Measuring Multicultural Effectiveness among Self-Initiated Academic Expatriates in Malaysia

Haslina Halim, Hassan Abu Bakar, Bahtiar Mohamad


Being an academic entity, universities offer a distinct environment with different missions and work tasks as compared to business organizations. Thus far only a minimal amount of investigation has embarked on self-initiated expatriates in the academic field.  Therefore, the main aim of the research is to investigate the adjustment of this group of expatriates by focusing on the relationships between multicultural personality skills and the academic expatriates’ personal, professional and social adjustment by utilizing the multicultural personality scale (MPQ). The MPQ consists of five dimensions - cultural empathy, open-mindedness, social initiative, emotional stability and flexibility. Besides MPQ constructs, the study also examines the relationship between language ability and the expatriates’ personal, social and professional adjustment.  One-hundred and one questionnaires were distributed to self-initiated academic expatriates (N=101) attached to various academic departments in UUM. Results revealed that open-mindedness and flexibility are significantly related to the expatriates’ personal adjustment, while cultural empathy, emotional stability and flexibility are significantly related to social adjustment. Flexibility is the only dimension of MPQ that predicts academic expatriates’ professional adjustment.  Language skills on the other hand, do not show any significant relationship with all three types of adjustments. Apart from the results, the discussions and limitations of the study are also presented in the paper.


Keywords: Cross-cultural adjustment, expatriate adjustment, organizational expatriates, self-initiated academic expatriates, multicultural personality questionnaire.

Full Text:



Abe, H., & Wiseman, R. L. (1983). A cross-cultural confirmation of the dimensions of intercultural effectiveness. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 7, 53-67.

Arthur, W., & Bennett, W. (1995). The international assignee: The relative importance of factors perceived to contribute to success. Personnel Psychology, 48, 99-114.

Altbach, P. G. (1996). The international academic profession: Portraits of fourteen countries. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, MA.

Altbach, P. G. (2004). Globalization and the university: Myths and realities in an unequal world. Tertiary Education and Management, 10(1), 3-25.

Aycan, Z. (1997). Expatriate adjustment as a multifaceted phenomenon: Individuals and organizational level predictors. The International of Human Resource Management, 8(4), 434-456.

Aycan, Z., & Berry, J. W. (1996). Impact of employment-related experiences on immigrants’ psychological well-being in adaptation to Canada. Journal of Behavioral Science, 28(3), 240-251.

Bakker, W., Van der Zee, K. I., & Van Oudenhoven, J. P. (2006). Personality and Dutch emigrants’ reactions to acculturation strategies. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36, 2864-2891.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Barry, J., Berg. & Chandler, J. (2003). Managing intellectual labour in Sweden and England. Cross-Cultural Management: An International Journal, 10(3), 3-22.

Bhaskar-Shrinivas, P., Harrison, D. A., Shaffer, M. A., & Luk, D. M. (2005). Input-based and time-based models of international adjustment: Meta-analytic evidence and theoretical extensions. Academy of Management Journal, 48, 257-281.

Bjorkman, I., & Gertsen, M. (1992). Selecting and training Scandinavian expatriates. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 9, 145-164.

Black, J. S. (1990). The relationship of personal characteristics with the adjustment of Japanese expatriate managers. Management International Review, 30(2), 119-134.

Black, J. S., Gregersen, H. B., Mendenhall, M. E., & Stroh, L. K. (1999). Globalizing people through international assignments. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Black, J. S., & Mendenhall, M. E. (1990). Cross-cultural training effectiveness: A review and theoretical framework for future research. Academy of Management Review, 15, 113-136.

Black, J. S., Mendenhall, M., & Oddou, G. (1991). Toward a comprehensive model of international adjustment: An integration of multiple theoretical perspectives. Academy of Management Journal, 16, 291-317.

Brewster, C., & Harris, H. (1999). The coffee machine system: How international selection really works. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 10(3), 488-500.

Caligiuri, P. M. (2000). Selecting expatriates for personality awareness: A moderating effect of personality on the relationship between host national contact and cross-cultural adjustment. Management International Review, 40(1), 61-80.

