Foreign Executives in Local Organisations: An Exploration of Differences to Other Types of Expatriates
Journal of Global Mobility, 1(3), 312-335, DOI 10.1108/JGM-01-2013-0006
Posted: 23 Apr 2011 Last revised: 28 Apr 2014
Date Written: 2013
Purpose: This research investigates foreign executives appointed into cultural contexts distant from their country of origin and headquarters of organisations to which host-country nationals (HCNs) they supervise and HCN superiors they report to attribute a ‘local’ national identity. Significant differences of these foreign executives in local organisations (FELOs) from other forms of expatriation, including assigned and self-initiated expatriates, are identified and discussed.
Methodology: The research utilises a qualitative exploratory approach based on triangulated multiple data sources. Data are sourced from in-depth semi-structured interviews with foreign executives (n=46) from 13 countries and their host-country peers (n=25) in organisations founded and headquartered in Malaysia. Dyadic data from the two sample groups are used to triangulate findings, while non-dyadic and socio-biographical data add further insight.
Findings: The data analysis identifies issues surrounding allegiance, trust and control, assumptions about income levels, and exposure to heightened local scrutiny as components of the distinct nature of the FELO experience.
Research limitations/implications: Implications for future research on new types of international cross-cultural workplaces are discussed. While construct definitions for self-initiated expatriation in the wider mobility and migration literature are still in flux, international management research may be at risk of neglecting local workplaces and perspectives.
Practical Implications: The FELO phenomenon differs significantly from expatriate assignments between headquarters and foreign subsidiaries of multinational corporations, and can be viewed as a rare and specific form of self-initiated expatriation. Its occurrence indicates an increasingly global market for individuals with career capital and global mobility.
Value: The findings elucidate the situation of FELOs and provide comparisons to other types of expatriates. The research contributes to extant literature on global mobility as it explores a specific cross-cultural phenomenon that has not been systematically investigated in the academic literature, but is described in the media and executive search firm publications as ‘fairly new, highly visible, and sometimes controversial’ with demand for FELOs ‘likely to continue.’
Keywords: Foreign executives, local organisations, differences, expatriates, self-initiated expatriation, cultural distance, career capital, global mobility
JEL Classification: M12, M51, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation