The Aborted Move

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. It’s been a very stressful week.

Back before Christmas, my husband received a very casual offer of job seven hours’ drive from our current location. It was an area that we wanted to move to, but the offer was for an entry-level position and my husband is celebrating his 10-year anniversary with the company this year. It would have been his fourth lateral move with no job-related increase in pay or position. They really wanted someone more experienced to fill the position. They were unable to post the position outside the company due to a hiring freeze and had searched throughout the company to no avail. We turned it down.

Over the course of the next month and a bit, his managers switched from feeling it was not the best role for him to trying to push him to accept it if he wanted to move, saying that more opportunities would be available in the future for advancement in that area. He began to reconsider. Despite being told that if he asked them to put together an offer and he didn’t accept it he could have his career held back, he asked them for a firm offer to review.

We waited a month for this offer, with the managers never responding when they said they would, and touching base only sporadically. When we finally did receive the offer, Tuesday of this week, it was for no change in salary or authority, a basic moving package, and a start date of April 2.

This hit us like a ton of bricks, especially our daughter. Yes, we had been planning for a possible move, but we always knew we would have to build a house, because moving into a rental property or an existing house would likely not be acceptable. Rental properties in our area must be painted between tenants, making it impossible for me to live there for up to three months, and we didn’t want a drywall-filled, painted home in which we could not redecorate or make repairs. We had been playing with house designs on our own, but hadn’t come to any firm designs that we liked. Three weeks was no time for us to be trying to design a house, find a property, and arrange for builders.

I immediately called a realtor and builders and architects, trying to figure out if we could get the process started. Meanwhile, my husband began to attempt to negotiate the start date and moving package to better accommodate the tight deadline. To be fair, with his existing job responsibilities, he would not even be able to make a house hunting trip until two weeks from the offer deadline, and two weeks of house hunting time were supposed to be allowed. Three weeks before the start date minus two weeks of existing job responsibilities equals one week remaining for house hunting. We would not even have been able to use the full house hunting allowance, and delays in securing a property would mean delays in closing and building. I also started researching hotels. We were afforded one month of hotel accommodations and meals before having to move into a place of our own, and I needed a hotel that would allow pets (likely to use more deodorant sprays) and be willing to take allergy-safe cleaning measures, without too much fragrance build-up in the rooms.

We kept running into the issue that we would not be able to make repairs to our current house until I moved out, delaying the listing of our current property. We also needed to house hunt as a part of the month of temporary accommodation, close on a property, and arrange for a trailer to be placed on the lot until we could build. The combination of three-week start date, only one month of temporary accommodations, and very little other accommodation were posing a serious difficulty to our needs, even though the moving package included a lot of benefits that we would be unable to make any use of, such as spousal job training and job search, rental contract cancellation assistance, restaurant eating for our entire family for a month, and even the house hunting trips. We knew that this would be hard, but hoped that adjustments we could negotiate would at least make it possible.

Signing - Move AgreementThe first attempt at negotiating the important terms ended in the manager saying he was unable to change the offer letter in any way, that the start date was firm, and that he would be willing to allow my husband to take time off here and there around his work load, if reasonable, to house hunt. This was not even close to enough. My husband then contacted his company’s HR department, who said that the moving package could not be changed, but the offer letter could be and was usually changed to reflect changes needed to the moving package. They also said that in cases with such a short time line, like this one, it was common to extend the hotel accommodations, noting that two months of temporary accommodations was pretty normal.

We tried again, this time asking for additional time in a hotel to help us to actually close on a new property before having to move out of the hotel and money to cover the two mortgages we may have to cover simultaneously since we wouldn’t be able to list our property right away. We also asked for few minor modifications to how the moving package benefits were administered, to better reflect our situation, with no added cost to the company. For example, the moving package offered two trips to the initial residence in each of two months (four trips max), but only while in temporary accommodations, and the hotel used for temporary accommodation could not be utilized during that time. We asked for the four trips to be allowed at any frequency during the first two months, and that the hotel at the new location would be maintained during the trip. This would allow my husband to go back for touch-up painting while I stayed away. We further added the benefit to the company that we would be cooking all of our own meals, since we couldn’t eat in restaurants anyway due to my propylene glycol allergy, so they would be saving $4400 in monthly food costs.

Building - WindowsThe manager said that they could talk when he got up there, and they would accommodate him “within reason.” When asked if he would be willing to put anything in writing, he paused, and then said, “No.” He continued by saying that the company culture was different there than near head office (where we are), and that taking the standard package was normal. When faced with the prospect of paying all of this extra accommodation mostly due to the start date, he asked if moving the start date to June would be acceptable. He sounded like he wanted an immediate response. My husband said he would have to discuss with me. The manager said he could extend the offer deadline to Monday to accommodate this. They ended the call. Five minutes later, he called my husband back, saying that the offer and moving package were reasonable and would not be adjusted, and that the original offer deadline would stand. I kept asking my husband, “Do you really want to work with someone who treats you like this?”

We declined the offer. How could we accept? Even without my allergies, the offer terms didn’t even allow us to make use of the majority of the benefits provided in the offer. There was no time to sell our house or buy another property, even if we had been buying an existing house. House closing times are typically 30 to 90 days, and with house hunting happening sporadically throughout the first month of temporary accommodations, there was no way that even a thirty day closing would work. Add in my allergies, and you’re playing a whole different game. I had no idea how I was going to wash my clothing safely during the hotel stay, but we were willing to figure that one out. What I couldn’t accommodate on their timeline was not being able to repair or sell our house immediately, and not being able to move into an apartment temporarily after the hotel stay until a house/property closed.

Sign - Now HiringWe’ve learned a lot from this experience. We learned that we may never make the progress we want in this company, despite stellar performance reviews year after year, and comments that he could easily take a role three grades up from his current position. We learned that any offer we consider must include adequate lead time to house hunt before the start date, willingness to negotiate the relocation package to remove what we cannot use, and adjustment of terms so that we can use the benefits we do need. If no negotiation is possible, there can be no deal. We learned that the needs posed by allergies play an active role in any major life change, especially in a move, but that most of the adjustments needed are rather small, and justifiable and supportable even from a business perspective if you’re working with the right people. We were not working with the right people.

I hope that the future will bring better job opportunities and better companies, and a move to a more comfortable home in a better location. We are going to proceed with working with an architect on a better house design so that when a new opportunity becomes available we will be able to act on it faster. I still believe this is possible with allergies, just not with inflexible managers.

Have you experienced a company relocation with chemical allergies? What terms did you need to negotiate? How did you cope? Comment below.

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