48

Backstory:

3 weeks ago I got a call asking if I could go on a last minute trip as a tech consult (from USA to France). It was supposed to be a week long, but the last day I was asked if I could stay an extra few days while the rest of the team went home and figured out the deal.

Some of our guys come back mid-week. I overhear them on the phone saying “We’ll get 4 people over there next week. OP will be there until October.”

I awaited to be approached to see if that was ok, but they never asked. Thursday night I said “So what’s with everyone assuming I’m going to be here next week? My flight is tomorrow. I was only supposed to stay an extra 4 days, this is another week.”

Out of respect for the team that's coming in blind, I made it happen. I mentioned I wasn’t happy that nobody asked and I had to take initiative to extend my own trip on their behalf instead of being asked.

I’m now going on 17 days in a foreign country I was asked to go to for 5 days. They want me to go home for a few days and come back out. I’m not feeling the love. One of the VPs rolls in for a meeting, and when he’s done and it’s just us left, I bring it up that I was sold as an on-site engineer for the immediate future without being asked: “I’m really sorry for that oversight. If you can’t be on-site we can figure something out. Just think about it for a bit.”

Questions:

First, how can I communicate with my boss regarding this issue? I haven't really had any communication from them at all and I do not like being scheduled to live overseas for months without anyone asking. I am excited for the potential adventure but the lack of communication is really frustrating.

Second, I feel like this change certainly warrants some or all of:

  • A pay increase. I didn’t sign up for this
  • A vacation increase. Given that my vacation time will now be spent at home catching up on things I missed while away
  • By virtue of “skin in the game,” more stock?
  • A proposal from them stating exactly what to expect overseas. How much I can spend a week on lodging, transportation? I don’t have my car, so I’ll certainly make them pay for my personal transportation. How often can I come home? Can I bring my girlfriend?
  • Something to make up for the 3 weeks they kicked me around over here. A few days of vacation, maybe
  • Something about my huge role in closing a 7 figure deal. The sales guys who put less time in are getting a huge commission.

Something like that. I am not sure what I should be asking for from my boss given the large change in responsibilities (I originally was hired to work locally without traveling). What should I be requesting from my boss given the large life disruption and how should I approach this in order to get those requests fulfilled?

EDIT: Update for the folks who asked. My boss, who was out, ended up sending me an email saying "Don't commit to anything while you're over there. The way this went down isn't cool" - big sigh of relief. I got back home and had a conversation with him where I said "I'm going to start off with a rant, then we'll be constructive. I'm not a fan of any of the management of this project right now." I listed off all the reasonings, the messy parts, and what should have happened instead. He took a deep breath and said something along the lines of, "Man. They committed for me to be there too. They made the client believe every face they ever saw was going to be there often. It wasn't at the management level this happened. I obviously am not leaving my new born for this project. The PM and sales guys panicked and to make the sale they did this. We're going to be coming down on them for that." Both him and I agreed that a 75% allocation to that project would be appropriate and that extra compensation would happen. When they talked to the PM about my allocation, they started at 50% knowing he'd ask for more. Well, it turns out 75% was not enough, they sold 100% on-site people and would prefer spend 4 weeks to get a new guys ramped up on the ground than to have me only there 75% of the time. Now they're searching to see if they can pull somebody from a totally different department - a non-client-facing employee - to do it. It's actually a letdown. 75% allocation and extra pay would have been awesome, but I think bullet dodged if the PM acts this way often. The VP of the company I spoke with had no idea this was going on either and only heard the story from the PM's side.

End of the day, there's another client in the continental US that I'm probably going to end up traveling to instead. It's a shorter term commitment with a smaller audience and a less valuable contract, but now that I've set the expectation that extended travel isn't free, I'm hoping that one is prettier as it comes together.

