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Bosses: Let Your Employees Take Vacation

I'm on vacation right now. I know, it's hard to tell the difference between my work days and my vacation days since blog posts come up on the same schedule regardless of whether I'm slaving over a hot computer (seriously, it's a laptop and it heats up something fierce) or lounging around the pool. The only difference to my reading public is that I'm not as diligent about responding to comments.

And with a lot of people, it's hard to tell the difference between work days and days off. We bring our laptops and Blackberries and check email and do "quick" projects. At one memorable trip to Disney World both my husband and I passed the time standing in lines on conference calls. (You hang up for the actual ride, although, I suppose you could just put the phone on mute and stick it in your pocket.)

We're reformed vacationers, though. No laptops come with us. One regular cell phone, one iPhone and 2 Blackberries. So, okay, we're not completely reformed. But, still, I'm a big believer in vacations.

When you negotiate a salary, you're not just negotiating a paycheck, you're negotiating all the benefits that go with that--health insurance, 401k matches, pension (ha! good luck with that), and yes, vacation. You'd pitch a fit if your boss wandered in and said, "Hey, we said the salary was $75k a year, but instead, we're going to pay you $70." You'd go to HR, you'd go to his boss, you'd produce your offer letter (because you didn't accept a job without a formal offer letter, did you?) and then you'd write me an email grousing about your boss. (And you'd be so angry you'd forget to capitalize the first word of each sentence and you'd use commas instead of periods and I would grow so annoyed I would write back, "Well, if this is how you send emails, I'd lower your salary too!" So, that method wouldn't help any.)

But, when your boss says, "Sorry, there's no time for vacation this year!" you say, "okay." Or even weirder, you don't take vacation because you feel like it would ruin your reputation or something. Seriously, would you hand back $5,000 in salary just to show you're a slave to the company? No? Then why are you handing back something that is part of your compensation package? took a survey, asking if people used their vacation. Unscientific and all, but still, the results are interesting

Here's what they found

  • 52% said: I've earned it! Take every minute of it.
  • 28% said: Too much to do at work. Use it sparingly.
  • 4% said: Only use it when my boss is out of the office.
  • 16% said: Technically I have lots of time but not sure if my boss would be too happy if I used it.

I want to talk to bosses for a minute here. If you are offering vacation time when you are offering jobs, but then grouse when people want to take vacation, you deserve to be removed from management. You are lying and purposely misleading candidates when you present an offer. If you aren't going to allow people to take vacation, or you are going to hold it against them if they do have the audacity to take vacation then it should be clearly stated in an offer letter.

I know there are times when vacations are not allowable. If you're an accounting firm, no one takes vacation or sick time or long lunches during March. Just ain't gonna happen. But, there's no reason why these people can't take vacation in May.

If you're working around the clock 365 days a year and no one can take vacation, ever, be upfront about it.

With no down time and no breaks your employees will not be performing at top level. If you do something incredibly nasty like call an employee on vacation and tell her to come back, you will have lost the employee's trust forever. (There are occasional exceptions to this--such as the employee is one of two neurosurgeons in the world that can deal with a certain type of brain tumor and the other neurosurgeon was just diagnosed with this brain tumor and will die within days if your employee doesn't come back from vacation early and perform the surgery. Then you can call your employee back. Otherwise, deal with it.)

And employees, stand up for yourselves. This is part of your compensation. If you've been granted vacation as a term of your employment, you can take that vacation. Don't, of course, be stupid, and just not show up one day and leave a voicemail saying, "I'm on vacation!" Do plan in advance. Do work around the busy times. Do consider your coworkers schedules. Do make sure you're prepared before you leave. Don't pitch a fit about being asked a short question while on holiday. Do accept that you may have to check email once or twice. You be reasonable and hopefully your boss will be reasonable as well. But, take that vacation.

For further reading:

How Can I Make My Employees Take Vacation?

Why You Should Be a Slacker

Photo by Ed Yourdon, Flickr cc 2.0

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