Don’t rush to turn down work travel
Q: My company asked me to take a six-month position at another office — in another country. It would be extra work, since I’d be responsible for my current role and the one I’m covering. Honestly, I don’t want to go. Can I turn it down? If not, is it unreasonable to ask for more money, an apartment, and company-funded flights home every month? I’m trying to balance my personal life with what’s good for my career.
A: You’re clearly reluctant about the prospect, but it’s important to understand that this temporary position offers benefits and learning opportunities. Gaining global experience is a valuable, long-lasting career advantage that many employers will look highly upon, so I wouldn’t recommend dismissing the idea right away.
The question really is: Why don’t you want to go? Will it be too much work? No one can do two full-time jobs well, so have a discussion with your employer about expectations and job responsibilities.
Do you not want to go because of the travel involved? Let’s look at everything you’re asking for. It’s reasonable to ask for financial accommodations and travel benefits to maintain a personal life while you’re away. Depending on the distance, monthly return trips might be in order.
Organizations that move employees to distant locations always provide support with their living situation, whether it’s through company housing or financial support for finding and renting accommodations. Find out how temporary housing and moving expenses are handled, and if you determine the benefit is greater than your fear and the risk, this has the potential to be a fabulous opportunity.
If you ultimately decide not to go, recognize that you’ll likely be known as the person who turns down opportunities and isn’t supportive of the organization. This means you may find yourself being passed over for other chances to advance, even if you’re interested. Senior leadership may view you as someone who isn’t a team player, isn’t serious about career advancement, and isn’t committed to the organization.
Others in your situation would consider this as an exciting opportunity and be eager to explore other cultures and branches of the organization, while some, like you, view it with more trepidation.
Of course, there are situations that present legitimate barriers to a temporary relocation, and if that’s the case, communicate them clearly. Perhaps you are the primary caregiver for ill or elderly parents, or you have young children. There are always circumstances that others can relate to and would help them recognize that this move might not be possible for you. But these circumstances don’t have to be deal breakers — your organization might just offer to let you bring the kids and pay for a nanny, too.
It sounds like you lack information about what the move involves, and your gut reaction was to say no. My advice is always to listen and ask questions — find out more. Identify the obstacles and have a candid conversation to see if you can make it happen — after all, they chose you for a reason.
You don’t need to abandon your own life for the needs of the company, but always explore fully before you let “no” be your default answer.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.