Bicycle purist required to travel for work



There is an employee at my organization that is 100% pro bicycle and 100% anti-combustion engine. He is very vocal about it, and everyone, including myself is generally supportive of his choices and knows him as that dedicated life choice kind of guy. Most days, he bikes to work as you would expect.

The issues seem to come up when I request that he travels for work. There is another office in another city, and it requires him to bike for hours to get there. We deal with hardware equipment, so it is not something that is very easily for him to "remote" help, and he is the subject expert of this device. He pushes back very aggressively to have me find another plan, in which I genuinely cannot find one. I've offered to give him a lift on days that both he and I are going to the same field office, but he declines as it is against his personal morals, and then does indeed cycle the long distance. I get the feeling he has blamed me personally for this chore, as I often get the cold shoulder from him now. He has started to play the victim card around work and I believe people are starting to turn sour against me for making him travel.

Recently, I have informed him that he needs to travel to another State on business. He seemed angry and snarkily stated about how he has to make it a week long biking trip to get there.

How can I ease this situation? On the one hand, I don't want to be that "evil" guy forcing him to go against his beliefs, but I need him to perform his job and travel. I also don't want to lose him as an employee. Is there a compromise that can be made?

guest poster

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 957

238Were the travel requirements of the job made clear when you hired this employee?Philip Kendall 2017-02-18T04:30:14.207

16Are the reasons for resisting the commute purely his "personal beliefs" or could there be other reasons? For example, I get seriously nauseous in cars which can take hours to wear off (even for relatively short rides) and would dislike regular commutes in cars simply for that reason.Carpetsmoker 2017-02-18T09:05:15.303

192"100% pro bike and 100% anti-combustion engine" <-- So how does he feel about electric vehicles?Criggie 2017-02-18T09:18:57.693


Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

Lilienthal 2017-02-18T12:36:42.573

18Seems like his reason for not travelling isn't what's really relevant. What would you do about employees who can't or won't travel for other reasons, such as having to care for children?jamesqf 2017-02-18T18:21:05.863

19Does he get paid for the hours he is commuting?Shaymin Gratitude 2017-02-19T04:17:42.877

9How many employees do you have? One problem that hasn't been discussed yet is his unique irreplaceable expertise. So the question is, what would happen if tomorrow he boards a plane and the plane suddenly crashes? Would you be able to replace him? Is everyone a unique specialist at your company? Do you guys cross-train employees in case they ever need to replace each other? And if tomorrow, this employee suddenly quits (or you fire him), could you replace him? If the answer is 'no' to any of these questions, then you have a bigger problem than just this problem with this one employee.Stephan Branczyk 2017-02-19T14:54:49.343

6Are you in a place without public transportation (between those two cities)? In Germany I would expect to use a train or possibly a distance bus here.Paŭlo Ebermann 2017-02-19T17:14:24.780

13When he got hired, during interview, were you clear that travel is a part of the job? And was he clear that he travels only by bike? Or either of these changed during his employment? This is quite important aspect.Mołot 2017-02-20T14:31:36.990

1It would be interesting to hear how this one works out, are you able to let use know the result?Toby 2017-02-21T10:00:07.220

3In which country this situation is taking place? Where is so loyal attitude to employee?)))Ivan Gerasimenko 2017-02-21T15:52:53.283

2Most days, he bikes to work as you would expect. Ok, so what about days that aren't "most days". How does he get to work/Tony Ennis 2017-02-22T14:36:18.923

1Who would expect such thing in a contract?707 2017-02-23T03:48:39.360

Not a very pragmatic guy, I wonder what other parts of his life (including profession) he treats with the same kind of fundamentalism.Alex 2017-02-23T15:43:08.900

@ShayminGratitude presumably this employee is on salary and is performing reasonably well at his job, otherwise there isn't much reason to keep him around. Note that in some locales, if an employee starts work at one location and travels to a secondary location during the same work day, the employer must pay transportation costs and wages for the travel time.rob 2017-02-24T18:51:44.200

I've worked for employers that specifically state that one couldn't use one's own vehicle (does a bike count?) for business travel. We had to use travel setup by a the travel company the business used. This was for liability reasons - if we were in an accident traveling on business when using our personal mode of transportation then they (the employer) could be responsible. This was a large bank (275k employees worldwide).bednarjm 2017-12-01T21:23:05.967



I think you have already been extremely accommodating to him. If the requirements of the job go against his personal morals on a (in the US at least) non-protected issue, then he needs to find another job. Either that, or take vacation days to travel by bike to the remote job.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 2 084

45This answer is the most reasonable, based upon one assumption - this was part of the job description when he accepted it (be that when he applied, or whenever his contract was updated to stipulate that travel would be required.)djsmiley2k 2017-02-19T21:04:52.560

4As some comments say, how about electic cars? If their range is sufficient, you might want to check if this is an option for your company, not especially for him. Some company stickers on it etc.Martijn 2017-02-20T08:29:49.957

3I suppose this is analogous to a vegan working in a slaughter house. It's not impugning the employees personal morals if they are sacked because they refuse to perform their duties. If their statement is "I will not travel to another city under any circumstances", and their job description involves travel... No winning.AJFaraday 2017-02-20T10:13:01.330

39I used to work in a factory that hired a lot of Amish workers, some of them traveled by horse and buggy for hours every day to and from work. They never complained, the only accomodation the company made was to have an area where they could tie up their buggies.DLS3141 2017-02-20T13:33:24.993

