What's your problem?

I travel a lot for work. Recently, my manager suggested that I shouldn't travel to countries where being a female might be to my 'disadvantage'.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When I questioned this, it turns out that he thinks a lot of business deals are done on the golf course or that some of the Middle Eastern business people I visit are unused to female executives and therefore are less likely to conclude deals with me. I am disgusted by his narrow-mindedness and fully intend to continue to travel, but he has threatened to refuse to sign off my expenses for flights. Should I take this to a more senior level?

A: I can't very easily make sense of all this. If he's your manager, surely he could simply forbid you to work the Middle East circuit without having to go through the charade of threatening to refuse to sign off your travel expenses?

And presumably, you've been set sales targets to which you've agreed. (You give me no clue as to the nature of your business, but since it's all about doing deals, I imagine there must be measurable targets involved.)

I don't begin to understand his motives, but something tells me it's all a bit of bluff and bluster. So I wouldn't escalate the issue yet. Simply tell your manager, in a matter-of-fact manner, that if you're to achieve the objectives he's set you, you need to travel. If you're prevented from travelling, you can't be held to your commitments. And you're perfectly happy to be judged on that basis.

It's usually a good idea to take complaints to a higher level only as a last resort. You may never need to, and of course, once you have, there's no turning back. Boats will have been burned and relationships soured for all eternity.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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