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Managing local employees: expatriate roles in a subsidiary

Phallapa Petison (College of Management, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand)
Lalit Johri (Said Business School, Oxford University, Oxford, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




In order to identify expatriate roles in a subsidiary it is necessary to go beyond those functions which are subservient to the headquarters. This paper sets out to prescribe a new spectrum of development roles with respect to varying capabilities and development needs of local employees.


The roles of expatriates are analyzed based on seven case studies conducted with top automobile manufacturers in Thailand: Toyota Motor Thailand; Hino Motors (Thailand); Honda Automobile (Thailand); Isuzu Motors (Thailand); BMW (Thailand); DaimlerChrysler (Thailand); and Auto Alliance (Thailand).


Four types of expatriate roles – commander, conductor, coach, and connector – are proposed; the roles correspond to the degree of task readiness and managerial capabilities of local employees.

Practical implications

The paper provides a tool that will help expatriates understand their roles according to the technical skills and managerial capabilities of local employees.


The paper offers practical advice for diagnosing expatriate roles and their training prior to assignment to a subsidiary.



Petison, P. and Johri, L. (2008), "Managing local employees: expatriate roles in a subsidiary", Management Decision, Vol. 46 No. 5, pp. 743-760.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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