Mindfulness as Facilitating Expatriate Development: Advancing Knowledge Sharing and Promoting Cultural Adjustment Abroad.

VerfasserPervez, Adam

1 Introduction

Expatriates--employees who relocate to work in a foreign country--are typically sent on overseas assignments to establish control of subsidiaries, aid in the transfer of knowledge between a subsidiary and headquarters, or develop cross-cultural competencies (Bolino, 2007; Takeuchi et al., 2005). Whereas assignments in recent decades have focused on ensuring appropriate control of subsidiaries, the current focus is predominantly on relaying information between countries and developing employees through knowledge sharing (Caligiuri & Bonache, 2016). However, despite a growing body of research surrounding the expatriate experience, questions remain regarding the challenges associated with expatriation (Black & Gregersen, 1991; Takeuchi et al., 2005). Further, although scholarship indicates that social interaction and knowledge sharing contribute to successful cultural adjustment (e.g., Farh et al., 2010), and a sizable literature exists that explores the antecedents of adjustment (e.g., Caligiuri & Bonache 2016), why expatriates fail to achieve desired developmental outcomes remains unanswered. Scholars suggest that "more focused research needs to be conducted to improve and encourage expatriate development and expatriate effectiveness" (Zhang, 2013, p. 188) and "... as the scope of expatriation has become much more complex and diverse... a deeper and theoretically sound understanding of issues predicting expatriate mission accomplishment is necessary" (Wan, 2019, p. 20). Given these calls, and lingering questions related to expatriate development, we position mindfulness as a potential missing piece of the literature that can shed novel light on how to optimize both short-term and long-term development for expatriates. While past studies have suggested a link between mindfulness and cultural adjustment (Glomb et al., 2011; Kashima et al., 2017), few studies have sought to explain how and why mindfulness can facilitate expatriate adjustment and expatriate development more broadly. In this way, the functioning of mindfulness in expatriate development and adjustment remains unclear, leaving unanswered questions for expatriates and their organizations (cf. Earley & Mosakowski, 2004).

To address this, we draw on social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and broaden and build theory (Fredrickson, 2001) to explicate the means through which mindfulness counteracts biases, broadens awareness, facilitates and builds resources via knowledge sharing, and leads to expatriate development. Accordingly, we introduce a novel theoretical lens in which to examine the role of mindfulness on expatriate development. Specifically, we examine mindfulness as a construct that works to reduce in-group bias and facilitates knowledge sharing within the expatriate community, which is comprised of foreign nationals living in the same enclave or city, and with host country nationals (HCNs), ultimately bringing about both short-term (cultural adjustment) and long-term (global mindset) expatriate development by broadening awareness and building resources. In so doing, the proposed conceptual model serves as an example demonstrating the potential benefits of mindfulness for expatriates and their development.

Our proposed model contributes to the literature in three primary ways. First, we theorize how and why mindfulness influences expatriates' willingness to engage in knowledge sharing with HCNs and other expatriates and nonjudgmentally absorb this knowledge, ultimately leading to cultural adjustment and an expanded global mindset. Further, we contribute to the adjustment literature by theorizing on why expatriates might develop a willingness to engage in adjustment behavior as opposed to simply having a desire to reduce uncertainty in the environment (Hippler et al., 2014). Second, we advance the literature regarding expatriate development by envisaging it from a social theoretical perspective. By doing so, we answer recent calls for a more nuanced consideration of social factors in the expatriate realm (van der Laken et al., 2019), mindfulness from a social and interpersonal perspective (Song et al., 2017), and conditions under which mindfulness is particularly valuable (Reina & Kudesia, 2020). Third, we identify knowledge sharing as the vehicle through which cultural adjustment as short-term development and global mindset as long-term development occur, and subsequently examine how knowledge sharing with HCNs and those within the expatriate community influences both developmental considerations. While cultural adjustment and the development of a global mindset are common constructs in the expatriate literature, we make a novel contribution by identifying mindfulness-driven bias reduction and subsequent knowledge sharing as critical and shared antecedents of both outcomes and theorize regarding how and why they are likely to function as such. In so doing, we contribute to filling the critical gap identified by Song et al., (2017) who called for future research to consider the cultural implications of mindfulness. Finally, we consider others' willingness and tendency to share knowledge as a central boundary condition and assumption of our model.

