Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Global Dual-Career Couple Mentoring: A Phase Model Approach

Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

Global Dual-Career Couple Mentoring: A Phase Model Approach

Article excerpt

Expatriation is a common practice among U.S.-based multinational corporations (MNCs). However, a number of investigators have demonstrated that there is a high failure rate among expatriates because neither they nor their families are prepared to deal with the level of uncertainty associated with the process. Expatriation is even more stressful for dual-career couples. One method that domestic organizations use to aid the adjustment of their employees is mentoring. Thus, we propose that MNCs incorporate a global mentoring program in order to assist in the organizational socialization of the expatriate and provide some social support to the expatriate and trailing spouse during the expatriation process. This mentoring needs to occur pre-expatriation, during expatriation, and during repatriation. The potential returns to the organization in the form of reduced explicit and implicit costs of expatriation should far outweigh the difficulty associated with establishing the system.

With globalization comes expatriation. Multinational corporations (MNCs) have visions of sending their most talented technical and administrative expertise overseas. They frequently select managers with strong track records and high expectations for their futures within the organization. Certainly, these individuals ought to be excited about an opportunity to go abroad, be successful in their mission, and return to a prosperous career within the company. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Refusal rates are rising primarily because of dual-career issues (Crendall, Dwyer & Duncan, 1990; Reynolds & Bennett, 1991; Pascoe, 1992; Feldman & Thompson, 1993; Noe & Barber, 1993; Global, 1994; Harvey, 1995).

Researchers estimate that between 16 and 40 percent of all American expatriates fail to complete their assignments (Mendenhall, Dunbar & Oddou, 1987; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1988; Wederspahn, 1992; Dowling, Schuler & Welch, 1994), a number that is expected to escalate in the near future due to the projected increase in female expatriates and dual-career couples (Harvey, 1996, 1997a, 1997b). Of those American expatriates who do complete their assignments, 30 to 50 percent are considered ineffective or marginally effective by their companies (Copeland & Griggs, 1985; Dowling, Schuler & Welch, 1994). Unsuccessful expatriate managers and the resulting reduced effectiveness of the overseas assignments have direct costs, such as training, moving, and housing expenses, as well as indirect costs, such as declining service levels and lost customers (Wederspahn, 1992). In addition to these expenses, international human resource executives must he concerned with finding suitable replacements for expatriates who fail.

International relocations involve a number of stressors that affect various members of the family differently. This is particularly evident in non-traditional family configurations such as dual-career couples. Everyone faces the disorientation of culture shock and must go through the process of adjusting to the host country culture and general environment (Copeland & Griggs, 1985; Black, Mendenhall & Oddou, 1991). At the same time, the expatriate must also adjust to a new organizational culture (Black, Mendenhall & Oddou, 1991). This dual adjustment makes the expatriate particularly susceptible to confusion about his/her assignment within the organization. This in turn induces inordinately high stress for the expatriate, which can be transferred to the family unit. On the other hand, the trailing spouse experiences stress related to reestablishing the family in the new country (Harvey, 1985). With the increasing number of dual-career couples, many trailing spouses must also absorb the stress associated with relocating their careers to a foreign country during their spouses' expatriation assignment (Statistical, 1992; Collidge & D'Angelo, 1994; Bradbury, 1994).

These stressful situations during foreign assignments are heightened by the lack of social support that was generally provided by family and friends in the home country. …

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