The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations

The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations

by Tsedal Neeley
The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations

The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations

by Tsedal Neeley


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How one global organization’s lingua franca mandate shaped the lives of its employees around the world

For nearly three decades, English has been the lingua franca of cross-border business, yet studies on global language strategies have been scarce. Providing a rare behind-the-scenes look at the high-tech giant Rakuten in the five years following its English mandate, The Language of Global Success explores how language shapes the ways in which employees in global organizations communicate and negotiate linguistic and cultural differences. Drawing on 650 interviews conducted across Rakuten’s locations around the world, Tsedal Neeley argues that an organization’s lingua franca is the catalyst by which all employees become some kind of “expat”—detached from their native tongue or culture. Demonstrating that language can serve as the conduit for an unfamiliar culture, often in unexpected ways, Neeley uncovers how all organizations might integrate language effectively to tap into the promise of globalization.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691196121
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/19/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Tsedal Neeley is professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Lingua Franca Mandate: “Englishnization” 13

2 Leading the Lingua Franca Mandate 27

3 Linguistic Expats and Bounded Fluency: “I am an expat in my own country” 42

4 Cultural Expats and the Trojan Horse of Language: “It’s their culture wrapped in our language” 58

5 Dual Expats’ Global Work Orientation: “Been there, done that, know that!” 82

6 Five Years Post-Mandate 110

7 Lessons for Top Leaders, Managers, and Employees 129

8 Conclusion 138

Acknowledgments 143

Appendix A Research Design, Methodology Details, and Sample 147

Appendix B Quantitative Analysis of CEO Leadership and Employee Confidence 165

Notes 173

Index 185

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The Language of Global Success does a masterful job documenting the unfolding changes in work practices, impact on firm performance, and daily struggles and joys following an English-language mandate in a large Japan-based company. Neeley's careful analysis of globalization’s intertwined elements makes this a landmark study. Her compelling writing will appeal to any reader interested in the nitty-gritty of leading and understanding large-scale organizational change—and what it feels like for affected employees."—Robert Sutton, Stanford University and coauthor of Scaling Up Excellence

"In The Language of Global Success, Tsedal Neeley courageously deconstructs the greatest challenge that global companies face: language. Her breakthrough research and insights into ways people adapt to change demonstrate what is required to integrate multiple cultures and languages into a unified organization required for sustained success."—Bill George, former chair and CEO of Medtronic and author of Discover Your True North

"A very original book at the intersection of language and organizational and national culture that combines attention to a question of real interest with rigorous field research. It sets a high bar for further work in this domain—very high indeed."—Pankaj Ghemawat, New York University and IESE Business School, and author of World 3.0

"This is a fascinating examination of how an English-language mandate at a Japanese firm, Rakuten, unfolded over time and how employees reacted to it. I am not aware of any other book on the organizational aspects of such mandates, and the scope and length of this impressive study make it valuable and important."—JoAnne Yates, MIT Sloan School of Management

"With a wealth of material and rich insights, this accessible book develops a novel expatriate perspective on global work and provides concrete evidence for why language matters. It will be of great interest to scholars working in the fields of international business, human resource management, and organization psychology. A delightful read."—Rebecca Piekkari, Aalto University, School of Business

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