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Cross-cultural adjustment and fundamental interpersonal relations orientation behaviour (FIRO-B)

Graeme Ditchburn (Department of Psychology & Exercise Science, Murdoch University , Perth, Australia)
Elizabeth R Brook (Department of Psychology & Exercise Science, Murdoch University , Perth, Australia)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 14 December 2015




Expatriate workforces are growing as a result of globalisation and the considerable cost associated with expatriation is a strong incentive to identify which employees are most likely to adjust to the host nation. One area relevant to cross-cultural adjustment is interpersonal needs. The theory of fundamental interpersonal relations orientation as measured by the fundamental interpersonal relations orientation-behaviour (FIRO-B) may offer insights as to the relationship between interpersonal needs and cross-cultural adjustment. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In total, 180 paper and pencil measures of the FIRO-B and expatriate adjustment scales (general, work, and interaction) were distributed via informed international associates and convenience and snowball sampling. In total, 112 expatriates from the UK (44 percent), South Africa (22 percent), India (20 percent), and other nations (14 percent) returned completed questionnaires.


Expatriates with higher levels of wanted affection were higher on all subscales of cross-cultural adjustment. Those who wanted and expressed the need for inclusion were significantly higher in interaction adjustment while those who expressed and wanted control were less adjusted to work.

Research limitations/implications

The cross-sectional design limits the extent to which these findings can be interpreted as causal and the small sample size may limit the generalisability of the findings and common method via self-report may also inflate inter-relationship. However, the underlying theoretical premise would strongly support the hypothesised directional relationships in the normal population. A number of factors beyond the scope of this study may play a fundamental role including cultural similarity.

Practical implications

Whilst not predictive, and acknowledging that environmental factors may vary, these results give an indication that interpersonal needs are related to successful adjustment in expatriates. As such these findings could be used to help inform the recruitment and training of expatriates in areas of interpersonal interaction taking into consideration intrapersonal needs.


No study to date has explored the inter-relationship between the interpersonal needs and expatriate adjustment. This is the first paper to do so and identify that there is a significant association between expatriate’s motives for interaction and their level of cross-cultural adjustment.



Ditchburn, G. and Brook, E.R. (2015), "Cross-cultural adjustment and fundamental interpersonal relations orientation behaviour (FIRO-B)", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 336-349.



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