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I work at a megacorp with a famously liberal travel policy: you can book any fare that's below a (high) cap, and if you save money by going under cap, you get "credits" to use on your next trip. In practice, this translates to business class most of the time. This policy is publicized outside the company, told to prospective hires, well documented on the company intranet, and followed by all other teams that I know of.

Unfortunately, the director of the division I happen to work in (~500 employees out of the company's ~50,000) has decreed her own policy: All travel is to be in cheapest economy class, accumulated fare credits may not be used, and anybody who deviates from this will have their expense report rejected and will have to foot the entire bill themselves. This was announced as a "temporary" cost-saving measure, but it's been well over a year now, the company is making record profits, and there's no sign of a change.

Most of the group travels little, but my team is scattered across four continents, meaning any travel is long (my next trip will involve 48 hours on a plane), and my colleagues, my boss and my boss's boss are all unhappy with her policy. I've contacted the company's travel policy manager, who has apologetically informed me that the "policy" is, in fact, more of a wouldn't-it-be-nice-if guideline that can be overruled by individual managers.

Short of transferring to another division, what, if anything, can I do to get the company travel policy restored?

Update: The company has a number of internal forums where I could raise the issue, garner sympathy, and quite possibly get this escalated. They're not anonymous, though, and I'm unsure if I want to put myself on the line by taking direct action this way. Also, my division is a cost center, not a profit center (and this has been a useful reminder of why you should always aim to work in a profit center, but that's another story).

Resolution: So, I got the policy changed. More specifically,

  • my team increased their travel budgets to match the company policy, and
  • the company travel head has promised to change the way credits are accounted in next FY's budget, so there's no longer an incentive for teams to ban usage.

Without going into too much detail, I confirmed that my manager was on board with this plan, then posted a public question for the next company all-hands meeting about why the company isn't enforcing its own travel policy. I then drummed up some support on the company's internal forums, helped by a few well-respected people who shared my concern. It turned out my grievance was wide-spread, so the question was voted up to the top and put to the CEO, who decreed the change.

Now, since I did this under my own name, this did involve publicly outing my own org, and there was a bit of a private shitstorm with various muckety-mucks in the org accusing me of spreading 'misinformation' (eat my economy-class-flying shorts) and my manager needing to step into to do damage control. This was expected and I don't expect it to cause meaningful harm to my career; but my company is unusual, and there are plenty of other places where this would have been be a firing offense. YMMV.

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    Given the reponse from the company's travel policy manager, there does not seem to be much you can do. Your director seems to be well within his rights. If this really has an undue impact on your well-being, try to transfer. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Jun 3 '14 at 12:25
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    Obviously you might be in a better position to know this than us, but while the company is making record profits, your division may not be. Your director may have been set an objective of reducing cost overhead in their division, and sees this as an easy way of doing so. – Rob Moir Jun 3 '14 at 12:59
  • What have you tried? Have you contacted HR? Have you asked the director when the policy will be reverted? How often do you travel? The current form of this question is not really something we can help you with. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 3 '14 at 13:44
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    "What to do when manager ignores company travel policy?"is either a leading or misleading question because it is clear from the OP's post that the company travel "policy" is not a policy but simply a guideline. The question is also leading or misleading in that the manager did not ignore the guideline but chose not to implement it. Since the OP's immediate superiors are unhappy with the manager's travel policy, it is up to them to work out the arguments and round up the political support from the higher ups that would lead the manager to review and rescind her travel policy. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 3 '14 at 14:35
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    If other parts of the company are indeed getting the full benefit of the 'policy' (and make sure you check that) making some enquiries about openings in other parts of the company might be worthwhile. – DJClayworth Jun 3 '14 at 19:13
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So, I got the policy changed. More specifically,

  • my team increased their travel budgets to match the company policy, and
  • the company travel head has promised to change the way credits are accounted in next FY's budget, so there's no longer an incentive for teams to ban usage.

