Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Enhancing Social Integration and Work Performance: The Role of Expatriates' Significant Other

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Enhancing Social Integration and Work Performance: The Role of Expatriates' Significant Other

Article excerpt


International assignments remain a crucial aspect of multinational corporations' global strategy, even with their high costs. While multinational corporations (MNCs) must consider the advantages and disadvantages of hiring local employees for specific roles, expatriates' roles are still significant. Culturally adjusting to the local environment has always been a problem for most expatriates and their accompanying family members. Failing to adjust culturally will lead to mediocre performance and under-utilising the wealth of host country-related information that only locals possess. Therefore, this research highlights the influential role that accompanying expatriate spouses could play in ensuring the smooth communication and cooperation between expatriates and their local subordinates and the local community. Path analyses of 134 expatriate and spouse related matched datasets show that spouses are more positively accepted by the host country nationals (HCNs) as opposed to expatriates. New relationships emerged from the path analyses which indicated the influential roles that spouses play in establishing better rapport with the locals. As such it is suggested that spouses are the 'missing link' that could foster better social integration and cross cultural communication and adjustment between expatriates and the host country nationals. Theoretical and managerial implications are subsequently discussed and future research suggestions are then put forth.

Keywords: expatriate, spouse, adjustment, social integration, performance, host country nationals

1. Background of Study

Despite the battle to minimize the costs involved in sending expatriates abroad, international assignments remain a crucial aspect of multinational corporations' global strategy. Common reasons expatriates give for prematurely terminating their international assignment include poor cross-cultural adjustment or adaptation (Takeuchi, Yun & Tesluk, 2002), family-related problems, i.e. the inability of spouse and children to adapt to the host country's culture (Flynn, 1995; Takeuchi et al., 2002; Tung, 1987) and lack of ability to adapt to the various aspects of the host country (Pomeroy, 2006). Previous studies (Black, Gregersen & Mendenhall, 1992; Takeuchi, 2010) have shown that the need to improve the ability to predict success of international assignments is vital because of the fact that many global assignments fail. These failures ranged from monetary expenses, negative company image, stalled career progression and psychological barrier to take up future assignments (Black, Gregersen & Mendenhall, 1992; Hemmasi, Downes & Varner, 2010). Takeuchi (2010) asserts that despite being extensively researched for the past few decades, most of the expatriate-related research has been predominantly 'expatriate-centric' and have neglected other expatriate stakeholders that include accompanying spouse, HCNs and the parent company or MNCs. Therefore, this research endeavors to increase the possibility of ensuring expatriation success by focusing on the influential role that the accompanying expatriate spouses or the expatriates' 'significant other' could play in creating a more harmonious and conducive environment to foster better social and work relationships between the expatriates and the host country nationals whilst in the host country. Consequently, a better support from the local staff and community would help to manage and minimize the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that comes from being relocated to a new cultural environment and would further contribute to better facilitate intercultural communication and cross-cultural adjustment.

Asia in particular represents a challenging posting for many foreign managers. Wide differences between the cultural, perspectives and mannerisms may pose awkward and baffling situations for those who are relocating to this part of the world (Neupert, Baughn & Dao, 2005). …

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