The JGM BitBlog: Expatriate-HCN interactions in stressful environments – Can resource perceptions make a difference?

Journal of Global Mobility

Carol Reade, Lucas College of Business, San José State University, USA

Mark McKenna, Lucas College of Business, San José State University, USA

Multinational enterprises depend for their success on the collaborative efforts of their expatriate and HCN employees. In stressful, high-risk environments such as a pandemic, what promotes cohesiveness and collaboration among these culturally diverse colleagues? This is a relevant question given that the management literature points to a tendency for reduced contact and engagement among culturally-different others in high-risk contexts. Insights from evolutionary anthropology indicate that when faced with potential harm, human beings adopt a self-protective or collaborative survival strategy depending on available resources. In stressful environments, and notably in the context of the current pandemic, it is critical to understand the resource conditions conducive to cohesion or division among expatriates and HCNs.

Our conceptual paper develops a typology of interaction adjustment modes from the standpoint of both expatriates and HCNs, based on Berry’s acculturation model and developed with conservation of resources theory. For many employees, the pandemic depleted personal resources such as mental resilience, prompting organizations to provide contextual resources such as flexible work arrangements to help employees manage stress. We propose that expatriate and HCN perceptions of the adequacy of contextual resources shape their choice of interaction adjustment mode. Given that tensions inevitably arise in stressful situations, specifically around the allocation of scarce or inadequate resources, we further extend Berry’s model with problem-solving approaches from the conflict management literature. We propose that an Integration adjustment mode characterized by perceptions of adequate contextual resources and collaborative problem solving fosters cohesion among culturally diverse colleagues and is most beneficial for the organization and its employees in the context of a pandemic, while a Separation mode characterized by perceptions of inadequate contextual resources and competitive problem solving is proposed to foster division.

By attending to the adequacy of contextual resources in their subsidiary operations, multinational enterprises have an opportunity to promote collaboration and employee wellbeing in stressful, high-risk environments.  

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Reade, C. and McKenna, M. (2022), "Pandemic stress and the role of resources in expatriate–local interaction adjustment: an extension of Berry’s model", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 265-285.