my coworker booked all the best vacation days for the year and no one else can have them

A reader writes:

I’m relatively new in my position with a small company in the construction industry. Because we’re a small family business with a particular specialty, we don’t have a lot of depth in some key positions. For this reason, a new vacation policy was been put in place shortly before I got here last year. Employees are required to give three weeks notice for vacations, and only one employee in a given group (sales/administration/CSRs/field techs) can be on vacation at a time. This initially caused some grumbling, but everybody seems to have adjusted to it. The process is that a calendar goes up every January, and people write in their names on the dates they want to take off in that calendar year. You can put your name down throughout the year as long as you complete your request three weeks in advance. If somebody else in your group writes her name in on a day you want off before you do, you have to choose another day.

So here’s the issue: at the first of the year, the calendar went up. A week or so later, one employee, who we’ll call Jane, wrote her name down on the Friday and Monday before and after each holiday, in addition to other days through the year. Jane also has been here longer than anyone else and therefore has more vacation days than anyone else. Another employee in the same group, Lucinda, became very angry about that as soon as it happened, though she never brought it up to her manager. (She has since left the company.)

I can understand Lucinda’s ire at discovering that all those coveted days were taken, but there was no policy against it, so Jane didn’t break any written rules. Lucinda also had the same access to the calendar and the same amount of time to write her name on it as Jane did. On the other hand, I think Jane should have realized that this move might be unwelcome to her coworkers.

I have always worked in much larger companies, so this is my first time dealing with this situation. My question is: have we as a company erred in not preventing one employee from claiming all the “good” days? How do other companies handle this?

That is a terrible, terrible set-up!

A system that allows one person to block everyone else from the most choice vacation days in order to take them all for herself is a broken system.

There are lots of other ways your company could handle this. For instance, they could:

* Require that vacation requests be submitted for approval (rather than just claimed by calling dibs), give everyone a date to get their requests in by, and then parcel them out in some reasonably balanced way. (People could still book vacation time after that, but this would parcel out the most desirable days in a more fair way.)
* Explain that time off around the holidays is going to be much coveted and ask people to submit several options for the days they’d like off and rank their preferences, so that people will at least get some of what they want. (They could let people with seniority have first dibs at those preferences, but limit them to one choice, not unlimited choices.)
* Offer incentives for people willing to volunteer to work the days that other people most want (such as a bonus or extra vacation day next year). This will sometimes dramatically shrink the competition for the most prime days.

Frankly, your manager could also just talk to Jane and say, “Hey, you’ve effectively blocked anyone else in the department from taking off during nearly all the most desired vacation periods. Tell me which of these are most important to you to keep, but I need to let others have a shot at the rest.”

But the policy itself is a terrible one and is destined to lead to quite reasonable resentment.

{ 480 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. ZSD

    Did Jane write her name on the calendar in pencil or pen? What a shame if her name were mysteriously erased from the calendar one night. :)

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        1. Roscoe

          No. Jane played within the rules she was given. If the rules suck, change them. But don’t blame her for taking the vacation she has earned

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          1. ZSD

            She obeyed the letter of the law, but surely not the spirit. She had to be aware that her co-workers would be annoyed. This was really inconsiderate.

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            1. Gaara

              I agree. She screwed over her colleagues. The rules may stink (they definitely do), but that doesn’t mean that makes it okay for her to behave unreasonably and unfairly, too.

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          2. Cat

            Eh, even if you’re only looking out for yourself (which I think is questionable generally), Jane should know that her interactions with her co-workers are a repeated game. I.e., if she grabs all the best vacation days, they’re going to be pissed off and resent her for it. It was not a nice thing to do.

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            1. The Other Dawn

              Exactly. Jane is part of the problem, too. Her defense will likely be that she did what she was told, but still. Reasonable adults who want to work in harmony don’t do this.

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              1. Mary

                I agree that Jane should have had more consideration; but the company should have, too.
                Years ago my cousin worked for AT& T in the SF Bay Area. Their policy was the same in that someone had to be on duty around the holidays. The kicker was the people with the most seniority were given the first pick. As my cousin would say. “I’ve been at this company for 18 years and I still can’t get the day after Christmas off.” Hopefully companies with many long-term employees have ended this policy.

                Reply
          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            Just because you’re allowed to do something doesn’t mean it’s wise to do it. In this case, it’s particularly unwise in terms of her self-interest, because it’s probably going to result in them changing the policy, whereas if she’d been more moderate, she probably could have kept grabbing all her choices before anyone else.

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            1. LBK

              But it wasn’t really “before anyone else” – a week had passed and it’s not like she had any special priority access to make requests. It seems disproportionate to me for people to feel so strongly about Jane taking these days, but not strongly enough that they would’ve just requested those days themselves during the first week.

              It’s cat logic to me – I don’t want to go outside right now, but I want the door left open so that should I decide at some point to go outside, I have the option. Sorry cat, I’ve waited 5 minutes for you to make up your mind and now I’m closing the door.

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              1. Koko

                Especially if this is a new system, I personally wouldn’t have expected to need to book all my vacation time in January. I have only a vague idea what days I might want off at the end of the year…I just don’t plan 9-12 months ahead in my personal life unless it’s for some kind of major life event like a birth or wedding and it likely wouldn’t have occurred to me that someone would calendar out their days nearly a year ahead of time.

                I probably would have marked down the vacation days I currently knew I needed, which would maybe be through April, and then plan to come back and add my dates throughout the year as I confirmed that I’d need them, making sure to book them at least 3 weeks out at the policy specified.

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              2. Honeybee

                Well, of course people want to have the “door open” to taking off time around work holidays. That’s the easiest time to travel. It might be ‘cat logic’ but it still makes sense. That doesn’t make Jane less selfish for selecting all of the best vacation days.

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              3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                I’d like to know how many people plan their Christmas vacations 50 weeks in advance.

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                1. Liana

                  @LBK – no, it really doesn’t. I generally have my New Years’ planned by the time February rolls around. What’s weird is that Jane apparently thinks no one else wants to make holiday plans.

                2. Sharzi

                  Meh. It depends on how busy your life is. I, for example, only have to account for myself and occasionally my boyfriend, so if I felt like taking a vacation in 3 weeks, I could do it given the resources and my work situation. My brother who lives with my parents with special needs and we have a big family, which means many people try to make get togethers, which means that there is a lot to have to plan to make things work and flow smoothly. I would be frustrated tho, having to plan holidays and things 50 weeks in advance because the people I most want to see or go somewhere with most likely won’t know what they’re doing yet. Sometimes they don’t want to or just can’t plan that far ahead.

                  Regardless, a system of “one person calls dibs” is not wise.

                3. Kyrielle

                  Yeah, if I planned that far in advance then either our plans would never involve extended family, or it would be by dumb luck. Admittedly, some of the dumb luck can be planned for, and if you ask for the time off you can always wait to get tickets. But I’d hate to find I’d taken a week off to…clean my house during the holidays because nothing worked out.

                4. Adam V

                  It’s not that hard to look at the calendar and say “hmm, Christmas is on a Sunday this year, I’ll probably want to take off at least the following Monday and the Friday before”, and poof, you’re officially the only one who can take those two days off.

                  (And once Friday is taken, who’s going to take off Thursday if they have to come back to the office the next day? Ditto taking off Tuesday if you’ve got to be in the office on Monday – one person can eliminate the ability of anyone else to make it a long weekend.)

                5. LiveAndLetDie

                  Mine’s the same every year (barring a wrench thrown into traditional plans), so mine could feasibly be considered “planned 50 weeks in advance” for that reason. However, I don’t really think about dealing with booking days off for it until maybe the end of summer…

                6. LBK

                  @Adam V – Yeah, this is my thinking. I mentioned this elsewhere but my impression is that generally planning time around holidays (with the exception of Christmas/Thanksgiving, I guess) is more like “Oh I’ll just tack on an extra day because it’s convenient.” It’s less about “I have a specific thing I’m doing that I’ll want time off for,” which is why I think people are overstating how hard it is to have your holidays planned in advance.

                  However, note that your “it’s easy for one person to block the whole weekend” argument applies whether it’s Jane or anyone else taking that time off because of the rule that no one else can be out. No matter what, only one person gets any given holiday time off.

            2. Boop

              Agreed. It is also very selfish, which irks the heck out of me. This demonstrates a lack of consideration for others that makes me think Jane may not be a great colleague, as well. It’s a very “me first, me only” attitude which is very hard to deal with because it is very much in violation of the spirit of the rules, even if it is not against the rules. Makes those people who obey the spirit of the rules in good faith and fairness want to pull hair and shriek obscenities.

              I’ve had a stressful week…

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            3. TootsNYC

              It was probably also very unwise because nobody else is going to look at her the same way ever again.

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          4. Koko

            She played by the rules but she violated social norms. There is no official rule against taking three pieces of cake when you’re the first person in line to get cake and there are 20 people waiting behind you, but it’s certainly considered to go without saying that you don’t do that.

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            1. LBK

              But she wasn’t first in line. It’s more like she waited an hour after the cake was put out so everyone who wanted a slice could take one. When she went in an hour later, no one had touched the cake yet, so she figured she was fine to take a few pieces since no one else seemed interested.

              I’m curious now how many people complaining actually even wanted the days off, or if it’s just the principle of not having the option. You can’t be mad someone else ate a whole cake if you don’t even eat cake.

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              1. Cat

                I find it unlikely that nobody else in the office wants any days around any holidays all year. More likely they didn’t realize one of their co-workers was going to vacuum them all up and thus hadn’t firmed up their plans a year in advance.

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                1. LBK

                  That all falls back on the crappiness of the system to me, though – when it’s so competitive to take time off because there’s only one slot available per day, it encourages people to book it up extremely far in advance because you don’t want to miss your shot.

                  I’m thinking back to an older letter where there was a doctor’s office that only had 3 people in it and the manager basically just told them to duke it out for time off, and everyone universally agreed that was terrible and applauded when the manager’s manager intervened and nixed that whole situation. I’m curious what the difference is here that’s making people blame Jane and feel so strongly that she should be forced to suffer the consequences of the deficiencies of the system her managers decided to implement. It is, after all, her time off that she’s entitled to as part of her compensation (a line of thinking that’s been espoused many times here).

                  There’s also been many times that people have suggested using up big PTO banks by extending long weekends or taking off every Friday, with not as much apparent consideration for how that will impact the rest of the department as there is here now that people are seeing how those suggestions play out (ie it screws everyone else).

                  I know I’m being kind of obtuse here about some of the differences in the situations, but there seems to be way, way more ire being pointed at Jane than anyone else, when I think the manager really should’ve been the one to exercise better foresight in thinking through how this system would actually play out. I again think of an old letter, in this case the one where the OP got caught writing notes about how much her workplace sucked because someone fished them out of the trash. So much of the blame was directed at the OP in a disproportionate manner to how shitty the trash scavenger and the toxic company as a whole contributed to creating an environment in which that situation would even have the opportunity to play out.

                2. Kelly L.

                  LBK, there are a lot of people in this exact thread talking about what a bad system it is, and part of why it’s bad is that it rewards this type of rudeness.

                  I remember the same trash-fishing thread you do. There was a huge contingent, myself included, that was more bothered by the trash-fishing and toxic company than by the notes, and in fact Alison has mentioned it as one of the most divided comment threads she’s had.

                3. Cat

                  I was Team Letter Writer in that other letter but I’m not Team Jane here. The policy is the real problem; but it’s not okay to use a bad policy to screw over your co-workers. If Jane was using the bad policy to screw over the people who set the bad policy, that might be a different issue. But she’s not; the bad effects are falling on people who had nothing to do with setting the policy.

                4. LBK

                  I think I just struggle to assign malicious intent to Jane in this situation. It feels to me like the system enabled her to do something that impacted her coworkers, rather than her realizing that she could do it and therefore purposely blocking off the best times. It’s certainly still thoughtless, but there’s people on this thread literally calling her evil, which seems like an absurd overreaction to something like vacation days (which are important, but not life or death).

                5. LBK

                  Or, to use Kelly’s verb, I don’t think it *rewards* rudeness, but I agree it *enables* rudeness, or at most encourages it.

                6. Cat

                  I wouldn’t call her evil, certainly. I’d say that, at best, her behavior was thoughtless and obtuse; at worst it was knowingly selfish.

                7. AF

                  The last thing I even think about right after I get back from the holidays is what I’m doing next year. And, as someone mentioned, some people might still be out from the end of year holidays THIS year, so they aren’t given the opportunity. So Jane was greedy, AND the policy is awful.

              2. Kelly L.

                It’s funny, I used pretty much the same example to make the opposite point. I do think it would be rude for her to take all or most of the cake on her first pass, yes. What if everybody was in a meeting and couldn’t get there yet? She should take a regular amount of cake and then maybe go back for seconds later if people still weren’t biting.

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              3. Oryx

                Except that cake isn’t going to be very good in a day or two, so, sure, if people don’t eat the cake it’s going to get thrown out so might as well take more if nobody else seems interested.

                In this case, she’s requesting time off months and, considering Christmas, close to a year in advance — this is a new policy and depending on how much of a heads up was given before it was implemented we’re talking a very short period of time that people have to suddenly make holiday and vacation travel plans in order to request time off.

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                1. Roscoe

                  She didn’t sneak and do it. She waited a week or 2, and no one did it. I mean really, how long does she have to wait to do this.

                2. AF

                  But, as someone said, I get that she could ask for a few now. But ALL OF THEM? Or maybe in quarterly increments. I’m sure most of the people in that company didn’t think that they had a coworker who was going to take all of the days, and that they had a few weeks (or months!) to think about something that was happening potentially 10-11 months in the future.

                3. Koko

                  There is no amount of time you could wait that would make taking every available holiday OK.

                1. Sharzi

                  The cake was presented in the morning. Everyone had just had breakfast and wasn’t ready for a piece just yet. She waited an hour, boxed up the cake, and knocked off early.

          5. Engineer Girl

            If Jane were a nice person she would have sat down with the others and worked out who was taking vacation when. Then everybody wins and everybody supports each other’s vacation.
            What Jane did was self serving even if it was within the rules. It wasn’t being a team player, which is usually something that comes into performance reviews.

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            1. LBK

              I don’t think that’s really her problem, though. As Bwmn points out below, negotiating schedules between employees is a manager’s job, and expecting the employees to just duke it out between themselves is shirking that responsibility. I agree that that doesn’t completely absolve Jane’s lack of foresight, but I also think the “team player” line is usually just code for “blaming employees for not covering for their manager’s laziness,” and that seems extremely applicable here. More blame still goes to the system that forces employees like Jane to be paranoid about not getting the time they want than to her for feeling that pressure to book up her requests early.

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              1. Engineer Girl

                No. Negotiating schedules with your coworker is adult behavior. It is team player behavior. Expecting your manager to be the referee is childish going to Mom behavior.
                The manager should only be called in for big conflicts.

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                1. LBK

                  I’ve literally never spoken to a single coworker about their vacation time off. It’s not my problem and frankly not my business. It’s not about the manager being the referee, it’s about the manager being responsible for the administrative logistics of their team. This isn’t about them navigating interpersonal dramas (which a vacation schedule shouldn’t be), this is about it being their responsibility to ensure sufficient staffing for their department, whether that’s in terms of hiring, training or scheduling.

                2. Kate M

                  …What? Since when is that not a manager’s job? In most places, managers are in charge of schedules of their subordinates. And who makes the call? If the staff has to have a sit down and everyone puts out their needs on the table at the same time and two or more people want the same date and refuse to budge, what happens? That’s a waste of time and energy and can certainly breed resentment. (Managers deciding can also breed resentment, but if they do it in a fair/transparent way, that’s less of an issue.) It’s one thing if you have something come up and need a shift covered and ask a coworker to switch with you, it’s entirely another thing to expect the entire staff to be in charge of everyone’s schedules.

                3. Kate M

                  (Although in this situation, Jane should have thought of others and not signed up for every prime spot, definitely. But it should be the manager’s job to organize all this in general, not employees.)

                4. myswtghst

                  I tend to agree. In a situation where it’s been made very clear that your vacation will impact / prevent others’ vacation, it seems like you should be thinking about how your requests will impact your coworkers, and probably talking with them about it.

                  In my office, we need to make sure at least one of our leadership team is in the office on any given day, because there are certain tasks only we can manage. So before I request time off, I check our shared calendar and usually check in with them, because we’re a team and I recognize how it might impact them.

                  In the letter writer’s example, it would have been reasonable for Jane to at least reach out to her teammates to say “I’m booking all of these dates to make sure I don’t miss out, but I’m willing to make changes if you come talk to me” (or something similar). She may be perfectly willing to switch, but since she didn’t talk to her coworkers at all (as far as we know), I struggle to assume the best. She may be reacting to a terrible policy, but there are better ways to do it.

              2. Honeybee

                It doesn’t have to be the manager’s job alone, especially if you work together on a team. If I’m planning to take some negotiable time off (i.e., time that doesn’t fall on a graduation, birthday, wedding, etc.) then for sure I’m going to chat with the coworkers closest to me about whether that works for the projects we’re doing. That’s just polite, and professional.

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                1. LBK

                  Maybe this is about office culture and nature of work. I check in if I’m taking extended time off where my coworkers will be expected to do more than just cover a couple small tasks, but for a random day or two? I don’t do it, and I don’t expect them to either.

                  I think part of this is that we have a culture of staying out of each other’s schedules – all I need to know is if I’m expected to do something for my coworker while they’re out, but otherwise it’s not my business when they’re in the office or not. It’s also about the nature of the work, in that we don’t tend to overlap much – the only things I usually have to cover for someone are daily reports or tasks, but I wouldn’t expect them to step into my ongoing projects.

