Even for those individuals for whom this is a long-awaited adventure, the question might just as well be, “How would you like to completely uproot our lives, sell the house on short notice, pack up all of our worldly belongings, move our kids to a new country where their best friends since nursery school won’t be, where people talk with a different accent, our medical records aren’t easily accessible, they drive on the other side of the road, and we’re a 12-hour, trans-Atlantic plane ride away from our aging parents? Oh, and by the way, you’re going to have to quarantine the dog and quit the job you love.”
Sign me up, right?
This is reality for what we now call the “accompanying partner.” Because while the partner who has been offered a dream job is often thriving in a new role, his or her other half is navigating a web of movers, packers, realtors, and inspectors; managing a tag sale and tracking donations to charity; obtaining records from schools, doctors, and dentists, and figuring out (hopefully with the input and support of his or her partner) what life is going to look like on the other side. And that includes, “What will I do with myself once we’re settled?”
Anxious. Uncertain. Nomadic. Displaced. Overwhelmed…All are accurate depictions of many family members who accompany a relocated employee. A 2017 collaborative industry study noted that the number one reason corporations cite for a failed assignment is an unhappy, unintegrated partner in the host location. Maslow’s Pyramid of Hierarchical Needs provides a roadmap of support for relocating families:
Relocation professionals who help with securing a home and moving household goods usually address BASIC (PHYSIOLOGICAL–food, water, warmth, rest–and SAFETY) needs.Connecting with others and finding people who share interests and values help to fulfill BELONGINGNESS AND LOVE needs.ESTEEM needs and SELF-ACTUALIZATION often come from a sense of accomplishment associated with successful execution of one’s life work. For a relocating spouse who has lost identity and purpose due to a relocation, this loss can be emotionally challenging.
What happens when families aren’t adequately supported?
The costs of a failed relocation can be devastating…personally, professionally, and financially. The price tag on a failed international relocation STARTS at around $500K.
Here are a few cases where support for the accompanying partner in the move made the difference between success and failure:
Jane had never lived…or even traveled outside of her small town in upstate New York. Now, she was moving to the Netherlands, and she was a little overwhelmed. Talking with her coach on the ground helped Jane overcome many of her fears and boosted her confidence. She was able to make connections quickly and even started a networking group at her husband’s company to help others build their confidence.
Meg was an Ivy League MBA who had accompanied her corporate attorney husband all over the world. Now they were settling in a small Midwestern suburb. Her coach’s local contacts helped her to start a thriving consulting business and quickly become a part of her new community.
Mike’s wife had just been transferred with her corporate job, and his dream was to start his own restaurant. He needed help creating a game plan to understand the local industry, getting to know the successful restaurant owners, finding a tax attorney and an accountant, to name a few. His coach was there, every step of the way, guiding Mike in developing his business plan.
Supporting families to achieve post-relocation parity with their state of being prior to the move is a wise investment.