Different from Expatriates: Foreign Executives in Local Organisations (FELOs)
Frithjof Arp, Kate Hutchings, Wendy Anne Smith
This paper introduces an international cross-cultural workplace phenomenon that has not been systematically researched: Foreign Executives in Local Organisations (FELOs) of culturally distant countries. Significant differences to expatriates in the foreign subsidiaries of multinational organisations are identified and discussed. This research employs a qualitative exploratory approach using data sourced from in-depth semi-structured interviews with foreign executives (n=46) from 13 countries and their host-country colleagues (n=25), in organisations founded and headquartered in Malaysia. Dyadic data is used to triangulate findings, while nondyadic and socio-biographical data add further insight. The findings highlight that the FELO phenomenon is significantly different from expatriation in that, while issues of allegiance, trust and control are core to both, they also explain the rarity of FELOs. Only FELOs with significant levels of host-country involvement remain in their positions beyond temporary roles. The research makes a significant theoretical contribution to extant literature as it explores a cross-cultural workplace phenomenon that has been described in media and executive search firm publications as ‘fairly new, highly visible, and sometimes controversial’ with demand for FELOs in Asia ‘likely to continue’.