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I work remotely. An annual conference relevant to my work is going to happen in my town. My manager has said that we can go, but only if my coworker can stay with me at my house (i.e., only if there is no lodging expense).

Our organization has plenty of revenue, although I'm sure there are departmental budget constraints. For the last several years, the company paid for lodging for my coworkers at this same conference. Of course I didn't need lodging - so the expense was already reduced.

Frankly I would have already offered (I thought about doing it last year) but my wife is very private and I know she would never tolerate the idea. Also, we don't have a guest bedroom, and we have small children who sometimes wake up at night. So hosting someone (especially someone who is a stranger to anyone in the house but me) would be uncomfortable.

Does this request seem wrong? It makes me uncomfortable but I'm not sure it's really crossing a line. What do you think?



Edit: This question has gotten way more attention than I expected. Thanks for all the thoughtful answers! I talked this over with my manager today. I simply said "sorry but that wouldn't be comfortable for the family". He said "ok, understood". He also said he put in a request for us to attend next year, so hopefully it will be properly budgeted then. I'm not interested in pursuing the matter any further. I may attend the conference on my own dime- I haven't decided yet. In any case, there are no hard feelings on any side.

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    @JosephStyons I wonder if your manager really means, "the company isn't paying for lodging", but is abstracting that thought out to "He must stay at your house" which leaves little room in deciding the options. – The Muffin Man May 3 '16 at 19:51
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    I think whether or not the request seems wrong is entirely in how it was phrased and your manager's tone. I've stayed with coworkers before, and I've been asked to host coworkers before. But it was asked as a favor and respectfully, not as a mandate. It also depends on the company culture. Is your coworker someone your manager knows you're friends with, or is it a relative stranger? – BobbyScon May 4 '16 at 17:03
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    Seems like a bizarre request to me, doubly so if he knows you have a family at home. And no guest room to boot. – Andrew Whatever May 4 '16 at 18:21
  • @AndrewWhatever he does know I have a family - we talk about family fairly often. I don't suppose he would know how many bedrooms I have unless he went out of his way to research real estate listings using my address :) – JosephStyons May 4 '16 at 19:44
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    Not only is the request very strange, but the premise of the problem motivating it is bizarre; it is net worthwhile to the company to lose days of work from multiple employees and presumably pay for their transportation, but a few hundred dollars for a conference-rate hotel room tips the balance over into too expensive? Someone in management is being penny-wise pound-foolish it sounds like. – Eric Lippert May 4 '16 at 22:44
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Does this request seem wrong? It makes me uncomfortable but I'm not sure it's really crossing a line. What do you think?

I think the request is foolish. As a long time manager, I would never impose on anyone on my team that way. If the company was having financial difficulties, I'd just say "No" to the request to attend the conference, and not try to pass the financial decision onto someone else.

And I don't think you should even consider it. If it makes your wife uncomfortable, then that settles the issue in my mind.

Just tell your manager "I'm sorry, but I can't do that." No further explanation needed.

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    Great answer. I would add the ask is not only foolish, it's sleazy. Yep, you can afford to let the employee attend the conference, but that extra $120 for a hotel is going to sink the company. – Tony Ennis May 4 '16 at 1:23
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    To be clear, there is zero chance I'm actually going to let this happen. I'm basically trying to decide whether I should be pissed off or not. It's not really the money - I could pay for my coworker's hotel myself if I really wanted to. It's unclear to me whether the request itself crosses a line, on principle. The perspectives here have been really helpful in clarifying my own thoughts, so thank you. – JosephStyons May 4 '16 at 13:13
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    @JosephStyons As a general rule, if you're not sure whether you should be pissed about something: don't be. There will be plenty of situations to be pissed about, don't try to find even more if you don't have to. – Mast May 4 '16 at 14:26
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    This request most definitely crosses a line. Whether to be pissed about it or just say no and move on is a separate question. – R.. May 4 '16 at 16:13
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    @Mast Those are some incredibly wise words, I'll be keeping them in mind for the future. – Bigbio2002 May 5 '16 at 8:39
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It would be one thing if the conference was mandatory and your manager said your coworker must stay at your house, however it sounds like it's optional and he's trying to compromise with you. He wants to let you both go, but they aren't interested in paying hotel fees for your coworker.

