Personal or organisational control? A critical perspective from the multinational’s international assignees

Marian Crowley-Henry, Dublin Institute of Technology
David Weir, Liverpool Hope University

Document Type Conference Paper



This paper presents findings from a qualitative study of non-national employees of multinational organisations based in Sophia Antipolis (South of France). Here twenty-three in-depth interviews with non-nationals employed by a multinational in the area, together with contextual data regarding the particular case of Sophia Antipolis contribute to the discussion on power and control in an international, organisational context. Irrespective of the initial motivations to follow on an international career, this study highlights the tensions individuals encounter in their desire to retain their international status while seeking out a more individual, balanced, protean career, potentially beyond their current employing organisations. Extracts from the stories told by international assignees are shared in this paper, underlining the importance of control (in mastering one’s own destiny) and the affinity of international assignees to their own career (be that what it may) as opposed to their affinity to a particular organisation. The subjectivity of the international employee’s career focus suggests issues for organisational control, here particularly for multinationals that have to cater more and more to the individual needs of their employees due to their cultural diversity. In particular this paper focuses on the employee’s individual struggle for control of his/her international career and the complexity of different elements influencing decisions over the life stage of the interviewees. The findings collaborate with contemporary career literature on the boundaryless career, noting the tension between the desire to follow an individual career path and the more negative aspects (lack of choice, control and power) of this career path given today’s unstable job market. Indeed, this paper attempts to show the inherent complexity relating to career, suggesting a more systems approach to career need be studied, such as is initiated here in this study under the framework of the protean career.