23This isn't even a problem of bike v.s car. It's can the employee travel. It he can't and you need him to then it's time to find a new employee.coteyr 2017-02-20T14:54:13.793

6@djsmiley2k From what I hear of the U.S. it is comparatively easy to fire employees, or leave employers. This means that the terms under which he started are secondary. Requirements change, employees' roles change. This specific change (if it is one) needs to be openly communicated and discussed; if he's not up to it, tough for him. If he's irreplaceable, tough for the employer.Peter A. Schneider 2017-02-21T13:33:19.043

@PeterA.Schneider You are absolutely correct. I would have sympathy for the employee if he made his beliefs known up front and there was an agreement, verbal or otherwise, that he wouldn't have to travel. However, as you said, things change and unless he has some sort of contract guaranteeing that he won't have to travel beyond his basic commute, he's out of luck.Kevin 2017-02-21T13:47:59.210

2Agreed - this isn't like a strong fear of flying (which could be classified as an actual medical/psychological issue), but more like a "plastic vs. paper" choice by the employee. Definitely not something the manager should be losing a lot of sleep over.Omegacron 2017-02-21T19:46:12.363

The job requirement is to travel. The employee stated a preference not to do it. The employee needs to choose to travel, via reasonably expedient means, or choose to find other employment. Losing knowledgeable people is never fun. But neither is catering to unrealistic expectations.Steve Mangiameli 2017-02-22T20:37:41.703

In a workplace environment, this might be a good idea. But honestly, humanity is the literal frog in a container about to boil. Will you deny the person trying to avoid this his (apparently, since op did not state otherwise) well performing work, and let him die off for anyone not complaining, that we all die sooner or later in the future?antipattern 2017-02-22T22:55:54.277

appropriate xkcd for this topic:

antipattern 2017-02-22T22:59:27.123

And if you watch our for details, right now we're still in the holocene, which means the optimal place for people, and plants, to thrieve. Do you really whish to advance this for personal gains into territory that has never ever yet been proved to harbour life?antipattern 2017-02-22T23:06:33.427

1@antipattern that's quite a bit beyond the scope of this post.user30031 2017-02-23T03:55:33.747

It might very well be beyond the scope of this post, but it is still required to understand the motivations of the cyclist. I've read other comments calling this a "religion". Precisely for the reason I have mentioned in above comment, this is nothing like a religion, it is cold, hard, scientifically proven fact. Of course you can say, it will not matter. But thats the attitude that has brought this mess upon us.antipattern 2017-02-23T10:36:16.950

1@antipattern - Dude... chill.Omegacron 2017-02-28T22:00:18.413


His commute to work is HIS problem, not yours. If you have the authority then make that clear to him. You can try and accommodate him, but at the end of the day the work needs to be done. He's not being paid to ride a bike.

If you don't have the authority then it's not your problem, pass it on to whoever does.

Personally I'd already be looking for his replacement. Extremists of any variety are better off out of your workplace causing drama. Whether it's religious zealots or vegetarians hassling people about their lunch choices.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 83 218

102Visiting a remote site in another city isn't a commute.Nathan Cooper 2017-02-18T05:29:25.767

12@NathanCooper It is if that's where you need to work for the day. Commuting is going to the place where you will do your job. It can change, sometimes daily, depending on the job.Andy 2017-02-18T19:58:04.327

1Kinda feel a workplace ought to be able to tolerate some level of drama. This one seems to be just fine with the bike guy -- except for this thorny issue which the manager can deal with more accommodatingly or less accommodatingly. – None – 2017-02-19T00:18:11.873

9@djechlin a bit of drama is fine, until the point when it affects the ability to get the job done efficiently and the company paid. Business comes first, there's a lot of people looking for jobs who don't need to bike everywhere.Kilisi 2017-02-19T01:22:44.073


@Andy the IRS disagrees. "Outside the metropolitan area" isn't a "commute", but "business travel". Outside the state certainly qualifies.

Nate Diamond 2017-02-19T03:00:59.670

27@Andy No, a commute is the your routine daily travel to and from work. Going to a client's location in another city is not commuting. Commuting is your problem, other travel for business purposes is your employer's.David Schwartz 2017-02-19T19:20:11.623

51@DavidSchwartz: even when the employer offered him a lift, he refused for personal reasons -- at that point it's his problem again.RemcoGerlich 2017-02-19T19:57:06.760

9@RemcoGerlich Well, that kind of depends. For some jobs, business travel is going above and beyond the normal job tasks and it's perfectly reasonable for the employee to refuse. For some jobs, business travel is a routine part of the job and refusing it would be refusing to do your job. Many jobs are in-between. It's not at all unusual to have people who absolutely refuse to travel for work for all kinds of reasons, but there are many jobs they simply can't take because they require travel.David Schwartz 2017-02-19T20:02:48.647

9@DavidSchwartz in my experience it would be both unusual and career limiting. Much as would someone insisting on coming on horseback and complaining there is no proper stable... cycling is a lifestyle choice, I do it, but I don't let it interfere with work. I agree another city is not a normal commute, but normal procedure is for the employer to organise the transport, not the employee.Kilisi 2017-02-19T20:20:39.003

1So the question is, 'What is his job?' - if it's 'Turn up to the office' then sure, he can refuse. If it's 'Fix whatever needs fixing' then he either better realise he's got a long way to bike, or start looking for another role.djsmiley2k 2017-02-19T21:06:34.473