So it seems like it's the type of situation where you're asking for a favor, but you can't return the favor because of personal issues at home.

Even though the conference is work related it appears that the company doesn't think it's important enough to make an official work thing, so if you want to go on company time you'll need to figure out how your coworker is going to stay somewhere without the company paying for it.

Edit Another option is to explain the situation to coworker and let them decide if they want to rent a hotel room or not go. You can go by yourself right?

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    Thanks for the perspective. That seems fair. I don't know if they'd let me go by myself - it was presented as an all or nothing thing. But they might let me go alone. – JosephStyons May 3 '16 at 19:51
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    Maybe there is a way to avoid all of the issue with the manager and just approach that employee. If management did come back and say "HEY we said he had to stay at your house, not pay for his own room", you just apologize and say "sorry, I thought you were trying to be helpful by mentioning staying at my house as one solution to the fact that the company won't pay for this trip, my wife has a thing about people staying over and I thought it was easier this way." – The Muffin Man May 3 '16 at 19:59
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    I don't know about this. I find it completely inappropriate for a manager to ask this kind of thing. They have no business imposing on the OP's personal life in any way, let alone potentially making it awkward for the OP to decline. It's not acceptable. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 4 '16 at 11:55
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    I can't believe some people are acting like this request is acceptable. – R.. May 4 '16 at 16:15
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    Agreeing with @LightnessRacesinOrbit. It might also be awkward for the co-worker to deal with this. I'd rather pay for a hotel room than sleep on a co-workers couch, but might not dare do so being afraid I would offend the guy offering me a place to crash. – asco May 4 '16 at 18:56
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Your manager's request is unusual in my experience and puts you in an awkward position. It would certainly make me uncomfortable. Additionally, it seems that maybe the boss is setting you up as his fall guy - your co-worker's attendence at the conference is your responsibility, instead of his.

While I don't travel to many conferences, I work with people who do, and generally their lodging is paid for by their employer. However, sometimes their requests to attend a conference are denied for budget reasons.

I've known people who have attended conferences with little or no expense to their employer when there was little money in the budget for the conference: They used frequent flyer miles to cover airfare and hotel points to get lodging. Perhaps they might stay with a colleague in the conference city if they couldn't cover the lodging. However, I would expect them to approach the colleague (who is probably a friend), not have their boss tell the colleague to host them. Perhaps you could work out something using frequent flyer miles and hotel points to make things work.

I'd also think that having you put up the co-worker would create some liability for the company that they may not want. What if the co-worker accidentally starts a fire in your house? Your insurance company might take legal action against the employer and co-worker, probably with you named as a co-plaintiff, which could cause problems between you and your employer (Insurance company: "We won't pay if you don't pursue the lawsuit." Employer: "Drop the lawsuit or you're fired!"). However, I'm not sure it would be wise to raise this as an issue.

The history of your co-worker attending and staying in hotels seems to work in your favor. However, it is possible that the budget for this sort of thing has already been used (were more conferences attended this year than in past years?), or maybe reduced for some reason.

My suggestion is to tell your manager some of what you told us: You don't have a guest room in your home, and with children in the house you don't think it would provide a proper environment for your co-worker while on a business trip.

Ultimately, if the employer is insisting on no lodging expense for your co-worker, you may have to decide - with your wife (and children if they're old enough) - whether this conference is worth the inconvenience.

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    The "fall guy" element is an astute observation, and one that occurred to me too. Thanks for the thoughtful answer. – JosephStyons May 3 '16 at 20:10
  • @JosephStyons: You're welcome. I've re-worked the answer a little to be clearer and "flow" more logically. – GreenMatt May 3 '16 at 20:24
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    Don't give a reason. When you give a reason you are opening up the floor for ideas on how to solve the stated problems. The reality is, the answer is simply no. Your manager has no business whatsoever imposing on your personal life. At all. Zach's "that won't be possible" response must surely be the only valid response. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 4 '16 at 11:57
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It's difficult for me to believe that HR would endorse this type of request of an employee. All kinds of potential HR nightmares could result. Is there any way you can get some HR input? What if the "other guy" falls down the stairs at your house? What if he/she has too many drinks and punches your wife? In over a decade as and IT Manager, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff I've seen.

