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My company head office is in South Africa while I am based in Sweden. My manager sent out an email that next month he will be in France and would love to meet anyone in person for lunch or coffee.

My manager is a decent guy and I know I can learn a lot from him. I also want to build a good relationship with him since we work closely together.

I wonder if it is appropriate (and also a good idea) to fly there (considering that it's a 2-hour flight) to meet him in person.

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  • 116
    I wouldn't personally call France "close" to Sweden. For a two hour flight, transfers and whatever else that's at least a day out of your schedule. May 16 at 7:57
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    I edited the misleading headline!
    – deep64blue
    May 16 at 15:14
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    Do you have other colleagues in France who might have been the intended audience of this invitation? Seems a little unusual to invite someone a plane flight away to stop by for coffee, it might make more sense if you have colleagues who are local to your boss' visit. I'd interpret the email differently if you're included on a team email that includes French colleagues, versus the invite going out only to people who would need to fly there. The former might be a courtesy invitation with no real expectation/desire for you to fly there, the latter implies endorsement of your travel. May 16 at 15:41
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    Since you are located in Sweden, I’m surprised you are not considering flygskam :D
    – Didier L
    May 16 at 22:44
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    Was it an email to you individually or a group email to MyCo_EuroTeam? In other words are there likely to be staff members in Italy, Portugal, Hungary also wondering this?
    – mcalex
    May 17 at 3:00

7 Answers 7

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Contact him and tell him this, and ask if it's appropriate to charge the flight and accommodation to the company. You'd have to talk to him anyway to find a place to meet, so call him in advance. I can't see any reason why the company would say no.

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    I can see a very good reason for the company to say no. It's a working day gone, and the company has to pay for a return flight and accommodation. Just to say "hello" to the boss.
    – Simon B
    May 16 at 10:55
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    I can see a very good reason for the company to say yes. It's an occasion to strengthen your relationship with said manager and could count as some kind of "team building" activity. If the company can afford it, it's probably good for everyone.
    – qyt
    May 16 at 16:47
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    @GabeSechan It's a fraction of the monthly expenses for keeping a Swedish developer employed.
    – pipe
    May 16 at 21:12
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    @pipe I know what devs cost, I'm one myself. Very, very, very few companies are going to fly him for a meet and greet. If they had a legit reason for the meeting that's one thing, but this is a thousand dollars down the drain for no real gain to the company. It would be expressly against most company's policies. May 16 at 21:38
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    I work remotely from our group and our manager. They periodically fly me out to the home office, half-way across the US, in order for "team building" and personal relationships to be built. While there we also do normal work in assigned cubicles. We also have a small office in Canada and they are brought in at the same time. For a meaningful sized company, the time and money spent is inconsequential and can provide a lot of benefits to the company in terms of increased team confidence, managerial and employee confidence in each other, etc.
    – chadbag
    May 17 at 3:24
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If the company will pay, yes. Otherwise I would say no.

I would expect this trip to take at least a day and cost at least three figures of Euros. If the company is happy to cover the costs and have you take a day traveling instead of working then great. You get to meet your boss and build a personal bond. It really helps long distance communication for your emails to be going to a person you have met rather than an email address. It is quite possible for the company to be happy to pick up the tab for this "team building exercise". However if they are not, and you would be paying out of pocket and perhaps even making up the time, then the company does not think it is worth it to them so it is probably not worth it to you.

An additional consideration is the environmental footprint of the trip. As this will require two flights of about 1000 miles each this is not likely to be negligible. It will be for you to weigh this against the value you would get from the meeting, your company may not consider it at all.

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    On top of the cost/time/Value of meeting someone face to face consideration - I'd factor in the CO2 footprint added by the 4 hours of flight.
    – Ola M
    May 17 at 12:57
  • @OlaM Very good point, added.
    – User65535
    May 17 at 13:00
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No. 2 hours by air is not "close". "Close" means "if you can get here without inconvenience", e.g. if you're in the same city or maybe one of the suburbs of that city. If you have no reason to be in France other than to meet with him, then you should not consider this a request from your manager to meet in person.

