It is the nature of corporate travel that no matter how granular you make your travel policies, gray areas will challenge those policies at times. Responsible travelers can sometimes use common sense to decide what to do when these situations occur, but usually a management decision is warranted to settle the issue. This is where reason and creative thinking can prevail to make both the company and the traveler happy. There’s an expression that says, “You can work a tough job for a good boss, or a good job for a tough boss, but you can’t work a tough job for a tough boss.” To keep your employees happy and productive, you need to know when to rethink your usual hard-line policies so an already challenging travel-based job doesn’t become even harder.
Sometimes making a deal with a traveler who’s stuck in one of those tough “gray areas” is the right thing to do, even if it means getting creative with corporate policy. Here are some examples.
Mary has been asked to fly from Minneapolis to San Francisco to do some work for a few days. It’s November, and this is likely her final trip of the year, and she’s very close to earning platinum status with the airline. She knows that if she can book her flight to San Francisco with a connection in Atlanta and another in Houston that she’ll gain enough extra points to make it to the platinum level. The longer flight is a bit more expensive, and as an hourly employee, she knows her manager wouldn’t likely approve the extra overtime she would incur for spending so many hours in the air that day, but she calls her manager to ask about this travel route.
What should the manager do?
At face value, this seems like an easy call. Mary’s request seems to fly in the face of corporate policy. Helping Mary earn platinum status is good for the company though because she’ll have priority booking and seating, and her stress level will be lower overall as a traveler. The manager might make a deal with Mary, proposing that if the company absorbs the moderate extra cost of the flight, she flies on her own time and doesn’t charge any hours spent making the extra connections.
Sally, a long-time employee with proven integrity, is on a corporate business trip to London. She’s been there for five full business days and she’s done a great job. On Thursday she calls to report that the trip is successful and she’s having a wonderful time. She reports also that, while there’s a flight home on Friday evening, she’d really like to stay and see more of London on her personal time and fly home Saturday evening instead. The flights cost the same.
Should the manager allow her to stay and expense the cost of an extra night in the hotel?
In this case, Sally was upfront about the flight availability and she didn’t try to claim that flights were overbooked, and so forth. Sally has a track record for that kind of integrity, and she did a great job while in London. Perhaps a deal can be made with her that if she checks into a more modest hotel, the company won’t mind allowing her to expense an extra day in London.
John noticed recently that he has bumped into the “vacation ceiling” and he’s no longer accruing any vacation hours. Looking at his schedule, he’s booked to travel and work for the next six straight weeks. Without any real vacation plans on the books, John is troubled that he’s not earning any vacation. John’s manager knows that he’s one of the true “road warriors” of the group.
Can anything be done to give John more vacation time?
Unfortunately this is a common occurrence among travelers. While it may go against a human resources policy, John’s manager could make a deal with him that if he promises to take a week of vacation sometime during the next quarter, he’ll sign off that John is on vacation during one of his upcoming work weeks. In exchange, John’s true vacation later in the quarter will take place during a “workweek.” John will continue to accrue vacation hours by “postponing” an immediate “vacation.”
Creative thinking and some smart deal making with responsible travelers goes a long way toward keeping your employees’ morale high. Having a reasonable boss who’s willing to help good people through these situations is in itself quite a perk. The folks who again and again prove themselves to be reliable, ethical, and honest travelers, deserve a bit of extra support from their home team.