Q: My company asked me to take a six-month position at another office—in another country. It would be extra work, since I’d be responsible for my current role and the one I’m covering. Honestly, I don’t want to go. Can I turn it down? If not, is it unreasonable to ask for more money, an apartment, and company-funded flights home every month? I’m trying to balance my personal life with what’s good for my career.
A: Congratulations on the vote of confidence from your employer that this offer represents! You’re clearly reluctant about the prospect, but it’s very important for you to understand what the benefits and learning opportunities in this new position are. Gaining global experience is a valuable, long-lasting career advantage that many employers will look highly upon, so I wouldn’t recommend dismissing the idea right away.
The question really is: Why don’t you want to go? Do you not want to go because it’s too much work? No one can do two full-time jobs well, so have a discussion about your employer’s expectations around job responsibilities. There will likely be some responsibilities of your current role that you would take with you, while others might be temporarily delegated until your return—getting these details first is important.
Do you not want to go because of the travel itself? Let’s look at everything you’re asking for. It’s very reasonable to ask for financial accommodations and travel benefits to maintain a personal life while you’re away. Depending on the distance, monthly return trips might be reasonable, and individual circumstances will impact that. Organizations who move employees to distant locations always provide support with their living situation, whether it’s through company housing or financial support for finding and renting accommodations. Find out how temporary housing and moving expenses are handled, and if you find the benefit is greater than your fear and the risk, this has the potential to be a fabulous opportunity.
If you ultimately decide not to go, recognize that you’ll likely be known as the person who turns opportunities down and who isn’t supportive of the organization. This means you may find yourself being passed over for other opportunities within the organization where you actually have interest. The senior leadership may view you as someone who isn’t a team player, isn’t serious about career advancement, and isn’t committed to the organization. These are the potential consequences of being asked by the organization to help in a time of need and saying no. Others in your situation would see this as an exciting opportunity and be eager to explore other cultures and branches of the organization, while some, like you, view it with more trepidation. If your company doesn’t see you as a risk taker and that’s what they need, that won’t support your advancement.
Of course, there are situations that present legitimate barriers to a temporary relocation, and if that’s the case, communicate them clearly. Perhaps you are the primary caregiver for ill or elderly parents or have young children. There are always circumstances that others can relate to and would help them recognize that this might not be possible for you. But these circumstances don’t have to be deal breakers—your organization might just offer to bring the kids and pay for a nanny, too. If it’s a good opportunity, explore every option to make it happen.
It sounds like you lack information about what the move involves, and your gut reaction was just to say no. My advice is always to listen and ask questions—find out more about the role, what they want achieved, how compensation is handled, and any other concerns you have. Identify the obstacles and have a candid conversation to see if you can make it happen—they chose you for a reason after all. You may be missing something terrific if you decide not to go. You don’t need to abandon your own life for the needs of the company, but always explore fully before you let “no” be your default answer.