  • 26
    Wouldn't you need some sort of special visa to be in this other country for 4 months on business? That usually has to be pre-arranged - how has your employer handled that? – alroc Jun 17 '16 at 11:29
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    @tries-to-be-unidentifiable I clarified to edit that and hopefully condense your question a bit and focus it on what you are trying to get - if this changed your post too much feel free to edit, I think it's more clear what you are asking now. I also cleaned up comments and I think I got all the relevant information from them into the question. – enderland Jun 17 '16 at 13:36
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    That is seriously rough. So what’s with everyone assuming I’m going to be here next week? My flight is tomorrow. I was only supposed to stay an extra 4 days, this is another week.” Was this conversation with boss or team? Next conversation with boss should be requesting full disclosure on their expectations, discussing compensation for effectively putting your life on hold, then discussing how to keep lines of communication open to avoid bad assumptions in the future. – Myles Jun 17 '16 at 13:52
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    About the "sales" guys, technically as far as I can tell, you are a pre-sales tech in this project... – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 17 '16 at 14:43
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    Were you asked to extend your stay and you changed your return flight accordingly? Or did you just overhear someone implying you were staying, and then adjusted your flight and stayed. Unless your boss specifically asked you to stay and changed the travel arrangements, are you SURE you're supposed to still be there? – thursdaysgeek Jun 17 '16 at 22:40
52

I was an international consultant and an expat for 7-8 years. The idea/impression I have got by your tale, is that you are being taking advantage of in order to take from you a negotiation leverage.

Stalling tactics, misrepresentation about your importance in the project/representation, hiding details about the importance of a project and often huge sums of money involved, and even flat out lying about limitations/problems in the terrain, are more the norm than the exception on these cases to minimize the compensation and maximize the profit.

The general idea is committing you to a project, and once you are in and abroad, out of view, and reporting to the customer, you cannot back out.

I would insist in coming back in your allotted flight, if not to prepare mentally your immediate family and yourself, and to bring stuff/suits more suited to a long stay.

As for compensation, usually, abroad and international positions are very well paid for technician consultants, and more so to sales people.

I was a technical consultant abroad, and I got complimentary flights home to visit family (that could be converted to another location or given to family), at least 2.5x my salary during the stay abroad, pocket money to spend, car, gas, accommodation, and often full expenses paid, depending on the project. I was also handsomely showered with training courses.

Senior/sales people often got 5x the salary, commissions on top (I have no ideia whatsoever of the value of the commissions), and often monthly flights home when kids and wife were involved.

Being abroad also entitles you to extra holiday days. Cant remember how many, it was significant, however it varies from country to country.

The market is not as strong as it used to be, however I doubt things have changed much in that respect...and you mentioning big organisations involved makes this answer much more relevant.

Usually there is also a vibrant expat community around/expat forums where you can try to double check the normal conditions offered to people in the same conditions.

I have lost already a relationship, and almost lost another due to these shenanigans, however it was my own personal choice. Do not let this happen to you, especially when you are not having any material gain in the process.

Do not embark in this without having a face-to-face conversation with your partner, and even then be wary of it. These projects tend to take longer on time, speaking from experience. e.g. it won't be only 4 months. Usually when in a committed relationship, this is not a decision to be taken only by yourself.

To get it down to earth. If I was being paid above 150k-200k I would not mind in professional terms to be moved overseas; if bellow, and without further compensation and an extended time overseas, I would fire myself. I would not linger for the end-of-year review. When we were proposed to move overseas in my company, people were very clear about the numbers and due compensation.

Bottom line: You are doing business, not messing up your life for the benefit of others.

P.S. For the benefit of other future expats; beware of offers without home OR without factoring the cost of a local home in the salary (for instance upwards 3K-5K Euros in Luanda for an apartment per month, 20K-30K Euros for a Villa per month or 300 Euros/night in the few "decent" hotels).

