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My boss wants me to take a business trip to meet some team members. This business trip has no other value than just hanging out in person. The given budget for the accommodation would get me a hostel-level kind of accommodation (shared rooms/bathrooms) or the one hotel with this price which has horrible ratings.

For several reasons (mainly hygiene and my safety) I don't want to stay in this type of accommodation.

My friend who takes business trips to the same city in a different company has a budget of double what I have, which allows for nice accommodation.

My boss said he has the same budget and found a great apartment (cannot confirm this).

How do I politely decline this business trip on the basis of not willing to stay in such accommodation? Or should I come up with something else? My main concern is sounding spoiled, but I simply wouldn't feel safe in any of those places.

As a side note, I am also curious how common it is to expect employees to take a business trip and stay in a hostel?

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    Can you add a country tag and maybe another country tag if your destination is a different country?
    – nvoigt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 9:11
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    Also, did you ask your boss about the appartment and how to get one for you, too?
    – nvoigt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 9:12
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    Could be your boss is staying at a family's/friend's apartment but doesn't want to admit it! Have you also tried Airbnb?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 10, 2022 at 9:39
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    Please do not use the "Europe" tag, it's completely meaningless in this context. It does not tell us whether you are covered by specific laws or regulations, whether your country is actually safe or not or what other options of accomodation are available. It's so broad it doesn't even tell us whether you are in the EU. Please use a country tag.
    – nvoigt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 14:44
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    You need to state your country not just continent. The laws that protect you will be different between say Romania and France. Presumably he's "not taking no for an answer" and your how-to needs to cite some legal protection for saying no. Nov 10, 2022 at 18:22

8 Answers 8

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Start off by looking up the most modestly priced hotel that you are willing to stay at, and email your boss the link with a message like:

This is the cheapest reasonable accommodation I could find, but you only budgeted $#.## for accommodations.

Don't bring up that there are cheaper options unless he asks. Don't define "reasonable accommodation" unless he asks. Don't even ask him to take a specific course of action unless he asks what you would prefer to do. You are simply giving him the best option you find reasonable and enough information to let him know that it does not fit into the budget. This places any outcome squarely on his shoulders.

In many cases this will sidestep the whole dilemma:

Either he approves a higher budget and you go (this is more likely than you may think), or he decides it's too much and you don't go. If HE says you don't go, now it's his call instead of yours so you have not done anything against his wishes.

How this improves outcomes where you still have to address the issue:

If he asks you why you can't find anything cheaper, then you explain that everything else you found for cheaper were hostels and in high crime rate areas. While this sounds like it just puts you in the same predicament you're in now, it's not. Now he's asking you a directed question that you are just responding to. It comes off as less needy when your grievances are an answer to a directed question or statement than when it's something you bring up yourself.

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    This is the best answer so far. Also, Maria should read this book: "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel J. Smith. amazon.com/When-Say-No-Feel-Guilty/dp/0553263900 Nov 11, 2022 at 3:59
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    +1, but do make sure that the hotel you suggest is one you're actually willing to stay at more than once, because if your boss approves it, it also sets a baseline for what you're willing to consider "reasonable accommodation" on future business trips to that city. Nov 11, 2022 at 17:42
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    This is already great. Possibly improved by: instead of just coming forward with a single option, bring 2. The first should be a "smart option" of a reasonably priced accommodation that is in good proximity/etc. You can mention that you saw a lot of better hotels but this one seemed a great balance and is far cheaper than them. The second should be the accommodation described in the answer. Then you're already presenting a compromise position as the secondary choice, instead of it being your opening, but are being clear you've made effort and are offering to compromise... to that extent.
    – taswyn
    Nov 11, 2022 at 21:28
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Instead of thinking about cancelling the trip, just present your concerns and let the boss decide. You can say something like this without proposing your solution:

I am not able to find a safe and hygienic accommodation in our allowed budget. Can you please suggest an alternative?

Your concern for safety is highlighted and it is employers' responsibility to ensure they do not send their employees where they do not feel safe. (Under "reasonable" limits which of course is a judgement call)

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    Focus on what you want to happen (go on the trip with the company paying for decent accommodation) not on what you don't want to happen. Nov 10, 2022 at 13:57
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    I'd say it differently too. "Increase the budget, or we will have to have a meet and greet some other way."
    – user134121
    Nov 10, 2022 at 20:05
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    Yeah, this won't work. The boss will just find an accommodation with a one star rating in a bad part of town. Whatever you do, do not follow this advice. Nov 11, 2022 at 3:49
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    Seems like such an accommodation would fall under "not safe or hygienic", so it should be the start of a discussion, not the end of one.
    – Erik
    Nov 11, 2022 at 8:16
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    "not safe or hygienic" - that's an argument you're not going to win (assuming these accomodations are properly registered with the local authority).
    – deep64blue
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:13
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  1. Go to your employee handbook or HR website and carefully read the travel and expense policies. Check whether a "fixed budget" is in there or not. Typically employers are required to cover all "reasonable" expenses that you incur and some definition of what "reasonable" is.
  2. Unfortunately most travel policies are a little out of date. The whole notion of x dollars pay doesn't really work anymore since hotels and airlines have aggressively shifted to dynamic pricing.
  3. These days, the price for the same room n the same hotel can fluctuate by more than a factor of 10. Recently a simple Holiday Inn in Boston that typically costs $120/night shot up to over $1500/night (more than 12x) simply because there was high demand. It's unreasonable to expect the employee to carry the risk of price fluctuations like this.
  4. Armed with this info and data, talk to your manager: You can tell them you'd be happy to travel as long as a minimum standard of accommodation and safety can be met. Be as specific as possible: "needs to have private bathroom", cannot be in a "high crime area" in the city, etc. Hopefully these are already spelled out in the travel policy. If not, you have to make them up.
  5. Tell your boss that you weren't able to find a viable travel plan that meets the minimum requirements and that you need help to make this work. It's helpful if you can show your homework and present some options: acceptable plan at a higher price, maybe shifting the date to when low-price accommodations are available, etc.

