International projects and cross-cultural adjustments of British expatriates in Middle East: A qualitative investigation of influencing factors

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Ashwini Konanahalli
Lukumon O. Oyedele
Ron Coates
Jason von Meding
John Spillane

Abstract

 

Increased globalisation within the British AEC (Architectural Engineering and Construction) sector has increased the need for companies to transfer their staff to manage their overseas operations. To be able to perform abroad, expatriates must harmonise themselves to the conditions prevailing in the host country. These include getting accustomed to living, working and interacting with the host country nationals. The process is commonly referred to as ‘cross-cultural adjustment’. Various factors influence the process of adjustment. In order to identify these issues, a qualitative study was undertaken, which mainly comprised of a comprehensive literature review and interviews with British expatriates working on international AEC assignments in Middle Eastern countries. The current study focuses on exploring the role of the organisation, host country, work related factors and their ability to dictate a British expatriate's adjustment.

The findings suggest that success of expatriation does not entirely rest on an expatriate's ability but also on organisational support and assistance that expatriates receive prior to and during the assignment. Organisational factors such as, selection mechanisms, job design, training, logistical and social support, mentoring, etc., influence various aspects of expatriate adjustment. Striking cultural contrasts between British and Arab culture both in work and non work situations also dictate the level of support required by the expatriate, suggesting that expatriate relocation to less developed, remote or politically unstable regions, demands additional support and consideration by the parent company. This study is relevant to the AEC companies employing British expatriates, who need to be cognisant of the issues highlighted above to make rational and informed decisions when handling international assignments in the Middle East.

Article Details

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Articles (Peer reviewed)
Author Biography

Lukumon O. Oyedele, Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering

Dr. Lukumon Oyedele is currently a Senior Lecturer and Head of Construction Management Group at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) since May 2005. He is the Founder and Programme Director of the MSc in Construction and Project Management here at Queen’s University. He is also the Deputy Director of Research for the Sustainable Construction and Project Management Theme at the Center for Built Environment Research (CBER).