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Research

My searches here on Workplace didn't answer my question because the focus was, for example, on family reasons or if there was any doubt about the necessity of the business trip. The most similar question is this, the worries and fears are comparable. Nevertheless, I would like to clarify further questions for my situation.

Context

I have been working very happily in a company as a product manager in purchasing for 2.5 years. It's not written down in my employment contract, but the job description lists visiting trade fairs and suppliers as a sideline job.

When I started, there were no business trips due to the global Corona pandemic. After travel restrictions were lifted worldwide, trips, trade fairs and supplier visits increased again. So far only within Europe. The trade fair and supplier visit themselves are fine. I have found that I struggle with problems when traveling long distance. The greater the time difference and distance from home, the worse the symptoms become. When traveling long distances, I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, especially at night, which prevent me from getting a restful sleep. Combined with the time difference, this degrades my physical and mental fitness throughout the day to an unworkable level. It is unthinkable to have a professional appearance with suppliers if you are completely tired and exhausted. Potential business trips are usually shorter than I would need to acclimate to the time difference, but the sleep problems persist.

On private trips it helps a lot if my significant other accompanies me. He can calm me down with the problems. However, his presence is obvious not an option for business trips. I don't think it's right to take medication etc. just to be able to go on a business trip.

There have been no long-distance business trips yet. But just the thought of a trip like this, without anything concrete currently planned, leads to stress and discomfort. However, it is only a matter of time before a long-distance business trip takes place.

My work performance so far has been impeccable, even without long-distance business travel, and my employer has been very happy with me from the start. Based on my performance, I was recently appointed as a team leader for a specific product area.

Furthermore, I do not have and do not want a medical certificate that would certify that I am unfit to travel. The legal situation in Germany is that the employer has the so-called “right of direction” with which he can order a business trip. I am not looking for a legal perspective on the situation.

Thoughts

I am aware that visiting trade fairs and suppliers is part of this job. However, I don't want to burn bridges with my employer or worsen my future prospects. I have already thought about that I want to describe my problem transparently to my superiors. I am still concerned that stopping long-distance business trips will not meet the requirements of being a product manager in purchasing in the long term. Since refusing or rejecting business trips can be problematic in terms of fulfilling the employment relationship or my job, I considered whether an internal change to a position without business trips should be discussed. However, there is currently no such open call for tenders. There may not be any suitable internal position that my employer is willing or able to offer. I might overthink the situation.

Questions

  1. How can I professionally and politely communicate to my employer that I no longer want to take part in long-distance business trips due to these problems?

  2. In general, does it make sense to directly present suggestions for an internal change of position in the same conversation due to the requirements for being a product manager?

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    Have you discussed your concerns with your direct manager? In my opinion that would be a good first step.
    – jwh20
    Oct 9, 2023 at 19:21
  • No, I have not yet spoken to my direct supervisor about this. I'm unsure how to handle the conversation and possible outcomes, therefore the questions.
    – Shadow
    Oct 9, 2023 at 19:32
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    If you have been promoted to team leader, is it possible/ reasonable to consider delegating some travel to other team members? Likely more reasonable to send an underling to visit a trade fair thousands of miles away from your primary markets than to send an underling to visit your most important supplier that happens to be headquartered thousands of miles away. Oct 9, 2023 at 20:17
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    You are absolutely overthinking this if you have not even spoken to your manager yet. Go talk to them and explain that you suffer from serious medical issues when traveling long distances and will therefore be unable to do so for work. That is all you need to plan out for now. If that is a problem for them, it will rear its head eventually so better to start looking for solutions now.
    – InBedded16
    Oct 9, 2023 at 20:18
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    First of all, Welcome to Workplace! Have you heard about Jet lag (Wikipedia)? What you describe could be it, but, because you dread the possibility of it happening again and affecting your performance, it is causing anxiety. So (and especially since you're a Team Leader now), could you try to have better accomodations? Like going earlier, to have more time to adjust. (Possible duplicate workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/191417/… ? Or other "jet lag" questions)
    – user138753
    Oct 9, 2023 at 21:04

2 Answers 2

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How can I professionally and politely communicate to my employer that I no longer want to take part in long-distance business trips due to these problems?

By having an open and honest conversation about it with your direct manager. Tell them what you told us: that long distance travel causes significant mental and physical stress for you, that you don't think you can competently handle some of your business responsibilities while being on the road and that you very much prefer not to do business travel.

Think about how this could be handled effectively. How much travel is really required and what exactly is it for? Who else on your team can handle the same tasks or could be trained/coached and perhaps likes to travel. Maybe another person from a different group can fill in?

In general, does it make sense to directly present suggestions for an internal change of position in the same conversation due to the requirements for being a product manager?

No, that's too early. I would first brainstorm solution within your current roles. Covid has shown that a lot of work can get done without travel and so far that seemed to have worked well. Requirements can be tweaked and adjusted.

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    Consider that many people love to travel and your manager might be arranging this thinking he does you a favour. So you really, really need to tell them.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 10, 2023 at 16:17
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    @gnasher729 At least most people have a romanticized view of it and would love to do it initially, and then they realize after it kind of sucks if done long term, but this isn't what OP is dealing with. OP is dealing with a straight up medical issue. No manager would guess that business travel causes panic attacks and anxiety.
    – Nelson
    Oct 11, 2023 at 1:02
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There's a few things that stand-out to me in this:

  • job description lists visiting trade fairs and suppliers as a sideline job.
  • When I started, there were no business trips due to the global Corona pandemic.
  • Based on my performance, I was recently appointed as a team leader for a specific product area.

These are the three factors that I feel are most important - you took a job that had a travel component, it wasn't an issue initially for a number of reasons, but now due to change in circumstances - it is.

First port of call - I'm assuming that the long-distance component is due to the Specific Product area that you've become TL of. If this the case - then I would talk to your manager (this will be a recurring theme here) as to whether or not you can do a lateral move to a product area that would have less travel.

If this isn't the case - the next option is still talking with your manager - not wanting to travel long distance isn't that unheard of - however the issue is that there is often a prestige in being trusted by a company for long distance assignments. Even with the best manager, it may hurt your career - simply put if Person A can do everything, but Person B can't do everything - which one, as a manager, are you going to favour?

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