Repatriation woesGoing home isn't easy for American...

MINDING YOUR BUSINESS

January 13, 1992

Repatriation woes

Going home isn't easy for American executives returning from overseas assignments. One out of four doesn't make it.

Those were among the findings of a survey of 24 Midwestern multinational corporations conducted by Loyola University of Chicago's Institute of Human Resources and Industrial Relations.

Compounding the difficulty of returning to the corporate home office is the fact that few U.S. corporations allow for or even consider the readjustment trauma that often accompanies those returning from a foreign assignment.

"Companies should not make the mistake of assuming that returning home after years abroad is easier than the initial transition overseas," said Linda Stroh, a professor in the institute who conducted the study with human resources specialist Arno Haslberger.

Ms. Stroh and Mr. Haslberger discovered that one of every four expatriate employees who return to the corporate home office winds up leaving the company because he or she cannot adapt to being back.

When these people return, colleagues notice that they have changed a lot, said Ms. Stroh. For example, their perspective is more worldly; they don't look at things as ethnocentrically; they see things differently. But often peers in the home office aren't interested in listening to a returning employee talk about the experience abroad.

The survey found that only about one-third of the companies contacted provided a repatriation program for returning expatriates, while two-thirds provided programs as the employee and family prepared for the overseas post.

Putting team together

When Charles Garfield graduated from Adelphi College in New York, he was hired as part of a team that built the Lem model -- the space vehicle that took the first astronauts to the moon in 1969.

"When the project was done in 1970, our employer, Grumman Aerospace, no longer needed us," said Mr. Garfield, today head of his own management consulting firm in Redwood City, Calif.

Before he left, Mr. Garfield successfully lobbied to get new jobs for his staff at Grumman.

"Teamwork is the key to business," said Mr. Garfield, author of "Second to None: How Our Smartest Companies Put People First" (Business One Irwin, $22.95). "That's why when so many executives move to another company or start their own businesses, they want to bring their team with them."

The consultant says the practice of "bringing along your own team is very prevalent" in American corporate life.

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