In times of uncertainty, people will help and innovate if the organisation is stable.

Our paper “Does organizational formalization facilitate voice and helping organizational citizenship behaviors? It depends on (national) uncertainty norms” was published in the Journal of International Business Studies after years of analyses and writing. To be published in such a top-level journal is very rewarding and we owe colleagues, reviewers and friends for useful feedback. We had not anticipated that the world dynamics would’ve shifted to the extent that previously relatively stable countries are now experiencing their own internal and international uncertainties (e.g., G7 June 2018 and the debates around Brexit). We hope that this paper gives policy makers and organisational decision makers some key advice on how to cope when the macro-level environment is unstable but as an organisation you still want your employees to collaborate and voice ideas.

Abstract: “Prosocial work behaviors in a globalized environment do not operate in a cultural vacuum. We assess to what extent voice and helping organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) vary across cultures, depending on employees’ perceived level of organizational formalization and national uncertainty. We predict that in contexts of uncertainty, cognitive resources are engaged in coping with this uncertainty. Organizational formalization can provide structure that frees up cognitive resources to engage in OCB. In contrast, in contexts of low uncertainty, organizational formalization is not necessary for providing structure and may increase constraints on discretionary behavior. A three-level hierarchical linear modeling analysis of data from 7,537 employees in 267 organizations across 17 countries provides broad support for our hypothesis: perceived organizational formalization is weakly related to OCB, but where uncertainty is high; formalization facilitates voice significantly, helping OCB to a lesser extent. Our findings contribute to clarifying the dynamics between perceptions of norms at organizational and national levels for understanding when employees may engage in helping and voice behaviors. The key implication is that managers can foster OCB through organizational formalization interventions in uncertain environments that are cognitively demanding.

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The UNHCR made a statement on the second anniversary of little Alan (known as Aylan) Kurdi’s death. For many people the idea that others want to come to their shores is a frightening prospect. This issue is enormously complex and taking up the drawbridge is not a solution nor is it morally justifiable.

One of the main reasons why it is not a solution is the misunderstanding that people cross deserts and seas on their own volition. There is a business and profit oriented aspect to immigration that needs the input from scholars, experts and individuals with their voting power. First, the security industry has no interest in reducing the fear of people regarding immigration. They make a lot of money. They do not take Corporate Social Responsibility into account.

Second, a photographer with an exhibition that won the Carmignac Photojournalism Award at the Saatchi gallery in London was able to dismiss his own hypothesis of the ‘romantic’ (his words) notion that people would cross land to find freedom and security. It turned out that immigration is actually modern slavery. Groups of people are sorted and ‘stored’ until shipped to Europe. Who are the buyers? The stakeholders?

These are international issues that touch upon the murky (I refuse to use ‘dark’) side of globalization. During the teaching of our Undergraduate, MBAs and MAs course on International Management & Ethics and Management Perspectives we challenge students to see the wider implications, consider all stakeholders and develop critical, culturally intelligent skills. I’m proud of that work but as academics, we need to stop working in silos and multidisciplinary work, research, output needs to be better rewarded and published in open access journals. Fools are us for our own murky publications business model.

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Accepted and nominated

My paper has been accepted! I’ll be presenting a paper on Brexit titled “Fitting in as a citizen: An exploration of individuals’ conceptualization of citizenship through a Person-Environment Fit lens” in Edinburgh at the end of June 2017 for the International Society of Political Psychology

I was also nominated for ‘Most Inspiring Teacher’ for the annual Teaching Awards organised by the Middlesex University Student Union. Last year it was ‘Most Innovative Teacher’ and I’m pleased to be included in the list. What’s more, it’s a good reflective practice to read what made students nominate me. To read that I’m helpful, a mentor, that I’m feisty but I care, and that I motivate and stimulate on the subject of cross cultural management in this globalised environment is really important to me.

Intention and perception are key aspects to consider in academia (and beyond). The MBA student cared to do this in poem-form, which, for a business student is pretty amazing!

