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Cross‐cultural conflict and expatriate manager adjustment: An exploratory study

Avan Jassawalla (Jones School of Business, State University of New York at Geneseo, Geneseo, New York, USA)
Ciara Truglia (Jones School of Business, State University of New York at Geneseo, Geneseo, New York, USA)
Jennifer Garvey (Jones School of Business, State University of New York at Geneseo, Geneseo, New York, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 1 August 2004

Abstract

A key reason for the return of expatriates before the official end of their foreign assignment is the uncertainty and frustration resulting from poor cross‐cultural adaptation. The literature provides this general, normative view without much to say about the interpersonal conflict expatriates experience in the workplace abroad caused by cultural differences. Our exploratory study finds that conflicts with co‐workers in host countries occur frequently causing high stress and discomfort, and provides three specific sources of conflict as recounted by sample managers. The implications of our findings include: selecting expatriate managers with high emotional intelligence, providing extensive pre‐departure cultural training that consists not only of cultural facts but also interpersonal skills such as active listening, conflict management, and ethical reasoning, utilizing sensitivity training techniques to better prepare managers for new situations, and sending the expatriate on one or two pre‐sojourn visits to familiarize themselves with the host culture and workplace norms even before the actual expatriate assignment begins. An additional implication is training the host‐country workers, particularly those who will work most closely with the expatriate manager, on home country cultural beliefs and workplace norms. We aim to stimulate managerial thinking and further research on the workplace conflicts that challenge expatriates managers.

Keywords

Citation

Jassawalla, A., Truglia, C. and Garvey, J. (2004), "Cross‐cultural conflict and expatriate manager adjustment: An exploratory study", Management Decision, Vol. 42 No. 7, pp. 837-849. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251740410550916

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited