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5 Red Flags That a Transferee Might Not be Successful

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

Nobody can see the future, but sometimes when you look back at all of the clues, you realize you should have.

Not everyone is cut out to move their lives to another country. An assignee might have a problem adjusting, or an inflexible or dysfunctional family. An assignee may be out of his or her depth and not be as ready to climb up the corporate ladder as upper management thinks. Or maybe there are circumstances beyond everyone’s control.

So what do you do if you believe a transferee is likely to fail?

A Balance to Be Struck

It’s tricky, concedes Joanne Danehl, who is based in Chicago with Crown World Mobility and has the title of global practice leader–intercultural and language training and partner support.

“There is a balance to be struck between respecting the confidentiality of the training environment and meeting our obligation to our clients to support a successful global mobility program.”

In other words, often if you know in your gut that a transferee will probably be successful with an assignment, you may just feel that your job is to make sure you work extra hard to ensure your transferee has all the tools to do theirs—and then stand back. After all, you can’t see the future.

But if you suspect that this transferee is going to be a disaster, and you have evidence to back up your gut feeling, then yes, many relocation specialists say, sometimes you do need to speak up.


In any case, if you’ve ever wondered if there are clues you can look for that will signal whether a transferee is going to be a success or not … there are.

Related: Tips for Achieving Family and Assignee Success

A Transferee's Spouse Isn't Happy About the Move

An unenthusiastic partner is all too common, and every relocation professional has likely dealt with it at one time or another. Of course, a spouse dreading a move technically shouldn’t hurt the transferee’s ability to do his or her job, but an unhappy home life will frequently spill into the workplace.

“The biggest red flag is a negative mindset,” said Meredith Ryncarz, a Birmingham, Alabama–based wedding photographer and business coach. She works with business owners who end up relocating when the spouse has to move due to a corporate relocation. Ryncarz added:

“Having an unenthusiastic view of the impending move will vastly affect the success of their relocation as well as the overall well-being of the family moving with them. … It oozes out into how that person performs at work and how they behave in everyday life.”

Danehl agreed. She recalled the spouse of a high-level executive who didn’t want to move to Hong Kong: “She was not excited by the small living [space] situation or leaving behind her friends.”

It became very clear to everyone involved during a solo intercultural training program that the spouse wasn’t looking forward to the move. “During the discussion on global competencies, she became frustrated and tearful before becoming angry,” Danehl said.


There were also little, subtle clues that the spouse dropped, hinting at trouble ahead, that only a well-trained relocation specialist or perhaps a seasoned detective would be able to spot. “She stated that she wanted to push local nationals out of the way and into the road because she hated everyone so much,” Danehl said.

OK, maybe the clues weren’t all that subtle.

Related: Think Bold: The Human Needs Behind the Business of Global Mobility

Danehl said that in this case, she did go to the client to discuss the spouse’s behavior, “since it went beyond common anxiety about change and jeopardized the success of the assignment.”

There was more training and more communication, and the transferee and spouse went to Hong Kong as planned. Not so surprisingly, the assignment didn’t go as one would hope. “Despite our best efforts, she returned home before the first year was up,” Danehl said. “The employee remained in the host country.”

Read the rest of this article in the October 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

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