I was reading a recent “Ask HR” column in USA Today, and the two submitted questions caught my attention:
I have a significant gap in employment based on my struggles with depression. Recruiters seem to pass me over when I reveal this. Over the past few years, I struggled to find consistent work in my career field. Should I consider not sharing this truth about my employment gaps?
And here’s the other one:
During the pandemic initially, I lost my job, and my car broke down. I sold it because I couldn’t afford the repairs and insurance. I eventually got hired for remote work, but now the company is returning to the office. I don't make enough to buy a reliable car yet. Since I have never worked in the office for this employer, can I ask my employer for a cost of living raise to return to the office? Or an extension of remote work authorization?
In the first question, the person is debating whether or not they should share a very personal piece of information with an employer. In the second question, the person is considering whether they should ask for something a bit different than what the employer is offering to employees based on their own unique situation.
These kinds of issues play out all the time in mobility, and the common thread between them is that it can put the employee in an uncomfortable spot. Disclosing personal information and asking for policy exceptions are often mentally taxing because they strip away a layer of privacy that many people value. Think about all the different scenarios where an employee may have unique needs when it comes to relocation but might prefer not to talk about it, lest they get unwanted attention or are deemed to be “high maintenance.” (The columnist points out the latter possibility below).
However, many mobility programs are designed in such a way that “talking about it” almost seems inevitable. Personal information is considered necessary to figure out which policy and benefits are right for someone, and if they want something outside of the standard offering for whatever reason, they’ll need to ask for it.
It doesn’t need to be this way, though. A mobility program that is designed around true employee choice and control largely eliminates the need for them to disclose personal details or ask for policy exceptions. We get into this a bit deeper in our recent report, “The Mobility Philosophy: Why Your Approach to Policies and Benefits is More Important Than Ever.” It could be a good thought exercise to think about your own program and identify spots where employees may have to disclose personal information or ask for exceptions — or do both. It’s quite possible these points come early in their relocation journeys. Is there anything you could do differently to change this experience?
I’ll say this: While cost of living increases have been provided by employers in the past, it has become less common. Many employers strive to make their pay competitive, and this type of increase is not typically associated with transportation assistance. So, you must be extremely careful about how you approach this conversation with your manager. As a relatively new employee, your manager could perceive your request to be a sign that you are going to be a “high-maintenance” employee and could sour on you quickly. Proceed cautiously. Good luck!