employees who live overseas and work in overseas organisations. Research on how young Chinese migrants cope with conflict in New Zealand organisations is scarce. The purpose of this study is to explore Chinese migrant employees’ preferences for styles of conflict management and the reasons they perceive these styles, as well as the influence of acculturation and ethnic identity orientation. The study argues that acculturation, the process of cultural change, is one of the factors that relates to the use and perceptions of different conflict management styles. This study explores how immigrants who have acculturated, learned and adopted their host society’s cultural characteristics, perceived and faced conflict issues in the workplace. More particularly, this study investigates how the role of ethnic identity influences different conflict management styles. A qualitative phenomenological method is employed in this study to obtain a deeper picture of conflict phenomena among Chinese migrant employees who have been through the process of acculturation. This method is useful for describing the lived experiences of conflict and acculturation. The data consisted of twenty one in-depth interviews with Chinese migrant employees from mainland China who work in twenty different New Zealand public sector organisations. The findings of this study reveal that due to their acculturation experiences, interviewees have developed an integrated bicultural identity that is rooted in good feelings about being New Zealanders, accompanied by a positive sense of Chinese ethnic identity. They view their own identity as a combination of both New Zealand and Chinese identities. Depending on the situation and the nature of their interpersonal relationships, interviewees can switch between these two identities without a problematic struggle. Based on the influence of this integrated bicultural identity, the study finds that young Chinese migrant employees prefer to use a combination of integrating and compromising conflict management styles. The tendency to use integrating conflict management is highly influenced by their adaptation to New Zealand cultural values and attitudes. Being New Zealanders gives these bicultural Chinese migrant employees confidence to confront and integrate conflict directly, and solve it in cooperative manner. The findings also show that Chinese beliefs and values continue to be maintained. The principles of Confucianism are deeply rooted and included showing mutual respect, avoiding embarrassment to other parties, controlling emotions or psychological impulses. Under the influence of being Chinese, young Chinese migrant employees incline towards compromising style depending on the circumstances. However, if integrating and compromising styles fail to resolve the conflict because the other party refuses harmony and escalates the conflict, young Chinese migrant employees would change their strategies by asking for third-party interventions and seeking for a sense of justice and fairness.