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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's Just Not Working

Expat question for you: I am recently hired by a large international Hospitality organization. The welcome, after the very aggressive recruiting, has been disappointing.

Somebody hinted at the possibility that "the company had let me down" during my probation time and therefor could be found responsible for my relocation costs. (Normally, if the employee resigns during their 3 months probation time, the cost for the return tickt and moving expenses falls back on the employee.) What exactly does this mean: the co. has let someone down on their contract?

As I am in month one of my probation time, I am kind of curious what the answer is.

I have no idea what your company policy is. I have no idea what country you are now located in. I'm going to answer this based on my worldview, so it may or may not apply.

So, you don't like the job. There's no technical breach of contract (that I can divine from a short question--which I encouage short questions as they save me the editing time) unless you got here and they said, "oooh, that offer letter, we're not going to be paying you that salary and so much for relocation costs. You have to repay everything we've already spent." Instead, you don't like it.

In my world, we'd say tough cookies. Now, we'd say tough cookies to your face, but behind the scenes we'd be screaming at the recuiter and the hiring manager who brought you in with tales of greatness and then dumped you into reality.

Can I say it again? Let's be honest when we are recruiting. Let's tell our candidates what the problems are. Best interview I ever had (and I took the job, by the way) was when the hiring manager said to me, "I'll be honest. There's a lot of policitical stuff going on. I'll try to protect you from some of it, but I can't guarentee you won't get caught up in it." She then warned me that her boss was, shall we say, unstable and would yell and scream but rewarded people who put up with her shenanigans with high pay raises. I KNEW what I was getting into. Fortunately for me, her boss was fired three weeks after I started. But even if she hadn't been, I had no illusions going in.

But, it's too late for that. You're there and you don't like it. But, you've only been there for one month. ONE MONTH! You only have to stay for 3 to not have to repay your relocation costs (which seem very small, considering). My advice to you? Suck it up. Three months aren't going to kill you and you may find out you like it better then you thought you did. New jobs are often awkward and you start to feel stupid because you don't understand how the company operates. And, since you are a new country, there is a new culture to go with it.

What I would do is first go to your manager and explain your concerns. She may be able to come up with a solution. Perhaps change some aspect of you job to make it a better fit for you. She doesn't really want to go recruiting again. However, if she's just as annoyed with you as you are with the job, she may feel it's the best deal to hand you a return ticket home and wish you well.

Unless the country you are in has laws that vary from this, they are under no obligation to pay for your return because you are "unsatisfied" with the job. If you, contractually, have to repay for terminating voluntarily in less than x number of years, you'll have to repay.

This can be one of the reasons jobs with relocation are so scary (both domestic and international). You don't really know if you'll love a job until you get there (or a town, for that matter). But, you're on the hook for a huge sum of money if you
don't stick it out. (Full relocation can cost a ton of money--especially international relcations. We're talking in excess of $100,000.) I advise people to relocate cautiously.

But, managers don't want an unhappy employee either. So, talk with your boss. Work on a solution. If that doesn't work stick it out three months and graciously resign. Getting yourself home will be on your own dime, but so be it.


Anonymous said...

I have a question from the other side of this. How do companies enforce agreements that require employees to pay back relocation expenses if they quit? What enforcement mechanisms do they have and do they really use those in reality? Is it more along the lines of them hoping that you'll repay but not being able to force you?

74editrix said...

Expat assignments are notoriously hard, and they can take 6-12 mos. before the expat feels comfortable moving/living in the new culture. (Longer than that even, in some cultures where outsiders are perpetually outsiders.) One month is nowhere near long enough to get a sense of whether the job will work out. Be patient, give yourself 3-6 mos. at least, talk to your boss about ways to feel more comfortable, talk to your co-workers and even neighbors to learn how to fit in. Then decide if you have it in you, and if it's worth your time. By that point, the 3 mos. should have passed in the process, and then you can make decisions less based on $$.

jaded her rep said...

One month does seem an awfully short time to have already given up on a new job - especially one involving a relo, where an adjustment period is expected. It's also hard to read into what "the welcome has been disapponting" means. Did they promise something they didn't deliver, or are folks just not doing cartwheels over the new employee as was hoped?

In answer to the 1st response, I would say it's just about impossible to recoup those costs, as it's too cost prohibitive to hire counsel, etc.. We've always been extremely careful in selecting anyone for international relo (almost always only internal employees, and then for very senior level employees).

HR Warden said...

My advice would also be to hang in there. Talk with your boss about your concerns but do it in a way that is helpful. Like, 'I want to generate a more positive atmosphere around here, what would you think of us trying ______?' Sometimes it takes someone with fresh eyes to see a situation for what it is and help bring about change. Best of luck to you!

Surya said...

Also, you might be doing this:

Evil, this is from MaryP; hope you agree with me here.

You need to adapt to the culture of your host country and your host office. Of course there are a lot of things that you think are wrong and can be improved, but you need to act as they do in order to be accepted and feel as a part of the group.

Also, set your expectations right. The rituals of welcome in your current workplace would be very very different from what you have been doing and expecting so far.

I have been relocated from my home country ( SE Asia, near the tropics) to another ( Near the North Pole)and it has been an amazing experience so far (11 months) - an expat assignment is a huge plus on your resume and it will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine.

Hope you enjoy yours.

Recent Trends in Human Resources said...

Reading your question reminds me of a similar situation which I faced when I hired a GM Quality for one of the known brands in the FMCG sector. The hiring company gave him a good jump with a joining bonus and also paid for the relocation expenses which included shifting and admission cost for his children. As a precautionary measure the company mentioned in the offer that if the he leaves within six months, he would have to pay all the cost back to them otherwise they can take a legal action against him. My candidate was quite apprehensive in signing the doc as if something goes wrong tomorrow, he would have to bear a huge cost. But I thank God that he liked the company and his work and its been now 1.5 yrs and he is still with them.

I have seen that at Senior levels, the organisations these days are taking precautionary measures to ensure that the cost of talent acquisition is controlled. Due to shortage of good resource, the cost of acquiring talent has gone up tremendously. The companies nowaday also take legal actions if the guidelines in the offer is not met by the candidate.


Anonymous said...

Our company almost never moves new employees to an overseas location - there are too many questions about the fit with the company and the job with new employees - let alone guessing their ability to cope with an Expat experience.

Having said that, we require transfer agreements, and enforce them (albeit we pro-rate them) through a couple of simple expedients...

1. We won't pay for your plane ticket home.
2. We won't move your household goods home.
3. We will withhold any final pay towards offsetting our costs.

Of course, should there be a good reason that the employee can't continue the tour, and will remain with the company, we will work with them.