Purpose - This paper seeks to explore the nature of intercultural experiences of Australians and Singaporeans working in multinational organizations. Cultural differences are expected to influence how boundaries and boundary permeability are constructed which in turn affect how Australians and Singaporeans interact and communicate with each other.
Design/methodology/approach - Qualitative interviews were conducted with 23 employees (ten Australians, 13 Singaporeans) working in multinational organizations in both Australia and Singapore. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyze interviewees' intercultural experiences to determine the nature and composition of relevant boundary categories and permeability.
Findings - Seven workplace boundary categories of varying degrees of permeability were identified. Singaporeans were perceived to create more impermeable boundaries than Australians. Impermeable boundaries were found to also restrict intercultural interactions.
Research limitations/implications - The qualitative nature of the study, small sample size and interviewer's ethnicity could limit the generalizability of the results. Another limitation is that the data were based on self-reports and participants may have reported socially desirable responses.
Practical implications - The findings of this study have important practical implications for managers who seek to promote the value of shared group membership and group identity.
Originality/value - This study integrates social identity theory with cross-cultural theories and extends its application into a collectivist culture (e.g. Singapore) to provide an in-depth understanding of the nature of workplace boundaries and boundary permeability between Australians and Singaporeans.