Does language affect trust in global professional contexts? Perceptions of international business professionals

Jane Kassis Henderson, Leena Louhiala-Salminen

Abstract


A characteristic of trust is that it is more easily built in close-knit communities where common ground and a common language are already established. Building trust is, therefore, a challenge for business professionals who use English as a shared working language in the multilingual environment of multinational companies. In this exploratory article, concepts from trust research and principles from the field of interactional sociolinguistics are used to throw light on the interplay of language and trust. Based on an analysis of survey and interview data from business professionals in globally operating companies in several countries, findings indicate that language related factors both inhibit and foster trust building.

The article argues that it is crucial for individuals to develop awareness of the language and communication practices that foster trusting relations. This has implications for training and executive development programmes and reinforces claims that the pragmatic communication aspects of language use should be emphasized.

Keywords


trust; discourse; intercultural; international; organization

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