Rooming with the boss

Q. My female boss has suggested that we share a hotel room at a multiple-day conference we’ll be attending together. Although I’m also female, I’m uncomfortable with this because I don’t particularly care for her on a personal level and get quite tired of being around her during a regular work day. The conference will involve 12-hour days. I’ll need my personal space at the end of the day to recharge and do my best the next day. I don’t know how to approach this issue with her in a way that will preserve our working relationship. I was thinking about proposing to pay half the cost of my own room as one alternative. Other suggestions?

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S. M. W., Denver, CO


A. This clearly is a difficult situation. Businesses are seeking to cut costs wherever possible. I can’t blame them. They’d rather cut costs than cut people. Given that you’re both adults and both of the same gender, it’s reasonable for your company to want to have you share a room. Therefore, if you wish to have a room to yourself, your offer to pay for half the cost is a reasonable place to start any negotiating, although you may end up paying the entire cost yourself.
The etiquette of the situation comes in the way you express your reason for not sharing a room. What won’t work is to be brutally honest: “Jane, I understand the company’s position, but really, after twelve hours working with you, I don’t think I could stand sharing a room with you, too.” That approach will cause more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, keep the focus on you and not on your boss. “Jane, this may sound selfish of me, but after a long day, I know I’ll need some space. If it’s possible, I’d like to have my own room, and I’m willing to pay for half of it. I know I’ll be more productive and focused during the conference if I can have my own room. Would the company be willing to do this?”

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