Take it from there. You make a perfectly reasonable request here and hopefully you will get a reasonable answer. If your boss insist on "just suck it up" you have a bunch of options: indeed "suck it up", "pay the difference out of pocket", "refuse to go" or "elevate". Personally I would take it up with HR: shared bathrooms or unsafe part of the city sound like non-starters to me and could result in legal exposure risk for the company. So HR may be inclined to engage.

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  • Well crafted answer, I strongly suggest marking it as an answer. Minor add, @Maria, you can pick the hotel you want to stay, and collect data from other companies budgets for meal etc, and ask for that budget from your boss. For example Microsoft's policy was max 200 Euro per day for stay, and 40 euro for food in total.
    – Pecheneg
    Nov 10, 2022 at 15:16
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    I add to your list of things to check with "check what your government tax department thinks reasonable costs for employee travel are"., and compare that to the company rate. For example in the US, the IRS publishes a list of per diem rates for different locations.
    – Peter M
    Nov 10, 2022 at 16:45
  • In some cases, even if the company does not have such HR policies (which would often be the case in small or medium size companies), there can be branch agreements. For instance in France they are called "conventions collectives", and some of them have specific rules relating to travel that apply to all companies in that branch.
    – jcaron
    Nov 10, 2022 at 17:51
  • @PeterM Note the linked list are GSA per-diem rates and not IRS. They do not officially apply to anybody except the US Government. Unlike personal vehicle mileage, there is no IRS per-diem rate. While some people presume the GSA rates to be "safe," in peak travel circumstances, the lodging number is too low. Federal employees often can get a voluntarily-offered government hotel rate that matches GSA rates, but everybody else just has to pay more.
    – user71659
    Nov 11, 2022 at 6:52
  • I would be careful with the 'high crime area' argument depending on where you are supposed to travel. If you are supposed to go to say Berlin or Paris, there definitely are areas with a higher crime rate but I'm not sure whether you could argue successfully that you are not willing to stay in a hotel there.
    – quarague
    Nov 11, 2022 at 8:18
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Yes, you should push back - which let them know that you're not OK with the arrangement provided, but not without providing / suggesting an alternate. There are couple of things you can do:

  1. Thank your boss for the idea and budget approval, and then let them know that you're not able to find a suitable accommodation for you in this budget and would appreciate some help on this (Please ensure you ask for help, only mentioning that you're not able to find sounds like a complain or excuse). Either your boss can help you, or they can direct you to the travel /admin department who can help you getting a proper booking.

  2. If that's not possible, or you don't find a suitable one, request your boss that whether the planning can be reversed (your colleagues can visit your city)?

However, even after this the decision is not reversed / changed / budget is not extended, you need to take a call whether you need to change your preference, or stick to refusing the trip.

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  • Thank you for the response. One thing I am struggling with, is how to justify that this accommodation is not suitable for me, yet accommodation within the same price range is suitable for him, and he is on a much higher position in the company.
    – Maria
    Nov 10, 2022 at 13:45
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    @Maria ask him what is the minimum standard of accomodation he considers acceptable for business travel. He won't have such thing on top of his head, so you have to be prepared to offer guidance (e.g. shared/private room/bathroom, number of stars, breakfast included, booking rating, etc). Then use that info to search within the budget allocated.
    – calofr
    Nov 10, 2022 at 14:08
  • @Maria Why do you assume it's suitable for him? He (allegedly) found it for you; that doesn't mean he'd stay there himself. And if he's found it, he can tell you where it is.
    – Graham
    Nov 12, 2022 at 1:18
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Before anything else: I think you are right to push back on this. If your employer expects you to travel for their benefit, they should make it a pleasure for you.

That said, it's very hard to actually refuse a direct order from your manager. You can obviously express your (extreme) displeasure with it - and absolutely do mention the fact that you don't feel safe - but if he still says "this is the budget, you're going" you have to decide what you're going to do. The three realistic options are:

  1. Go anyway.
  2. Escalate the issue to your boss's boss and/or HR, probably on safety grounds.
  3. Refuse to go. Deal with the consequences of this.

Only you can really say what the consequences of (2) or (3) will be for you, so that's not a decision anyone here can help with.

