Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 1

Following Expense Report Etiquette

How people handle their expenses during business trips says a lot about them as employees, says a management guru.

Jennifer Winter, associate editor for The Daily Muse, recently explained in a blog post that she was frustrated as a young professional when her boss told her to "use your best judgment" when determining what expenses were appropriate during business-related travel.

"When I became a manager and my employees asked me the same question, I found myself giving the same vague response," she says. "I wanted to test my staff to see how they handled themselves without supervision—if they went hog-wild and blew hundreds of dollars on booze one night, I might question their decision-making skills. ... The moral of the story? When your boss says ‘use your best judgment' when spending the company dime, she means it."

Given the open-ended nature of some expense policies, Winter advises that employees and managers consider the following guidelines when spending during business travel:

  • Watch and learn. "When you and your colleagues head out to dinner, let everyone else order first, and pay attention to the cost of each person's order," Winter says. "When it's your turn, make sure your pick is the least expensive or in the same range as the lesser-priced orders in the group."
  • Don't be greedy. "While you may see other people living it up because they know someone else will be picking up the tab, it's a better bet to keep your spending to a minimum whenever possible," Winter says.
  • Don't be cheap. "Nickel-and-diming your expenses will make you look unprofessional and immature, not to mention miserly," Winter says. "Here's a good trial: If it's something you typically buy yourself on a regular day of work, don't expense it."
  • Always ask for receipts.

This article is from the July 2, 2012 issue.

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