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Expatriate Failure: A growing concern for international HRM May 22, 2007

Posted by Null in HRM.

Expatriate failure is a growing concern for many multinationals and has been an area of research by academics and HR practicioners. This is because of high failure rates by expatriates who are being sent for overseas assignments. According to Bird and Dunbar’s study (1991), it has increased to 50 percent and the costs associated with failure are not only financial but also societal. Employees might lose their confidence in assignments and can have decreased motivation and morale. There might be several reasons why many expatriates fail to deliver the objectives assigned by the headquarters. Cultural adjustments, language differences, Foreign Service hardship, length of assignment, etc are some of the failure factors that Dowling and Welch (2004) discussed in their textbook. Expatriate failure not only means the premature return of an expatriate but also the underachievement in that assignment. Eventually it represents the organisational failure to manage human resources internationally.

Since the expatriate failures are mostly related with cultural adjustments, why don’t multinationals emphasize more on cultural awareness training or why don’t they employ a different policy instead of an ethnocentric policy? I believe that adequate emphasis on cultural orientation can reduce the risk of expatriate failure. But it is indeed a difficult job of adjusting to a different culture; hence culture is how we sense everything with our collective views.



1. Saugat chandra - May 6, 2009

it is unwise to use old statistics (1991 expat failure figures) for a recent article (2007). I believe ethnocentric approach of companies has lot to do with the current evolution stage of the company wrt international assignments. and the stats say the expat failure are mostly related to family problems these days – the trailing spouse.

moinul - May 8, 2009

As you know the article has also become old (2007) and you are commenting on a 2 year old article. That is being unwise as well. No hard feelings, at that moment (2007) I could not find any recent articles, what you are able to research right at this moment.

2. Outsourced « Expired Expressions - July 11, 2009

[…] many other management issues like corporate greed, outsourcing, job loss, cheap labor, expatriate failure, culture clash, etc has been evident in the […]

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