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Effects of Expatriation

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Since its inception, the globalization age has virtually changed social, economic, cultural and political systems. The business world is among the numerous realms embedded in the globalization concept. According to McFarlin & Sweeney (2014, p 416), “Multinational companies have continually sought to expand their jurisdictions to other countries to start and develop new plants.” The trend of establishing companies and businesses in foreign has been on the increase since the 1970s (Anderson, 2005, p 567). Of course, this means that expatriates have to take a significant role in expanding the operations of a business from its original country to another. Based on the need for companies to expand their jurisdictions and capitalize on the opportunities precipitated by globalization, expatriation trends have certainly soared high and led to the development of overseas plants.

Ideally, expatriates are sent to guide the business operations because they have a firm grip on the business culture of the home company. It is widely acknowledged that an expatriate will be in a strategic position to instill the core values of the company in a foreign country. Extending the corporate boundaries of the company from the original country to other calls for the consideration of various factors for the expatriates. The expatriation process brings diverse effects on the employee or employees moving to work in other countries. Definitely, a worker moving to another country on expatriation grounds will be affected on his or her professional development and personal life. The cultural and social trends of the foreign country are factors that may have an immense effect on the success of the worker.

A Spanish company that sells its products abroad decides to send some of its workers in the foreign countries based on their understanding in the business’ functions and culture. The company’s idea behind the move is to enact its fundamental values in the foreign country. A critical reflection based on related literature will unearth significant concepts in the process, as well as answering the research question: Is this effect positive or negative for the worker in his or her professional development and on its personal life?
Effects on Professional Development

Without a doubt, a worker moving from his or her country to work in another has effects on his or her professional development. There is evidence of cultural diversity in the running of businesses in different countries. The business culture of Spain presents different features from the one in the United States. In this respect, it is apparent that the workers of the Spanish company extending its product sales to other countries will influence their professional development. Based on the cross-cultural dimensions and concepts involved in overseas business relations, a Spanish worker settling in a foreign country can develop positive or negative effects on his professional development depending on the prevailing conditions in the host country.

As Aswathappa (2006, p 417) puts it, “Selection of workers for setting up business plants abroad stems from the decisions of the management and the performance of the employee.” Companies look out for employees with the highest level of proficiency to expand their goals and objectives abroad. In reference to this, domestic performance and previous expatriate successes are the most significant factors that deemed it viable for the employee to have the opportunity to represent the home company in overseas trading relations.

According to Scullion (2011 p 417), “Technical competence is an imperative factor in the professional development of the company’s employee.” The ability to grasp and execute diverse functions for a company is indeed a valuable asset for a company. Working abroad presents a worker with an opportunity to learn diverse ideas and concepts of expanding his or her professional attributes. In reference to this, a Spanish worker stationed in another country on behalf of the parent company will certainly have to interact with the business structures of the foreign country. Success in foreign establishments requires a worker to develop technical competencies in order to fit in the business culture of the country. The Spanish worker will enhance his ability to handle the dynamics of business operations by ensuring that the sale of the products responds well in the foreign country.

Moreover, developing a vast experience in the business portfolio of the worker is highly critical in professional development. The worker’s capacity to gain sufficient grounding in the business culture of the host country will certainly develop the much-needed experience in expanding the company’s corporate jurisdiction. “The success of multinational companies depends on the ability of their employees to gain experience in navigating the business structures of international trading” (Sparrow, 2009, p 25). Therefore, the worker will have a positive impact on his professional development by gaining substantial experience on how to integrate diverse business cultures. This is a huge benefit to the company bearing in mind that the success of trade relations in one country will birth the quest to expand to other countries.

In addition, successful articulation of business functions in a foreign country(s) will certainly contribute to the upgrade of job positioning for the employee. Based on the fact that it is not easy to establish business functions abroad, a worker who manages to make a breakthrough and meets the standards of the home company will have a reputable function in running of the company. According to Holopainen &Bjorkman (2005, p 40), “Establishing business plants in foreign countries presents numerous challenges especially to emerging companies.” As the company enhances its corporate reputation abroad, the credentials of the worker will undoubtedly grow; hence, putting him in a strategic position to develop his professional grounding. Success in the establishment of international trading implies that the responsibilities of the worker in the management of the company will increase. This is an imperative incentive in the professional growth of the worker.

