The Expat Dilemma Case Study Analysis For Education

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Harvard Business Publishing (2011)
in "Harvard Business Review"
This HBR Case Study includes both the case and the commentary. For teaching purposes, this reprint is also available in two other versions: case study-only and commentary-only. When Ana Lobato was transferred from Streuvels Chemicals' Brazilian operations to the company's Brussels headquarters, she was eager to apply her considerable expertise in this foreign assignment and to expose her children to another culture. Her husband, Oswald, a doctor, seemed up for the adventure. But just over a year after their arrival in Brussels, Oswald is increasingly unhappy. He is not able to practice medicine in Belgium, and the research position that Ana's company helped him find is not all he hoped it would be. Anton Danois, the head of Streuvels's international mobility program, fears that Oswald's unhappiness will prompt Ana to consider moving back home to Brazil before the end of her assignment. In fact, Anton, who's been in HR only a few years, wonders about the logic of an international mobility program that is expensive, does not necessarily provide clear-cut returns, and poses problems not just for spouses but also for the employees who need to be reintegrated after their stints abroad. Experts John Bollman and Ann Judge comment on this fictional case study.
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January 20181.Background ‘Streuvels Chemicals’ is struggling to streamline and standardize their large expatriateworkforce management program. The HR department is facing larger numbers ofspecial exemptions of program policy and large cost overruns.Anton Danois is a former plant manager and was put in charge of the Expat programto standardize and streamline process. However, he is finding that managing expatsand their families on assignment is extremely difficult, and he begins to question thenecessity of the program as a whole.Ana Lobato is a high potential, she has completed her project ahead of time, she islevelheaded, and she offers alternatives to her continued tenure in Belgium. Herspouse is extremely unhappy and it is forcing her to evaluate the benefit of continuingher expat assignment.The company needs Ana’s expertise atheadquarters at a crucial time, and Ana knows that employees withglobal experience are the ones who will have the qualifcations toadvance their careers. The case focuses on the success or failure for international assignees and their familyfor the company. An unhappyspouse or partner is a serious problem for both anexpatriate and her company, hurting her productivity and potentially undermining thevalue of her international assignment. And it’s easy for a spouse to feel disheartened,even if all other aspects of the family’s living situation are working: the finances, thehousing, the children’s schooling. That’s because the partner and family are usually


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