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I feel uncomfortable about an upcoming business trip with a female colleague. I would be more comfortable if we flew on different flights and stayed in different hotels but I am not sure on how to handle this as our relationship has always been friendly and 100% work related.

If I mention the "danger" of this trip with her taking a non-work direction then I would be just revealing my inappropriate line of thought while in reality nothing has ever happened to indicate such a thing.

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    It would be very odd to be concerned that merely being on the same airplane or in the same hotel would be a cause for concern. Depending on the trip, there may not be a whole lot of flights or hotels that would be appropriate. And staying at separate hotels often makes coordinating travel more difficult. You could certainly ask to be moved to a less convenient flight and a less convenient hotel if you're really concerned. But at a minimum people are going to think that you're odd for making the request. – Justin Cave Sep 25 '15 at 18:00
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    I just don't understand this question. In the 30+ years I worked in the computer industry I went on many business trips with one or more male colleagues, taking the same flights, staying at the same hotel, sharing a rental car, often going to dinner together after work, without any feeling of "danger". The relationships did not change from "friendly but 100% work related" just because we were in a different city. Why do you expect anything different? – Patricia Shanahan Sep 25 '15 at 20:12
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    I'm female and I have travelled interstate with male colleagues on a number of occasions. We flew in the same plane (sat next to each other). We shared a hire car and the driving of said car. We had separate hotel rooms, and we had meals together where we could discuss work and debrief from the day. Guess what? Nothing happened! It's called "mutual respect". – Jane S Sep 26 '15 at 0:15
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    Heck, I've shared hotel rooms with colleagues of the opposite gender. It's certainly easier if there are two beds, but that's true no matter what the other person's shape or preferences are. Most people solve the problem of inappropriate thoughts by simply not acting upon them. If you can do that in the office, you can do so in on the trip -- if you stop letting yourself think the trip in any way implies you can do anything else. – keshlam Sep 26 '15 at 4:43
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    The most likely scenario is that the OP comes from a very socially conservative background where mixing of genders in such contexts is outside of what is normal. The best thing he can do is to talk to a trusted colleague who will understand his point of view and gain some reassurance that this is a normal work situation that he can, in time, become comfortable with. – teego1967 Sep 26 '15 at 19:07
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My feelings on this are colored by the fact that I am female and spent years traveling with male colleagues and very frequently in the early years of my career got taken off of career enhancing projects because some men (or their wives) were uncomfortable. So let me put this as politely as I can. You are acting in a chauvinistic manner. If you don't want to travel with a woman and stay in the same hotel or on the same flight, that's fine, then you stop travelling and let it harm your career and don't harm her career for your prejudice which is what will happen if you object.

She is an equal colleague and there is no reason at all not to fly on the same flight (you don't have to sit together) or stay in the same hotel (I presume both of you would object to staying in the same room!) It's just as if she lived in the same apartment building, no more personal than that. At the end of the work day, just go to your room and leave her to her own devices. If you share a rental car though, she should have the keys to the one the company is paying for and you should rent one on your own dime since you have trouble sharing with women. Its not her problem so she should not be the one who has to pay extra.

If she is not making advances to you in the office, then it is unlikely she will do so when on the road and if she does, then address that with a firm no and complain only if she persists.

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What mitigation can you do about the core problem (not what you want)?

This is a really tough situation given what you are asking. Nearly everyone you interact with at work is going to get this out of your request:

  • "I can't control myself (sexually) around my female colleague and need to take fairly extreme actions to ensure nothing happens."

I would be just revealing my inappropriate line of thought

The problem here is YOU, not her. No matter what the reason (personal preference, religion, whatever) it is ultimately your responsibility.

I would suggest, among other things:

