We are all concerned when we send an employee to a location where we know that the work circumstances and living conditions may not be the safest. However, we should also be concerned about those expatriates who have been working in locations that were considered safe when they were first given the foreign assignment. My message in this post is that you should have a good view at all times of any gathering storms that may impact those employees.

I recently was in Budapest for meetings of the officers of the Human Rights Law Committee of the International Bar Association. Budapest was a fascinating place to have these meetings, given its history of troubling human rights issues and danger for those working in the city. Of course there was World War II and then a long and difficult period under communism. Then the opportunities and risk associated with the fallout of the 1989 revolution. Given the number of tourists I saw in Budapest, it would all appear safe at this time. However, as I was trying to get from one meeting to another, I was caught in the middle of a large street demonstration involving several thousand protesters. As I made my way through this large protest, I thought about how, even in seemingly safe locations, things can change.

For companies that assign employees to work around the world: there must be a clear line of responsibility to a manager who is looking out for any gathering storm clouds that may impact those employees. Do not assume the employees will recognize the danger. They may not have all the information on the conditions in the country even though they live there, or because they live there and do not have equal access to information. None of us want to be too late in recognizing that storms are coming and put these employees in danger. Keep an eye on the sky for your expatriate employees.