The Expats’ Culture and Belongingness Theory

Belongingness theory acclaims human beings are motivated by a fundamental psychological necessity of belonging to a group and maintain significant long-lasting interpersonal relations (Baumeister and Leary, 1995). Social psychology research argues that the need to belong explains how people behave and take decisions (Baumeister and Leary, 1995; Meuer et al., 2018) aiming to have strong and durable relationships (Baumeister and Leary, 1995; Sommer et al., 2001; Guiette and Vandenbempt, 2013).

Belongingness at the professional level encompasses relationships with coworkers and the feeling of being accepted and included in the different groups at the company. Thus, it could be argued that on-the-job embeddedness satisfies belongingness sense at the company level by having strong and lasting relationships with co-workers (links) and feeling comfortable and part of the group (fit) (Den Hartog, De Hoogh and Keegan, 2007; Meuer et al., 2018). Similarly, there is empirical evidence that employees ‘sense of belonging predicts beneficial behaviors to the organization, such as reduced withdraw behaviors (Kärreman and Alvesson, 2004; Snee, 2012; Hommelhoff and Richter, 2017). The theory argues as well that when such social closeness is not satisfied, the person will act accordingly to change the current lack of sense (Baumeister and Leary, 1995; Lakin, Chartrand and Arkin, 2008; Derfler-Rozin, Pillutla, and Thau, 2010).

In this light, one could conceive that if the belonging sense of SIEs is not fulfilled by the company’s environment (weak organizational embeddedness); turnover intentions (repatriate to Mexico, expatriate to a third country, change employer at the host country) and willingness to accept an unsolicited job offer (located either at Mexico, third country, Germany) are compensating behaviors intended to close SIEs lack of social closeness. By returning home, the low levels of company belongingness (weak on-the-job embeddedness) would be compensated by those social bonds (links) that expats already have back at their country of origin. Similarly, moving to another country would create a new opportunity to start again and form new bonds (links) increasing the sense of belongingness. Based on the empirical evidence of embeddedness-turnover relationship and the belongingness literature, it is proposed that host organizational embeddedness (belonging sense at the company) will decrease both turnover intentions and willingness to accept an unsolicited job offer.

Sense of belonging is part of the human nature being present among people in all cultures, but it is expected to have ‘individual differences in strength and intensity, as well as cultural and individual variations in how people express and satisfy the need” (Baumeister and Leary, 1995,p.499). Nevertheless, avoidance of losing or breaking bonds, even if those are difficult to keep, is a characteristic shared by all humans (Baumeister and Leary, 1995). It is expected, consequently, that culture does have an effect on belongs and that all people by nature seek to keep existing bonds. To understand how SIEs could react, it is essential to acknowledge their culture. Mexico is considered a collectivistic culture (Hofstede, 2011), where the group-in relation is more important than the individual since the feeling of being connected with others is more prominent than in individualistic cultures.

Thus, they spend a lot of effort and time creating and maintaining social bonds (Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Ramesh and Gelfand, 2010). According to Hofstede, Mexican society is characterized by having a long-term commitment with their ones, and everyone is responsible for members of the group (Hofstede Insights, 2018). Thus, Mexicans have a strong interdependence relation with the group- family or extended family-(Diaz-Guerrero, 1967; Maertz, Stevens and Campion, 2003). Maertz, Stevens, and Campion, (2003)’s work, a national study, provides evidence that Mexican workers are loyal to family, friends, and neighbors. Such can be seen in the vital role played by families (Inglehart et al., 1998) whose influences encompassed behavior and decision-making (e.g., Young and Fort, 1994; Wasti,2003). Therefore, it could be conceptualized that the belongs sense of Mexican nationals is satisfied by their bonds (links) at the home country (Carrillo and Santibañez, 2001).

Following recent findings, the expats’ culture and belongingness theory, it is premised that the belongs sense of Mexicans is strongly satisfied by their home country community embeddedness Considering the premise that humans seek to keep a relationship even if it is difficult (Baumeister and Leary, 1995), Mexican SIEs would not hesitate to return home if their communities’ sense of belonging at risk is. This thesis argues that home community embeddedness of Mexican expats does affect turnover intentions and readiness to accept an unsolicited job offer due to the value of in-group and family.