Date of Award

Summer 8-2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

Committee Chair

Charles Tardy

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Richard Conville

Committee Member 3

John Meyer

Committee Member 4

Susan Siltanen

Committee Member 5

Eura Jung


This study investigates intergenerational relationships in organizational settings and uses Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) to examine the influence of age, power, culture, and self-construal on young workers' perceptions of intergenerational communication. According to CAT, communication is stereotypical due to outgroup bias, people favor their own age or power group more than other age or power groups. CAT research showed that young Asians' perceptions of intergenerational communication may be more negative than their Western counterparts. Self-construal was studied to understand the nature of culture's influence. Research and theory supported nine hypotheses and three research questions.

A study using self-report measure was conducted to answer the hypotheses and research questions. Participants were 205 Americans and 280 Chinese who completed a questionnaire that included the Modified Self-Construal Scale and the Global Perception of Intergenerational communication (GPIC) scale. Instruction directed participants to report their perceptions of communication with peers and supervisors.

MANOVA and regression analyses were performed.The results showed that young workers perceived no significant differences in communication between elderly peers and young peers. Young Chinese workers generally used more respectful yet avoidant communication with their peers than young American workers. Young workers perceived a higher level of nonaccommodation from elderly managers than from elderly peers and used more respectful yet avoidant communication with elderly managers than with their elderly peers. Young workers' self-construal affects communication perceptions of intergenerational communication in the workplace and explained more of the variance in perception of accommodative and avoidant communication more than did culture.

The results suggested four primary conclusions: 1) power is the primary influence on communication perceptions in workplaces; 2) there are cultural differences in selfconstrual; 3) culture influences communication perceptions across age groups; and 4) the self-construal concept and scales are problematic. These findings advance our understanding of young workers' perceptions of communication in organizational settings across Chinese and American cultures.