Post-Repatriation Careers of Japanese Knowledge Workers

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:18 PM
Room: Annex F205
Oral Presentation
Gaz MONTEATH , Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
A key element of the globalization of knowledge work involves the international transfer of executives. Yet despite the importance of this process, the repatriation of business people is still an under-researched area. The majority of existing research into the phenomenon is based on cross-sectional surveys and interviews of North American and European business people. The emphasis is typically on how to make the process more effective for companies, for instance, by improving failure rates, and largely assumes the existence of Anglo-Saxon style labour markets for the management of ‘talent’. Consequently, certain empirical and conceptual elements remain unexplored. We don't know much about repatriates from other nations, and more specifically, about their career perceptions post repatriation. This paper addresses this gap by looking two Japanese business people and asking how they make sense of their unfolding careers. To do this, the author followed their subsequent careers and career perceptions after their return from assignments in North America, interviewing them over an extended time period (seventeen months and twenty four months respectively). The main finding of the research is that (these) Japanese repatriates do not have explicit and pre-planned career paths. Furthermore, this lack of a career path does not concern them. Instead, their careers are subject to a fuzzy career logic that depends on circumstances. Given the extensive literature on protean and boundaryless careers, as well as the ‘need’ for individuals to take charge of their own careers, this is a significant finding. The theoretical contribution of this research is the idea of fuzzy career logic, and the paper will show how it not only provides a robust framework for understanding how Japanese repatriates navigate their careers, but also how it gives an important alternative to, and critique of, the view that careers should be planned in a strategic manner.