Host country nationals to the rescue: a social categorization approach to expatriate adjustment



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Texas A&M University


The present study proposes a significant role for host country nationals (HCNs) in the expatriate adjustment process. Based on self-categorizaton theory, newcomer socialization research, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) research, and models of expatriate adjustment, I present a model proposing how social categorization processes influence HCNs' willingness to engage in adjustment-facilitating organizational citizenship behaviors (AOCBs). I further propose that these behaviors have a significant impact on expatriates' adjustment and in turn, other important job-related outcomes of the expatriate. Hypotheses were tested on 115 expatriates and 53 HCNs. Expatriates were contacted directly or via an organizational contact. HCNs were either contacted directly or nominated by their expatriate counterpart to participate in the study. Results reveal support for the main tenets of the model. The willingness to engage in AOCBs was related to outgroup categorization, collectivism, and perceptions of justice. Social support provided by HCNs was found to significantly relate to HCNs' perceptions of their expatriate co-worker's adjustment. Expatriates, however, indicated that spousal adjustment and language ability were more important for their own adjustment. Adjustment was related to other key expatriate outcomes. The research and managerial implications of these results are discussed.