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It’s fine. (No, it’s not)

It’s been over 20 years but I still don’t seem to ‘get’ how the British communicate. Funny how when you’re busy and exhausted, physically and mentally, you go back to your MO – Hofstede did call culture ‘the software of the mind’.
I’m Dutch: Direct, pragmatic, trusting the mantra what-you-see/hear-is-what-you-get/mean. We are the worst immigrants the British can wish upon themselves…
Dutch person: Are you sure you don’t mind?
British person: No, it’s fine.
Dutch person: I’m sorry that X happened/I didn’t manage Y but I can do/have/sort/organise A, happy to do so (see how they have integrated? Apology, offers solution).
British person: No it’s fine.
Two days later – British person is cold and/or not answering emails/texts/messages/smoke signals
Dutch person rings or sees them in person: Is everything OK?
British person: No, you’re rude. X happened/you didn’t manage Y.
Dutch person: WHAT?! But i tried! And i offered! I even used the word ‘sorry’!
Upset, writes post on FB.
Every British friend: I saw you wrote that about me on FB?
Dutch person: I’ve not spoken to you in weeks/you’re not the only one British person I know/it was the customer service operator, see my twitter feed.

Thank goddess I live with a Yorkshireman.

Jokes aside, the psychology behind this interest me – so the Brit assesses the behaviour through their own cultural lenses and judges it to be inappropriate. But for the other that is their best – they too act from what they deem was appropriate conduct. Yet it was seen as malicious, uncaring, rude. I think that that is one of the biggest challenges for integration in a multicultural society. Forget the British nationalisation test and questions about Corronation Street…

It’s about taking perspective and pause to reflect if the behaviour is representative of the person. Maybe we should all start conversations with “my aim/intention/feeling is this…” and then the behaviour that follows can be interpreted in the correct light. It breaks my heart that in a multicultural society people judge one another thinking disrespect and malice is at the core of it, when it is the opposite: A man not shaking a woman’s hand out of respect, a person showing up late so not to inconvenience the host, a person talking through plans/progress to be consultative not to push their own agenda, someone who is silent to show calm, not disinterest etc. Tolerance is not the way forward; it is indicitive of a power-imbalance (“I tolerate you”), nor should we slap the wrist of anyone who is deemed to do wrong from our perspective before we know intent (yes, that includes crimes of cultural appropriation, political incorrectness and sex/race/ism). It’s hard work but indicitive of a growth vs fixed mindset.

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There’ll be blood

Recently, I was alerted to a speech in which President Trump said: “I’m directing Department of Justice and Homeland Security to undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people, many other people.”

The word that stands out is ‘blood’ but in combination with ‘destroying’. As if it’s contaminated.

In an extensive study on how Americans and British people feel about equal citizenship, Johnston Conover, Searing and Crewe (2004) argued that people may not be able to psychologically disconnect their community experiences from the political definition of citizenship, i.e., civil rights and that the law maybe more progressive than the people. Now, post Brexit and US 2016 elections, the world seems confused about what it means to belong in a nation.

Equal citizenship is “the doctrine that all human beings are of equal moral worth and that all citizens, including minorities… should be regarded as full and equal members of the community” (JC, S & C, 2004, p. 1036). Gutmann (1992, cited in JC, S & C, 2004) argued that equal citizenship can be achieved through two pathways. One is by separating citizenship from national identity and culture (be culture blind) and adhere to the ‘rule’ that no way of life has privilege (i.e., the legal path, in this paper argued to be the ‘liberal’ path from its Latin origin Liber). Or, on the other hand, through cultural pluralism, which seeks to assure minority groups equal standing among the majority culture (be aware of cultural differences).

A third path, Johnston Conover and colleagues argue, is the communitarian model, which postulates that citizenship is learned through experiences. Unlike the liberal (see also a discussion on the cross cultural confusion about this term) path or pluralist path, communitarianism rejects accounts of autonomous or interdependent individuals because the quality of community life depends on ‘relatedness and mutuality; i.e., a system of shared meanings.

Johnston Conover et al. asked US and UK individuals questions about their conceptualisation of citizenship (rights vs duties) and what makes someone a citizen (blood ties vs assimilation). They found a distinct difference between the US and the UK, in that a membership of a nation in the US was deemed determined by (rank 1-3) residency, socialization and birth, whereas for the British participants it was birth, blood and then born and bred. When they didn’t ask about citizenship but about ‘belonging’ – then both groups agreed that residency and socialization sufficed.  It would be interesting to see what would happen if Johnston Conover and colleagues would replicate their study now.

