An inquiry into the tension between displacement and belonging as experienced by globally mobile professionals: an emerging practice of shallow-rooted belonging
Global organisations increasingly require their leaders and employees to be mobile in order to meet the needs of the dynamics of the global market. As a result, the number of professionals who are uprooted from their place of origin and who experience multiple relocations as part of their globally mobile career is on the rise. This action inquiry examined whether a sense of belonging mattered to globally mobile professionals and, if so, how they could create a sufficient sense of belonging in this postmodern world of global mobility which would enable them to flourish and live a healthy, fulfilled life. The inquiry was located within the specific context of a global organisation headquartered in Europe and involved a deep, first person inquiry, together with individual conversations with six global leaders and a co-inquiry with a group of five OD practitioners. All participants in this study had substantial experience of global mobility as part of their career progression which they developed after growing up and completing their studies in their country of origin. The inquiry generated three main insights: 1) globally mobile professionals who participated in this inquiry lived permanently in liminality; 2) home seemed to hold a transient quality for these professionals; 3) the acceptance that deep-rooted belonging was not theirs to have. This acceptance led global leaders to shape an alternative form of belonging which the author has named shallow-rooted belonging. Shallow-rooted belonging is an organic metaphor to describe a form of belonging that nurtures a functional existence in the liminal social and psychological space.\ud This thesis also describes how the change in the ontological view of the world, held by the author, provided a fruitful condition for this deeply personal inquiry to emerge. In addition, working with expressive methods created conditions for the author to engage with the emotional territory within which the phenomenon of belonging is located. The author shares personal practices that she developed to create a sense of shallow-rooted belonging and outlines the implications of this inquiry for global organisations, Organisational Development practice and individual global leaders.
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