My company partnered together on a project with another company, located in another country. In the near future, there may be need to have co-location to expedite debugging of issues that may or may not come up.

The other company wants me to travel to their site and stay there until the potential problems are resolved. This may be a week or could be months.

I don't want to travel to this other country for many reasons. Among these are my safety concerns (this isn't a country known to honor women's rights exactly), the fact that I have a dog and a cat and plants that need to be cared for, the fact that I have a medical condition (MS) that has a tendency to flare up in times of stress, and the fact that I plainly don't want to be away for an indefinite amount of time.

I have no one to leave my dog with. Yes, I could board him, but that's expensive and I think a little cruel. He's still a young pup.

I think it's probably possible to have someone from the other company come here. I am also willing to shift my working hours to better match the other company.

I will speak with my immediate supervisor about this further, but I was curious what a polite or politically correct way to approach this is?

  • So you have 2 jobs? Why is it "another" company?... – DarkCygnus Sep 17 '18 at 18:44
  • @DarkCygnus. No, my company is partnered with "another" company on a project. It's "another" because I am not employed by them. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 18:48
  • Oh, I see. Perhaps you may include that on your post to be even more clear? In that case, I take it that your supervisor is on your actual company correct? – DarkCygnus Sep 17 '18 at 18:49
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    @DarkCygnus. Done. Yes, my supervisor works for the same company as me. The other company has their own managers who I interact with, but they have no real influence over what I do. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 18:51
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    @bharal, it's also fun to have a job and money. Just flat out saying "no" won't go over well. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 19:43

I will speak with my immediate supervisor about this further, but I was curious what a polite or politically correct way to approach this is?

You can always politely say that you aren't willing to travel. Something like "I'm sorry my personal situation is such that I feel I can't travel at this time. I'd like to work together to find an alternative." And then listen. If asked, you can suggest having someone come to your office and/or changing your hours to match theirs. And if your boss digs in and you are willing to do so, you can confide your reasons and counter any objections and proposed workarounds.

But be prepared for whatever repercussions might arise from such a declaration. Many companies feel that they can ask an employee to travel when business needs dictate and expect the employee to comply. And refusing can often hinder your situation within the company. Sometimes it means you are simply not a good fit for the job.

I've done that at several companies. At certain stages of my life, I traveled when it was required even though I would have preferred not to do so. At other stages, my family situation dictated that I not travel. In the latter cases, I simply told the company that I couldn't travel. I know that I burned up some personal capital in doing so, but for me it was worth it.

I also left one job where I felt that regular travel would be required after a re-organization left me with a boss in a remote location and team members half way around the world. Again, for me that was a deal-breaker.

Either way, decide ahead of time how rigid you wish to be and how far you are willing to go to avoid this travel. Knowing that will make your discussions go more smoothly.

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    Thanks Joe. I think your response is the one that address my question directly without trying to tell me that my concerns are unwarranted or that I can work around them (board my dog, deal with medical issues abroad, etc). I understand that this might hurt my career. I'm prepared to deal with that. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 20:45
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    There's a middle ground between "indefinite trip" and "no travel", where you limit the scope of any one trip. Is that more viable in your experience? – Monica Cellio Sep 18 '18 at 21:52
  • @MonicaCellio, yes of course. However, the purpose of this trip would be to resolve all known issues. Going to resolve some and then resolving others remotely kind of means we could resolve all of them remotely. – Catsunami Sep 20 '18 at 14:47

I think you need to look at this as "how can I justify this from a business point of view".

It's going to be costly for your business for you to be living in a foreign country for an indefinite period of time. The fact that you have a physical medical condition that might require traveling home for treatment would also be a business reason to not travel indefinitely. And of course being remote would mean that your co-workers would have more difficulty contacting you if they needed any information from you. You can make a cold hard case that it makes more sense for your employer that you remain home.

Being willing to adjust your work hours to match the partner company sounds like a reasonable approach: it saves money, and makes it possible for you to collaborate with your partners immediately, instead of playing the "email-tag".

If the partner company tries to insist that you travel, turn the discussion around. Instead of trying to come up with reasons why you can't travel, make the partner come up with reasons why working remotely wouldn't work. You've already taken care of the major issue by saying you are willing to adjust your hours. Ask what the other issues are and come up with solutions.

  • Thanks, that is an interesting idea. I will try to work that into my conversation! – Catsunami Sep 18 '18 at 16:53

I will speak with my immediate supervisor about this further, but I was curious what a polite or politically correct way to approach this is?

Yes, a meeting with your supervisor is surely needed.

However, instead of phrasing it like "I won't/can't go" approach the situation by exposing your difficulties planning the trip (your pets, medical condition, etc.), so you can then work out how to coordinate and overcome them together.

