I work for a US-based software company. I'm a software developer, technical lead and scrum master for a team of 10 members. 70% of the team is with a contracting company in India. I have been working with them for couple of years and have a good relationship with them - we have daily scrum calls. The project has ended this month and the team size has shrunk down to minimal. The same team members will be working on a different product under same manager starting next month with me.

I am visiting India on a personal trip for 5 weeks with work from home for few days. All of contracting company team members really want to me and so do I. My manager initially agreed for my visit to the location but backed out when I told the budget would $600-700 (max) for a couple of day trip. His reason was that he did not get approval from his boss and suggested I plan for it later during my next visit. Not sure but maybe the reason is we may not work with them in future project and so Manager doesn't care in investing on relationship. Or I don't know if he is concerned about $700 travel spending on a $90mn project - he is generally miser on project funds.

After all this, one of my colleagues is also visiting India on a personal trip and is planning to meet the team unofficially without informing my manager since he is working with them for 5 years. He did not bother to inform or ask my manager as this is going to be on personal expenses.

I would also like to meet the team on my personal expenses but looks like the possible day would be a week day and I'm not sure if it is appropriate to meet contractor's location with out manager's approval. I would think there should not be a problem with meeting on a weekend but skeptical if I will complicate things visiting their location on a week day without informing my manager.

I appreciate any suggestions on this. It will be nice to meet a team I'm closely working with for 2 years - just for a day lunch out or something. Its not going to cost me more than $200 for a day trip.

Update 1: I sent the following message in an email to my Manager yesterday before the start of his work day. It is now past the end of the day and feels like he chose to ignore responding to the email.

I understood that it was too short notice to organise something official but after considering it I'd still like to meet up with the team in X just for a day and maybe go out for lunch, all at my own personal expense. Do you think that would work?

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    Why the downvotes? This seems a legitimate question. – morsor Dec 14 '16 at 9:04
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    @morsor I assume the issue is the sneaky aspect of this. OP doesn't seem to realise how incredibly unprofessional his suggestion is. But that's where the answers are supposed to enlighten him of course, instead of punishing him for asking the question. – Lilienthal Dec 14 '16 at 9:43
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    Why don't you ask your boss? I'm tempted to vote to close for 'company-specific regulations' – user8036 Dec 14 '16 at 10:12
  • Short and sweet -- do not do this even on your own dime without letting your MGR know. A surprise here may not be good for your long term career with your company. – Mister Positive Dec 14 '16 at 12:52
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    The way I see it, from your colleagues' perspective, it is no different from a generic visitor visiting them. In other words, they need to check the company policy for bringing in visitors. – Masked Man Dec 15 '16 at 4:59

Okay, so let's get this out of the way first: there's nothing wrong with meeting up with past, present or future colleagues whether they're contractors or not. Your boss (for the most part) doesn't get a say in who you associate with or how you spend your free time. Meeting up on your own dime because you're in the country is perfectly fine and no reasonable manager would object to that without good reason. There are a few situations were such a meeting would be ill-advised but you'd generally know if that was the case.

That said, here's the problem: it's not that you want to meet up, it's that you want to keep your manager in the dark after you've already discussed your initial plans. Applying this kind of secrecy when there is absolutely no reason for it is Not A Good Thing. Transparency and honest communication are key elements of a working relationship and keeping this secret from your manager for no reason is going to make him wonder what's going on. When, not if, he finds out he'll be offended and puzzled at best.

You have no reason not to tell your manager. He back-pedalled on your request to visit the company because you suddenly sprung it on him that you expected the company to pay for it. His reaction is understandable. It's a reasonable request to make but it's not reasonable to assume that the company will agree, especially on short-notice. If you've decided that you don't mind spending your own money to get to meet your colleagues, just tell him.

We previously discussed organising a meeting for me with our colleagues at [location] since I'll be in the country. I understand that it was too short notice to organise something official but after considering it I'd still like to meet up with the team just for [half] a day at my own expense. I was thinking of visiting the office on the Xth and going out for lunch with the team. Do you think that would work?

As mentioned above you don't really need to ask permission to meet up but it's the professional and respectful thing to do. And you kind of do need to ask in this case since you plan on visiting them during the day at their office. All you really need to do is give your manager a heads-up and then work things out with your colleagues there.