Similarly, Pehrson, Vignoles and Brown (2009) analysed existing ISPP data from 37,030 individuals in 31 countries about their national identification in terms of citizenship (civic definition), linguistic ability (cultural definition) and ancestry (ethnic definition). Among other results, they found a positive correlation between viewing national membership based on ancestry and prejudice. Just recently, The Economist shared the results of a poll of 15 nations on what defines identity and this research suggested a common language is the most important.

For my research, I used these various conceptualisations of citizenship to find out how people feel about citizenship and how an ‘other’ may attain it or lose it. There is data on Brexit, data from Dutch students and data from students in the UK. It’ll be interesting to explore the differences, especially in terms of how the ‘youth’ themselves feel about blood and, so called, destruction. Moreover, the studies contain a framework borrowed from business literature, Person-Environment Fit, which may shed more light on how varying conceptualisations of citizenship could be managed.

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Wellbeing in times of anxiety

The world is in flux, it seems. It may not be worse than 20 years ago but for those staring at the ceiling at night, worrying about the US elections, Brexit, Syria, Yemen, immigration, Calais, the environment, Russia, inflation, etc. it can affect daily functioning and general happiness. It may also be that you suffer from anxiety or depression in general.

There are many sources that can help and I hope that there is a community around you that gives support. Having friendly support is wonderful but sometimes we’re on our own and then what can we do?

Some links that may help:

Breathing gif – good webaddress to save in your bookmarks on your computer or smart phone:

The science behind well being: Ed Diener came to talk to a big group of Cross Cultural Psychologists over the summer. He heads the Happiness Project. Their main aim is to figure out what makes people happy. It’s a non-profit and one of the key things they explore is the cultural variability when it comes to what makes us happy. A lot of this has to do with the values and norms that are prevalent in the society within which we live. If it’s a match – great. If it’s a mis-match, then a migrant, for example, may experience great anxiety (my area of research is Person-Nation Fit and I did a talk for the Brighton anti-fascist group some time ago, which was very interesting because they don’t like the idea of a ‘nation’ but we talked about belonging to a community and how important that can be for some people.). More on Ed Diener’s project here:

Listening to podcasts when you’re awake at night can help. There are so many podcasts – from guided meditations to topics that’ll send you off to sleep. It is another tool to be ‘in the moment’ as when someone’s reading you a story, your thoughts aren’t distracting you (as much). I really like:

Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.
The Reith Lectures. if you have a podcast app on your tablet/phone then you can search for ‘Reith lectures’ and you don’t have to go via the BBC website
Stuff you should know. Two American lads discuss random topics.

Exercise – if it’s too cold for some to do excercise outside, then these videos can help doing, for example, yoga indoors. Yin yoga is a form that is very ‘quiet’. There are morning versions and versions before bed.
meditative yoga:
Learn how to use and apply a breath meditation within these long holding restorative postures. Experience a deep release and as you breathe let stress and tension …

Self care yoga in two parts. This is Part 1
Good for working on core stability & stretching
Core Strength and Stretch with Melissa McLeod Yoga offers many benefits for our health, daily yoga practice to get the best health! The effects of yoga on anxiety and …

Evening yoga short:
Evening yin yoga long and this is also good for the spine after a day behind a computer: 60 minutes Yin Yoga for the Spine. This free online yoga class is a perfect and sometimes necessary complement to the dynamic and muscular …
Simple and gentle asana, to prepare the body and mind for a deep and beautiful sleep. :: If you wish to stay in touch and get updates on my yoga classes, and my …

Free short meditations by Brighton-based Anxiety author Charlotte Watts
Guided meditation by Tara Brach

Finally, I’ve written on mental health and linked individuals’ plight to community responsibility.