                2. anon for this

                  LBK – I get what you’re saying, and I think it might be coloring your responses a bit. In the OP’s example, this: “all I need to know is if I’m expected to do something for my coworker while they’re out, but otherwise it’s not my business when they’re in the office or not.” is clearly not the case, because taking the time off means someone else can’t take time off.

                3. aebhel

                  That’s the thing – I don’t consult my coworkers about my time off, but in general, my taking a day off doesn’t prevent my entire office from taking that particular day off. If it did, and I knew it did, and I still grabbed up every choice day at the beginning of the year, knowing that most people do not plan out every day off ten months in advance, I’d expect my coworkers to be cheesed off at me. It’s a bad policy, but this person is also taking advantage of a bad policy. At the very best, it’s thoughtless and selfish.

              3. Sharzi

                Yes, but when only one person is going to get that time, they have to know they look like a jerk for taking all the good time available. I would definitely talk to my coworkers if I knew only one person could get 4th of July. I like going on vacation with my folks at that time, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t and maybe someone else wants it more. Like maybe their auntie is dying and this is the last holiday they’ll have with her.

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                1. LBK

                  Well I’m assuming Jane is not a heartless monster and that the vacation requests are not etched in stone, and that if something like that came up she’d just switch with the coworker. But maybe I’m wrong since other people seem to be reading such malicious intent into her actions.

          6. LCL

            Not singling out Roscoe, I hear this from others from time to time. But, in this instance, Jane was evil. It is not decent to do something you want, that screws over everyone else associated with you, and claim as your defense ‘it wasn’t forbidden so it was OK and the system sucks.’

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            1. LBK

              Uh, wow, evil? Really? She didn’t stab the other employees in the parking lot so they couldn’t request the days off before her…

              Maybe kind of crappy and thoughtless, sure, but this is vacation time we’re talking about. If the worst thing someone does to you is make it so you have to work on a day you don’t want to work, it is ludicrous to call that person evil.

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            1. CeeCee

              You took the words right out of my mouth. That’s all I could think while reading this.

              I spent 5 years working with a Jane and can’t tell you how many disagreements ended with my telling her this, shaking my head, and walking away.

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            2. Koko

              Yeah I just…I can’t see how a reasonable person would not have known exactly what they were doing and exactly why it was a dick move. She knows if she takes those days no one else can have them. The system is obviously deeply flawed, but she took advantage of those flaws. There’s no plausible deniability here. She knew that when she wrote down her name for Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that none of her coworkers would be able to take those holidays off. And she should have known that was a messed up thing to do, no matter how “allowed” it was due to the crappy system.

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              1. BWL

                Yeah, my office doesn’t have this policy that only one person can be out on any given day, and I still look to see how many people are already out going to be out that day and who these people are before I decide whether to request that day too, so I don’t leave the office too empty.

                One would have to be really naive to think Jane didn’t do this knowing she was being a jerk. Evil, maybe not. Knowingly being selfish, yes.

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              2. LBK

                Kind of, but I also can see how a reasonable person could look at it and think “Awesome, I have so much PTO now that I don’t have to just choose one or two extra long weekends, I can make all of them extra long weekends!” As is generally the benefit of having more PTO.

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                1. Connie-Lynne

                  An actual reasonable person would have the follow-on thought “oh, but if I do, nobody else can ever have a long weekend. I’ll put in for my top choices and a handful of nice-to-haves and talk to my manager about whether there’s a way for me to take more long weekends without screwing over my colleagues.”

                  Sure, the system is flawed in that it specifically allows exploits like this, but Jane made it infinitely worse by not thinking about her coworkers. This isn’t some game she’s playing to get points, this is actual real life where what you do affects real people.

          7. Joseph

            It’s definitely a bad setup for the system, but there’s no way Jane didn’t know what she was doing here.

            “It’s within the rules” is a terrible argument. There are plenty of office things that you COULD do but you shouldn’t. You’re free to talk loudly on a cell phone right outside Jane’s office. You’re free to toss the smelly remnants of lunch into the trash can in her office instead of yours/kitchen. You’re free to “borrow” pens and never return them. Technically, these are 100% within the rules in most offices. But they’re all jerk moves.

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            1. Laurel Gray

              Another example: In all my working years I have never seen a policy about foods you could/couldn’t eat at work. People don’t heat up fish in the microwave out of a courtesy to their coworkers. But someone dieting could come in and eat up salmon or cod with steamed broccoli every day, funk up the office and be “within the rules” and it would suck big time. Jane followed the rules and yet she sucks big time.

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              1. 2horseygirls

                Oh my stars! For the first time in my 20+ year career, a co-worker brings fish for lunch every 3-4 weeks, and heats it up in the microwave. AAACKKKKK!!!! The first time he did it, I thought I was going to be ill. (NOW I understand what all the fuss is about . . . )

                However, neither of the partners said anything about it, so I just make a point to go out for lunch that day.

                I will bring a cold salmon salad, or have a tuna sub occasionally, but I never reheat.

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            2. Koko

              I just laughed out loud at the mental image of someone walking into another person’s office and just wordlessly scraping their lunch plate into that person’s trash can and then leaving.

              I could see it being the kind of thing that the Parks and Rec crew would do to Jerry/Gary/Larry, who would just endure it.

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          8. ToxicNudibranch

            IMO, rules-lawyering has no place in reasonable or courteous office behavior.

            You can be completely within the rules (which are wrong, and terrible) and still be a bit of a jerk for taking advantage of the situation. Screwing over your colleagues just because you *can* is pretty crappy. I mean, Ayn Rand might approve, but it’s still rude as hell.

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          9. Mephyle

            She obeyed the letter of the law. But if managers who could do something about it choose say “She followed the rules. What can we do?” she will still pay in terms of the ill will that the rest of her coworkers will feel towards her going forward. She has broken their trust and they do not feel the same about her. It would be impossible and unreasonable for them not to take into consideration this revelation about her character into all their business interactions with her from now on.

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            1. Kristeen

              Circumstances were ideal for douchey behavior, and she decided to be a douche. Plain and simple. I’d call it 3/4 company’s policy at fault and 1/4 hers

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              1. Ms. Didymus

                That’s kind of like saying if you leave your purse in your car you are 3/4 to blame if I decide to steal it.

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                1. Anna

                  No, it’s like saying you’re 3/4 to blame for stealing it and Kristeen is 1/4 responsible for leaving it in the car. The onus of responsibility is still on the crappy policy, but Jane is not unimpeachable. She knew better and that she’d be screwing over her coworkers, but she decided that was less important than her getting all her vacation days.

          10. Vicki

            Jane cheated by using the poorly defined rules to her advantage. Again, _reasonable adults_ do not do this.

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        2. Rafe

          It’s really pretty darn egregious — not only is it EVERY holiday she’s turning into a long weekend, she’s taking both the Friday and the Monday. I mean. PLEASE.

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          1. ... or whatever

            That’s definitely the kicker. I doubt that it would have been as frustrating if she, say, took a Thursday and a Friday, or a Monday and a Tuesday instead of bookending the entire weekend. Sure, it’s nice to have two short weeks, but it ultimately a vacation day is a vacation day. If anything, going about it that way would actually benefit her in terms of booking travel. Instead, she’s blocked everyone off from the holiday weekends and generated a lot of ill-will.

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          2. Desdemona

            Right? If she were absolutely determined to extend every holiday, she could have shared by taking the Monday and Tuesday, or for the Monday holidays, extending them into the Tuesday and Wednesday. She’s not only selfish, it’s like she wanted to make sure no one else could have the time.

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        3. BRR

          Yeah Jane’s hands aren’t clean in this. I could see doing one if it’s something super important to her. But doing all of them is not considerate at all. She’s been there long enough to know what she did.

          BUT, the system also sucks and needs to change. This is a two part thing, changing the system and Jane surrendering some days.

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        4. Mike C.

          I think it’s important to point out that she did wait a week before scooping up all the dates. That to me feels a lot less mercenary than pouncing on the days at the first opportunity.

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            I must disagree a bit. The first week in January is usually a hectic time. Vacation days with family requires planning and discussion. I’m not sure I could get all the info I need in a week. First, many schedules aren’t set by the first week of January. Second, you have to coordinate with others.
            She was mercenary because she made no attempt to coordinate with her coworkers when she took ALL the holiday weekends.

            Reply
            1. michelenyc

              My office is the same. A lot of people are still out for the holidays that first week. If someone did that in my office I guarantee my manager would step in and say nope you’re not taking those days.

              Reply
            2. Elizabeth the Ginger

              Yeah, I’m still figuring out if my friends are free to go away on a long weekend for Fourth of July, and it’s April – and I have no idea yet if I’ll want to travel for Thanksgiving. I understand those are desirable dates so I wouldn’t expect them to still be up for grabs just a month or so ahead of time, but I would expect to have a shot at some holidays if I went to reserve a vacation in February.

              Reply
            3. Koko

              It also matters if no one else in the office thought there was any urgency to figuring out their year-end plans, as evidenced by the fact that a week went by without any claiming vacation days. They interpreted that as, “Oh, OK, there’s no rush. The calendar will be up all year, and Boss said we need 3 weeks notice.”

              The 3 weeks’ minimum notice rule is a powerful anchor that frames what the typical amount of lead time is on a request. It strongly suggests that most requests would come in the same general ballpark as 3 weeks, maybe most of them happening within 6-8 weeks. It does not suggest that most requests would be made 48-50 weeks in advance.

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                I don’t know, if I was planning like a European vacation or something, I may very well plan it and take the time off 6 months in advance.

                Reply
                1. AF

                  That is true, but that’s a one-time trip. Not every single holiday weekend throughout the year.

                2. Kyrielle

                  Yep! And if you put one big block on there for that, even if it inconvenienced your coworkers, I wouldn’t argue it was a douche move (not unless you knew that someone was trying to firm up wedding plans the same week). But _every holiday_? And just a couple days – just enough to block everyone out. That’s over the top and unkind.

                  If you schedule a European vacation for August and I can’t get time off then – even though I try to visit my relatives every summer, usually in August – I wouldn’t consider that horrible on your part. Inconvenient for me, annoying, yep, but not a big deal. I would move my trip to another part of August or to late July or *something*. (And if several people took time such that I couldn’t make it happen, I’d be very disappointed and unhappy, but again, I wouldn’t consider them at fault.)

                  But if I wanted to take Thanksgiving and go visit my relatives, and Jane has it? So I look to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, but Jane has an extra day at each end of it. Okay, fine. I’ll take the week _before_ Christmas off. Nope, Jane has a day out there too.

                  …Okay, fine, I’ll spend a full 5 vacation days and take an arbitrary week some other time. Except a) my kids have school and b) I am now very grumpy *at Jane*.

                  The same is _not_ true if I go to do all that and discover that Jane has taken time that nixes one week, Percival has taken time that nixes another, Wakeen has gotten the coveted Christmas-to-New-Year’s week all locked up, etc. That’s still disappointing, but no one in that scenario is being a selfish jerk.

                3. Doreen

                  Sure, some plans are made that far in advance and even further ( I already know when I’m taking vacation in June 2017). But most aren’t. I have worked with hundreds of individuals over the course of my career, and every job has been the sort that requires coverage. But I have encountered only one person who tried to submit her vacation requests for the full year no later than Jan 2nd* so I wouldn’t expect every desirable day to be booked up the second week of the year.

                  *She tried this specifically because it was the best way for her to be sure to get all the days she wanted -she had the most seniority , and putting the request in crazy early meant she didnt need to worry about someone getting approval before her.

      1. Oryx

        It’s not just that she marked her vacations down so soon. She took the Monday AND the Friday before and after EVERY holiday in addition to other dates throughout the year.

        My job, we get 7 holidays. Just using that as an example, that’s the week before and after. That’s 14 weeks that none of her other co-workers are allowed to take a full week of work off. 14 weeks is roughly 25% of the full year so, yeah, Jane is definitely part of the problem.

        Reply
        1. Dan

          I’m missing your math here. If Jane likes to take her vacation as “long weekends”, there’s 14 weeks period that none of her other co-workers are “allowed to take a full week off of work.” That’s not Jane’s fault or problem at all, that’s a problem of the system.

          Sometimes, these problems are merely the consequence of the company not having the appropriate staffing levels to ensure coverage of the vacation that they are providing. That’s a management/company problem, not an employee problem.

          Reply
          1. Cat

            The system is the major problem, but individuals in collegial environments should make an effort not to exploit systems for their own benefit at the expense of people they have to work with long-term.

            Reply
          2. Oryx

            If I and my other co-workers are unable to use a single holiday as an opportunity to take a week off because a co-worker bogarted ALL of the holidays, then, yes it’s an employee problem.

            Reply
          3. Oryx

            If she wants to take long weekends around holidays, that’s fine. But there are ways to do it that don’t screw over the people you have to work with on a daily basis.

            Reply
          4. Kyrielle

            Yes, why can’t she make each long weekend with two days before or two days after each of them instead of one each side? Suddenly seven of those weeks free up and her coworkers can _also_ have some long weekends if they wish….

            Reply
          5. QualityControlFreak

            Oh, I assure you that inadequate staffing is indeed an employee problem. Not one CREATED by employees to be sure, but the actual EFFECTS of the problem are suffered by employees, not management. I know you don’t work in an environment where shift coverage is an issue, but in that type of setting do you seriously believe management is going to come in and cover shifts when short-staffed? Let me just say that in many decades of working, I have NEVER seen that happen.

            Reply
    1. Nunya

      Coworker of some friends does this repeatedly, in an office where it’s all 24/7 shift work, so almost nobody gets decent time off for holidays etc. This coworker now has no one willing to sign up to cover her time off or cover up for her on-the-clock nap breaks.
      Ooops.

      Reply
        1. Spooky

          My thoughts exactly. I can only imagine all the creative, passive-aggressive revenges that are about to befall her.

          Reply
    2. Jonno

      This reminds me of the team I worked under for several years within a very large organization. We had the same set-up. Of the four of us, one person would always snatch up the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

      I didn’t get to see my family for during the holidays for 3 years, because January 2 or 3 or whatever she would COME IN EARLY to schedule those days off. I was the only one of the four of us with family more than 20 miles away (they were 400 miles away.)

      My family got fed up and visited me (in my studio apartment) one Christmas. The person who did it got fired (unrelated to this) and I am on a new, larger team — so I will be getting to see my family at Christmas time for the first time in awhile. I’m excited!

      But these plans are awful. I even had more seniority than this person — but she got the dibs because she got into work the first day back stupid early to do this every year. We hated them.

      Reply
  2. Temperance

    This is amazingly unfair. I worked at a place that was open on holidays, and all staff were required to work 2 out of 3 … unless they had children. The management team hid this from those of us without kids until someone noticed that Jane Smith, who we hated because she was handled all the easy weekday shifts even though most of us were in college and had free days, hadn’t chosen any holidays. We asked how she was exempt from the policy, and a clueless assistant manager spilled the beans.

    We revolted to our general manager and had the policy in our department amended to that all employees had to work the holidays, even those with kids. (This was a restaurant in a movie theater, FWIW.) Jane was really angry, as were the others who were benefiting from the unfair policy, but it was only fair.

    In your situation, I think the management team needs to step up and let your Jane know that she can’t make every single holiday weekend into a long weekend. It’s sneaky and underhanded, and unfair to her coworkers.

    Reply
    1. Edward Rooney

      My wife’s last hospital had a policy that no one was allowed time off between x-mas and new years as there wasn’t a fair way to split that time up between 2-4 out of 30. You also had to work 1 of 3 summer holidays and 4 of 6 winter (eves and days). There were a few who would volunteer to work 2 of 3 in order to get the fourth off, but after 4 years they finally told her she had to work that years fourth in fairness.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        “no one was allowed time off between x-mas and new years as there wasn’t a fair way to split that time up between 2-4 out of 30”

        I don’t know – there’s not way to be equal about it, but I think it could be fair to raffle off the privilege of using vacation during that time. Then the winners of raffle aren’t eligible for the next 4 years, or something.

        That might not have worked for the hospital for other reasons, but I think there are often ways to distribute limited resources other than “everyone can’t have it, so no one will”.

        Reply
        1. Jade

          When I worked in retail they started a blanket policy where requests off between Thanksgiving and New Year were automatically denied. That just never made sense to me, because we had enough staff in our dept that *some people* were going to get schedule off on certain days anyway, so why not let employees ask for their days off to be on certain days, and if it doesn’t work out mgmt could always deny those requests. What it boiled down to was management didn’t have the time or the energy that time of year to do anything but computer-generate the schedules. People who wanted off had to wait until the schedules were posted (and they were always posted late that time of year) and then beg for someone who had off to swap shifts with them. It just never seemed like a smooth operation, and it the holidays debacle was an important factor in me leaving that job.

          Reply
          1. Edward Rooney

            They were still able to request the days they worked as they saw fit (and management worked those into the schedule as needed like any other week of work), but you couldn’t take any vacation days. You could also try to work out a trade with someone.

            When it came to being called off on the holidays, they did do a raffle and that person had the choice to be put on call or to come into work.

            Reply
    2. EvanMax

      When I had to triage holiday requests while scheduling in retail, I definitely gave a secret preference to those with kids, but I never created a flat out rule about it (and I made sure that anyone who ended up losing out on family time to some one with kids ended up getting some other preferential shift somewhere else.)

      From a utilitarian standpoint, giving preference to parents makes sense because you are giving preference to two or more people, instead of just the one, all else being held equal (yes, I realize that non-parents may have other people who were looking forward to time with them, but parents have those people too and ALSO kids.)

