Q: I am an account executive with a large multinational PR agency. When I interviewed for this job, I said that one of the reasons I wanted to join a big agency was for the chance to work in different practice and geographical areas. Since I started three years ago, I have worked in only one office.Now an opportunity has come up for a secondment to our office in Frankfurt, Germany. Although I know this is a great chance to see other parts of the world and learn about a different culture, I am suddenly scared to death at the prospect of leaving the country. I have not given her my answer yet, and I don't really know what kinds of questions I should be asking my HR person about the whole thing. Even if it sounds good on paper, what if I just hate it? It seems like such a big step, how do I know I'm doing the right thing?
Ms. D, Atlanta
A: First, tackle the practical issues. Before you commit to anything, ask your boss or HR contact to tell you exactly what your relocation package will involve. That should include any moving costs you will incur, travel expenses (including coming home for major holidays), salary, etc. Find out if the firm offers any stipend for living expenses or housing. If you are paying rent or a mortgage and will have problems either breaking a lease or covering payments, your employer should make provisions for you.
Once you have clarified the minutiae, you can rationally consider your options. My advice? Go for it. No one should ever pass up an opportunity to get to know another part of the world, especially on the company dime.
Worried you'll hate living abroad? You might. But why should that stop you? Too many people expect every bold decision to make them immediately happy. Years later, when you are reflecting on the choices you have made, you will be glad you took a chance. No matter what happens, the experience is bound to enrich your life. And the knowledge you gain will make you that much more valuable to your employers. Go on - do it.
Q: I work for a small entertainment PR agency. Each year in our firm we have a Secret Santa gift swap during the holidays. I drew the guy who sits right across from me and gave him an executive toy from the Discovery Store. It is shaped like a little laser and shoots little rubber disks while making a siren noise.
At first, it was pretty funny to have it around. We all took turns taking shots at each other and pictures of various clients we have hanging around the office. But my coworker, the one I gave it to, still uses it all the time. At least once a day, usually when everyone is most stressed, he will grab it and start firing at something. He is driving everyone crazy. I feel like a jerk because I'm the one who gave it to him. How do I make him stop?
Mr. B, Miami
A: A cautionary tale for the Secret Santa set. You have three options: direct action, subterfuge, or distraction. You could simply tell him that he is driving everyone nuts and ask him to stop fooling around the office.
But that may only egg him on. You could ask to borrow the toy and "accidentally
drop it out a 10th floor window. Pledge to replace it, hope he forgets about it. But how likely is he to forget? I'd go for option three - find him a new toy. Something quiet, that doesn't involve projectiles. Aren't Rubik's Cubes making a comeback?
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