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Decoding the intention to expatriate:
A comparative analysis of employees from developed and
emerging countries

ROSSATO-QUATRIN, DENISE (2022) Decoding the intention to expatriate:
A comparative analysis of employees from developed and
emerging countries.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


Assigned expatriates (AEs) are strategic resources for the successful operation of
multinational companies (MNCs). More recently, though, employees have been more
reluctant to expatriate. In this context, it is crucial to investigate the predictors of employees’
intention to expatriate to widen organisations’ talent pool. Notably, while most expatriation
research has focused on individuals from Western developed countries, very limited research
has been conducted on those from Latin emerging countries. In this respect, this study aimed
to identify the psychological process involved in forming developed and emerging
employees’ intention to expatriate. The first step was to develop a conceptual framework,
which integrated the self-determination theory (SDT) and the theory of planned behaviour
(TPB). It assumes that autonomous and controlled motivations from SDT affect employees’
intention to expatriate through the socio-cognitive variables (attitude, subjective norms - SN,
and perceived behavioural control - PBC) from TPB. In addition, the model incorporated
individual-subjective and national-level moderating variables, psychic distance (PD) and
cultural distance (CD). A sample of 431 AEs, of which 218 were from emerging countries
(Brazil and Mexico) and 213 were from developed countries (Germany, the Netherlands, the
United Kingdom, and the United States), answered an online questionnaire. Descriptive
statistics showed that, although the samples of developed and emerging AEs resemble in
aspects such as the proportion of male expatriates and family composition, they differ in
many other aspects: emerging AEs are fluent in more foreign languages than developed AEs,
and have, on average, three years less of previous international experience than developed
AEs. The model was tested using multi-group structural equation modelling, and the results
support a different psychological process explaining developed and emerging AEs’
expatriation intention. For example, autonomous motivation and PBC are the key predictors
of developed AEs’ intention to expatriate; conversely, controlled motivation and attitudes are
the leading antecedents of emerging AEs’ intention to expatriate. These results can be
primarily linked to employees’ cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Moreover, the
types of motivation directly affected employees’ intention to expatriate, indicating that the
expatriation decision is very complex and the result of a combination of influences that can
be cognitive and driven by motivations. The results also support the moderating role played
by the CD and PD, which alter the motivational and cognitive processes explaining
employees’ expatriation intention. The findings of this study shed new light on the
international human resource management and expatriation literature. Foremost, this research
provides a more comprehensive appreciation of the antecedents of employees’ expatriation
intention, adding another layer of understanding to previous studies, and emphasises the
lasting impact of the country of nationality on employees’ formation of their intention to

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Economics, Finance and Business, School of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Feb 2023 09:06

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