Now, beyond this, I would suggest that you should have discussed your plans with your manager better. It's a bit much to spring a $500+ expense on him for what is essentially private travel, even if you dress it up as a form of team building. What you should have done is propose a plan where you travel to the office and possibly organise an actual team building event. You'd discuss budget, time constraints and plans with your manager and essentially turn it into a small business trip in the middle of your holiday. The fact that your manager suggested doing it on a future trip is a sign that he'd be open to some variation of this where you're reimbursed for at least some of the costs and time involved. You could still try to have this conversation but in your case I'd request the meeting and expect to pay for it myself. You could then still bring up whether the travel costs could be a valid business expense.

  • Telling him, the MGR, is key here. – Mister Positive Dec 14 '16 at 12:49
  • I sent an email as per your suggestion, but there is no response from him yet. – TechCrunch Dec 15 '16 at 4:51
  • @TechCrunch To clarify the script was intended to be the start of an in-person discussion which also allows you to judge how your manager reacts. If his reaction is encouraging you can bring up expensing (part of) the trip. Nothing wrong with email of course. – Lilienthal Dec 15 '16 at 8:55
  • There was already an email chain going on about travel plans. So I replied with this text. Maybe I should have explicitly mentioned if he has any objection instead of asking if it will work for him. I am already outside the US. Thanks for your message though. – TechCrunch Dec 15 '16 at 8:59
  • @TechCrunch Fair enough, enjoy your trip. :) – Lilienthal Dec 15 '16 at 9:59

Your manager's approval is needed if you are:

  • meeting them in an official capacity
  • meeting them during work hours (yours or theirs)

So if you're planning on one of these things, then I'd really try to get manager approval, even if you're paying for the expenses. It's still strongly related to the business in that situation.

On the other hand, you don't need manager approval if you're meeting them outside working hours. It's basically none of his business what you do with your own time, or what your colleagues do with theirs.

So meeting them over lunch, or after office close really is just a personal appointment that you don't need to tell your manager about and you definitely don't need approval for. To maintain good relations, it might be helpful to tell your manager you will be meeting with the team outside working hours on your own dime, especially since he turned down your request to meet with them during working hours.

However, keep in mind that if you're meeting your colleagues on their lunch break, you probably do need approval from their management. They likely work in a location with a strict visitor policy, where anyone visiting the building needs a guest pass. You'd have to ask them about that. After hours, there's really nothing anyone can do to stop you from meeting.

  • Thank you. I appreciate your answer. I will try to meet them separately during a weekend since the week-day idea is my colleagues' which I also did not find appropriate. I'm sure there must be a protocol on visiting during working hours. – TechCrunch Dec 14 '16 at 7:01
  • Meeting them during their work hours needs approval of their manager, but not yours. It looks like their manager is in on it, so you have all the necessary approvals. – gnasher729 Apr 13 at 12:15

Since you have not gotten permission, you could choose to inform your employer that you will visit them privately - and see how they respond.

It may be they have no objections and even appreciate that the expenses are all yours - as you seems to be hinting at.

However, it may also turn out that your employer actually does not want any form of contact with them - for business reasons they need not disclose to you.

Having said that, what you do when they are off work, is ultimately up to you. However, meeting privately - especially on their company premises - could have consequences, as it could be viewed as a form of insubordination.

Your only safe option (apart from not meeting up at all) would be to keep the encounter entirely in the private sphere.

  • If he meets privately with them, I guarantee it will not remain private. Someone will slip up and it will get out. – Mister Positive Dec 14 '16 at 12:51
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    @Mister Positive: Maybe. The OP needs to evaluate this risk and possible consequences, which would probably be culturally and company-specific – morsor Dec 14 '16 at 13:00
  • Better safe than sorry. Why not just tell the MGR and remove the risk all together? – Mister Positive Dec 14 '16 at 13:02
  • Tell the manager that you WILL meet up with them privately outside company premises - regardless of what the company prefers? – morsor Dec 14 '16 at 13:03
  • Sorry, to be clear, I would say "I am planning on meeting with X while in the vicinity ( on my own dime or now ) do you have any objections?" – Mister Positive Dec 14 '16 at 13:05

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