  • Accept travel convenience. Avoiding the same flight/hotel/rental car is never going to come across well. I would accept that you are just going to have to deal with this aspect.
  • Figure out some sort of accountability (or whatever) if you are worried about your actions/thoughts. Find a friend/spouse/whatever and touch base daily if needed. I don't know exactly what is driving this concern, but get a real person to touch base with.
  • Avoid drinking 100%. Just don't drink alcohol on the trip, period. Get something else if your team goes out. Or whatever else they might do that causes your brain to go on vacation.
  • Avoid 1/1 social gatherings. This will be hard and cost you some of your working relationship potentially, but just avoid doing 1/1 activities with your colleague. If traveling for work try to include others from your travel destination, too (easiest way to avoid 1/1). If you do social things try to have an early time to be back, if you are human your brain starts being more dumb the more tired you are.
  • Identify the triggers for you feeling uncomfortable. Is it just interacting outside of work? Spending 1/1 time together? Having lots of time in the car? Etc. Once you figure these out you can find more specific and personal ways to address them. We can't know this and everyone is different.
  • Journal/write in evenings. This is going to sound stupid perhaps, but take time to journal and process through whatever thoughts you have. Figure out what "stops them" and do them.
  • Don't go into coworkers room. This seems obvious but it's not (I forgot it initially, thanks Bill!). If you need to coordinate in the hotel, stay in public areas.

Do what you can do to minimize your feeling of risk/whatever. But do absolutely everything you can to avoid those actions affecting your colleague.

Can you pull this off without destroying your career at this company?

Probably not easily.

That's not a good impression of you, obviously, and it's almost impossible to avoid coming across as sexist and discriminatory. Because it's pretty much exactly what you are doing.

Ultimately this is an entire tradeoff between how you want to be respected by your coworkers and how important this is to you.

There really is not a great way to phrase this, at all, except perhaps something like, "Out of respect for my spouse, I prefer to avoid situations other than work with women in a 1/1 context." Even this wording is going to be VERY controversial too among certain people, though, so keep this in mind.

How offensive is this?

Some people/coworkers might not care at all about such a request.

But those that do? You are really going to offend them.

That's why you need to carefully consider how important this is to you before doing so. I'm sure this question and comments/answers will show that, too..

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    I had not really thought about this before it came up myself, but don't go to the other co-workers room under any circumstance. If you need to do some planning etc., do it in the lobby or a conference room. – Bill Leeper Sep 25 '15 at 19:24
  • @BillLeeper I added that, great suggestion! – enderland Sep 25 '15 at 19:26
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    I would also add that the OP needs to be completely open and up front for the reason why it makes him uncomfortable. It could be religious, or any number of other valid reasons. But the only way to try to deal with it maturely is to explain the why you are uncomfortable so it can be dealt with in a professional manner that is respectful to both the OP and his female colleague. – Jane S Sep 26 '15 at 0:54
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Different flights and different hotels is a bit extreme. I'm going to give you the benefit of assuming you're not an out of control womaniser and assume that like me your wife would have serious misgivings. Or that it's a religious issue. Or even just a legitimate worry because it's the first time you've been in this situation.

In the first case this is fixed by a few (actually a lot) phonecalls to reassure my wife that I'm not deserting her several times a day and every night.

Religious issues are hard to deal with. But unless they're expecting to share a room with this lady then I don't see a problem. You're not obligated to eat with her or even socialise outside work with.

Just keep everything on a strictly professional basis would be the best way. Don't make her any more uncomfortable than she may already be (you're not the only one going on this trip).

If it's because you have a personal attraction to her... curb it!.... it's not the time nor the place... and could impact very seriously on both of you if she doesn't reciprocate the attraction. I say this because you're out of the comfortable office environment, but still 'on the job'. Any problems this might cause would therefore involve people who don't know you, but are connected to your superiors. Always remember you are representing your company, not yourself.

Definitely do NOT let her know about your misgivings, that would just be creating a possible problem and tense atmosphere for her.

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    And if you don't plan to tell your wife that you are travelling with a woman, at least tell the female colleague, so she can pretend she doesn't know you at the airport. It's pretty nasty to get stuck in the middle of a couple's fight because you innocently say hello to a work colleague at the airport. I know this from painful personal experience. – HLGEM Sep 25 '15 at 19:19
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    or... don't lie to your wife... it doesn't end well – Kilisi Sep 25 '15 at 19:35
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    If your wife doesn't trust you to go on a business trip with female work colleagues, you have much deeper issues to deal with - none of them related to work. – Laconic Droid Sep 25 '15 at 22:55
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    Unsure on that, If my wif was happy for me to go on business trips with another woman without a bit of a question/answer session to put me in my place, I'd be wondering why she's so happy to be left alone..... just saying it works both ways. – Kilisi Sep 25 '15 at 23:21
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    Just be honest and up front with your wife. If you have nothing to hide, then don't hide it! – Jane S Sep 26 '15 at 0:42

protected by Jane S Sep 26 '15 at 20:53

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