Try to have this meeting as soon as you can, and consider starting with something like this:

Hey Mr. Supervisor. I need to coordinate and plan on the possible upcoming trip with Client X, as I have some concerns about leaving, like ...[list and expose all your doubts and difficulties here]... I want to have your feedback and discuss how we can achieve a solution which would allow us to work closely with Client X.

Chances are that you will come up with a compromise and a solution that works for both parties. Be sure to prepare in advance and know exactly what difficulties you need to sort out, as well as what alternatives you propose or what are you willing to commit to make this work.

Edit: Seems you are really not willing to go. In that case, I still suggest you approach it in a more constructive way, by exposing the difficulties and issues you have on going.

Be sure to have your medical letter indicating your condition ready, so you can back up your claims.

Also, I'd suggest that you update your resume and start considering other job options, in case this doesn't seem to reach a consensus or compromise that works for both or if they start pushing you or "forcing" you to go.

  • @Catsunami I edited my question given that you are adamant on not going, incorporating some things here discussed :) I hope you can convince them to go for an alternative solution that does not involve traveling. – DarkCygnus Sep 17 '18 at 20:06

Adding my perspectives relative to the discussion on @DarkCygnus' answer:

1) Most of the things you are taking issues with are resolvable; you can board your dog (or have a friend dog-sit, or possibly take them with you if you like). I don't know the specifics of MS, but I do know that MS is a well-known condition around the world and would expect that any first-world country should have some way of treating MS if you have issues abroad; your company might allow you to bill them for health expenses if you can provide documentation of your condition beforehand. Most of your problems are not likely to be seen as problems by your boss/employer (not to invalidate your personal claims that they are your problems, but your employer won't see them that way).

2) The main problem you are likely to have is the one concerning your safety. This might be a problem of perception or a problem of a cultural gap. I would suggest approaching it as the latter: "I am uncomfortable going to country X because I believe I would not fit in well there". Your employer could take this one in a few directions. The best one (for you) would be to just find someone else. However, other options might include the old "grin and bear it or you're fired", or the "it's not really what you've heard in the news". These are a bit more difficult to get around, and if you get these sorts of responses then it's really up to you as to how to proceed.

If you are adamant about not going, I would refrain from using the examples of your dog and your cat and your health condition to back up your argument, because your employer is not likely to listen to those concerns. To them, your dog and your cat are less important to them than their business (and realistically speaking, as a non-pet owner, my perspective would be the same; I'd rather have a job than a dog), and the health concern can be solved by throwing enough money at the problem and making it go away. The one I would focus on is that you would not feel safe in that environment, and see what they say. However, I would suggest you be prepared for them to ask you to go anyway, and think about what you would like to do if that were to happen.

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    I can't realistically ask a friend to dog sit a border collie. This isn't a dog I can just abandon somewhere, he needs lots of exercise and attention. Boarding him costs a lot of money (like 1/3 of my pay). MS is managed around the world, of course. However, the last thing I want is for my MS to flare up. You might not have the appreciation for a nightmare that one MS attack is. I wish it could be solved by throwing enough money at it, as you so put it. Frankly if my employer says that my MS can be solved with money, I will probably quit on the spot. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 20:32
  • You can realistically take your dog with you though; many people move internationally with pets all the time, it's not unheard of. Presumably if your dog is kept in good condition (up to date with shots, not carrying diseases/fleas/etc) then the country you would be moving to would allow you to bring your dog with you. Of course, you would have to pay some fees to do that, but if you had to choose (and you may yet have to choose), would you choose your dog or your job? – Ertai87 Sep 17 '18 at 20:35
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    I'm not sure if you're serious. I can't bring a dog on a business trip and keep him in a hotel. Again, it's a border collie. Bringing a fairly large dog across the world just to keep him locked up in a hotel room (+ hotels that permit dogs are typically of a lower quality than pet-free ones) seems ridiculous. Between the job and the dog I'd pick the dog. It's like asking someone to pick between a child or a job. – Catsunami Sep 17 '18 at 20:37
  • As for your medical condition, I do know that MS can't be /solved/ with money, but it can be managed with money. If you need to go to the hospital, that can be solved with money. If you need medication, that can be solved with money. If you need a day off here and there, that can be solved with money. The core issue of the condition can't be solved with money, but throwing enough money at the problem can at least mitigate the problem beyond the point at which the company is legally liable for you (which is really all they care about). – Ertai87 Sep 17 '18 at 20:38
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    @Ertai87 As for the MS: The problem about this is that it often is dormant for (hopefully) long times, but when it becomes active (I don't know the English word, it's "Schub" in German) one might develop new symptoms that might become permanent (reduced mobility etc.). Stress greatly increases the probability of such an acute event to occur. tl;dr too much stress can put you in a wheelchair for life regardless of treatment. – piet.t Sep 18 '18 at 6:18

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