The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager: Time to be a Super hero

by Gina Tonic

Expat Academy The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager: Time to be a Super hero  Dear Diary,

Some days I like to think of myself as a super hero…running through the jungle with my hair flailing behind me in the wind, as I am trying to lasso a rope around the beast in front of me. To catch it. To calm it down. To sternly remind it that it can’t just go running off like this on its own accord. And it gives me that look as if to say ‘Why not? Don’t you know who I am? I can do what I want.’

Other days, I am a different superhero in a story where I have built a fort and every person that wishes to cross the bridge to come to the fort must ask me for the secret password to enter. It is all under control and the people form an orderly queue. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

This is todays story. And just like with the plot of a play or movie, there is always a twist in the story. Something to throw the audience off and make them question everything they have heard so far.

ACT I – Chocolate heaven

Setting the scene, the weather was suddenly sunny and there was promise on the horizon. London had experienced a bad spell of weather and so it was a natural feeling that the story was going to become more positive in line with the atmospheric conditions. Oh how wrong I was!

I came across an American employee whose husband was going to work in Belgium. He apparently had a sweet tooth and fancied enjoying himself in chocolate heaven on a permanent contract. The American employee decided she also fancied a stint over there. So she told the business she would go and join him or else she would have to resign.

Trying to be a superhero herself, the business contact in the US told the employee it wouldn’t be a problem. ‘You are still paying tax so it’s ok you will be in Belgium. Have a nice time!’ So fabulous as it was, the US employee went to join her husband in Belgium and they made a house out of chocolate for themselves to live in.

And they lived happily ever after in pure fabulousness. The end.

ACT II – Tax Issues looming

But wait, someone hadn’t read the script!

Enter the Belgium business contact who wants to know why this employee is working in Belgium when they haven’t asked for her to be in Belgium. Who is paying her costs? ‘Oh but it’s ok because you are working from home so there is no tax issue here. And the US are paying your costs so play on’.

[The story is turning out rather nicely. Everyone is happy]

ACT III – A dark turn in the weather

The employee and her husband are nicely settled in Belgium. They are enjoying themselves immensely. The employee is still doing her American role and she is still receiving her American salary and paying her American tax. Lovely jubbly.

The business in the US and Belgium are congratulating themselves on another smooth operation. They go off to celebrate but are stopped by a change in the weather. It is thunder and lightning and they have to turn back. They take shelter in a nearby pub.

[Enter me as the Global Mobility Manager.]

ACT IV – Time for a superhero

‘Well hello you two’ I say, ‘what are you looking so chipper about?’ ‘Well we are celebrating another success with our team. We have an American employee who is working in Belgium now and having a wonderful time.’

‘Hmmm OK,’ I say with disbelief, ‘I think I might need to pull up a stool and join you for a drink. I think this is going to be a long chat’.

[In the blink of an eye I dash to the nearest phone box and change into my superhero suit.]

I run them through the rules, I run them through the issue that they can’t just move people without putting any framework in place or, at least, flagging the move to the correct people. The host country must always know about it, and what about immigration and what about tax? She might have to be paying Belgium tax!

I need to work out a way to hit them where it hurts.

‘If we do not follow the necessary steps then we be liable to tax and immigration compliance issues potentially leading to increased cost’. BAM HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS!

[At the mention of the cost, they are pleading with me as the mobility superhero to help them out]

ACT V – Time to fly

And so, I help them solve their problem. I reach out to my contacts to work out the situation and what the next steps will be. But now they have my attention, they want more of my time..

‘Oh we have this other issue we might need your help on’ they say.

But no. My time is precious. I look down to my mobile and the light is flashing.

‘Sorry guys, I have to fly. I would love to stay and chat but there’s another mobility emergency to attend to’

And with that I leave, to attend to my next storyline.

And from what I have learnt over the years, the stories are always different. Every day is new and every story has a slight twist in the tail that you just don’t expect. But the fundamentals are always the same. Sometimes as a Global Mobility manager you will be chasing after the beast trying to tame it, and other days things will go your way. But always remember, you are a superhero inside and that’s what counts. Even on your darkest of days.

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