I just wanted to say an enormous thank you from myself (Laurie) and my partner Beata, to everyone who filled out our survey, or re-blogged it. We got tons of answers and I really hope we come up with something useful when we're finished!
I also got a pm asking what exactly we're writing about because it looked interesting, but it's kind of hard to boil down to a short explanation (writing our abstract is going to kill me!), but here's a shot:
We are doing a multi-factor analysis between the factors work locus of control, acculturation strategy, and successful workplace socio-cultural adaptation of expatriates, initially a statistical quantitative analysis, with follow-up qualitative interviews where we hope to be able to pinpoint some of the specific differences in experiences.
Failed expatriate assignments are crazy expensive, both to the companies who picked the wrong person (they have to repatriate the person, and possibly their family, and send someone else over, possibly to a disaster-zone in the foreign office) and the individual (costs to morale, damaged self-esteem, possibly stalled career development). Obviously nobody wants any of that to happen, so why do companies continue to keep picking the wrong people (one study says that something like 70% of expat assignments in the industry it looked at, resulted in the assignees quitting within 2 years. 70%!!)
There's a ton of research into personality traits, but they're primarily into the "big 5" (think myers-briggs personality tests) or hofstede's dimensions of culture (collective outlook vs individual outlook, the social distance between bosses and their employees). But those kinds of psychometric tests are horrible to take, and to administer, and really expensive too. We're looking at Locus of Control, which is a trait that has been well-defined and is easily measurable, but hasn't been well researched in the context, even though the theory predicts that it indicates quite well who is likely to have an easier time, and what research there is seems to agree. LOC in short measures how much you feel your life is self-determined,vs how much luck and fate or external factors determine your path, and while it changes over time or in context, most people have an instinctive baseline position on the matter that tends not to change over their lifetime.
We're also tying in a model that involves attitude to one's own cultural identity, and to taking on the new "host" countries cultural identity, which groups people broadly according to the kind of strategy they employ to cope with not being at home: Integrate, assimilate, separate, or marginalize, although for our purposes we're expecting primarily the first two.
So our basic hypothesis is, if you're very internal (i.e. self-determination decides everything) on the locus of control scale, you will probably be an "integrator" on the strategies matrix, and you will probably have an easier time working in a foreign culture than others do. And if we can show this statistically, it's a very interesting and new direction for the research, because while there's a little research into LOC and expats, and more into acculturation strategies and expats, there's pretty much none yet connecting the two theories, which is a little odd, because they seem very connectible if you read enough of the background on each.
There's also some nice applications in the real world, because a simple 8 or 12 question test that takes 5 minutes to administer, and needs only basic maths to score, is a whole lot simpler than having them do the whole Myers-Briggs rigmarole, and in theory, is a lot better predictor of success. And even if it's not useful, or turns out too simplistic to be used for selecting people for overseas assignments, it might still be useful in helping with provision of the right kind of support on the ground, or pre-assignment preparation.