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Being expatriates in Thailand: Essential experience and knowledge

Matorost Singhapong Rayong, Thailand matorost@hotmail.com Nuttawuth Muenjohn, PhD School of Management RMIT University, Australia nuttawuth.muenjohn@rmit.edu.au

ABSTRACT

This study aimed to investigate the work and personal related issues experienced by expatriate managers while they were working with local subordinates in Thailand. It provides profound information for expatriates who wish to work and live in Thailand. It also guides expatriates on how to work effectively within the Thai cultural environment. One hundred and forty one expatriate managers, who were working in Thailand at the time of the study, were asked to respond on fifteen work and personal-related factors, namely Culture, Communication, Interaction with subordinates, Supervision, Empowerment, Work permit, Opportunity to acquire skills, Career advancement, Adaptation of living styles, Performance appraisals, Work autonomy, Career satisfaction, Stress, Negotiation styles and Health condition. Major results revealed that cultural differences, communication styles, relationships with subordinates, supervisory difficulties and inability to empower were the top five obstacles that encountered by the expatriates. Research implications and recommendations are also discussed.

Keywords: Expatriation, Thailand, International Human Resource Management, Cultural Values

INTRODUCTION

Globalization is one of the major trends in the business environment, with companies increasingly looking to enter global markets. This creates a need for companies to manage international operations effectively. One option is to send an employee to the foreign location to live and work, with this manager known as an expatriate manager. This process has significant advantages and disadvantages. This requires being aware of potential problems, selecting the right employee to take on the role of expatriate and preparing the expatriate and their family for the experience. One of the greatest challenges for expatriates is the cultural complexity of the environments in which they operate. They are confronted with new systems of values, beliefs and ways of doing things that may be dramatically different to those of their home country. Such variation complicates the international business environment and expatriates are at the forefront of management this complexity. Consequently, the development of expatriate cross-cultural capabilities is essential for international business success. Many expatriates experience culture shock. They are unable to interpret cues from a new and uncertain environment. They are faced with the seemingly inexplicable behavior of those around them, which is governed by a culture that they do not understand. Their lack of comprehensive mental models for understanding the local culture inhibits their awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior. Expatriates discover that their past behaviors do not work in the new culture, but they have not yet learned more appropriate substitute behaviors (Lau, Nicholas, OFlynn, Ricciotti and Sammartino, 2001). As Dinther and Nije (2000) quoted that the world has become a global village, in which the international expansion of companies continues at a fierce pace. A companys success depends to a large extent on the quality of its staff, and even more so in the international marketplace. Any type of problem, in the final analysis, is either created or must be solved by people. Therefore, having the
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right people in the right place at the right time emerges as one of the keys to a companys international success. For an international assignment to be successful, it is crucial to have the right recruitment and selection tools in place, as well as the instruments to make an assignee motivated to take on the international assignment. All Human Resources Management issues acquire an extra international dimension when a company internationalizes: human resources planning, recruitment and selection, terms and conditions for an assignment, communication issues, career management and repatriation issues all need to cross national and cultural borders. This study has examined the problems that expatriate managers in Thailand have encountered and the possible solutions to the problems for better prepare the success of expatriate assignments. It provides profound information for expatriates who are working in Thailand in term of how to prepare themselves to avoid the obstacles and how to lead Thai subordinates effectively and appropriately. More specifically, it aimed to a) identify the major obstacles that are facing expatriate managers in Thailand; b) find out the possible solutions for the existing problem and c) provide recommendations for the expatriate managers. It is expected that the current study will provide information and recommendations for expatriates who are working or intend to work in Thailand in term of how to manage themselves with Thai subordinates effectively and appropriately. The more they learn and understand Thai context, the better they prevent the failure for their career. In addition, not only expatriates who gain the benefit but also the Thai subordinates as well because they can realize how to work with expatriate managers and change or adapt their behavior.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Expatriates: An Overview

