The Grey Chronicles

2008.August.19

Expatriates at Global Steel Philippines


Waggoner (2007) wrote “Several characteristics determine an expatriate’s expected level of success: job skills, motivational state, language skills, relationship skills, and family situation.” Similarly some characteristics, Waggoner continued, “are crucial for a successful expatriate: tolerance for ambiguity, behavioral flexibility, strong interpersonal skills, and a nonjudgmental disposition. In addition, an effective expatriate would have high cultural empathy. Communication is also key.”

Waggoner describes four predeparture expatriates trainings the extent of which dependent on
a variety of variables: previous overseas experience (if applicable), time until departure, and novelty
of the new country. These are:

Cross-cultural training is appropriate for some-one who has been on an expatriate assignment before or someone familiar with the host country training, at least, inform the expatriate about the new country, and at the best, it would immerse the expatriate into the new culture.

Low-interaction training, usually appropriate for someone who has been on an expatriate assignment before or someone familiar with the host country, includes general area studies and a company operational overview. Unfortunately, this is often the only training received by most
expatriates whether they have previous experience or not.

Medium-intensity training takes the intercultural experience workshop approach, offering cultural simulations, role plays, and case studies.

High-intensity training, most necessary for inexperienced expatriates entering a very different culture, provides sensitivity training and includes communication workshops and field exercises that focus on self awareness, listening skills, open-mindedness, and communication skills.

Applying these basic concepts to Global Steel Philippines, most expats here lack the skills characteristic of successful expatriates.

GSPI expats believe that their culture [work-ethic] is superior. Even the style of management promotes ethocentrism: their way of doing things is the ONLY way of doing things. If a local manager proposed something that work successfully during NSC era, they usually counter this with the oft-repeated phrase: “NSC went bankrupt, so why do those things as before? Ours is far more better than NSC’s!” [Has anybody seen nonjudgmental disposition here?] This Ethnocentrism–the belief that one’s culture is superior–indicates that none of them understood the cross-cultural training which all of them attended during their first few months at GSPI.

Most of the GSPI expats do not even have a clue on the company operations. Even the simple operational process flow [slabs to HRCs to CRCs] have to be repeated and reiterated time and again, and local managers have grown tired of repeating the same for their benefit. This is indicative that the expats sent here have not undergone a low-interaction training of at least the basic NSC operational overview. I distinctly remembered, one friendly expat during a guided tour around the plant in 2004, who remarked, “Oh my, NSC is a big steel plant . .. I wonder how would my colleagues handle all these equipment!”

Thus, there are no perceived reasons to delve if any of them underwent a high-intensity predeparture training. Most of them lack the even the basic job skills, one of them even lacked the skill to use the loo. Ethnocentric expatriates, cautioned Waggoner, are likely to have problems adjusting to a new culture. Even the key skill of communication is evidently lacking. The usual greeting one would hear from them during formal introductions: “I’m Mr. ________, I’m an expert in ________. Thus, the local people are likely to perceive them negatively.

Expatriates are very expensive, Waggoner concluded, and GSPI’s expats are not an exception. Most probably, for most of them, NSC is their first expatriate assignment?


Notes:

Waggoner, Dena (2007), “Expatriates” Encyclopedia of Management 2007. back to text

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