Stephen J. Kobrin is Professor of Management at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. His research interests involve the intersection of international business and international politics and the impact of global strategies on multinationals and nation states. He has published in such journals as International Organization, the Journal of International Business Studies, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution. He is the author of Managing Political Risk Assessment, published by the University of California Press (1982).
Expatriate reduction and strategic control in American multinational corporations
Version of Record online: 2 NOV 2006
Copyright © 1988 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company
Human Resource Management
Volume 27, Issue 1, pages 63–75, Spring 1988
How to Cite
Kobrin, S. J. (1988), Expatriate reduction and strategic control in American multinational corporations. Hum. Resour. Manage., 27: 63–75. doi: 10.1002/hrm.3930270104
- Issue online: 2 NOV 2006
- Version of Record online: 2 NOV 2006
The significant reduction in the use of home country expatriates abroad by American multinationals is generally taken positively, reflecting internationalization, the environmental competence of host country nationals, equity, and the cost of maintaining Americans abroad. In this article I dissent, arguing that the phase-out of expatriates has gone too far, much further in fact than European or Japanese competition and that the dominant reason for the cutback is the difficulty Americans have in adapting to overseas assignments and the high failure rate they have experienced. I conclude that expatriate reduction has significant consequences for the strategic management of multinational corporations: reduced identification with the worldwide organization and its objectives, difficulty exercising control through personnel, and a lack of opportunities for Americans to gain international expertise through assignments abroad. Although I do not advocate returning to the ineffective and inequitable over-reliance on home country nationals, I argue that a corps of expatriates performs a function valuable to the MNC and that a means must be found to develop a group of managers who identify with the organization as a whole and provide overseas experience to home country managers.