Personal Challenges for Global Managers

Building an internationally competent workforce whose members know the business and are flexible and open‐minded can take years. Multinational organizations can no longer rely on just a few managers with multicultural experience or a few experts on a particular country to succeed. In short, all employees must have some minimal level of international expertise and be able to recognize cultural differences that may affect daily business communications and working relationships.

In general, overseas managers share common traits with their domestic counterparts. Wherever a manager is hired, he or she needs the technical knowledge and skills to do the job, and the intelligence and people skills to be a successful manager. Selecting managers for expatriate assignments means screening them for traits that predict success in adapting to what may be dramatically new environments.

Beyond the obvious job‐specific qualifications, an organization needs to consider the following qualities and circumstances when selecting expatriates for positions in foreign countries:

  • A willingness to communicate, form relationships with others, and try new things
  • Good cross‐cultural communication and language skills
  • Flexibility and open‐mindedness about other cultures
  • The ability to cope with the stress of new situations
  • The spouse's career situation and personal attributes
  • The existence of quality educational facilities for the candidate's children
  • Enthusiasm for the foreign assignment and a good track record in previous foreign and domestic moves

Of course, the factors that predict a successful expatriate assignment are not identical for everyone. These differences—which reflect variations in the expatriate's home culture, his or her company's human resource management practices, and the labor laws specific to the foreign country—must also be factored into the selection process.

Even if these complexities are taken into account in the selection process, a person chosen for a foreign assignment may decide not to accept the job offer. The financial package needs to be reasonably attractive. In addition, family issues may be a concern. Most candidates, after a position is offered, also want information about how the foreign posting will impact their careers.

If a potential candidate accepts the job offer, he or she should be aware of the potential for cultural shock—the confusion and discomfort a person experiences when in an unfamiliar culture. In addition, ethnocentrism, or the tendency to view one's culture as superior to others, should be understood and avoided.