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Let me preface this by saying I am prepared to accept this may be impossible but it never hurts to ask so...here it goes.

Recently I decided to transfer to another location of the company I work for because I was unhappy with my previous geographic location. This move took me across the United States. My company offers a relocation package where they cover the cost of the entire move as long as you promise to stay with the company for at least 12 months. I cannot leave voluntarily or be fired "for cause." I was already not in love with the job but I thought the quality of my life would greatly improve if I lived somewhere that I greatly preferred to be.

I love where I live now but I am having major problems at work. I am feeling totally incompetent/unqualified and I have lost all interest in continuing my career. I was getting by at my previous location where I was working on a low priority legacy project but here it is the complete opposite. The required skillset is simply higher than I what I posses.

When I brought this feeling of inadequacy up to my manager, he began giving me more "simple" tasks but even those I am struggling to finish at a decent pace. I even mentioned switching to a different technical position but realized it wouldn't make a difference because I still don't have any interest in this line of work.

All of this has resulted in a constant feeling of anxiety and impending doom. Every moment of every day I feel anxious because I know that I am barely scraping by. Even when I am off of work, the only thing I can think about is the next day at work which terrifies me. I do not want to live the next 7-8 months of my life like this but I signed a contract and having to pay for a cross country relocation will be a massive financial blow.

I understand that all of this is my doing and I am paying the price for the decisions I've made. That said, what are, if any exist, my options besides repayment?

Edit: It's probably too late to include this detail but I have no desire to continue working in this line of work, for any company. I have poor stress management abilities and the anxiety is debilitating both at and outside of work.

  • What would be your future plans if you get out? Do you have a good chance of landing a good job elsewhere? – Daniel Dec 12 '19 at 23:47
  • Your options are either continue working there, or repay the relocation costs. The only way I can think of to offset that would be to find another job willing to pay you a signing bonus, which you can put towards paying back your current employer. – Kaz Dec 13 '19 at 13:54
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    How much are we talking about here? $20,000? $30,000? Your employer would be foolish to try to collect it all at once. Also, if you start paying it down every month, your employer would be foolish to ruin your professional reputation over that since you wouldn't be able to pay that money back if you no longer were able to get high paying jobs. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 13 '19 at 16:49
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    @Daniel I have decided the corporate life isn't for me and have no desire to land a good job elsewhere. Truthfully, I have been motivated by all of this to finally start my own business. I've begun setting things up and it's already showing early signs of promise. Nothing is guaranteed but I feel excited about my life for the first time since I can remember and know it will bring me satisfaction in the long run. – SoraPro Dec 13 '19 at 17:51
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    @SoraPro In that case I suggest to soldier through and use the time to prepare your business in your free time. I´ve been both freelance and part of a startup. You´ll need all the money you can get in the beginning - and $20-30k is a big hole in the budget. Also a lot of the prep work can really weigh you down once business starts running. So get all the legal, branding, ... etc. out of the way. 8 month is so not long for this! – Daniel Dec 13 '19 at 20:30
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There are no other options here. Either you work the additional time or you repay the relo.

Or you can try to talk them into another deal (forgiveness, pro rating) but that discussion is hard to have as it starts with "Well, so I want to leave even though I said I was going to stay and in good faith you paid to move me across the country." They don't really have any incentive to change it other than to "be nice to you," which might work if it's your boss's call but not if there's other teams, HR, legal involved.

A lot of people work jobs that aren’t their passion to put food on the table, so in general I’d counsel you to “get a grip.” Learn, work, do better. Your anxiety may be getting to a point where if you are unable to master yourself you should seek some professional therapist help.

Just leaving and refusing to pay may or may not result in them taking legal action to get the money back, but at a minimum it burns a reference hard. If I heard “he skipped out on his relo repayment” about a prospective employee, they'd be as hireable as Kryptonite. Or if I heard them say the sentence “There is always an option to get out of your obligations.” Both speak to poor character that would make it hard for me to engage in agreements of trust with them.

