Magazine article Workforce

Corporate Relocation Takes Its Toll on Society

Magazine article Workforce

Corporate Relocation Takes Its Toll on Society

Article excerpt

Folk wisdom and Hillary Rodham Clinton's best seller, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us (Simon and Schuster, 1996), have raised the public's consciousness of the importance of a caring community in the lives of our children and our families.

The title of Clinton's book is taken from an African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." The proverb recognizes the many hands needed to share the work of child rearing, the breadth of skills to be learned, the lessons of commitment, persistence and cooperation to be taught, and the feelings of purposefulness that result. Lessons of the "village" ring true today because they speak to our need for knowledge of who we are, how we are and why we should care.

Learning from a community and learning to give to a community requires time, but we're in the midst of a Relocation Evolution that's challenging this process.

During the past 10 years, more than 5 million families have been relocated one or more times by their employers. These relocations affect the emotional stability of household members, disrupt the careers of many members and require individuals to invest tremendous amounts of time to reestablish their lives. The increase of relocating families is a trend that provides few incentives for long-term commitments, individuality and investment in one's community.

We need to be aware of the outcomes of the Relocation Evolution, we need a coherent response to it, and we need trained professionals who both understand and are prepared to deal with the impact of relocation.

The dynamics of relocation have changed.

Relocation has always been part of our history, but corporate life and a global economy have changed the course of history. We admire the fortitude and independence of our forebears who put down stakes in the New World, headed Westward in Conestoga wagons or disembarked on Ellis Island.

These same attributes are found today in relocating families, but are worn thin by multiple moves, often on short notice, to locations selected by an employer. With every relocation, transferees are reminded of how much their lives are in someone else's hands. Our forefathers and mothers sometimes stumbled for lack of an ax, a rope or a compass. We're just beginning to figure out the tools needed to master a wilderness of corporate downsizings, mergers and buyouts.

Until recent history, families used to face relocation once or twice in a lifetime, and many families raised two or more generations within the same community. It's not unusual for corporate families to relocate five times in 10 years. The sense of being part of a community's roots and heritage are lost. The communities we float through suffer as a result.

These corporate families are often resourceful at adapting to their situation, but they take comfort in the sameness of communities, having little time for uniqueness.

One out of five Americans has relocated at least once, moving not as much for adventure as for economic stability. They long for deep friendships, but know it's easier to say goodbye to acquaintances. They try to do their fair share at the school, at church and at Little League, but they can't commit to the big picture. Not surprisingly, this rootlessness is reflected in the comments of the children:

My six-year-old daughter has lived in five cities already. Yesterday she asked when the movers were coming, even though we haven't said anything about relocating lately.

My high schooler refused to sign up for swimming next year-when I asked him why, he said he didn't see the point of it, we il probably get relocated before the final competition anyhow.

Long-term relationships are difficult to sustain.

In the past, relocation always involved painful goodbyes, and nothing compares to the experience of immigrants who leave knowing they'll never see their families and old friends again. …

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