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I always hesitate whenever someone asks me if I’m travelling for business or for pleasure these days.
You see, it’s difficult to separate the two when you have observed the crazy antics of your fellow colleagues who are travelling with you on a business trip overseas.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my colleagues, and this column is in no way a rant to criticise their habits while on the road.
Rather, I’m pretty sure anyone who has been on a work trip will come back feeling a closer sense of bonding and understanding of the way their colleagues think and work.
Maybe it’s the effect of being a gazillion miles away from home, or having to spend countless hours together, but at some point or another, your colleagues will reveal a certain side of themselves which will take you by surprise.
At that point, what do you do to ensure your professional relationship with your colleague, be it a subordinate, boss or peer, doesn’t get impacted negatively?
For instance, a survey pointed out that binge drinking is a favourite of more than a quarter of those in the US travelling for work, with men being more likely to indulge (33%) than women travellers (24%).
An awkward situation I have previously encountered was when a colleague I was on a work trip with indulged in heavy drinking on the plane journey, which resulted in him burping and being uncharacteristically vocal before passing out for the remainder of the flight.
Another especially delicate situation in another company involved turning a blind eye when a married male colleague went on an overnight date with a female client during a work trip.
One thing which I’ve always remembered in such situations is to keep my judgment to myself and not let it affect my professional opinion of the colleague in question.
We all come from different backgrounds and are dealing with different personal situations – but still may be contributing equally to the growth of the company we’re working for and to the teams which we are in.
As such, it is important to maintain respect for team members, despite what you may think of their personal habits.
Of course, the weirdest aspects of colleagues one gets to observe on work trips aren’t always that serious or bad.
Another colleague I recently travelled with on an overnight work trip carried an uncountable number of medications with her. These included antidotes for not only diarrhoea, constipation, plane sickness and allergies, but she also had nasal and eye drops and a box full of bandages, masks and gloves.
While this did result in a bit of light-hearted jesting about her germaphobia, it made me realise that such insights on colleagues’ traits might actually be useful if we apply them positively to situations at work.
For example, while this colleague of mine can be labelled as “paranoid”, her habit of sourcing for and bringing so many antidotes can also be viewed as her being resourceful and being prepared for any future setbacks.
I suppose the important thing to remember during a work trip is that maintaining a positive attitude helps at all times.
As humans, we are likely to sometimes mix our personal opinions with professional ones. But we can help avert poor levels of teamwork and embarrassing moments after encountering such situations by focusing on the professional contributions of the person in question.
Do you have any awkward or weird work trip stories to share? Do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org