Confessions of a benefits manager: Transfer rumours

The US-based head of mobility draws Candid into some dubious arrangements for drafting in a new head of sales in the Netherlands.

We have yet another person in charge of mobility. It seems to come with the job that the incumbent is rather mobile too. No sooner have they unpacked their desk tidy than they are off looking for another job. I can understand why. Head of mobility is on the list of difficult and dirty jobs, right up there with sewage workers and prison officers. They get so much grief, we should probably pay them a hardship allowance.

The new girl, Cindy, is based in the US, even though 99% of the international transfer activity is over here. Sometimes the thought processes of the Higher Beings amaze me. Big Bad Boss tells me Cindy has come from a big firm of consultants specialising in international tax, so she should know her stuff. Well, she should. But it is clear from her questions to me that she knows as much about pay and reward in Europe as I know about American baseball. I think her experience has largely involved moving people from Arkansas to Salt Lake City. Complex stuff.

Because I recently helped her with our expatriate medical cover, I am now her go-to person on anything she doesn’t know about Europe, which means everything in Europe. She rings me every day, and I am sick of it already.

Today, her problem is some guy we are hiring to head up the sales team in the Netherlands. For some reason that isn’t clear, rather than finding someone in the location where we need them, we are moving this guy from the US and keeping him on the payroll there. I suspect nepotism; there is a Dutch-American Higher Being on the board.

The new guy, Daan, is so demanding, he even has an extra ‘a’ in his name. He wants a penthouse apartment on the canal, even though the sales office is out of town. He wants four bedrooms even though he is on his own, and he wants an outsize wall-mounted TV as part of his relocation package because he had one at home. I don’t get it; we aren’t bringing him over to watch Dutch Housewives. Our philosophy is that neither the company nor the employee should profit from a move. Daan has other ideas; he also wants the largest, most expensive Mercedes in the fleet.

That’s where I come in. Cindy wants to know about the European car policy. All I can say is that even the European president doesn’t have such an expensive car. Yes, well, apparently demanding Daan had one in his last job. And, for some reason that defies all logic, he has been brought in at a higher grade than the European president. First of all, I don’t believe he had a car in his last job. Americans don’t give out cars other than to minor deities, and if they do, it will be a nice American saloon. Mercedes are imports and cost twice what they do over here; only pop stars have Mercedes.

Better car than his boss

Also, I don’t see how we can give Daan a better car than his boss in Europe, even if he is on a higher grade. I know how they do the executive grading in the US.They decide how much they need to pay someone, and then slot the grades in from there. Some of our programmers in the US are on executive grades. The guy Daan is replacing was a mere director, and that’s all Daan should be. We don’t even have grades in Europe at the level he has been hired: those grades are used only for company officers.

I tell Cindy to point out that the international mobility policy is to follow the host country’s car policy. She asks me to send her the international mobility policy. I am shocked to find she has been moving people around the world for the past two months without it.

We finally settle on giving Daan a smaller, less prestigious Mercedes that won’t offend his boss and complies with the host car policy. Phew. But we still both get several abusive calls from the Dutch guy. Too bad, Daan, that’s how it is.

It is less than a couple of months before I read the shock news that the Dutch-American big-wig on the main board has been fired. Well, the email said he had “left to pursue other opportunities”, but we all know what that means. On the same day, Demanding Daan is let go. I knew there was something iffy about that hire. It is not long before Cindy is on the phone again. As part of Daan’s agreement, we need to repatriate him, and his list of demands going back is as long as the one for moving over here.

Sometimes I think the more money we throw at someone when they are hired, the less likely it is that the appointment will work out. I was right about that this time. I wonder what those Dutch guys were up to. There seems to be a wall of silence around their leaving. Even Big Bad Boss doesn’t know.

Once Daan has moved back to America and disappeared off the radar, part of the story emerges. According to the local HR manager, it seems he stripped his furnished apartment and even took the company-owned TV with him. He had run up tens of thousands on his company credit card, none of which was business expense, and he has left the company with dozens of outstanding bills. Poor Cindy has been tasked with tracking him down in the US and somehow getting the money back. Hers really is a dirty job. I just hope she doesn’t need my help with that one.

Next time…Candid goes global on benefits.