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Rooming with the boss

Posted by Peter Post  June 18, 2009 12:00 AM

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Q. My female boss has suggested that we share a hotel room at a multiple-day conference weíll be attending together. Although Iím also female, Iím uncomfortable with this because I donít 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. Iíll 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?

S. M. W., Denver, CO

A. This clearly is a difficult situation. Businesses are seeking to cut costs wherever possible. I canít blame them. They'd rather cut costs than cut people. Given that youíre both adults and both of the same gender, itís 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 wonít work is to be brutally honest: ďJane, I understand the companyís position, but really, after twelve hours working with you, I donít think I could stand sharing a room with you, too.Ē That approach will cause more trouble than itís worth. Instead, keep the focus on you and not on your boss. ďJane, this may sound selfish of me, but after a long day, I know Iíll need some space. If itís possible, Iíd like to have my own room, and Iím willing to pay for half of it. I know Iíll be more productive and focused during the conference if I can have my own room. Would the company be willing to do this?Ē

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52 comments so far...
  1. Why would you immediately offer concessions? Ask for seperate rooms and go from there. No need to give something up if you don't have to.

    Posted by Rob June 18, 09 04:22 PM
  1. A few years ago, my (older, male) boss handled the conference reservations for us and when we arrived on site, he explained to me he had found it "easiest" for us to just share a room. We had a good, respectful working relationship with (otherwise) healthy enough boundaries, but this was nonetheless quite awkward... esp. coming back to the room to find him sleeping with his shirt off and snoring... as a result, I stayed up VERY late in the conference center lounge and woke up VERY early to avoid being in the room. This, of course, did not bode well for my focus, clarity and concentration during the conference proceedings... ugh.

    Posted by anonymous associate June 18, 09 08:41 PM
  1. I would not give in at all. People should be entitled to their private space when they are on their own time, and employers should not require employees to share a room when traveling. I would rather offer to stay at a less expensive hotel.

    Posted by Pete June 19, 09 03:15 PM
  1. It may be unpleasant to room with her, but I wouldn't ask for an extra room. It's not just a matter of the room cost to the company (which is significant these days) but also the personal cost of potentially offending your boss, who obviously wants that arrangement. If she suggested it, then she obviously thinks it would be fine. Maybe she had sisters and loves company or whatever. (Personally, I'm with you. I'd rather have my own space at these things.) I'd be grateful to be attending a conference and take private time as I could get it. I would not make waves over it.

    Posted by anne June 19, 09 03:29 PM
  1. I wish this person luck with her tricky situation.

    Not to sound too Pollyanna (oh, look it up!), but I have been in this situation a couple of times and it worked out pretty well. I emphasize that this was with co-workers, and not my boss, but women are often good at accommodating each other in situations like this. They want space themselves, so they provide it for others. I had some fun talking to and getting better acquainted with short-term bunkmates in these situations. If all else fails, try to stay upbeat and keep your sanity!

    Posted by Eileen June 19, 09 03:31 PM
  1. Your own room, if you want it, is part of the cost of their sending you to the conference. period, end of sentence, end of paragraph, end of chapter, end of book

    Posted by Anonymous June 19, 09 04:23 PM
  1. It's great to work for companies that realize grown people should not share rooms unless they're related to each other. Offering to pay half the cost to have a private room is generous enough of the employee, and worth it if there is no other alternative. The employee is giving up their personal time, which a lot of companies don't comp out, considering trips a "bonus".
    My brother works for a university that expects employees of OPPOSITE genders to share rooms during conference trips, or crams multiple people into each room (sleeping on couches, even on the floor). He started paying for his own private room fast.

    Posted by baroque June 19, 09 04:38 PM
  1. Before you offer to pay 1/2 for a private room, simply ask politely if you may have a private room. Don't make up any excuse or sugar coat it. All you have to say is "___, for the upcoming business trip to ____, I would like to have my own room at the hotel. I prefer to stay alone when I am away from my home."

    Wait for a response before you offer to pay 1/2 of the expenses.
    If there is no problem with this, then go for it.
    If there seems to be an issue with the cost of a private room for each participant, then offer to pay 1/2.

    Adults should be allowed privacy for sleeping and bathing when travelling on business.
    If the company cannot afford private rooms for each employee, then that should be part of the decision making process of exactly who gets to go to conferences or other events.

