Nationalism at Work: Introducing the 'Nationality-Based Organizational Climate Inventory' and Assessing Its Impact on the Turnover Intention of Foreign Employees.

Author:Kollen, Thomas
 
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1 Introduction

Globally, the workforce in many regions is becoming increasingly diverse, in terms of employee origin (eurostat 2017; MPI 2017). (1) Even countries that traditionally have a low percentage of immigrants, such as South Korea and Japan, have started to liberalize their immigration policies, especially for skilled immigration (Kwon 2019; Lian 2019). In many countries, however, the ongoing influx of migrants, and the increase in the share of foreign workers, has begun to face more and more headwind. In recent years, anti-migratory and nationalist voices have become louder, and increasingly socially acceptable, all over Europe (Brubaker 2017; Gattinara 2016; e.g., Mann and Fenton 2017; Polyakova and Fligstein 2016), in the Middle East (Jureidini 2005), in the US, and in other parts of the world (Vickers 2017; Wodak and Krzyzanowski 2017; Yu 2014). In the UK, for example, the promise to introduce more restrictive immigration policies for EU citizens united many people in supporting the country's potential withdrawal from the European Union. During this Brexit debate it was not uncommon for immigrants from the EU to be framed as 'exploiters' or 'invaders' (Morrison 2019).

Today, their foreign workforce is a key success factor for many organizations (Buche et al. 2013; Ozgen et al. 2017), and even economies (Hatton and Williamson 2005; Valverde and Latorre 2019). Highly-skilled foreign employees (or expatriates) especially, no matter whether they are self-initiated expatriates or not, (2) have become crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of many economies, and organizations within globalized economies (Aobdia et al. 2018; Nathan 2014; Tung 2008). In order to avoid the costs that accompany employee turnover (Tziner and Birati 1996), which are especially high for highly-skilled, managerial employees (Hancock et al. 2013), it is very much in the interests of these organizations to retain these employees. However, the workplace is not immune to infiltration by the aforementioned emergent anti-migratory political climates. For the sake of building an inclusive workplace, it is, therefore, crucial to gain a deeper understanding of the interrelation between nationally exclusive (or nationalist) working climates, and the intention of foreign employees to leave their employer.

However, research that tries to understand the mechanisms of hierarchization and marginalization that non-domestic employees have to face in the workplace predominantly focuses on cultural aspects and differences (e.g., Cox 1994; Ely and Thomas 2001), or it applies the concept of racism, a concept that usually needs visible markers that indicate an employee's 'race' (Salin 2003). This research ignores the national element within these processes. In Europe particularly, but also globally, a significant share of migratory movements take place between geographically, culturally, and linguistically proximate nations (Delano 2013; Verwiebe et al. 2014). Cultural and racial aspects, thus, cannot be considered to be the primary reason or 'rationale' behind the processes of exclusion that may potentially occur in these cases. The diversity dimension in question here is, rather, the nationality of employees, which might trigger emotional distance, and related exclusive behavior. To the best of our knowledge, however, no research on origin-based exclusion in the workplace, and the consequences thereof, has yet applied a national focus. This is even more astonishing since, in Europe, as well as globally, national identities continue "to shape the predominant ways in which people make sense of themselves and others" (Antonsich 2009, p. 281).

Empirically based on two samples of German employees working in Switzerland and Austria, this article addresses this research gap by developing the Nationality-based Organizational Climate Inventory (NOCI), and analyzing its interrelation with employees' intention to leave the employer. The phenomenon of nationalist exclusion is, of course, not confined to Switzerland and Austria, but these countries are representative of nations that depend significantly on migrant workers (Aeppli 2010; Krzyzanowski 2008; Stalder 2008). Furthermore, the national composition of incoming migrants from primarily neighboring countries make Switzerland and Austria good cases for separating the national (and nationalist) element of working conditions for expatriates and migrant employees from cultural or racial elements, in order to analyze its impact on (in this case) the willingness of German employees to remain. Against this background, it is safe to assume that the perceived origin-based exclusion or inclusion on the part of German employees in these countries is primarily due to their nationality.