The duties of the worker in a foreign country are different on various fronts. Though the fundamentals functions of the worker remain the same, working in a different country requires strategic adjustments depending on the business structures of the foreign country. For instance, as Luo (1999, p 43) puts it, “the worker has to place his functions strategically depending on the customer relations and patterns in the country”. In other words, there is more than selling products in the host country. The worker has to identify intensive and strategic ways of reaching out to the customers and enhancing products sales. This essential duty significantly differs from the worker’s duty in the home company (Luo, 1999, p 43). The integration of the diverse purposes of the worker is critically important in developing cultural business competencies of running business functions. Therefore, the ability of the worker to integrate business cultures is extremely vital in developing the professional capabilities of the employee. Certainly, working abroad presents amazing opportunities for the worker to incorporate theory with practice in developing the much-needed competence.

Despite the positive impacts on the worker’s professional development, it is worth noting that negative impacts may arise in case the process does not succeed as expected. “Often, companies had found themselves on the losing end when their expansion objectives in other countries failed to meet their expectations” (Hiltrop & Janssens, 1990, p 197). While selecting employees to represent their companies in overseas plants, managers have used domestic performances as the yardstick for their selection (Vance & Paik, 2006, p 68). This has often resulted in negative effects whereby the employees failed to meet their desired targets. The notion that domestic success is equal to international success is often misleading. Instead of relying on an individual’s domestic corporate success, the company should capitalize on a systematic approach and find the employees with the ability to perform well in foreign countries. If the objectives of the Spanish company are not adequately met in a foreign country, the worker’s mandate will have fallen short of the expectations; hence, negatively affecting his professional development. Since it is widely acknowledged that the professional development of an employee representing a company abroad is influenced by his business success in the foreign country, failure to achieve the set targets tarnishes the possibility of professional growth. Hence, it is certain that low standards of performance in the international business systems are detrimental to the progress of a worker’s professional growth, especially if he lacked the required credentials.
Effects on Personal life

It is precisely obvious that the shifting process of an employee from his home country to a foreign country for business relations is not an easy affair. Some employees are enthusiastic about the idea, while others express mixed reactions about it (Velde, 2009, p 153). Apart from the professional factors defining a worker, his personal life is also affected. The social and cultural factors surrounding a worker play an important role in his personal development. As Burke &Cooper (2005, p 86) put it, “The personal life of a worker has the capacity to affect his professional performance in the foreign assignment.” Whether the worker’s relocation to a foreign country for business purposes has a positive or negative effect, it depends on the circumstances surrounding the worker.

The worker’s spouse or family is extremely vital in defining his performance in his assignment. The attitude of the family throughout the foreign assignment period plays a huge role in the personal life of the worker. If the family of the worker is in favor of the foreign assignment, it is highly likely that the worker will find it easy to settle in the host country. “Research shows that most expatriates who showed commendable success and ability to settle in their foreign assignments had their families or spouse backing them up” (Litrell et al., 2006, p340). Additionally, the ability the worker’s family or spouse to cope with the transitions involved in expatriation will ultimately affect his personal life. If the family adjusts with ease to the transitions, it will be a motivation to the worker, thus enhancing his personal commitment to the business assignment. The personal life of the expatriate (worker) depends on the degree of satisfaction to his family. The family of the worker is a personal aspect, as opposed his professional attributes, and it is immensely affected by the circumstances surrounding the foreign assignment.

Therefore, it is evident that the relationship between the worker and the family plays an important role in defining his performance in the foreign assignment. If the family is satisfied with the expatriation process and expresses smooth transition on the process, the worker will certainly be satisfied and concentrate on the business duties accorded to him. On the contrary, if the family members of the worker do not show positive expressions towards the process, and find it stressing coping during the course of the assignment, definitely the personal life of the worker shall be negatively affected. The psychological attributes of the worker, which define his personal development, are directly proportional to the feelings and attitudes of his family concerning the business assignment abroad.