Carr, S., Kerr, I., & Thorn, K. (2005). From global careers to talent flow: reinterpreting brain drain. Journal of World Business, 40(4), 386-398.

Causin, G. F., Ayoun, B., & Moreo, P. (2011). Expatriation in the hotel industry: An exploratory study of management skills and cultural training. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 23(7), 885-901.

Church, A. T. (1982). Sojourner adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 540-572.

Copeland, L., & Griggs, L. (1985). Going international. New York, NY: Random House. The international employee. Management Review, 7, 83-86.

Dawis, R. V., & Lofquist, L. H. (1984). A psychological theory of adjustment. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71-75.

Dolainski, S. (February, 1997). Are expatriates getting lost in the translation? Workforce, 76(2), 32-38.

Downes, M., Thomas, A. S., & Singley, R. B. (2002). Predicting expatriate job satisfaction: The role of firm internationalization. Career Development International, 7(1), 24-36. doi:

Furnham, A., & Bochner, S. (1982). Social difficulty in a foreign culture: An empirical analysis of culture shock. In S. Bochner (Ed.), Cultures in contact: Studies in cross-culture interaction (pp. 161-198). Oxford: Pergamon.

Halim, H. (2013). The cross-cultural adjustment of hotel expatriates in Malaysia: The mediating effects of communication and interaction (Unpublished doctoral thesis, Universiti Utara Malaysia).

Halim, H., Bakar., H. A., & Mustaffa, C. S. (2016). The mediating roles of communication in expatriate adjustment. Journal of Telecommunication, Electronic and Computer Engineering, 8(8), 129-132.

Hall, E. T. (1977). Beyond culture. New York: Doubleday.

Harzing, A. W. (1995). The persistent myth of high expatriate failure rates. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 6, 456-472.

Hawes, F., & Kealey, D. J. (1981). An empirical study of Canadian technical assistants. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 5, 239-258.

Huang, T. J., Chi, S. C., & Lawler, J. J. (2005). The relationship between expatriates’ personality traits and their adjustment to international assignments. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16(9), 1656-1670.

Hussein, B. A-S. (2012). The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis today. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(3), 642-646.

Inkson, K., Pringle, J., Arthur, M. B., & Barry, S. (1997). Expatriate assignment versus overseas experience: Contrasting models of international human resource development. Journal of World Business, 32(4), 351-368.

Kets de Vries, M., & Mead, C. (1991). Identifying management talent for a pan European environment. In S. Makridakas (Ed.), Single market Europe (pp. 215-235). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lim, L. (2001). Work-related values of Malays and Chinese-Malaysians. International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 1(2), 229-246.

Locke, E. A. (1976). Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. New York: Rand McNally.

Mendenhall, M., & Oddou, G. (1985). The dimensions of expatriate acculturation: A review. Academic of Management Review, 10, 39-47.

Mohd. Tahir, A. H., Ismail, M. (2007). Cross-cultural challenges and adjustments of expatriates: A case study in Malaysia. Turkish Journal of International Relations, 6(3&4), 72-99).

Myers, B., & Pringle, J. K. (2005). Self-initiated foreign experience as accelerated development: Influences of gender. Journal of World Business, 40, 421-431.

Naumann, E. (1992). A conceptual model of expatriate turnover. Journal of International Business Studies, 23(3), 499-531.

Naumann, E. (1993). Organizational predictors of expatriate job satisfaction. Journal of International Business Studies, 24(1), 61-78.

Parker, B., & McEvoy, G. M. (1993). Initial examination of a model of intercultural adjustment. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 17, 355-379.

Peltokorpi, V. (2008). Cross-cultural adjustment of expatriates in Japan. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(9), 1588-1606.

Peltokorpi, V., & Froese, F. J. (2009). Organizational expatriates and self-initiated expatriates: Who adjusts better to work and life in Japan?. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(5), 1096-1112.

Richardson, J. (2006). Self-directed expatriation: Family matters. Personnel Review, 35(4), 469-486.