3@djsmiley2k refusing to work because you don't like internal combustion engines is not a great idea. Like refusing to have electricity because the back up generators are diesel motors.Kilisi 2017-02-19T21:18:02.583

3@Kilisi - he's not refusing to work, he's refusing to go to a remote location to work - if that's not part of his job description then he's in the clear. If it IS part of his job description, he better start looking. The validity of his hate isn't being questioned.djsmiley2k 2017-02-19T21:19:26.000

17@djsmiley2k His job is what his employer says his job is. The can refuse to go. He can also then be fired. Every job description i've ever seen includes "and other duties as assigned," which leaves open pretty much anything.Andy 2017-02-19T23:02:37.290

3Spot on, he doesn't get to say what his job is, would be great if we all could, but let's stick with reality.Kilisi 2017-02-20T00:42:11.930


All the other answers seem to be trying to solve the bike problem (buy him carbon offsets) or tell you how to convince him to change his mind on the bike issue. I suggest you utterly ignore the bike.

Ask yourself: if this employee was parent to a small baby, and objected to going to the other office because the baby would need to have longer days in daycare, and objected to the travel because "I don't want to be away from my baby for that long", how would you react? What if this employee was caring for an aging parent or a spouse that was dying of cancer? Substitute the entirely voluntary bike thing for something that is less voluntary and that more people feel very strongly about. Something you can perhaps relate to yourself.

Some employers would say

I'm sorry, but this kind of travel is a condition of employment here. You can find a way to make the travel work, or we can change your job to one that requires no travel but [pays less, is only 30 hours a week, doesn't involve all the same duties], or you can take a few weeks to find a job somewhere else and we'll wish you good luck.

(There may not be the middle thing about changing their job to something lesser, depending on the company size and jobs that exist there.)

Others would say

In that case I will only send [your coworker] on these trips. Please don't be surprised or offended when that coworker is promoted before you or gets a larger raise from you; you're deliberately choosing not to contribute to something important to us.

What would you say? If the reason was personal, strongly held, supported by most of society, and not considered "weird" or extreme? Would you still say, in effect, "don't let the door hit you on the way out" or would you find a way to support that decision not to commute or travel more than a small distance?

If you would say it's a condition of employment, there's no-one else to send, and if I need to hire someone else who will do it, I can only do so by parting with this employee, then say that. Don't let the bike thing confuse you.

If you would find a way for a "good" reason then stop judging reasons and find a way. Not asking other people to do more work for less money, or do all the travel while being rewarded the same as the nontraveller, but a real true fair way to support this very firmly held desire. I don't think you need to involve the biker in that process much, unless someone says "I will do all the travel if the biker does all the X" and you need to see if the biker is cool with that. This could be a very powerful retention strategy for a valued employee, since the chance of finding another employer who could accommodate this belief system may be slim. And all the other staff will see that you are flexible and generous, which is generally a good thing to be seen to be.

Note: I am not suggesting that caring for a family member, whether newborn, aged, or ill, is comparable to the bike preference. If you would fire the employee even if this dispute involved a clearly "good" reason then go ahead and fire them over this. It's not about the bike, it's that travel is a condition of employment. That half of the advice is easy. The second half is harder. If you would find a way to make it work, a real true fair way, not just asking others to do the person's work for nothing, then there is a way to make it work. So even for this reason, why not do it? Why not be fair?

As for the biker giving you the cold shoulder, very shortly either the biker will be gone or you will be delivering the news that "you win, you don't have to travel far any more" and either way your cold shoulder problem should stop.

Kate Gregory

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 95 749

7If I understand correctly, the person in the question travels hours to and from work. That is not something one would do if he wants to spend more time with his baby, or if he had to care for a sick wife.BЈовић 2017-02-20T08:45:15.253

47@Angew It appears that these things are very important to the person in question. Frequently it is hard to relate for others to such things, until you choose a relation that is important to said others. So yes, in order to get the proper empatic response, a comparison is being made.Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen 2017-02-20T12:04:46.353

43I am not suggesting that caring for a family member, whether newborn, aged, or ill, is comparable to the bike preference. If you would fire the employee even if this dispute involved a clearly "good" reason then go ahead and fire them over this. It's not about the bike, it's that travel is a condition of employment. That half of the advice is easy. The second half is harder. If you would find a way to make it work, a real true fair way, not just asking others to do the person's work for nothing, then there is a way to make it work. So even for this reason, why not do it? Why not be fair?Kate Gregory 2017-02-20T12:32:46.287

8The reason for not traveling is irrelevant. The employee is saying "I am not going to travel" the "because" part doesn't matter one bit (unless they have a protected condition, or maybe a temporary condition).coteyr 2017-02-20T14:58:31.330

3@Angew: Different people have different values. It's irrelevent WHY this employee is not willing to travel (unless it gets into protected class issues). It's not really up to the employer to argue with or try to change this employee's values. What's important is whether it's worth it to the company to accomodate him.jamesqf 2017-02-20T19:36:30.180

1Another benefit of having someone else travel is that that person would learn the equipment or system and perhaps after some time could take over the job. If travel is required for this job then someone who cannot travel cannot perform the job adequately, regardless of their reason for not doing it. If it were temporary, like caring for a small child or elderly parent then the short term fix would work and not require training someone else.CramerTV 2017-02-20T19:48:53.783

1@jamesqf Of course it's not up to the employer to change the employee's values. But I claim there's a fundamental difference between the employer accommodating for caring looking after a person, and for a hobby/lifestyle choice. If you claim these deserve the exact same treatment, we'll have to agree to disagree.Angew 2017-02-21T08:47:37.113