That said, if you have other reasons (or feel like making up a reason) to be in France, then feel free to meet with him. However, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to bill this to your company, as your manager is not asking you to join him. To be honest I wouldn't even ask the company if you could bill it.

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  • Yeah, I'd say, even if you were in France but a different city, it's probably still too far to expect someone to travel. Paris to Lyon for example, is a ~5 hr. drive. Only 1 hr. by plane, but that's not counting the security lines, travel to the airport, time waiting loading the plane, taxiing, etc. All of that times 2 for the return trip, just not worth it. May 16 at 20:34
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    @DarrelHoffman. Are there still planes between Paris and Lyon? I thought the TGV had killed them. (It's a direct connection on the LGV Sud-Est.)
    – TRiG
    May 17 at 21:15
  • Viewed from SA it looks kinda close.
    – lalala
    May 18 at 8:18
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    @TRiG According to Google Maps there are - I just picked 2 large cities as an example. For the record, it reports 2-3 hrs by TGV (I guess depending on time of day?) Still a lot of travel time for a social visit, especially when you double it for the return trip. May 18 at 13:49
  • @DarrelHoffman Generally Paris-Lyon is under 2hrs by TGV. Driving or flying makes no sense.
    – user134868
    May 19 at 1:50
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If I was your manager I would absolutely say yes, it was worth it, and that the company would pay. In fact I would go further. Since your manager says he "would love to meet anyone in person for lunch or coffee" I assume there are several people on his team who work in Europe. I would try to organize it so that everyone gets together with him at the same time, so they not only meet the manager but meet their other colleagues too. And I would do it in a nice hotel. On company time. And if most of the team was in a place other than France I would go there rather than make all of them travel.

Maybe suggest that.

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    On the other hand, perhaps the manager should make the flight up to Sweden to meet the team there?
    – Jon Custer
    May 16 at 20:05
  • @JonCuster Sweden isn't a great hub for "people on his team who work in Europe". That would just be weird.
    – pipe
    May 16 at 21:07
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    @pipe - but, if there is an office in Sweden the manager from South Africa should visit it. If it is just one lone contractor in Sweden, sure probably not. As a manager, once I've flown from South Africa to Europe I'd spend some time going around to meet with different offices. Maybe I'm just weird.
    – Jon Custer
    May 16 at 21:09
  • @JonCuster It's not clear that this is a business trip. It may be a personal trip to France, and he's just offering to take some time out to meet with employees in the area.
    – Barmar
    May 17 at 13:55
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I wonder if it is appropriate (and also a good idea)

It certainly is. The only drawback is the flight time etc,. purely for a coffee. But if you had a reason to be in France then I'd certainly time it to coincide if possible.

If not then I wouldn't because it's a personal visit rather than work related.

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I'm a dinosaur, already retired, so I don't understand the new remote work world, but absolutely you should go. This site demonstrates there are a lot of terrible companies to work for and the fact that you ask shows yours is not one. Managers (I was a low level one) are people, too. Some are good, some are bad. The good ones want you to succeed, maybe because they just want people to succeed or maybe because they realize that your success contributes to their success. If one of my people came asking for help it was my top priority. Unless your company reorganizes so regularly that you won't see this manager again, a personal relationship can be very valuable. You should confirm that you manager will sign off the expense report, but I would see that in the invitation. Come up with a plan, price it out, and send an email describing it and asking for approval.

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Would you like to go to France anyway for a weekend break or a day or two? If yes, then arranging your trip so you can meet your manager as well could be very useful. As others have suggested, talk to your manager about what the company would be prepared to pay for, even if it is only the "working time" while you actually talk to your manager. Then see if you are prepared to put in the extra time & money yourself or not.

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