I hope some of it is useful.
Guided meditations are offered freely by Tara Brach, Ph.D, psychologist, author and teacher of meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening.
Free audio meditations including a short meditation on acceptance, a calming meditation and a body scan. Listen now to soothe your mind and body.
hsw shows, show, podcast, video, stuff you should know, podcasts
Country — Kwame Anthony Appiah: Mistaken Identities. Tuesday. Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah argues against a mythical and romantic view of nationhood
Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted …
The Story of the Pursuit of Happiness Project : Psychology meets Philosophy


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Person-Nation (Mis)Fit


It hurts and can be shocking when your (extended) community isn’t thinking the way you do. We surround ourselves with like-minded friends, including on social media, and so we develop what is called the ‘False Consensus Effect‘. It means that we wrongly assume that most people agree with what we think.

Additionally, once we realise the others think differently than we do it is tempting to try and convince them to see the situation from our perspective, preferably with evidence or good arguments. But we should not try to just impose views, no matter how evidence based, as the other would simply reject it due to confirmation bias, which is when we prefer, seek out, interpret and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. In other words, your evidence based proof will fall onto deaf ears. The key here is to find out why the ears are deaf.


It is now very confusing what is “American” just like since June after the referendum it is unclear what is “British” as it seems the country is 50/50 in terms of their values.

BUT effective conflict management, albeit hard work, can be possible by looking at what is really the matter, not by condescending viewpoints. First, a government must try to separate the espoused values from what people really need and how this can be supplied. For example, is it a sense of security? Or a need for freedom from elitist governing? Michael Moore warned people that this vote wasn’t all about racism, it was about demoralised middle class voted realising that their $ may not be worth the same as the 1%, but their vote does count the same.

Furthermore, if you are genuinely curious as a politician, try to find out what the nation needs in terms of skills and which government leadership team has the abilities to deliver an effective, happy workforce. For example, what does a region require in terms of industry innovation and how can this be supplied and what kind of training needs to be put in place? In management research this is called Person-Environment Fit, made up of a match between values, demands-abilities and needs-supplies, which has a strong correlation with wellbeing.

Much of such leadership also requires the skill (and guts) to find out the ‘hidden issue’ – people say it’s about immigration. Is it? Or is it about companies not adhering to fair (living) wages, by underpaying immigrants in the construction and hospitality industry? Or they don’t like how national culture is changing. Well, in Brighton the Migrant English Project offers free English lessons and a lunch to immigrants in a welcoming way. Perhaps the kind side of integration policies needs to be reviewed, in order to address the multicultural tensions (See Scheffer on the situation in The Netherlands).

The issue of Washington/Westminster/Euro bureaucrats – is it that? Or a sense of unequal regional investment and neglect – with Wallstreet and the City being bailed out but also a focus of an unsustainable system of economic growth in an era where consumerism is having a lasting impact on our environment (see also Luyendijk’s Swimming with Sharks).

The alternatives are there but this requires enormous innovative, creative and (culturally) intelligent leadership. Before Republican supporters celebrate – an imposed approach could cause further civil unrest within a split nation. Similarly, the Leave campaign claim they ‘won’ and everyone now needs to get on board. But that ‘win’ wasn’t a majority and people won’t be able to just change their views. They may have to accept the result but they won’t (want to) understand it. At this stage, it’s raw. Eventually, all that people can probably muster is to see the issue from the other’s perspective (provided it isn’t blatant hate, racism and ignorance or arrogance and elitism) but they won’t embrace it as their own viewpoint. In conflict management research, the ‘compromise’ solution isn’t ideal. It’s up to the leadership to engage in integrative governance, which will be hard work.


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Reflective questions (for academics)

The assiduous Dr Giroud came to Middlesex University to discuss networking for academic success, for which I, personally, was very grateful. Academics are known to be introverts and the networking aspect can be daunting. The below is a reflection of her presentation in the frame of self-reflective questions that any writer, researcher, academic can ask him/herself. These questions are my interpretation of the talk that was organised by Prof Anne-Wil Harzing and Prof Terence Jackson.

Workshop 8: Rocket Science? Networking and External Engagement for Academic Success. A presentation by Dr Axèle Giroud

Key reflective questions:


  1. What are your convictions?
  2. What are your professional values?
  3. What personal values are not to be compromised?


  1. What are your goals over 20 years?
  2. What do you want to achieve and how?
  3. What kind of leadership motivates you?

