The new Canadian PM and cabinet: Implications for group dynamics

Ting-Toomey & Oetzel
Ting-Toomey, S. and Oetzel, J. G. (2001). 8 Style (Intercultural) Conflict Grid in Managing intercultural conflict effectively. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. p.

Tonight my intercultural communication class is taking on the topic of conflict and group dynamics in situations where there are a mix of cultural backgrounds. The installation of the new Canadian government, with its new makeup of gender balance, Francophone/Anglophone, First Nations, Afghani, Sikh cultural backgrounds (and more), got me thinking about what the cabinet might need to know about intercultural group dynamics.

The upside of a culturally diverse decision making group? BETTER DECISIONS.

The downside? A struggle to maintain good interpersonal relationships.

What should the cabinet do about it? Pay attention to building good RELATIONSHIPS with every meeting and through every decision.

How is this done when there are a variety of value hierarchies, worldviews, and communication expectations? Yes, communication is the key. Here are a few tips from researcher Stella Ting-Toomey, John Oetzel, and myself.

Knowledge: develop an in-depth understanding of important intercultural communication concepts (and understand our self first)

Check yourself: double-check our own assumptions and reactive emotions that we bring to a group situation

Mindfulness: Be a mindful interpreter of intercultural conflict (i.e. an opportunity not a dread)

Re-frame: create alternative contexts to frame your understanding of another person’s communication behaviours

Validate identity of other team members: Speak in ways that honour another person’s expectations for proper ways to discuss and make decisions

Manage facework: use communication strategies that validate other party’s social self-esteem and social self-worth.

Power balancing: Concentrate on empowering members who have historically had little or no access to voice

Use collaborative consultation: use process that recognizes that diversity in decision-making results in a higher quality decision

Build new communication structures: Don’t do something just because that is the way it was always done. Maybe try a talking circle instead of Roberts Rules of Order.

Adaptability: Don’t be prescriptive in the systems used for making decisions. If something isn’t working, go at it a different way.

RELATIONSHIP: At every step, meeting, and decision point ask “What have we done that enhanced or inhibited relationship building?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fifth from left, and Governor General David Johnston, centre, pose for a group photo with the new Liberal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Front row, left to right: Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also minister of intergovernmental affairs and youth, Governor General David Johnston, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr, also associate minister of National Defence. Second row, left to right: President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, Minister of Finance William Morneau, Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Dominic LeBlanc and Minister of Health Jane Philpott. Third row, left to right: Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Natural Resources James Carr, Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Status of Women Pa
Photo via Huffington Post Canada

All the best to you Prime Minister Trudeau and your new cabinet.

For further reading check out the following resources.


Reading List

Domenici, K. & Littlejohn, S.W, (2006). Facework: Bridging practice and theory. Thousand Oaks, Sage.

LaFever, M. (2008). Communication for public decision-making in a negative historical context: Building intercultural relationships in the British Columbia treaty process. Journal of International & Intercultural Communication 1(2), 158-180

LaFever, M. (2009). 9P Planning. Overcoming Roadblocks to Collaboration in Intercultural Community Contexts. Proceedings: International Workshop on Intercultural Collaboration (IWIC). International Conference; Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

LaFever, M. (2011). Empowering Native Americans: Communication, planning and dialogue for eco-tourism in Gallup, New Mexico. Journal of International & Intercultural Communication 4(2). 127-145.

Lederach, J. P. (2003). The little book of conflict transformation. Intercourse, PS: Good Books.

Ting-Toomey, S. and Oetzel, J. G. (2001). Managing intercultural conflict effectively. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Dr. Marcella LaFever (University of New Mexico, 2005) is an Associate Professor in the Communications Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. She specializes in intercultural communication and brings that expertise to various subjects such as communication for workplace, instruction, social media, team and public speaking contexts.

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