Travel is a passion for many, I know of avid travel lusty trippers who plan months in advance, review the hotels they want to stay in, study the routes of travel, have an advance discussion with the cab rental agency and even get the cell phone number of the driver. They expect the Cab driver or the Hotel agent to receive them at the airport with a placard in hand and pick your strollers to the car park. They walk stretching their back, bottled water in hand, shades in place gabbing about how uncomfortable the flight was or how tasteless and uninteresting the flight food was.
All this is perfectly fine in normal circumstances. But when it comes to corporate travel, it is a different ball game all together. If you are an Officer of rank it becomes your solemn duty to save money for the company. Then you let your travel desk book you a flight at 2 am that probably offers 30% discount on fares and ruins your body mechanism 100% and lands you at 5 am. Zombied, due to lack of sleep and travel lag you sleep walk into your hotel by half past 6, and plunge in the bed with shoes on, only to miss the breakfast. The following day is long, groggy and stretches your nerve cells to its limit. This is a fairly predictable schedule, for you know what to expect because the travel plan is frozen.
But what happens when there is no travel plan? There are no travel bookings, no hotel reservations, no one to receive you or no travel route known? The worst share comes to the field service engineers catering to production industries remotely located. In Naila’s stint of 20 odd years in the industry working for project management, she had lived and faced the brunt of such sudden demands by the Customer that compelled her to pack her bag in under 15 minutes and rush to the airport.
Naila had herself survived travel through fearsome flash floods with her interns for over 30 hours, and had been out of contact with office and family as she switched trains, busses, local transport to reach home in a ragged exhausted state. There had been occasions when she had slept on the cold metal benches or stood on a lonely railway platforms infested with stray dogs and tramps and scroungers staring strangely at her. Her wait for some train like Hussein Saagar Express with an god-forsaken ETA of 1.30 am, then banging on the doors of the bogie to wait for the TC to wake up, open the door, let her get in (as the train started moving) and oblige, are all experiences that were hair raising and indelible. And the real adventure ( that wannabe inexperienced and over enthused tourists would pay for) would begin when Naila would find out that only 2 local buses plied to the remote Cement factory and the last one had just left 20 minutes back, before the train reached!. This would mean spending the night in the four walls called the waiting room on the deserted railway station, where washrooms were non-existent and a food outlet sold only stale fruit cakes, duplicate glucose biscuits and greasy pakoras.
Forced travel is a different kind of ammo used in the Corporate world to display displeasure with an employee. Naila’s Boss has a vindictive trend to make an employee travel to far-flung sites, back to back for weeks in a row, then follow up for visit reports and demand why all the prospects had not converted into sales. On an odd occasion it had also become reason to prove the non-performance of an employee and sack him! Then there are Project Managers who are held responsible if their Vendor or Contractor cannot fulfil the quality regulations at their shops or sites. Such targets are often coerced to take up unplanned trips at a few hours’ notice and it does not matter if their presence at the problematic location will make any difference or not!
But not all corporate culture comprises of manipulative managers. Naila also noticed that while her team was being discriminatorily bulldozed into travelling for sales and site installations, their competitor strictly forbade any site engineer traveling during the Covid19 times, even after the lockdown was lifted. It did not matter if the contract was going to be in jeopardy, the Boss put the safety of his team above everything else. What extraordinary level of loyalty and respect he must have earned out of such a small act of compassionate consideration!
True it is, one is bound by the roles and responsibilities that one accepts, but many a times the boundaries are unfairly crossed, sometimes under the shadow of personal bias, sometimes to save their own skin or just to have some smarty in their place as a representative. As a flip side, the need to journey can just be the solution to resolve a serous conflict or embalm a bruised ego of a Customer.
At the end of the day, it is about an impartial, rational decision whether the corporate travel should be up or can the day be saved without the expense and effort. Travel may be fun when the agenda is leisure but it can turn into a hellish nightmare when you know you are a pawn of manipulation and prejudice.