PURPOSE: This research project aims to assist international managers working with or in Asia by investigating whether an instant messaging application can enrich business discussions by mediating the stifling impacts of the face-related societal norms present in China and Japan. METHODOLOGY: This research project was conducted through a series of semi-structured qualitative interviews with 20 mid-level professionals working for Air Liquide in China and Japan, respectively. Each interviewee had recently used an IM app at business meetings and was asked to share first-hand observations on the contribution from employees in meetings with the app versus without it. This project focuses on the intersection between the academic fields of Intercultural Business Communications (IBC) and Technology Adoption in the Workplace (TAW). The project enriches existing IBC research on the influence of culture-based "societal norms" on business discourse, and reinforces existing TAW literature on the impact of new technology on business discourse. The project uses the Communicative Ecology Framework as its theoretical foundation -- a model assessing the inter-relationships between societal norms, technology, and discourse. FINDINGS: The findings show that face-related norms continue to influence business discourse among interviewees, and that the IM app in this project did mediate the stifling impact of face-related norms during business meetings. The findings offer managers practical insights on how best to use IM apps to enrich business discussions involving Chinese and/or Japanese professionals by highlighting differences in the acceptance of the app based on nationality (Japanese and Chinese described different motivations and preferences when using the app) and differences in the app's effectiveness due to the user's age, international work exposure, and language ability. These findings help managers to gauge how best to use IM apps to foster effective business discussions.
ORIGINALITY & LIMITATIONS: This research addresses a gap in existing IBC and TAW literature in measuring the mitigating effect of an IM app on the stifling impact of face-related societal norms during business discourse in Japan and China. The research is based on interviews with Chinese and Japanese professionals working at the Air Liquide. Thus, findings represent this interviewee set and their use of a single IM app. Future studies could measure the impact of other apps at other types of companies (ie, domestic firms). Additional research on IM apps could also be carried out in other countries to compare against the results from China and Japan. KEY WORDS: face, instant messaging apps, anonymity, business discourse
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