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I was working on a project in the specific city (as a project lead) where I was in the client location for about 6 months. After working there for 6 months, I expressed a desire to move to another city so that I would be closer to family and friends.

Since I had established a very strong relationship with the client, the client was perfectly willing to let me relocate as long as I continued working on that project remotely as they really appreciated my work. This was communicated to all my managers, directors and clients and they were all perfectly on board with it.

Recently a new senior director has come on board who was looking at some of the issues which have arisen in the project (which had to do with resourcing - not something I deal with and he raised a point that it does not make sense for the project lead to be working remotely). My manager immediately agreed and is now insisting that I relocate back to that city immediately despite me constantly telling her that I am not willing due to personal reasons.

The client has clearly stated that they don't mind me flying out once in a month to work at their office location for a short duration (like 3-4 days) as long as my company is paying for the airfare and accommodation. This was agreed upon long back and I am wondering if I should bring this up as well.

My questions are as follows

  1. How do I clearly explain to her that I am not willing to move?
  2. How do I highlight that forcing to me move against my will will only affect my willingness to continue working in the project (I am key to the project since I am one of the very few people with knowledge about the functioning of the project and the client has openly said that my current company is extremely lucky to have me)?
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    The fact that your manager made a complete 180 and is insisting that you move back is a huge red flag to me. Even if the client loves you, I'd recommend actively looking for a new position at this point. – Lilienthal Dec 21 '15 at 16:13
  • Does the employment contract allow them to force you to relocate? It is just odd that the client does not pay for expenses. Did you happen to live in the that city when you were assigned to the project? – paparazzo Dec 21 '15 at 17:13
  • No,its just that this a fixed bit project and relocations were not factored into the project cost when estimating it. – anon Dec 21 '15 at 17:37
20

"No"

You'll want to phrase it a little bit better ("Hey, we went through this all 6 months ago, and everyone was fine with it", "The problems we're having are X, Y, and Z, which have no bearing on me being remote"), but in the end you just say no. Be clear. Be firm. And get your resume up to date. Because their only recourse is to fire you - they can't make you move.

Once they're clear about your limitations, you can work from that common understanding. Too many people in these situations don't speak up. That leads to misunderstanding, feelings of being blindsided, and badness all around. Yes, speaking up might get you fired, but it's much more likely to lead to you and your company working something out.

  • And it's more likely to lead to your missing a promition than being fired, if the rest of your work is good. – keshlam Dec 21 '15 at 15:44
  • @keshlam - I'd argue that working remote already did that, but yes. – Telastyn Dec 21 '15 at 15:48
  • The biggest point here is to not beat around the bush. Make sure there could be no other possible way to understand what you are saying than "I will not relocate." – David K Dec 21 '15 at 16:05
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    I've added quotes to your answer to make it clear that it's a suggested response that the OP can use. Typically a bold No on this site is interpreted as answer to the central question by the OP ("Is it okay if I X?"), so perhaps consider rephrasing it to "Relocating is not an option for me" or something similar that's clear but concise. – Lilienthal Dec 21 '15 at 16:10
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    @gnasher729 Ideally, the OP should be working together with the company to find a solution that works for both him and the company. If his only response is to flatly refuse to move, then it makes the conversation a lot more hostile than it potentially needs to be. From the employer's perspective, a flat refusal to move may cause them to think they have only one choice: accept the status quo or fire him. In reality, there may be other productive solutions that neither side is considering. – Eric Dec 21 '15 at 17:26
4

Your employer is insisting that you do something in order to continue your employment with your employer. While they cannot force you to relocate--unless it were say the US Military--they could certainly terminate your employment--unless there were some sort of contractually agreement between you and your employer on this point.

As I see it, you have three choices.

1) Relocate as your employer insists.

2) Quit or be terminated and go elsewhere.

3) Try to negotiate the issue with your employer.

It sounds like you want to pursue Option #3. If so, then you may need to change the language you use with your Manager. Whether you are willing to quit or not, do NOT focus on that aspect of the conversation. Turn it into a positive argument about your continued employment with the company and at your current location is the ideal for both of you. If you simply insist upon this being right for you, then you are going to lose and you might as well just pull the cord and exercise Option #1 or Option #2.

Try something like this in a one on one, face to face, communication with your Manager.

"Hi Boss. Thank you for meeting with me. When I relocated, we talked about this and all agreed this was a Win-Win situation for both the company and me. I understand there is a desire for me to relocate back, and I believe it would continue to be a Win-Win for me to remain where I am. What are your thoughts on this?"

Be brief and ask an open ended question, then shut up and stop talking. Let your Boss respond. See where they are at on the subject. Maybe they are willing to discuss it further. Maybe they are willing to let you remain where you are, but someone higher up like the New Senior Director is overriding them. Maybe they are convinced that it's best for you to relocate and their heels are dug in. Whatever the case, don't invest a lot of time and energy in your argument if their mind is made up and the issue is non-negotiable.

If they are willing, then be prepared when they talk about it, ask questions, and the like. Maybe they would be willing to negotiate a change to your current situation such as having you be physically in the office half of the time, or one week out of the month, or something else. Don't immediately say no to these possibilities, even if you know in your mind the answer is Absolutely Not. Be willing to hear them out and consider other possibilities because that is what you are asking them to do.

Be prepared to argue the value you provide from your current location. Try not to make it personal, even though being close to your family is a personal issue. The company, and the New Senior Director, are likely thinking in terms of pure dollars and cents and your personal situation doesn't make one danged bit of difference to them. However, you do want to bring up Work/Life Balance and how your physical location fulfills that.

