Last week, we considered how an individual’s CQ and EQ impact his or her ability to thrive in cross-cultural assignments (see “Cultural Intelligence…”). Continuing with the cross-cultural theme, we are looking at an article by Riki Takeuchi from Hong Kong talking about research in expatriate adjustment (see Critical Review of Expatriate Adjustment Research…). This article provides a helpful review of expatriate adjustment studies over the last 25 years. He specifically looks at how various factors positively or negatively relate to expatriates’ experiences in three different areas of adjustment: General (acceptance of host cultural environment including food, weather, living conditions, etc.); Work (acceptance of different work values, expectations & standards); Interactional (adaptation of different communication styles within host culture and with nationals). Below is a chart that summarizes how the different factors positively and negatively related to these three different areas of adjustment:

Expat Adjustment Table

Despite the wealth of guidance from past research, Takeuchi argues that it is incomplete because it fails to recognize that expatriates do not operate in a bubble but instead are very much influenced by the people and groups in their lives. In particular, he names three “primary stakeholders” for expatriates: 1) spouses & family members 2) the parent organization (i.e., the sending company or employer) and 3) host country nationals. It is important for expatriates to manage these stakeholder expectations and relationships.  Likewise, there is a great deal that these stakeholders can do to either positively or negatively affect expatriate workers’ abilities to thrive cross-culturally.   As a former expat myself, I can say that these stakeholders had a tremendous influence on my effectiveness.  I was well trained and aware of my own psychological “tools” and “baggage” before the assignment.  However, these stakeholders had a surprisingly strong impact on my performance.

As you think through how to support your expatriate employees, you may have already considered the well-researched factors listed in the table above.  However, are you also thinking about how various stakeholder groups influence cross-cultural adjustment?  Similarly, are you collecting feedback from these stakeholder groups on the expatriate’s effectiveness?