An expatriate is an employee working in a unit or plant who is not a citizen of the country in which the unit or plant is located but is a citizen of the country in which the organization is headquartered. Mathis and Jackson (2000) suggested four types of expatriates based on their job assignment since not all individuals decide to work as expatriates are similar in the assignments undertaken. Volunteer expatriates want to work abroad for a period of time because of career or self-development interests. Often, these expatriates volunteer for short-term assignments of less than a year so that they can experience other cultures and travel to desired parts of the world. Traditional expatriates are professionals and managers assigned to work in foreign operations for one to three years. They then rotate back to the parent corporation in the home country. Career development expatriates are placed in foreign jobs to develop the international management capabilities of the firm. They may serve one to these tours in different countries, so that they can develop a broader understanding of international operations. Global expatriates comprise of those who move from one country to another. Often, they prefer to work internationally rather than in the home country. In the IHRM literature, it is advocated by a number of writers, including Chowanec and Newstrom (1991) and Oddou (1991) that consideration of four key aspects contribute to the success of international assignments. These aspects are selection, preparation, management (active support) and repatriation. In the area of selection, Sullivan and Tu (1993:25) indicate that the three major factors to be considered when choosing an individual for an overseas assignment are technical and decisionmaking skills, personal characteristics and the family situation. However, Tung (1984:141) reports that US personnel administrators base the selection decision primarily on technical competence, with insufficient emphasis on the potential expatriates relational skills and family situation.
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To prepare for relocation, Shilling (1993:63) indicates that organizations should have clear relocation policies, pre-departure orientation and on-site cultural adaptation training. A number of researchers, including Enderwick and Hodgson (1993:417), have highlighted deficiencies in the preparatory activities undertaken by organizations for their expatriate personnel and families prior to departure. Indeed, Davidson and Kinzel (1995:109) observe that family-oriented support does not appear to be a priority for many companies. They also report that assisting expatriates spouses to gain employment or offering employment within the company seems to be of little concern to the companies sampled.

Selection of Expatriates

According to McFarlin and Sweeney (1998), had examined the ways the multinational corporations evaluate candidates for foreign assignments. Basically, interviews (including the spouse in many cases), standardized tests (measuring things like adaptability and emotional maturity), and an assessment of past performance are some of the key screening mechanisms used to select expatriates (Phatak, 1995). Interviews are almost always used by U.S. multinational corporations in the selection process. Beyond the obvious job-specific qualifications, the purpose of these interviews should be look for the presence of factors that tend to predict expatriates success. Some selection factors are suggested by Adler (1997) include a willingness to communicate, good cross-cultural communication and language skills, flexibility and open-mindedness about other cultures, the ability to cope with the stress of new situations, the spouses career situation and personal attributes (he or she must also be open, flexible, able to handle stress, etc.), the existence of quality educational facilities for the candidates children in the overseas location (70% of expatriates take their children with them), and enthusiasm for the foreign assignment and a good track record in previous foreign and domestic moves. McFarlin and Sweeney (1998) claimed that to see the picture of expatriate selection, consider the
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overall selection process that experts recommend. First, the multinational corporations should put together a three person selection team consisting of a home country manager, a host country manager, and a human resource professional. The role of the human resource professional would be to identify potential candidates and make sure that a variety of selection tools are used. The home and host country managers are there to make sure that the needs of both the parent company ad foreign subsidiary are met. The second and third steps involve deciding what the real purpose of the overseas assignment should be and assessing just how important cross-cultural skills will be in assignment. Once the first three steps are complete, then the selection team can create a set of criteria for success in the position. This will allow the team to identify potential candidates (through referrals, job postings, and other mechanisms). Candidates can then be screened using a variety of tools (such as interviews, exercises, tests, and so on). Once the pool has been narrowed to a few candidates, more in-depth interviews can take place that lay out the assignment in detail. These interviews would include information about what expatriate can expect to find in the host country and the ramifications of the assignment for his or her career on return. Especially important at this stage is to conduct interviews with the spouse. This gives the spouse a better feel of what life overseas will be like. Any concerns the spouse might have about the foreign assignment can also be discussed. Careful attention to these steps allow the selection team to offer the position to the candidate with the best chances of success and, once it is accepted, to start actual preparations for the foreign assignment.

Training, Preparation, and Adjustment of Expatriates

According to Phatak (1995), what constitutes effective preparation for an overseas assignment is a complex issue. Nevertheless, all training programs should have two basic goals: a) help employees be effective in their overseas jobs as quickly as possible; and b) minimize any adjustment problems
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the employee and his or her family may have in their new environment. Many experts believe that there are three important goals that must be met if expatriates are actually learn from the training they receive. The first goal involves getting expatriates to pay attention to cultural differences that explain why foreigners think and behave the way they do. Next, expatriates must retain knowledge about behavior that is culturally appropriate. In essence, expatriates must be able to think about the knowledge they have been exposed to and be able to use it to develop a mental framework for their own behavior. The last goal involves convincing expatriates to practice culturally appropriate behavior that is consistent with the guidelines developed in their mental frameworks. This process helps expatriates refine their efforts at culturally appropriate behavior and boosts their self-confidence in dealing with foreign colleagues, clients, and suppliers (Black and Mendenhell, 1990). Training can range from fairly superficial activities that can be covered in a few days to very rigorous efforts requiring substantial amounts of time and effort. In fact, some intensive training efforts may take months to complete (McFarlin and Sweeney, 1998).

Cross-cultural training

Luthan and Farner (2002) stated that one of the main reasons for effective cultural training is to help the failure rate of expatriate managers. Defined as the premature return by an expatriate from an overseas assignment, failure rate are between 25 and 40 percent when the expatriate is assigned to a developed country and a whopping 70 percent when the expatriate is assigned to a still-developing country (Shay and Tracey, 1997). An overwhelming majority of these failures is attributed to the expatriates and/or spouses inability to adapt to the new culture (Thomas, 1998; Tung, 1988). The importance of developing expatriate managers for their overseas assignment through the utilization of cross-cultural training seems apparent. Considerable research supports that cultural training can have a positive effect on cultural adjustment and expatriate performance (Frazee, 1999;
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Deshpande and Viswesvaran, 1992). Caudron (1991) highlights some specific dimensions which cultural training can help in reducing costly expatriate failure and increase the effectiveness of their assignment: Negotiation styles: expatriates should be made aware that negotiation styles vary widely from country to country. For example, in Russia negotiations are conflict oriented. However, in Asian cultures, more of a consensus-oriented negotiating style is more appropriate. Communication: in the USA, business associates have a tendency to address each other by first names right after being introduced. However, in France it may take three to six months before business associates feel comfortable addressing each other without a formal title. Non-verbal cues can also be barriers to effective communication. For example, standing too far from a Middle Easterner or standing too close to a Spaniard can be interpreted by both as a lack of interest. Social relations: Americans tend to place a high value on informality as a way of increasing a comfortable environment. Conversely, Europeans tend to be more formal, both in dress and demeanor, while conducting business or entertaining guests. As a result, Europeans may interpret the informal environment as a sign of disrespect. On the other hand, Americans may interpret European formality as stiff and unfriendly. Family lifestyle adjustment: concerns associated with everyday lifestyle adjustment in another country, such as where to stop, how to get the kids to school, and how to decode the public transportation system can be quite stressful for expatriates and their families.

Thais and Expatriates: Strengths and Weaknesses

Based on a study by Nipatpattanasai (2001) on Thai and expatriates relationship, it offers useful insights into the nuances of intercultural workplace communication in Thailand. From Thais perspective, expatriate managers seemed to be strength in the areas of willingness to understand Thai culture, openness to talk about differences in opinion, willingness to accommodate differences, work very hard, are focused on the job at hand, and strive to understand its intricate details, polite and
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reasonable with subordinates as well as with clients, professionalism, straightforwardness, and results-oriented. However, the expatriates needed to improve in some areas such as being bossy, underestimate the ability of local staff, misinterpretation of Thai ways, and lack of trust. On the other hand, expatriates identified loyalty, friendly, patient, co-operative, sensitive, respect for authority as the strengths of Thai staff. Weaknesses of Thais were also seen by the expatriates such as lack of time management, failure to separate personal and professional life, low acceptance of change, and lack of foresight. Table 1 presents the culture gaps between Thais and expatriates.
============= Table 1 about here =============

