I am a software engineer in a start up of a popular group of companies in my region. My usual work week is 0830-1730 weekdays. Before joining with the current employer, I was a full time lecturer for an educational institute. Due to my performance there both as a student and as a lecturer, they offered me to visit them as a Visiting Lecturer on weekends. This reputation has allowed me to leverage another contact and secure another offer from a different educational institute to visit them as well. I am very much pleased on both because, one I really really love teaching/mentoring and two, I am getting paid hourly, which sums up to a really good paycheck at the end of the month.

The lecture sessions that I am conducting at the moment were originally supposed to complete by 25th of October. However, due to a recent adverse security status of the country, things have changed and the deadlines were shifted by about a month, by the awarding bodies of the respective qualifications (yes, awarding bodies have accredited these institutes to offer their courses).

Meanwhile, the Director Finance (who happened to be the unofficial head of my company, as well as the proverbial right hand of the CEO and the chairman of the group, here after referred to as DF) called me upon in the evening of 8th August 2019, and told me that there is an offshore work on Telco in Japan, that they want to send me. For the record, I am one of the 4 employees of the company who are having the JLPT N3 qualification. Yet, my Japanese is not so good due to lack of regular usage. He told me about the offer told that I am to go there. I said I had no problems in going but I want to know the exact date. His answer was "we'll work it out as soon as possible". I didn't consider much about the lectures that I am already doing, as I was not told about an exact deadline.

A week passes by and, on 20th August 2019, I got a PDF of the travel itinerary via email, from the chairman's PA. I was shocked to see that it was dated to 1st September 2019. When I asked about this from our representative to Japan (who is involving in most of these cases) he told that we will be travelling on 7th September 2019, and the date they have put in the travel itinerary is for Visa processing purposes. This conversation took over the phone and I then and there objected on the date due to the fact that I can't get out of the lectures I am doing all in a sudden. He said there's nothing he can do and I will have to talk to the Director Finance. After hung up, I immediately dropped an email (on 22nd itself) to the Director Finance, CCing the relevant parties.

To be frank, I of course can drop those institutes a mail stating that I am not going to visit them for 3 months from 7th September. But that will burn the bridges for me, with those two institutes. I really don't want to compromise my hobby as well as my monetary benefits. Also, I am pretty sure that I am going to suffer from the guilt of abandoning those kids who are learning from me, when they need me the most. So for me, it's both a moral and professional problem, a problem about my professionalism.

The DF didn't respond to my email until the morning of 22nd August, and I have confronted him on the same day and told him about the situation and I will need at least 2 weeks from the target departure date (7th September). His response was it is not possible to negotiate with the Japanese counterpart and I should work something out to complete the work for those institutes by 7th September. Even though he eagerly starts all the conversations in English. Yet his English sucks and he ultimately ends up bullshitting the way out of the conversation without actually resolving the problem. Same happened with me also and I told that I would see what I can do and walked out. Then straight away I spoke to the head of outsourcing (who is a subordinate of DF and the superior of out representative to Japan) and disclosed the recent developments of the problem to him. He also was aware of the whole story as he was in the email loop.

Just to see if their suggestions are at least remotely practical, I spoke to my reports on each institute 24th(Saturday) August 2019. Before I confronted them I came up with a revised set of lesson plans that shrinks down the delivery time of the lectures so that I can complete the work by 21st of September the earliest. Both of my contacts at each institute insisted that it is a far far distant reality to complete the work by 7th September. I had my reasons and they had their reasons, so it was a fact that completing the work by 7th is bullshit. Yet, they agreed to provide full support to complete the work by 21st of September.

I came home and composed a reply to the previous mail chain, outlining the concerns from the institutes and the concerns I have. I have ended the email being very clear that the earliest and the best I can do is 21st September, and sent this email (this is on 24th). Without stopping at that, I have sent a Skype chat to the Representative, mentioning about the email.

It's evening of 26th and by now it is almost 2 days since the last email I have sent. I still didn't receive any update on the matter. I am determined to stand my ground and to not to leave until 21st September, which I will have to complete the work with those institute.

I am starting to feel like that there is a huge problem of professionalism in the senior people whom I am working with here in this company. I also have a very bitter past with them with a lot of acts of dishonesty and lack of integrity. All of these add a lot to the bucket of disappointment I have about the company. Still, I am in no position to leave until October 2020, as I am on a legally binding agreement with them to retain with them for 4 years (yes, the stupidest thing I have done in my life).

What else I can/should do to make sure I won't compromise either my full time employment or the hobby? Note that I do not really care about anything in the employment other than retaining it until the maturity of the agreement.

EDIT: Thanks all for your tremendous effort in clarifying the problem and pointing so much worthy probes to overcome the question. Anyway, I made a decision and turned in my resignation with additional room for them to find the back up options. As the Director Finance got to hear about my resignation, he called me in, looked at me with his eyes on the forehead and asked "Why?". I calmly yet strongly established that I am getting nothing in return for the effort I put. Thanks again.. :) Proves over and over why Stack Exchange is really really making a difference..