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Whoa. Please don’t do that if you’re in charge of scheduling again. It’s really unfair. You have no idea what’s going on in people’s lives. You could end up prioritizing the parent who’s talking off for a beach trip with her friend over the non-parent who wants to spend time with her dying sister. And the answer isn’t to demand everyone tell you their plans — it’s to find a more neutral way of doing things.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Moreover, you’re not responsible for “giving preference” to the spouse/kids in that person’s life (re: “giving preference to parents makes sense because you are giving preference to two or more people, instead of just the one”). You’re responsible for ensuring that you’re treating your employees — all of them — fairly and equitably.

          Reply
          1. AMG

            As a mama, I have to agree with Alison. I had a life before kids. Everyone deserves a personal life, even if it isn’t for a super important reason. Working while having kids is just a part of reality and you make that decision going into parenthood.

            Reply
          2. Granite

            This is one of those “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” things. Don’t try to rate your employee’s worthiness to have specific time off. Just don’t.

            When I was an early 20 something working in healthcare, I volunteered to work more than my required x of x holidays, because I appreciated the holiday pay more than being with my family at a specific time. But the key is that it was my choice. Put a nice enough carrot out there and this problem tends to solve itself.

            Reply
            1. SystemsLady

              That too. With my situation I oscillate between wanting one and wanting the other. It’s assuming that somebody wants one or the other more that upsets me!

              Particularly if they’re making judgments about who *needs* the time off more based purely on the makeup of the person’s family.

              Reply
            2. Lindsay J

              Yup. I generally volunteer to work most holidays because my family lives 1600 miles away (and it’s usually difficult to fly over a holiday weekend). So, I’d rather my coworkers with kids get to spend Christmas Eve/Christmas Day (or whatever) with their families while I rack up some overtime and holiday pay and/or holiday gifts (a lot of jobs I’ve worked at have given us little gift cards or something for working holiday days).

              On the other hand, if my parents offered to fly me to them or come visit me for Thanksgiving, I would be upset if my coworker’s request was automatically given priority just because they have kids because I get to see my parents at most every 6 months and usually it’s once a year. If they got it off instead of me because they had more seniority or they requested it first or whatever, then that would suck but I would live with it because that’s fair and because I understand that you can’t make everyone happy with these things. However, if I found out that it was because someone was given preference because they had kids I would be furious.

              Reply
          3. Temperance

            Thank you. This comment triggered the memory of me having to beg for Christmas Eve off because my great-grandmother was dying. It was denied, but because my reason was “valid”, I was granted the ability to leave work a whopping 2 hours early to make the 2.5-hour trip (thanks), and found out later that a parent in my office, who absolutely requested after me, was given the whole day. I was livid, and never, ever trusted our management after that and if I wanted to be totally honest, it impacts how I feel about that woman to this day, 7 years later.

            It was actually a factor in me choosing to transfer to a different location when the opportunity became available.

            Reply
          4. SystemsLady

            As somebody whose husband is in the military with no kids and whose opportunity to spend time with him (especially him AND family at the same timr) can be very precious, thank you for pointing this out.

            And our single friends need time with their friends and family as much as or more than the rest of us do!

            Reply
            1. SystemsLady

              Friends wasn’t meant to be condescending for the record. More that I have close friends who are single and feel like they get put in the “work is your life” box unfairly a lot.

              One of them’s actively trying to find somebody, and if somebody’s assigning projects based on the fact that they’re single, it certainly doesn’t help that person.

              Reply
              1. Koko

                Yeah, I have a friend who is single and very much wants to find someone to settle down with but just hasn’t yet. She comes from a conservative area where a lot of her friends married young and she’s the only single one left, and she is often deeply hurt by being treated differently for being single – like having to sleep on a couch in the living room when all the couples get real beds/bedrooms – because it just rubs salt in the wound that she’s “fallen behind” and hasn’t had any lucky finding anyone.

                Reply
            2. Honeybee

              Thiiis. My husband is a veteran, and also we currently live 2600 miles away from each other. Getting time was precious when he was in the service, and now any time we get together has to be carefully scheduled because we have to fly to see each other. I’m glad my manager doesn’t prioritize my coworkers with kids over me.

              Reply
          5. Sidenote

            This is also reminiscent of the “logic” behind giving married men a higher salary than women. (They had a wife and children to support, after all!) Just not appropriate, not objective, not fair.

            Reply
          6. AF

            And you’re guaranteeing that the childless employees will resent you forever. That is a really unfair thing to do.

            Reply
          7. JHS

            I agree with you, doing something like this, particularly in secret, isn’t actually fair at all. I have seen a division between parents/non parents done right once; in my friend’s work, they tend to give days around Christmas to parents and days around New Year’s to non parents. But that only works because all the staff know about the arrangement and are happy about it and, from what I understand, can move these around if a family emergency comes up. In the end, you can’t judge from the outside whose personal life is more important, especially if you only base that on whether or not they have children.

            Reply
            1. Ms. Didymus

              Nope. Still not fair. Why would you assume that because I don’t have children I don’t need days are Christmas off? Why would you assume parents do?

              Reply
              1. Dot Warner

                Exactly! I don’t have kids, but maybe I’m a devout Christian and would prefer to have Christmas off. Conversely, maybe there are parents in my department who don’t celebrate Christmas and would prefer to have New Year’s off.

                Reply
            2. Katniss

              That’s not right either. I’m not married and don’t have kids (nor do I plan on ever having kids) but Christmas is very important to me, while I couldn’t care less about New Years.

              Reply
              1. JHS

                Ms Didymus and Katniss, I get the impression it works because everyone involved is happy with it. I imagine they’d do it differently if someone didn’t like it that way, so for that particular workplace, it is fair. It is the only time I’ve only heard of that kind of split working, so I think it’s some bizarre aberration…

                Reply
                1. Ms. Didymus

                  I don’t know that we *know* everyone is happy with it. Perhaps many are, but those that aren’t are afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat.

          8. Kira

            Thanks for pushing back against treating childless employees differently. I deeply value my vacation time because it’s the only opportunity I have to travel home and see my grandparents, parents, siblings, and extended family. My vacation time isn’t just for me to spend by myself, but for my whole family to be together. Being home is the best gift I can give them.

            Reply
        2. EvanMax

          Children was one of MANY factors that came in to my scheduling decision making process. Much more important were things like how far in advance some one had made a request, how often that person made requests in general (and made the same requests. If you say you have open availability but you request every Saturday off, then you were hired under false pretenses.) I did my best to balance holidays among everyone (I would never have done something like the post I was responding to) but I also took in to account folks who seemed to always have weekends off, or other preferential shifts, and really worked to make sure that the scheduling felt “balanced”.

          I don’t think that there is anything wrong with granting father’s day off to a male employee who has children, and asking the other employee without children if an opening or closing shift would work better for them in order to coordinate to still make time for their personal plans. Not asking what their plans were, of course, just asking if the timing would help them. (this is assuming that the two of them both put in last minute requests at the same time.)

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            I actually do see something really wrong with that example. You’re still favoring the parent over the non-parent, which is extremely unfair.

            Maybe John Smith is a parent to a two-year-old, but Jane Jones has a beloved, dying father in another state. John’s kid will have no memory of spending Father’s Day with him, but Jane will never get another chance to spend the day with her dad.

            Justify it however you want, I think this is an incredibly unfair way to handle things.

            Reply
          2. Kate M

            Um, in that situation, how do you know that someone who doesn’t have children hasn’t lost a child before or been with someone who had a miscarriage? Maybe they would prefer to not be around other people that day and take some time to grieve. People who are in loving relationships and have children (if wanted) are the lucky ones. And then they get additional benefits on top of that? Wow.

            Reply
          3. DMC

            In some jurisdictions, this would actually expose the company to legal liability as discrimination based on marital status, gender, familial status, etc.

            Reply
          4. AMG

            Ok, but EvanMax isn’t Lucifer in the Flesh…he’s TRYING to be fair and has other criteria too. We shouldn’t dogpile on him.

            Reply
            1. Kate M

              He might not be Ted Cruz (lol), but if you’re trying to do something and the outcome is the opposite of that (trying to be fair and ending up with a policy that is unfair), then yes, that needs to be addressed. If this helps other people know what not to do and saves other people from these types of policies that can actually harm them, then it needs to be addressed.

              Reply
            2. Temperance

              He’s actually doing the exact opposite of trying to be fair, actually. He’s deciding what people and what kinds of families have more value.

              Reply
              1. AMT

                “Kinds of families” — yes! This is something the gay/trans movement has been pushing for a very long time. Close friends, partners, adopted families, and the like are no less valuable than bio kids.

                Reply
                1. Temperance

                  YES. That’s actually what made me think of it. Booth and me have a beloved Thanksgiving tradition with a friend, his husband, and another friend. They’re all gay men who invited us to join their tradition.

            3. Oryx

              If he’s using that as even a single data point among many with regards to time off then, no, he’s not being fair.

              Reply
            4. Honeybee

              He’s not trying to be fair. He’s giving preference to people because of their family status – that’s the opposite of being fair.

              Reply
          5. Not Karen

            How do you even know who has kids? If I had kids or were married, I might not ever mention it to my boss or coworkers unless it happened to come up in conversation.

            Reply
            1. George

              I’m raising a child who isn’t directly mine (ex-partner’s kid who chose me). At the HR level, I’m single and childless, but in practice I’m a single parent.

              Reply
          6. Mike C.

            It shouldn’t ever be a factor. Just because I knock someone up doesn’t mean I should have even slightly better access to standard vacation time.

            Reply
          7. pope suburban

            Thank you for the reminder that no matter how well I work, no matter how fairly I treat coworkers, and how much compassion I show for people’s circumstances, I will still be expected to pick up their slack and be slighted, because my time is simply worth less. For a moment there, I almost started thinking that I should be afforded some work/life balance because I am a human being.

            Reply
            1. Ms. Didymus

              Thank you!

              Because I have made the choice to not have children, I am less worthy than those who made a different choice … at work? That is…so, so gross.

              Reply
          8. art_ticulate

            There absolutely *is* something wrong with giving preferential treatment to someone with children. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend Father’s Day with my own father!

            I’m so sick of being treated like I must not have plans on holidays because I’m unmarried and childless. My most recent employer blatantly favored employees with spouses and children, even though those of us with neither were the ones who had to travel furthest to see our families for holidays. Our coworkers with spouses and children had their parents/in-laws here in town and didn’t have to travel, and were given first choice of time off. They never asked if any of the rest of us might also want some of that time. I think my favorite was when I was going through the end of a long-term relationship, and my boss told me that no one in the office was likely to have much sympathy for me because it wasn’t like I was married, and therefore, no one understood why it was so hard to get over.

            Reply
              1. Art_ticulate

                It’s in a small conservative city in Texas, so yeah, most of them married the first person they had a serious relationship with. It was so obvious that people with families we’re treated better and more well respected because they were seen as “traditional”. The few of us who didn’t fit that mold were treated very differently. It also came out at one point that employees with families were getting better cost of living raises. The reasoning was that they had more expenses… Yet they were all also two income homes. Meanwhile single people got the bare minimum.

                Reply
                1. Elizabeth West

                  You know, this really bugs me–when people assume married people have more expenses so they deserve more. Raises, vacation time, etc. It’s the same thing with singles supplements on hotel rooms and such–NO I do not have more disposable income than two people getting two paychecks! And I don’t necessarily have more free time, either. And thanks for devaluing me because I can’t manage to get married, thus making me feel worse! >:(

                2. Koko

                  Plus, while a family with kids has more expenses than a married couple without kids, there are economies of scale that make cohabiting and pooling resources more cost-effective than living alone and managing solely your own finances. You can buy a whole gallon of milk because two of you can drink it before it goes bad, but the single person has to buy the half-gallon at a higher unit price because they won’t drink the whole gallon fast enough. A 2-bedroom apartment is usually like, 10-20% more than a 1-bedroom apartment, not two times as much. If you’re running late, your spouse might be able to drive you downtown and drop you off at the door to your office in an area where there’s no parking or parking is really expensive and you’re only out the normal cost of gas, while a single person has to hire a cab or pay through the nose for parking. (My college boyfriend dropped me off almost everywhere I went, and vice versa, when we were living together.)

                  It is definitely cheaper to be in a couple than it is to be single. You have twice the income, the most you ever pay for something is twice what a single person pays, and you often pay less than that.

            1. AMT

              Yes! I’d add that I don’t think the merit of how we spend our free time should be judged at all. I don’t care if seeing Junior’s play or visiting great grandma sounds more important than my plans to see how many Cheetos I can fit in my mouth while watching Scrubs reruns. Vacation days are not a how-heartbreaking-is-your-request contest. My time off is MINE.

              Reply
              1. Art_ticulate

                Yuuuup. I was constantly working overtime at this job, because I was single and therefore couldn’t possibly have any need for free time. I was salaried, so I got to accumulate comp time, but they didn’t want me to ever have more than two days worth banked. Yet every time I tried to use it, there was a reason I couldn’t, or I was asked why I needed the time off (Uh, because you told me not to accumulate so much). I had about 100 hours at one point and got chewed out by HR about it. Whatever. I’m so glad to be out of there.

                Reply
                1. So Very Anonymous

                  And of course, since those policies would drive all the single people away, you’d never have any kind of critical mass for culture change. Boo.

            2. Kelly

              I don’t have kids and have felt that I’ve been discriminated against for that reason. It comes in the forms of being given the less desirable shifts while working in retail and being denied time off because a co-worker plays the “but I’m a parent” card. I’ve been denied multiple times for time off to spend time with family over the past 6 months, including a sister that I rarely see and my grandmother whom I haven’t seen in over three years. The reason I was denied was because it was my male co-worker’s weekend with his kids and someone had to open Monday morning so he could could get his kids to school. He could drop them off early and get to work on time to open but it’s too hard on the kids to expect them to wake up before 7 am. It’s come to the point that I won’t ask for time off when it interferes with his daddy time because I know I will be denied. I wouldn’t have as much of a problem if he were a better colleague and made an effort to show up on time and do his job. He does the bare minimum and not much more. I’m not getting any extra compensation for covering for him.

              He got the day before Thanksgiving off last year because apparently more schools close that day than when I was in K to 12 schools a decade ago. It’s my turn this year and I intend to get it off because I am the only one who travels out of town. He can find a sitter. He manages to do that when it’s an activity that makes him feel important, like his church board meetings.

              Reply
          9. Jaguar

            Is everyone _really_, _honestly_ this passionate about such a minor level of unfairness? Because the language here seems crazy to me.

            Yeah, maybe the unmarried, childless employee really wants to see their father on Father’s Day. Maybe they’ve been trying to get an appointment for a hugely embarrassing doctor’s appointment for ages. Maybe there’s a terrorist’s plot about to happen on that day and they’ve been trying to warn the authorities the whole time and are being ignored and they’re the only ones that can save the day.

            So go talk to EvanMax about it. He seems like a reasonable guy. What’s with all this gnashing of teeth? “Incredibly unfair” and “Wow” and “so, so gross” is wildly out of proportion.

            Reply
            1. pope suburban

              With all due respect, I don’t think anyone is qualified to make decisions about the fairness of everyone’s workplaces except the people who were there, working in them. Further, we don’t get to arbitrate what is and isn’t unfair, or what is and isn’t serious. In fact, it’s that kind of hierarchical thinking that *created* the favoritism (which is, after all, just a nicer way to say discrimination) at many of these unpleasant workplaces. Finally, this seems like it’s going a bit counter to the site’s commenting policies, which ask us not to engage in “personal attacks on or harsh comments to other commenters or letter-writers” or “nitpicking people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices,” and encourage us to “assume good faith on the part of others, including people whose opinions differ from your own.”

              Reply
            2. Temperance

              It’s actually not *minor* whatsoever. Holidays are really freaking important to a lot of people, and being expected to never or almost-never celebrate them because other people have families deemed “good enough” really freaking stinks.

              Reply
          10. Chocolate Coffeepot

            But you’re still giving preferences based on your perception of whose request is more valid.

            My parents moved to another (sunnier) state after they retired, and would fly back here for the holidays (my sibs & I all live fairly close together). Eventually they had to cut back on the travelling, so my sibs & I would take turns flying to see them. All of our children were adults by then, so it became harder to get everyone together all at once.

            When my niece got married, my parents were in poor enough health that they were unable to attend the wedding. She wanted her husband to meet her grandparents, so they made plans to visit them the following Christmas. This turned into all of us – siblings, spouses, all of our children, their SOs, and one toddler – flying out to visit my parents. It was great fun for everyone to be together for the holiday. :)
            And, sadly, one of my parents passed away a few months later. We are so thankful that we were all there that year.

            My point is that, out of 12 adults who travelled that year, 3 were unmarried and only 2 (nephew and wife) had a small child. Thankfully none of us had to prove that our personal life was worthy enough to be able to spend Christmas together!

            Reply
      2. jhhj

        Maybe you should add up the family size of everyone in order to know who deserves it most. Parents might only have their kids, non parents might have a huge extended family, and surely if you are using utilitarianism you want to do it properly.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Is there a multiplier for importance of seeing that person? Like, does a dying relative get a 2x points bonus, whereas your second cousin once removed that you don’t know that well only counts for half?

          Reply
          1. jhhj

            Oh yes, I have a very complex database to rank how important your family is. I also include pets, taking into account colour. (A high strung calico gets more points than an easy going grey kitty.)

            Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          I agree. I have children. Of course I want to spend lots of time with them! And make a regular trip to take them to see their great-grandmothers (because they are blessed to have two living). And and and.

