Author(s), Title and Publication

Lauring, J., & Klitmøller, A. (2017). Inclusive Language Use in Multicultural Business Organizations: The Effect on Creativity and Performance. International Journal of Business Communication, 54(3), 306-324. doi:10.1177/2329488415572779


It can be argued that internal communication in the organization enables work groups to create a healthy social environment, coordinate work activities, and stimulate overall creativity. Work environments that embrace consistent communication norms facilitate trust among peers as employees are able to quickly test their ideas among colleagues. It may, however, be more difficult to achieve good internal communication in organizations where individuals speak different native languages. The consistent use of a shared language in multicultural organizations has been found to increase group cohesion, knowledge sharing, and can assist in promoting an inclusive environment in which employees feel part of the general communication flow and thus may air ideas that are new to the organization.

The study, utilizing responses from 676 participants employed in privately owned multicultural companies, revealed an organization’s adoption of a common language and consistent communication in that language among leadership and peers was strongly associated with performance. Employees’ expressed creativity was sparked through being in the presence of inclusive peers, in an inclusive organization with likewise inclusive processes. Although the study found embracing a common language facilitated performance and employees generally welcomed the concept, the study also found openness to language diversity among employees had strong relations with both creativity and performance. Further, the study found the use of localized terms and incorrect pronunciations in any specific language may alienate some employees, leading to feelings of exclusivity rather than inclusivity.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should (1) consider focusing on how inclusive language use can affect work outcomes in the form of creativity and performance, by paying close attention to avoiding localized terms in favor of business-specific terms in adopting a common language (2) consider enrolling in language training to ensure correct pronunciation of words, to learn more business-specific terms, and to be more concise in speaking a learned language and delivering messages (3) formalizing an organizational language policy and training program to encourage inclusivity and diversity at both the individual and organizational levels.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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