Monash University

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Acculturation and its impact on professional Chinese immigrants in the Australian workplace

posted on 2017-02-09, 05:05 authored by Lu, Ying
This thesis explores the acculturation experience of professional Chinese immigrants (PCIs) in the Australian workplace. It identifies factors influencing PCIs’ choice of acculturation options and examines the impact of that choice on an individual’s job satisfaction, affective workgroup commitment and work engagement in a group environment. The study adopts a sequential mixed-methods approach of both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Since acculturation is an inevitable process that every immigrant has to experience, studies of acculturation, its antecedents and its related outcomes hold significance for the dual domains of knowledge and practice. This is particularly important for countries with a multicultural society such as Australia, because migration is a part of its national heritage. An extensive review of the literature reveals that there is a critical link between acculturation and work-related outcomes such as employee performance, job satisfaction, commitment, interpersonal communication, and conflict. Therefore a better understanding of immigrant employees’ acculturation experience is an indispensable precondition for the effective use of human resources. The China-born population ranks as the third largest foreign-born group in Australia and PCIs represent an important constituent of Australia’s diversified workforce. They are expected to make a significant contribution to relieving the skills shortage and boosting economic and social development in Australia. However, it is evident that, after entering the Australian workplace, PCIs encounter many adjustment difficulties and problems arising from cultural and social differences. This situation poses a threat to realizing the competitive advantages associated with diversity. Lack of knowledge about PCIs’ acculturation and adjustment experiences has already generated conflict and inappropriate administrative practices in Australian organizations. All of these facts stimulate the focus of this study on PCIs’ acculturation and the role of acculturation in the Australian workplace. The study reveals that most PCIs adopt separation as their acculturation strategy across all life domains. Although many of them do wish to integrate and assimilate into the host society, they report they are unable to find appropriate channels to do so. Thus, in reality, those PCIs utilize a similar strategy as those who demonstrate a preference for separation. Better English proficiency, higher level of interdependent self-construal, support from colleagues, supervisors and managers, and a culture encouraging connectedness, cooperation and inclusiveness are critical to promoting the development of a positive strategy for the acculturation process. The development of a positive acculturation strategy is paramount since it can cultivate positive job-related outcomes, including higher levels of job satisfaction, commitment and work engagement. The findings of this research suggest organizations and HRM researchers should pay greater attention to the function of acculturation in the workplace. The research identifies critical ways to improve immigrant employees’ job satisfaction, strengthen the employer-employee relationship, and build an engaged workforce by further understanding people’s acculturation experience and its role in the workplace. It is hoped that, through effective acculturation-related policies at the societal level, the government can help immigrants become better accommodated into the larger society. Also, through effective acculturation-related programs at the organizational level, practitioners may better utilize the human capital of immigrant employees and gain a competitive advantage by keeping diverse skills and experience within the organization rather than separate from it.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Ramanie Samaratunge

Additional supervisor 1

Charmine Hartel

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics