Why do many returning expatriates find repatriation difficult?

Upon returning, expats are often moved to different departments due to their international experience. Upon returning, most expats miss the culture of mission abroad. They may view repatriation as a punishment because their compensation decreases. In general, expats are a strong and resilient group.

When trauma occurs abroad, they continue and rarely abandon the mission. However, upon returning to their country of origin, they may become obsessed by personal memories or images of a life and society that no longer need to be accepted as a daily reality. The consequences can manifest in different ways, such as depression and difficulties coping, the urge to flee to do another task, anger at the employer, or the belief that they are “in debt” because of the difficulties they have suffered. They put an end to expatriate missions with a deliberate repatriation process.

Most executives who supervise expatriate employees consider that their return home is not a problem. The truth is that repatriation is a time of great turmoil, professionally and personally, for two-thirds of expats. Companies that recognize this fact help returnees by providing them with professional guidance and allowing them to put their international experience into practice. We asked the expatriates themselves and the executives who sent them abroad to evaluate their experiences.

Human Resources colleagues would do well to advise returning expats to be aware of and sensitive to this discrepancy in perceptions. Thinking a little about both areas will help HR managers help returning expats and alleviate the problem of retaining expatriates. Reaching an agreement or having a vision for the future may be delayed while the expatriate accepts the new situation and, perhaps, continues to evaluate the possibilities and risks of returning. At Monsanto, for example, the head office is starting to think about upcoming missions for expatriates who return three or six months before their return.

And at work, expats may feel that they have been downgraded and may even experience overt hostility in their host teams when they talk about their experiences abroad. First, although employers think little about their return, expats believe that a successful job abroad is an achievement that deserves recognition. Returning expats will have new skills and will be more confident. However, studies show that only 23% of companies talk to people from day one about the positions they might have available when they return.

In the six years since it introduced the system, Monsanto has dramatically reduced the turnover rate of returning expatriates. Expatriation can change family dynamics, especially if one of the partners left work to expatriate. In addition to finding suitable jobs for returning expats, effective companies also prepare them for changes in their personal and professional landscape. A kinder aspect of the human resources department's work is to offer encouragement and help returning expats to participate.

Just as assignees don't really know their own prejudices and cultural behaviors until they clash with the culture of the host place, returning expats rarely realize how much they have changed. According to many returning expats, the diary is useful because it helps them examine the sources of their frustrations and anxieties, which in turn helps them to think about what they could do to better deal with them.

Chasity Flom
Chasity Flom

Typical web fan. Infuriatingly humble internet evangelist. Amateur social media ninja. Devoted twitter lover. Unapologetic bacon expert. Hardcore internet evangelist.

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