    Posted by MML June 19, 09 05:32 PM
  1. Unless you are twelve and need your parents to sign a permission slip for your business trip....YOU NEED YOUR OWN ROOM !!!! These people do not own you.....! There is a LINE people....the more we allow them to cross it, the closer it will get ..

    Posted by sjd123 June 19, 09 06:26 PM
  1. Without having to explain anyone's gender or orientation, being forced to share a room with a co-worker is a big violation of a sexual harassment policy. At least, that's the tact I would take if any manager ever suggested it to me.

    Posted by SingleCommuterWithBagel June 19, 09 08:43 PM
  1. Adults traveling on business should each get their own room. You share rooms with relatives and close friends, not business colleagues.

    It is unreasonable for your company to expect you to "bunk in" with your boss. I would seriously consider not going to the conference if I was not provided with my own room.

    Posted by vinca123 June 19, 09 08:50 PM
  1. "I snore like a chainsaw cutting through an I-beam without a muffler, you wouldn't get a wink of sleep, it would be better for everyone if we had separate rooms"

    Posted by K June 19, 09 09:36 PM
  1. When I worked for a PBS station, I had to share a hotel room with my female boss (I'm female). What made it awkward though was that she was a new mother and still nursing. Nothing like waking up in the morning to the sound of a breast pump whirring in the bathroom :-(

    Posted by Wednesday35 June 19, 09 09:53 PM
  1. I've never had it suggested to me that I not get my own room. If they need to save money that much, shouldn't they be cancelling the trip altogether?

    That's a tough position to be put in. Of course, you could point out that you snore. :)

    Posted by CPH June 19, 09 10:10 PM
  1. .....All you have to say is "___, for the upcoming business trip to ____, I would like to have my own room at the hotel. I prefer to stay alone when I am away from my home.".....

    That's PERFECT.

    No need to be defensive about it, either.

    Posted by d3b0rah June 20, 09 12:29 AM
  1. grow up and live with the situation. Sometimes

    Posted by Anonymous June 20, 09 04:25 AM
  1. I am really appalled that a boss would expect this.
    If the company can not pay for your room that they are not in the financial position to send you to the conference.
    This is not unlike going out to a fancy dinner and when not being able to afford the proper tip.
    There were some good suggestion here and you certainly don't own anyone any explanation for needing your own room. IF pressed and only if pressed, you can always frame your response that you would be concerned that your boss wouldn't get a good night's sleep (intimating that you snore etc).

    Posted by lst June 20, 09 09:17 AM
  1. You are adults fer crissakes, not kids at summer camp. You SHOULD have your own room. I wouldn't offer to pay 1/2.

    Posted by Shecky28 June 20, 09 09:51 AM
  1. Politely decline the "suggestion" ... and look for a new job. An employer pulled that on me once (share with a co-worker not boss) and never again! If they want to send me out of state on business for their benefit they can treat me like an adult not some kid getting shipped off to summer camp or basic training!

    Posted by Irish-lad June 20, 09 10:07 AM
  1. What if she's a lesbian and is doing it because she wants to hit on her employee? It's TOTALLY unacceptable to require adults to share rooms on business trips. It exposes the company to tremendous risk of a harassment lawsuit and is just plain wrong. It should be illegal to ask employees to room together. If the company can't afford separate rooms, then they should eliminate the conference. (You don't have to eliminate people, that's such a cheesy excuse - just eliminate the travel)

    Posted by Jason June 20, 09 12:14 PM
  1. I agree with the first eight comments, including Anneís comment (#4). Well, these comments donít all agree among themselves, but I do have a solution that would accommodate all tastes, shapes, and colors: tell your boss that your significant other or a close friend or relative will make the trip with you and that youíll pay for your own bloody room! That way you could even choose a different and perhaps cheaper hotel, and your boss canít say that you did not like her company or that you made unreasonable demands of the company. Case closed!

    Posted by Luciennepierre June 20, 09 12:14 PM
  1. Why don't you just say you have a medical condition which makes it awkward to share a room

    Posted by margaret Young June 20, 09 02:07 PM
  1. I roomed with my boss once when I worked in sales, it was by far the worst experience EVER!! First of all, he FARTED, he burped, he snored and he had smelly feet, that's bad odor oozing from every orifice especially after a chicken and garlic meal.

