Jade Han is one of the Sprott School’s PhD students who, like most, are extremely busy researching and publishing and looking forward to graduating. Jade knew early on that she loved academia; a drive that started in her homeland China where she earned her BA in Business Administration.

From there, Jade completed not one, but two master’s in Business (Human Resources and Finance) from the University of Amsterdam. Jade’s drive didn’t stop then; she went on to win awards and earn funding to pursue her PhD here at Sprott. And now, under the supervision of Dr. Greg Sears, Jade’s research program is quite robust and progressive. With two main research streams, Jade’s research intersects between Human Resources and Organization Behaviour (HR/OB) and International Business.

profile photo of Jade Yu Han

Yu (Jade) Han, PhD Candidate, Sprott School of Business

Jade is highly interested in understanding what makes a good leader, a happy employee, and what contributes to successful leader-follower relationships. Concurrently, she is exploring how individual personality differences may impact expatriate employees’ adjustment to working abroad. As the finish line to completing her PhD fast approaches, Jade is excited for the next stage in her career—staying in academia and pursuing her love of research and teaching at a university.

You have lots of irons in the fire—let’s expand on the first area of your research.

Within the research looking at leader-follower relationships, I’m doing a couple of things. Firstly, I’m investigating which employee personality traits contribute to building high-quality relationships between followers and their leaders, as well as the impact of leader behaviour on employee well-being in the workplace. I have conducted research investigating how specific employee individual differences in personality traits, such as career resilience and negative affectively, are associated with work behaviours and can be used as potential indicators of employee well-being. I love the idea of bringing together psychology and human resources management, and the goal with my research is to contribute to our knowledge of how to achieve high levels of employee well-being and positive feelings toward their leaders. When businesses can better identify how to empower leaders to better manage by understanding the psychological aspects of their employees, this will inevitably have direct benefits to the organization because it establishes a healthy and productive workforce.

How is this research expanding?

The second prong to this area of my research, and what I am very excited about, is that I am tapping into something new in the business world. I want to offer new insights on the topic of leader-follower relationships by exploring a relatively new concept—perceptions of ambivalence in leader-follower exchange relationships. In other words, I want to understand when an employee exhibits ambivalence—having both good and bad feelings about the relationship with their leader—what does it do to affect the employee’s subjective evaluation of their level of job satisfaction and well-being? There is robust research being done to understand ambivalent feelings towards social relationships (e.g., friendships and relationships with family members), however, research exploring the feelings of ambivalence towards the relationship with one’s leader has been limited. Our results show that employee ambivalence toward their leader does indeed diminish that employee’s feelings of well-being in the workplace regardless of whether they rated the overall relationship with their leader as good or bad. So, understanding employee perceptions and how they may influence leader-follower relationship success allows organizations to develop solutions and strategies that improve both leadership performance and employee well-being.

8 orange tokens in a group with a single brown token off to the side

Can you tell us about your research on expatriate adjustment?

As more and more companies expand their business internationally, there is a need to send their employees around the world to work. I’m interested in these employees’ well-being—particularly how do we evaluate personality traits that can be predictors of expatriate success in the host country. Studies indicate that the average cost of expatriate failure is around $225K per person. So, it’s not only a financial burden to companies, but the emotional impact of failure on the employee is significant as well. My research can help improve the success of expatriates by improving the selection and training process.

My research is a large meta-analysis of previous empirical studies and using the foundation of socio-analytic and social learning theories, I show that the big-five personality traits (conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and emotional stability) as well as cultural empathy, cultural flexibility, emotional intelligence, and cultural intelligence, are all key factors that will positively relate to expatriate adjustment. Personality traits can be essential determinants of individual’s fundamental motives: getting along with others, getting ahead to achieve status, and finding meaning. These motives enable expatriates to develop and maintain interpersonal ties in the host country, spend time on work assignments, and make sense of their international experiences. Furthermore, people high on emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence are better at the learning process and can function effectively within a new culture and interact effectively with host-country people.

The second vein in this research examines how national cultural factors influence expatriate well-being and success. Our results suggest that personality traits have a more significant positive impact on adjustment when the cultural distance is short: When the host country is culturally similar to the home country, an expatriate can more effectively adjust. Conversely, when the expatriate works in a culturally different country, we observe more difficulty to overcome the challenges to adapt—and this is true even for those who are high on cultural intelligence.

What’s great about these findings is that companies can add value to expatriate selection by developing more formal selection tools. By understanding which personality traits are more likely to foster employee success in a new country, a company can focus their modelling to bolster confidence and motivation in employees—helping them to better prepare, adapt, and perceive their working and living experiences more positively. This of course, will lead to expatriate success and well-being.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 in , , ,
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