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Expatriate adjustment over time among foreign service employees: the role of cross-cultural experience

Expatriate adjustment over time among foreign service employees: the role of cross-cultural... Drawing on social learning theory (SLT), this study aims to investigate how previous cross-cultural work experience influences individual adjustment in a foreign environment over time. For this purpose, the authors study foreign service employees who are characterized by permanent high mobility and frequent rotations.Design/methodology/approachTwo cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2011 (analytical sample N = 1,097) and 2019 (analytical sample N = 1,431) amongst German Foreign Service (GFS) employees are used to analyse employees' adjustment, measured by self-perceived quality of life (QOL) and its development over time based on four time points. Locational adjustment trajectories serve as robustness checks.FindingsYounger and therefore less experienced employees fit J-shaped patterns of adjustment, while more experienced employees show rather flat adjustment curves. Accordingly, work experience matters and “one curve fits all” approaches do not suffice to explain adjustment over time. Moreover, neither more nor less experienced employees experienced U-trajectories as proposed by previous literature on business expatriates.Research limitations/implicationsThe study findings are based on cross-sectional surveys, but longitudinal designs should be preferred in future research.Practical implicationsSending institutions may develop special support systems for inexperienced expatriates prior to departure to weaken the negative impacts of culture shock.Originality/valueExisting literature only sparsely analysed adjustment and QOL for foreign service employees/diplomats so far. To the authors’ knowledge, no study analysed trajectories of adjustment over time for this population. This study profits from the analysis across two surveys. Both samples benefit from a high diversity, among others, regarding gender, age, education and host countries. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Global Mobility: The Home of Expatriate Management Research Emerald Publishing

Expatriate adjustment over time among foreign service employees: the role of cross-cultural experience

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2049-8799
DOI
10.1108/jgm-01-2021-0009
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Drawing on social learning theory (SLT), this study aims to investigate how previous cross-cultural work experience influences individual adjustment in a foreign environment over time. For this purpose, the authors study foreign service employees who are characterized by permanent high mobility and frequent rotations.Design/methodology/approachTwo cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2011 (analytical sample N = 1,097) and 2019 (analytical sample N = 1,431) amongst German Foreign Service (GFS) employees are used to analyse employees' adjustment, measured by self-perceived quality of life (QOL) and its development over time based on four time points. Locational adjustment trajectories serve as robustness checks.FindingsYounger and therefore less experienced employees fit J-shaped patterns of adjustment, while more experienced employees show rather flat adjustment curves. Accordingly, work experience matters and “one curve fits all” approaches do not suffice to explain adjustment over time. Moreover, neither more nor less experienced employees experienced U-trajectories as proposed by previous literature on business expatriates.Research limitations/implicationsThe study findings are based on cross-sectional surveys, but longitudinal designs should be preferred in future research.Practical implicationsSending institutions may develop special support systems for inexperienced expatriates prior to departure to weaken the negative impacts of culture shock.Originality/valueExisting literature only sparsely analysed adjustment and QOL for foreign service employees/diplomats so far. To the authors’ knowledge, no study analysed trajectories of adjustment over time for this population. This study profits from the analysis across two surveys. Both samples benefit from a high diversity, among others, regarding gender, age, education and host countries.

Journal

Journal of Global Mobility: The Home of Expatriate Management ResearchEmerald Publishing

Published: Sep 14, 2021

Keywords: Expatriates; Diplomats; Cross-cultural adjustment; Adjustment over time; U-curve hypothesis; Expatriate experience

References