The JGM BitBlog: Host country employees’ negative perceptions of frequently changing expatriate leaders
Sylwia Ciuk, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
Doris Schedlitzki, London Metropolitan University, London, UK
What happens when a foreign subsidiary is managed by a string of successive expatriate assignees? How do subsidiary employees perceive such leadership? How do experiences with past successive expatriate leaders affect the perceptions of incoming leaders, and why should we even care?
It is well understood that the perceptions of host country employees (HCEs) of expatriates depend on a range of factors, such as the characteristics and behaviours of the expatriates as well as the characteristics and behaviours of local employees and the context they find themselves in. However, by focusing only on the ‘here and now’ there is a danger of underestimating the role of past experiences on the perceptions and attitudes of local employees who can make or break expatriate assignments. We already know from leadership studies that past experiences with leaders, as stored in people’s memories, are activated, often subconsciously, to evaluate and form expectations of oncoming leaders. However, the role of these transferential processes has, to date, not been explored in the context of successive expatriate assignments.
Therefore, drawing on forty interviews with HCEs of a Polish subsidiary which had been led by a string of expatiate leaders, we focus specifically on the perceptions of successive expatriate leadership. Our data demonstrate that expatriate leaders are not assessed in isolation, judged solely based on their own actions and characteristics. Instead, they are juxtaposed with each other and assessed against implicit, albeit contextually grounded, models of leadership.
In our article we illustrate how past experiences and assumptions about leadership in a given setting create over the years a mental representation of expatriate leadership. This mental model of expatriate leadership, or as we call it in our paper - expatriate leadership schema- goes beyond assumptions about expatriates as leaders and their characteristics as individuals. Importantly, they also contain HCEs’ expectations about relationships with expatriate leaders and their motives as well as beliefs about a specific pattern characterising expatriate leadership and its consequences. We argue that a deeper understanding of the emergence, content and role of expatriate leadership schema would be of value not only for expatriation scholars but also for expatriates and HRM professions tasked with selecting, training and supporting incoming expatriate leaders.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Ciuk, S. and Schedlitzki, D. (2022), "Host country employees’ negative perceptions of successive expatriate leadership: the role of leadership transference and implicit leadership theories", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 80-104. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-04-2021-0044