(There is a fourth option: pay for separate accommodation out of your own pocket. I think this is a terrible idea which sets a terrible precedent so I'm deliberately excluding it from the main list)

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    I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that they should "make it a pleasure" to travel, but "as stress-free as possible" is a pretty good target.
    – Bobson
    Nov 10, 2022 at 17:50
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I would first check that this isn’t a temporary issue.

Hotel prices and availability can vary a lot over the year. Two common cases are:

  • Large events drawing a lot of people from out of town: large conventions, fairs, exhibitions, festivals or event concerts. In many cases this can completely saturate the hotel capacity in the city (and sometimes much further) for the duration of the event (from a single night to a full week or more). Prices will go up, sometimes skyrocket, or rooms will simply not be available.
  • Seasons. Some cities have a peak season and an off-peak season, and prices and availability can change quite bit between the two. This is usually more for holiday destinations, but many cities will have both business and tourist visitors and of course the impact of one will end felt by the other. Sometimes just public holidays, long week-ends and the like will have a big effect as well.

Let's take one example: Las Vegas, and I picked the MGM Grand (largest hotel there, over 5000 rooms). According to Google:

  • On Tuesday, November 22nd, you can get a room for €78.
  • On Tuesday, December 6th, the price goes up to €2233 (no idea what event takes place at that time).
  • On Thursday, January 5th, it reaches €2805 (that's during CES), 36 times more!

Las Vegas is the city with the largest hotel capacity in the world (over 150 000 rooms!), so you can imagine that if they get to this state, it's going to be much worse in smaller cities, which sometimes have events that far exceed their capacity.

In a previous life I used to often go to Baselworld, a large exhibition (over 100000 visitors from all over the world back then) in the Swiss city of Basel (which probably has hotel capacity in the thousands of rooms, maybe low tens of thousands). It's basically impossible to find a room in the city during the first few days of Baselworld (they even bring in ships to dock in the city to add more rooms), and most people will have to stay in neighbouring cities, from 30 minutes away to over an hour away! If by any chance you find anything in the city it will cost you an arm and a leg.

For those cases, just moving your trip a few days (at worst a week or two) may make all the difference between outrageous prices (or extremely low quality accommodation for a "normal" price) and a very good deal.

When it's a matter of season it's of course more difficult as you could need to move your trip quite a bit more.

You haven't told us either the destination city or the budget, so we can't tell you if your boss is really being stingy or if it's just bad timing.

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It's certainly not normal to be expected to stay in a "hostel" on business travel.

As guidance, I would be looking at the price of a single room in a hotel belonging to a chain (i.e. the kind that cater to business travellers - such as in the UK, Premier Inn or Travelodge, as examples that spring to mind).

If you're a woman, or a man of below-average firmness, then it seems perfectly acceptable to raise the point about feeling unsafe in anything other than a separate room in a business hotel.

And for any person, if the accomodation is not a business hotel, or is not obviously comparable, then it seems fine to simply state that hostel-style living, or staying in a private home that caters to transients and isn't supervised by on-site staff, is not in accordance with how you prefer to live.

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    "If you're a woman, or a man of below-average firmness...." Entirely unnecessary - even if you are a man of average or better "firmness", being outnumbered or facing a weapon in a mugging (or worse) will likely make that moot.
    – GreenMatt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 18:35
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    Nothing is gained by including that phrase in your answer, the point of the sentence would be the same without it. Furthermore, it is sexist wrt "a woman" and indicating there is something wrong with a man whose "firmness" is below average, or with one who is average or above who still feels unsafe staying in a bad neighborhood.
    – GreenMatt
    Nov 10, 2022 at 19:09
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    @GreenMatt, the simple fact is that it would be generally more acceptable for a woman to advance that reason, as it may well be for a man who lacks firmness, and it will likely be accepted as a reason even when others don't share the same subjective fear. If a man of above-average firmness feels unsafe in a neighbourhood, and says so, then it can be considered a dangerous place without doubt.
    – Steve
    Nov 10, 2022 at 19:32
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    @GreenMatt You're missing the point. Steve isn't saying those things that you are suggesting at all. You're the one suggesting that "there is something wrong with a man whose "firmness" is below average". What Steve is saying is that there are particularly strong arguments that the OP might be able to make in their favour.
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 11, 2022 at 3:16
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    @Steve The worst part is that this kind of thinking somehow still contributes to people discriminating against women when the real liability is the idiot who lets their boss peer pressure them into a bad situation based on some 1950s idea of masculinity. Nov 14, 2022 at 14:54
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Why not ask them to pay for transport and accommodation (aka the apartment) upfront and give you an allowance for food?

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  • The apartment the boss staid in is no longer available. Also, the hotels she found at the allocated budget were shared accommodations with one star ratings. If she follows your advice, the boss will just book one of those cheap hostels. Nov 12, 2022 at 5:04
  • Why not just let me submit receipts and pick up the pieces later? If you don't trust me to be reasonable doing that then don't send me because I ain't going anyway.
    – Mazura
    Nov 12, 2022 at 21:02

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