4@KateGregory It's not random. His only objection to your thought experiment is that his personal values forbid such thought experiments. That his problem and that's what I've provided counterargument to. You're right about the "doesn't matter", my bad, I oversimplified (although it's also a popular stance).Agent_L 2017-02-21T15:50:01.640

9It's also worth noting that someone who never drives probably doesn't own a car, may not have a license, and may find even being a passenger terrifying or nauseating. Trying to categorize "legitimate" vs. "illegitimate" reasons is likely more complex than it seems, and should be avoided.Joe 2017-02-21T16:18:32.887

@Angew: I disagree, not on the particular values, but on whether they're relevant. The OP needs to disregard what he personally thinks, and make an economic decision on whether it's worth making accomodations to keep an employee who won't travel (for whatever reason), or go to the expense & inconvenience of firing him and hiring/training someone else for the job.jamesqf 2017-02-22T18:59:24.647

@angew Consider the perspective of the biker. For them, the global energy crisis is clearly a serious issue. In their mind biking for work is part of caring for your children/family. If climate change wipes out large populations that definitely may have an effect. From different perspectives it's impossible to determine the magnitude of importance. In this case it is entirely subjective.JMac 2017-02-23T18:25:01.710


I'm a dedicated cyclist, having worked at the current job for 1 3/4 years biking every day, so speaking from that point-of-view.

Once you develop the healthy routine, its very hard to break. However the worst times are just after a holiday, or returning after an illness when you don't quite feel 100% yet. Even a bout of heavy rain or winter weather can be an obstacle . At this time, you're vulnerable to losing the habit. This is perceived as a threat, or a weakness. As such, sometimes cyclists will resemble recovered alcoholics in their intense reactions.

So there are several approaches I could suggest. I'm not sure what your chap's motivations are, so test the waters.

1) Suggest that you're going that way in a car anyway, so its still not adding one more car to the road way - if he's saving the planet this might help.

2) Tell him that you have room in the boot/trunk for a folding bike and if he has one, to bring it. If he doesn't own a folder, then its a perfect excuse for "N+1" the required number of bikes to own, where N is the number you currently own.

3) If you drive the same path he does, look out for him on the way to/from. You might find him stranded with a mechanical fault or something else.

Finally - don't bother yourself. I assume he's riding on his own time, not company time? Then its really not your responsibility how he gets about as long as he's there on time and ready to work.

Out of State trip (later edit)

Google Maps suggests the biggest distance between centers of neighbouring states is New Mexico to Texas at ~850 km straight line. So we'll estimate with 500 and 1000 km. Interstate travel implies motorways/highways which are rarely suitable for cyclists, so a slightly meandering course will be required.

A good road cyclist can do 200 km in a day, but 3 to 5 days of that in a row would be hard work. Plus the same distance on the return leg.

A recumbent bike would make the distance more comfortable, but they are quite expensive. However they are faster than a diamond-frame bike generally.

For the out-of-state trip, I would fly, and pack my folding bike as luggage then ride that for the local legs, from the airport into town, to the workplace, and to the accommodation if its a multi-day visit.

Again - if your chap wants to spend his own time riding, then that's fine. He's saving you money on taxis when he's at the remote location. And he's healthier for it which means lower medical costs.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 1 563

5As a follow-on my workplace's prime business is vehicle tracking and information derived. So its noteworthy that ONE in FOUR employees rides a bike to work, when the local average is between 6% and 10%. Our workplace even provides two nice cruiser bikes for staff to use. Perhaps he'd fly if he could take "the company folding bike" for use from airport to office to accommodation ? It could also be used by other staff when its back at work ?Criggie 2017-02-18T05:38:54.377

11Subsequent thought - he might not be able to drive a car, or doesn't own a car. It can be hard to understand someones actions if you're unaware of the cause.Criggie 2017-02-18T05:57:36.790

52Or he may have been in a traumatic car accident that makes him very wary of being in an automobile again. Speaking from experience on that one.RoboKaren 2017-02-18T07:38:21.933

4Sorry to be a pain, but the question doesn't seem to specify that it is a neighbouring state.David Conrad 2017-02-18T10:46:41.847

2If the guy won't even get into the car of someone else who's driving anyway, why would you think he'd get on a plane?Andy 2017-02-18T20:04:08.713

3@andy because only small aircraft are powered by combustion engines. Larger aircraft are exclusively jet engines and that may get around the problem. Likewise, a train might be good for the bulk of the distance (assuming there's a passenger service) and multimodal cycling can be the glue for local travel.Criggie 2017-02-18T20:58:17.163

@DavidRicherby Fair point - I tried to find fair numbers. What distances should I re-work it on? Should we ask of OP which two cities are involved or is that too identifying?Criggie 2017-02-18T21:00:51.527

10Jet engines still burn gas to run. I doubt its specifically ICBs that are the problem; its probably the carbon waste that is the employee's issue (or maybe he believes oil is a major cause of wars).Andy 2017-02-18T21:17:24.377

1You could try asking what sort of distances are involved. But, actually, it was wrong of me to say that that part of your answer "makes no sense whatsoever" and I apologise for that. I think it would be OK if you removed the centre-to-centre part and just let the OP calculate the time from the statement that 200km in a day is doable but not for multiple days. There are plenty of roads in the US (especially in the flatter parts) so I'd suspect that avoiding major highways isn't much of an issue, for the most part.David Richerby 2017-02-18T21:24:03.360

