What Global Mobility Managers Can Do Should Talents Turn Down a Job Offer  

The first time a global mobility manager experiences this, their first reaction is one of shock. The second is concern — both for their colleague and themselves. After all, an expatriate or international assignment is one of the most sought-after or coveted in any industry or organization. It is a position where the smart and the driven are given their moments to shine — and in a global setting.

Globalization, or familiarity with the cultures, business practices, and traditions of another people, is also seen as a professional springboard where one can launch his career into executive levels. As the thinking goes, the more experience and knowledge you have in working with foreign markets, the more of an asset you can become once the parent company back home starts establishing branches or offices in those areas.

But there are those who do hesitate and do not jump at the chance, as is usually expected. Some of them go through the motions of supposedly mulling the offer and then turning it down. The reasons are varied:  unwillingness to move out of their comfort zone, close family ties or relationships that might be disrupted with an out-of-the-country assignment, or sheer disinterest. To these disinterested colleagues, not even a sweet compensation package can whet their appetite to move.

Then there are the horror stories that these young stars might have heard and which could have discouraged them from signing the dotted line. As the Harvard Business Review paints it, these candidates for foreign posts could have encountered some of their professional predecessors and didn’t like what they saw and heard. These seasoned expatriates finally came home after years on an international tour of duty and end up being disillusioned and demotivated, probably because they could not make the adjustment upon returning. Many of them end up resigning or avoiding another foreign assignment; the estimated rate of repatriate turnover is a very high 38 percent.

The young candidates take one good look at these burned-out veterans and say, “No, not me. Thank you.”

Still, there are consequences to saying no to a foreign post, which neither the global mobility manager nor their prized fighter can ignore. Management might see the reluctant candidates in a different light and doubt their drive, corporate loyalty, and motivation. Worse, the higher-ups might even think that the potential assignee said no because of actual lack of skills or competencies that could have allowed them to excel in the job.

Given all these factors, how should a global mobility manager handle what they see as incoming rejection of a candidate who is about to unknowingly torpedo their career?

First, the global mobility manager themselves must realize that they cannot “force” or compel the reluctant assignee or expat to take on the posting. Subtle warnings meant to trigger fear and insecurity will ultimately backfire. As the IESE Business School points out, studies have shown that expatriates or foreign workers who swallowed their misgivings and followed orders to work overseas without an ounce of willingness end up underperforming. Worse, they do not perform at all. These compelled expatriates shirk at challenges and crumble under pressure, compared to their colleagues who had signed on enthusiastically and willingly.

Second, the global mobility manager should take the time to find the proper and positive motivation that could persuade the candidate to take on the job. This would mean investing in conversations, more personal meetings outside the workplace, and a warmer approach to encourage the potential assignee to increase their trust in them. But the results would be worth it.

For example, the global mobility manager just might find out that the reluctant assignee just might go past his insecurities if it means having the opportunity to work in the tech capital of the world, Northern California or Silicon Valley. One can say the climate in Northern California all year-round should be irresistible enough but nothing beats having worked in Silicon Valley which could turn out to be the pinnacle of one’s career.

Finally, the global mobility manager cannot take a cookie-cutter approach when it comes to making the actual offer. This holds true especially if the candidate for the expatriate post is a millennial. Gone are the days when management produces an offer sheet and expects the candidate to just come onboard. Offers have to be flexible if they want the candidate to come in, enthused and raring to go. It may sound like having the proper accommodations don’t matter, but making them feel at home is even harder. California Corporate Housing thinks the job offer as much as one’s accommodation play a vital role when dangling an offer to potential hires. It’s about time companies help the naysayers see or visualize what they will be missing.