In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Communication and Culture in Multinational Organizations

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Handbooks

Communication Communication and Culture in Multinational Organizations
Juana Du
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 April 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0253


Scholarly work and research on communication in multinational organizations continues to grow, responding to the increase of organizational complexity in a global environment where international teams, initiatives, and joint ventures have become common. Accompanying that growth were efforts to establish a clear focus and define boundaries of organizational communication research, particularly emphasizing multinational organizations. How to define communication in the context of multinational organizations? While a comprehensive review of the answers to this question could yield a handbook of communication in organizations, a clear answer can be given outlining the assumptions and political interests underlying different perspectives and theoretical conceptualizations. Therefore, instead of answering the question of what communication is in multinational organizations, this article follows the question proposed by Stanley Deetz. In The New Handbook of Organizational Communication, edited by Fredric M. Jablin and Linda L. Putnam (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001), Deetz asks, “What do we see or what are we able to do if we think of organizational communication in one way versus another?” (p. 4). Deetz poses the question in order to better understand our choices of setting boundaries for the study of communication in organizations. Deetz reviews three different ways of conceptualizing communication in organizations. The first one emphasizes the development of organizational communication as a specialized area where departments and associations are organized around it; the second approach views communication as a phenomenon that exists in organizational context; and the third one regards communication as a distinct mode of explaining organizations. Recently there have been burgeoning studies in which communication scholars approach communication in organizations using the third approach. Those studies provide psychological or social-cultural explanations of organizations. This review summarizes several major topics on communication in multinational organizations that have been studied over the years. Rather than providing a comprehensive review of the field, the select perspectives and topics discussed here reflect major research foci and approaches associated with the study of communication in multinational organizations in the last few decades. This discussion also captures the recent shift from classic organizations to knowledge-intensive organizations in the context of 21st-century organizational life.


To get a comprehensive picture of the academic work studying communication in multinational organizations, it is worthwhile to notice the central role of academic journals which document knowledge and research development in the field. For instance, Management Communication Quarterly (MCQ) has became the predominant home for organizational communication research since it was established in 1987. Academic papers published in MCQ have become known internationally. As a leading journal for scholars of communication in organizational and managerial contexts, it also documents the internationalization of organizational communication studies. Management Communication Quarterly publishes multiple special issues on some important topics about conceptualizing communication in multinational organizations. Organizational communication scholars also publish their empirical work in other communication journals, such as Communication Monographs, Communication Research, Human Communication Research, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Western Journal of Communication. Researchers have examined organizational culture and communication from a variety of perspectives and publish their work in organization and management journals, including but not limited to International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, Journal of International Management, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and Human Resource Management Review.

  • Communication Monographs. 1934–.

    As a publication of the National Communication Association, this journal publishes mainly on theoretical, conceptual, methodological, and social issues in the field

  • Communication Research. 1974–.

    This journal publishes original scholarly work examining communication issues and problems across several different contexts, including close relationships, groups, organizations, and different cultures.

  • Human Communication Research. 1974–.

    Human Communication Research is one of the official journals of the International Communication Association, and is a top-ranked journal in the field of human communication. Research published in this journal includes a wide range of topic areas including organizational communication and technology, language and social interaction, nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, mass communication and so on.

  • Human Resource Development Quarterly. 1990–.

    Encourages a multidisciplinary approach and publishes scholarly work that addresses the theoretical foundations of human resource development, human resource development research, and evaluation of human resource development interventions and contexts.

  • Human Resource Management Review. 1991–.

    Publishes conceptual/theoretical work in the areas of human resources management, industrial/organizational psychology, organizational behavior, labor relations, international human resource management strategies, etc.

  • International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management. 2001–.

    Invites scholarly work contributing to an understanding of the issues, problems, and practice of managing, working, and organizing across cultures. It publishes work cross a variety of areas including cultural psychology, sociocultural anthropology, sociology, cross-cultural communication, and cross-cultural management.

  • Journal of Applied Communication Research. 1973–.

    Provides a home for research emphasizing applied communication problems or social issues across a variety of contexts. This journal commits to both academic and applied audiences, and welcomes scholarship which addresses the relation between theory and practice in applied contexts.

  • Journal of International Management. 1995–.

    Publishes both theoretical and empirical research relating to international management and strategy issues, and serves an audience of academic researchers and educators, as well as business professionals. Focuses on issues related to the management of global enterprises, global management theory, and practices which provide both theoretical and managerial implications.

  • Journal of Organizational Behavior. 1980–.

    Focuses on research in all topics related to organizational behavior within and across individual, group, and organizational levels. It welcomes scholarly work examining organizational topics across levels, such as diversity, careers and career development, inter-organizational processes, and multinational and cross-national issues.

  • Management Communication Quarterly. 1987–.

    Covers a variety of communication topics and issues in management and organizational contexts.

  • Western Journal of Communication. 1992–.

    Publishes work from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives, and addresses issues across rhetorical and media studies, interpersonal and intercultural communication, critical and cultural studies, language behavior, performance studies, small group and organizational communication, etc.

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