Jeannie Duncan, Fielding's School of Human and Organizational Development
Expatriate literature provides valuable information about the experience of living overseas, focused primarily on cross-cultural adjustment and improving engagement and retention. This study contributes to the literature by revealing how expatriate managers understand their experiences as managers. Fifteen senior-level expatriate managers working in the mining industry in Indonesia participated in this phenomenographic study of the perceptions they have of their experiences as managers. Findings revealed that expatriate managers view their managerial work as understanding and solving problems. Their perspective on the problems they are to solve and the discretion they have to do it impacts the ways they manage self, people, and the business. Three distinct, increasingly complex role perceptions emerged that define their problem-solving framework: (a) compliance with past practice and maintaining status quo, (b) completing projects and improving project-related processes, and (c) advancing the organization. While there are common approaches to managing across the three role perceptions, some important differentiating behaviors emerged. Suggestions for expatriates and organizations to maximize the experience of managing overseas are discussed, along with limitations of this study and recommendations for future research.
Keywords: expatriation, expatriate manager, cross-cultural leadership, phenomenography