The JGM BitBlog: The Counterintuitive Effect of Team Potency on Expatriate Creative Work Involvement

Journal of Global Mobility

Hanan Saber Almazrouei, College of Business and Economics, UAEU, United Arab Emirates

Robert Zacca, College of Business, Alfaisal University, Saudi Arabia

Noura Alfayez, College of Business, Alfaisal University, Saudi Arabia


Globalization and expatriate work have become more and more prevalent within business and society. Particularly in the high growth multinational environments, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which plays a large role in regional development, organizations face pressure to increase not only productivity among their members, but also their creativity. The pace of economic development and international nature of its market has put great importance on companies within the UAE to seek international talent to supplement its national work force, thus forming multinational work groups, the vast majority of which are designated expatriate employees.

The purpose of the study is to examine whether team potency moderates the effect of the leader member exchange (LMX) on the expatriate’s creative work involvement, such that the effect of leader member exchange on creative work involvement becomes less when team potency is high. Enhanced productivity and creativity work involvement within a multinational expatriate setting is supported by (LMX) theory, which attempts to predict the quality of outcomes based on the employer-employee relationship. There are suggestions that employees who are entrenched in an environment involving positive relations with their supervisor are more likely to exhibit engagement in work activities, especially complex tasks such as creating new ideas.

Results from extent research show that high potency teams have a stronger likelihood of being organized and are better able to work with greater interdependence. However, it is uncertain whether this interdependency is efficacious in stimulating creativity in individual team members, especially in the expatriate context, where deep-level aspects of culture are at play and are not evident in other contextual environments.

Team potency, which can be an asset in certain situations, becomes a liability suppressing the effect of LMX on the expatriate employees creative work involvement in the intra-national, deeply culturally diverse expatriate group contextual setting.  Deriving satisfaction and fulfillment through the LMX, the expatriate employee’s empowerment and self-confidence in their individual cognitive abilities to engage in creative work behaviors is sufficiently validated. Team potency, in contrast, acts as a liability in as much that it promotes conformity and fitting into a crowd, promoting conventional group practices and group think or a push for cohesiveness and conformity. This highlights the benefits originating from the more tension filled aspect of individual recognition and achievement, which recognizes individual effort that engenders the positive aspects of envy and competition within the organization.

While placing an emphasis on the individual interactions and exchanges between supervisor and the expatriate employee over team cohesiveness may engender conflict within the work team and amongst the individual expatriate members, objective conflict has been shown to be a predictor of creativity and innovation. Creative expatriate employees experiencing greater self-confidence and empowerment through their interactions with their supervisor may feel sufficiently confident in their abilities to engage in atypical group behaviors leading to greater creative work.

Where team potency is enhanced expatriates will identify more with the group which potentially suppresses the role LMX plays on an individual expatriate’s creativity work involvement. Where team potency is lessened due to objective conflict, expatriates legitimize their standing through leadership-member exchange in the pursuit and engagement of enhanced creative work activities. The findings of this study are consistent with previous research suggesting that an individual’s perception that their team possesses high levels of creativity may lead to the individual’s creativity being suppressed through the agency of groupthink and peer pressure. The findings are also consistent with research suggesting that diverse teams with varied perspectives agitates cognitive objective conflict among organization members and challenges them on how best to pursue the goals of the organization. The results highlight the importance of being mindful of the effectiveness of both leader-member exchange and team potency as factors that increase or lessen expatriate creative work involvement.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication: Almazrouei, H.S., Zacca, R. and Alfayez, N. (2020), "The impact of team potency and leadership member exchange on expatriate creative work involvement", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 3/4, pp. 309-323.