A reader writes:
I am a VP in the finance department. My boss wanted me to hire a person from another department who is my best friend. My boss knows this. She is a great worker. She gets no special privileges. She is treated like all the other staff.
We had planned a vacation before she began to work in my office. We went on the vacation and she returned back to work three days before I did. When I returned, I was told we can not do that again.
There’s no policy that states we can not go on vacation with staff at all. I cross-train everyone in my department so everyone’s desk is always covered for vacation. Is this against any work practice or is this not good, period?
Was your boss saying that you can’t go on vacation at the same time as another employee in your department, or was she saying that you can’t vacation with an employee?
Saying that you can’t go on vacation at the same time as another employee in your department is reasonable if it would leave your department under-staffed, although that should really be something that you — as the department’s manager — would be able to figure out. If your boss thinks it does cause problems and you think it doesn’t, then either your boss is seeing something you don’t see or you may need to explain to her what arrangements you’ve put in place to avoid problems. (Or she may simply feel more strongly about this than you would, which is ultimately her prerogative.)
But if she’s saying that you can’t go on a vacation with an employee, well, that’s not unreasonable either. Yes, I get that this is your best friend, and that relationship existed before you hired her. But now that she’s working for you, the relationship has to change — that’s part of the deal when you hire a friend. You can’t vent to her about work anymore, she can’t tell you that the reason she called in sick yesterday is because she was hungover, you can’t be a nonjudgmental sounding board about work issues, and yes, you can’t vacation together.
Vacationing together creates an appearance of unfair, preferential treatment. Whether or not one really exists, it would be crazy to expect your other employees not to see things that way when you’re vacationing with one staff member. There’s just no way that people aren’t going to see that and assume other forms of favoritism.
So yes, your boss is absolutely right that you can’t do that again.