How do you fear? Examining expatriates' perception of danger and its consequences



Faeth PC & Kittler M (2017) How do you fear? Examining expatriates' perception of danger and its consequences. Journal of Global Mobility, 5 (4), pp. 391-417.

Purpose  The purpose of this paper is to investigate the differing perceptions of fear of expatriates operating in terror-exposed Nairobi and the high-crime environment of Johannesburg and its impact on stress and well-being. It illustrates how expatriates cope with the challenges associated with these two regions.   Design/methodology/approach  Following an interpretative and inductive research approach, qualitative content analyses were conducted using evidence from in-depth interviews with 12 expatriates in senior management or officer positions within a large global organisation, with respondents based in South Africa and Kenya.  Findings  Data suggest that expatriates in the more terrorism-exposed context perceive fear less strongly than expatriates in environments categorised by high degrees of conventional crime. Fear seems to relate to physical well-being via restricted freedom of movement, but there is little evidence that fear affects mental well-being. The study finds that respondents in terror-exposed Nairobi tend to engage more in avoidance-oriented coping strategies, whereas their counterparts in the high-crime environment of Johannesburg predominantly rely on problem-focused coping.   Practical implications  The qualitative design allows practitioners to better understand expatriates’ perceptions of fear, its consequences for stress, and well-being and potential coping strategies expatriates employ. It discusses a set of practical recommendations focussing on the deployment of expatriates assigned to dangerous locations.   Originality/value  This study develops a distinction between terror and conventional crime and contributes with practical insights for assignments into dangerous work environments. The geographic lens of the study provides an in-depth look at expatriation challenges in an arguably neglected regional context.

Well-being; Terrorism; Stress; Coping; Fear; Crime; Expatriate management

Journal of Global Mobility: Volume 5, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online11/12/2017
Date accepted by journal02/08/2017