          And I assume my coworkers could put together a list of things they want and need and hope for, which may or may not include children, may or may not include elderly relatives, may or may not include siblings / friends as dear as family, may or may not include medical procedures they don’t want to talk about, may or may not include heartbreak. (The anniversary of a loss can hurt a lot, and death doesn’t nicely avoid the holidays/holiday weekends.)

          All of that deserves consideration. Everyone deserves consideration.

          If you’re hoping to move holidays to people who “don’t need that day off” as much, offer a little incentive and let them select themselves. :)

          Reply
      3. IT Kat

        No, you are giving preference to one employee. The employee’s family/friends/kids/pets/next-door neighbor’s dog/whatever should have zero impact on your decisions.

        Otherwise it’s just favoritism, and there is a good chance you’ll lose good employees over it just because they’re childless.

        (Honestly, I think it smacks of discrimination too – not under the legal definition, but it sure feels like it. What if I have two elderly parents and a disabled sibling I’m caring for? Do you not think I’ll feel disengaged and bitter when I find out the married person with a teenage kid and healthy siblings/parents is given vacation and day off preference just because they managed to procreate? Don’t make assumptions on other people’s personal lives.)

        Reply
      4. Engineer Girl

        You have a very narrow viewpoint of who “needs” that time off. My Mom had Altzheimer’s and my Dad took care of her. He used to schedule voluntary surgeries for the week between Christmas and New Years because he knew I would be home to take care of the family.
        Under your scheme people that wanted to hang with their kiddies got priority over someone with a true need.

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          BTW – lest anyone think it was a walk in the park – I would usually LOSE 7-10 pounds every Christmas I did this.

          Reply
          1. Jenna

            Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s is no walk in the park. I was the one taking care of my widowed dad, and I know how stressful it was for me.

            Reply
      5. Stranger than fiction

        That’s just wrong. The only exception I could see would be if an employee had absolutely no other friends or family nearby and they were the only parent and had no other options. But eve then you risk pissong others off. When my kids were little I was a waitress and they simply had to go to their grandparents or play with their cousins til I got off work. Far as I can tell they’re not traumatized or damaged from it.

        Reply
      6. Temperance

        That’s really, really awful and unfair. Your comment made me very sad and angry to read. All people should be treated equally, with the understanding that all of our lives outside work are equally important. Your employees easily figured out what you were doing.

        There is nothing utilitarian about this unless you think that children are more important than literally all other people, and that parents are more important than non-parents. Your logic is flawed. Here’s an example: I have no children, but I have Booth, my 3 siblings, his 2 siblings, my 3 nieces and 1 nephew, my 16 aunts and uncles, my 25+ great-aunts and uncles, and over 50 cousins. My family is larger than most, so does that mean that I am by default more important?

        Reply
        1. TempestuousTeapot

          This. Just because I’m a now single parent, doesn’t decide my vacation needs as a priority over anyone else’s. I also find it highly infantilizing that I need it more than married or non-parent coworkers. I knew what I signed up for and I’m capable of navigating it. The honest truth is, I’d rather have the option of working the premium time in exchange for comp time or extra pay. I lost my maternal grandfather to Asbestosis one year at my birthday, my father the following August to cancer, and my maternal grandmother to Alzheimer’s just two years later with my mother going through breast cancer. Believe you me, working holidays would be heaven sent while splitting care time with siblings. Sometimes going to work is the coping mechanism and only the person working knows that.

          Reply
      7. Katniss

        This is cruel and a narrow way to define family. I guess the important people on my life aren’t important if I didn’t birth them.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          I agree with this. I have a tight chosen family and a very large, but not very close, extended family.

          Reply
          1. Katniss

            Exactly. I am close with my folks, but my chosen family are the people who are nearby and who I love very deeply. My time with them is just as important as someone’s time with their blood relatives. Yes, even their kids.

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              I celebrated Christmas this year by popping a cold beer on a warm Christmas morning with Booth, and spent Thanksgiving with a law school friend, his husband, and a mutual friend who is a freaking NASA engineer. That means more to me than almost any “family” holiday.

              Reply
                1. Log Lady

                  Speaking of which, I got super excited when you added your picture because I was pretty sure your name came from Oryx and Crake, but I wasn’t 100% sure. It’s probably my favorite book ever, but I can’t seem to power through MaddAddam.

                2. Temperance

                  It has two origins – I’m admittedly a HUGE Bones fan (obvs) but I also really enjoy reading about the WCTU and Carrie A. Nation.

                3. Oryx

                  @Log Lady you are my new best friend because it’s my absolute favorite book ever as well. I enjoyed the whole trilogy, but the first is by far the best.

      8. sparklealways

        I don’t have kids, but I have parents who live 1000 miles away that I have to fly to see. It’s not the ideal situation right now, but it is the right one for the time being. People with young kids probably have DECADES to spend with their families. I probably just have a few years and to think that there are still people in this day and age that discriminate against the childless pisses me off to no end. Please rethink your stance.

        Reply
        1. sam

          Yeah. As someone without kids and with parents close by (and I mean, I live five blocks manhattan from my dad and stepmom), AND and someone who does not actually celebrate christmas, I would always deliberately schedule my vacations NOT during school holidays, because I got major brownie points at work for working when everyone else needed the time off because their kids were out of school and some deal would always need to close AND I got to take two weeks off in january when NO ONE else was traveling (meaning, super cheap fares, no kids on the plane/in the hotel). It was pretty awesome, because I wanted it that way.

          But that was MY choice. And you can be darn sure my choices would have been different if my dad and I were still caring for my mother, who died after a 7 year battle with cancer one month before I took the bar exam. My law school years were basically evenly split between the library and Sloan Kettering.

          Reply
        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          I’m in the exact same situation. In a good year, I see my parents twice, and the rest of my family, including my brother and the niece and nephew who are very dear to me, once. Missing out on Christmas vacation means there will be two years between seeing most of my family. Being told “Oh, well, we can give you most of Christmas Week off, but we need you to work that Wednesday” means I effectively miss out on the whole thing, because it means I sure am not flying off to the family gathering in Texas or Michigan!

          Reply
          1. Hlyssande

            Yeah, this is my problem. It hasn’t actually been an issue yet at work so far, but the year I can’t visit family – including my 104-year-old grandma – is the year I make firm plans to leave.

            Having been issued a work laptop is really helpful in this case; my parents have good internet so I can log in from there if I have to.

            Reply
        3. Nobody

          Yeah… Parents get to go home and see their spouses and kids every day, but I live alone, and I’m hundreds of miles from all of my family, so I can only go to see them when I have time off. Its really unfair that people don’t care if I get to spend time with my family.

          Reply
      9. Liana

        I know Alison called you out on this already, but I really have to reiterate how completely unfair and demoralizing that is. I don’t have a spouse or kids, but last year my mother was undergoing treatment for cancer and I requested some extra time off around the summer holidays (which also coincided with her birthday) so I could spend it with her. I didn’t want a preferential shift “somewhere else” – I wanted it at the time I requested it, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked for it in the first place. Giving preference to parents really doesn’t make sense, because you have no idea what is going on in someone’s life and it’s not your place to decide whose family is more important.

        Reply
      10. Muriel Heslop

        When I worked retail, I always offered to close the night before and open the morning after any big holiday. My entire family lived in town, and it was just the polite thing to do. It’s playing the long game: when I wanted a day off, I usually got it. When I wanted a shift covered, my co-workers worked with me.

        I would have been hacked off if preference was given to people with kids!

        Reply
        1. Gabriela

          Exactly. I think most people are like you- would much rather volunteer to do something like this out of kindness and consideration than be forced to, because of some notion of parenting being the only valuable use of time off. Plus, it has the added bonus of currying favor with your coworkers and creating goodwill.

          Reply
        2. DDJ

          Yes! Both my and my husband’s entire immediate families live in the same city we do, so I’ve never taken time off over the holidays. I don’t need to travel, so I figure I’m pretty spoiled that I get to take a ten-minute drive to get where I need to be. This year, I actually requested some time off at Christmas- a full week (first time in a decade), and it was no problem to get the time off.

          My former employee always had to travel for holidays, so I made sure she had that time off and I provided coverage. Why wouldn’t I? But it was still my choice. I also would have been extremely peeved if it was the default because of differing family situations.

          Reply
      11. Cat

        This is exactly what every person without kids fears happens and we resent it; you’re contributing to fostering some really toxic dynamics.

        Reply
        1. The Voice In Your Head

          It can also be especially demoralizing to couples who really do want children but due to circumstances like infertility or barriers to adoption they can’t have children right now. It’s yet another reminder of their “defective” status in society.

          Reply
      12. Apollo Warbucks

        No no no no no.

        People with out kids have important things to do with holidays. In December last year I went to visit my granny who lives 600 miles away and is dying of cancer between Christmas and new year as she asked for the whole family to get together.

        You don’t get to make value judgements about the importance of time off for someone.

        Reply
      13. Jade

        My last store manager when I worked in retail was a single mother with two kids. Some of the employees were parents who complained that they had to work holidays and miss out on time with their kids, but the store mgr reminded them that she too had kids and had to work those days, so nobody was spared. I cringed inside every time one of my coworkers complained about this, because their time with their kids has no inherent value over my time with my parents. As to the “I’m giving *both* parents a break by doing things this way”- have you considered that maybe parents of older children have asked off at their jobs to spend a holiday with their kid, and by denying their kid’s request off you just ruined the plans of one or both *parents* with that one rejection? Your argument in defense of your scheduling system is full of holes and shortsights.

        Reply
      14. Andrea

        Wow, that is so insulting. Because I have chosen not to procreate my time isn’t worth as much as my coworkers? Do you also expect people without kids to work more overtime, because I guess since no one is waiting for us at home we don’t deserve time off?

        Reply
      15. Ms. Didymus

        Wow. As a non parent, this is really outrageous. Because I choose not to have kids I am somehow less worthy than someone who does have kids? I have so much more to say about this but won’t because I’m going to hope you aren’t aware of the level of grossness your actions were. Please do not ever do this again.

        There are literally dozens of better ways to handle this. Hell, the way the company in the letter handled it is better than this.

        Reply
      16. Elizabeth West

        As someone without kids, I have to say that is totally UNfair. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t have things to do around the holidays. Kids don’t trump everything.

        Gah. Just don’t. You’ll have single people quitting over this–and they WILL find out.

        Reply
    3. miss_chevious

      When I worked at a restaurant that was open 363 out of 365 days, the policy was that everyone had to work one of the major holidays and everyone was guaranteed at least one of the major holidays off, and we would all put in our preferences and the manager would sort it out. It resulted in some wheeling-dealing around Christmas-time, but we all felt it was fair. Like, as a teenager, I didn’t care about having Christmas Eve off, because all I had to do was show up at home in time for presents, but I really wanted July 4th (because SUMMER), but people with kids preferred the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

      Reply
  3. Ann Furthermore

    People who do stuff like this never cease to amaze me. How inconsiderate and oblivious can you be?

    When I started my original job with my company, it was 6 months before my wedding. We took our honeymoon 6 months after that, which was November. We were going to Australia and New Zealand, and my research indicated that spring is the best time to go. So I ended up taking the last 2 weeks of November off. I told my 2 coworkers that I needed to coordinate PTO with that since I was swooping in and taking the Thanksgiving PTO, that I would not take any time off in December or January, so they could have first dibs on time off around Christmas and New Year’s.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      This. So much this. The policy is terrible, and Jane is being at best thoughtless (and at worst deliberately selfish).

      I desperately tried to get Thanksgiving off of being on-call every year at my old job (because I really wanted to make it to my aunt’s, which was an hour away, as we traditionally went).

      This meant that I ended up on call about every 2-3 years for Christmas. I didn’t like it, but I did consider it fair. (We had enough people that anyone who covered either of those two holidays one year didn’t have to cover it the next year, for sure. And it helped that many of them wanted Christmas off more than Thanksgiving.)

      I also often volunteered many years for New Year’s, because my idea of celebrating it is to say ‘yay’ and go to bed at 8 pm and hope the fireworks don’t wake me up. That let my coworkers who actually wanted to stay up until midnight and/or drink be able to do so without worrying about the on-call phone. :)

      Reply
      1. Ann Furthermore

        Yes, this is the way to do it! The last couple of years I’ve taken the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, which is so lovely. The office is pretty quiet anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal. But I always take it with an “on-call” provision so that if something comes up, I can help out. I’ve even told my manager that I can come into the office if necessary if something has really gone to hell in a handbasket. No one has ever called me for anything, but since I’m just taking the days off to hang out at home and putter around, I figure it helps build goodwill with my manager and co-workers to make the offer.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          I love working the week between Christmas and New Years’ because everyone who isn’t taking PTO works remotely and there is barely any work to do. I basically get a week-long staycation without having to take PTO for being willing to monitor email and system performance from home and step in if needed.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            I never had enough PTO to take it off at Exjob (and usually nowhere to spend that much time now), but that week was always very quiet then because all the vendors would be closed, our customers would be closed, and people in the office who did have more PTO would be gone. I got most of my year-end junk done in a week and the phone barely rang. :)

            Reply
      2. ExceptionToTheRule

        I take Memorial Day, Thanksgiving & the Day After off, in return I work the rest of them, including every Christmas Day for 8 years. I think it’s a fair trade.

        Reply
    2. Rafe

      It’s so ridiculous. It would already be an eye-roller if she had taken every Friday alone. But by also taking every Monday she literally blocked every single possible option for even 1 other person to turn just 1 holiday weekend into a long one. I mean it’s jaw-dropping really.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        Right?! At least take the Thursday and Friday so someone else can take the other end. Grabbing both sides of the holiday weekend is just mean.

        Reply
    3. AnonyMewo

      It boggles my mind, too, that people do this to their coworkers, even when the rules don’t explicitly ban it.

      I’m a manager in a tiny office that houses marketing and customer service, and I work either the Friday after Thanksgiving or weekdays around Christmas every year so that our one-and-only customer service person can take off days around one of these holidays, even though I do marketing in my normal days, with no customer service element. We never explicitly set things up this way, but we both respect each other and try to treat each other well.

      To me as a manager, this is one important way I can show respect and appreciation to the customer service person. Jane is not a manager, so she doesn’t *have* to show respect and appreciation to her colleagues, I supposed, but still, she’s doing a disservice to herself. I guess it’s a culture thing that has to be built intentionally when personalities and expectations don’t happen to lean that way…

      Reply
      1. Ann Furthermore

        I always volunteer to work the day after Thanksgiving, because I know lots of people love Black Friday, but I despise it with the fire of 1000 suns. The office is pretty much deserted too, so it’s a nice quiet day. Plus I usually take the 2 days prior to Thanksgiving off for a cook-a-thon, and by Friday I’m ready to get out of the house. Plus my husband usually has order restored by the time I get home.

        Reply
  4. AndersonDarling

    What’s going to happen next year when the calendar is first posted? Will a fight break out as all the employees push each other away as they try to write their names on all the holidays?

    Reply
    1. AMG

      I would have my email drafted and ready to go the second that the calendar comes out. Two can play at that game, Jane. Then I would go around to everyone but Jane and quietly see which days they wanted, and coordinate on dropping that request at the same time that Wakeen or whomever places the request for the newly open date. Screw Jane. But I didn’t sleep well last night so take it for what it’s worth.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        And come in the day before New Years and hide all of the pens and pencils from Jane.
        After all, Jane is off that day and won’t be there to stop you!

        Reply
    2. Joseph

      So in the responses thus far for handling next year, we already have “physical violence”, “covert coordination among other employees”, “pre-scheduled midnight emails” and “sneaking into the office and hiding writing utensils”.

      Isn’t it great when company policies work are so beneficial for a functioning team? ;)

      Reply
    3. Juli G.

      They changed policies where I was mid-year once. Managers (who made decent wages) didn’t like having to manage during holidays and weekends so it got thrown to a whole slew of us that were a half level above the entry level employees. On the day the holiday/weekend shift calendar was released (we each had 3 a year) I was in an hour early, with a 102 fever to pick my days. I wasn’t going to let strep in June make me miss my son’s first Christmas to be at work.

      Reply
  5. bassclefchick

    I’ve always hated this kind of policy. I usually have no idea in January exactly when I’ll want time off in June or October. And EVERYONE wants time off at the holidays. Besides, even WITH this policy, I’ve usually seen the person with the most seniority get the coveted times off. Which is great for them, but crappy for someone who will always be at the bottom of the seniority pole.

    Though this is mostly an academic argument for me, since I’m a contractor and haven’t had PTO in over 5 years. But that’s an argument for the open thread.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      There are places that are seniority driven, and that’s just life. The argument for not changing the system is that the senior people put in their dues as junior people, and “they earned it.” So why shouldn’t junior people earn it too?

      I work in an environment where the whole department could take the same day off, and nobody would care. As such, we don’t bid for vacation time or anything like that. We just send in a notice when we plan it.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Depending on what the typical tenure is though, it’s more like a pyramid scheme because the senior staff will always be senior to the junior staff unless they leave the company. The junior staff don’t have an opportunity to earn seniority in that sort of workplace context. That’s often the case with small businesses where the original employees occupy the senior positions for decades and the junior staff just turn off periodically because there is no room for advancement.

        Reply
      2. Anna

        My friend is a nurse at a hospital with a union. The nurses are granted “most important” holidays based on seniority, but most of the nurses in her unit don’t hog them all. My friend will work July 4th because being at home during the day is less important to her than being with her kids during the fireworks. I think all the nurses she works with handle it that way. And they do have to put in their vacation 6 months in advance.

