Of Ostriches, Frogs, Birds and Lizards

I have been working with Ling Eleanor Zhang for quite a while now. We have published an article on the use of host country language by expatriates and a book on Managing Expatriates in China. Today, I am happy to announce another paper, first-authored by Chenchen Li, about cultural identity negotiation strategies, providing a typology of four different strategies. Ling will be blogging about its content in a more accessible format soon, but I just wanted to share the abstract and typology here.

  • Li, C.; Zhang, L.E.; Harzing, A.W. (2019) Of Ostriches, Frogs, Birds and Lizards: A Dynamic Framework of Cultural Identity Negotiation Strategies in an Era of Global Mobility, Journal of Global Mobility, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 239-254. Available online... - Publisher's version - Related blog post

Abstract

Purpose

In response to the somewhat paradoxical combination of increasing diversity in the global workforce and the resurgence of nationalism in an era of global mobility, this article aims to uncover how employees on international assignments respond to exposure to new cultures. Specifically, the study aims to explicate the underlying psychological mechanisms linking expatriates’ monocultural, multicultural, global and cosmopolitan identity negotiation strategies with their responses towards the host culture by drawing upon exclusionary and integrative reactions theory in cross-cultural psychology.

Design/Methodology/Approach

This conceptual article draws on the perspective of exclusionary versus integrative reactions towards foreign cultures – a perspective rooted in cross-cultural psychology research – to categorize expatriates’ responses towards the host culture. More specifically, the study elaborates how two primary activators of expatriates’ responses towards the host culture – the salience of home-culture identity and a cultural learning mindset – explain the relationship between cultural identity negotiation strategies and expatriates’ exclusionary and integrative responses, providing specific propositions on how each type of cultural identity negotiation strategy is expected to be associated with expatriates’ exclusionary and integrative responses towards the host culture.

Findings

The present study proposes that 1) expatriates’ adoption of a monocultural identity negotiation strategy is positively associated with exclusionary responses towards the host culture and is negatively associated with integrative responses towards the host culture; 2) expatriates’ adoption of a multicultural identity negotiation strategy is positively associated with both exclusionary responses and integrative responses towards the host culture; 3) expatriates’ adoption of a global identity negotiation strategy is negatively associated with exclusionary responses towards the host culture; 4) expatriates’ adoption of a cosmopolitan identity negotiation strategy is negatively associated with exclusionary responses, and positively associated with integrative responses towards the host culture. The following metaphors for these different types of cultural identity negotiation strategies are introduced: “ostrich” (monocultural strategy), “frog” (multicultural strategy), “bird” (global strategy) and “lizard” (cosmopolitan strategy).

Originality/value

The proposed dynamic framework of cultural identity negotiation strategies illustrates the sophisticated nature of expatriates’ responses to new cultures. This article also emphasizes that cross-cultural training tempering expatriates’ exclusionary reactions and encouraging integrative reactions is crucial for more effective expatriation in a multicultural work environment.

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