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    I've been reading your edits as they come in - thanks for spending the time to type it out and put things in perspective. It's certainly helping me come up with a list of things to prepare for and think about. – tries-to-be-unidentifiable Jun 17 '16 at 13:06
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    Do not overlook health-insurance for long stays. Your policy might not apply to France. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 17 '16 at 13:54
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    I have lost already a relationship, and almost lost another due to these shenanigans. This. Being abroad for long periods of time comes with a cost. Relationships is one. Talk with your family/significant other(s) and tell them what's going on (if you haven't already). And then talk with your boss. – Trickylastname Jun 20 '16 at 2:13
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    Last time I was interviewed for an expat position, I aborted the process at start, simply because they were clearly under representing the placement in the hierarchy due to being an headhunter working for another headhunter and both wanting their monthly cut without adding much value to the process. I was once in a huge FMI project, and while that was not hidden from us, what was not told was that the values of the project were to the tune of millions. Many (vague) promises were made about advancements in careers that were "forgotten" once they saw the project behind their backs. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 20 '16 at 6:34
  • FMI in my mother tongue, IMF in english. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 20 '16 at 6:56
17

Unless you have a visa that you aren't telling us about, as a US citizen you're currently working illegally in France. You need a work visa, and it can't be arranged while you're in France, it has to be arranged from another country. They may (I don't know for sure) ask why you were in France for an extended period just before applying for a work visa - it might cause issues.

In short, all this has to be organized at a higher pay grade than yours; and I agree that you need to be compensated for having to live and work in a different country away from family and friends.

6

So.. there's a few parts to this, and some of it is knowing for sure what outcome is acceptable to you, and the rest is the trust.

The Outcome

For some people, and indefinite amount of time overseas is a fun challenge. Putting aside how awful it is that you were NOT informed, you want to be clear with yourself on what the acceptable outcomes to you are.

Here's some possibilities:

  • Get back to your normal location or quit by a given date.
  • Be on assignment temporarily with a fixed date - but with a good temporary perk while you take on the assignment (for example, they pay for really nice living situations while your there, and you are able to rent your normal living space, making tons of money).
  • Change your job to one that facilitates this type of off site work by getting a title and salary increase
  • Get formally relocated for some (probably less definite) length of time.

You do want to know what your table stakes are for taking on a wildly different assignment that you were originally given for your job. This is not as much about what the company will allow - this is what the criteria are for you to accept.

Negotiation and Trust

The company broke trust with you. There's no way around that.

They asked you for one thing and continued to change the stakes without doing you the courtesy of even asking - it would have been easy enough to ask and the fact that no one even thought to ask you is a gross oversight.

It's OK to point that out, and to ask them to take extra steps to rebuild your trust. It's also OK to quit when that trust is broken - provided that you're OK not having a job for however long a new job hunt takes.

When I take steps - I mean make sure there are workarounds that should provide opportunity to prevent the lack of communication... for example:

  • have a weekly status meeting with the person in charge of travel commitments. Too bad if they don't have time for it - you can't be left out of the loop when you're at a foreign location.
  • require a meeting with your boss the day before you fly home, so there's a known opportunity for you to get information about the next steps in the plan.
  • that you are present whenever your time is committed in a foreign location, so you can be clear on the assignment with the customer/partner/host.

If trust-repair activities are not something your company can commit to, I would recommend that you seriously consider a different job - if it's not worth it for them to put in the time to fixing a communication problem, then you can rest assured that the communication problem will happen again.

4

Rui has a great answer but I would like to add to his.

Read your company's own HR guidelines on travel and overseas employment.

My company wanted to send me to the other side of the world to start a call center. It was in a militarized zone and I get "Where you a Navy Seal?" on a weekly basis in the US... So I was pretty high risk in this area. I didn't want to go for 6 months.

So I found three outs in my HR guidelines.

  1. Basically they would need to pay me for every minute I was working over there which they agreed to triple my pay. So bam I lost that one - well you might say I won but didn't want to go.

