The company I work for organises a "strategy trip" once a year. I put it in quotes, because while it's announced as "strategy trip", it's very clear it is a vacation trip: the destination is always a sunny location (Spain, Greece, etc.) and while there are one or two mandatory meetings, the rest of the time you're off to do whatever you want. It's also a public secret that the mandatory events are mainly for "tax reasons", i.e. a justification for the company to organise such a trip and pay for it.
These trips originated in a time where the company was only a handful of people (about 20 years ago). The company has now grown to nearly 100 people; I believe about 50-60 of them join the trip.
The trip is around 5-6 days, including travel, and two of the days are weekend days. The company pays for the flight and all-inclusive hotel accommodation, the employee "pays" for the 3-4 week days by using his/her vacation days.
While the trip is announced as a "company strategy trip", it's not mandatory to join. The invitation explicitly states: "please let us know by date such-and-so if you will be joining".
I've been with this company over three years and always declined to join for the following reasons:
- I'm a bit of a "einzelgänger" by nature; while I make sure to socialise at work (small-talk at the coffee machine, communal lunch, etc.) and get along with mostly everybody, I am very uncomfortable in large groups.
- The destinations are not appealing to me.
- There appears (from photos of previous trip) quite a bit of drinking/partying/going out late going on that I'm really not interested in.
- My weekends are valuable to me.
- I'm not comfortable sharing a room with a colleague on a non-professional trip.*
- I would like to use my vacation days for my own vacations with my partner.
(* to save on room costs, you're supposed to share a room; I get along with most colleagues but definitely not all of them. Furthermore, I've been told that it has happened that the hotel did not have separate beds in the rooms, forcing people to actually share a double bed, which is definitely outside my acceptance boundaries.)
I can see the added value of a company strategy session or team building event, but in my opinion such a session should meet some basic criteria (1-2 days max., focus on company, professional setting, private rooms in case of overnight stay) that are clearly not met in this trip.
While I'm not forced to join, and I'm not the only one to opt out, I feel increasing pressure to join ("you don't like fun?", "you should get to know your colleagues better!", etc.). Furthermore, I feel strongly that this trip is an unfair perk to those who do join versus those who do not (if you don't join, you don't get a coupon or something that represents the value of the trip). In fact, I think that in it's current form the trip is a waste of money to the company that could be used better and actually divides the company into a "trip" group and a "non-trip" group.
I've explained my reasons to various (management and non-management) people in the company, but usually avoid the discussion where possible. The results are mixed: some colleagues are understanding, management usually thinks I should join for reasons of team building.
Recently, a new director was hired in order to reorganise the company (it has grown a lot of the last years and the original founders/directors felt they needed some help managing). This director is trying to professionalise processes and cut overhead, not in the least because the financial results are not too good lately. As a senior, I'm being involved in this process and often have discussions with management about how to implement/change things.
I would like to bring up this "vacation trip" at some point. Preferably, I'd see it gone for the reasons state above, but I can see that backfiring quickly: it's a popular trip (as said, more than half the company joins). Yet, even at a modest estimate of €1000 per person, we're looking at significant money here, which I think could be better invested (e.g. adjustable desks, new equipment for the electronics lab, IT infrastructure, or even a new junior employee to offload some of the overworked seniors).
My question is twofold:
- On the short term: how can I, as a senior, alleviate the peer pressure of joining this trip?
- On the long term: what arguments can I bring to the table to have management reconsider this trip in a way that is also acceptable to the employees who have been joining on this trip for years?
In response to the comments and answers already posted, I should maybe clarify a few things:
- I'm not against the trip per se. While I as an introvert indeed do not enjoy such events, I can see the value it has to people that do enjoy it, and I can also see that it's a great perk for them.
- I agree €1000 per employee is a small investment, but I've been denied a number of investments, including better (adjustable) desks and lab equipment because there were no funds available for it. I find this impossible to justify (especially considering I have a team member sitting at home with neck issues caused by bad posture).
- Our company has only three layers: directors, management team (I.e. group leaders and project leaders), and engineers. I'm a senior in the middle layer, reporting directly to the directors.
A lot of good answers, but difficult to choose one as "accepted answer". I admit that, in hindsight, my question was formulated too broadly and perhaps focussed to much on my personal arguments against the trip instead of focussing on arguments in the perspective of the company.
I tried to explain in the update and also numerous comments that I'm not against the trip per se, but only aim in reconsidering the trip format (e.g. shorter duration, less exotic destination, combining with company events, etc.) to free up some of the funding the trip is consuming. I failed at bringing this nuance across, obviously.
In the end I decided that I will propose investments to the directors with (hopefully) solid arguments why they are needed, and leave it up to the directors to decide if indeed they are needed and if so, where to get the money from. I will hopefully learn something about their priorities by the response I will get from them.
I accepted the answer that gave me the most insight, although I want to stress that there were other good answers as well - I can only accept one.