Without going into too much detail, I confirmed that my manager was on board with this plan, then posted a public question for the next company all-hands meeting about why the company isn't enforcing its own travel policy. I then drummed up some support on the company's internal forums, helped by a few well-respected people who shared my concern. It turned out my grievance was wide-spread, so the question was voted up to the top and put to the CEO, who decreed the change.

Now, since I did this under my own name, this did involve publicly outing my own org, and there was a bit of a private shitstorm with various muckety-mucks in the org accusing me of spreading 'misinformation' (eat my economy-class-flying shorts) and my manager needing to step into to do damage control. This was expected and I don't expect it to cause meaningful harm to my career; but my company is unusual, and there are plenty of other places where this would have been be a firing offense. YMMV.

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    Congratulations for sticking your head out. – user8036 Jun 14 '14 at 16:53
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    You should accept this as the answer to your question since: it's what you did and it worked. – J. Chris Compton Apr 22 at 15:24
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Seems like there's not a lot to be done except complain. Next employee evaluation meeting you have, make sure to mention this inconvenience and how it affects your enjoyment and willingness to work there. Also mention that this was advertised as a benefit when you joined and you feel misled with the current situation.

My guess; I think she might be measured on how much her department costs and her bonus could be tied to her being able to reduce costs. So, this new policy could give her a larger bonus. You suffer, she benefits. Just a guess though, but it's quite common with bonuses tied to reducing costs.

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    Bingo on the second paragraph. Sorry OP, there's nothing you can do. – Raystafarian Jun 3 '14 at 12:36
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    There is no evidence to even support that line of thought though. Its pure speculation, even if true, its the director's decision to cut costs. – Donald Jun 3 '14 at 13:06
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    @Ramhound Speculation? Yes indeed, which is why I prefaced it with "My guess". I do know that these kind of goals exists and I think they may be fairly common. In the end though, it doesn't make any difference. – Fredrik Jun 3 '14 at 15:13
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    It's also possible she is not rewarded for reducing expenses tied to replacing unhappy employees. Note that I hope you intended your first paragraph as sarcasm. I think anyone who doesn't read it that way and applies your advice is headed for trouble. – Amy Blankenship Jun 3 '14 at 18:52
  • I am with Amy the first paragraph is bad advice and there really is nothing helpful here. It explains why the manager might implement this but not how to get the policy restored. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 3 '14 at 19:06
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48 hours of travel is highly unreasonable for a large business. Be prepared to be let go, but I think this is one of those cases where you need to tell your manager or float it all the way up that you will not travel half way around the world in coach.

Also, this should be being paid directly by the company anyway or on a company card, so rejecting the expense report would not hurt you financially.

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    I hate flying. I'll do it if I have to, but forcing me to fly coach on a long, intercontinental flight would have me looking for a new job. Who is this clown that manages a distributed team but doesn't want to pay for reasonable travel accommodations? – James Adam Jun 3 '14 at 19:33
  • Company cards don't work that way. In most cases you are responsible and it may be your credit rating on the line too. The company card is just a convenience. It is ultimately backed by the company though so say an employee has a crappy credit rating they can still get a card to use for travel. If an expense report is rejected you are still responsible and in some cases the company will take it out of your paycheck for un re-imbursed expenses. Been there ate the lobster and paid for it. – Bill Leeper Mar 2 '16 at 23:58
  • @BillLeeper is correct. I have, in the past, refused to accept such company cards, and told the company I would not travel under those terms. Fortunately my skill set is such that I can make these kinds of stances. – Wesley Long Apr 22 at 6:01
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If you are not his superior then it is not your place to intervene in the matter. The person that the manager answers to makes that determination and acts accordingly. If the manager is aware of the policy and has agreed to abide by it then it is the manager who will have to pay his own expenses above and beyond what the company allows.

  • It's not above and beyond what the company allows. It's above and beyond what one manager allows, in contradiction to company policy. – gnasher729 Apr 23 at 18:55

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