Richardson, J., & Mallon, M. (2005). Career interrupted? The case of the self-initiated expatriate. Journal of World Business, 40, 409-420.

Richardson, J., & McKenna, S. (2000). Metaphorical “types” and human resource management: Self-selecting expatriates. Industrial and Commercial Training, 32(6), 209-218.

Richardson, J., & McKenna, S. (2002). Leaving and experiencing: Why academic expatriate and how they experience expatriation. Career Development International, 7(2), 67-78.

Ronen, S. (1989). Training the international assignee. In L. L. Goldstein (Ed.), Training and development in organizations (pp. 417-453). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ruben, B. D., & Kealey, D. (1979). Behavioral assessment of communication competency and the prediction of cross-cultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 3, 15-47.

Searle, W., & Ward, C. (1990). The prediction of psychological and socio-cultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14, 46-48.

Selmer, J. (2001). Adjustment of Western European vs. North American expatriate managers in China. Personnel Review, 30(1), 6-21.

Selmer, J. (2006a). Language ability and adjustment: Western expatriates in China. International Business Review, 48(3), 347-368.

Selmer, J. (2006b). Cultural novelty and adjustment: Western business expatriates in China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17(7), 1209-1222.

Selmer, J., Chiu, R. K., & Shenkar, O. (2007). Cultural distance asymmetry in expatriate adjustment. Cross-Cultural Management: An International Journal, 14(2), 150-160.

Selmer, J., & Lauring, J. (2011). Expatriate academics: Job factors and work outcomes. International Journal of Manpower, 32(2), 194-210.

Shaffer, M. A., Gregersen, H., Harrison, D. A., Black, J. S., & Ferzandi, L. A. (2006). You can take it with you: Individual differences and expatriate effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(1), 109-125.

Shaffer, M. A., Harrison, D. A., & Gilley, K. M. (1999). Dimensions, determinants, and differences in the expatriate management process. Journal of International Business Studies, 30(3), 557-581.

Spector, P. E. (1997). Job satisfaction: Application, assessment, cause and consequences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Suutari, V., & Brewster, C. (2000). Making their own way: International experience through self-initiated foreign assignments. Journal of World Business, 35(4), 417-436.

Takeuchi, R., Yun, S., & Russel, J. E. A. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of the perceived adjustment of Japanese expatriates in the USA. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 13(8), 1224-1244.

Torbion, I. (1982). Living abroad: Personal adjustment and personnel policy in the overseas setting. New York: Wiley.

Torrington, D. (1994). International human resource management: Think globally, act locally. London: Prentice-Hall.

Tung, R. L. (1981). Selecting and training of personnel for overseas assignments. Columbia Journal of World Business, 16, 68-78.

Tung, R. L. (1988). The new expatriates: Managing human resources abroad. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.

Van der Zee, K. I., & Van Oudenhoven, J. P. (2000). The multicultural personality questionnaire: A multidimensional instrument of multicultural effectiveness. European Journal of Peronality, 14, 291-309.

Van der Zee, K. I., & Van Oudenhoven, J. P. (2001). The multicultural personality questionnaire: Reliability and validity of self and other ratings of multicultural effectiveness. Journal of Research in Personality, 35, 278-288.

Van Oudenhoven, J. P., Mol, S., & Van der Zee, K. I. (2003). Study of the adjustment of western expatriates in Taiwan ROC with the multicultural personality questionnaire. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 6, 159-170.

Van Sonderen, E. (1993). Measuring social impact with the Social Support List Interaction (SSL-I) and the Social Support List Discrepancies (SSL-D): A manual. Groningen: Northern Center of Health Care Research.

Warneke, D., & Schneider, M. (2011). Expatriate compensation packages: What do employees prefer? Cross-Cultural Management: An International Journal, 18(2), 236-256.

Yavas, U., & Bodur, M. (1999). Correlates of adjustment: A study of expatriate managers in an emerging country. Management Decision, 37(3), 267-279.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

e-ISSN: 2289-1528