RESEARCH METHOD

Research Variables:

Fifteen factors have been identified to determine the issues from expatriates. The factors were divided into two categories which are: a) work-related factor and b) personal factor. They have been selected on the basis of the expatriate key traits and competencies and also on their career challenges and opportunities. The first category is Work-related factors which consisted of Communication, Work & National Culture, Career Advancement, Stress Handle Competence, Appraisals, Restrictions on work permits, Supervision, Interaction with Subordinates, Career Satisfaction, The opportunity to acquire new management and business skill, Negotiation Styles, Work Autonomy, and Empowerment. The second category is Personal factors included Adaptation of Living Styles and Health Condition

Population and Instrument

The population was expatriate managers in a foreign-based company in Thailand. The research population covers 300 foreign-based companies in Thailand. All of them were members of foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand. They are working in multinational companies which located in Thailand and they have to manage Thai workforce. In order to collect data, English version of questionnaire was designed. There were three main parts of questionnaire; Part I: Personal Data, Part II: Expatriate Issue Factors which divided into two category; work-related obstacles and personal obstacles and Part III: Recommendation. As for the first part of questionnaire (Personal Data), there were five personal data questions including: gender, age, education, position and experience in Thailand. As for the second part of questionnaire (Expatriate Issue Factors), descriptive function under analyze menu of SPSS was used to interpret the data into descriptive table. 30 items representing 15 expatriate issue factors were asked to show the frequency of the obstacles on these 15 expatriate issue factors. Likerts five scale model was used to represent the choice of respondents and finally showed rate of obstacles occurred on each expatriate issue factors.

RESULTS

Participants: Expatriate Managers

Three hundred sets of questionnaire were distributed to the foreign based firms. One hundred and forty one expatriate managers, who were working in Thailand at the time of the study, returned the questionnaires, representing 47% response rate. Male respondents represented the majority of the sample size or 113 persons; 80.1% and 28 female respondents representing 19.9%. The respondents
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aged between 40-49 years representing 39.7% and were the majority of the sample size. Most of respondents were well educated held Master degree representing 39% (55 expatriates) and not surprisingly the majority of respondents are in top managerial level which represented 61.7% or 87 persons. According to the results, 9.9% or 14 respondents stayed in Thailand less than one year, 9.9% or 14 persons lived here 1-2 years; 15.6% or 22 persons were in Thailand 3-4 years; 19.1% or 27 persons lived here 5-6 years and majority 45.4% of respondents or 64 persons worked in Thailand more than 6 years.

Fifteen Expatriate Issue Factors

The expatriate issue factors were divided into two categories which are work-related and personal factors. The mean value of fifteen expatriate issue factors of both parts were translated into readable term to see the rate of frequency of the factors that expatriates have to deal with on each expatriate issue factors. Table 2 presents the mean value of each expatriate issue factors that presented separately above in the Likerts five scale rate, ranking from 5 means utmost frequency occurred to the respondent, 4 very frequent, 3 moderate frequency, 2 little frequency and 1 very little frequency.

=============== Table 2 about here ===============


The first factor that expatriate managers had the highest mean value was work & national culture (2.83). Communication (2.71) came at second for expatriate managers. The third factor for expatriate managers was interaction with subordinates (2.56). Supervision was the fourth factor of expatriate managers with the mean (2.55). The fifth of expatriate managers was empowerment (2.34). Restriction on work permits was the sixth rank of expatriate managers. The seventh of expatriate
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managers was the opportunity to acquire new management and business skills (2.31). Career advancement (2.22) came at the eighth for expatriate managers. The ninth rank of expatriate managers was adaptation of living styles (2.01). Appraisals came at the tenth factor for expatriate managers (1.95). The eleventh factor for expatriate managers was work autonomy (1.84). Career satisfaction (1.72) came at the twelfth. The thirteenth factor was stress handle competence (1.57). Negotiation styles (1.51) came at the fourteenth and the last factor was health condition (1.15). In this part, the open-ended questions were asked to see attitudes and recommendations of respondents. The questions were Suggestions or recommendations that you would make to the company, to help you to deal with the problems you encounter and Other suggestions or recommendations that you want the company to consider for improving global staffing management especially in expatriate training and to better prepare an expatriate for a management position.

DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATION

The first ranked factor was work and national culture. The mean value was 2.83 or Moderate Frequency. These numbers contributed by the following sub-dimension items under work and national culture factor. The first sub-dimension factor was You assign individual tasks to workers, but the workers want to work as a group in which expatriate managers showed Little Frequency rate (X=2.19). The second sub-dimension item was Your orders are obeyed without questions by your subordinate in which expatriate managers showed Very Frequent rate (X=3.48). The sub-dimension items that made work and national culture became the first rank was the second sub-dimension items. This may be part from the age and position of the expatriate managers and may also be part from inadequate cross-cultural training. When come to the age of expatriate managers, based on the research finding, majority of expatriate managers age range spread around 40 to more than 49 years and when come to the position of expatriate managers, based on the research finding,
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majority of expatriate managers were in the top managerial management. From the factors of age and position of expatriate managers, it showed the reasons why most expatriate managers in Thailand were obeyed by their subordinates. This is due to the Thai culture that always respect and obeyed people who are older than them. The Thais also respect for authority. When most expatriate managers were in the top managerial management, it is very common that their command or instructions will always be obeyed without questions this is due to most Thais unwilling to confront and discuss with people who are in the higher hierarchy. When come to the cross-cultural training, Luthan and Farner (2002) stated that one of the main reasons for effective cultural training is to help the failure rate of expatriate managers. This process helps expatriates refine their efforts at culturally appropriate behavior and boosts their selfconfidence in dealing with foreign colleagues, clients, and suppliers (Black and Mendenhell, 1990). When the expatriates have inadequate cross-cultural training so the obstacles in workplace that came from cultural differences may easily and frequently occurred between expatriates and their subordinates. The second ranked factor was communication. The overall mean value of expatriate managers was 2.71 or Moderate Frequency. These numbers contributed by the following sub-dimension items under communication factor. The first sub-dimension item was Your orders are misunderstood by your subordinates and they cannot follow your instructions when you communicate what to do in their job in which expatriate managers showed Little Frequency rate (X=2.44). The second subdimension item was You have to talk slowly or you have to repeat your words in which expatriate managers showed Moderate Frequency rate (X=2.99). The sub-dimension items that made communication factor became the second rank was the second sub-dimension items. This may be part from the poor language skills training that the company will not provide enough to the expatriate managers or the poor linguistic ability of the expatriates
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themselves. The goal of progressive language learning program is to established multicultural communicative competence (Shanahan, 1996). Although English language is considered as international language but when working in the country that English language is not the official language, then the obstacles from language will usually happen since the expatriates cannot communicate with their subordinates effectively. The Third ranked factor was interaction with subordinates. The overall mean value of expatriate managers was 2.56 or Little Frequency. These numbers contributed by the following sub-dimension items under interaction with subordinate factor. The first sub-dimension item was Your subordinates do not give you their commitment or participation in which expatriate managers showed Little Frequency rate (X=1.95). The second sub-dimension item was You have to encourage your subordinates to have an open-minded conversation with you in which expatriate managers showed Moderate Frequency rate (X=3.19). The sub-dimension items that made interaction with subordinates factor became the third rank was the second sub-dimension item. This may be part from the age and position of expatriate managers and also may be part from the cultural differences between expatriate managers and Thais. The majority of expatriate managers were in the middle age which Thais have the culture to always respect the seniority. From this culture, the Thais may not speak up when they should and it makes the expatriate managers have to spend more time to encourage Thais subordinates to express themselves or their opinion. As for the position of the expatriate managers that most of them were in the top management position. The reason for this may go in the same direction as the age that was just mentioned above. The Thais still respect in seniority system. They tend to be too compromising and unwilling to confront and discuss with their bosses. According to Hofstede (1980) which identified five dimensions of variance of culture, one dimension that could represent this obstacle is power distance that Thailand tends to have higher power distance
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than the western so the expatriate managers should get used to it and adjust themselves to reduce the barrier of power between them and their subordinates. The forth ranked factor was supervision. The mean value was 2.55 or Little Frequency. These numbers contributed by the following sub-dimension items under supervision factor. The first subdimension factor was Your subordinates come to ask for your supervision in which expatriate managers showed Moderate Frequency rate (X=3.01). The second sub-dimension item was You dont have enough time to supervise your subordinates in which expatriate managers showed Little Frequency rate (X=2.10). The sub-dimension items that made supervision factor became the forth rank was the first subdimension item. This may be part from age, position and the experience in Thailand of the expatriate managers. Although the first sub-dimension item tend to be a positive question. When look at the opposite way, the way that Thais often ask for supervision may has frustrated the expatriate managers. This can showed that Thais have the reactive work methods rather than pro-active. That may be the reason why Thais requires more supervision. When come to the age that the majority of the expatriate managers were in the range of 40 to more than 49 years, the position that most of expatriate managers were in the top management position and the years that they have been living in Thailand was more than 6 years. From all these factors, for Thais, it means that they see their bosses have a lot of experience, analytical tools, knowledge and skills that are valued enough to supervise them smoothly until they get the job done. The fifth ranked factor was empowerment. The mean value was 2.34 or Little Frequency. These numbers contributed by the following sub-dimension items under empowerment factor. The first subdimension factor was You find no one that you can pass your task to in which expatriate managers showed Little Frequency rate (X=2.19). The second sub-dimension item was You are not satisfied with the task outcome when it is done by the others in which expatriate managers showed Little
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Frequency rate (X=2.21). The sub-dimension items that made empowerment became the fifth rank was the second subdimension items. This may be part from the position and the experience in Thailand. When the majority of expatriate managers was in the top managerial position and also has been living in Thailand for more than 6 years. They may prefer to perform all the tasks under their responsibility. Thus, the task for the top managerial level may be too complicate for their subordinates to perform or to make a decision. The expatriate managers may perceive that Thais are too compromise to negotiate and they could have done better if they perform the job by themselves. When consider the supervision factor above. The expatriate managers may perceive that Thais are more reactive than pro-active in working method. When the time the expatriate managers want to empower their Thais subordinates, it may turn out that their empowered subordinates perform the task under their supervision. This reason may have the expatriate managers prefer to perform the job by themselves and pass only the uncomplicated task to their subordinates. The last two obstacles, supervision and empowerment, were the issues that may come from the different management and working styles between expatriate managers and Thais. Based on the study of Nipatpattanasai (2001) that pointed out the working method of expatriates and Thais, expatriates seem to have pro-active working method that all workers have the right to think, create and innovate the ideas or decisions into the job while Thais seem to have reactive working method that requires more supervision from the boss to get the job done.

