The Business Travel Magazine Dec/Jan 2019/20



How many of you really, truly,

consider the impact that working

in different countries may have on

the wellbeing of your travellers?

I am not talking about the logistical hassles,

packed schedules and fatigue that often go

hand-in-hand with business travel. This is

something deeper and more subtle – a sort

of ‘cultural impact’.

It is the local


that determine

how people view,

respond and

behave differently

towards visitors.

It is one reason why,

even when the stars

are aligned – with

a good travel



itinerary, extensive

preparation and a killer

pitch – that things can still fall

apart once in a country. The

traveller struggles with interactions, shows

unexpected signs of stress, a change in

attitude, or simply can’t adjust regardless of

how long they spend in a destination.

According to social psychologist Geert

Hofstede, all countries have a set of inherent

values that distinguish one society from

another – intangible yet visible rituals, norms,

beliefs, customs and behaviours.

These include different expectations

around qualities like work-life balance,

modesty, short-term versus long-term

outcomes, assertiveness versus

cooperation, and whether people




Dr. Lucy Rattrie discusses new evidence on the

complexities of navigating cultural expectations

look after themselves (an ‘I’ culture) or their

team (a ‘we’ culture).

In order to find out if differences in national

cultural values affect the likelihood of

developing burnout, myself (University of

Stirling and Management Center Innsbruck),

Professor Markus Kittler

(Management Center Innsbruck),

and Professor Karsten Paul

(Friedrich-Alexander University

Erlangen-Nuremberg) analysed

132 peer-reviewed research

studies conducted from 2001 to

2018, incorporating more than

100,000 participants from five

global regions. It’s a pretty in-depth

academic study but we have some

interesting take-home

messages for you.

While there is the caveat that more research

is needed, particularly from non-US and non-

European regions and specifically with

business travellers, it was clear that only

some dimensions affect the likelihood of

developing burnout, and this likelihood

depends on whether the job is perceived as

particularly demanding, or whether it has a

high presence of supporting resources.

For example, if a traveller is in a particularly

demanding role, their wellbeing will be

protected if they work in countries such as

Denmark but it is more at risk in other

destinations like the United States.

If a traveller is needed in the US, sending

someone who is in a less demanding job

means they are less at risk of burnout. Or

consider offering traveller-specific support

and increasing the resources available to

them to counteract the negative impact of

the demands on them.

Similarly, under normal circumstances, a

job with plentiful resources means the

person is by default protected from burnout

developing. However, if someone from

All countries have a

set of inherent values

that distinguish one society

from another – intangible yet

visible rituals, norms, beliefs,

customs and behaviours”

Austria is sent to Malaysia to work, the

protective capacity of resources could be

undermined and the person is therefore at

risk of burnout.

Travel management can therefore advance

to a new level when deciding who goes where

and to do what by considering these factors:

how demanding or resourceful is the

individual's job; what is the individual’s

capacity to self-manage; what is the role of

the destination's culture for protecting people

from burnout. In a sense, it is simply about

better job design.

Dr lUCY raTTrie

Lucy is a psychologist in

wellbeing, thriving and

sustainability of people

who travel for work. She

advises organisations,

offers training and

coaching, and conducts

academic research. Email


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