  2. I was going into a violent area. I had the right to ask for more health and life insurance. I asked for a $3 million life insurance policy. The company balked on this because basically had no idea what to do - this wasn't that expensive for them, they just had no mechanism to make it happen.

  3. And winner winner chicken dinner. My company required that all non contracted work overseas required that they send the employee home every 2 weeks to see their family. Not only that but over 5k miles required first class tickets. So I told them straight up that I would be flying back and forth every 2 weeks, even if it meant me being in the US for 5 hours and returning. The flights would have costed them almost 200k. This broke them. My manager hated me after that... I didn't care, she was gone in a year and the helpdesk flopped.

  • Thanks for the comment. As an expat I do warn others that is not advisable in the first year to stay abroad for lenghty periods of time, specially in very differents cultures and/or hostile places. The ideal is 1 month, 3-4 months at most before having a "break" – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 27 '16 at 12:01
2

Your company seems to have missed that there are legal consequences to living and working abroad for four months.

In most countries, you will need a work visa to work there for four months. For example, in Germany, you would become a resident, and you would also become a tax resident, with all the consequences that this has (which your company probably doesn't know about).

And if this happened to an EU citizen living in the UK, leaving the UK for more than three months will be very, very detrimental to your chances of getting indefinite leave to remain, or getting a UK citizenship. Similar situations probably happen in other countries as well.

-2

I would assess how strong is my position within the company and how strong the company is.

I've been a tech consultant for many years with extensive EMEA travel to fulfill my assignments. Employees willing to travel to customer's locations are always the last selected for layoffs.

If your company/department is or might be in troubles, accept the job. They will mantain your job for sure. It's an insurance policy billing your time where your company hasn't offices.

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    Uh, no. No, no, no. Just, simply, no. No. You seem to reply solely to the title. What's at stake here is a relationship, 4 months of normal life lost, and - judging by the looks of it - OP isn't going to gain anything out of that. Who cares about getting laid off if you're working for a company trying to take you out, seriously. – Seth Jun 17 '16 at 13:36
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    Is that person based in US with 6% of unemployment or is he based in Spain or Italy or Greace with more than 20% of unemployment ? Cuuntries and situations are different. I never said he should not ask for good travel conditions with frequent flight backs and good hotels. Is that person over 50 years old with dificulties for finding new job or he's a young man with bright future. THat's the reasion of the self assessment – JavierP Jun 17 '16 at 18:36
  • Ultimately, the company only has to provide to the OP whatever's in their work contract and mission-related paperwork. However, unless their job title reads "slave" and they have specific reasons to fear unemployment, consultants usually have a huge negotiation opportunity in such cases. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 8 '17 at 9:27
-5

Talk to your manager. "Next time, ask me. Meanwhile, this extra effort and extreme flexibility will be reflected in my end-of-year review, right?" Listen carefully to the answers and decide where to go from there.

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    I don't think waiting until your review is a good idea with this for a whole variety of reasons. – enderland Jun 17 '16 at 12:46
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    @enderland: I didn't say wait. I said ask and decide based on that. If the answer is "yeah, you've just guaranteed yourself a Greatly Exceeded Requirements", that's one thing. If it's "yeah, we'll think about it' that's another. Interpreting between the two, or pressing for clarification, us up to the OP. – keshlam Jun 17 '16 at 12:50
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    Would you truly take on the hassle of staying overseas for 4 months, without any compensation for your efforts, while possibly risking your relationship, only to get a better EOY-Review? Would you? Because I would most definitely not, not without proper compensation. – Seth Jun 17 '16 at 13:39
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    @seth: I have done exactly that, getting a bonus and three months paid leave. Not everyone has management too stupid to reward dedication. Though I admit that decent management, even on old-style paternalistic corporations, is becoming scarce as everyone adjusts to the "no loyalty" environment. – keshlam Jun 17 '16 at 17:42
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    And I grant that "without asking" does suggest less than stellar management. – keshlam Jun 17 '16 at 17:45

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