Supply chain networks and customer retention Harvard

Work Adjustment 1
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Multinational corporations’ expansion has been spurred by the increasing economic
globalization. Consequently, this has led to a multiplication of the human capital moving across
the various countries. In the efforts to enhance and maintain their competitiveness globally,
MNCs face the daunting task of finding the right human capital that can effectively operate and
manage the overseas ventures. However, according to the “Employee Benefit Plan Review,
2001 (Tung , 1981, p. 69), these expatriates assignments have a failure rate of about 16% to
40%. With this failure rate, the financial costs of the underperformance and failure of MNCs are
very high. Therefore, expatriate failure is a serious concern for MNCs that requires effective
ways of dealing with it. The objective of this paper is to learn about the experiences of working
in cross-cultural environments and the general adjustments while working in a culturally
different environment.
Literature Review
One of the challenges facing the expatriates includes working in an environment that is
culturally different. Due to this, some of the major factors contributing to the expatriate failure
rate include the lack of language ability, difficulty in adjusting to the local culture and lack of the
local cultural knowledge (Andreason , 2003, p. 48). As a result, awareness to cultural
differences, knowledge of the cultures and good cross-cultural communication skills are required
of an expatriate for them to conduct a successful assignment overseas (Konanahalli, Oyedele,
Meding , & Spillane, 2011, p. 354). The reality is that these competences take time to acquire.
To acquire these competencies and reduce the financial costs of expatriate failures, MNCs have
provided cross-cultural training for their expatriates.
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Due to their global expansion, MNCs operate in environments that are culturally diverse.
Therefore, basic concerns for expatriates are cultural issues. Culture is what makes a person who
they are and their cultural background influences their actions (Ko & Yang, 2011, p. 159).
People learn about their local cultures through acculturation and socialization, which begin at
early ages of development. Having brought up in a different culture, expatriates are required to
be functional in a different culture. In order for this to happen, they need to appreciate the
beliefs, the norms, the values and behavior patterns and learn to adjust the differences as much as
possible (Ramalu, Wei , & Rose, 2011, p. 61). One of the crucial tools for expatriate competence
is their proficiency of the language(s) of the host country (Ko & Yang, 2011, p. 158). The more
an expatriate is knowledgeable of the local culture and proficiency in the local language, the
more the chances of them to be successful in their assignments. These add up to a cross-cultural
learning that significantly facilitates the expatriate’s professional life in a different culture.
Cross-cultural adjustment is the degree of psychological comfort ability of an expatriate
with different aspects of a foreign culture (Black , 1988). The adjustment involves the reduction
of uncertainties by enhancing harmony with the local culture through the learning and
appreciation of the local culture. Cross-cultural adjustment involves; work, interaction and
general adjustments. The work adjustments involve the expatriates adapting themselves to their
new tasks and roles in a different environment (Konanahalli, Oyedele, Meding , & Spillane,
2011, p. 278). Work adjustments are made easier by similarities and procedural generalities
within a corporation. Interactional adjustments deal with the comfort ability of the expatriate in
interacting with the nationals of the host country (Ramalu, Wei , & Rose, 2011, p. 63). Of the
three aspects of adjustments, interactional adjustments are the most difficult. Lastly, general
adjustment focuses on the overall adjustments of an expatriate in living in a foreign nation and
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adjusting to the local cultures. These general adjustments include factors such as the cost of
living, healthcare, the housing conditions et al. The success of expatriates is measured along with
their job satisfaction, their completion of the assignment, their performance and adjustment.
For this study, the qualitative interview approach was preferred for data collection. This was due
to two main reasons:
1. It allows the interview participant to describe extensively their experiences in
their cross-cultural interactions (Ramalu, Wei , & Rose, 2011, p. 64)
2. It enhances the collection of detailed and rich information in the learning of the
experiences (Ko & Yang, 2011, p. 159).
However, literature review also plays a critical aspect in this study. Cross-cultural learning and
experiences is a broad subject with few researches done in this area. Therefore, to complement
on the interview data is the exploration of different studies that have been conducted relating to
this study.
