Avoid drinking excessively on business trips

Traveling for business is stressful and hard work. Therefore, people are always looking ways to blow off steam and mix a little pleasure into their business trip (as they should). But there are right ways and wrong ways to entertain yourself during business travel Let’s look at some of the wrong ways I’ve seen in my career.

A Few Horror Stories

  • It is customary in Asia to go out to dinner with your hosts. An employee did this but drank excessively night after night. Someone from our Hong Kong office noticed this and reported it to our company headquarters. The employee was eventually fired for continued bad behavior while traveling.
  • An employee volunteered to do all kinds of tasks that required travel. At first everyone thought this guy was great, energetic, enthusiastic, etc. Then an astute manager pieced together some unusual travel requests and put two and two together. His travel plans corresponded to that of a female employee. The two were having an affair. They thought it was secret but now the senior management of the company was aware of it.
  • An employee was in China for several weeks to help bring up a new production line. One night he requested “a girl” for his room from his host at the manufacturing company, believing that prostitution was common and acceptable in China. That company reported it to our Hong Kong office, who reported it to our headquarters. No disciplinary action was taken, since nothing happened, but I will always remember him as “the guy who requested a prostitute”.

These people broke two important rules of business travel:

  1. Don’t misbehave when you are travelling for business.
  2. If you do misbehave, don’t do it around anyone who is in any way associated with your company, including vendors, customers, clients, associates, and of course, fellow employees.

Seems like common sense, right? The problem is that people mistakenly believe they are under LESS scrutiny when they travel for business, far away from the home office. But actually the opposite is true – you are under MORE scrutiny when you travel for business! Back home, no one cares what you do on your own time. But when the company is paying the tab for your hotel and meals, your behavior is under a microscope, even during your own time!

What to Do Instead

The bottom line is, be on your best behavior around company employees, customers, clients, vendors, or anyone even vaguely associated with your company when you travel for work, period!

I personally go a step further. Even if I’m doing something completely innocent during my free time on the road, I try to do it without anyone associated from the company coming along. Why? Let’s look at some more examples.

Even a completely innocent trip to a museum or something with an employee / client / customer of the opposite sex could turn into the object of rumors in the office. One more example. Let’s say you do go out to dinner with a group from work and they decide to visit some sketchy “establishments” (i.e., strip clubs) afterwards.. You’re stuck in the car with them, having to go along with the shenanegans, or make an awkward exit from the group.

OK, you’re asking, so how am I supposed to have fun when I travel for business then? Here’s a rule you can use: assume everything you do will be reported back to the head office. With that in mind, you can do whatever you want. In addition, I try to go off on my own and NOT hang out with people from work (I see enough of them anyway).

I usually get a guide book before I leave and figure out where the cool areas of town are. I usually hit up a museum during the day by myself, or go for a hike or city tour, and walk around an area of the city with lots of people at night, checking out bars and restaurants. I try to meet some locals. If you mention that you’re visiting, people are often extra nice and try to point out the highlights of their city.

Of course, it’s great if you already know someone from that city – someone who can show you around from a local’s point of view – someone who is not associated with your company.

So, don’t fall into the trap of believing that your business trip is a ticket to wild behavior away from the prying eyes of the home office. It isn’t. If you use some common sense, you can still have an enjoyable time however.

What kind of bad behavior have YOU seen on business trips?

(Photo of glass copyright D. Sharon Pruitt)

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