’Cultural diversity’ at work: ‘National culture’ as a discourse organizing an international project group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research to date concurs in maintaining that performance of nationally homogeneous workgroups differs if compared to heterogeneous ones. Yet, results are mixed on the relationship between cultural diversity and workgroup outcomes. The article argues that cultural differences are given explanatory authority, cultural diversity acquiring a positivist status, and group members being treated as ‘dopes of their culture’. An alternative approach is to conceive ‘cultural diversity’ and ‘national culture’ as discursive resources used by group members in everyday group life. The author followed an international project group for over 17 months,observing how group members discussed and made sense of what went on. Findings suggest that the way members in international project groups use the ‘national/cultural’ discourse plays a crucial role in the organization of the project. More specifically, results demonstrate that group members shaped and developed their international project in important ways by using the discourses on ‘national culture’ and ‘cultural diversity’ to excuse confusion and misunderstanding, to position themselves vis-à-vis the group, to justify decisions and to give the group a raison d'être. Implications are drawn concerning the need for researchers to acknowledge actors' space for choice in group-life.


External organisations
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Research areas and keywords


  • cultural diversity, discourse, international project, multinational workgroup, national culture
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-340
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes