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October 26, 2010 / Astor ICS

The Professional Expatriate and The Big Ego

In my last installment, I discussed the fear element that prevents good and constructive communication across all kinds of borders. But the other side of that coin is over-assertiveness. That’s being rather nice. I actually mean aggressively professional.

When an expatriate manager begins work in a new environment, the trap of over-confidence and superiority is all too easy to fall into. It happens once those around them show different types of respect (for different types of reasons) and inflates the ego, which in turns gives them a ‘monarch moment’.

The expat must be cautious and careful of heir own behavior and reactions, which can result in a pattern that is set for many months to come. Here are a few suggestions on how to ward off this truly blinding situation.

Stay humble, even if your not. Make sure you remain the effective manager and the resource of knowledge and strategy for your teams and employees. By showing that you are excellent, but not acting in that way, you will build a true bridge of respect and connections for future successes.

Focus on the present task and future strategies. By not letting yourself think in abstract terms of you position and your vast and superior education (I’m being funny here), you allow yourself to directly involved in your work and not the perception of how you are seen. This is essential for the expatriate, because you must remember that you are probably a novelty and that may be the reason that people seem to look at you closely.

Listen more. By giving your attention to others and their professional needs, you learn quite fast that many procedures and methods are different than you experienced in your home country. What’s more is that the way the office ‘runs’ is also different. You may want to make changes quick and tell everyone what is right (at least in your eyes), but try and integrate the two into something unique. By listening clearly and deeply you will have a clearer picture as to what you can to to make things more productive.

You are wise to be cautious, kind and considerate in your new host environment. If you choose to be the all-powerful and correct dictator, you may win some battles, but you will most certainly lose the war. What war? The international one.


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