        Reply
    2. Chocolate Coffeepot

      I used to work at a small library (12 staff members). Most of the year, the director allowed up to 4 people to take vacation on the same day, so there would be enough staff if someone got sick. During the Summer Reading Program, we were always busy so only 1 or 2 people could be out at a time. And the day of the Storytelling Festival, *everyone* had to be there!

      We were always busy the week between Christmas & New Year’s, but everyone wanted to take off then so the director would approve vacations for 6 of us, first-come, first-served. That mostly worked until the year that one employee put in her request too late, and *bullied another into giving up her week off*. The director then announced that no one could take off that week two years in a row. Which was about as even-handed as you can get: no one really liked it, but it’s fair.

      Reply
  6. Cat

    Also, I think it’s worth examining whether you really need the office as fully staffed on New Year’s Eve as you do on June 2nd. Like, is it really, truly as busy?

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Yeah, I was coming to say something similar.

      You can usually find give in the friday before a major holiday weekend, for instance, unless you are in retail or water parks.

      Business to business, at least, is d-e-a-d, because so many people are on vacation. We let 2-3x the normal amount take vacation on those days.

      Reply
      1. Jade

        My brother’s boss actually closes down the next business day after Christmas every year because nobody comes into the shop, so it’s not worth dragging employees in and paying them to be there.

        Reply
    2. Sarah Nicole

      I agree! We used to get half days at my recruiting job on Fridays before holidays and Mondays after simply because we couldn’t reach anyone on the phone, and other businesses we were dealing with sometimes had those days off entirely! Seems like more than one person could be gone, but I know that some businesses really do require constant coverage.

      Reply
    3. The Other Dawn

      Yup, I was thinking the same thing. What absolutely needs to get done and who can do it, and what can wait? That’s what we do here. I have four analysts on my team, plus myself. If three of them want the day off (doesn’t usually happen because I have responsible adults in my department and they’re considerate of each other), I try like hell to make it happen. Sometimes it can happens and sometimes it cant’. But most of the time it can. It just means I have to hustle a but faster that day.

      Reply
    4. Mike C.

      Yeah, this is my thinking. The OP wrote that it was in the construction industry, and you’re not seeing much construction going on during the prime winter holidays. This doesn’t solve everything, but I really, really have to wonder how often a business needs to truly be open during major holidays. Even if you need to be open, consider more cross-training at least in the fundamentals of a position.

      I mean sure, there might have been one time a customer called with a simple request that didn’t have a huge priority and could have waited anyway but this attitude that you need to be open and available at all hours on all days is something that should be seriously challenged.

      Reply
    5. Kira

      I was surprised so few people were commenting on that. We all have a lot of opinions about fairness, but aren’t there more basic concerns with scheduling people? We had a big time-off debacle last year, very similar to this letter*. There weren’t caps per team though – it was a cap for the whole agency. So if the janitor and receptionist had off, the marketing manager wasn’t allowed off. And maybe the counselors don’t have any appointments scheduled during the holidays, but they’re not allowed to take off because the marketing manager got that day.

      *It wasn’t a free for all, though. The department manager approved the time off requests for their team. But then HR would come along and un-approve the requests because of schedule conflicts with other departments.

      Reply
  7. Enginerd

    Has anyone actually talked to the manager or Jane about this? Inconsiderate yes but no one is a mind reader and she did wait a week it’s not like she rushed in the first opportunity to write her name down.

    Reply
    1. some1

      I (nicely) confronted my coworker when she did this. We are the only two people with our job in our location, and though we have different managers and support different business lines, we back each other up so it was an unwritten rule that we both couldn’t be out the same day. She was defensive about it, but they ended up changing the policy that we could both be out the same day occasionally.

      Reply
    2. LBK

      I agree with this too – may be the case that she just thought she’d block them off in case she wanted them but she’d be amenable if someone asked her if they could have one instead.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Her coworkers shouldn’t have to come to her to ask for vacation days. There’s no reason other than selfishness for her to hoard all of the vacation days even if she claims she would have been willing to give some up if asked. It’s just not polite or conducive to social harmony to hoard resources in a social environment.

        Reply
  8. Pontoon Pirate

    Maybe Jane didn’t break any official rules, but she has to know she violated some unwritten, social rules. You don’t hog all the choice days! Just … don’t do it. If you don’t like the policy, get together with your peers and advocate to change it. But don’t be That Person.

    Reply
    1. Just Say No

      Agreed! Although not everyone agrees on the social rules. I began a new job last year and there are two of us that cover each other’s absences. My coworker let me know in the fall that she would be taking the days off before both Thanksgiving and Christmas. She was just amazed and flummoxed when I expressed the opinion that we should split those holidays – each taking time off before only one of the holidays. She felt that it is important that she have any time off she wants to spend with her family at the holidays. Geez – guess it’s a good thing she’s the only person in our workplace to have family .

      Reply
    2. Bwmn

      I really just can not work up the ire at Jane for this. Bad policies encourage bad behavior, and this is a great example of that.

      While lots of people don’t plan their vacations in advanced, a lot do. If I worked in such an organization, I’m not saying I would have hogged every long weekend, but I can tell you that the day the sheet went up, I have a week in July and the entire week of Thanksgiving that I’m aware of January 1. The week I take in July is entirely unremarkable aside from being during the summer – but when it comes to time around Thanksgiving – is it really that necessary for *everyone* to be in the office that Wednesday? Or even just a random Friday in August?

      Policies like this hope that people will work together and lets management off the hook for making decisions and negotiating conflict. And in such a situation, it’s no surprise this has happened.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        Stupid rules exist because someone was so self centered that they ignored the needs of the other coworkers. You hope that you have hired adults which means you are supposed to have someone that thinks beyond their own wants.
        The lack of specific rules shows that you expect adults to act like adults. Don’t blame management for this one.

        Reply
        1. Rafe

          It’s so true. So often advice on AAM is for the employer to treat the employees like adults. And so they do. And this happens.

          Reply
        2. Bluesboy

          It’s true that someone else ignored the needs of their co-workers. But that’s true only because she did it after one week. The fundamental issue is the policy.

          Would I like to turn all holiday weekends into a long weekend? Yes. Do I know whether my co-workers feel the same way? No. I have some who deliberately avoid time off at holiday weekends because traffic is terrible and flights & hotels are more expensive. I have some of different religions who have no particular interest in Christmas. And I have some where I simply don’t know, and it’s none of my business anyway. So let’s say I put one long weekend on the holiday plan. After a week, nobody else has touched the plan. So I think nobody else is interested and I book more time off – except that I don’t, because I’m worried about what other people might possibly think of me.

          Why should I not book off time that I would like, because someone else MIGHT possibly be interested? Almost certainly if Jane had gone round the office asking about other people’s holidays many of them would have said that they didn’t know yet (the office is asking them to plan next Thanksgiving and Christmas in January!). So they tell me they don’t know. Can I book the time off now? Or do I have to wait until…when exactly? July? October? When flight prices have gone up and I can’t afford to go away anyway?

          Don’t get me wrong, I think Jane is wrong because she moved REALLY fast. But the main problem is the policy. A policy that can leave an employee in a situation where they’d like to take time off, nobody else has requested it, but they’re scared to upset other people if they book another weekend that nobody else seems to want anyway is not a policy that has any place in an office (again, not talking about Jane, as she’s clearly been selfish, but this is an absolutely feasible result of this policy).

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            No, it’s not the policy. It is Jane taking up all the holidays. What sensible adult does that?
            And saying that she waited a whole week excuses her? Really?

            Reply
            1. bluesboy

              Except that I didn’t say that. Though my post was pretty long so I see how you might have missed it! :)

              I said that Jane was wrong, I said that Jane was selfish, I also said she moved REALLY fast to book those holidays. I don’t see that as ‘excusing’ her.

              I just think that the policy is the main issue as it leads to uncertainty and conflict. And yes, Jane shouldn’t have done what she did. But let’s say someone books Thanksgiving, and not Christmas (leaving it for the others). And nobody books Christmas.

              At what point can they step in and book Christmas too? March? July? November? The policy shouldn’t have this kind of awkwardness or uncertainty.

              Again, that’s not what Jane did. Jane=wrong. But the policy is not conducive to good office relations and fundamentally unhealthy.

              Reply
              1. Koko

                I think it’s like the last brownie. If it sits there a while, you ask if anyone wants it before you take it. You can pretty much assume *somebody* is going to want Christmas and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get Thanksgiving AND Christmas, so you just choose one and then put it out of your mind for the rest of the year.

                But if you’re really concerned that nobody is going to take Christmas, you can ask around. “Hey, I noticed that nobody has scheduled any dates off around Christmas? Are you planning to work that whole week?” And then they can either say yes, or they can say, “Oh, no, but I’m not sure yet what days I want as none of our relatives have confirmed their plans yet.” And then you know someone wants it and you put it out of your mind for the rest of the year.

                Reply
          2. Joseph

            I take a major issue with your argument because it’s not just ONE time she’s doing it. If she had taken one or two weekends well in advance, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Even if it was one of the “big” family holidays like Christmas, people would understand – they might not love it, but they’d understand. But taking two days off around every single major holiday? That’s way, way outside the norm. You really telling me that you believe that on January 8th or whatever, she already had plans scheduled, not just for major family holidays, but for lesser ones like Memorial Day and Labor Day? And while you’re right, there are some co-workers who due avoid time off at a holiday, do you honestly believe that every single one of her co-workers felt the same way?

            The policy itself is the main problem, yes, but Jane shouldn’t be let off the hook here. This is the kind of legal-yet-troublesome behavior that is a big problem. I mean, jeez, someone was angry enough that it was a factor in them *leaving the company* and her behavior is causing plenty of other internal friction. The source of the problem is a bad policy, but Jane abusing the policy in a way that’s messing up her team? That’s on Jane. Breaking office norms in a way that causes team issues is a problem in and of itself, regardless of what the policy officially says.

            Reply
            1. bluesboy

              I don’t know if she has plans for every holiday weekend, but I know that I do, so it’s not impossible (although I’m not in the US so our holidays are different).

              But just to be clear, I agree 100% with you “the policy itself is the main problem, but Jane shouldn’t be let off the hook here”. I obviously just didn’t express myself as clearly as that. But I did use both the words ‘wrong’ and ‘selfish’ to describe Jane!

              I just think you’ll find a plonker in every office and can’t control that, so I focus more on a bad policy, which the manager CAN control/change.

              Reply
          3. Elizabeth West

            No, she’s wrong because she booked ALL the time and left none for anybody else. And I’ll bet you a dollar if she’s asked to switch with someone, she’ll say, “Oh well no, I already booked that way in advance.”

            Reply
    3. Dan

      The social rules are dependent on the job type. In a heavily unionized environment, the senior people hog the choice days, and that’s just the way it is. Whether or not the junior people agree with it, well, that’s how the CBA rolls, so they actually *do* agree to it, even if they don’t like it.

      Reply
  9. Allison

    Reminds me of the system we had at Cold Stone. The manager put up a whiteboard calendar, and if you didn’t want to get scheduled for a day, you had to write your name on that day, but only 3 people could request time off for a specific day. And I don’t remember there being any limit to how many days you could claim, and the weekends were basically claimed by whoever happened to be working when the calendar went up. So if you, say, needed to go out of town for a wedding or join your family on a trip that was already booked, you had to hope you were working when the schedule went up, or had a friend who could write your name in for you.

    At the movie theater job I had after, they sent out a time off request form for the holidays with a limit to how many shifts you request. The limit was a pain, but at least it was a fair way to ensure adequate coverage while also making sure everyone got at least a little time off around the holidays, rather than let some greedy jerks take it all for themselves just because they asked first.

    Reply
      1. Allison

        I never even considered the possibility that people would do that! I was only there for a few weeks . . . that job didn’t work for so many reasons. Seems like it would be possible, but if someone looked at the calendar and saw their name had been replaced, it would be obvious who did it.

        Reply
        1. sstabeler

          unless someone trying to stir trouble erased someone’s name, and instead of writing their own name, wrote a different employee’s name.

          Reply
  10. Kate

    I understand the ire, but Jane waited A WEEK before claiming any vacation days — it’s not like she pounced on the calendar five minutes after it was posted!

    Reply
    1. Cat

      Yeah, but it’s not likely that she looked at it and thought “oh, I guess nobody else wanted to take any vacation time around holidays! Score!”

      Reply
      1. Amy G. Golly

        I mean, really! In a small office environment, I would expect to share time off around the holidays with my co-workers. Yeah, I’d love to have a long weekend around the 4th of July, but maybe Steve’s family has a reunion out of state every year at that time. I don’t have any specific plans for that holiday, but I’d love to visit my brother around Labor Day, so maybe Steve wouldn’t mind trading off.

        That someone would assume they could just claim all the holiday time off ONE WEEK into a new year is just…wow. Yeah.

        Reply
    2. J

      No, a week is not that long at all to wait. What if you were on vacation that week?

      And it’s selfish to take long weekends every holiday. This is a dumb policy too. And I often get stuck as the manager working the days before holidays so the rest of my staff can be off. We are closed major holidays.

      Reply
    3. NK

      Had this been a long-standing policy I could see your point, but I think most people would have assumed that people would be somewhat reasonable about this and wouldn’t immediately pounce on vacation days for the year. Even in jobs I’ve had that required coverage every day the financial markets were open, people didn’t tend to request time THAT early. I remember being really irritated at one job when I asked about time off around Christmas in August, only to find out that was no longer an option. Of course, the issue in that situation was that the boss claimed to have a more fair way of allocating holidays, but the reality was he was too lazy to do that, so it was first come first served.

      Reply
    4. some1

      But OTOH you can’t expect everyone to know when they will want to take a long holiday weekend in January, either.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Right, some people know they’ll want to take vacations like that at some points during the year, but they want to finalize plans first or figure things out closer to the holiday, and most people don’t request time off in January “just in case” they’ll want it later. In January, I know I want December 23rd and 26th off, and my birthday. Maybe the Friday of PAX East.

        Reply
    5. Chickaletta

      I think the point was to schedule vacation days closer to the actual days, like 1-3 months out. Most people don’t know when they’ll need and entire year’s worth of vacation days on the second week of January. What if you find out in June that there’s going to be a family reunion over Thanksgiving? Or you find out in March that your niece is getting married on July 5th? That’s usually plenty of warning for most employers, yet if you work with Jane you’re SOL because she’s already taken those dates.

      Reply
  11. Roscoe

    This one is tough for me. On one hand, I get being upset. On the other, it seems that its not as if Jane did this on January 1 as soon as the calendar went up. She waited a week or 2. People know when holidays are. If others wanted to claim them, they had the chance and didn’t do it. While I see problems with the policy itself, I don’t think Jane did anything wrong. She booked the time she wanted that wasn’t taken yet. Just because she did it first, it doesn’t make it wrong.

    At my current job I’m the most senior so I have the most vacation. They also won’t let more than 2 people in our department take off on the same day. If I decide I want every friday off this summer and request it first, its not really my problem if other people can’t get it as well

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      That is such hideously anti social behavior. ‘Screw you, I got mine Jack, not my problem’ is just such a jerk way to behave toward one’s fellow humans particularly when you are dealing with a limited resource in a pool of people you have to work with.

      Reply
    2. Kelly L.

      Because most people are thinking “Well, as each holiday gets closer, I’ll figure out what my plans are and ask off accordingly.” Most people probably aren’t thinking, in January, that precisely about plans for Christmas. You might have a general idea, but maybe this is the year your mom goes on a cruise for Christmas and decides to have the family shindig a week earlier, who knows?

      If somebody put donuts in the lounge and Jane waited five minutes and nobody’d taken one yet, would it be totally fine for her to take them all because ha ha, you lose?

      It might not be against the rules, but it’s pretty rude.

      Reply
    3. Kate M

      Wow. So if the two most senior people in your department want every Friday during the summer off, then sucks for everyone else? That would mean that someone couldn’t even take a whole week off at a time if they had a longer vacation planned. That is a brilliant way to breed resentment and lower morale. For me, that would make it my problem.

      Also, it’s not like Jane saw the empty calendar and thought that nobody else wanted the most coveted vacation days. Like others have said, sure she played the game this year. Just wait until next year though when everyone blocks Jane out of all the holidays at 12:01 AM January 1st. I’m sure she’ll still love the system then.

      Reply
      1. Judy

        I think there was a recent letter or comment about something similar. A senior co-worker took every Friday all summer off, and the office only allowed one person to be off on a day. So no one else in the office could take a week-long vacation during the summer.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        Not to speak for Roscoe but I think those kinds of schedules usually come with the understanding that you might flex on a couple of those planned Fridays if someone else does want them off.

        Reply
      3. Dan

        Sometimes yes. But I think the issue here is that other people don’t have longer vacations planned. I mean, if they knew on January 1 what their long vacation was for the year, why didn’t they jump in and grab it the week before Jane did?

        I tend to take longer vacations as opposed to “long weekends” so I wouldn’t jump in and “grab the holidays” before Jane did. I would, however, grab the time I actually wanted.

        Vacation is precious to me (I take long trips all over the world) and I choose my employment based on the ability to accommodate that.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          They didn’t have them planned *down to the specific dates, in the first week of the year.*

          I always know that I will take a trip at some point in the summer when things quiet down at work. I frequently do not decide on my exact vacation plans until April or May when I start to check out the travel deals, see if anyone is going to be getting married in late summer, figure out what other summer commitments I’m going to have, etc. And I frequently do not decide my holiday plans until September or October. I still know I’m going to want that time off.

          But just because one person in my office plans everything insanely early, now I have to as well or I’m considered to have “not wanted” the time?

