What's your problem?

I've just returned from a three-year posting to Singapore. Before I left, my employer promised that I'd be promoted on my return, and that I'd be staying in Britain for a while. However, the story has now changed and although I've been offered a promotion, it means spending three years in Tokyo.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I feel cheated, and my wife, who's expecting our first child, is not pleased. Can I insist that my employer stick to the original promise of a UK-based promotion, or will the company mark me out as a troublemaker?

A You've given me all the relevant facts about your problem, but I have very little sense of the feeling. For example, when you were told that the original promise of a stint in the UK wasn't going to be honoured, was your employer at all understanding and apologetic? Or were you simply told that, like or lump it, you were going to be despatched to Tokyo instead?

The difference between these two approaches is more than a question of manners. It strikes at the heart of your relationship with your company and just how highly your employer rates and values you.

From your understandable indignation, I sense that it's all been peremptory and insensitive. When you say 'the story has now changed', you even imply that they've chosen to forget their earlier commitment altogether and are pretending it never happened.

If that's the case, I don't like the sound of it at all. They seem to think they can renege on promises and push you about at will; and that - whatever the implications for yourself and your family - you'll put up with just about anything for the sake of the pay cheque.

So I very much doubt if there's much to be gained from your 'insisting' that the original deal be honoured. Instead, I suggest you make another serious attempt to talk this problem through with your immediate boss. Your approach should be eminently reasonable; you should give him every chance to explain why such a change of plan was necessary and to show some real sympathy for your predicament. Unless he's a consummate liar, you'll be able to judge with some precision just how you rate in your company's eyes.

In the absence of any convincing reassurance, your choice will become brutally clear. If you are confident of finding an equally good job in the UK, you should start looking now. I very much hope you are, because although three years in Tokyo might prove to be less of an ordeal than you fear, the way you've been bounced into going there will rankle with both of you for a long time. With your first child on the way, a contented home life is more important now than ever.


Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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