Practice this conversation at home, in front of the mirror, and with a family member acting in the role of your Boss. Whatever you do, don't make any threatening statements like, "If you insist upon this then I'm going to quit" or "You can't make me move back there." They know they cannot make you move back there, and they already know about Options #1 and #2. You want to keep the focus on Option #3.

  • "Win-Win for me" is an interesting twist on a win-win where both parties are supposed to win. If he really says this with a straight face, he might have a career in marketing :) – nvoigt Dec 21 '15 at 23:01
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    I think you need to look at the entire phrase of "Win-Win for me to remain where I am." If one wanted to wordsmith it, one might say "Win-Win with me remaining where I am." – Kennah Dec 22 '15 at 17:42
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Digging your heels in and telling them you're refusing to move should be a last resort - and probably come after you update your resume.

Here's the simple truth: It's in your company's interest for you (the project lead) to be out there. It makes them look good. It makes your bosses feel better. There need not be an actual, logical reason other than that when future issues arise they can blame it on you :-)

Which is basically what they did anyway:

Director: We had issue X come up. Why did this happen?
Manager: Oh, we had a staffing issue, and ...
Director: A staffing issue? Where was the project lead?
Manager: He doesn't live there ...
Director: What?! Get him out there now. <- this is not a logical next step, just a knee-jerk reaction.

At that point it doesn't matter if it's your fault, or if you being there could have prevented anything. All the company cares is that an issue occurred, made them look bad, and blaming you for not being there is their knee-jerk reaction to removing blame for themselves/looking like they're doing something about it.

And so at this point you have to watch out for your own interests, which clearly conflict with the company's. As I said, if you dig your heels in you're not going to get any sympathy - you'll simply be seen as uncooperative.

Instead, the best way to get what you want while still being a team players is to agree with them that there's a problem, and come up with a "solution" which doesn't involve you moving. Spin it so that remaining where you are is beneficial to the company, not simply to yourself.

Hi your manager's name, I understand your concern about my presence on the project site. However, please consider that my presence there is completely unnecessary for day to day operations. Any problems which crop up in my area of expertise can be resolved remotely. This saves the company money by not paying for my expenses out there (idk if this is true or not, but it's something they would care about, so think along these lines), not to mention that I much prefer staying here for personal reasons.

Unfortunately, from the way you've expressed yourself it sounds like you've had this conversation with your manager several times already, and that no good has come of it. If you've already painted a picture of yourself - in her and the director's eyes - as being unwilling to cooperate, then in their minds they will most likely start to attribute the project's shortcomings on you (the director because he doesn't know any better, and your manager because she would much rather you were blamed than her).

I would get my resume ready if I were you.

  • Valid point, I dont see myself getting laid off for now since they dont have anyone who can replace me in that role for now but I better start looking out. – Frank2014 Dec 21 '15 at 17:32
  • Your depiction does not match what I am reading. "He (sr) raised a point that it does not make sense for the project lead to be working remotely. My manager immediately agreed." OP is asking how to deal with mgr (her) not the senior. Right or wrong (as I read it) OP feels like mgr just caved to a question and has the power to force or not force the relocation. You mix big boss, boss, and director. Not clear who you are talking about. – paparazzo Dec 21 '15 at 17:32
  • @Frank2014 - it's an unpleasant situation to be in, and I hope it works out well for you! – AndreiROM Dec 21 '15 at 17:39
  • Now imagine a complaint from the client arrives not at at the manager, not at the director, but at the CEO: "What the hell is your director up to? XXX has been doing excellent work for us for years, and now we hear that your director wants to get rid of him for no good reason at all? " – gnasher729 Dec 21 '15 at 20:49
  • @gnasher729 - the OP would be lucky to have such strong support from them, but even then you never know what will happen in office politics. – AndreiROM Dec 21 '15 at 21:10
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How do I clearly explain to her that I am not willing to move.

Something like "Sorry, but at this time I'm not willing to move." If you like, you can explain the reasoning behind your decision.

Of course, depending on the company and the circumstances, this decision may come at the cost of your job. Only you can decide if it's a worthwhile gamble or not.

I was told that I was going to be put in charge of a group in another state. It would have involved periodically travelling. I told the company that I was not willing to do that, since it wouldn't work for my family situation, and that they would have to find someone else to manage that team, which they did. But I was willing to walk if necessary. It turned out that it wasn't really necessary.

How do I highlight that forcing to move against my will will only affect my willingness to continue working in the project (I am key to the project since I am one of the very few people with knowledge about the functioning of the project and the client has openly said that my current company is extremely lucky to have me)

You indicate why this doesn't work for you. And if pressed, you make it clear that this is so important that you will be forced to leave the company.

0

This might not be a direct answer to your question but more of an addition to some of the answers.

Prepare for the follow up: It might just be possible that you might lose this project. If that happens write a big thank you e-mail to EVERYBODY you had contact with at the clients location: Emphasize that it was a pleasure to work with them and that you regret not being able to continue working with them.

The goal is to get a reaction out of your client. "What happened to Anon Anundson? Why can't he continue working with us?" "Well he didn't want to relocate to your area..." "But we were fine with his remote work. Can't you keep him involved? It will take years to get the new guy up to speed". If it works you are in a good position to negotiate. If not you were just nice to an important client.

  • Playing politics like this can severely backfire. If you're going to do it, you need a strong plan B. Your bosses will probably not like getting pressure from a client in response to your email. If you're reallocated, it's best not to say anything, and let the client ask awkward questions like "Where did Anon go?" – PeteCon Nov 26 '18 at 18:03
  • @PeteCon What's the difference? Either the client puts pressure on or the client doesn't, and it's hardly going to matter if OP emails the client. As Bobbyy Tables points out, it's being nice to an important client. OP doesn't want the client to think OP's just slipping away in the night because OP doesn't care. – David Thornley Nov 26 '18 at 21:33

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