Social Awareness - An introduction to the model

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005

18 Pages, Grade: 1,7




2.1 Introducing definitions and general description
2.2 Individual and group elements
2.3 Linking processes
2.4 Catalysts

3.1 Definition
3.2 The concept of field dependence-independence
3.3 The concept of high- versus low-context cultures

4.1 Linking processes to group elements
4.2 Influences of team disposition to social awareness
4.3 What team leaders can learn from the model

5.1 Advantages of the model
5.2 Critical notes on the model

6.1 Ecotonos: A Multicultural Problem-Solving Simulation
6.1.1 History and Rationale of Ecotonos
6.1.2 The Development Process
6.1.3 Procedure for Using Ecotonos
6.1.4 Contexts in which Ecotonos can be used
6.2 The suitability of Ecotonos to promote social awareness



2.1 Overview Of Multinational Team Theory

6.1.3 Example of a Culture Badge: Zante


We are living in an age of diversity. The roles of teachers, counselors and team leaders have been expanded to include the consideration of the cultural identities of students, clients and team members. Teachers, counselors and team leaders have a responsibilty to increase their awareness, knowledge, and skills so that students, clients and team members are taught and counseled with approaches that recognize the influence of cultural group membership. If the responsible persons do not recognize the influence of cultural group membership, their subordinates can be expected to profit only minimally from interactions with them. (Locke 1998, xi).

Therefore, developing multicultural awareness is essential for all counselors to accurately interpret the meaning of cultural similarities and differences (Pedersen 1994, ix) . Various theories and models have been developed to explain these changing social conditions. Most of the theories are tailored for business management only. A comprehensive theory proposed by Earley and Gibson, though, incorporates a dynamic, multilevel view of teams (Earley & Gibson 2002, xi). It includes perceptions from various research fields and opens new dimensions. This theory will be explained in chapter 2. Chapter 3 will concentrate on one individual element of the theory, namely social awareness. This term will be commented on from several viewpoints. Theories that the authors used to explain social awareness will be introduced. Chapter 4 will contemplate social awareness in the model context. It will reflect on how various kinds of team leaders can utilize the model of Earley and Gibson (2002) according to team disposition (i.e. how the team is arranged, is it a loose or a tight structure). In chapter 5 a critical approach on the model will be adapted. Chapter 6 will make a proposal as to how this model can be applied to promote social awareness. Therefore the simulation game Ecotonos will be introduced and it will be questioned on its suitability for this purpose. Finally, chapter 7 is a short summary of the results and a view of possible future developments.


2.1 Introducing definitions and general description

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FIG. 2.1 Overview of Multinational Team Theory (Earley & Gibson 2002, p. 52)

Earley and Gibson (2002) are one of the first researchers to develop a complex theory on how teams with a multicultural background can be regarded. Before their theory is exposed, some introducing definitions will be given on basic terms such as group, team, multinational team and culture. A group is a social aggregate that involves mutual awareness and potential mutual interaction (McGrath, 1984). The term team is equivalent to group. A multinational team (MNT) is a specific type of this more general form of team inasmuch as members must come from two or more different national or cultural backgrounds. Multinational equates to multicultural. Earley and Gibson (2002) have observed that the analysis of multinational teams has so far been done only in a limited approach. Culture has been treated as one of many exogenous factors that influence management processes. In their multilayered model though they propose the following: At the core of a MNT there are individual and group elements that are linked by several processes. This core is surrounded by so-called catalysts. Those are represented by the social structure on the one hand and by the work structure on the other.

2.2 Individual and group elements

There are five individual elements (trust and expectations; roles, identity and status; respect and moral character; affect confidence and efficacy and social awareness) and six group elements (competition, fractionation, hybrid culture, shared understanding, common goals and group confidence). Trust and role expectations of others provide an impetus for interacting with one another in good faith (Earley and Gibson 2002, p.115). Role identity and formation examines the nature of the different ways people see themselves and others in a team context. Respect and moral character refer to two fundemental values in cultures, namely social relatedness (the right functioning in a social system) and moral imperatives (general ethos of the person such as justice or goodness). Affect confidence refers to emotional reactions of one person toward another, affective awareness provides people with an alternative means for understanding how and why others react as they do. Social awarenes will be explicated in the next chapter. Fractionation is the conflict between members of different cultural backgrounds that might cause disunity within the team. Hybrid culture alludes to a newly developed set of expectations,norms and rules for a team that provides a mechanism of commitment and attachment (Earley & Mosakowski, 2000).

2.3 Linking processes

The linking processes are composed of role taking, status/hierarchy and identity formation, ritual/habit formation and structuration and enactment of a social contracts and development of shared history. Linking processes describe the change over time of team members´ actions and a team´s social functioning as the result of some influences. Role taking is related to the question as to who they are compared to others within the team as well as to the purpose and goals of the team (Earley & Gibson 2002, p.139). Habits and rituals must be newly defined in a multinational team since, unlike in an homogenous team, such habits and rituals are not predefined and the way of one another´s acting in many cases is not predictable. Social contracts include all kind of transactions and involvement. Shared history is a phenomenon that is initially absent in multinational teams. It can be provided by the development of a mutual set of rules, norms and expectations, and by the tasks that have been accomplished together.

2.4 Catalysts

The catalysts are seen as key features that give rise to processes regulating the individual and group elements. Catalysts being among the work structure are pacing and timing, task constraints, goal/focus, technology, supportive organization and resource changes. Catalysts belonging to the social structure are hierarchy/leadership, cooperation versus competition, subgroups and third parties and membership changes. A fundamental feature of the multinational team theory is the overarching principle of balance and equilibrium. This governs the various processes, elements and catalysts. The definition of an equilibrium can be given from different perspectives. An economic perspective for example sees an equilibrium where supply and demand meet up. An equilibrium can be perceived as a steady state, which is the traditional approch, and also as a dynamic equilibrium in chaotic systems. Earley and Gibson (2002) clearly define an equilibrium as the balance between integration and differentation of self as individual, self as a team member, and team as element in a larger social structure. That is, if one of these units becomes too differentiated, then forces give rise to processes that lead to further integration. The equilibrium is always observed starting from the initial conditions. Pacing can be seen as a key catalyst. Time is seen as subjective and MNTs will often consist of members with different views of time (Earley & Gibson 2002, p.184). Task constraints are similarly important. Tasks are subdivided into routine tasks and nonroutine tasks. Nonroutine tasks are likely to cause greater conflicts as a result of diversity, routine tasks can arouse boredom and reduce the positive attitude towards the task. Goals are there to challenge MNT members. Supportive organizational systems help MNTs to get over barriers and to increase cohesiveness. Resource changes can reestablish an equilibrium between control and commitment.

Hierarchy and leadership are necessary to decrease ambiguity and to clearly distribute roles within a MNT. Cooperation and competition have to alternate in order to allow conflicts to be carried out and also to permit periods of complacency. If subgroups form within a MNT, they can polarize and become extreme. Then a third neutral party is probably needed to settle the dispute. Membership changes can compromise the stability of a MNT and therefore it is a challenge to maintain the team structure when membership changes have taken place.


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Social Awareness - An introduction to the model
LMU Munich  (Wirtschaftspädagogik)
International Work Teams
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ISBN (Book)
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Social, Awareness, International, Work, Teams
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Katharina Waldmüller (Author), 2005, Social Awareness - An introduction to the model, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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