What should you do when you sit next to a colleague on an airplane? Or, what if you’ve been booked to share a hotel room? Work travel can present new scenarios when it comes to maintaining a professional presence 24/7. Leading etiquette expert Diane Gottsman is here to help.
We asked Diane about five different situations that could pop up when traveling with colleagues. Discover her tips for handling each with finesse so you can travel like a boss on your next work trip.
1) Be A Space Ace
When it comes to scheduling a flight with co-workers, should you book a seat next to your colleague? Then, once you’re in the air should you talk about work, should you actually work, or should you take a breather (and a little nap)!?
“Whether you’re traveling with colleagues, your boss or friends, be respectful of their personal space,” Diane advises. “Some people like to engage in conversation, while others prefer to relax. Take a cue by watching your co-worker’s body language and following her lead. If she sits down and immediately relaxes and closes her eyes, that’s an indicator she’s interested in some quiet time.”
What if your colleague is also your boss? Do the rules change?
“Unless your boss requests a seat on another row, it would look unusual to sit in a different location,” Diane says. “However, if he or she books a first-class seat, don’t expect that you will automatically get a first-class seat of your own. It all boils down to being socially aware of personal and professional boundaries.”
2) From Cubemate To Roomie
When it comes to staying in a hotel, it’s not uncommon for an employer to ask or require that you bunk with a co-worker who is also female. While this makes it easier for companies to greenlight travel, on a personal level it can create a unique environment if you aren’t very close to a colleague, or if you are someone who prefers your own space. What are some tips for navigating this situation?
“The reality is that it is what it is,” Diane shares. “As a fellow suite mate, be respectful of your hotel mate. Give them enough space and don’t put them in an awkward situation. You may not have a problem with pajamas that show a lot of skin, or bathroom issues, but keep in mind that they might. To make this as seamless as possible of an experience for both of you, close doors, wear your robe and do your best. It’s an uncomfortable situation, but you can make the best of it.”
Plus, if you’re staying at a Best Western hotel, you can always visit a business center, lounge or gym to get in some alone time before heading back to your room. In the morning, you can also study up for a day of presentations or answer emails while enjoying a great breakfast. (Side note: The I Want Her Job team is crazy about the Best Western waffles!)
3) Happy Hour – Or Apps For An Hour
Once you’ve flown to your work destination and you’ve checked into your hotel, the next work travel scenario likely to present itself is dinner and/or happy hour. What rules apply at mealtime? Is it appropriate to drink a glass of wine or another alcoholic beverage? And, should this approach change in front of a different audience, whether you’re with clients, your co-workers or your boss?
“You must first look at corporate culture,” Diane advises. “Also keep in mind the nature of the meal. At a business lunch, ordering cocktails or wine may be inappropriate in most venues. At dinner, however, liquor (in moderation) may be perfectly acceptable. A good rule of thumb is to follow the host or the boss’s lead. But always remember, over-imbibing is never appropriate in a business setting.”
4) Going Out Vs. Staying In
If you’ve traveled for work to a new destination, often times colleagues may want to go out after a client dinner or once a conference wraps up. (And sometimes even with said clients.) But, if you’re not someone who feels comfortable going out, there are ways to gracefully decline an invitation. It all comes down to honesty.
“You can gracefully bow out by being honest,” Diane says. “Say something like, ‘Thanks for the invitation, but I think I’m going to go back to the room and chill for a while. It’s been a long day and I need to get some rest.’ Or you could say, ‘You all go ahead. I’m going to get back to the room because I have to go over some briefs for my presentation tomorrow.’
5) Look The Part
It can be tempting when waking up for an early-morning flight to throw on some sweats and cozy running shoes. But, don’t forget who’s paying for your trip. If you’re traveling on behalf of your organization, you should still look as if you’re going into the office for the day (even while traveling).
“When traveling for work, even in a social setting, it’s still business,” Diane reminds us. “Make sure you don’t behave as if you are on a family vacation to Disney or attending a bachelorette party. You are always an ambassador of your company and your behavior should represent your organization in the best possible light. Remember: Always dress appropriate for the situation, because you might run into your best client in the hotel restaurant or even at baggage claim.”
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