Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Hanken School of Economics

No 504: Organizing (with) Thirdness. A Dialogic Understanding of Bicultural Interactions in Organizations

Martin Fougère ()
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Martin Fougère: Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: Arkadiankatu 22, P.O.B. 479; FIN 00101 Helsinki, Finland

Abstract: This conceptual paper examines bicultural interactions in organizations as they are experienced by the involved individuals. Notions from Bakhtinian dialogism are used in order to conceptualize the sensemaking opportunities provided by the encounter with a cultural otherness. It is argued that in such bicultural situations, because of the lack of intimate understanding of the other culture, the third element in the dialogic relation - ‘thirdness’, i.e. the relation itself, without which there would be no sensemaking potential - may be lacking as a result of the distorting combination of projected similarity and stereotyping, added to certain counterproductive organizational dynamics. Therefore, it is suggested that, to make the bicultural work interaction the rewarding relation it could be, thirdness should be coordinated by management in a way that can transcend the spontaneous negative dynamics of the confrontational situation. If management was to fail to organize (with) thirdness appropriately, bringing in a third party could be a possible alternative in order to initiate the necessary mutual understanding that should eventually lead to a fruitful work interaction.

Keywords: Intercultural / Bicultural Interaction; Dialogism; Thirdness; Bakhtin; Sensemaking

22 pages, May 3, 2004

Price: 10

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