          Reply
          1. Koko

            Shoot, even the years I knew in February that I was going to Burning Man in August/September, I still didn’t know exactly what dates I was taking off until May or June. I knew I might want an extra day or two on the west coast but it depended on what my friends in the region were up to and they didn’t have plans before then, and I knew I might want an extra day or two off work before or after the trip so that I wouldn’t feel as rushed and stressed out going directly from work to airport or airport to work, but I wasn’t sure if I would have enough vacation time because I might decide that taking a day off here or there in the spring is worth more to me than one of those tentative extra days on my summer trip.

            Reply
    4. Engineer Girl

      If you were my employee I’d be happy to mark you down as “needs improvement” on the team player section of your performance review.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        So because I’d rather take every friday off than a week, I’m not a team player? How log do I have to wait to request off to see if other people MAY want that day to be considered a team player?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          You don’t need to wait at all. You can figure that someone other than you will want a Friday at some point in the summer (or a full week) and thus you don’t block them from doing that in one fell swoop. In this case, where you being out means no one else can be, you conclude that you cannot in fact take off every Friday all summer unless you talk to people and confirm that it won’t be an issue for anyone else.

          Reply
          1. Roscoe

            I’m not saying I wouldn’t be willing to change if someone had a wedding to go to. But my job has a use it or lose it vacation policy. So in my mind, its not on me to monitor when people take their days off, its on my manager. If I request it, and he says no, thats fine. But if he allows it, I don’t see it as me being a jerk.

            Reply
            1. AMG

              It is though, because it should not be your decision. Also, they may not know what’s coming up just yet. In any case, it’s called sharing.

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                But its on my manager whether or not to approve them. If he says yes to it, then why should I worry that someone else doesn’t know their plans yet.

                Reply
                1. LBK

                  Agreed, that’s why manager approval exists – because the manager is supposed to be able to look at the high level view and say oh, Jane wants this Friday off, I need to tell Roscoe he can’t take his usual day.

                  I also think it’s unnecessarily complicated to have to wait and request only the Fridays off that no one else claims, when assuming you and your coworkers are all reasonable people, you can just put in for every Friday and then your coworkers can let you know when they have something. My old department has someone now that doesn’t work Fridays and it seems to be reasonably straightforward and tension-free.

              2. AMG

                Because it is selfish. If you don’t understand why being selfish is not okay, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

                Reply
            2. Engineer Girl

              It means that the manager has to intervene on something that really should be sorted out between the team members. It’s like someone taking all the choice assignments. You could, but you shouldn’t because others want an opportunity to shine too.
              The other point of the equation is that the 2nd person may not want to make waves with the manager about a Friday.
              It’s on you to get along with your team members. That means not forcing them into uncomfortable situations.

              Reply
            3. Polka Dot Bird

              You wouldn’t think your coworker was a jerk if they did this? Really?

              In any case, enough people have posted to show that, yes, other people will see it as you being a jerk.

              Reply
        2. ToxicNudibranch

          No, you’re not being a team player because you’re rules-lawyering your way into calling “dibs” on all the Friday vacation and telling the rest of the team where they can shove it if they don’t like it.

          That is literally the opposite of being a team player (i.e. considering the needs and wants of your colleauges and trying to work constructively together to make for a more pleasant and productive workplace).

          Reply
            1. Koko

              You don’t see how holding all the desirable vacation and requiring others to approach him to ask if they can have some of it is a power play? Will he give up vacation days just as easily for his work rival/nemesis as he will for his work BFF/spouse? Why should he even hold the power to decide who gets Fridays off in the first place?

              Reply
        3. Momiitz

          Yes. I would consider it not a team player to take every Friday off in the summer if only one person could have off. That blocks anyone from taking a week long vacations all summer long.

          Reply
        4. Engineer Girl

          Roscoe, You would be marked down because you **created** a situation where I would have to intervene. I would expect my team to work together, and that means working together on shared resources. A vacation schedule is a shared resource because not everyone can be out at the same time.

          Reply
    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      Exactly this, Roscoe; the problem is not so much Jane (who was inconsiderate, but forced to choose between being considerate and getting what she wanted) but the management, who are like parents who tell fighting kids to “work it out”.

      Or, more appropriately, this is more like the airline seat reclining dilemma. Some people are adamant that, since reclining a seat intrudes on someone else’s space, NO ONE must EVER recline their seat even an inch. Others are certain that since they paid for a seat that reclines, they are going to recline it as far as it goes, especially since the person in front of them did so, or they have back problems, or what have you.

      The real problem is that the airlines are making resources extremely scarce (putting seats too close together), letting people grab a good portion of that resource at the expense of others, and in doing so making it much worse for other passengers, who then may be incentivized to impose on someone else, making the fight for that resource even more bitter.

      Look at all the people who said they would be signing up before Jane next year. There needs to be a more orderly way to decide than “first-come, first-served”. That’s what leads to riots and trampling on Black Friday.

      Reply
      1. misspiggy

        Beautiful analogies.

        In the UK, many office teams have such generous time off that it’s impossible for no more than one person to be on leave at any time. Outside of crunch times, it’s expected that several people might be off at any point. As long as one team member can cover (outside of major holidays, when everybody might be out, with one person as emergency phone contact), that’s fine. If a business really needs more cover than that, it’s expected to offer some kind of incentive.

        Reply
      2. Engineer Girl

        Jane was NOT forced into either getting her days or being inconsiderate. In logic, that is known as a false dichotomy. There were in fact several other options that could have worked. If Jane acted like an adult, she would have gone to her other coworkers and told them of her plan. Other coworkers would have said yes/no. Jane had the option of modifying her plan based on the coworkers input – maybe taking 2 weekends each month instead of all of them. Jane would get most of what she wanted as well as good will with others.
        This is not something the manager should have to get involved with unless there is a conflict over days.
        BTW, you are using a false dichotomy argument over the airline seats too.
        Rarely are there ever two and only two choices.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          People keep saying talk to your co-workers about vacation plans. That is just a foreign concept to me. I have literally never discussed my vacation plans with co-workers before requesting them from my manager. I shouldn’t have to. If there is an issue, my manager can sort it out. But its my vacation, and I should need approval from my peers to take it when I want

          Reply
          1. sstabeler

            but your co-workers also shouldn’t need approval from you to take vacation when THEY want- which is why something like taking vacation every Friday over the summer is an asshole move when done far in advance (as a rule of thumb, I would suggest- if you just want the day off- booking about a month in advance. That way, people who had plans probably already booked the time off if they needed it, and you aren’t forcing your co-workers to come to you for permission to take a whole week off. (if it’s short- notice, then a co-worker would probably expect it might be an issue)

            Reply
      3. myswtghst

        “Jane (who was inconsiderate, but forced to choose between being considerate and getting what she wanted)”

        While I like your analogy (and agree the management is mostly to blame here), I completely disagree with the above comment about Jane. There is a totally considerate middle ground where Jane recognizes that if she takes a day off, no one else can, and talks to her coworkers before reserving absolutely every single day before and after a holiday weekend and effectively blocking all of her coworkers from taking the most desirable days off. And unless Jane lets her coworkers know she’s willing to switch, it is going to come across as terribly selfish and short-sighted to do what she did.

        Reply
    6. Oranges

      If one of my underlings requested this I would deny it so hard your head would spin. SO HARD.

      There is no way that it wouldn’t impact my team negatively. This is why vacation days need upper management approval. Because that way people can’t find loopholes around abusing vacation time. And by abusing I mean something like what you outlined. Something that makes my other employees unable to do a reasonable thing like take a week long vacation.

      Your attitude would put you on my “watch them because we’ll probably need to fire them” radar also.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Again, I don’t see how its abusing it when its time I have earned. And I’d need to be fired because I’m using my time in the way that I want. If its in my best interest to take a 3 day weekend every week over a 2 week vacation once a year, why shouldn’t I be able to do that.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Because in this case it means that you’ll be blocking anyone else from ever having a Friday off or being able to take a full week off, and that’s obviously not reasonable.

          Reply
        2. Koko

          Pursuing your best interest when it means actively screwing over the people you work with is not conducive to a harmonious workplace. You can take a 3-day weekend every week if it doesn’t impact anyone you work with. But as soon as we’re talking about a workplace where your vacation choices impact someone else’s ability to use their vacation benefit, it’s discourteous to operate like it’s Hungry Hungry Hippos and you’re trying to grab as many marbles as you can before anyone else does. You find a fair and considerate way for everyone to get a little something they want. Because that’s how civilized, considerate people get along and keep the peace. By looking out for others besides themselves.

          Reply
      2. AMG

        Yup. If it comes to layoffs and my options are a selfish guy who makes life harder for others, versus someone who is thoughtful, then it’s Bye Roscoe.

        Reply
          1. AMG

            I’m surprised that you are surprised. If two people perform a job similarly well, and you have to choose the one that gets along with their coworkers, why on earth would you choose the thoughtless, selfish person? It drives down morale and makes everyone’s jobs harder. We see so much of that on AAM.

            Reply
            1. Jerry Vandesic

              Sounds like this just escalates the confrontation, which probably isn’t good for the department. I once had a boss that was a real prick about controlling vacations (among other things). A colleague was able to get some vacation approved, but boss cancelled it a few weeks later claiming that the policy allowed this under a “business needs” rule. There was a pretty serious argument that broke out including threats about being fired, and the next thing the boss is getting the crap beat out of him. Colleague was arrested, but another co-worker said that he saw the boss pick up a stapler and throw it, and the charges were ultimately dropped. I didn’t believe the story about the stapler, but the boss didn’t have a lot of friends in the department so I wasn’t surprised at the lack of support.

              Probably would have been better not to escalate in the first place.

              Reply
              1. Koko

                I don’t think AMG was saying they would directly fire for being selfish. They’re saying if budget cuts require layoffs, the selfish guy is the first one to go. Because selfish coworkers do hurt their team in many ways.

                Reply
    7. Allison

      Not of a fan of the “I can, therefore I will” mentality. That said, if I was a manager, I’d probably say “Roscoe, I have no problem with you taking some Fridays off in the summer, but unless there’s a reason why you need those days, I’d like to wait to see if other people need those Fridays before giving them to you.” Taking a Friday off for the hell of it is fine, but if doing so would prevent someone from traveling for a wedding, or another event they want to attend but didn’t plan, or a family vacation that was tricky to plan due to other people’s schedules, that’s an issue. I’m not saying you always need a reason to take a day off, but reasons for wanting a day off should factor into who gets priority.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        I guess I just don’t agree with it. If I want to take a day off to go to the beach, or watch netflix, or whatever, why does it matter. Now, thats not to say that if someone had something come up I wouldn’t be willing to change. However I don’t think you should need to provide a reason to take your vacation time.

        Reply
        1. Adam V

          Wait, why is it that you don’t have to have a reason to take that Friday off, but you’re only going to drop your request “if someone has something come up” ? They need a reason, but you don’t?

          Reply
          1. LBK

            It’s the difference in messaging. Pre-emptively not allowing you to request the day off basically says “Your reason isn’t good enough to even allow you to reserve that day unless we get up to that point and no one else wants it.” Discussing it after someone else has also requested it is more like “We have a scheduling conflict and now we need to weigh the factors to decide who gets the day off.”

            Reply
        2. Sunshine

          So if some one else beat you to it and scheduled off every Friday for the entire summer, essentially blocking you from taking a full week or even a 3-day weekend… you’d be okay with that? You wouldn’t see the problem with the employee whor has no consideration for the rest of her team?

          No one is denying that that the policy is crappy, but Jane also knows that it’s crappy and she took advantage of it anyway.

          Reply
          1. AMG

            That’s the funny part to me. Roscoe is putting himself in the role of the person who gets all the Fridays off, not the person who gets the shaft when some awesome summer plans come along later. If it were the other way around, I can’t imagine Roscoe would think it’s okay anymore. And suppose Roscoe went to that person and said, ‘Hey, I’d like a Friday, o you mind giving up that day?’ but the person said, ‘No, I’m going to eat gummy bears and grow out my beard that day, sorry you can’t attend your important plans.’ ?

            Reply
            1. Koko

              “You microwaved something that smelled bad/stole my favorite pen/shot down one of my ideas in a meeting, and now I don’t want to do you any favors, so I will not give any of my Fridays to you.”

              Reply
        3. Eplawyer

          What if someone else wanted to take a day off to watch netflix or whatever but couldn’t because you grabbed all the fridays already? If it is use it or lose it your coworkers are losing because they cant take vacations because you blocked them.

          Reply
    8. Roscoe

      Whats funny is I never said I actually will do this. But my point is that if I request days off before others, and there is a bad policy in place, that isn’t my problem to deal with. I mean, if I had weddings every week in July and was traveling, would that make a difference to you people?

      Reply
        1. LBK

          This is such a bizarre sentiment to me, because it’s so counter to every other discussion we’ve had about PTO on this site. There’s all kinds of comments judging the validity of someone using their PTO in a certain way or for a certain reason; I’m baffled that a place that normally so staunchly defends PTO as only truly being a benefit if it’s “when you want, how you want” has engaged in arbitrating so many PTO-related situations today.

          Reply
          1. AMG

            I’m saying that’s an unrealistic possibility. It’s about live and let live, and being selfish is the opposite of that.

            Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            But I don’t think it’s the case that we typically frame PTO as a benefit only if it’s “when you want, how you want.” I think there’s typical an understanding that that’s subject to your manager’s approval and how it affects your work, but that your manager should make all reasonable attempts to accommodate you.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              But if we’re invoking the concept of manager approval as a mitigating factor, management has essentially given tacit approval for the “first come first served” method by setting up this system. I think because the letter is basically all about Jane, it’s leading people away from having more discussion about management’s (lack of) role in this situation. I guess what it comes down to is that I feel like Jane is being raked over the coals, getting called selfish, clueless, etc. Her whole character is being called into question in a wildly disproportionate manner to the manager that allowed this to happen and has yet to intervene to fix it.

              I think fair scheduling is a critical part of management especially as it pertains to morale and it was something that I took extremely seriously when I did it. Maybe that’s why this sticks in my craw – as a manager, I couldn’t imagine allowing this to happen and I would’ve been mortified if it somehow had, so on some level I’m projecting the fact that I wouldn’t blame one of my employees for doing this if I’d been careless enough to enable it. I’d think that was 100% my fault and it would be up to me to do the damage control.

              Reply
      1. Chickaletta

        I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon to argue with Roscoe here, I think all the points have been made. Except this: Roscoe, can you at least admit that based on the responses here that the majority of other people disagree with how you’re handling your vacation time and that this is probably correlates to how your coworkers feel too? Can you see how this makes it difficult for your coworkers to work with you and that it’s putting your manager in a position where they have to unnecessarily patrol the vacation time in your group because everytime someone else wants a Friday off, they now have to check with you first?

        Reply
  12. Sarah Nicole

    Yikes! I don’t typically know what vacation days I need or want at the very start of the year, and it would be a bummer if something came up that I really wanted to do and someone else had taken those days back at the beginning of the year. But I suppose it would be fair if they had their vacation planned that far in advance. I’m particularly thinking of my wedding coming up this year. As of January, I hadn’t set the exact date yet! It would be such a bummer to have to work venue and family travels around a coworker just wanting to snag a day off early on in the year (not saying that’s always what would happen – I know someone may actually have planned that far in advance for a vacation).

    I think it’s always so tough at these small companies because the business obviously needs coverage, but only one person in a department being allowed time off at a time also seems sort of unrealistic. What if two people in the same department called in sick for a couple of days? I guess I would wonder if there is any flexibility where employees could cross-train a bit more, avoiding issues of sick day scheduling and also helping to ease situations where more than one employee in a department really needs the same days off for vacation time.

    Reply
    1. Jinx

      Yeah, I’d really rethink the advance notice required for this policy. My sister’s wedding is two months out and she’s had to shift the date a couple of times. I just got enough of a confirmation to put vacation requests in, and in January I would have had no idea.

      Reply
      1. Hlyssande

        Yeah, similar for my brother’s wedding. I just found out two weeks ago that it’s in October this year. In PA. I’m in MN.

        Reply
    2. LBK

      At the same time, though, I don’t think it’s fair to disadvantage the people who *do* know their plans far in advance. I’m planning a 2-week vacation for 4 months from now and I want to be able to lock that PTO down now before I spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets and hotels only to end up getting beaten to the punch by someone who just figures out their plans the day the scheduling window opens up. I do a ton of traveling and I’d be unbelievably nervous not being able to book stuff out months in advance.

      Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          Or all the holiday weekends.

          Like, if you know for sure that you need the days off around Thanksgiving, fine, but then you don’t also get all the days surrounding Christmas. Be a little considerate of others, kwim?

          Reply
        2. Koko

          Yes, this is one of those “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” situation.

          The issue isn’t the concept of booking a normal amount of vacation that doesn’t significantly affect anyone else. The issue, regardless of the timing involved, is thinking it’s at all reasonable to book all of the vacation time and leave none for others. The odds that nobody is going to want any holidays or summer Friday is wishful thinking. Of course someone is going to want those days. Be realistic about how much vacation it is fair for you to take and exercise some self-restraint, or be OK with a lot of bureaucracy to be set up to try to prevent someone finding creative ways to screw their coworkers.

          (Personally, over the course of my career I’ve become a fan of bureaucracy because I’ve encountered far too many people who are incapable of polite self-restraint.)

          Reply
      1. NK

        I think managers need to use some reasonable discretion; not everything can be solved with policies. You want to book a single vacation months in advance? Sure. But you’re not also getting first dibs on major holidays that year then. I think if vacation time required manager approval in the OP’s case, a reasonable manager would have told Jane that she needed to pick a couple times that were top priority to her and hold off on the rest.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          You want to book a single vacation months in advance? Sure. But you’re not also getting first dibs on major holidays that year then.

