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Travel policy conundrum

Travel policy conundrum

Old Jan 31, 12, 5:11 pm
  #1  
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Travel policy conundrum

I'm presently working with a start-up organisation. As the COO, one of my main areas of focus is cost-control. This includes the travel policy, where we religiously enforce an Economy Class only rule for all employees on all travel. As a small company (~40 employees), all travel approvals come through my Inbox and I haven't yet approved any deviations.

Now the problem. I am due to travel longhaul (9+8 hrs each way) next week with our Board Chairman, plus the Chairmen of two of our major shareholders. Needless to say, the various bigwigs are booked into full-fare F class which is fine as they do not fall under our Employee Travel Policy. Their personal support team members are all booked into J class. However, as my travel is being paid out of the company travel budget, I arranged to be booked into Economy Class on the same flights.

Our Chairman however insists that I should fly at least in Business Class. He gives various reasons for this, but primarily it is an issue that he feels it gives the wrong impression for "C-level" management to fly in Economy Class.

I am very torn about this. On one hand, I don't want to make a big issue out of this with the Chairman and distract from the purpose of our trip. On the other hand though, I see this potentially undermining my ability to enforce the travel policy going forward. The route I'm flying is one that about a dozen other team members will be flying as well next month, and every single one of them will be in Economy Class. How can I justify turning down their potential requests for Business Class when I personally flew in Business?

Wondering if any folks here have any suggestions or advice?
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Old Jan 31, 12, 5:19 pm
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My take on this is simple, your chairman may feel that, but having worked for an organisation where the person mandating travel policy for everyone (prem eco max), then flying business themselves, I can tell you the lack of respect for them and the travel policy thereafter was much reduced.

Therefore I'd stick with Y.

T
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Old Jan 31, 12, 5:19 pm
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Can you use miles or whatever to upgrade yourself into business class and make clear that your upgrade was paid with your own personal upgrade instruments? Of could you even pay the cost difference yourself, if you are willing? I assume that your policy does not forbid employees from getting and using upgrades or from paying the cost difference of a ticket they want, for example to tack personal travel onto a business trip.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 6:37 pm
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
I'm presently working with a start-up organisation. As the COO, one of my main areas of focus is cost-control. This includes the travel policy, where we religiously enforce an Economy Class only rule for all employees on all travel. As a small company (~40 employees), all travel approvals come through my Inbox and I haven't yet approved any deviations.

Now the problem. I am due to travel longhaul (9+8 hrs each way) next week with our Board Chairman, plus the Chairmen of two of our major shareholders. Needless to say, the various bigwigs are booked into full-fare F class which is fine as they do not fall under our Employee Travel Policy. Their personal support team members are all booked into J class. However, as my travel is being paid out of the company travel budget, I arranged to be booked into Economy Class on the same flights.

Our Chairman however insists that I should fly at least in Business Class. He gives various reasons for this, but primarily it is an issue that he feels it gives the wrong impression for "C-level" management to fly in Economy Class.

I am very torn about this. On one hand, I don't want to make a big issue out of this with the Chairman and distract from the purpose of our trip. On the other hand though, I see this potentially undermining my ability to enforce the travel policy going forward. The route I'm flying is one that about a dozen other team members will be flying as well next month, and every single one of them will be in Economy Class. How can I justify turning down their potential requests for Business Class when I personally flew in Business?

Wondering if any folks here have any suggestions or advice?
It's not a conundrum at all. While it will cause grumbling in the ranks, the Chairman is correct. If the rest of your travel team is in F/J and you are in Y for an 8-9 hour flight, they will arrive relatively ready to hit the ground running and you will be over-tired and not up to snuff. I presume that this is an important trip for your company and having you fresh and ready to roll is more important than a little grumbling.

The Chairman's views regarding keeping up appearances are also important. Money may be tight, but your message is that things are just fine.

If you feel compelled, take one of your most trusted people into your confidence, tell him and ask him to get the word out to the troops in a positive way, namely that it was the Chairman's decision.

Hopefully the trip will be a success and you will soon be flying your people in F/J !
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Old Jan 31, 12, 7:12 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It's not a conundrum at all. While it will cause grumbling in the ranks, the Chairman is correct. If the rest of your travel team is in F/J and you are in Y for an 8-9 hour flight, they will arrive relatively ready to hit the ground running and you will be over-tired and not up to snuff. I presume that this is an important trip for your company and having you fresh and ready to roll is more important than a little grumbling.

The Chairman's views regarding keeping up appearances are also important. Money may be tight, but your message is that things are just fine.

If you feel compelled, take one of your most trusted people into your confidence, tell him and ask him to get the word out to the troops in a positive way, namely that it was the Chairman's decision.

Hopefully the trip will be a success and you will soon be flying your people in F/J !
If the chairman is right for your case, then the same rational could be used to justify the higher class of service for all employees. In which case the company policy must change to reflect the reasons for allowing the higher class.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 7:23 pm
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Bottom line: you are a C Suite executive. That means there are times where extra cost are needed to perform your duties. Just as much as you are worried about how your employees see you, you should not worry about how they see you.

