Missed connections: a resource-management theory to combat loneliness experienced by globally mobile employees

Shea X. Fan, Fei Zhu, Margaret A. Shaffer

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


All globally mobile employees (GMEs) share a common propensity to experience loneliness when they relocate to a new country where they have yet to establish social connections. To better understand how GMEs combat this feeling, we ofer
a conceptual process model grounded in conservation of resources (COR) theory to describe how they achieve social integration. The process begins with an assessment of GMEs’ desired versus perceived social relations, with most perceiving a relational defciency or loneliness. This then triggers an audit of available social resources, which we diferentiate in terms of source (personal vs. contextual) and stability (enduring vs. transient) to develop a typology of resources. Depending on the availability of resources, GMEs will follow one of three resource-management pathways to become socially integrated.
Those who choose an expansion pathway will achieve what we refer to as deep-level (authentic) social integration and those who follow a protection pathway will attain surface-level (functional) social integration. The underutilization pathway is an interim route that may lead to either a resource-expansion or resource-protection pathway depending on changes in the availability of resources. Our iterative and recursive cyclical process model has implications for international management research, workplace loneliness studies, and COR theory.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Publication statusPublished Online - Nov 2023


  • Loneliness
  • Global mobility
  • Conservation of resources theory (COR)
  • Social integration
  • Globally mobile employees
  • Expatriates


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