          Why not, though? The only reason this is a limitation is because they won’t let multiple people be out at once (which, FWIW, is a new rule). I’m taking weeks off plus plenty of time around holidays. So are a bunch of other people in my department. This is a weird standard to put around PTO, and it seems oddly counter to how people usually feel about it here, which is that you should be able to take it however the hell you want as long as the work’s getting done/covered.

          Reply
          1. NK

            That statement only applies if there is a limitation on the number of people who can be out at once. And it’s not that I wouldn’t let someone take the time in that case, but I would also give others the opportunity to get the “good times” before giving them all to one person. I’m all for taking vacation whenever you want if you have the time, but some businesses have legitimate coverage needs and I think it’s fair to try to coordinate vacation so that no one is getting everything they want at the expense of someone else getting nothing they really want.

            Reply
          2. Koko

            We’re discussing a context in which that is the rule. If they didn’t have that rule, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. She wouldn’t be blocking anyone else from taking PTO and everybody could work out PTO with their own manager. That’s not the scenario that’s being described here though.

            Reply
      2. Sarah Nicole

        Yes, I do think that is the really hard part of this. I certainly wouldn’t want someone who had booked travel plans far in advance to suffer. If it truly is necessary that the vacation time policy means that first planned is the only one that gets time off, I would never be upset that you got your time off since you had planned farther ahead. I just think it would be great for the company to be able to make slightly better accommodations for more than one person in the same department to be out at the same time. It seems like it would be smart for more than just this reason, such as the sick leave scenario I mentioned before.

        Reply
  13. LBK

    So…I kind of don’t think Jane did anything all that outrageous. If she’s been there long enough to accrue a ton of vacation time, I think it’s more or less her prerogative to use it how she sees fit. I take extra time off around many holidays throughout the year and I don’t consider that to be rude to my coworkers, but I think that’s mostly because it doesn’t affect their ability to also take time off.

    That brings me to what I think the real culprit is here, which is the policy that only allows one person to be out at a time. I understand that with thin staffing it’s tough to cover multiple absences, but it seems wildly unfair to me that whether it’s Jane or someone else, only one person gets to take time off around Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holidays where people typically like to buffer the time around the days the office is already closed. There needs to be a better backup system in place for mission-critical tasks (what happens if someone is out sick?) and I think the company probably has to be a little more flexible on letting things slide for a few days if it won’t majorly affect the business.

    If the company is absolutely insistent that they can’t function with more than one person out, I think there needs to be some kind of floating holiday system set up around these highly desirable vacation days where you’re only allowed to take one. I also think this is a good case for manager approval on vacation days, not in the sense that the manager should be able to approve whether you have a valid reason to take time off but to ensure that people are being given an opportunity to use their vacation time in a balanced manner throughout the team.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      I think this is an important point. Also, the workplace is in the construction industry, which is generally very seasonal with their slow times coinciding with the winter holidays.

      Reply
    2. JB (not in Houston)

      Sure, but for now that is the policy, and only one person can be out on those days, so unlike in your situation it does affect the ability of other to take time off. She didn’t violate the rules, but it’s awfully inconsiderate. It’s also very shortsighted. Her coworkers will remember this in the future when she needs a favor.

      Reply
    3. Adam V

      > it’s more or less her prerogative to use it how she sees fit

      It’s not, though. Just because Jane’s got 20 days to spend, and I’ve only got 10, doesn’t mean that I don’t have just as much of a right to spend some of those 10 around the holidays.

      I agree that the policy is crap. But that doesn’t mean Jane gets to throw her (20 days of vacation) weight around and brush everyone else aside – especially because vacation is parceled out by seniority, so Jane will always have more time to spend.

      Reply
  14. Paris

    I used to work in a newspaper office where one reporter had to be in on every holiday to cover any breaking news. They did this by posting a list of the holidays, and then everyone had to write their name next to which holiday they wanted to work. The first year I worked there, I got stuck with Christmas because no one told me about the list until all the other holidays had been claimed. The next year, I pounced on the immediately and took Labor Day, and the guy who ALWAYS took Labor Day was so mad at me. He’d been there a long time and I guess everyone else had just deferred to him taking Labor Day, but no one told me about that. I left that job over the summer, so I imagine someone got stuck covering two holidays that year.

    Reply
  15. MT

    This system is usually how it works in union shops, except that people with the highest seniority always gets to choose first. Even non-union shops that have a limited availability to have people out at one time, its usually first come, first serve.

    If this employee is required to use up all their vacation time in a given year, then they should be free to use it as they please, just like anyone else.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      I’d also point out that in many union shops, there is likely going to be holiday pay for working those coveted days so you also have folks who really want to work those days as well.

      Reply
      1. MT

        you are not going to get paid extra for working friday/monday before and after holidays. you will if you work the holidays.

        Reply
    2. Judy

      The places with union contracts for the manufacturing employees that I’ve worked at had deadlines for submitting vacation time and then they were approved by seniority and availability. It seemed like 2 deadlines a year in the employee newsletter. Aug 1 for Oct to March and Feb 1 for April to Sept IIRC. Each department had specific required staffing. Once the vacations were assigned for the period, any additional vacation time requests were approved by availability on first come, first served basis.

      Reply
    3. Rafe

      Well, this is different from a union shop: Only 1 percent is free to use their vacation as they please. Literally no one else can take 1 day either before or after any holiday.

      Reply
      1. MT

        this is very similar to a union shop. The shops only allowed a certain numbers of people to be off on the same day.

        Reply
  16. Brett

    If you intend to keep the blockout policy, another tweak can help significant. Only allow full week blockouts and have them selected in November or December before the year starts.
    Until everyone signs of that they have blocked out their full weeks, no individual days can be requested (and only requested, not automatic). Doing full weeks only takes a ton of pressure off the holiday weeks and school break weeks because people really prefer an extra day or two those weeks and generally only want full weeks when traveling out of town. Then you can deal with desirable individual days on a case by case basis instead of doing flat blockouts.

    If you have employees like Jane who have so many weeks saved off that they can take every desirable holiday week, then make the selections rotate. Everyone picks (or passes on picking) their first week, and then you go back up to the top. Or you can have people give a preference list and then assign those in order (most people will have a short list, since they aren’t going to wait more than 2-3 specific full weeks off anyway).

    Reply
  17. KR

    Alison – ads with sound again. URL is: ||c5x8i7c7.ssl.hwcdn.net/videos/encoded/bc4dbdbaf9b29895a4c9f219705af61945202bd7_201604210600/DOcJ-FxaFrRg4gtDEwOjFsaTowazu7fr_hb3.mp4
    This one is also making it through Ad-blocker for some reason (which is already blocking 50 other ads apparently). I’ve been getting Ads with sound for the past couple of articles you’ve posted. Thought you would like to know.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      They’ve changed that ad above the comments so that sound plays when your cursor is over it. I’ve asked them to develop a version that doesn’t do that, and it sounds like it will be changed very soon. (I removed it altogether last week when they first made this change to it, and site revenue plunged … so it’s back, but I’ve made it clear they need to fix this.)

      Reply
      1. KR

        Thanks Alison – I’m not terribly bothered by them, but I thought you’d want to know that there were ones that had sound on them. I’m sorry to hear about your site revenue last week. It must be hard to walk the line between user satisfaction with ad revenue.

        Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        Alison, can I just say that I really appreciate how transparent you’ve been about your ad choices and the issues you run into with your ad network? It’s something I’ve never thought much about before, but your discussion of the issues you’re balancing and the choices you’re making to try to keep the site both readable and money-making has really changed the way I think about ads on sites I enjoy. Thanks!

        Reply
        1. bkanon

          I agree. I usually view on mobile, so no ads, but I think I’m going to put an exception for AAM on my desktop, just because Alison is clear and responsive about them. The transparency and balance-working is worth it to support a caring site-runner.

          Reply
    2. HarryV

      Stop using ad-blockers and support the site!! Just simply mute the video when it comes on. It won’t make any more sound.

      Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        Please don’t shout at commenters. There’ve been some ongoing issues with an ad server, and Alison has been way more understanding than you’re currently being.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I didn’t think HarryV was shouting — but yes, if the ads are acting up for someone, I’m okay with them using an ad blocker. I want the revenue, but I want people to be able to have a non-frustrating reading experience more.

          Reply
          1. Laurel Gray

            I thought the ads here (except the video one at the top with celeb news – I am on a laptop at home and work. Mac at home, Windows at work) were based on recent browsing history? I actually click links here all day because it brings me to sites I also check out daily.

            Reply
              1. GH in SoCAl

                Today’s ads for me were for Phoenix U. Definitely not based on my browsing history. And a little troubling, given your advice regarding for-profit schools…

                Reply
        2. Annie

          One thing that has been difficult for me, reading the site recently, is that I really want Alison to be able to show ads and I am more than happy to see them, click them, do whatever I can to support the site. When the ad network acts up, though, it completely shuts my browser down and forces a restart. So when I post, I’m not trying to complain, but to make it so that the ads do what they are supposed to do – provide Alison with revenue.

          Reply
      2. KR

        I’m actually in agreement with you about supporting bloggers and allowing ads to run. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to put my work network at risk to turn off AdBlocker especially since I’d be the one that would have to fix it.

        Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        I’d like to but when the ads make the site jump around so much it gives me a headache, then I will use my blocker, thanks. And I fooking hate autoplay anything, even without sound. If it were just print ads that hung out at the side, I’d turn it off.

        Reply
  18. EvanMax

    We used systems like this when I was in retail. I hated them so much that I generally worked my way in to convincing my manager to let me take over the scheduling (even as a part time sales rep, which may have been part of what helped me get promoted up the ladder years later.)

    Reply
  19. A Teacher

    My sister is an ED charge nurse that works 7 p- 7 a. They are on a holiday pattern but are allowed to change things within the staff once their days to work are assigned. You are supposed to work either Thanksgiving or Black Friday; Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; and NYE or NYD. My sister really likes Thanksgiving and black Friday and will often change with someone to work both NYE and NYD or she will get Thanksgiving off and work Black Friday night. She’s also always willing to trade for Christmas Eve because a lot of staff with kids would rather have that off so they can do Christmas morning Santa stuff and not be tired-she doesn’t have kids so it doesn’t bother her what she works. The nice thing is, when she trades her coworkers they are flexible with her another time since she’s working when they don’t want to. Lots of the staff does that-they are very self-aware of how others feel and it makes things better as a department.

    Reply
    1. Theresa T

      Yeah, it’s all about common decency with people. My first job out of college, there were two of us in one position, and one of us always had to be there. I always gave jake first dibs on the week between Christmas and New Years because both his sister and family lived out of state, while all of mine live one or two towns over. I could have good holidays regardless of whether I worked that week, but if he had to work, he would’ve been missing one of those holidays with his family. In return, jake never once complained that he had a lot more work to do when I took my vacation (the nature of the work was that no matter when I took my vacation, it would always be busier than the Christmas week). Would I have liked that week off? Sure. But i didn’t desperately want that week off and he did… Consideration is key.

      Reply
  20. Nancy B

    Where I work, we have limits on the coveted days we can claim. For example, we can ask for the three days before OR the three days after either Thanksgiving OR Christmas, but we can’t ask for any more. So we can’t have both Christmas AND Thanksgiving (we’re closed those days, so it’s really just before or after). Also, there’s no guarantee that we’ll get what we ask for. My manager decides based on what we got last year and how many people request the days we want.

    Reply
  21. Nancypie

    Have you thought abut approaching Jane very nicely and asking her if she is planning to go away on all of those dates? Perhaps she’d be nice enough to take Memorial Day weekend but not Labor Day, if she’s not already booked with a trip, so that someone like you with less vacation days can capitalize on the break? I realize she was playing by the rules, but you may be able to sweetly shame her into giving up some of those dates if you point out to her that it’s effecting you.

    Reply
    1. Meg Murry

      Yes, while Jane swooping in and claiming all the holidays was a bit bonkers, I think it would make a HUGE difference in my opinion if Lucinda had gone and talked to Jane about the situation instead of just fuming. If Jane said “ok, no problem, you can take the days around the 4ht of July, I’ll pick a different day” that would be a totally different situation than if Jane said “nope, I already claimed all those days, too bad so sad.” The fact that Lucinda didn’t talk to her manager about it makes me think she probably didn’t talk to Jane either.

      I could also see Jane being peeved if prior to this “one person per department” rule she had almost always taken those same days. As others have mentioned, she did wait a week first, so it’s not like she was totally grabby about it. I think the more polite thing would have been for her to first pick the days around holidays she cared most about, and then come back later to see if others had picked the other days around holidays.

      Also, it sounds to me like the top management put up the calendar, but I don’t see why the individual managers couldn’t have tried to handle the situation for their own departments in a way other than “first come first served”. One way that I thought was fair-ish was that there were “rounds” of picking vactaion – so people with the most seniority could pick up to 1/3 of their days, then it trickled down through the ranks (and the people with lesser amounts were always allowed to pick at least a week on the first round) – and even then it was ok to leave a couple of your days unspoken for or to only pick days as “tentative”. It was reasonable, and worked well enough.

      I also have to chime in with everyone else to say that the “only one person out at a time” seems a bit baloney to me unless your departments are only 2-3 people. I could see not allowing multiple people to take week long vacations, but 2 people out the day before a holiday doesn’t seem like an undue burden.

      Reply
      1. Rafe

        I just disagree — she was being grabby. It’s not just that she’s taking the Friday before each holiday. She’s taking the Monday after each holiday too, making it literally impossible for even 1 other person to take any time around the holidays. Even just freeing up only the Mondays she’s taking or the Fridays she’s taking opens up X number of people (8? 10?) that can also take a long holiday weekend while she’s still getting 100 percent long holiday weekends. It’s stunning really. I can’t get over it.

        Reply
        1. mander

          Exactly. To me the problem isn’t that Jane made all her plans in advance, it’s that she made her plans to take off every single possible long weekend in the full knowledge that nobody else would then get a longer break. It’s like taking all of the chocolate bars out of the Halloween candy and only leaving the Bit-o-honey and the Dum Dums. You might give up the chocolate if someone asks nicely, and the other stuff is still candy, but it’s inherently greedy to grab all of the best stuff for yourself straight away.

          Reply
  22. Former Retail Manager

    Oh OP…I sooooo feel for you. I have worked in an environment like this and was repeatedly screwed. As Alison mentions, your company needs to revise it’s policy or I believe that people will eventually get sick of it and leave. And for the people who are saying that Jane wasn’t in the wrong….WHAT?!? Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. It’s called common courtesy and respect for your co-workers who also have families, friends, and loved ones they want to spend time with around the holidays. And as others have mentioned, most people aren’t planning for the upcoming Christmas on January 1st. Every “Jane” that I ever worked with eventually got their due…..karma is a b***h.

    Reply
  23. OP

    The one-person-at-a-time policy was designed to keep us from falling too deep into a hole. We would probably be able to manage for a day if both Jane and Lucinda were on vacation at the same time, but what if Fergus called in sick and Rupert’s wife went into labor on that same day? If these four were all in the teapot machinist group, and we have a total of six teapot machinists, the two remaining would be in a mell of a hess.

    Reply
    1. IT Kat

      I don’t think it’s the one-person-at-a-time policy people are arguing against (at least according to the comments I’ve read) but the first-come-first-served. There’s lots of good suggestions and examples of other ways to do a one person at a time policy that isn’t first come first served.

      Reply
    2. Kate M

      So the whole idea behind this isn’t a real need for all the people there, but a hypothetical need that might arise if all the stars align to personally ruin your department for the day? Yes, terrible, terrible, terrible policy.

      That’s like saying nobody can take off any days because what if everyone got in a car accident at the same time? If people carpool to work together, that could be possible.

      Sure, that day you might be swamped and unable to do everything. But that might just happen. How many do you actually have to have in a department for it to run? Three? Four? If so then allow everyone else to take those days off. And vary it by the time of the year – if you’re really not expecting much work to come in the day after Christmas, maybe only have one person in.

      Life happens sometimes. If by some rare confluence of accidents you’re only left with two machinists, it wouldn’t be great, but would the company collapse? What would be the worst case scenario? Could you cross train people in other departments to help? Call in temps if necessary? The on-person-at-a-time policy definitely doesn’t make sense for what you describe here.

      Reply
      1. Laurel Gray

        This! So much this.

        OP, cross train on basic/necessary daily tasks. That usually helps for when a vacation and catastrophic event happen on the same day. Also, get in the mind set that certain issues or tasks will just have to wait a day. I can take a week of vacation off and 90% of my tasks will not be done when I get back. I’ll come back and take 2-3 days to play catch up. The 10% are things that when people see my out of office they will follow up with the other person anyway so the issue or task will be resolved.

        Reply
      2. LiveAndLetDie

        So the whole idea behind this isn’t a real need for all the people there, but a hypothetical need that might arise if all the stars align to personally ruin your department for the day? Yes, terrible, terrible, terrible policy.

        I think this could be easily adjusted, too — just by saying “two people from the *same department* cannot take the same day off.” Blocking the entire rest of the company’s staff off a date because Joan from Accounting has taken the day off already is pretty stupid.

        Reply
        1. Kate M

          But that is the policy – OP said that no more than one person from each group (sales, tech, etc) can take a certain day off. That’s still a bad policy for all the reasons outlined above. If you don’t actually need more than 3 people in a department of 6 to stay afloat for a day, then don’t say that only one person from that department can take that day off in case of possible emergencies that might or might not happen.