Do you do your job well? Do you show concern and offer guidance and support to your employees? Do you genuinely care about helping your company be the best that it can? If so, then everything else will fall into place. When the Chairman says you need to be up front, you need to be up front. If you run into some employees and speak to them in flight, you are free to let them know they wanted you to ride up there, but remember that you are the executive in this case and are not obligated to tell an employee why something is the way it is. A good boss will figure out a creative way to convey the message without breaking down the manager:employee line and I'm sure you can do the same.

My final thought: don't let something like this stress you. Your smart employees will realize who you are flying with and why you are upfront.

Good luck!
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Old Jan 31, 12, 7:56 pm
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The trust you will gain and the integrity you display will last a whole lot longer than 8-9 hours. You already know the correct answer otherwise you would not have asked the question. Y it should be. The Chairman will understand when you explain your honorable motives.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 8:56 pm
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
This includes the travel policy, where we religiously enforce an Economy Class only rule for all employees on all travel.
I think you have answered your own question. If the policy is all employees and all travel is in economy, you should be in Economy.

Your board needs to respect the policies.

If their reason was to make it an eight or nine hour business discussion I would say move up front, but that isn't the case, as they are in first and suggesting you fly business as a way to separate you from your employees on some type of status ladder.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 9:45 pm
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If I were the Chairman of your major shareholder I would be pleased to see the CFO exercising costs discipline in the start-up phase.

If there is no real business purpose other than appearances, then I would say there is no reason to depart from your policy by upgrading. Unless you are upgrading to F in order to sit and work with your Chairman and shareholders, or you have meetings straight off the plane, then it's not clear to me how any particular business purpose is served if you just upgrade to J. Of course, appearances may count for something, but who is going to see you on the flight and draw an adverse business conclusion just because you are in economy?

Having said that, on the question of what the policy should be (not that you asked!), I do think that a long-haul trip (greater than say 6-7 hours) should be in J to enable the traveller to maximize the productive use of their time on the trip.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 11:17 pm
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I also run a small start up that involves lot of travel. This will be a no brainier for me. As the COO you have operational impressibility for the company and for travel policy. I would stick to your policy and a good chairman should not question this any further. After all does the Chairman decide on your brand of copier paper, which day you run payroll or other operational activities?

I assume your organization is in the white collar sector and as such your employees tend to be your plant and equipment. I would try not to be hypocritical with them just to keep up appearances.
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Old Jan 31, 12, 11:40 pm
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Originally Posted by BlakeTraveler View Post
Bottom line: you are a C Suite executive.
Not a knock on the OP, but there are C-Suite execs and there are C-Suite execs. Just sayin'....
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Old Feb 1, 12, 12:35 am
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
Our Chairman however insists that I should fly at least in Business Class. He gives various reasons for this, but primarily it is an issue that he feels it gives the wrong impression for "C-level" management to fly in Economy Class.
Perhaps he is worried that if you fly economy but he does not, he will look bad.
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Old Feb 1, 12, 5:19 am
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Go with what the Chairman wants. Appearances ARE important, and you don't want to be the reason the others traveling with you think your company is "cheap" or "not doing well" and "forced" you to fly economy. People who don't like that you flew business while they can't should mind their own business. With responsibility comes some perks, and some duties. It is a perk to fly business or first, and your duty to properly represent your company to a client.
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Old Feb 1, 12, 6:16 am
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Originally Posted by planemechanic View Post
<snip> Appearances ARE important <snip>
This is the bit a lot of us agree on, but where we diverge is on the "Appearances to whom?" question.

I'm not buying your argument, as the case for flying economy is so easily conveyed and understood that all parties on this particular flight, with one short, easy explanation will "get it". The only person in this situation with the potential to look bad is the Chairman, and this is an issue that he (maybe with the CFO depending on their relationship) needs to resolve.

What really leaves a sour taste are the replies which infer that the employees of the company should somehow "suck it up" and/or "mind their own business". The employees are the business, "plant and machinery" as another poster put it, and ignore the impact of their goodwill at your peril. I don't think this is some kind of moral issue, it's just good business sense. A "never mind about them" attitude taken at this early stage is the start of a slippery slope and will harm productivity and results in the future, one tiny increment at a time.
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Old Feb 1, 12, 6:46 am
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
Now the problem. I am due to travel longhaul (9+8 hrs each way) next week
Please clarify: is that "8 to 9 hours" (1 flight) or "8 and then 9 hours" (2 flights, 17 hours total).

Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
I'm presently working with a start-up organisation. As the COO, one of my main areas of focus is cost-control. This includes the travel policy, where we religiously enforce an Economy Class only rule for all employees on all travel. As a small company (~40 employees), all travel approvals come through my Inbox and I haven't yet approved any deviations.
If the travel is 8+9 hours (as opposed to 8-9) then I would seriously advise reconsidering this policy. Otherwise, if you do enforce the policy religiously, then you really should do it for yourself as well.
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