@Andy Packed airliners are significantly more efficient per passenger than bicycling over equivalent distances. Please don't kill the planet by riding your bike 1000 miles in one direction.Steve Cox 2017-02-20T15:15:48.477

@SteveCox [Citation needed] Are you suggesting that one aircraft laden with people is "better for the planet" than all those people riding bikes the same distance? Which is different to any "efficiency" measure. This might be a question for skeptics.SE or sustainability.SECriggie 2017-02-20T19:19:56.430

@SteveCox I'm not riding my bike to work at all, but that's another story. Still, surely a car carrying two people is more efficient than it having a single rider, yet the biker in the question still refused to go, which to me implies he's a nutcase.Andy 2017-02-20T23:35:23.707

2@Andy: And what's wrong with being a nutcase? IMHO many people's religious, political, or personal beliefs qualify them as nutcases - and they probably have similar opinions of me :-) Doesn't mean I can't do productive work, even if I'm not willing to travel much.jamesqf 2017-02-21T06:17:09.547

@jamesqf Because its more of a hassle for employers to deal with you compared to a non-nutcase. Its fine to have your personal beliefs or whatever, but when it affects your job its an issue.Andy 2017-02-21T15:08:25.730


@SteveCox "Packed airliners are significantly more efficient per passenger than bicycling over equivalent distances." - whoa, there, cowboy! That's so completely wrong it isn't even funny! Energy per passenger per 100 km is between 40 and 80 kWh for aeroplanes and 2-3 kWh for cyclists. In other words, the most environmentally friendly, filled to the brim aeroplane is still a crime against nature. You can read more about it e.g. in this chapter of an excellent book on sustainable energy:

Tomislav Nakic-Alfirevic 2017-02-23T15:54:16.840


I view this sort of zealotry very dimly. The guy sounds like Milton from Office Space. I would venture he's a drag to be around. Seriously, the guy insists on cycling to another state for business??

I would change his job description to include travel, if it does not.

His cycling choice isn't protected and is indeed a few standard deviations off the mean.

I would have a boss-to-employee discussion with him where you listen to his opinion of IC engines, and then let him know you never want to hear about it again. You expect him to travel in a normal fashion that does not ultimately become a pain in your ass. You expect that he will not complain about normal travel requests in the office. Document the discussion with with HR. (EDIT - while I didn't think I'd have to say this, of course explain to the employee what the issue is - his mode of travel is impractical, untimely, and unsafe. And by publicly and repeatedly voicing his dissatisfaction about the travel situation, he is lowering office morale. These things are unacceptable.)

When it happens again, I would PIP him and let him know his passive aggressiveness, snarkiness, and complaining are not helping office morale. Any unprofessional behavior going forward will result in penalties up to and including loss of bonus, raise, and job.

In the meantime, have him start training his replacement.

EDIT - to all the people who are concerned about the employee's happiness... Let's be real here. This employee has made choices that are guaranteed to increase his dissatisfaction if he does not get his way, completely. To make matters worse, once you accommodate his eccentricities, you may become obligated to accommodate everyone else's whimsy. If you don't, what will cause issues with favoritism and possibly bias.

All we're really asking here is for the employee to conform to reasonable and accepted cultural norms, in order to perform the work he's been hired to perform.

EDIT 2 - something that occurred to me early on, but I didn't add, was the employee's safety. In the USA (the OP sounds American...) most roads are freaking deadly for cyclists. We don't have many bikes lanes in the cities, and we have none outside the cities. My first thought about the OP biking to another city was "He's gonna die." My 2nd concern is liability. If the company requires him to travel (which they are) and allows him to bicycle (which they do), then they are surely accepting liability for a dangerous mode of travel. That's probably a show-stopper. We need this guy on-site, timely, and safe. Bicycling won't cut it.

EDIT 3 - Some people have commented that there's no solution in the answer. This is not correct. The solution is for the employee to get in line. He has adopted a hard stance that leaves the OP few options. Indeed, the employee's life choices is based around his decision to not compromise. Kudos for the guy for walking the talk. But he is requiring the OP to life that life too, to an extent.

Tony Ennis

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 2 259

Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

Jane S 2017-02-24T01:43:39.517


The issues seem to come up when I request that he travels for work.

Does that mean you're the superior of that employee?

I get the feeling he has blamed me personally for his commuting chore, as I often get the cold shoulder from him now. He has started to play the victim card around work and I believe people are starting to turn sour against me for making him travel.

This looks like the conflict between you and him is in the stage 4 of Glasl's Nine-Stage Model Of Conflict Escalation.

At this point you cannot solve the conflict by exchanging arguments. You need a conflict de-escalation talk with him.

Bad news is that you have not much time left to solve this conflict without outside help.

In fact I'd strongly suggest that you get someone who is trained in conflict mediation and you both accept as an unrelated trustworthy person to mediate this talk!

Invite him for a talk on "neutral ground", the cafeteria, hot dog stand, a pub or alike, anything except his or your office/workplace. Let him know that this invitation is for de-escalating the conflict. Schedule that invitation so that he has some time to prepare for it, like half a day or so.

In this talk:

  • Make clear that you value him as a person and that you like working with him. (I suspect you do... ;o) )

  • Ask him if he likes to work for the company in general and with/for you in particular. (hopefully he (still) answers 'yes'...)

  • Tell him that you feel the cooling in your relationship and that you regret that.

  • Ask him what he feels about being sent to that other site and how this affects his relationship to you from his perspective.

