GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Victor Zengyu
Title of Paper:
Trust and Knowledge Transfer in a Multicultural Environment - The Role of Social Network Diversity
Paper Proposal Text :

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has enjoyed global economic success on a grand scale is without question. As UAE celebrated its 40th birthday in December, 2011, it seeks to create significant opportunities for the local and international private sector, as well as new employment opportunities for UAE Nationals in highly-skilled, knowledge-based and export-oriented sectors.
As UAE undertaken numerous efforts over the past four decades to diversify their economies beyond oil, with varying levels of success. Oil-generated capital (rent) accumulation, however, has generated severe labor market distortions in the region, with private sector work dominated by majority foreign workforces and a high wage public sector providing employment for the minority local citizen. At a micro level, expatriate workforce form a significant proportion of total immigration in the UAE. The resulting human capital mix presents a structural barrier to developing the local capacity required for creating or sustaining a post-oil economy.
Immigration has become an integral part of the UAE social fabric, as of 2010, a total of 80 percent of the population was foreign born. The fast growth of new companies in the UAE and the increasing diversification of operations by many large local corporations have created a situation where businesses are not effectively sharing internal learning and experience. Effective knowledge spillover effects that includes a range of practices to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge within a company, could provide a vital resource for organizations as they move forward. If an organization is considering to increase performance of knowledge creation as well as leverage knowledge, then knowledge transfer is necessary.
It is arguably that the degree to which the import of foreign knowledge results in local development capacity is a function of public and private incentives for two activities: first, the transfer of knowledge from foreign participants to local workers and firms and, second, the absorption of this knowledge by those local workers and firms. As the region responds to the post-2008 global economic crisis, it has become even more relevant understand how or whether foreign knowledge can be transferred to a local host market. The GCC states such as UAE have used their oil wealth to acquire state-of-the-art business models, industrial knowledge and technologic capability. What happens to this global human capital once it is imported? By studying the circulation of knowledge, embodied by foreign workers and firms, and the challenges facing such process, this research seeks to extend the literature on two important factors: social capital (social network diversity), and social trust.
The personality-based perspective on trust asserts that individuals’ dispositional trust, a trait, represents a psychological resource that is innate or primarily developed from adolescence experiences (Caspi, 2000; Rotter, 1980). Once imprinted, it is stable across time and situations (Lewis, 2001; Mayer et al., 1995), and therefore may account for the baseline of social trust in a social unit. The literature on social capital in the community complements this assertion by suggesting that individuals’ social experiences acquired primarily through diverse social networking in adulthood add to the baseline of social trust in the social unit (Roberts et al., 2003).
The literature on social capital within a community contends that participation in diverse social networks in the community helps individuals develop interpersonal social trust because diverse social experiences can inculcate a wide range of social skills (such as the ability to empathize and improvise) and political skills (such as the ability to negotiate and self-protect) that enhance their capacity and confidence in interpersonal interactions (Letki, 2004; Green and Brock, 2005; Stolle and Rochon, 2001).
Diverse social networks provide abundant opportunities through which individuals can learn to cope with different types of people (Argyle and Henderson, 1985). They can apply, refine, and generalize their social skills through various social encounters, and develop a repertoire of strategies for common social interactions (Argyle, 1969). People who have had social experiences in diverse social networks are thus likely to recognize others’ needs and intentions (Yamagishi and Yamagishi, 1994), to respond appropriately and promptly (Argyle, 1969), and to influence the course of social interactions (Meichenbaum et al., 1981). Furthermore, individuals can learn a series of political skills in diverse social interactions, such as understanding and utilizing rules, building relationship with influential people, resolving interpersonal conflicts, and protecting themselves from fraudulence (Hochwarter et al., 2007).
Prior research suggests that interpersonal interactions in diversified social networks increase individuals’ capacity and confidence in handling various social encounters, including encounters with unknown and potentially untrustworthy social actors (Argyle, 1969), and thus may enable individuals to maintain a high level of social trust in the workplace (Lewis and Weigert, 1985), which may facilitate important organizational processes such as knowledge transfer and knowledge sharing (Deng 2005).
In the UAE, Foreign workers (temporary immigrants) represent up to a half or more of the total workforce. The current expatriate majority and the resulting cultural diversity in the workforce in many organizations in the UAE along with the existing structural and regulatory environment, represent a unique labor market context. Intergroup relations and social trust in this context are expected to have significant implications for knowledge transfer. Workforce diversity may have advantages, such as higher potential for creativity and innovation, but it may also lead to problems (Maddox, 2010), such as employees having a stronger identification with their social group over other work and organizational groups. This may lead to lower organizational commitment and performance as well as intergroup conflict and stereotyping. The study aim to explore such challenges through the lens of social network development, and its effects on knowledge transfer in the workplace through the role of social trust - defined as a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, Camerer, 1998).
References emitted but available upon request.