The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the relative institutional distance of the subsidiary from the multinational enterprise (MNE) headquarters influences job satisfaction in the subsidiary. The authors argue that job satisfaction in the MNE subsidiary will be influenced by the institutional distance between the firm’s home (headquarter) and host (subsidiary) countries, such that the greater the institutional distance, the less satisfied the subsidiary employees. The authors also argue that the degree of function interdependence (global vs local roles) will moderate this relationship, such that high interdependence will result in lower job satisfaction as distance increases.
Using data from a global high-tech Canadian MNE, consisting of over 15,000 employees located in 19 subsidiaries, the research undertakes an empirical investigation that identifies if and how job satisfaction varies between countries and tests the influence of subsidiary-level institutional distance from the headquarters on subsidiary-level job satisfaction, using a multilevel model.
The results demonstrate that subsidiary distance from the headquarters has a complex effect on subsidiary-level job satisfaction; in some distances, no effect is found, while in others, either some or all job satisfaction facets are affected (depending on the distance and facet) in both positive and negative ways. Unlike much of the past research on distance, which has treated distance as a barrier to be overcome or reduce (Stahl et al., 2016), the paper’s finding demonstrate that “negative” distance operates independently (and at varying strengths and significance) than “positive” distance, due to underlying mechanisms.
There is a real opportunity to push ahead on linking international business strategy research with organizational theory and organizational behavior research. To do so, it requires not only a positive organizational scholarship approach (Stahl et al., 2016) but also methods that will allow researchers to study the influence of distance on mechanisms and processes, as opposed to stand-alone variables. The authors therefore suggest that future work in this area pursue qualitative methods as called for by Chapman et al. (2008).
Findings are surprising, in that results vary across job facets and distances. Practitioners need to therefore focus on the mechanisms that influence job satisfaction, not just differences and their potential negative impact.
The firm-level study provides a rich perspective on the complex way in which country-level differences influence subsidiary-level job satisfaction.