I'm a manager with two direct reports. We are technical subject matter experts in a small industry that functions in part based on connections made at conferences. I attend a particular working group three times a year. I had budgeted and planned on both my employees attending with me for every event, because they need to be present for the conversations held at these conferences. It's hard to gain up to date industry knowledge without attending. 

I hired my employees with the understanding that we would attend these events, but unfortunately, my manager wants me to bring only one of them with me to our next conference in October. Our work includes monitoring some technical systems, and upper management wants someone to stay home and monitor things without being distracted by conference events. This shouldn't come up as a regular problem because I expect to hire additional junior staff in the future who can handle this while my senior team members and I are at conferences.

For now, though, how do I choose which person to bring with me? My employees are equally senior and started on the same date. Neither is in better standing than the other. They are both remote, and more or less equidistant to the conference location. I had thought about myself staying home and sending both of them without me, but I'm supposed to be moderating a panel and must attend. 

All I can think is to maybe bring this to them and see if they have strong feelings, and/or flip a coin. We all work very well together right now, so I don't want to sow discord and make either of them resent the other, or me. 

scm2423's picture

I would start out by explaining the situation and say while it was not your choice to only take one of them that is the reality now.  Ask them if they have any preference on who should attend.  You never know one of them may have a family engagement that they need to attend to that week.  Getting their input also helps them own the outcome.


mrreliable's picture

With all due respect, I disagree that the best solution would be to ask who wants to go and hope that it works out clean because one of them will have a prior commitment. If both are anxious to attend, you'll have a mess on your hands having thrown red meat between them.

If everything is truly even between the directs, here's a suggestion. Bring the directs together. Pull out a coin and tell one of them to call it in the air. Flip it, then explain the situation. Whichever person won the coin toss gets first choice to attend. That way you won't have any uncertainties by the person staying home about whether you like the other one better. If the winner of the coin flip has a prior commitment, the other person can go.

DaniMartin's picture
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Managers are paid to make decisions, not turn them over to our directs and not to flip a coin.  Consider things like:  past performance, who will do a better job bringing information back for sharing, who will represent the organization better, who is likely to apply learnings more effectively.  Surely they aren't on exact equal footing in all areas.  It may require you to think more deeply to identify less apparent differences.

Good luck!

Dani Martin
Presenting Associate

williamelledgepe's picture
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Dani's answer is more on point to your question, but one thing to add:

When an employee presents at an industry conference, they must obviously attend.  I encourage employees to submit abstracts and papers for publication.  This skews toward the same results Dani is talking about, but the number of papers accepted is a metric that can be used to guage how relevant and respected someone's work is.  When an employee's abstract, paper, or presentation is accepted, it is a measure showing industry leader's respect for the employee's work - as well as the relevance to the industry.  This also forces employees to improve their presentation skills - always a good thing.