The myth of the 'international manager'

N. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that the idea of the 'international manager' is largely a myth. A literature spanning twenty years has been built on the assumption that growing numbers of home country nationals (HCNs) were embracing international assignments. It was also suggested that they and their families would become globe-trotting nomads, moving from region to region and back and forth to their countries of origin, becoming in the process a new type of global or international manager. However, for most UK companies, an 'international manager' is little more than a loose description of someone who is potentially or currently abroad on a one-off international assignment, regardless of the nature or duration of this. Their operations may be becoming more international but their staff are not. Similarly, for most employees and their dependants the concept of an 'international manager' is equally meaningless within the context of their own career and life goals. The article goes on to contend that it is in fact psychologically impossible for most people to cope with the dislocation and upheaval that regular international relocations would cause. It demonstrates that long-term international assignments can also have a damaging effect on employee career prospects after they return to their country of origin. It concludes by suggesting how managers can gain international experience without the need for long-term international assignments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-142
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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