Mutual adjustment processes in international teams: lessons for the study of expatriation

2007-12-18T11:42:39Z (GMT) by Angelika Zimmermann Paul Sparrow
Researchers have commonly regarded expatriate adjustment as a unidirectional process of one individual adjusting to a foreign environment. In contrast, we argue that it may be necessary to conceptualise the expatriate’s adjustment to social interactions as part of a process of mutual adjustment within an international team. Research on expatriate adjustment can be informed by our study of mutual adjustment in international teams. Eleven teams of four combinations of nationalities - German-English, German-Indian, German-Japanese, and German-Austrian - were examined in two German companies, in a one-year longitudinal study. In-depth interviews and team observations were conducted with 116 participants. From the findings, a model was developed that captures the mechanisms of mutual adjustment at the level of cognitive processes, attitudes, and behaviours of team members. The study also explains how these internal adjustment components are influenced by a number of external context factors. These factors are seen to create a power relationship between the members of the different nationalities in the team. This has a major influence on the direction of adjustment. The findings are discussed with regard to their implications for models of adjustment and forms of capital accrued by global leaders.