Ethnic minority migrant Chinese in New Zealand: a study into their acculturation and workplace interpersonal conflict experiences

McIntyre, Nancy
Pio, Edwina
Pringle, Judith
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This study makes an important academic contribution by adding a new dimension to the existing scholarly literature on the acculturative processes of immigrants through its findings from an investigation into ethnic minority migrant Chinese Chinese’s acculturation experiences in relation to workplace interpersonal conflict in New Zealand. The literature reviewed illustrates the complexities of the acculturation process for immigrants and is of prime importance and relevance to this study. The literature provides an informed academic foundation that aligns with the subject matter under study. The focus of this study is on the acculturation process experienced by ethnic minority migrant Chinese in New Zealand as they strive to adapt to various aspects of their new surroundings. The study inquires into whether the length of acculturation has an influence on ethnic minority migrant Chinese’s handling of workplace interpersonal conflict in the New Zealand. The researcher’s interest in conducting this study arises from her own personal acculturation and workplace interpersonal conflict experiences as an ethnic minority migrant Chinese. A phenomenological interpretive research methodology was adopted for this study. One-on-one indepth interviews of 25 ethnic minority migrant Chinese from China (Mainland), Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam provided primary data on the individual migrant’s experience and perspective on acculturation and workplace interpersonal conflict in New Zealand. The findings from the 25 ethnic minority migrant Chinese interviewed reveal the complexities and difficulties in the acculturation process, as they attempt to adapt to various aspects of their new environment. The adaptive strategies used almost certainly mean that the immigrants will have to make changes in their thinking, attitude, speech, and social conduct. There is a particular emphasis on the study of intercultural dynamics at play in the face of workplace interpersonal conflict between immigrants and members of the host society. The acculturation process is made more difficult for migrants who have negative workplace encounters in their intercultural interactions resulting in misunderstandings and conflict. The findings also reveal the migrants’ response mechanisms, particularly in learning to be more assertive. This study found that the cultural orientations of the ethnic migrant Chinese are such that for many, this concept (assertiveness) has to be learned since it runs counter to their educational, cultural tradition, and familial upbringing. The principles of Confucianism are deeply rooted, such as respect for authority and an emphasis on ‘giving-face’ to others and preserving social harmony. From this study’s findings, there is empirical evidence that Confucian principles are deeply entrenched in the ethnic minority migrant Chinese’ psyche irrespective of which country of origin they come from. In addition, the findings show that the acculturation experiences are unique to the individual migrant, depending on the person’s previous exposure to a foreign environment, language proficiency and personality. This study shows that the acculturation process experienced by these migrants was a period of personal growth and development, acquiring self-confidence, self-rationalisation, changes, and adjustments. Also, the findings reveal that while the length of residence in the host country is a significant factor for these migrants, other factors are significant as well, such as acquiring a certain level of language proficiency and increasing self-confidence.

Migrant , Chinese , Acculturation , Workplace , Interpersonal relationships , Conflict , Qualitative research approach
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