Interview Participant
In selecting the participant to be included in the interview, there was need to adopt a criteria that
enhances the richness and holistic nature of the collected information. The criteria adopted for
this study included;
a) The participant should be expatriate of a major MNC
b) The participant must have undergone cross-cultural training either before their
departure or after their arrival
c) The participant must have been on overseas assignment for more than three years.
d) The participant should have completed their assignment
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An Australian expatriate was recruited. The participant who was a master’s degree holder
had completed a five year assignment in Vietnam. Placed as the country’s head of operations, the
participant was required to align the organizational culture of the newly opened company
subsidiaries in Malaysia with the general strategy of the company. With the consideration of the
daunting task of integrating the company’s general organizational culture to subsidiaries in a
geographically and culturally diverse environment, the participant was considered to have gained
a good amount of experience to provide a holistic view of cross cultural adjustments. The
participant was reached by asking personally. The participant participated in the interview
The Interview Protocol
In order to have the participant give the best answers to the interview questions and to
best express their experiences, the interview was primarily focused on their general adjustments
and their cross-cultural experiences. As identified in the literature review, cross-cultural training
was seen to be a significant influence of the expatriate’s experiences in foreign countries.
Therefore, the interview questions focused on the impact of the cross-cultural training on the
expatriate’s adjustments to their new environments and an assessment of the success of their
overseas assignment.
The interview asked about the methodology and the duration the participant took in their
cross-cultural training and when the training was taken, before departure or on arrival. To outline
the cross-cultural assignments, the interview questions were structured to elucidate what the
expatriates perceived as the most stressful activities during their cross-cultural engagements and
how they have adjusted, both behaviorally and psychologically, to their working and living in a
foreign culture. To understand the impact of cross-cultural training on his experiences, interview
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questions were asked whether the cross-cultural training facilitated his adjustments. The
interview also included two open-ended questions that needed the participant to perform a self-
evaluation of his job related performance. The interviews were through questionnaires sent to the
participant on his e-mail.
Data Collection
The data was collected through interviews to the selected expatriate and relevant studies
that have been conducted in relation to this topic. To enable the participant to extensively
express their experiences and their interactions in the foreign culture, the interviews conducted
were semi structured (Andreason , 2003, p. 48). To make sure that all important questions were
addressed, the participant was required to follow the specific set of questions that was provided
to them and as mentioned above.
Data Analysis
To analyze the collected data, a constant comparative method in addition to utilizing the
open coding method, was used. Open coding was used to develop and discover concepts. By
utilization of a line-by-line analysis, each data form was individually coded to organize the forms
into discrete parts. This simplifies and facilitates the comparisons of perceived differences and
similarities (Konanahalli, Oyedele, Meding , & Spillane, 2011, p. 353). Concepts that were
identified to be similar conceptually were grouped into categories. To systematically address the
similarities and differences existing in the derived categories, the constant comparative method
was utilized. This also facilitated the integration of the various categories. Finally, a theme set
that revealed the patterns of findings was identified through the integration of the various
categories together with their properties.
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a) Cross-cultural Training
After the data analysis, the effect of cross-cultural training on expatriate adjustments and
competences was a theme that was derived from the analysis. As one of the interview questions,
the participant was urged to address how cross-cultural training impacted their performance in
their foreign assignments. The participant, who had attended the cross-cultural training, was
asked about his process of developing and applying his cultural awareness in both his
professional life and his residency. The participant exhibited an excellent ability in the
recognition of the various cultural differences. The participant also showed his appreciation of
acquiring cultural knowledge of the local cultures, and the need to develop appropriate behaviors
to facilitate the cross-cultural interactions (Black , 1988). Consequently, these skills facilitated
his job performances and interactions in his cross-cultural activities. For instance, the participant
confirmed that he gained his understanding of his the local norms through the attendance of
seminars that related to his professional work. He acknowledged his appreciation of the training
in his interaction with males or females on the thin line of sexual harassment. The participant
also noted his gradual awareness of the cultural differences and their impact on organizational
work behavior and the need to not impose the culture of the headquarters on the foreign
b) Self-evaluation
In the interview, the participant was asked to carry out a self-evaluation of his
performance on his job. This evaluation was based on two dimensions namely personal job and
relational performance. In regards to his relational performance, the participant evaluated his
performance as due to high reverence for the local staff. The participant also evaluated his
relational performance as due to his understanding of local culture “and leading with a heart.
