Macquarie University
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Expatriates' adjustment in context: a sensemaking perspective. The case of American and French expatriate auditors in Australia

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posted on 2022-07-22, 02:53 authored by Elise Goiseau

The scholarship on expatriate adjustment has paid little attention to expatriates' day-to-day experiences in their host organisations and to the contexts in which this experience takes place. This study presents to offer a novel approach to expatriate adjustment research by investigating expatriates' experiences of adjustment in context. For this purpose, it approaches expatriate adjustment as a sensemaking process. The thesis relies on the concept of cultural sensemaking to investigate the extent to which expatriates' sensemaking is influenced by their cultural frames, as well as the cultures of the environments in which they are embedded during their expatriation. Thus, it offers a multi-level conceptual framework combining the concepts of expatriate adjustment, cultural sensemaking, national, organisational and professional cultures, as well as supplementary concepts of frames, cues, enactment and frame negotiation. The thesis adopts an interpretive paradigm and qualitative methodology that includes two case studies and eighteen semi-structured interviews with American and French financial auditor expatriates in Australia. Auditing was chosen purposefully as the overarching case study for this thesis because the financial auditing profession involves standardised work activities around the world, thus, reducing the number of factors that need to be considered to be influencing the experience of adjustment during expatriation and to facilitate comparison. The analysis focused on the differences experienced by the expatriates in their Australian organisations, on their reactions to these differences, as well as on how they negotiated the differences they encountered between their pre-existing cultural frames and their representations of Australian organisations, Australians and Australia. The study first identifies six Areas of Difference (AODs) which are the main themes identified through analysis of the expatriates' accounts of their experiences of difference between their home and the host organisations. Subsequently, it offers a contextualised analysis of those six AODs by explaining how they are related to the expatriates' cultural frames. The final section of the study focuses on expatriates' reactions to the experienced differences and identifies eight types of frame negotiation between expatriates' home and host frames. This study contributes to the literature on expatriate adjustment by offering a multi-level approach to expatriates' sensemaking. The findings show that expatriates' sensemaking is influenced by their own cultural frames, as well as by the negotiation between those frames and the perceived cultural environment of their host organisations. This study recommends that future research on expatriate adjustment use interpretivist paradigms conjointly with a longitudinal methodology to enable further insights into the dynamics of expatriates' frame negotiation.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Part one. Expatriate adjustment, sensemaking and culture -- Part two. Research context -- Part three. Analysis -- Conclusion -- References -- Appendices


A thesis submitted to Macquarie University in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Macquarie usiness School, Department of Management, November 2019 Includes bibliographic references (pages 259-289)

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School, 2019

Department, Centre or School

Department of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lucy Taksa

Additional Supervisor 1

Jean-Fran├žois Chanlat


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Elise Goiseau 2019.




xiii, 300 pages

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