The contribution of this article is fivefold. Firstly, we are introducing the concept of nationality-based exclusion in the workplace. In doing so, we are adding a new perspective to understanding origin-based exclusion, a phenomenon that has hitherto predominantly referred to the concept of racism. Secondly, we are developing and testing a scale which will measure the degree of perceived nationality-based exclusion. Thirdly, we are broadening the discourse on organizational diversity climates: We do this, on the one hand, by focusing on nationalist climate perceptions to add a new dimension of workforce diversity to this discourse; on the other hand, by analyzing two distinct facets of nationalist diversity climates with distinct impacts, we are going beyond the hitherto predominant approach of viewing diversity climates as one single, coherent parameter. This might pave the way for re-evaluating other dimension-specific diversity sub-climates. Fourthly, we are contributing to the field of (expatriate) adjustment by operationalizing a crucial environmental facet of the person-environment relationship. Fifthly, we are adding new insights to the discourse on employee-retention. In the context of Europe, especially, with 'freedom of labour' within the European Union, but also globally, the topic of national inclusion in the workplace for maintaining or attracting a national diverse workforce is a highly relevant issue.

This article is structured as follows. In the first place, we connect the discourses on diversity climates and expatriate adjustment, and theoretically derive the two-dimensional concept of a 'nationality-based organizational climate'. Drawing theoretically on career capital, job embeddedness, and social identity theory, we then develop hypotheses about the impact of each sub-climate on the intention of employees to leave the job. In the subsequent section, we explain the method; we briefly outline the peculiarity and suitability of our chosen sample, and present the data. In the next section, we then describe the results, and discuss them in the concluding section. The study ends with some limitations, as well as suggestions for future research.

2 Theoretical Background

2.1 Organizational Climates: Adjustment and Diversity

The conceptualization of a nationality-based organizational climate benefits from its close proximity and its links to two different streams of management and organizational research. The first stream of research is the one on organizational climates. Within this discourse, the nationality-based organizational climate represents one specific facet of an organization's diversity climate, namely the degree and shape of inclusiveness that foreign members of an organization perceive in terms of their nationality. The second stream of research is the one on expatriate adjustment. Within this discourse, the nationality-based organizational climate can be framed as one workplace-related facet of the environment that an employee encounters in another country, and to which he or she might adjust to in different ways or to different degrees.

Although there is no shared consensus about the concept of 'adjustment' and its adequate operationalization (e.g., Lazarova and Thomas 2012; Searle and Ward 1990), adjustment is something that happens within a specific person-environment relationship. Referring to the psychological background of this concept, Hippler et al. (2014) describe an expatriate's adjustment as his or her striving for "harmony, satisfaction, or comfort that will manifest as an individual's ability to function socially, his or her feelings of happiness and subjective well-being, and his or her somatic and psychological health" (Hippler et al. 2014, p. 12) within a new environment. Besides factors that are immanent to the specific individual expatriate (Mahajan and Toh 2014), this 'comfort' or 'harmony', therefore, has an interrelation with organizational and workplace-related attributes.

From a diversity perspective, the most inclusive nationality-based organizational climate--no matter whether this is Utopian or not (Georgiadou et al. 2019)--would be a climate where the origin and nationality of an employee would not make any difference, in terms of how he or she is appreciated, accepted, and integrated in the workplace (Kollen et al. 2018). From this perspective, a foreigner's need for adjustment would characterize the workplace as not being fully inclusive, at least on the climate level. While the concept of adjustment suggests both the person and the environment to be equally responsible for a foreigner's 'successful' inclusion, the concept of diversity and inclusion puts an emphasis on an appropriate human resource management (Shen et al. 2009), or organizational design (Richard and Miller 2013), in order to include foreign employees. It is, therefore, more up to the organization or employer to create the most inclusive organizational diversity climate for its employees, ideally for all dimensions of workforce diversity. However, the research field of expatriate adjustment is much more developed than the field of nationality-based organizational climates, and therefore it can...

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