Cultural Intelligence: A Construct to Improve Occupational Safety and Health in the Face of Globalization and Worker Mobility Across National Borders

Patrick L. Yorio, Jason Edwards, Dick Hoeneveld, and Emily J. Haas

CONTENTS

  • 6.1 Introduction....................................................................................................93
  • 6.2 Increasing Globalization and Worker Mobility Across National Borders.....94
  • 6.3 Theoretical Reflections on Cultural Intelligence...........................................96
  • 6.4 Cultural Intelligence Applied to OSH............................................................98
  • 6.5 Conclusions and Directions for Future Research.........................................101

References..............................................................................................................102

Introduction

Globalization and workforce mobility across national borders are increasing trends in today’s world economy. These trends have led to increasing numbers of both expatriate occupational safety and health (OSH) managers, and local workforces being comprised of individuals from a diverse array of national cultures. As such, OSH managers are increasingly called upon to facilitate injury and illness prevention initiatives in foreign countries or among diverse groups of individuals socialized in distinct national cultures. Both contexts present challenges and OSH managers must find ways to lead diverse groups of people towards meaningful, safe, and healthy work. Practitioners and academics both agree and advocate that cross-cultural competence is a necessity for managers functioning in today’s global economy (Chao and Moon 2005; Ng et al. 2009; Eisenberg et al. 2013). A recent survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (2012) found that 90% of business leaders surveyed referenced management and communication as a top challenge in their work across national borders, indicating a gap in our current global work environments.

Within this chapter we posit cultural intelligence as increasingly important for organizational OSH in cross-cultural contexts. Cultural intelligence is a prominent model of cultural competence and refers to an individual’s capability to effectively manage themselves and others in cross-cultural situations and environments (Earley and Ang 2003; Thomas and Inkson 2004; Leung et al. 2014). As will be discussed, numerous studies outside of the OSH discipline demonstrate that cultural intelligence can benefit a range of important business outcomes in both expatriate and culturally diverse contexts. Further, cultural intelligence can be learned and measured and, therefore, also successfully applied in organizational leadership development initiatives with equal application in empirical research contexts (Caligiuri and Tarique 2012).

In this chapter, we first present some of the challenges that increasing globalization and worker mobility across national borders present to OSH. We then highlight the importance of cultural intelligence in cross-cultural contexts and elaborate on its core dimensions. We then provide a set of examples of how cultural intelligence may be applied to the context of cross-cultural OSH management. We conclude by offering our thoughts on directions for future research in cross-cultural OSH management.

 
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