    He may answer with details (e.g.: trip is long, combustion engines destroy environment...) keep asking him for his feelings until he comes up with something that is referring to his relationship to you or your company.

  • Tell him (and mean it!) that you understand and respect his feelings.
    But do not excuse yourself.

  • ask him why he feels this way and what could make stop him feeling this way.

  • listen carefully and try to find something in his suggestions that you can comply with.
    tell him (and mean it) which suggestions sound reasonable for you, and what you can offer to keep him from feeling bad.

Timothy Truckle

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 507

12This seems very convoluted, formal and emotionally-driven. So much mention of "feelings". Don't think any of it is called for. Either he does the job or he doesn't; end of.Lightness Races in Orbit 2017-02-19T00:25:02.133

19@LightnessRacesinOrbit "This seems very convoluted, formal and emotionally-driven. So much mention of "feelings"." That is the core of conflicts they are on emotional level and you can't come around them if you ignore that.Timothy Truckle 2017-02-19T10:06:45.080

10But this isn't about an emotional conflict. It's about an employee not accepting the requirements of his role.Lightness Races in Orbit 2017-02-19T10:58:21.623

9@LightnessRacesinOrbit "But this isn't about an emotional conflict." The clearest sign that it is an emotional conflict is that the employee changed his behavior against the OP and that he "makes front" against the OP within his colleges.Timothy Truckle 2017-02-19T13:33:15.930

5@TimothyTruckle: The employee has an emotional conflict with himself. It is not the OP's job to coddle him emotionally or to act as his therapist. The employee is struggling to maintain a work-life balance; that's an issue for him and his doctor, not his manager, whose job it is to say yay or nay to continuing to perform this way. It really is as simple as that. When exactly did we stop taking personal responsibility for our own decisions!!Lightness Races in Orbit 2017-02-19T23:38:46.577

3This answer might benefit from a conclusion. It essentially strives to distinguish miscommunication from real conflicts. The outcome of the process may be that there is no miscommunication, and no solution that's acceptable both to company and employee. This would be unfortunate, and the end of his employment.MSalters 2017-02-20T11:17:17.117

5@LightnessRacesinOrbit When did we stop treating other human beings like people who might have feelings instead of mindless drones only there to do what the boss demands? (Rhetorical question, we all know that's the truth in a great many jobs. It's unfortunate that you would consider that a good thing though)Tim B 2017-02-20T16:13:01.457

3@TimB: I'm not disputing that humans have feelings; I'm disputing that the OP needs to act as this childish employee's therapist. You are not a "mindless drone" for being expected to live up to the requirements of the job for which you applied and for which you are paid money.Lightness Races in Orbit 2017-02-20T16:57:31.890

9@LightnessRacesinOrbit Assuming of course that the requirement for travel was made clear when you signed up for the job, rather than just being tacked on now. It seems unlikely that someone with this viewpoint would have applied for a job that involved travelling and now they are being forced to do it despite their strong feelings on the subject. Of course if the travel requirement was clear up front that's very different but the OP never answered that question.Tim B 2017-02-20T17:02:20.467

@LightnessRacesinOrbit first comment is simply correct. Everything else is noise.Tony Ennis 2017-02-22T21:12:55.137


This person has elevated their worldview to the status of a religious conviction. I don't say this pejoratively. It's a perfectly fine thing for a person to do. However, it may be useful to look at the laws in your country about religious people in the workplace for guidance on how to accommodate this person's beliefs.

For example, in the United States, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for the religious practices of people of faith, so long as the accommodation does not constitute an "undue burden" on the employer's operations.

Applying this to your biker employee, you have done everything you can to accommodate his beliefs -- even though you're not required to (his activism would not be considered a religious belief under U.S. Law). However, even if he were protected by law, this definitely qualifies as an undue burden.

It is not reasonable for him to expect you to organize your entire department around his beliefs. This is his job. Commuting is part of that job. You need to offer an ultimatum here. Point out how supportive you've been in the past, but also how this isn't just about him anymore.

Explain what is expected of him and what a reasonable time-frame is. Ultimately, he has to decide what's more important to him; his "faith" or his job. Bona-fide religious people often have to make this decision too.

Wes Sayeed

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 662

3Upon what premise are you basing the conclusion that the employee's dislike of motor vehicles is because of 'religious' reasons?Pharap 2017-02-18T23:56:08.200

9@Pharap: It's an analogy.Lightness Races in Orbit 2017-02-19T00:24:05.363

1Even if the conclusion happens to be the same as the other answers, it's really a bad analogy to use.Stephan Branczyk 2017-02-19T14:43:26.263

14@StephanBranczyk; I don't really think so. This person has taken their personal opinion and framed his entire value and belief system around it. Cars are not just a bad choice to this guy; they are a mortal sin. Biking is not a hobby for him; it's salvation. This dogma is the lens through which he judges right and wrong, not only for himself but for others as well. He refuses to carpool and instead endures a sacrificial hardship to commute for its sake. How is this not a religious conviction of his? The only difference is that God has nothing to do with it (or maybe he does, who knows?)Wes Sayeed 2017-02-19T17:36:17.107

2@Wes Sayeed: Or maybe his religion is based on Gaia, not God. Is it any less of a religion for that?jamesqf 2017-02-19T18:34:07.413

3I actually agree with that assertion, but I just do not believe that his manager/OP should treat his zealotry as a religion. Under the law, he has no reason to. And in my opinion, he has been far too accommodating already, and the only thing he should look at is the law regarding business travel (when it's not explicitly mentioned or implied in the original job description, assuming that it wasn't)Stephan Branczyk 2017-02-20T01:09:44.360

This answer does not advocate granting the employee more allowances; quite the opposite actually.user30031 2017-02-23T04:10:42.303

That ardent care to avoid a scientifically near-certain apocalypse is in any way shoehorned in a single sentence next to religion only goes to show how mindbogglingly psychopathic mainstream western (global?) culture is.Tomislav Nakic-Alfirevic 2017-02-23T11:04:00.727


I know a few companies that buy carbon offsets for every mile they make their employees travel. I can't really say if this is feasible for you (I think most options are targeted at really large companies), but if this is about environmental concerns it might be a reasonable compromise.