Field of interest

  1. What is the area that interests you?
  2. In what topic would you like to be (known as) an expert?

Research coherency

  1. What projects are you working on at the moment?
  2. What is the coherent narrative behind your (unpublished) papers?


  1. How do you want to communicate your work?
  2. Who are the stakeholders?
  3. How will you gain: 1) enjoyment 2) validity 3) learning?
  4. In what practical ways can you network to enhance/better the following:
    1. Reputation
    2. Collaboration
    3. Humanity/Life

Room for improvement

  1. What is the most challenging aspect of being an academic for you personally?
  2. How can you develop this?

An important question that is important to me personally and also in terms of as a research interest is whether we experience ‘person-environment fit’ and sense of belonging. Our environment can be the organisation but can also be our field of research or our choice of vocation. Doing some reflective exercises such as the above can help (re)focus on where we’d like to be in life.

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Cultural Intelligence Paradox

Have you ever been abroad and asked for directions? Did the
person sometimes give directions that you KNEW were wrong or did they try to give directions eventhough it was evident they knew less than you did? This is because in their culture, it is more important to be helpful than to be accurate.
Vice versa, in London or New York, if you ask for directions, a person would think nothing of it to shake their heads and walk on or wave ‘no’, which can come across as being unwilling to assist. This is because they are from an individualistic context, where being factual and accurate is valued more than harmony. Although frustrating at the time, in a travel scenario like this we’re a little more atuned to others’ different way of doing things. In a professional or social environment at home, where we are required to work and live together for longer periods of time, interactions can be more challenging because things aren’t so black and white.

In an article for the, then, Commission for Racial Equality (now Commission fo Equality and Human Rights), I highlighted the likelihood of mixed race becoming more and more common but also that race is a social construct we created to categorise the world. In the biological sense, it’s become a redundant thing – people are shades of pinky-brown, blue-black, olivy-pink, etc. As a social construct it is still very powerful –for example, the impact of Obama’s election. Nonetheless, governments and Human Resources are finding it increasingly difficult to use that information sensibly – as more and more people will tick the box ‘other’… (van Meurs, 2007). Similarly, people nowadays may have dual nationality, or have lived somewhere outside their country of birth for a substantial time. It is almost bizarre that governments are increasingly obsessed with immigration because this mixing, for love or money, can’t be stopped.

That said, we learn how to do certain things (like eating with knife and fork) and take that with us on journeys. We may learn to eat different things in different ways, but, on average, we have a preference to which we stick. We’re taught how things are done from an early age and through a process of enculturation (formal and informal education) learn more to the point where it becomes a ‘truthful way’ and we are blind to alternatives.

In class, a group of Chinese students shared that they eat Europen food but with chop sticks. Then one day, I had to call them in as there was an overlap issue with their course work and I needed to know who wrote the original piece and who had copied. They replied that they tended to work together a lot as a group and didn’t care much about individual merit (collectivism) and the bravest of them told me shyly that they could never admit who in their team copy/pasted something (plagiarism). I explained that this meant they’d all risk getting a fail. I could tell from their expressions that they didn’t understand how I’d value the factual truth over maintaining face. I made what’s called a ‘rule based’ decision and their ‘why’ didn’t matter. Perhaps I should have considered a ‘consequence based’ decision if I wanted my teaching in cross cultural awareness to be effective and convincing.

We only see and hear the top of the ‘cultural iceberg’ – we don’t know what
drives behaviour unless we’ve learned through experience (bicultural individuals will be more naturally aware of this). The same goes for non-verbal behaviour such as dress, hand movements and personal distance and verbal behaviour such as communication style, laughter and use of silence. Again, it is impossible to know all of the detail, especially in a multicultural environment. Much misunderstanding can be avoided by just considering how what we communicate could be perceived.

In this time of fast-paced social communication, it pays to pause and be aware that the other will use their values as guiding principles in terms of how they interpret your behaviour. If we don’t want to be categorised and judged, we must consider that the same applies to others and, as confusing as this may seem, we’ll sometimes see them wanting to be part of a multi-cultural mix and sometimes identify themselves as part of a distinct group. We are multitudes.

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