How to fight a bad vacation policy

Rear view of a couple sitting on deck chairs enjoying vacation iStockphoto

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
Our firm just implemented a new policy stating that vacation days must now be taken in increments of one week. The managing partner's (who seems to be the only one that feels this way) reasoning is that taking a day here or a day there is disruptive to the lawyers work. So if I need one day off to go to a family function, or whatever, I must take the entire week. This has all of the secretaries very disgruntled!

We are a small firm of 6 lawyers, 4 secretaries, one bookkeeper/receptionist, one law clerk and one runner/file clerk.

Ahh, the overly controlling vacation policy. I wish I hadn't encountered this before, but I have. No one has yet been able to explain to me why taking 5 days off in a row is less disruptive than taking 5 single days off. In the former, someone has to cover for you for 5 days straight -- sometimes things that can be put off for one day cannot be put off for 5.

I doubt the other attorneys will be held to the same requirements that the administrative staff is. And however self important the managing partner thinks he is, nothing can bring a law firm to a halt faster than unhappy secretaries.

This is why you must unite and approach this as a group. If just one of you complains, it's easy to dismiss it and say that you are a whiner. But, if all 7 of the support staff walk into the managing partner's office together and say, "This is an unfair policy," what can he do? Fire you all?

Well, yes, of course that is a possibility. But an unlikely one.

But before you go in, you need to be able to address this guy's concern. Why does he think it's disruptive to take smaller increments? Don't just say, "Oh he's irrational and a jerk and..." Actually think about it. Does he have special ways he likes things done? When someone takes just one day off, do you tend not to make formal coverage plans?

It may be that when someone takes one day off, they just say, "I won't be in on Friday! See you Monday!" But, when they take the entire week off, specific plans are made for who will answer that person's phone, respond to emails and take on the work that person would normally do. If that's the case, the solution is to make concrete coverage plans.

Have these discussions amongst yourselves before you present it to the managing partner. If you can get the  attorneys on your side, that's helpful as well, but not absolutely necessary. What you need is a plan for coverage, an explanation of why flexibility will be beneficial to the business (not just your life).

Most likely, if you can address the managing partner's main concern, he'll be wiling to listen to you. But that concern must be thoroughly be addressed in order to move forward.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.

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