Eike Pierstorff

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 1 651


There is no direct compromise that can be made. You have a rather binary situation.

You need him to travel and do his job.
He does not want to travel to do his job.

One of you has to give.

Either you accept that he is not going to travel, or he accepts that he is going to travel.

Now let me be clear. You have no right to state how he must travel (outside of some rare circumstances). That's on him. Unless your providing the vehicle, then how he gets from A to B is all on him. If he wants to make a 3 day bike trip to do it that's on him. If he wants to take a bus, that's his choice. The only time this would be an issue that you need to care about is if you are providing the vehicle or the site has some kind of unusual restriction (only reachable by helicopter for example).

You tell him "I need to you to go to office B and do foo tomorrow." That's it. If his life choices make that more of a chore then it should be then those are his life choices.

Now you might try to work with him, but in the end you need an employee that will travel to site A and Site B, not be grumpy about it, and still be able to do foo. If that employee is not meeting those expectations then it's time to look for a new employee. If he is, then don't worry about hew he got to site B. Not your problem.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 8 067

5"You have no right to state how he must travel." But you can place parameters on his travel, such as when he must arrive at the remote site, when he is expected to return to the office, whether or not arriving soaked in sweat is acceptable, etc.Dr. Funk 2017-02-21T15:49:38.987

Yes that is true, to an extent. I don't know how well you can pull off "not soaked in sweat" But yes you can say "must be at office A by 5am and ready to work." It gets really fuzzy if you want them to go to office A then office B then go back to office A you have to allow for a "reasonable travel time" and in the US compensate them for that travel time. Reasonable is one of those terms it will really take a judge to figure out.coteyr 2017-02-21T17:05:58.580

1But in those cases A -> B -> A, the travel is a company expense and either a company car is provided or some form of "mileage" compensation. None of it applies if its Office A on Mondays, Office B on Tuesdays and A and B are "reasonably" close together. If A is 2000 miles from B then you have an issue.coteyr 2017-02-21T17:08:02.653

That regulation only applies to reasonable travel time. You don't have to pay someone several hours for the time to walk somewhere that would only take then 20 minutes to drive.Matthew Whited 2017-02-21T17:31:07.847

"Reasonable" is the problem, yes your correct that the rules apply reasonable travel time, but reasonable gets mussed up quite a bit legally. That's why peanuts have a warning on them that states they may contain nuts, and kites have a waning not to fly them in storms.coteyr 2017-02-21T17:33:19.753

There is a liability issue. If he's required to travel, and the company condones his biking (unsafe), then the company will be liable if something happens to him.Tony Ennis 2017-02-22T21:19:44.527


It depends on the terms of his employment. If his job description says he's expected to travel for work, then that's how it is. Some people deliberately choose jobs that don't require travel, and plan their lives around that. Often this involves sacrificing something else: money, more interesting assignments etc., but it's a choice you can make.

If his terms of employment include having to travel for work, then his insisting on using a bicycle is probably unreasonable. If not, then he's doing you a favour by agreeing to travel at all.

That said: these days, it's often good business to enhance your remote working facilities. Maybe this is just buying people a web cam and a microphone, or perhaps you need to do more, but if you can make that part of the work a bit smoother, he won't be the only one who benefits.

Dominic Cronin

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 1 093


As a long term solution, cross train another employee. You only have one person who can do the things this person has to travel for, and his traveling is making both you and him unhappy. If you keep that up, he'll either leave or be an uhappy employee, neither of which you want. If he leaves, you don't have anyone to offer this support, and if he's unhappy, it'll spread, as you've already noticed.

Cross training will be an expense, but it will let you shift this guy to a role he's happier with, which will help you keep him as an employee. And if he does leave anyway, you'll be in a better position than if you have no one to fill his shoes.

In the short term, showing him know that you are working towards a solution will probably help him reconcile to a few more trips. It's likely that some of his opposition is that he sees no end to your requests, and he doesn't want a job where he's being pushed to drive.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 638

I suspect this would result before long in complaints from the "new guy" about why he is having to do all the traveling when there are two people who could share the work. Then you have 2 unhappy employees.bluegreen 2017-02-21T14:56:53.403

@bluegreen, True. This works best if bike-guy can easily shift to a role where him rarely or never traveling genuinely makes sense, rather than being an obvious accommodation. But the OP specifically mentioned wanting the biker to stay on, and if he keeps on needing to travel, he probably won't.Karen 2017-02-22T13:39:14.063

I would simply not have two employees. This lowers others' raises and bonuses. I would release the Hammerhead if he refuses to behave is a reasonably normal fashion.Tony Ennis 2017-02-22T21:15:35.620

@TonyEnnis Bus Factor.user30031 2017-02-23T04:13:39.837


Disclaimer: This answer assumes that there are no requests made of the employee that he could not reasonably expect when he signed up for the job, without this context my answer would probably be too harsh.

