If your company is proposing you go on a business trip next month, you might want to rethink the decision. Company travel – from the GSA’s outlandish and over-the-top conference to secret service agents behaving badly in Colombia – seems to be everywhere in the news these days.
In talking about the debacle with undisclosed cohorts I received the response – “what do you expect?” For the secret service agents on the advance team, anyway, frequent travel, high stress and opportunity all converged to produce a scandal such as the one that played out in the news. It was pointed out that the surprising element isn’t that it happened, but that this is the first time it has picked up headlines.
Do business travelers really think that what happens in Vegas – or Colombia, or California –stays there? For those road warriors who spend more of their work life away than at home, are the standards different?
Perhaps the best example of frequent travelers who are the absolute antithesis of this sentiment are active-duty service members. Laying aside the fact that a handful of service members are intertwined in the Colombia secret service sexcapade, service members are called upon to work overseas a majority of their professional careers, and maintain strict degrees of professionalism. Forget sex scandals, service members deployed to war zones today are also banned from drinking alcohol, possessing pornography, and a variety of other unseemly behavior.
So it’s clear not everyone with a high stress job and a lot of travel is going to succumb to debauchery. But the reality is that while bad apples won’t necessarily spoil the whole bunch when it comes to road warriors, they do tend to gather together. So if you travel frequently and lack morals, you can probably find or make friends pretty easily.
For cleared professionals there’s zero tolerance for such irresponsibility. As the secret service agents have already learned, a lack of discretion and a susceptibility to blackmail make it an easy decision to suspend security clearances, and likely ruin future attempts at employment in the intelligence industry. So, if you’re a frequent traveler, what should you do?
1. Treat your hotel like your office. Now, I don’t know what kind of office space secret service members keep but I’m going to hope they don’t bring prostitutes there. When traveling for work your hotel is your office – treat it that way.
2. Travel with your mom. This might not be feasible for everyone, so the substitute is to act like you’re traveling with your mom. Or just follow the best social media advice given to service members – if Osama or your mama shouldn’t see it, don’t do it.
3. Have a battle buddy. Service members are familiar with this concept. It can go bad if your buddy is a drunken buffoon but as a general rule, if you’re going to go out you shouldn’t go out alone. Especially not to the hotel bar, which is where a good variety of work-travel shenanigans take place. If you do plan on going out – to the bars, the tourist traps, wherever – your battle buddy should have your back, and know your whereabouts. Just in case you end up being kidnapped by the Colombia drug cartel, or something like that.
4. Don’t take photos. Now, if you listened to my point number two this really shouldn’t matter, but I know how some people are with directions. This great Google+ photo set from GSA regional commissioner Jeffrey Neely is what I have in mind here. Laying aside my initial ‘what kind of self-respecting man let’s his wife take pictures of him drinking wine out of a spa tub’ reaction, posting hundreds of photos of yourself on a work trip points to having a little too much time on your hands. But, as my boss did point out, the GSA gets bonus points on this one for their early adoption of an emerging technology.
5. Don’t go. If you can’t handle business travel, don’t do it. An increasing number of positions require some amount of travel and others are for true road warriors. Consider what you can handle before you accept a position and plan accordingly. Some people just don’t do well away from the comforts of home, their office, and accountability partners. If that’s you, find a job that fits, and turn down the one that offers as many nights in a hotel room as you’ll get at home.
Company travel can be a great opportunity – to meet new people, experience new cultures, and stay in a great hotel at your boss’ expense. Don’t let the bad guys ruin it for the rest of us, and set a good example when you’re on work-related travel.