The JGM BitBlog: An Underappreciated Approach to Expatriate Adjustment and Success
Brigitte Armon, Morning Consult, Florida, United States
Lisa A. Steelman, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida, United States
Sarah Jensen, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida, United States
Feedback practices have long been explored as an antecedent to organizational newcomer success. Research and practical application support the idea that feedback is essential for adaptation to work transitions because it reduces uncertainty. Surprisingly, the role of feedback in expatriate adjustment and success has not received much attention in the literature.
Feedback is embedded within organizational practices that can either support the use of high-quality feedback or disrupt the feedback process by discouraging feedback provision and use. These practices create what's known as a feedback environment.
The feedback environment refers to the feedback process within the work unit as an ongoing feature of the work context, as opposed to specific instances of positive or negative feedback. A favorable feedback environment denotes a safe context for giving and receiving useful performance information. Favorable, high-quality feedback environments serve as informational resources for employees in general and are associated with employee development, job performance, and citizenship behaviors.
To examine the role of the feedback environment in an expatriate context, survey data was collected from current expatriates working full time in a country other than their home country.
Results of the study revealed that expatriates who reported a favorable host country feedback environment had greater role clarity, greater adjustment, better subsequent job performance and increased intent to stay on the international assignment. In a favorable host country feedback environment, an expatriate has the benefit of ongoing, open, and constructive feedback conversations, promoting sensemaking and reducing the uncertainty inherent in the unfamiliar work situation. As uncertainty decreases, the expatriate becomes more aware of culturally appropriate behaviors and develops the necessary skills to execute them. This enhances the likelihood of successful performance, as well as expatriate retention.
This study highlights the importance of host country feedback practices to reduce ambiguity. On-going, supportive feedback is critical for employee growth and development in general and may be especially important for expatriates to "learn the ropes" in a new work context. Organizations can measure the feedback environment and intervene to make improvement, when necessary, prior to an expatriate assignment. This step should pay off in terms of enhanced expatriate adjustment, job performance, and retention. Feedback practices are truly an underappreciated lever for promoting success in international assignments.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Armon, B., Steelman, L. and Jensen, S. (2023), "The role of the feedback environment in expatriate adjustment", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 200-214. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-08-2022-0040" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-08-2022-0040