This thesis aims to understand the relative influence of institutional, cultural and organizational factors on the adjustment of the United Nations’ (UN) and multinational companies’ expatriates in Egypt. The research makes a contribution to the field of expatriate research through its application of the institutional lens in examining the factors impacting on adjustment; and through testing a traditional adjustment model in an under-researched host context. As a result of the research this thesis proposes a new framework for understanding the factors impacting on adjustment which adopts a contingency perspective and incorporates a stronger focus on institutional determinants and the organisational infrastructure supporting the management of expatriates.
The study relies, for its theoretical basis, on certain cultural and organizational factors borrowed from the expatriate literature, in addition to introducing other factors (mainly institutional factors) which have not been previously examined in the literature as predictors of adjustment. The research questions the utility of these organizational, cultural and institutional factors, especially those from traditional models, when applied to relatively new national and organizational contexts, the Egyptian national context and the United Nations organizational context. Both contexts are under-researched areas in the expatriate adjustment literature and in the international human resources management literature in general.
The Arab cultural context introduces many differences to the Anglo-Saxon and European context, more traditionally the subject of research studies and thus it provides an opportunity for testing the wider application of expatriate models. Equally the UN is a highly multicultural organisational context with a socio-political mission which is highly distinct from the ‘for profit’ based multinational. Thus both these contextual factors offer fertile ground for the further development of a framework for understanding expatriate adjustment during contemporary times. In addition, the novelty of the context brings to the fore the opportunity for examining the utility of institutional theory as an alternative or complement to cultural theory as a way of understanding the factors influencing expatriate adjustment.
In terms of the method, the research relies mainly on quantitative data obtained by surveying expatriates in multinational and United Nations organizations working in Egypt. In addition a qualitative technique (interviews) was used to aid questionnaire development and data contextualization.
The results highlight the role of institutional measures in explaining expatriate adjustment. The evidence suggests that the institutional variables provide additional explanatory power beyond that provided by traditional factors studies. However, the research also demonstrates that the institutional measures do not replace the cultural measures and therefore there is not a substitution factor at work. Rather, we would argue that the institutional lens provides additional understanding and is tapping into other factors not already captured through measures of culture.
The research puts forward a contingency model incorporating additional organisational and institutional variables which are often overlooked or underemphasised in some of the traditional organisational focused models.||en