Challenges for expatriate managers: an exploration of cross-cultural management, adjustment, and training issues faced by Anglo-American managers in Hong Kong
This field work study furthers understanding about expatriate management, in particular, the nature of cross-cultural management in Hong Kong involving Anglo-American expatriate and Chinese host national managers, the important features of adjustment for expatriates living and working there, and the type of training which will assist them to adjust and to work successfully in this Asian environment. Qualitative and quantitative data on each issue was gathered during in-depth interviews in Hong Kong, using structured interview schedules, with 39 expatriate and 31 host national managers drawn from a cross-section of functional areas and organizations. Despite the adoption of Western technology and the influence of Western business practices, micro-level management in Hong Kong retains a cultural specificity which is consistent with the norms and values of Chinese culture. There are differences in how expatriates and host nationals define their social roles, and Hong Kong's recent colonial history appears to influence cross-cultural interpersonal interactions. The inability of the spouse and/or family to adapt to Hong Kong is identified as a major reason for expatriate assignments to fail, though the causes have less to do with living away from family and friends, than with Hong Kong's highly urbanized environment and the heavy demands of work. Culture shock is not identified as a major problem, but in Hong Kong micro-level social factors require greater adjustment than macro-level societal factors. The adjustment of expatriate managers is facilitated by a strong orientation towards career development and hard work, possession of technical/professional expertise, and a willingness to engage in a process of continuous 'active learning' with respect to the host national society and culture. A four-part model of manager training suitable for Hong Kong is derived from the study data. It consists of a pre-departure briefing, post-arrival cross-cultural training, language training in basic Cantonese and in how to communicate more effectively in English with non-native speakers, and the assignment of a mentor to newly arrived expatriate managers.