Q: I'm feeling pressure by my boss to take business trips, but right now I really don't want to leave my children. My job doesn't depend heavily on travel. How can I effectively speak up?
A: First, come up with an alternative plan to traveling. And then make this plan sound as appealing to your employer as possible. "Avoid phrases like 'I need...' or 'I don't want to...'," says Susan Ginsberg, New York City-based editor of Work & Family Life newsletter. "Instead, frame your request so that it highlights how you can still do your job -- how, in fact, you can do it better." Ginsberg admits that trying to get out of business trips can be tricky, so your tactic in this instance may be to point out how your not traveling won't harm the company and how you'll be equally effective without leaving town.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find, however, that your employer is more understanding than you think. After all, most companies -- including major corporations like Deloitte & Touche and Merrill Lynch -- are cutting back on business travel. Instead, teleconferences are encouraged whenever possible. So chances are your company will have a similar policy or if it doesn't, it'll understand your concerns.
But if that doesn't happen, you'll need to get creative. This is something Stephanie Trapp, executive director of the Alliance of Work/Life Professionals in Alexandria, VA, and full-time telecommuter, has worked hard to do. "Travel is an essential part of my job. However, I've figured out ways to get things accomplished via teleconferences and real-time on-line meetings. You always lose something when you don't have face-to-face meetings," Trapp admits, "but participants appreciate being able to go home at the end of the day." She's found that the impact of September 11 and subsequent events have resonated all over the country ("really, all over the globe") and that as a result, people are understanding and willing to work together to accomplish goals in other ways.
If you do have to travel, try to combine trips to make the most of your time, Trapp adds. Is there a conference lots of your clients or contacts plan to attend? Look into attending and scheduling several meetings during that time. That's what Trapp will be doing during an upcoming industry conference. "We're finding that decisions can be put off for a few months until we can get together," she says, "and nothing seems to have suffered greatly as a result."
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