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Cultural intelligence effects on expatriates’ adjustment and turnover intentions in Mainland China

Khalid Akhal (Business School, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing, China)
Shimin Liu (Business School, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing, China)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 7 May 2019

Issue publication date: 12 July 2019




Expatriates’ cross-cultural adjustment is one of the crucial factors for multi-national corporations’ (MNCs’) global success, which if neglected can lead to poor performance and increased turnover rates. On the other hand, cultural intelligence (CQ) is an important perspective for understanding international business success. Utilizing a relatively large sample of foreign professionals (n = 402) working in Mainland China, this study aims to test the effects of cultural intelligence on expatriates’ cross-cultural adjustment and their turnover intentions.


Data were collected via a cross-sectional survey, and the hierarchical multiple regression technique was used to test the hypotheses. The facets of cross-cultural adjustment were treated as potential predictors of turnover intentions and mediators in the relationship between CQ and turnover intentions.


With the exception of CQ-behavioral, the other three dimensions of CQ had varying positive effects on the three facets of expatriates’ cross-cultural adjustment. When the variable of turnover intentions was regressed on the four dimensions of CQ, the motivational dimension was the only predictor. Also, general and work adjustment facets had strong effects on turnover intentions, thus when they entered in the third step after CQ-motivational, they provided full mediation.

Practical implications

Given the strong and positive effects of all CQ dimensions on all facets of cross-cultural adjustment, MNCs should assess and select individuals with high CQ levels for international assignments. Based on the correlations of the control variables, age and level of education, MNCs should keep an eye on those who are young and those with higher levels of education as they are more likely to leave their international assignments prematurely. Expatriates themselves should set long-term personal plans for acquiring the needed cultural knowledge.


This research extends the relationship between CQ and cross-cultural adjustment to expatriates’ turnover intentions, a very costly problem for MNCs, yet barely researched in the context of CQ. This study also extends the geographical validity of CQ to Mainland China, a very lucrative market for global MNCs, yet a challenge for Western expatriates in particular.



Akhal, K. and Liu, S. (2019), "Cultural intelligence effects on expatriates’ adjustment and turnover intentions in Mainland China", Management Research Review, Vol. 42 No. 7, pp. 818-836.



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