Q: “I have been asked to travel with ‘Myra,’ one of my co-workers, to attend a three-day conference. The trip is about five hours each way. We will be taking a company van, which I will be driving.
“Last week, Myra said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I’m planning to bring my one-year-old son along on the trip.’ In fact, I do mind a great deal. This is a long drive, so the child will undoubtedly get restless. Also, he is teething, which means that he is likely to start screaming.
“When I mentioned these issues, Myra said that her mother will also be coming to help care for the baby. So now I am expected to take a business trip with two members of her family.
“I don’t want to offend Myra, because we have always had a good working relationship. However, she never consulted me about these plans. Our boss has said we should just ‘work it out,’ but I’m not sure how to do that. If Myra would offer to drive her own car, the problem would be solved.” Frustrated Traveler
A: Forcing you to endure a ten-hour road trip with a teething infant does not seem at all businesslike. By telling you to solve the problem yourself, your boss is taking the coward’s way out. This is a company trip in a company van, so someone inneeds to make the call.
Apart from your personal objections, the presence of these family members could also create liability issues for both you and the company. Ask your corporate attorney or insurance specialist about potential legal risks, then talk with your boss again.
For example: “I know you want me to handle the travel arrangements myself, but I have no authority to tell Myra that her family members can’t ride in the company van. However, I am very concerned about driving them. Having an infant along will make the trip difficult, and I will also be responsible for their safety. I would really appreciate your asking Myra to make other arrangements.”
Taking two cars would be a simple solution, so I assume the sticking point is reimbursement. If your manager refuses to intervene, you might purchase some peace of mind by offering to split Myra’s gas bill.
If you need to have a tricky conversation with a colleague, consider these suggestions: How to Talk about Tough Topics.