    You can always say you have a gas problem, see how quickly your boss will get out of the arrangement. You can thank me later...........

    Posted by My_Boss_Farted_&_Burped June 20, 09 05:25 PM
  1. Your boss shouldn't have put you in this awkward situation. Ask for a private room. Only offer to pay half if cost is an issue.

    Ten years ago, I accepted what appeared to be my 'dream job'. Within three weeks I was attending a conference in California. My boss who was also in attendance, and also female, approached me on at least two occasions to come to her room after hours for a back rub. Perhaps a little different scenerio, but it was nice to ignore her, return to my private room, and comtemplate my next career move. Good luck.

    Posted by Linda June 21, 09 07:36 AM
  1. etiquette is often about boundries. How to keep them comfortably, how to recognize them, and how to react when boundries are crossed. There is no need to be shy about an obvious boundry here. Tell your boss that you do not think it is appropriate to share a room. Do it nicely, do it poiltely, but do it firmly.
    As a boss I would not be offended in the least if my subordinate said "Frankly, after being with you all day I don't want to spend my eveing with you." This is not dating after all, This is business. In fact your boss may be relieved to be able to justify separate rooms to her superior, whomever that may be.

    Posted by BP June 21, 09 09:21 AM
  1. My company once offered to send me to England to cover a story provided
    I was willing to take a bedroom in the home of a family I'd never met.
    I passed on the "opportunity". This is the height of cheapness and it's a major
    Boston employer.

    Posted by maximal June 21, 09 10:32 AM
  1. Oh no, I would never share a room with my boss or any other coworker while traveling for business. The company needs to accommodate employees needs while traveling, and should not expect you to share a room regardless of gender. Harassment suits are a lot more expensive than an additional hotel room, and care should be taken to not put employees in potentially awkward situations that could lead to additional awkward scenarios. Ugh, just imagine having to share a single bathroom with your boss. Yuck.

    Posted by ALDM June 21, 09 11:40 AM
  1. quit

    Posted by quitter June 21, 09 12:58 PM
  1. Employees should be allowed the privacy of their own hotel rooms when traveling. Period.

    Posted by JVA June 21, 09 01:53 PM
  1. If they want you to travel they need to get you your own room. I've been there and the longer the work day the more important the room. I had a company try and tell me because we wouldn't be in the room that much we could share but it's just the opposite.

    Posted by Anonymous June 21, 09 01:54 PM
  1. give it a go.

    you may find out you actually like your boss as you see her in her pajama's.

    Posted by sarah June 21, 09 02:34 PM
  1. If the company wants to cut costs, then they should only send one of the people to the conference. Hotels are hurting for business as well and are offering lower rates as most of their rooms are empty.

    Posted by not in my room June 21, 09 06:57 PM
  1. Why don't you just tell her that you snore like a freight-train and would not want to keep her up all night.

    Posted by lisa 135 June 21, 09 08:19 PM
  1. Is she hot?

    Posted by JimmyTheGreek June 21, 09 08:47 PM
  1. I'm still haunted by visions of my boss in his blue bikini briefs....

    Posted by mcd June 21, 09 10:27 PM
  1. Just man up and say "no, that wouldn't work" or "I'm not comfortable with that."

    Would she want you o sleep in her bedroom at home? No, i didn't think so.

    Posted by Nick Name June 22, 09 01:40 AM
  1. It's appalling to me that companies and/or management assume that employees will want to share hotel rooms on business trips. Many folks have physical reasons for wanting private bedrooms: sleep issues, prosthetic devices, dentures, hair pieces, etc. MML (above) said it well: "Adults should be allowed privacy for sleeping and bathing when traveling on business."

    Posted by ld June 22, 09 07:43 AM
  1. It's NOT reasonable for the company to expect employees to share a room unless it's a family business and the employees are immediate family.

    Posted by chuckx June 22, 09 08:47 AM
  1. I'm wondering if this is even legal. My daughter was working for a company and they sent her on a business trip with 5 people. When they got to the hotel the manager told them they would be sharing one room with two full size beds and she was planning on sleeping on the floor! My daughter called me the next day to tell me about it. My advise was tell them this situation is not acceptable and pack your bags . This is not a reputable company.

    Posted by Anonymous June 22, 09 01:29 PM
  1. If the company is so skint they have to make people share rooms, it's time to get a new job. Your next paycheck is going to bounce.

