The JGM BitBlog: How Many Does It Take for Expatriation Success? Expatriation in Hostile Environments through a Multi-Stakeholder Lens

Journal of Global Mobility

Pia Faeth, Member of the JGM Editorial Review Board

An increasing number of expatriates is assigned to hostile environments (HEs), environments also described as high-risk, dangerous, or hardship locations. Many regions considered hostile offer great potential for business but often lack a local, skilled workforce, leaving organisations no choice but sending their own assignees, if they want to stay competitive in the global market. While expatriation per se is a stressful event, relocating to a HE is associated with additional stressors such as increased personal threat and lower standards of living. This is not only a risk to employee wellbeing but makes assignments more complex. As not only the labour has become more mobile but terrorism and other crimes as well, more and more organisations will be confronted with this issue, making expatriation in HEs a hot topic for academics and practitioners alike. 

Albeit the academic interest in this topic has been grown since the early 2000s, the relevant literature still remains in its infancy. So far, academics made good use of this novel research area and published articles that deal with a plethora of expatriation issues. However, all seem to have a similar core interest: What leads to and what jeopardises expatriation success? To capture the diverse literature to date, our literature review adopts Takeuchi’s 2010 framework and applies a multi-stakeholder perspective to analyse and present the findings. As such our article not only highlights all relevant groups and individuals involved in the expatriation success but also describes how these stakeholders can affect or be affected by the assignment in, both, a positive or negative way.

Literature was gathered using systematic searches across relevant data bases. Careful screening of search records according to pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria, yielded to the consideration of 29 relevant articles. Findings of this literature is analysed through and summarised in our multi-stakeholder framework with expatriation success at the centre. It further highlights the four main stakeholders; the environment, the expatriate, the organisation, and other social actors e.g. family, social network, host country nationals, and how these influence the expatriation success. Here, the environment plays a special role, not only because it’s rather unusual to consider the environment as a stakeholder, but also because it is the only stakeholder that can affect the expatriation success but cannot be directly affected by other stakeholders. For instance, the security and governmental issues of the environment can cause increased stress for the expatriate and thus jeopardise the expatriation success, but the expatriate and the organisation have no direct influential power over these aspects of the environment. The other three stakeholders have a reciprocal relationship with expatriation success and can influence each other. To give an example, through decreased expatriate performance, the organisation is directly affected and expatriation success endangered. However, through the provision of perceived organisational support (POS) the organisation can directly influence the expatriation success, as research shows this enhances the expatriate’s performance and commitment in HEs.

Our article is not only the first systematic review in this blooming expatriation niche but illustrates how the versatile existing literature can be linked within a comprehensive multi-stakeholder framework. It further presents a working definition of a HE, shows avenues for future research, and shifts attention to previously still neglected theoretical perspectives that might refine our understanding of expatriates in HE.

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

Faeth, P.C. and Kittler, M.G. (2020), "Expatriate management in hostile environments from a multi-stakeholder perspective – a systematic review", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 1-24.