Unfortunately, your manager has made this very awkward. Personally, I would either 1) go on my own, not as a company representative for my own edification if I viewed it as important enough or 2) scuttle the entire proposal

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    Somehow this question sounds like the company is a startup with no HR department... – R.. May 4 '16 at 16:14
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    @R actually I work for a fairly large organization. I like my employer and my manager in general. This situation hasn't happened before. I'll just say "no" and chalk it up to a brain fart on his part. – JosephStyons May 4 '16 at 19:42
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This sounds to me like a somewhat clumsy attempt at negotiation- the manager thinks you benefit personally from the conference, and the co-worker presumably would too. It might be the kind of misunderstanding that would have been dispelled almost instantly by non-verbal cues were it to have been an in-person discussion by the proverbial water cooler.

So he or she has enough budget for two conference fees but not lodging. A win-win from their point of view would be if you could host this person- two get to go to the conference and there is potentially some bonding with a remote employee which might help with perceived issues related to not having a co-located team member. Obviously (from the question) that's not going to be acceptable to you. So be it, not everyone is very empathetic- there are some folks that think nothing of hosting visitors- enjoy it in fact- and there are others who never host anyone who is not a close relative, if that.

So you could outright refuse with indignation. Or, perhaps you could make a deal with the co-worker where they pay their own lodging (perhaps with Airbnb or whatever- if they are young they might even entertain the idea of couchsurfing with a stranger), or perhaps you could contribute if you think the conference has some value to you and you won't otherwise have the expenses reimbursed.

I can't imagine this sort of thing has been well thought out- there are all sorts of potential liabilities for the company, but maybe you can turn it to your advantage and gently let your manager know that it was not an acceptable arrangement without rubbing their face in it.

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This request is insane. The company doesn't own your house, nor do they own your time outside of work hours. The company also doesn't employ your wife and child. Your manager is massively overstepping their boundaries here.

Furthermore, are you running some sort of charity? for the sole benefit of the company? Why should you donate your home for the company to use? Why is it your responsibility to cover your coworkers work-travel lodging expenses?

The first thing I would do is send your manager an email. Ask for clarification about the lodging situation. This will either force your manager to back down, or it'll give you leverage to go to HR. HR would never stand for this sort of thing, as it opens up the company to massive liability issues. However, don't go to HR unless you have it in writing, and even then it's probably not really needed. I would simply refuse to lodge the coworker. Also, as mentioned by other, DO NOT give a reason why you can't lodge your coworker. Just say it's not possible. Period.

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    I appreciate your answer, but I think the tone you're striking is way too adversarial. I don't mind going out of my way for my employer, and they have done the same for me on occasion. A simple "no" is enough - I'm not looking for ammunition to use in an HR fight. My intent was to get other opinions on whether the request was reasonable. The consensus I am getting agrees with my original feeling - that it is not reasonable. No need to get all grouchy about it. – JosephStyons May 5 '16 at 17:47
  • " I don't mind going out of my way for my employer, and they have done the same for me on occasion" I've never had an employer go out of their way to help me, for anything, ever. I also don't personally know anyone who has ever had that experience. I don't think "grouchy" is the right word for my tone, "realistic" maybe? I honestly think my tone is correct given how serious this issue is. "I'm not looking for ammunition to use in an HR fight." As I said, I don't think you need to go to HR. And my only real advice is to email your manager asking for clarification. – industry7 May 17 '16 at 17:23
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As for me, he just tried to reject an attending the conference, trying to joke. The sense of humor is different from person to person. Obviously, your company has no budget for an attending conference. Saying you - we can't afford it, can alert you, because you will understand that the company isn't doing well.

And as result you will start looking around. Certainly, you are a very valuable employee for the company, so he decided to do the trick. Another confirmation of my guess: Why didn't the company send you to the conference alone? They could save on attendance fee for your coworker. Your manager just clumsy joked instead of making a straight reject. When you work remotely you do not communicate with people much beyond of your job duties and as result the personality of many people is hidden for you, and as result you can't for certain explain their behavior.

protected by Community May 5 '16 at 20:01

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