False foe? When and how code switching practices can support knowledge sharing in multinational corporations

FARHAN AHMAD, Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
421 Downloads (Pure)


The operating environment of multinational corporations (MNC) is multilingual, adding significant complexity to knowledge-sharing interactions between employees. In this paper, we explore how knowledge sharing in MNCs is influenced by code switching, or shifting between languages during interaction. Previous international business research has mostly described code switching as a behavior that has a negative impact on knowledge sharing by creating distrust and exclusion. Our case study of a major Finnish MNC from the perspective of faultline theory shows that in situations where organizational norms and routines help limit the potential impacts of code switching on subgroup formation and inter-subgroup animosity, it can also aid knowledge sharing by (i) supporting the development and maintenance of key technical vocabulary, (ii) enhancing inclusion in knowledge-sharing interactions, and (iii) supporting knowledge contextualization processes. Thus, code switching is not necessarily just a form of linguistic interference, but it can also be intended—and often functions—as a strategic behavior that draws on multiple languages to build efficient and successful knowledge-sharing interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100671
JournalJournal of International Management
Issue number3
Early online date10 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2019


  • language diversity
  • code switching
  • knowledge sharing
  • corporate language
  • multinational organization


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