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Wee, A 2015, 'Exploring communication in international workplaces in Ho Chi Minh City: a grounded theory study', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright A Wee 2015


This study explores in depth, with a sample of foreign managers and local Vietnamese employees, their experiences of communication at work. The purpose is to examine what they perceived to be issues or concerns when communicating with each other at work. This study also develops a theory based on the findings to better explain the situation under investigation. This study selected a sample of 19 foreign managers and 19 local employees from seven Anglo-based companies operating in the service sector such as accounting, banking and advertising, in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. The primary data collection method was the semi-structured individual interviews. Complementing the individual interviews were focus group discussions with managers and employees who did not take part in the individual interviews.

The interview data was collected and analysed using the qualitative grounded theory method. The collected data was coded and subsequently organised according to themes or categories. The categories generated corresponded with the categories of extant literature reviewed, namely culture, communication and leadership. The managers and employees were generally concerned with the different aspects of work roles, work communication, communication orientation and language use at work. The managers focused on work independence and involvement, proactive communication including feedback and language proficiency. The employees focused on close and supportive relationships, respectful and empathetic communication particularly listening, and language clarity.

By integrating the categories, a model was developed depicting misunderstandings occurring in the international workplaces. The model describes how the different and oftentimes opposing concerns and expectations of work roles, work communication, communication orientation and language held by managers and employees can often contribute to misunderstandings at work. Exacerbating the situation further are the different cultural background and training of the managers and employees. Cultural beliefs and education serve to polarise rather than moderate expectations of behaviours, making for a more volatile situation. The findings of this study revealed that the misunderstandings can negatively affect employee morale and work performance. Consequently it concludes with several recommendations for practice for the managers and their employees.