Business trips present great opportunities to gain experience and broaden your horizon. But they can also be quite challenging, especially when you are travelling with your boss. Julian Earwaker shares some do's and don'ts to keep in mind while you are on the road.
If you were chosen to go along on a business trip, it's because you're supposed to be part of the solution — never part of the problem," says Carolyn W. Paddock, travel expert, talking to the HuffPost. "And your boss wants to be sure that he or she can count on you to represent him/her appropriately."
Business travel presents challenges and opportunities, and never more so than when your companion for the trip is your manager. So how can you make the most of the experience? Start by remembering at all times that you are with your boss and at work, says Paddock. Her tips include being punctual, looking smart, not complaining (even when things don't work out as planned), limiting your alcohol consumption, and keeping your personal phone or social media use to a minimum.
Writing for the Reader's Digest, Ian Landau emphasizes the importance of communication. "When things don't go as planned, say something," Landau says. "If you find yourself lost or in over your head, ask questions. Most managers love to give advice and recommendations."
It can also be a good idea to prepare a "safe list" of topics of conversation (food, weather, sport, TV viewing). It's about forming the right sort of connections between you and your boss. "You shouldn't open up to them like you do [to] your best friend, but remember they're human and have a life beyond the office," says Emily Howard of ChoiceHotels.com. "Friendly conversation may even lead you to realize the two of you have shared interests or goals, and it may even give you insight into how they approach their work."
Business travel is a chance for you to show your boss what you can do and who you are when away from the office. But it is important to know what is expected of you. Meet with your boss before the trip, advises Barbara Pachter, author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette, talking to CNN. Pachter says it is important to know from the start who will be responsible for such tasks as booking tickets and scheduling meetings. You should also discuss with your boss which of you pays for things like hotels, restaurants and transportation.
Sue Bryant of CountryNavigator.com points to how behaviour differs from country to country and from culture to culture. "If you are travelling in Asia, for example, where meetings follow strict protocol, adopt this local culture," says Bryant. "You may banter freely with your boss in the office but in countries like China or Japan, junior employees are expected to defer to the boss and in meetings, let them lead the conversation. Do not contradict your superior in front of clients, as it will cause them a serious loss of face. Age and status need to be respected."
There's someone else who might need reassurance, too. The idea that you will be spending time away with a senior work colleague can put pressure on relationships at home. "The spouse or partner left behind can feel angry and resentful," Dr Scott Cohen, University of Surrey, told CNN. He suggests managing expectations (it might not be possible to call because of time differences or scheduled meetings) and planning before the trip as a family or couple.
So, what about the boss's perspective? "It's easy to forget that you were once in your employee's shoes," writes Monique Claiborne, finance and business travel expert, at Inc.com. She suggests that, as the boss, you should make time to stop talking about work and interact with your employee as an individual, and that you should give them enough space, whether during travel or in their free time. And finally, says Claiborne, let employees know that they don't need to follow your every move, the clothes you wear or what you say. "There is enough pressure already travelling with the boss," she says. "These little moments can go a long way."
With or without the boss, business trips are a chance to escape your routine, and should be enjoyed. They are not holidays, but there is no reason why you shouldn't make the most of your travels.
Avi Meir of TravelPerk.com identifies a growing trend: business-leisure travel, or "bleisure", adding personal relaxation time to work trips. "If taking an extra couple [of] relaxation days will recharge you and make you a stronger asset upon return, your boss will understand," Meir explains.
"By extending your trip and covering your own costs on the additional days, you might even save your company money on airfare," he adds.
Who knows? Maybe your boss will be doing the same.