The Expat Catch - Andreas Weber's Reward for Success in an International Assignment (A) & (B)

Meet Andreas Weber, a smart up-and-comer, whose reward for being selected as a “high potential” employee in a large German bank is an overseas posting in New York. After several years abroad, having progressed swiftly in his new job, he and his wife decide for family reasons to return to Germany, sure that Andreas’ track record in New York would land them an ideal post in the company. Unfortunately, say Professor Günter Stahl and Mark Mendenhall, international assignments do not always go as planned. In this case, Weber’s “re-entry” position is basically a demotion and not at all reflective of what he could offer the company. What went wrong and how should Weber respond?

by Günter Stahl, Mark Mendenhall
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The story is not at all uncommon. An employee is singled out for being a rising star, and his or her next stop along the corporate ladder is an exciting job posting abroad. But while the focus is often on the arrival, say Günter Stahl, Assistant Professor of Asian Business and Mark Mendenhall, J. Burton Frierson Professor of Leadership at the University of Tennessee, what often becomes the sticking point is the re-entry.

In this case study the two recount the real-life story of Andreas Weber (names have been changed), whose reward for being selected as a “high potential” employee in a large German bank is an overseas posting in New York. After several years abroad (following the obligatory bumpy first few months), having progressed swiftly in his new job, he and his wife decide for family reasons to return to Germany, sure that Andreas’ track record in New York would land them an ideal post within the company.

When Weber receives the offer, which is basically a demotion, he is speechless. This is a company that, in espousing the global nature of their business, clearly stated in corporate communications that the company’s future was in the hands of those employees with global experience. He was to be among the new stars of the company; instead he would be stationed in some backwater town in Germany, far from corporate headquarters.

In recounting the story, the authors call attention to the mismanagement of international assignments, a problem affecting individuals as well as the companies they work for. They ask students to consider what went wrong and what could have been done. <UL><LI>Should Andreas go back to the position offered?

<LI>If Andreas accepts the job, what should his career path be?

<LI>If he doesn’t accept the job, what should he do?

<LI>Who is to blame for the current situation? What factors contributed to Andreas’ re-entry problems?

<LI>What can the organization do to avoid the kind of problems illustrated in the case?

<LI> From an HR perspective, what would be a more systematic approach to repatriation planning and international career development?

</UL>The case is appropriate for use in MBA courses or Executive Education courses on human resources and international management.

INSEAD 2003

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