Reconsidering intercultural (communication) competence in the workplace: a dialectical approach

Judith N. Martin, Thomas K. Nakayama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (sociolinguistics, language education, communication, business, etc.) have investigated and promoted the notion of competence in intercultural interaction for many years. They have addressed complex issues and proposed culture general and culture specific models and applied these models in various contexts including workplace interaction. In this paper, we examine the assumptions about the cultural identities of workers in contemporary research and training in intercultural competence. These assumptions seem to reinscribe the colonialist traveler/cosmopolitan – focusing on individual characteristics, motivation, and skill sets, often through a Eurocentric lens. A dialectical perspective foregrounds individual characteristics of competence with larger societal attitudes and laws that impact the treatment of women, gays, and others. A dialectical perspective can help us better understand the opportunities and constraints facing different people in workplaces around the world. By complicating our understanding of competence and taking a dialectical perspective, we hope to advance theory and practice in this important topic area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Intercultural Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


  • communication
  • competence
  • culture
  • dialectic
  • global
  • workplace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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