    Posted by Nick Name June 22, 09 01:41 PM
  1. Wow, I can't believe how many entitled posters there are here who feel it's their RIGHT to have their own room. I guess it depends on who you work for. I worked at a nonprofit where sharing rooms while traveling was the default -- it was a cost saving measure. But the company was clear about its policy -- if you wanted your own room, you simply had to pay 1/2.

    Having said that, I really don't think anyone should be required to share a room with their boss, to me that is crossing a line.

    Posted by suz June 22, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Entitlement has nothing to do with it --- If the company can't afford 2 hotel rooms, then they either 1. send ONE person to the conference or forego it altogether, since the extra few hundred bucks is a strain on the budget. I would never, nor should I ever, bunk with my bosses, co workers, or whomever to "save money" when part of that time is "my time". Pffft to you, suz if you think its entitlement! (Fair enough, I've been lucky to work for companies that have really deep pockets, but STILL!! )

    Posted by LeasyBeasyLemon Squeazy June 22, 09 05:01 PM
  1. It's all been said. It is unprofessional to expect employees to room together at conferences. We're not kids working summer jobs who share an employees dorm. We're adults who should be treated as such. Appropriate accommodations for all attendees is part of the cost of sending people to a conference. If the company can't afford that, they're sending too many people.

    Posted by Priscilla June 22, 09 05:05 PM
  1. Bunking together is NOT professional. Period. Everyone should have their own rooms. Period. Bosses and subordinates should not be exposed the other's private sleeping, bathing, and grooming. I can't believe how appalling the idea of sharing a room with your boss is.

    Posted by Aviatrix June 22, 09 05:06 PM
  1. Simplest solution is to make your boss change her mind.

    Beans. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week. As the old saying goes, "Beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you fart." Make sure you visit her office on a regular basis. The rest of your colleagues won't like it either, but at least they'll benefit from your manager's new-found wisdom too.

    Posted by Bean Eater June 22, 09 05:33 PM
  1. Come on. A hotel room at the corporate rate is about $150. If your company can't afford that, then get another job because they can't afford many more important things.

    Posted by legaleye June 22, 09 06:30 PM
  1. go for it

    Posted by Anonymous June 22, 09 09:43 PM
  1. Quite frankly, sleeping, bathing, and grooming are completely private activities. I do not wish either my co-workers or my boss to see me in my nightwear or in my underwear, thank you very much. For that matter, I don't want to know about my boss's or coworkers sleeping habits. As others have said, if the company is nitpicking about the cost of the hotel rooms, maybe they should rethink sending the employees to the convention/conference to begin with.

    Posted by Aviatrix June 22, 09 09:53 PM
  1. My company still, thankfully, allows us to have our own room, and cars even, on trips. But when they host contractors from India, all those guys gram together in bunches, like 5 or more to a suite. They cook their own food and only use cabs and shuttles for transpo. And you know these grown men are sharing beds.

    They seem ok with it too. And I know that our company looks at that arrangement and drools. "Oh, if only we could get our spoiled rotten US employees to cram in like that!"

    Don't give an inch, or next thing you know you'll be sharing a bed with a same sex co-worker. Which, when stripped of any sexual context, is pretty miserable.

    Posted by mezzb June 23, 09 08:34 AM
  1. Are you attending a business conference, or summer camp?

    This is a slippery slope -- today it's bunking with coworkers, tomorrow you're staying in a two-person tent at a KOA campground.

    Posted by Jynx June 25, 09 12:00 PM
  1. I can top this small company had an overnight offsite where everyone was expected to share BEDs (same gender). It ended up that EVERYONE brought aero beds with them. :)

    Posted by LaughingBoi57 July 3, 09 01:16 PM
  1. I have to say that I work for a non-profit and it's in our company's policy that employees are expected to share rooms as well as not upgrade to suites or other special rooms. Although I do agree it's a bit awkward it's often in the best interest of the company and ultimately you and your job to save money wherever possible. I can't believe in this economy where many peole have had coworkers (or friends, family etc) laid off that everyone is more concerned about their convenience rather than saving money. When you travel for personal reasons I doubt you expect your own room.

    I do think that when possible employees should be given input into who they room with but if you are unhappy then it's your responsibility to pay for a room out of pocket.

    Posted by AW October 28, 09 12:17 AM

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