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    There is always an option to get out of your obligations, just got to go and talk to people and find out what the alternative is. Stating with no uncertainty that this doesn't exist is just wrong. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 13 '19 at 14:12
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This was going to be a comment, but I think it extends to an answer - however it is not the answer to your question.


I'd argue that you are in a great position(*). You love where you live now and you can't be fired for cause, and your manager is willing to work with you. So you actually have nothing you should be worrying about with your job itself.

However you may be suffering from some form of Imposter Syndrome such as mentioned in this question which may be being exacerbated by feeling trapped by the contract you signed.

My advice is that you should try to stick out that remaining 8 months - but to do so successfully you need to get back that personal spark that brought you to your company in the first place. That means working on yourself and what makes you you and working on methods that allow you control your anxiety and fears. That may also mean getting professional advice, but I am not qualified to to advise on that. Or it may mean taking a vacation and getting totally away from work for a bit.

I would also verify the terms of your contract with a fine toothed comb and look for any and every possible "out". Because even just the knowledge that you have a potential escape can alleviate some of the stress you are feeling.


*In saying so I am not trying to trivialize what you are feeling. You obviously are going through a very stressful period in your life right now.

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    I don’t think OP meant they can not be fired for cause, but rather if they are they have to reimburse the relocation. – AsheraH Dec 13 '19 at 6:38
  • This is correct @AsheraH – SoraPro Dec 13 '19 at 17:54
  • @SoraPro This language is ambiguous and caused my confusion I cannot leave voluntarily or be fired "for cause.". – Peter M Dec 13 '19 at 18:14
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From my experience, it is required to spend between 3-6 months before feeling comfortable after starting a new position. Also from my own experience, the harder I work at the beginning, the shorter this period turns.

I agree with spending some away, may be traveling, to tidy your mind.

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You have a very simple alternative to repayment - talking to your boss. While going strictly by the paperwork you owe the money, it's almost always not worth chasing for it, more so if you will refuse to pay on your own, and instead they will have to go after you to collect. That is expensive, and together with your seemingly okay relation with your boss, use this together to see what can you agree on.

There are many options, you can agree to pro-rate the fee by months left in the contract, or agree to the acceptable repayment plan, or even agree to just part ways with no money changing hands. More so if you will explain what you've explained to us - the crushing feeling you have, unable to relax and that you are leaving because of how the work impacts your mental health. Or maybe they will have another solution to help you grow into the role, without as much stress, who knows.

Worst case is that you may hear outright "no", but in my experience, that is unlikely if you are honest about the situation.

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    “When you are terminated for cause or misconduct, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. ... In some states, being fired for misconduct bars you from receiving unemployment benefits permanently; in others, it only prevents you from receiving compensation for a limited period.“ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 13 '19 at 14:32
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    Plus, it burns a reference hard. If I heard “he skipped out on his relo repayment” he’d be as hireable as Kryptonite. Or if I heard him say the sentence “ There is always an option to get out of your obligations.” – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 13 '19 at 14:34
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    @mxyzplksaysreinstateMonica Right, in some states, we don't know a state so we cannot assume the law. Also if they don't have enough for the cause now, speaking about wanting to quit due to mental health issues is not giving one. Actually makes it less likely, as now you've fired an employee after he raised mental health concerns caused by the workplace. More and more reasons to cut a deal instead. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 13 '19 at 14:35
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    @mxyzplksaysreinstateMonica And the "skipped out of relo repayment" is very much nonsense. This is not a detail anyone would ever pass when a potential employee calls for a reference. Not until you have a court judgment to collect the reloc money at least, as until then the money is not skipped on. And going to cour to pursue the money is expensive, and even then it's debatable whether you have the right to pass this information to anyone outside. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 13 '19 at 14:38
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    @mxyzplksaysreinstateMonica Also, as i had to brush up on over-the-pond law, to fire someone with "poor performance" as the cause, would require documented performance issues, and lack of improvement over a period of time. It's not as easy as saying "you don't perform, we can now fire you with cause", it's actually very rare to go this way, as it's too much of a gray line to take, opening you to a costly lawsuit/hearing. In that case, it's much better to agree to part ways, for both sides, and what usully happens. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 13 '19 at 14:46

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