Expatriate Assignments - The 18 Mandatory Requests
ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Dennis was considered a rising star in the field of financial management software. At 39, he'd risen steadily over the years, and now worked for the third largest financial management software distributor in the U.S. As his company's National Sales Manager, he had taken company sales higher and higher for four years straight. He'd also expanded sales into the area of financial management for non-profit organizations, a fast-growing niche. His future seemed very bright.
His company's sales in Europe, though, had lagged repeatedly. Despite several changes in their European sales leadership, sales volume continued to disappoint. When the company's CEO asked Dennis if he'd consider a two-year stay in Germany to rebuild the European software sales team from the ground up, Dennis was receptive. His wife was supportive, and since the kids were just 5 and 8, they seemed still young enough to be very adaptable. Dennis and his wife viewed the assignment as a great career opportunity, as well as a great family adventure. And that it was.
Four months later, Dennis, his wife and the kids had arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany, a charming yet vital city. They'd leased their home in Dallas for the two-years they were to be away. The kids were in an English-speaking school attended by other elementary-age sons and daughters of other expatriate parents. Their Dusseldorf house was leased for them, and even the household help were arranged by the company's local representatives. Dennis planned to revamp the European sales team from the bottom up, one by one, with local salespeople to be identified by local executive recruiters. Initial hiring efforts were promising.
Then came the truly unexpected: seven months into the new assignment, with little warning of any kind, the company was sold to a French conglomerate, with their own ideas about European software sales, and their own Director of Sales, too. Dennis was notified that his services were no longer needed, but that he would be given a fair and reasonable severance package. Dennis inquired about arrangements for his family's return to Dallas, including such things as return flights home, shipping the family's belongings, and finding his family a home in the Dallas area. He was assured that all of his concerns would be addressed.
The rest was, as we say, "not nice." Dennis was presented with a separation agreement that, he was told, had to be signed before he could find out what assistance he and his family would receive in returning home. When Dennis balked at signing it, his salary payments were halted. Then tuition payments stopped. Even their housekeeping services were withdrawn. The people who'd assured him he'd always be treated like "family" were, themselves now "divorced" from the company. HR representatives who he knew for years told him they were powerless to intervene. Dennis was now dealing with people at the new parent company he'd never worked with before. Unfortunately, he had nothing in writing that would give him a legal right to anything.
LESSON TO LEARN: An overseas, "expatriate" assignment can be a "feather in your cap," a step in the path toward being assigned greater responsibilities. But going "expat" involves a multitude of risks, and unusual ones at that. If there's ever a time to "fold your parachute first," it's before you "fly away" on an overseas assignment, taking your family, your household, and your career with you. While the vast number of expatriates who travel overseas come home with fair, reasonable and proper treatment, those who get into difficulties in this regard find themselves in some of the most difficult and harrowing circumstances you might imagine. Before you make the move to an overseas assignment, there are certain requests you must make, and certain written assurances you shouldn't leave home without. Whether your company has a comprehensive expatriate program or none whatsoever, before agreeing to take the overseas assignment offered to you, consider our "Expatriate's18 Mandatory Requests."
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