2 Theoretical Underpinnings

To introduce mindfulness into the expatriate development literature, we draw on two theoretical lenses, social identity theory and broaden and build theory. Social identity theory was introduced to explain intergroup behavior (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), positing that individuals classify themselves and others into social categories and form in-groups and out-groups. This categorization allows individuals to systematically define others by cognitively segmenting and ordering the social environment, thereby enabling the individual to identify and position themselves within their environment. Broaden and build theory, in comparison, explains how positive emotions broaden individuals' appraisals of current circumstances to change automatic responses and build durable resources (Fredrickson, 2001). While humans have evolved such that negative emotions have historically alerted individuals to risk, positive emotions such as interest, joy, and gratitude broaden awareness and increase resource acquisition, which are critical for optimizing one's adaptation to and success in novel environments. More specifically, increasing awareness via novel thoughts, activities, and relationships leads to building enduring resources such as social support, resilience, knowledge, and skills, which then contribute to fulfillment and enhanced wellbeing (Fredrickson, 2013).

By integrating these two theories, we offer a novel theoretical lens for exploring the link between mindfulness and expatriate development. Specifically, in-group bias is central to social identity theory, and its reduction can be viewed as a broadening behavior that is facilitated by mindfulness (Hafenbrack et al., 2014). According to broaden and build theory, this broadening behavior leads to the building of personal resources. Here, we use knowledge sharing as the central personal resource in our model because of the crucial role expatriates play in both transfering knowledge within an organization across borders and in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and resources critical to a successful expatriate assignment (Arora et al., 2004). Finally, enhanced wellbeing, which we represent as cultural adjustment and global mindset, are our expatriate developmental outcomes. These constructs were selected as they are typically used to gauge expatriate development and are often associated with knowledge sharing (Caligiuri, 2000; Gupta & Govinadarajan, 2002; 2004). Our proposed model integrates two theoretical lenses and offers a novel perspective by introducing mindfulness as a driver of expatriate development and the process through which that influence occurs.

2.1 Mindfulness

Mindfulness traces its roots back to Buddhism and Eastern contemplative traditions (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced mindfulness to Western audiences in the 1970s by positioning mindfulness-based meditation training as a therapy for chronically ill individuals (Good et al., 2016). However, despite the rapid increase in the formal study of mindfulness, scientifically defining this ancient construct has been a challenge for scholars across disciplines due to its often context-specific application (Quaglia et al., 2016). Nevertheless, Kabat-Zinn's (1994) definition of mindfulness as present moment nonjudgmental awareness enjoys "almost universal acceptance" (Dreyfus, 2011, p. 46), as it captures the two fundamental aspects found in all definitions of mindfulness: a focus on present-moment awareness and attentive observation of ongoing thoughts and events (see Sutcliffe et al., 2016 for a review). This two-dimensional conceptualization of mindfulness has been further reinforced by recent theorizing on the construct both individually and relationally (Reina et al., in press).

As a metacognitive state (Sutcliffe et al., 2016), mindfulness can be developed and improved through training (Eby et al., 2019). Several such formal training programs have emerged in recent decades (Garland et al., 2015). While meditation is a commonly used method, training programs also include activities such as informational talks, self-regulation instruction, and breathing exercises, which have been adopted by a variety of organizations. Two such examples are Google's Search Inside Yourself program, which utilizes experiential exercises, attention-training practices. and writing activities to improve mindfulness over a four-week period, and the U.S. Armed Forces' Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training, which is designed to improve soldiers' mindfulness though self-paced video lessons to help soldiers cope with the stressors of their profession and improve resilience (Rupprecht & Walach, 2016). Trainees benefit from greater attention to their...

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