Recommendations

As an illustration, expatriate managers had encountered the obstacle that came from work and national culture. The way they could improve this issues is to open their mind to understand Thai context. They have to understand the seniority system in Thailand and do not expect that Thais will
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ask questions if they dont understand and express their opinion at the first time. In order to encourage Thais subordinate to talk and discuss under seniority system context. At first, the expatriate managers should not ask the leading questions or leading instructions. Then try to ask for opinions from subordinates in the way of sharing experience rather than giving me a good answer. As for communication factor, the way they could improve this issue is to reduce the language barrier by learning Thai language and try to speak Thai with them, even if it is a broken Thai. This can make Thai subordinates feel more confidence to communicate with the expatriates. Do not get upset when the subordinates ask for the repeat of the sentence, try to talk slower and it would be better if expatriates could come up with Thai word that they know to show that it is not a serious mistake not to understand the sentence at the first time. As for interaction with subordinates factor, the way they could improve this issue is to create environment in which it is safe to state the needs openly and honestly, in a very straightforward way. Enable the Thai subordinates to behave in a way that is not initially familiar to them and give them the time to practice. As for Supervision factor, the way that could improve this issue is to try to make it clear where the responsibility for completing a task is. Try to make each subordinate as self-sufficient as possible with regard to their day-to-day tasks. Motivate subordinates to understand the work and their own role or contribution, rather than direct as per order or job description but do not assume that the subordinates are not clever when they do not understand at the first time. As for empowerment factor, the way that could improve this issue is to trust and do not underestimate the ability of Thai staffs. Do not think that their way is the best and the Thai way is wrong. Involve Thais more in meeting and encourage then to discuss and ask for their decision to the sample or the real case to make the subordinates feel that they are not ignorant and their opinions and
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decisions are respected. This could increase the subordinates confidence in decision making and opinion expression. From the above five issues of expatriate managers, it showed the ineffective of expatriate management methods which may start at the selection method then training and preparation both from pre-departure and while off-shore. Based on this study, the most frequency obstacles were work and national culture, and communication. In the selection process, which can be the most important process that the company have to consider in priority to prevent the failure of expatriation. As McFarlin and Sweeney (1998) claimed that there should have the host country manager in the selection team to make sure that the needs of both the parent company and foreign subsidiary are met and also to see the potential of cultural adjustment from the candidates. When come to training and preparation method, the company should pay more attention on crosscultural training and host country language training. Before departure, the company has to make sure that they provide adequate training in cross-cultural and language training to the expatriates. The effective training before departure must be the activities that expatriates can get involve such as the role-plays or the assumption cases. As for the language training, expatriates must be in the survivallevel of language training before departure. The training program should continue while the expatriates were sent off-shore to continuing the development of expatriates competencies especially in the adjustment competency to reduce the obstacles that came from the differences such as the differences in culture and management and working styles.

