Premature return of self-initiated expatriates in the spectre of a global crisis: a sensemaking perspective. By: Kelly, Grainne and Conroy, Kieran M. 2024. International Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 35 Issue 4, p587-620.

Global mobility studies have focused on the repatriation of assigned expatriates in multinational organisations overlooking the difficulties that self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) face upon returning home prematurely. Recent converging global crises have demonstrated the precarious and challenging circumstances that SIEs confront when relocating abroad of their own volition without the security and support of an organisation. Applying a sensemaking lens, our qualitative study reveals that a global crisis’s volatile and unpredictable nature triggers a sensemaking process for SIEs on whether to withdraw prematurely or remain on assignment. Specifically, we unpack how, in attempting to put structure on what was a highly complex, anxious, and stressful situation, SIEs engaged in a sensemaking process of enactment, selection, and retention in deciding whether to return home early. This process involved interpreting varying contextual cues and emotions in acute conditions, processing conflicting information from a nexus of sensegiving actors, and engaging retrospectively in reflexive frames. Our findings enrich existing work on the challenges of SIE repatriation by illuminating the utility of crisis sensemaking to understand how SIEs navigate premature withdrawal amid crisis conditions.