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I've been with my company for over a year and love both my job and my boss. My boss and I both work out of headquarters while the rest of our team is spread out all over the country. I have expressed interest in work travel for educational purposes (seminars, visiting a project site, etc).

Recently my boss announced that our team would be doing a team building trip this year and I have absolutely no desire to leave my family for such a purpose. It has not been determined how long this trip would be but I am not comfortable leaving my family for more than 2 days. Personally , I don't feel I am paid well enough to do so either. To be honest, lack of help with my children isn't the problem, I simply do not want to be away from them for long.

How do I decline participation in this kind of event?

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    Are you willing to compromise at all? Maybe you can go for the "main" day, but come home at night? Feb 1 at 3:15
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    You talk to your manager and say exactly this. They are likely to respond "okay, but you're giving up a possible opportunity to make connections that will improve both your career and your value to the company; expect to have to work a bit harder to build that network yourself." Or they will tell you whether there's any flexibility at all. Note that if you don't go, you do not get that time as vacation.
    – keshlam
    Feb 1 at 5:48
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    If your company paid for your family to travel with you and only be with you some of the time. Would you be ok with that? Also, where is this located? Feb 1 at 7:49

5 Answers 5

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I have expressed interest in work travel for educational purposes (seminars, visiting a project site, etc).

and

I simply do not want to be away from them for long.

These two things are mutually exclusive.

Now, you might say 'But a Team Building exercise is not an Educational trip' - Well, no - but if I was your boss I would say 'If you can't come for a team building trip, you cant go to a seminar because you don't want to be away from your family for that long'

If you want to go on Work trips for educational purposes, you should probably go on this trip.

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    It's worth emphasizing: to your boss, this will come off as "I am happy to travel if it's to further my professional progress, but I don't think team-building is important professionally." If your boss thinks team-building is important, the signal you give may limit your progress on the team.
    – yshavit
    Feb 1 at 6:11
  • @yshavit - another excellent point. Feb 1 at 6:42
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    I'm having trouble understanding why this shouldn't be considered an educational trip. There's information about the company, colleagues and knowledge from these colleagues that is all going to be at least somewhat part of a teambuilding getaway, and dismissing all of those as non-educational seems weird to me. Does 'educational' require a certificate at the end of it? Or does it require information from only outside the business? I'm open to change my mind but I would definitely consider a company get together like this 'educational', despite not being a ted talk.
    – Tony
    Feb 1 at 10:26
  • @tony: Depends on the details of the event, how well organized it is, and how much you want to make it work if they aren't well organized or if their proposals aren't your style. Went on one such where the strongest bonding experience turned out to be the spontaneous water fight.
    – keshlam
    Feb 2 at 22:42
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Consider how this looks to an outsider:

  • I am willing to travel for educational purposes.
  • I am not willing to travel for team building purposes.
  • I feel uncomfortable leaving my family for more than two days.
  • I am really happy with my job.

Did you know that your job has assigned work to you in the form of an educational trip to foster better cooperation with your team mates?

Complaining about this implies

  • I'm really happy with my job, but only for tasks that I value completing, not for tasks the boss values completing.

Pushing your boss for educational opportunities that might include travel will be seen as

  • I'm really interested in educational opportunities, as long as they aren't education on how to better work with my peers.

Indicating that you are uncomfortable leaving your family for more than two days implies

  • I'm really interested in travel for education, provided the education can be accomplished in a day (travel itself takes a day)

Put all of that together and it sounds like you're being picky about your travel, in a way that doesn't align with your company's plan.

  • I'm really interested in education, but not the education the company is willing to pay for now, and it needs to be done in one day only, and it better not include working with my team.

In short, I think there's a reason your boss is scheduling a team building effort. Odds are the team isn't working together, which is a FAR MORE IMPORTANT feature of the team than any one team member knowing a new technology.

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As pointed out by @TheDemonLord, your statements are contradictory.

A Team Building exercise is beneficial for the whole team, so non-participation will not be seen as productive. You don't even know how long or where it is going to be.

Ask your manager for "working details" as it probably has not been planned yet. Then, if it really too long, request the Manager for a shorter trip, where you could perhaps return earlier than the rest of the team.

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One problem is that you said you were interested in traveling (for educational reasons). This probably stuck in the head of your manager, who made the general assumption that you wouldn't mind traveling either, without explicitly distinguishing between a trip for educational purposes or a trip for team-building purposes.

The best thing to do is to talk openly with your manager:

  • asking for details of the planned trip (location, duration, activities)
  • explaining that a team-building (rather recreational) trip would be an obstacle at a time when you want to build a strong bond with your children.
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How do I decline participation in this kind of event?

Just don't go. You don't have to decline anything if you think it will cause you problems. Make an apology and don't make it on the day with personal issues.

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