The effects of host country language proficiency on the relationship between psychological contract breach, violation, and work behaviors: A moderated mediation model

Johannes M. Kraak, Yannick Griep, Renaud Lunardo, Yochanan Altman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    As self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) often struggle to communicate in the common corporate language and/or host country language, the aim of this study is to determine if host country language proficiency (HCLP) facilitates communication. As a corollary HCLP might reduce the negative impact of psychological contract (PC) breach on PC violation, and ultimately the positive impact on counterproductive work behaviors (CWB) and the negative impact on organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB). This study uses a repeated-measurement design with three measurement points from 300 SIEs. Using a moderated mediation path model, we found that PC breach at T1 is positively associated with CWB and negatively associated with OCB at T3 through PC violation at T2. Furthermore, HCLP at T1 moderates the positive PC breach–PC violation relationship. Specifically, HCLP amplifies the indirect relationships between PC breach, CWB, and OCB for participants with poor levels of HCLP. This study demonstrates the need of improving HCLP of SIEs. We discuss additional implications for theory, practice and future research.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Management Journal
    StateAccepted/In press - 2023

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    At this point it is also important to note that this specific study focused on the importance of communication and HCLP with regards to how SIEs interact with their PC and exchange relationship, whereas the special issue collection by O'Donohue et al. (2018) also highlighted two main additional issues SIEs encounter with regards to the social exchange relationship with their employer. First there is a need for HRM in organizations to pay greater attention to, and provide support for, a range of individual differences among SIEs; the satisfactory management of which can be crucial to the success of international assignments and the extent to which SIEs interpret their PC as either fulfilled or breached. One such example pertains to the rising numbers of accompanying families choosing to relocate. In this regard, McNulty and Hutchings (2016) suggested the potential contribution that families and the possible presence of (special needs and/or gifted) children can make to the success or failure of international assignments, and the extent to which these frictions might impact the PC and social exchange relationship of SIEs with their employer. Second, given the uncertainty involved in living and working in a foreign country, Bonache (2005), Chen (2010), Kraimer and Wayne (2004), O'Donohue et al. (2018) list a series of factors that could influence an SIE's PC for the better or the worse. These factors include, but are not limited to, conflict between commitment to the parent vs. host organisation, perceptions of interactional justice and the level of social support available from both the parent and host organization, individual differences such as the rate of adjustment to the host country and host organization or the level of interest in and affinity with a host culture, feelings of isolation at the host organization, and situational stressors such as economic recession or pandemics.As in all studies, our study yields some limitations and avenues for further research that deserve attention. First, we use self-report data which might be more susceptible to common method variance within each wave of data collection, akin to social desirability biases (Podsakoff et al., 2012). However, because we wanted to study employee perceptions of organizational values, self-reported measures are appropriate (Edwards & Cable, 2009). Furthermore, there is support from meta-analyses that self- and other-rated CWB and OCB data converges (Berry et al., 2012; Carpenter et al., 2014). The order of the scales was randomized to further reduce common method variance. Moreover, participation in this research was anonymous to limit any potential social desirability biases.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2023 Elsevier Ltd


    • Counterproductive workplace behavior
    • Host country language proficiency
    • Organizational citizenship behavior
    • Psychological contract
    • Self-initiated expatriates

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Strategy and Management


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