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Project Title:Cross-Community Communication in the Workplace
Contact:Dr David Dickson
Address:School of Psychology and Communication
University of Ulster
BT37 0QB
Telephone:028 90 365131 Ext 6598
Web Site:


Dickson, D Hargie O & Rainey, S. (1999) Cross-Community Communication in the Northern Ireland Workplace: A Scoping Study. Report on Research Funded by The Central Community Relations Unit. University of Ulster, Jordanstown. ISBN 1 85923 138 1

Dickson D Hargie, O &Rainey S (Under review) Cross-Community Communication in the Northern Ireland Workplace. Submitted to The Journal of Business Communication.


For the past 30 years, the Northern Ireland workplace has suffered the consequences of politico-religious difference, leading to operational disruption and financial loss when such differences become acute. This six-month pilot study was designed to explore some of the communication issues inherent in cross-community working relationships. It explored cross-community relationships in two public and two private sector organisations. Its objectives were to:

Recruit a number of organisations that would be willing to become involved in a larger scale study,
Test research methodologies; and
Begin to chart those factors which appear to be related to successful inter-group relations in the workplace.

While fundings await confirmation through the main study to follow, there was evidence of positive cross-community relationships in most organisations. However, these tended to be adversely affected by the rise of tension in the wider community. Attempts had been made by some, but not all, organisations, to promote better cross-cultural relations among staff. Where efforts had been expended by management to provide a sectarian-free workplace, this was highly valued by staff.

Interestingly, some staff indicated that suggestions to improve working relations were often avoided through fear of job loss. Furthermore, staff in only one organisation reported having a satisfactory level of knowledge of in-house policies to deal with troublesome relations at work. It was suggested that more effort be given to updating staff and that policy training would be most effectively conducted informally to avoid paper overload.

Staff from those firms where anti-sectarian training had been completed, and who experienced the neutralisation of the workplace, reported that their implementation had provided a calming effect on the workplace, reducing bitterness. Good community relations were also reported from those organisations actively involved in promoting mixed-religion activities outside work, or through community events. It was a recommendation of this study that these practices be implemented by other organisations in Northern Ireland.

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