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My employer wants me to fly somewhere which takes 13 hours each way so that I can attend a set of meetings that in total would last about 10 hours. There is only one meeting for which I have any responsibility, which lasts only 3 hours.

Is it reasonable for me to decline the trip for which travel time is almost 3x the optional meeting time, and almost 9x the required meeting time?

We use teleconferencing equipment for our meetings, and it's expected that many, if not most, of the meeting attendees will be unable to attend in person, and instead would need to participate via teleconference. This will also require me to take a full day from my weekend to travel, and my company does not provide travel compensation except for meals, hotel, and ticket. There will also be other employees from my company there who could easily cover the meeting for me.

Is it reasonable for me to just attend via teleconference like the other attendees?

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    What jurisdiction are you in? Many places have a legal requirement for employees to be compensated for travel the company requires them to do. – Nzall Mar 17 '17 at 15:53
  • I'm in New York, and my organization is non-profit. – Richard Lucas Mar 17 '17 at 15:55
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    @NoData You say they don't provide compensation - does that mean that you are not paid for the time you are travelling at all? Not even an option to take a few days off the following week? – David K Mar 17 '17 at 16:27
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    Why does your boss want you to attend in person – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 17 '17 at 16:31
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    You can certainly ask. It seems like a non profit or even a for profit would want to save the money. That has to be an expensive ticket. – paparazzo Mar 17 '17 at 17:12
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Declining the trip could be a career-limiting move. I would tread carefully.

Is this about not wanting to give up a weekend day? If so, then the compensation part doesn't matter, weekend time is personal time, end of story. Perhaps next time the meeting could be on a Tuesday so you could travel Monday.

Is this about not wanting to "work" without being paid for it? This is harder to argue (people worry about looking selfish) but easy for the boss to fix, since by either paying you or offering you an extra day of vacation time, the boss can get you to go to the meeting. (This is why it's important to know your objection.)

Is this about not wanting to waste the company's money on plane tickets, hotel rooms, and your time, when someone could cover for you? That is so not your problem. If you're willing to go, go, and leave your boss' job to your boss. I have flown literally around the world to deliver a single one-hour talk, and have a few days of networking and socializing. Everyone involved thought that a good use of time and money.

Is this about finding such a long flight, and presumably a time change, and having to sleep in a hotel and eat in restaurants, unpleasant? If it is, even a mid-week meeting would never work for you. You need to make that clear.

Once you know what your sticking point is, don't go and say "I want to teleconference to that meeting." You will be forcing your boss to "interview" the problem out of you. Instead say once of these.

  • I don't want to (or can't) give up my Sunday to travel to that meeting. I can teleconference in, or X can take my place if that's ok. In the future if these meetings are midweek I can go to them.
  • I am not willing to give up my Sunday uncompensated to travel to that meeting. I can teleconference in, or X can take my place if that's ok, or can you give me an extra day off this summer as compensation?
  • I am not willing to travel that far for business, ever. I can teleconference in, or X can take my place if that's ok.

In all three cases you may find your boss demands you go and tells you your job is on the line. It would be good if you knew in advance how strongly you feel about this. Will you quit over it?

I also encourage you to take strong look at the bigger picture. There are 10 hours of meetings, there is probably an evening event, there is a chance to meet and socialize with a customer or regulator or colleagues from another location. You could get tremendous value form this if you knew what to look for and what to gain. Your boss can help explain this to you, if you ask correctly. I dont just mean a nice dinner and a chance to take a picture of some tourist attraction far from home, I mean an understanding of the dynamics of your business, your firm's relationship with whoever this meeting involves, how contracts get assigned, and so on. Approached as a learning opportunity, you might see this as worth the effort, whereas just focusing on "your" 3 hours doesn't feel that way.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response. I already know they won't give me a comp day; I've traveled on Sunday many times. Since I've already traveled to about 30 meetings in the past four years, there's not much new for me to learn. Also, I have obligations in my hometown which I would have to miss to travel: I would have to miss a very demanding class (at a critical moment) that I'm taking to enable me to change careers. – Richard Lucas Mar 17 '17 at 17:20
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    If you normally go, but the issue is that on this occasion you have something personal planned on the Sunday you can't cancel, that's all you need to say. Sorry, but I have something personal planned on the Sunday so I won't be able to travel there in time for Monday. I can teleconference in or perhaps X can take my place. No drama, but don't delay. If you have known for a while, say that you were seeing if you could move the personal thing, but you can't. Then stick to it. – Kate Gregory Mar 17 '17 at 18:11

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