A Revised Model of International Experience: The Relationship between International Experience, Adjustment, and Performance




Gulick, Lisa M. V.

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The purpose of this study was to present and test an organized framework for understanding international experience and to identify the developmental aspects of international experience that facilitate performance and adjustment abroad. The framework consisted of quantitative and qualitative elements to provide a multidimensional examination of international experience that went beyond traditional uni-dimensional measures of international experience to more effectively capture the construct. A key differentiator of this model is the addition of several key qualitative elements including cultural challenge, complexity, variety, cultural involvement, social involvement, and work involvement. The elements of involvement—cultural, social, and work—each related to different aspects of adjustment. Behavioral aspects of cultural complexity were negatively related to performance, contrary to what was hypothesized. This study also examined the role of a key factor, individual flexibility, as a direct predictor of performance abroad and as a moderator to the international experience— performance/adjustment relationship. Flexibility was positively and directly related to performance and also moderated the relationships between cultural challenge and performance, such that flexible individuals who engaged in culturally challenging experiences while abroad on their current assignment were associated with higher levels of performance than less flexible individuals. Flexibility also moderated the relationship between variety of experiences and performance abroad. Overall, this paper contributes to the increased knowledge and understanding of international work assignments and how they can be strategically shaped to benefit both the individual expatriate working abroad and their employing organization.



Adjustment, Performance, Expatriate, Involvement, International experience, Complexity