Overseas effectiveness of American expatriates in Germany

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Virginia Tech


As organizations are becoming more and more global, the number of employees on overseas assignments who must adjust to the cultural differences and other aspects of working and living overseas is growing. The high premature rate of return to the home country has increased the already high cost of overseas assignments. The cost of failure includes lost effectiveness on the job, time to find a replacement, discontinuity of work activities, damage to the company's reputation, and discontent on the part of the employee. As the result, it is very important that individuals on overseas assignments also be effective. The aim of this research is to identify how managers can select expatriates based on their personal characteristics and can intervene in the adjustment process to reduce the effects of adjustment difficulties on overseas effectiveness. The personal characteristics studied in this research effort are age, marital status, number of children, previous overseas assignment, and language proficiency. Adjustment difficulties are investigated in the areas of banking, housing, health care, shopping, and schooling. With help of a questionnaire, data was gathered from sixty-two Americans currently working and living in Germany. The results from a backward regression analysis indicate that respondents’ difficulty of dealing with the aforementioned adjustment areas in the first three months has a significant negative effect on their effectiveness in Germany. Although it appears that respondents’ language proficiency has a positive effect on overseas effectiveness, it may actually be a subset of their sense of preparedness at the time of arrival. The results from the regression analysis also indicate that the personal characteristics studied here cannot be used to develop a profile of expatriates who will be most effective in Germany or who will have the greatest difficulties while adjusting to life in Germany. Specific recommendations for how managers may improve the overseas effectiveness of American expatriates in Germany, as well as recommendations for future research, are discussed.