CONCLUSION AND LIMITATION

The current study intended to identify the major problems/obstacles associate with expatriate managers living and working in Thailand. The fifteen expatriate issues were identified to determine the issues from the expatriate perspectives. Expatriate issue factors: fifteen expatriate issue factors
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have been identified to determine the issues from expatriate and also to determine the possible solutions to the issues. The factor was divided into two categories which are work-related obstacles and personal obstacles. They have been selected on the basis of the expatriate key trait and competencies and also on their career challenges and opportunities. 300 sets of questionnaire were distributed to the foreign based firms. The total percent of respondents was 47%. In additions, based on the research results, there were always differences in cultural context and perspectives that can lead to be an obstacle for expatriate managers who are working in Thailand. In this study, there were five most occur obstacles. There were work and national culture, communication, interaction with subordinates, supervision and empowerment. People from different countries have their own styles that may differ slightly or greatly from the others. To cope with the issues, the company should have the effective selection, training and preparation methods. Apart from the expatriate management methods, it was both expatriate managers and Thais responsibility to understand each other perspective and cultural context, to have better collaboration in working conditions. In addition, as the global business have no longer boundaries across countries. Managers from different countries would require more working together with the host country staffs to deliver the result of collaboration and management. This research and the future research on similar topic would become more important in term of global business as it becomes a source of cross-cultural management and preparation of successes.

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Table 1: Cultural Gaps between Thais and Expatriates Thais Kreng jai (Consideration) Sam ruam (Polite, passive, modest) The phu yais (senior people with authority) instruction Seniority Freedom/Sabai (laid-back, easy-going) Hierarchy Relationships, hai kiat (showing respect, giving face), saving face Conflict avoiding Mai pen rai (it doesnt matter, no problem) Sanuk (to have fun) Industrializing

Westerners Assertiveness Creativity, initiative Accountability, pro-active Participation in meetings Discipline Lean organization Results-oriented Transparency, confrontation Focused on goals Serious, concentration Post-industrialized

Source: Kriengsak Nipatpattanasai (2004). Bridging the Gap: Managing the Cross-Cultural Workplace in Thailand, Asia Books

Table 2: Summary of Mean Value of Expatriate Managers and its ranking Rank Expatriate Issue Factors 1 2 Work & National Culture Communication
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Mean Value 2.83 2.71

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Interaction with Subordinates Supervision Empowerment Restrictions on Work Permits The Opportunity to Acquire New Management and Business Skills Career Advancement Adaptation of Living Styles Appraisals Work Autonomy Career Satisfaction Stress Handle Competence Negotiation Styles Health Condition

2.56 2.55 2.34 2.34 2.31 2.22 2.01 1.95 1.84 1.72 1.57 1.51 1.15

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