If asking is not working out, consider telling him instead.

Telling people to do their job is quite a normal practice in many companies. Though do read the end of this answer for possible consequences.

If you him to do something, you basically give him a choice and force him to make it, perhaps in a way that is uncomfortable for everyone.

If you have a situation where it can be expected that an employee has to work day 1 and 3 in his home town, and day 2 somewhere that is too far to reach by bike, don't ask whether he wants to work on day 2. Just tell him that you have 3 days of work that need to be done, and that you expect him to get things done properly.

Based on the conversation examples you provided he will probably say something like 'how do you expect me to cycle X miles between workdays?', at which point I would recommend you NOT to discuss that topic at all, but just apologize and say that you need to make sure the companies work gets done.


I already mentioned that this answer assumes that the employee could reasonably expect the requests that he is now getting. However, think about the following:

  1. Perhaps he could/should have expected them, but didn't actuactually think about it or just did not expect it. If you think this might be the case, you may still want to tell him what to do, but do realize that he will think you are asking unreasonable things.
  2. Perhaps he expected certain things when he signed, but now changed his mind. This is especially likely if he did not get travel requests for a while, or if you have been very accomodating in finding workarounds. The 'gift' that he got, may have been transformed into a 'right'. If you think that this has occurred, it might be a good idea to sit down with him and go over the basics of his responsibilities, before adding more emotions into the discussion.
  3. As some answers point out, perhaps this is not your problem. If you are not in a position/or do not have the desire to tell him to do his job, consider escalating. Depending on the tactfullness of your superiors this may sour the relation between you and the employee, so it is not a silver bullet.
  4. As other answers also pointed out: Is it really a problem? If you don't see any good scenarios play out if you take action, consider working around the problem and just burden his colleagues a bit more. Note that the further you go this way, the harder it is to go back. Basically you confirm to him that his priviliges have become rights and that you are willing to tolerate this kind of inconvenience from him.

Dennis Jaheruddin

Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 1 006

If you are delegating your employee to remote location, it's YOUR problem to provide them means to achieve that, which includes organizing taxi, train/plane ticket etc. Unless your job description states you need to have a driving licence and own car.9ilsdx 9rvj 0lo 2017-02-20T12:23:08.573

1@9ilsdx9rvj0lo True, but from the questionI don't read that the problem is that the means are not provided. Just that they are not accepted.Dennis Jaheruddin 2017-02-21T07:40:42.800


As Kilsi already stated: It is their problem, not yours.

There are several options you can suggest to them with respect to their anti-combustionism.

  • They can ride a bike, horse, whatever but will be paid as they are driving a car there.
  • They can go there by train and commute on bike to/from a station.
  • They can rent a Tesla car and get refund for a regular car.

If they refuse any given offer you can:

  • Relocate them to position where they are not obliged to travel long distances.

  • Show them the door and let them know they needn't to bother opening them again.

When thinking the topic thorough; If they are truly anti-combustion, anti-fossil-burning precisely, they should refuse all options but riding a bike or a horse - trains are powered by combustion engines or electricity. Resources for powerplants are Coal, oil, gas and uranium mostly.

Either way, this perticullar employee is fanatic eco-lunatic or a hypocrite; not a good employee/colleague at all.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 965

1Winner winner chicken dinner: not a good employee/colleague at all. If he refuses to bend, and continues to reduce office morale, I'd replace the Hammerhead with someone who wants the job,Tony Ennis 2017-02-22T21:17:51.887


Why send him at all?

There are plenty of video conferencing solutions, from skype through google hangouts or facetime. You can have two way video calls with a smarthands person on site, and work like you're there.

Most technical people have a phone or tablet capable of making video calls, or at least have access to one.

At the other end of the price scale is the fancy wearable solution that incorporates a Point-Of-Video camera and earpiece and microphone. Different styles exist, but the three main types are a head-worn unit like this


A chest-mounted one, or a separate free-standing unit that rests on a tripod or base on the ground/floor.

Your top-level subject expert can do all the work from the comfort of his desk, and he has a video link showing what the local level one technician can see.

I recall a similar system was trialled by various military. The idea was that the expensive/valuable and highly qualified tech was safely out of danger, but was able to provide guidance and support for those who were doing the work in the active zones. Their valuable time was not wasted moving between sites, because all they had to do was connect to the next set of eyes by making another call.


Posted 2017-02-18T00:30:09.803

Reputation: 1 563

38From the question: "We deal with hardware equipment, so it is not something that is very easy for him to remote help".David Conrad 2017-02-18T10:48:07.203

2This would benefit from an explanation for how the OP should present this additional cost, hassle, and resources to their boss as well as including information on how to avoid additional resentment on the team. Right now, it's a non-answer to the question which is being asked given that the entire question is regarding the OP's need to send their employee to a different location and the employee refusing.enderland 2017-02-18T23:50:10.677

2I have rolled back the edit by David because without the image, its hard for time-compressed people to understand the point, and how a specialist remote-worker rig would be any different to holding a cellphone and making a video call. In terms of practical use, its massively different. I have removed the specific product reference (btw I have no affiliation)Criggie 2017-02-22T00:17:01.357

3This answer has been inappropriately downvoted. It may not solve OP's overly specific problem, but it could solve many similar problems for others.user30031 2017-02-23T04:15:53.947