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Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management

Edited by Günter K. Stahl and Ingmar Björkman

In providing an insightful overview of a wide range of global human resource issues facing MNCs, this pathbreaking Handbook highlights emergent topics and new research findings that could shape the field of future IHRM research. Theoretical discussion of the variables and processes that affect IHRM policies and practices is provided by renowned contributors with widely differing academic backgrounds, paradigmatic orientations, and theoretical and methodological approaches.
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Chapter 13: Expatriate Adjustment and Performance: A Critical Review

David C. Thomas and Mila B. Lazarova


David C. Thomas and Mila B. Lazarova In this chapter we examine an assumption in the literature on international assignments, the belief in a direct positive relationship between the adjustment of expatriates and their performance. We first outline the historical basis for the overwhelming focus on adjustment. We then review the literature on the conceptualization and measurement of both adjustment and performance and on the adjustment–performance relationship. Finally, we reflect on the state of knowledge of this relationship and discuss implications for future research. Historical basis for the study of adjustment A vast amount of research on international assignments has as its focus the adjustment of expatriate managers and their families. While the move to a new environment may be the most novel aspect of international assignments, and a focus on adjustment might seem natural, this aspect of the international experience has dominated the expatriation literature, and has to a degree excluded the consideration of other outcomes. The focus on adjustment is so pervasive that in some empirical studies adjustment has been substituted for a wide range of outcome variables, effectively changing the nature of the phenomenon under investigation (Thomas, 1998). Moreover a strong positive relationship between adjustment and performance is often uncritically assumed, thus forming a lawlike generalization in the expatriate paradigm (for example, Andreason, 2003). Perhaps the single most important event in generating the study of overseas adjustment was the advent of the Peace Corps in the United States in 1961 (see Lundstedt, 1963). The...

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