As a result of their multicultural identities and well-developed intercultural competences, third culture kids (TCKs) can make valuable contributions to modern-day workplaces as ‘unique sources’.
New research by Monika De Waal, a FutureWork Institute Associate Consultant, has offered more insights into the cultural identities of TCKs. For part of her studies, the workplace was the focal point and her research looked into TCKs’ preference for a certain leadership style as well as their positive diversity beliefs. To this end, TCKs were compared with non-TCKs.
Five personality traits
De Waal’s thesis examined five multicultural personality traits: cultural empathy, flexibility (for navigating cross-cultural situations); social initiative; open-mindedness (towards people from a different culture); and, lastly, emotional stability in stressful cross-cultural situations.
With an innate intercultural sensitivity, TCKs take an active interest in others’ cultural backgrounds, needs and perspectives. They are also adept at intercultural communication, instinctively monitoring and adjusting their own communicative behaviours when communicating with culturally different others.
When it comes to building commitment, TCKs have a concern for ‘integrating different perspectives’, and ‘managing uncertainty’ – in other words, they see the uncertainty of culturally diverse environments as an opportunity for personal development. When compared to ‘non-TCKs’, TCKs scored higher on open-mindedness; however, TCKs scored marginally lower on emotional stability than non-TCKs. Her overall results indicate that TCKs have a preference to show a transformational leadership style.
TCKs also had stronger diversity beliefs than non-TCKs, which relationship was mediated through their stronger developed intercultural sensitivity and building commitment. Although TCKs scored higher on managing uncertainty than non-TCKs, this did not play a mediating role in the relationship between TCK-status and diversity beliefs.