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The epistemic motivation approach to expatriation: Host cultural knowledge, leader-member conflict and subordinate performance
Using the epistemic motivation approach, we explain when and why host cultural knowledge is critical for expats’ conflict with their local subordinates. Expats who have high need for closure (NFC) but without proper host cultural knowledge are less able to resolve conflicts with their local subordinates, and this would in turn compromise subordinates’ performance. We found support in a quasi-experiment with managers in China assuming the role of expats (Study 1), and a multi-wave multi-source field study with Taiwanese executive expatriates (Study 2). In Study 1, high NFC managers who were given knowledge of host cultural values showed higher motivation to minimize conflicts with the local subordinates in their decision making than those in the control conditions. In Study 2, subordinates performed better and reported less conflict with the high NFC expats when the expats had high host cultural knowledge. Implications concerning expatriate management and cross-cultural conflict resolution were discussed.