East-west expatriate employment relationship: a multi-foci perspective of the psychological contract

Wang, Xiao (2020) East-west expatriate employment relationship: a multi-foci perspective of the psychological contract. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The research into expatriation has made great contribution to the understanding of issues surrounding international human resource management. However, the academic discussion around the subject of expatriate management remains Western-centred, neglecting the use of expatriates staffing in multinational corporations (MNCs) from Eastern countries. Accordingly, existing expatriate research has been demonstrated to be approached and analysed from two independent perspectives: the organization (e.g. studies into expatriate selection and training) or the expatriates themselves (e.g. expatriate adjustment), there is a scarcity of literature examining the interactions between expatriates and organization, along with restricted theoretical perspectives adopted (e.g. dyadic employee-supervisor relationship). As a response, this thesis advances a multi-foci perspective of psychological contract to depict the social context arising in the course of interactions between expatriates and different organizational units and/or agents.
By adopting a multi-foci perspective to the psychological contract, the overall objective of this thesis is to explore how the content of Eastern expatriates’ psychological contracts changes over the tenure of the international assignment in Western locations. With an overall study sampling frame of 35 expatriates, a qualitative single-embedded case study research design based on a Chinese multinational corporation is utilized in order to capture the change process of contract content. The thesis provides evidence demonstrating that individuals have simultaneous multiple psychological contracts, each with a different focus. The contracts held by the Chinese expatriates in this sample contained predominately balanced contract beliefs, which contrasted sharply to what the other authors found to be salient beliefs (e.g. transactional contract beliefs) for expatriates based on Western samples. With regards to the change of expatriates’ psychological contract, this thesis found that the perceptions of employees regarding the obligations of their employers changed differentially over each stage of the international assignment, rather than in a linear form as suggested by the Western literature. Overall, the findings showed that expatriates described the psychological contracts which, at the pre-departure stage, started with highly balanced beliefs regarding employer obligations and relatively low relational and transactional contract beliefs. Then there was a reduction in balanced and an increase in relational contract beliefs after initial entry, followed by an increase in balanced contract beliefs, a slightly increase in beliefs about ii
transactional obligations and a decrease in relational contract beliefs at the subsequent stage, which was further followed by an increase in balanced employer obligations at the repatriation stage. In contrast, perceived employee obligations exhibited non-change patterns generally. With regard to contract makers, the findings showed that expatriates were psychological contracting with a wide range of organizational agents at each stage of the international assignment cycle, with the exception of the host-unit line managers during the initial and subsequent assignment stage of the international assignment cycle, there were no signs on the succession of organizational agents. Further, while perceived employer obligations were found to be foci-specific, employee obligations were foci-ambiguous.
The findings from this thesis provide insights for both academic research and managerial practices in the following ways; first, this research contributes to the understanding of linking two separate literatures (expatriate and psychological contract), yielding important insights into complex managerial problems. Second, the benefits to expatriate literature are that it provides insights into the field of expatriates’ employment relationship that have received limited attention in literature. Third, by employing expatriates assigned from Eastern national contexts operating in Western countries, this research could not only contribute to the understanding of the expatriation process in these regions, but also to the psychological contract development in the context of Eastern-Western engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Expatriates, cross-cultural management, the psychological contract, multinational corporations.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School
Supervisor's Name: Robinson, Professor Sarah and Paton, Professor Robert
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mr XIAO WANG
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81444
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2020 15:45
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2022 09:00
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81444

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