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c) Vietnamese Culture
Looking at the interview transcript, it can be pointed out that the participant was pointing
to factors that complicated his adjustments. Some of these aspects are due to the characteristic
Vietnamese culture. When the participant was asked about the culture, the participant answered,
“I was interested in it”. The participant also referred to the fact that his spouse referred to the
Vietnamese people as being very hospitable”. The characteristics of being interesting and
hospitable are mentioned about the Vietnamese culture. The perception of the participant and his
spouse on the local culture played a great contribution on the degree of cross cultural adjustment
( Leung, Bhagat, Buchan, Erez, & Gibson, 2005, p. 362).
d) Anticipatory Adjustments
Studies have shown that expatriates previous cross cultural experience have a positive
relationship with their cross-cultural adjustments (Young-Chul , 1991, p. 152). The participant
had a 3 year expatriate experience in China before he was assigned to Vietnam. The interview
data also supports the fact that the expatriate’s previous experience seems to help the participant
to have a better and more accurate expectations of Vietnam and have a enhanced coping ability
with the process of cross-cultural adjustment (Kim, 2002, p. 262). From the interview, “I have a
lot of travel experience. I have been to Hong Kong, Russia, Iraq and Malaysia. Therefore, I had
a rough idea of what the experience would be like and I was not really shocked. Because I had
studied the Vietnamese culture, the language and philosophy of the Vietnamese, I knew some of
the things that I would expect.”
e) General Adjustment
When the participant talked about his first impression of Vietnam, despite the previous
experiences and study of the Vietnamese culture, the participant indicated signs of having
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experienced a cultural shock. “When I first got to Vietnam, it was a little bit disorienting.
Honestly, I was first disappointed. There were communications problems and scooters were
everywhere. So, to be honest I was a little bit nostalgic”. Although the expatriate experienced
cultural shock on arrival (also referred to as the honeymoon stage) (Furnham, 1988, p. 54), he
coped and he felt that he was able to overcome it after a period of time in Vietnam. This
indicates that the cultural differences between the Western and Eastern countries and the new
general environment could be the biggest problem for expatriates to deal with (Black , 1988, p.
f) Motivation for moving to Vietnam
When the participant was asked why he had decided to move to Vietnam, he stated that
he was interested in Vietnamese culture. However, he had also gone to Vietnam to take
advantage of the opportunity of being a country head for the corporation, a position superior than
the one he had held before. Other than a good remuneration, the participant also recognized the
impact of this experience on his professional career. “Firstly, I went to Vietnam because I was
intrigued by the Vietnamese culture. From a professional perspective, the move to Vietnam
offered me tremendous professional progress and opportunities. To start with, the position that I
took in Vietnam, country head, was of a higher rank than I held here in Australia. Basically, I
had received a promotion. Other than that, the experience of managing the corporate’s
operations in the whole of Vietnam up-scaled by skills and expertise.”
g) Job Satisfaction
When talking about his job, the participant stated that he enjoyed his assignment in
Vietnam. This statement indicates that working adjustment is a unique contributor to the
expatriate’s job satisfaction (Tung & Miller, 1990, p. 72). “Yes, I did like the assignment. To
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start with, the assignment was hard. It was really hard for the first couple of months. But after a
while, through experience and adjusting to the new environment, it worked out well. After
several years, I relaxed a bit more and begun to actually enjoy the job. However, the first few
months were very stressful.”
h) Intention to Stay
Generally, the participant claimed that when he decided to go to Vietnam, he had planned
to be there for just one or two years. He had gone to Vietnam to kick start the corporate
operations in the country and he had not expected a longer stay. Due to the demands of the job,
the participant ended up staying more than he had expected. He claimed that “the reason why I
opted staying in Vietnam for three more years rather than the initially planned stay of two years
was because I really enjoyed my assignment and then I had become accustomed to the
Vietnamese lifestyle.” From the interview data, it can be seen that the previous cross-cultural
experiences of the expatriate and his language proficiency was instrumental in the cross-cultural
adjustment (Ko & Yang, 2011, p. 161). The purpose of moving to Vietnam was for professional
progression, different life experience and to travel around Asia. The expatriate’s intention to stay
in Vietnam has a huge connection with the participants’ reasons for going to Vietnam.
The results obtained from the interview data largely confirms results from studies that
had been conducted previously, some of which have been discussed in the literature review
section. The results indicate that the working adjustment of the expatriate made the largest
contribution to his job satisfaction (Konanahalli, Oyedele, Meding , & Spillane, 2011, p. 358). It
also shows that the total time the participant spent living in Vietnam made the largest
contribution to his intention to stay (Tung R. , 1981, p. 72). Additionally, the interview data
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confirms that the participant’s previous experience helped him in his cross-cultural adjustments,
especially in the terms of general adjustments (Haslberger & Esarey, 2005).