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    "I can't come to your institute for three months because my employer is sending me to work abroad" isn't going to burn bridges. – gnasher729 Aug 26 '19 at 12:14
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    Your employer gave you one week's notice that you will be in another country for three months? I am having trouble imagining people who can do that. – Kate Gregory Aug 26 '19 at 12:35
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    This sounds vaguely like a similar post from a few months ago here but I'm unable to find it. That said, this is a very long post and I think it would benefit greatly from being edited to condense it to the most important points to make it more approachable/readable. There's a lot of minor detail in here that I'm not certain is required. – alroc Aug 26 '19 at 12:39
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    @gnasher729 - are you sure about that? It sounds like the OP would be abandoning a bunch of students mid-course without a backup plan in place. If I were an educational institution (or an employer) and was paying someone to deliver a training course it would definitely burn bridges if the educator abandoned mid-course. – P. Hopkinson Aug 26 '19 at 13:12
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    Is it possible to pre-record video lectures for when you're out of the country or to do live video lectures while you're abroad? – HenryM Aug 26 '19 at 14:32

It sounds like you work full-time with your current employer, and the lectures are not employer-sponsored (not part of your job). It's great that your employer has been accommodating of your lecture work in the past, but there is nothing that requires your manager and others to continue being accommodating.

Here are some ideas of what you might consider:

  1. Talk with your manager and others in person - get the conversation out of email. Talking face-to-face can help to break down any animosity that may have built up over the email chain.

  2. Be direct about the issue - it's not the flight that is important. Focusing on the dates of the flight vs. your ability to take time away from work for the lectures only creates confusion.

  3. Tell your manager what you'd like to do, avoid asking permission. Tell your manager your schedule and location for the coming weeks, don't ask permission to change his/her plans. Asserting a rational plan of how to accomplish the work and the lectures will be taken better than asking permission for the lectures and expecting your manager to create the plan.

There are some tactical things you can do, like taking leave, but these will be specific to you and your employer. Best of luck with the situation.

  • Asserting a rational plan ... -> This I already have done. I spoke to my reports of the said institutes and devised a plan to shrink down the delivery from 2 months to 1 month. My problem is I came up with the best I can do, amidst of the situation they have put me. They are not willing to accommodate that. – Romeo Sierra Aug 27 '19 at 4:14

Generally speaking, your employer is not obligated to adjust your work schedule based on your hobbies or even another job. If you had this included in your contract, you might have some leverage, but you do not mention any such language.

If travel to clients in other countries is a known part of the job (which it appears to be), it is not unreasonable for them to schedule you for extended off-site work assignments. Their priority is service to the client and they should be allowed assign you to that task. They are not responsible for scheduling around adverse events that impact your hobby, even if that hobby is a paying job.

It appears you have been given 1 months notice of the assignment (Aug 8 through Sep 7) which also seems reasonable in an environment where client travel is known to be part of the job.

As is often the case when the demands of the job conflict with someone's personal interests/hobbies/2nd jobs, you have to decide which is more important to you. If you have an unbreakable contract with the employer, than you may have already implicitly made that decision and need to abide by it.

I do not believe it is unprofessional of your company and your managers to make decisions in the best interest of the company and its clients. Your outside interests are yours and in the end, the responsibility to address the conflict is on you not the company.

  • 1 months notice of the assignment (Aug 8 through Sep 7) -> Not really, I was notified about the target departure date on 20th August... – Romeo Sierra Aug 27 '19 at 4:27
  • @RomeoSierra, What date were you given on Aug 8? Were you given any timeframe? – cdkMoose Aug 27 '19 at 12:39
  • By 8th August, all I was told is that I will have to go and what I will be doing there (even this is not true to be frank). Nothing more about the timeframes than as soon as possible. This indirectly means that they were unsure of the exact dates by then. If so I think their question should have been How soon you can go?. Because they are very well aware of my commitments on weekends. – Romeo Sierra Aug 27 '19 at 13:17
  • I suspect they were more concerned with the client's timeline than yours, and that is how they should have approached it for the good of the company. – cdkMoose Aug 27 '19 at 13:35
  • Hmm... You are true I suppose. But shouldn't they be clear before they make a promise? I mean if they intend to send me, they should ask me if I have any concerns right? Assumptions is the mother of all mess ups. What if I had a personal reason like a health condition? They would still be in the same trouble wouldn't they? – Romeo Sierra Aug 27 '19 at 14:37

If I were in your place, below would be my course of action:

  1. Ask the other 3 coworkers if they are available and could cover me now by going. I would owe them one later.

  2. Ask the other 3 coworkers if I can swap with any of them in case any of them have a more preferable and convenient assignment. I would owe them one later.

  3. Check with Director if I can leave at a later date. But you have already tried, and this hasn't worked.

  4. Check with Director if I can come back early (say 1 month instead of 3), and allow the others to cover for the remainder duration.

  5. Check with university if virtual classes are an option. Agree to a reduced pay.

  6. If it has come to burning the bridges, decide which one is more important to keep, and burn the other. Apologize to the one being burnt, and ask them any way you can make it up. This could be returning the hours I have already billed.

  7. However, this step 6. leaves the students in the lurch. So, leave the job (employer is forcing with last minute long travel), and think about teaching full time if I really enjoy it so much.

  8. If teaching full time is not an option, leave the job, and find a new one. Make my weekend commitments clear this time, and pick a job that requires less disruptive travel.


"Still, I am in no position to leave until October 2020, as I am on a legally binding agreement with them to retain with them for 4 years (yes, the stupidest thing I have done in my life)."

Is it reasonable/normal for someone in your job role to work abroad?

This feels like a situation where you have to decide on a boundary and stick to it. We can't really advise where the boundary should be because we don't have (and don't want) exhaustive contract details and cultural context.

Where you draw the line will depend heavily on your obligations, liabilities, and judgement of the situation overall.

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