Document Type

Article Restricted

Publication Date

Spring 1996

Journal Title

International Journal of Intercultural Relations

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This ethnographic study analyzes cultural norms for conflict communication among Mexicans and U.S. Americans working in maquiladoras (U.S. American-owned assembly plants in Mexico). Descriptions of cultural and intercultural communication were gathered from 20 ethnographic interviews and from researcher's observations in touring seven plants. The ethnography of communication frame “SPEAKING” (Hymes, 1962, 1972) is used as a device for interpreting norms related to two elements of competency: (1) cultural appropriateness, and (2) effectiveness in meeting corporate goals. Understanding communicative behaviors reflecting concern for other's face (Goffman, 1959; Ting-Toomey, 1985, 1986,1988) are described as essential in addressing conflict at every organizational level. U.S. Americans are often described as violating these norms, which are deeply felt and widely held among Mexicans. This study contributes to an understanding of how to effectively manage problematic communication issues in maquilas relating to turnover, absenteeism, and employee productivity, as well as coordination of corporate functions in international communication. U.S. American managers involved in continuous and everyday intercultural interaction may learn to adapt their communicative behaviors in adherence to Mexican cultural norms. U.S. American adaptation occurs when Mexican norm violations decrease organizational effectiveness. This involves processes through which U.S. Americans' reflect on their own cultural behaviors and select from a varied repertoire of culturally appropriate behaviors in order to demonstrate intercultural competency and to meet corporate goals.


A version of this paper was presented to the Intercultural Communication Interest Group of the Western States Communication Association Convention in Portland, Oregon, February, 1995.