Social identity in MNCs based on language and nationality

Albert Wöcke, Robert Grosse, Anthony Stacey, Natasha Brits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The existence of multiple languages in a multinational corporation (MNC) causes tensions in the firm both by causing problems in communicating and by creating social groups. MNCs that adopt a common corporate language that is not their home language will find a problem of competing languages. Nationality is another cultural feature that leads to perceived biases that favor home-country nationals. We explore both of these influences using social identity theory. Our research was conducted in a Spanish MNC that has subsidiaries in 42 countries and has adopted English as its corporate language. We used a mixed-method approach with a mailed survey of 216 managers across 42 subsidiaries in the MNC and personal interviews of headquarters executives. We found that Spanish speakers enjoyed advantages in terms of access to resources for themselves and their subsidiaries, relative to non-Spanish speakers. This access was greater when the Spanish speakers were Spanish nationals and was moderated by geographic proximity of the subsidiary to the headquarters and age of the subsidiary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-673
Number of pages13
JournalThunderbird International Business Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • corporate language
  • headquarters–subsidiary relationship
  • in-company resource allocation
  • language and IB
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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