What Worries Men About Traveling on Business With a Woman?December 13, 2017
She pulled up a seat during one of my recent listening tours:
“Terry, tell me what concerns men the most when traveling alone with a single woman on company business. How do men deal with this issue from a cultural or religious perspective? What advice would you offer women and men who may have concerns about any of this?”
I puzzled over her questions then decided to seek answers from a cross section of people, both men and women. Here’s what they shared:
Am I Overprotecting Women?
“Terry, my only concern is that when I travel alone with a woman, which I do often, do I sometimes come across as patronizing or overprotective of her, particularly in some parts of the world where women may be viewed as less equal, or in some cases where safety may be an issue?”
Will Onlookers Assume the Worst?
“The issue of traveling with a woman depends on whether you are a single man or in a committed relationship. It also depends on the other person and how secure she is. I know we are talking about business, but I have yet to see someone totally separate the business and social when traveling together. We are relational and emotional beings by nature, but experience and maturity helps us manage both. I will share that most men and women in a secure relationship are not as bothered by traveling with a single person of the opposite sex. The relationship you have with the person before the trip can make a difference in comfort level as well. Knowing each other well helps create a more platonic relationship. Lastly, from a religious perspective, at least a Christian one, men and women are advised to avoid the appearance of misconduct. For most people of faith, putting yourself in a position that appears to be compromising is a big deal. Many onlookers assume the worst before the best.”
What About Touchy, Feely Cultures?
“A lot of this depends on corporate culture and effectively navigating situations given your own boundaries as well as the expected norms of the corporate culture. For example, at my company we tend to be a very touchy feely culture and hug a lot. If the culture is more congenial, it helps to be absolutely clear on what your boundaries are.”
Are Lawsuits a Real Concern?
“One thing not addressed is the ‘fear of’ factors. Today I do believe women are more willing to stand up to an inappropriate comment, gesture, or innuendo; however, there may be times in a person’s career where he or she feels pressured from a career standpoint to ‘go along.’ If you don’t feel strong enough to say something, we head down the pathway with warning signs. I believe it’s possible that men and women can, with the best of intentions, end up on that path because of one of two emotions: fear for their career progression or a desire to achieve in their career. As a long time HR practitioner, I’ve seen both. The other issue, especially for men, is the litigation fear factor: fear that something they say or do will be misinterpreted or misrepresented in a complaint about their behavior, or of being sued and having their name and reputation destroyed. Most of this comes down to not knowing how to have open and real conversations at work. I am a subscriber to ‘when in doubt, don’t’ as it relates to subjects like these.”
Some Tips for Consideration
Here’s a list of strategies for addressing concerns:
- Get to know the person you will travel with prior to the trip. That can make small talk less uncomfortable.
- If you are married or in a relationship, make sure you tell your partner who you are traveling with and keep him or her in the loop during the trip. (It’s not just for you, it’s for your partner, as well, and it demonstrates respect.)
- If you are uncomfortable or have some religious tenets that forbid traveling with someone of the opposite sex, make separate travel arrangements and let the other person know when you can meet to review the business of the trip.
- Avoid private meals together in your room or in dimly lit restaurants.
- If you get uncomfortable with the conversation, talk about how much your significant other would love to be there with you sharing the sights, or tell your coworker a pleasant story about your relationship.
- If you really feel uncomfortable, check out alternatives for traveling with another person.
How do you keep relations with your colleagues appropriate when travelling together on business?
Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, trainer and story teller. He is a senior associate at Diversity Wealth, a contributing writer with The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Huffington Post and Catalyst. He can be reached at [email protected]