Contrary as it would have been expected, the results of the interview did not show a
connection between the participant’s intention to stay and their cross-cultural adjustment. In the
interview data, there is no direct connection between the participants intention to stay and their
cross-cultural adjustment. However, it is partly connected to the participant’s job satisfaction and
working adjustment (Andreason , 2003, p. 50). The interview data enable a more insightful look
at this unexpected result.
The study has several conclusions. To begin with, there are several factors that affect the
ability of an expatriate to learn. People who have language training and cross-cultural training
prior to their arrival in the host country, have a better understanding and more agreement with
their learning in the host country. This means that those experiences would be instrumental to the
expatriate in the learning of the host culture. Corporations should always perform an evaluation
and modification of their training programs. However, as it has been seen, receiving this kind of
training does not necessarily ease the difficulties that are to be experienced in the host country
but it helps to manage expectations.
The human resource department could provide cultural mentors as well as provide
information about the host country. This enhances the expatriates adjustment and assists him to
perform his assignments better. The main way of expatriate learning the host culture is through a
continuous relationship with the people in the host country. Therefore, a cultural mentorship
program could focus on the establishment of long-term relationships with the natives of the host
Work Adjustment 12
country. Similarly, provision of information from the headquarters about the host country would
be useful to the expatriate adjustment efforts.
The findings of the study provide information about the cross-cultural adjustment of
expatriates and factors that influence their cross-cultural adjustments in their overseas
assignments. The results of the study could be beneficial in the understanding the factors
consisted of job satisfaction, cross-cultural training, intention to stay, general adjustment and the
motivation that played a significant relationship with cross-cultural adjustment.
Finally, the expatriate himself has to challenge every adjustment that is posed to him.
Here the expatriate has a considerable measure of control. Even though it would not be feasible
to change some individual variables, the expatriate can adjust his attitudes and cultural skills for
a better and smoother adjustment. The expatriate can be able to manage traits such as
introversion and learn behaviors that would normally run contrary to his natural style. Personal
development and training could be just as important for an expatriate just like the cross-cultural
Work Adjustment 13
Andreason , A. (2003). Expatriate adjustment to foreign assignments. International Journal of
Commerce and Management, 13(1), 42-60.
Black , J. (1988). Work role transitions: a study of American expatriate managers in Japan.
Journal of International Business Studies, 19(2), 277-294.
Furnham, A. (1988). The adjustment of sojourners. In Young, Y. Kim , & B. William, Cross
cultural adaptation (pp. 42-61). Newbury Park: Sage.
Haslberger, A., & Esarey, S. (2005). Moving People Abroad: a Guide to Successful Transitions.
Kim, Y. (2002). Adapting to unfamiliar culture. In W. Gudykunst , & B. Moody, Handbook of
international and intercultural communication (pp. 259-273). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ko, H.-C., & Yang, M.-L. (2011). The Effects of Cross-Cultural Training on Expatriate
Assignments. Intercultural Communication Studies, XX(1), 158-174.
Konanahalli, A., Oyedele, L., Meding , J., & Spillane, J. (2011, September). Organizational,
Host Country and Work Factors influencing a British Expatriates's Adjustment on
International Architectural Engineering and Construction Projects. 351-360.
Leung, K., Bhagat, R., Buchan, N., Erez, M., & Gibson, C. (2005). Culture and international
business: recent advances and their implications for future research. Journal of
International Business Studies, 36, 357-378.
Ramalu, S., Wei , C., & Rose, R. (2011, May). The Effects of Cultural Intelligence on Cross-
Cultural Adjustment and Job Performance amongst Expatriates in Malaysia. International
Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(9), 59-71.
Work Adjustment 14
Tung , R. (1981). Selection and training of personnel for overseas assignments. Columbia
Journal of World Business, 16(1), 68-78.
Tung, R., & Miller, E. (1990). Managing in the twenty- first century: The need for global
orientation. Management International Review.
Young-Chul , C. (1991). Cross -Cultural Adjustment of Expatriates: Theory & Research
Findings on American and Japanese Expatriates. Seoul Journal of Business, 3(1), 147-

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