The culture of the host country is significantly vital in comprehending the effects of expatriates on business assignments abroad. “Language is an important cultural factor in every society; it connects people and enhances their interactions” (Reis, 2013, p 3). Since the worker has to integrate his knowledge with the people’s culture in order to enhance the chances of business success, it is significant for him to cope well with the language and culture of the host nation. Interaction with customers and clients is extremely important; hence, the need to develop feasible frameworks of communication (Golz, 2013, p 7). The ability to understand the cultural trends and communicate well with the host nation will be instrumental in eliminating uncertainties, and enhance the expatriate’s level of adjustment to the new environment. This is a great personal motivation and certainly an impetus for success in the business assignment. Thus, on a personal level, the worker has a positive effect by building his ability to interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The ability to interact well with the host nation’s people will broaden the expatriate’s diversity levels and develop his interrelation skills. Moreover, the capacity of the worker to interact effectively with the country’s customers will enable him develop tolerance for stress, bearing in mind that working with foreigners is not easy. Thus, the worker is in a good position to develop skills of adapting to new environments. Definitely, the worker will be able to adapt and maintain flexibility in the wake of changing business dynamics and patterns.

On the other hand, if the expatriate is not in a position to interact well with the foreigners and accommodate the culture of the country, his personal life might be negatively affected and lead to the premature termination of the business assignment. “Culture shock is a negative factor that affects the ability of expatriates to accomplish their assignments abroad” (Cullen & Parboteeah, 2009, p 413). Studies show that cultural differences have contributed greatly to the closure of businesses abroad (Maude, 2011, p 213). The inability to cope with the foreign cultural and social trends of the host nation affects the personal attributes of expatriates and consequently reduces the chances of business success. The conflicting cultural characteristics in the expatriate can lead to loss of identity. This causes the expatriate to loses focus and finds the expatriation process less satisfying at a personal level. Indeed, this is a serious negative effect stemming from the inability to integrate amicably with the host culture.

In conclusion, it is worth asserting that expatriation is a common business idea in the world of today. Businesses are increasingly embracing the trend in a bid to increase their capacity in the international markets. Based on the success that multinational companies have attained in the business concept, it is without a doubt that the trend will continue to grow. However, it is notable to point out that there are instances whereby the success of the expatriation process does not come easily. There are companies that have not successfully managed to establish business plants in other countries. This is attributed to various factors that businesses need to consider before, and during the foreign business establishment processes. Employees of companies working overseas face different experiences that can either build or destroy their personal and/or professional development. In this respect, it is imperative for companies to put in place viable measures of ensuring that maximum returns are received from the overseas subsidiaries.

It is essential for companies to put in place feasible measures of selecting the candidates for the expatriation assignments. The selection process should involve a comprehensive system approach as opposed to domestic success because people respond differently to new environments. In other words, the company should evaluate its employees and find out those who can, and those who cannot manage foreign business assignments. Of importance still, companies should train their employees on how to handle cross-cultural business aspects. This is a vital exercise in giving the workers an able ground in handling the diversities involved in foreign countries. With adequate training, the workers will ultimately be in a position to adapt well in foreign nations and deliver the much-needed success. It is true that setting business operations in other countries is a lucrative and brilliant idea, but it comes with a cost; companies should be prepared to handle the diversities involved.


  • Anderson, B.A. (2005). Expatriates selection: good management or luck? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16(4) 567-583.
  • Aswathappa, A. (2006). International business (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.
  • Burke, R. J., & Cooper, C. L. (2005). Reinventing human resource management: challenges and new directions. London: Routledge.
  • Cullen, J. B., & Parboteeah, P. (2009). International business strategy and the multinational company. New York: Routledge.
  • Gölz, N. (2013). Training expatriates – crucial components in preparing for overseas assignments. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
  • Holopainen, J. &Bjorkman, I. (2005). The personal characteristics of the successful expatriate. Personal Review, 34(1) 37-50. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Hiltrop, J. M., & Janssens, M. (1990). Expatriation: Challenges and recommendations. European Management Journal, 8(1), 19-26.
  • Litrell, L., Salas, E., Hess, K., Paley, M and Riedel, S. (2006). Expatriate Preparation: A Critical Analysis of 25 Years of Cross -Cultural Training Research. Human Resource Development Review, 5(3) 355-388.
  • Luo, Yadong. (1999). Entry and cooperative strategies in international business expansion. Westport, Conn.: Quorum.
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