An Investigation into the Influence of Culture on Principals’ and Teachers’ Relationships and Practices in Public Secondary Schools in the UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
As today’s world has become more globalized and interconnected, multicultural work environments have become the norm. However, Leading and/or following in a multicultural work environment can be quite challenging. The lack of knowledge and understanding of the different cultural norms, values and even communication styles can hinder both leaders and followers’ ability to navigate cross-cultural interactions more effectively. It logically follows that in order to have a more successful and productive relationship as well as to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, it has become imperative for both leaders and followers to learn how influential culture is and how to function in an environment in which differences are likely to be more pronounced than similarities. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of culture on principals and teachers in public secondary schools in the UAE. This purpose was further broken into several objectives: to understand how national culture and organizational culture influence the perception of leadership styles, to understand the influence national culture might have on the relationship between principals and teachers in terms of conflict creation, to understand the influence organizational culture might have on the workplace practices of principals and teachers in terms of conflict resolution, and to understand the influence cultural induction might have on improving the workplace practices of and the relationship between principals and teachers in terms of conflict prevention. The study adopted a mixed method research approach and results revealed that there was a variation in the perception of leadership styles between principals and teachers. While principals perceived their leadership style to be transformational, teachers perceived it to be transactional. This variance in perceptions was found to be stemming more from differences in national culture than in organizational culture. As for national culture influence in terms of conflict creation, results revealed that the influence was evident both directly through manifestations in behaviors and indirectly through language. As for organizational culture influence in terms of conflict resolution, results showed that organizational culture was quite influential in this respect. The same influential role was found to be played by cultural induction in terms of preventing conflict from taking place. In light of the findings of this study, the researcher concluded that future research should consider a larger sample size, a more generalizable sampling technique, and to extend studying the influence of culture on leaders and followers in settings other than educational ones. Furthermore, future research should be well-cognizant of real-self vs. ideal-self for participants. Recommendations to leaders, followers and policy makers were also provided; those included: the importance of designing a more immersive and extended onboarding/induction cultural programs for new joiners who come from different cultures, that future cultural induction programs better be led by school principals themselves in the real work-environment context/school, and that both leaders and followers should be open and welcoming of differences and engage in a life-long cultural learning journey. This study filled in a gap of knowledge concerning the influence of culture on leaders and followers in terms of conflict creation, conflict resolution and conflict prevention, particularly within the UAE public education context. The study also stands out among a limited number of studies that explored the influence of both national and organizational culture on leadership styles perception through examining the perspectives of both leaders and followers, and therefore, paving the way for a single holistic model that accounts for both national and organizational culture (‘Organational’ culture) simultaneously and equally. Lastly, this study expanded the existing literature examining the use, application and interpretation of nation-wide cultural data at the individual level; hence emphasizing the importance of being vigilant and not fall into the trap of ecological fallacy when drawing conclusions.
national culture, organizational culture, cultural induction, conflict, leadership, followership.