Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 521–544 | Cite as

Why do international assignees stay? An organizational embeddedness perspective

  • B Sebastian ReicheEmail author
  • Maria L Kraimer
  • Anne-Wil Harzing


We apply an organizational embeddedness perspective to examine international assignees’ retention with the organization. Specifically, we hypothesize that assignees’ social ties within and their perceived fit with the host unit positively relate to two sacrifices on leaving the organization: their firm-specific learning during the assignment, and their perceived career prospects in the organization. Perceived career prospects are expected to predict subsequent retention, moderated by firm-specific learning. These hypotheses are tested using a sample of 143 inpatriates in 10 German multinationals, with retention measured 2 and 4 years later. We show that inpatriates’ trusting ties with HQ staff and their fit with the HQ positively relate to their firm-specific learning and their perceived career prospects, and that the latter predicts their retention 2 and 4 years later. Perceived career prospects mediate the direct relationship between inpatriates’ fit with the HQ and inpatriate retention, and the indirect relationship between inpatriates’ trusting ties with HQ staff and their retention. Furthermore, inpatriates’ firm-specific learning mitigates the effect of perceived career prospects on retention decisions 2 years later. We contribute to the organizational embeddedness, careers, and international business literatures by explaining when and how facets of organizational embeddedness relate to assignee retention.


international assignments organizational embeddedness retention career prospects learning organizational knowledge 



We thank the three anonymous JIBS reviewers and JIBS Departmental Editor Rosalie Tung for their helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • B Sebastian Reiche
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria L Kraimer
    • 2
  • Anne-Wil Harzing
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Managing People in OrganizationsIESE Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Management & OrganizationsTippie College of Business, University of IowaIowa,USA
  3. 3.Department of Management and MarketingUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia

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