Q: Can I get out of sharing a hotel room with my boss on a business trip? I took a new position (event planner) earlier this year and relocated from across the country. During my interview, my boss mentioned we had one international event for 2016. No big deal. Now, she has booked a second international event and is on track to book a third in 2016. Planning an international event is incredibly challenging and time consuming. I also wasn’t aware I would be traveling this much for work and traveling outside of my comfort zone. I moved here to work here – not in Europe.
My issue is that my boss told me we would be sharing a room internationally for five days in February to do a wedding. I find this totally inappropriate and invasive of my privacy and space. If I am being required to travel internationally for work, I should at least have private accommodations. I am an adult – there isn’t a reason I need to sleep in a room with another adult, especially when the client is paying for our accommodations. When I expressed concern, my boss said, “Well, sister, it isn’t up to you.” The client signs a contract stating they will cover those costs….. and these are high-end events with very large budgets.
I’m concerned about traveling and now concerned that every time we travel we will be sleeping together and I am feeling helpless. I want to have an adult conversation about this by also not come off as demanding. Please help.
A: So, there are some industries where adults share rooms on business travel — academia and some nonprofits, for example. There are other fields where it would be totally unheard of and ridiculous. I don’t know which is true for event planning, but I’d guess it’s not typical. (Any event planners want to confirm that?)
I’d say this: “As you probably gathered, I was surprised to learn that we’d be sharing a room in Europe, and I want to make sure that my expectations are in sync with reality going forward! Is this typically how we’ll do rooms when we travel, or is this an unusual circumstance?” It’s possible that you’ll hear that this one is unusual for some reason (maybe the wedding is already over-budget, or who knows what). Or you might hear that yes, this is how it will always be.
If the latter, then you can decide if it’s a deal-breaker for you, or something you’re willing to deal with even though you don’t like it.
While you’re at it, do you want to get more clarity on the international travel aspect of the job too? It doesn’t sound to me like she misled you about that (saying in your interview that she had one international event for 2016 isn’t the same as saying “and that’s the only international event I expect to book”). But if it’s really out of sync with what you want to be doing, it would be good to find out now how much international work you can expect to be doing, so you can decide if you’re up for that or not.
And last … Totally aside from the issue of sleeping arrangements, what’s up with your boss’s dismissive and kind of rude response when you raised the accommodations issue earlier? If that was a one-off, then fine — but if it’s typical of how she talks to you, that would concern me.
Q: How do I respond to questions about why I’m not spending the holidays with my family? It’s the time of year where many people in the office are discussing holiday plans. I have an unusual family background and am not spending the holidays with my family. Some coworkers are more inclined than others to try to find out the reason why. Can you suggest a way to redirect the conversation? I’ve tried phrases like “My family doesn’t handle the holidays very well,” but I don’t even want to give that level of detail. I would like to be open with my colleagues, but this is still a sore spot for me and I’d rather not be known for my family drama. (I’m very early to my career and to this company.)
A: Yeah, “my family doesn’t handle the holidays very well” is too much personal information in response to what’s probably just a friendly and fairly generic inquiry. Instead of talking about what you’re not doing, can you instead say what you are doing? (For example: “I’m joining friends for a big blow-out feast and then we’re watching an X-Men marathon.”) If people insist on knowing why you won’t be with family, just say, “Oh, just made other plans this year” or “it didn’t work out this year” or “it’s hard to get us altogether” or something else similarly vague. And then immediately change the subject by asking about their plans — “so what do you have planned?” People like to talk about themselves, and if you ask a couple of follow-up questions, they’ll probably let it go.
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