          Reply
          1. LiveAndLetDie

            Ah, I misread it then. Thanks.

            I honestly wonder how many companies truly have departments (even small departments) that can’t handle one or two days a year where less than a regular amount of work gets done. My company is frequently VERY busy, but if someone’s booked a day off and then another person happens to call out with car trouble, business doesn’t go up in flames. The policy just seems needlessly restrictive to say “only one at a time from a department EVER AT ALL TIMES OF THE YEAR.” By all means block out your busy seasons, but if it’s that dire every single day of the year, maybe you’re understaffed.

            Reply
      3. KellyK

        I think one person worth of slack should be enough to cover sick days or emergencies. That is, if your minimum is three people, and you have six, let two people take the day off. “What if someone is sick that day?” is reasonable planning, but “What if an incredibly unlikely series of events happens on the day two people have vacation scheduled?” is a bit much.

        Reply
    3. Jeanne

      It still is terrible because everyone knows that you would probably be finr with two people out and it’s unlikely that the other emergencies would happen. And let’s say the worst happens and one day ends up with only one employee and it’s a cluster. Will the business close forever? Or will you move on and get over it? You will work together after the bad day and get over it.

      Reply
    4. Meg Murry

      I mentioned this upthread, but I also think there is a huge difference between “Jane and Lucinda are both off on the Friday before Labor Day” and “Jane and Lucinda are both off for an entire week”. One bad day for those remaining 2 would stink, but it’s not the end of the world. And for situations like you mention, ok, maybe the boss says “we know Rupert’s wife is due in early July, so I’m only allowing one person to be on vacation at a time those days”. And if Fergus knows Jane and Lucinda are both off, I suspect his bar for calling in sick might be higher than a day when everyone else is scheduled to be there – and if not, his coworkers will let him know when he gets back what kind of situation that puts him in.

      I think “one person at a time, the second person requires manager approval” might be a more reasonable policy than “only one person period”.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Yes, totally agreed. I think it’s overly cautious to be so prescriptive about the rule and that it’s better to go with a general approach of approving everything you possibly can and sucking it up if you accidentally screw yourself for a day. People get over having to run the department while short-staffed much more easily if they know the favor will be returned by them being able to take vacation more or less whenever they want; even with your “only one person out” rule in place, the stars could align so half of the department ends up being gone at once, and that’s going to sting a lot more to the people who have to pick up the slack knowing they don’t even get the time they want off in exchange.

        Reply
  24. gmg

    This puts me in mind of a telling contrast in my own professional past. I worked a number of years on newspaper copy desks, and working some holidays was part of the deal. At the last job I had in that field, my (great) boss had a system in place that was time-intensive for her, but definitely worth the morale benefits it paid. Every September she circulated an email with very specific instructions: Rank your holidays in order of preference to have off (Thanksgiving, day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day), put your top two choices in bold and she’d do whatever she could to at least give you those, in order of seniority. It was a clear, fair and transparent system, and everybody was happy. Vaca for the rest of the year was first come first served as of Jan. 1, but she would alert the staff as soon as a given week had filled up to, say, 70-80 percent so people could hurry up and make their plans, and she’d always do her best to help you out. If worst came to worst, there were always agreeable colleagues to swap a day or two with.

    At the job I had before that, there was no apparent recognition that if you have to work holidays, it’s nice if your boss at least attempts to acknowledge that that fact is not the optimal bit of your job. The system there was: At the end of April, the boss would announce that summer vaca skeds were open, precipitating a knock-down drag-out as everyone clawed to get the time they wanted. (Actual convo from this time one year: Senior Colleague: “This system is so unreasonable; how can I know in MAY what I’m doing for vacation in JUNE?” Me: “Well, it’s nice to have time to plan. What did you do when you were more junior here?” Senior Colleague: “Um, not go on vacation?”) The skeds would come back, with sadistic little details like “Boss actually gives you the week you asked for off, except for the Wednesday right in the middle of it,” at which point you’d have to try to persuade colleagues like the one quoted above to swap with you. Good luck. End-of-year holidays? Not even in question. Senior staff took them all, every year, and you were likely to spend at least 10 years in the job before even being able to get one holiday off. Even the seemingly most low-demand days were a minefield: I once asked with significant advance notice to get a Saturday off, in March, TO ATTEND MY COLLEGE NEWSPAPER’S 100TH ANNIVERSARY DINNER. Hah. The boss scoffs at your event of both personal and professional importance, minion! Predictably, no one really liked working at this place, and the vacation system was a not-insignificant part of the reason why. The silver lining was that when I left, I got a check for unused vacation time. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS of unused vacation time. That’s no way to run a lemonade stand, folks.

    Reply
  25. LV Ladybug

    We have something similar. We have a year-long calendar up where employees can put their names down. However, it does not guarantee anything. It’s meant to more alert the other employees that that is the time they are planning to take off. It really helps others when they want to use their time, they can look at the calendar and see what is available. We are required to work holidays, etc. so having those days off wont happen. It has helped two people both putting in requests for the same days off. Also they talk to each other more about their time off then before.

    Reply
  26. LCL

    We are a small group that restricts vacations, within a much larger company that does not. The way we handle this is,
    at the first of the year, everyone gets 2 vacation requests. Requests are decided by seniority. Then, whatever is left is first come first served. This system was chosen by the employees, and we are a union shop.
    If you go to this system, you do have to make it clear to the con artists that 2 choices means 2 separate blocks of time, not one piece of paper with 6 separate requests. I hate people that think like this, or rather I hate this aspect of their personality.

    Reply
  27. Rachel

    One of my exes worked at a restaurant with an even worse vacation policy. Theirs was based on seniority – and ONLY seniority, no matter how far in advance the time off was requested or who else requested the time off. In practice, this meant that even if your vacation days were approved, the approval would be rescinded at any time if a more senior employee decided to request one of those days too. So if Fergus requested July 10, 11, and 12 off back in January, but Wakeen (who’d been there 6 months longer than Fergus) decided on July 9 that he’d like to have July 10, 11, and 12 off, well, tough luck Fergus – Wakeen has seniority, therefore he gets those days and Fergus no longer does. (Nonrefundable vacation plans? Too bad for you!) How awful would that be – unless you’re the most senior employee in the whole place, your vacation days are subject to cancellation at any time up to the day before!

    Reply
    1. Kelly L.

      Ugh! :(

      I worked one place where you asked off by writing it on a slip of paper and tacking it to the manager’s corkboard. There was kind of a sweet spot for when to ask. Ask too late and you couldn’t get off because everybody else had already asked off; ask too early and the manager would have forgotten and/or purged the whole board of slips without reading them in the meantime because he’d assume they were all old requests. 2-3 weeks usually got it done.

      Reply
      1. boop

        Ha! Yes to the forgetful manager. Ours loses the slips constantly, so I know that I’m going to have to write a new one every week to stay on top of it.

        Reply
    2. LCL

      I have been told that back in the bad old days, that is how my unit used to do it. And management could also tell you your vac days were cancelled because you had to cover for someone. That practice was stopped by a new supervisor, who was a big jerk, but thought the practice was unfair.

      Reply
  28. Jeanne

    My boss did this. There was a race for the calendar. Then he let the calendar be passed around by seniority. I benefitted from that but I hated having to decide on Jan 5 if I needed the day before Thanksgiving off. And our workload was quite variable. He said only one of us could be off but on that day the others might be sitting around with nothing to do. Even knowing the workload he wouldn’t approve more people off closer to the date. Of course as the manager the rules didn’t apply to him and he could be off no matter if any one else was away.

    I think all vacation requests should be sent by email to the boss who should then make approvals using as much fairness as she can. Hard and fast rules like “never” and “always” don’t benefit anyone when it comes to time off. Be a manager. Don’t turn vacation into Survivor.

    Reply
  29. BettyD

    Our staffing situation is similar, in that we can only allow a limited number of people off at a time and still adequately cover our (library) building. We have the same bones of a holiday system, but we have rules in place to prevent Jane-like actions. Everyone gets to submit their vacation requests when the new calendar goes up (usually early December) and the scheduling manager prioritizes them in the order they are submitted as far as is possible. However, the same person cannot take off on both sides of a major holiday, nor can they take the same major holiday(s) that they took off the year before, unless a case is made for a special exception and everyone is generally amenable. After the initial rush, you can submit requests for whatever days you like, provided they haven’t already been claimed by the max number of people, though we still encourage folks to be thoughtful about not monopolizing the major holidays. As someone said above, it’s a repeated game and the colleagues you say “boom, took Thanksgiving AND Christmas” to today may be the ones you need to switch shifts with to attend a surprise wedding or family reunion later on.

    Reply
  30. Grey

    My company has a policy that says you don’t get holiday pay unless you work the day before and the day after. A policy like that might help here.

    Reply
    1. ZSD

      Wow. I think that would make people miserable.
      I’ve worked at a place where you didn’t get holiday pay if you were *on unpaid leave* either before or after the holiday, but as long as you were on pay status, such as by using your vacation time, you were fine.

      Reply
      1. Grey

        I understand the company’s logic: You weren’t otherwise planning to be here on the holiday, so why should we pay you for it? Holiday pay is for the workers who would’ve been able to work that day.

        It’s kind of like sick leave. You can’t plan a M-F vacation, then take sick leave for Wednesday if you’re not feeling well.

        Reply
        1. MM

          Actually, in many places you can. My current employer (in the US) allows us to change vacation time to sick leave if we become sick while on vacation leave. I had several employers in Europe do the same when I lived there. The idea is that you need the downtime that comes with vacation and you aren’t getting it if you are sick.

          Reply
      2. Joseph

        “No holiday pay if you’re on unpaid leave” (key word – unpaid) is actually fairly common among professional companies I’ve been with. Typically, when a company provides PTO, people prefer to use their PTO (obviously!) than take an unpaid day. So if someone is on unpaid leave, it’s a last resort and usually due to something like Long Term Disability or FMLA where you’re technically classified as “unpaid leave” (even though the company/insurance is giving you money) because you’re not getting paid your regular salary for your regular work.

        Not giving holiday pay for people on PTO though, that’s way out of the norm.

        Reply
      3. Jack K

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable as a policy. Where I live, it’s actually the law that you’re not entitled to holiday pay if you took a planned vacation day immediately before or after the holiday.

        Reply
  31. Biff

    Hmm, so this might be out of left field, but the last time I dealt with a place that had a lot of dog-eat-dog issues like this one, the underlying problem wasn’t the policies or seniority, it was a lack of overall compensation and poverty. People scrambled to get whatever they could out of the job because there wasn’t enough to go around and so you had to take everything you could get.

    Reply
  32. Noah

    It’s been awhile since I did shift work and had a schedule where it really mattered. Now if I’m gone my employees pick up some slack and I just have a pile of work to return to.

    When I did work somewhere that was shift work, in my mind I separated vacation from a request off day. We always used a big annual calendar for vacation, just so everyone knows that Jane is going to be gone that week and to try and plan vacation time. Single days off were taken care of when the monthly schedule was made. Holidays were not “first come, first served” because we wanted to split them up. For the big Nov/Dec holiday season, we asked people to rank shifts from the ones they wanted off the most to what they didn’t care about, then we processed that bid sheet in seniority order. Some people really wanted off Christmas Eve for a family event, but didn’t mind working Christmas Day.

    Reply
  33. Muriel Heslop

    In our school district, we cannot request off the Friday before or Monday after any holiday. I find it easier just to not take a vacation at all. The amount of work preparing for a sub isn’t worth it (assuming one shows up.)

    Reply
  34. Aunt Vixen

    How about this: seed employees by seniority. Most senior employee is allowed to claim one or two days on the calendar and then pass it to the next most senior employee. Etc. Junior employee gets the calendar last and picks twice. In the second round, the second-most senior employee picks first and on down the line but when the most senior is last s/he only picks once. Repeat with as many rounds as necessary.

    It’s no more ridiculous than a lot of other policies.

    Reply
    1. Miss Betty

      That’s basically what we do and it works very well. (Of course it helps that the office manager and the employees are all generally reasonable and flexible.)

      Reply
  35. theblackdog

    I’m really surprised the calendar is up for the entire year at once. We do have a similar calendar we use for guidance but we only put it up every quarter because we know that not everyone is going to know their vacation plans in advance. Since ours is for guidance, it still has to be submitted and approved from our bosses anyways and they will make sure there is adequate coverage and that no one is taking up all of the vacation days that others want.

    OP’s system seems rather broken and I hope they fix it soon.

    Reply
  36. LiveAndLetDie

    This is a ridiculous and unfair policy, and Jane was also ridiculous and unfair in booking everything the way she did.

    First, the policy: there should be some kind of an approval system. Putting up a calendar and telling everyone “first come, first served, tough noogies if you don’t get there fast enough” for a whole calendar year is really, really appalling. People aren’t always going to know about things a year in advance, especially for things you can’t always predict, like funerals and weddings. You can implement an “only one person can be out excepting emergencies” policy and have it be fair, but it has to be a) not first-come, first-served and b) limited. Let people book 2-3 months in advance once a quarter or something, tell people you can’t have first preference for every single holiday regardless of seniority, SOMETHING, but there should be a supervisor or a manager making the final decision on things like that.

    As for Jane… she may have been well within her rights with regard to the current policy, but what she did was a jerk move, and any mature adult who has to deal with other people in their day-to-day is going to know that hogging up all of the best vacation dates is excessively rude. It’s also short-sighted; now all her coworkers are resentful, as she’s hoarded all of the holidays to herself. She may have been within her rights to do it, but she’s a jerk nonetheless for doing it. And I have a hard time believing someone who would squat on all the holidays in a calendar year doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing.

    Reply
  37. BadPlanning

    The devious part of my brain wonders if Jane thinks the system is stupid and this was her passive aggressive way to “break” the system by forcing a rule change from disgruntled coworkers.

    Reply
    1. AF

      That’s interesting. I was thinking that one time, many years ago, someone took a vacation day that she really wanted, and this is her revenge.

      Reply
    2. Adam V

      In that case, you warn everybody else first so they don’t get pissed at you for it, and instead you get someone to work with you by going to the boss and saying “this system won’t work because every valuable day has already been taken” and the two of you can sit down with the boss to work out a better system.

      Reply
    3. Chickaletta

      Yeah, there’s better ways to deal with it than to ruin all your coworker’s vacation for the year. She’s punishing the wrong people.

      Reply
  38. TootsNYC

    I faced this, even without quite the same structure. I was reluctant to let two people be out at the same time, but one person gets her requests in earlier. Not quite as early and all-encompassing as this, but…

    I ended up finding money in the budget to cover so 2 could be out at once.
    and I also started taking the big holidays and negotiating them out.

    The biggest thing for me was that one person was feeling unfairly shutout. So I only really had to deal with his frustration, which was relatively easy to do.

    But it’s pretty awkward.

    One other way I’ve seen people handle it is to say, “we’ll go in rotation. The person with the most vacation gets their first pick, then the next seniormost, etc.; and we ratchet through until everyone’s had a shot. Then we start over.”

    I’ll say, I actually hate the idea that people are required to know what they want in January. I get that big holidays are very wanted, but sometimes people don’t know how badly they want one, since family plans may not be known.

    I’ve heard of places where you have to ask in January or you don’t get it,a nd that seems really unfair.

    I think if I were the OP, I’d be trying to figure some ways that I could create some fill-in staffers that I could tap for some vacation coverage now and then.

    Reply
  39. Nethwen

    Not much useful to add, but vacation policies seem to be something companies struggle with applying fairly.

    My husband will request time off months in advance and the response is usually, “We don’t know if we can give these to you because someone else might want it off.” He works plenty of holidays and almost every weekend, so he’s not snatching all the good days. When he asks if his understanding of the policy that the requests are granted first-come, first-served is correct, he isn’t told yes or no, but is told that they can’t guarantee his days off until a few weeks in advance because others might request those days. If he waits until closer to the dates to ask for the time off, he’s told, “Sorry, someone else asked first, so they get the day. You should have asked sooner.”

    Reply
    1. Cas

      I’m actually finding this conversation very interesting and a little nerve-racking.
      I take all the Jewish Yom Tov days off (that is, days when Jewish law says not to work). I know when these are going to be so I put it in the calendar way in advance and it’s fine- I can be flexible around non-Jewish holidays so more people can take leave then, although there is sometimes overlap (eg- this year, Pesach overlapped with ANZAC day). This can be over 10 days a year (4 for Passover, 2 for Shavuot, 2 for Rosh Hashana, 1 for Yom Kippur and 4 for Sukkot, but some will fall on weekends). Sometimes these have been days without pay if I have no paid leave available.

      But if I lived in America, it just seems like this would preclude me from working at like 90% of companies!! It makes me wonder how people with a large amount of religious holidays manage in America because they either have to find what appears to be the rare company with a leave policy that will support this or stay working within their own community, which would be a bit isolating.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Federal law here requires that companies make religious accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs, as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship. In the vast majority of jobs, if not all, you’d be allowed to take the days you needed for religious observance, even if it was outside of the regular PTO policy.

        Reply
  40. De Minimis

    I used to work at a place where that would happen, but it was because times were chosen on a seniority basis, so if you’d only been there a few years you had the last pick. You could forget about popular times like between Christmas/New Year’s, or other major holidays. But it wasn’t limited to one person allowed off per week so generally you were able to at least get some of your preferred weeks.

    Also, you picked weeks, not days…and the weeks you picked were the only times you were guaranteed to be allowed the time off. And , yes, you had to have your vacation plans for the entire year decided in the month of January.

    All of this combined was part of why so many people abused sick leave there….

    Reply
  41. Juli G.

    We did vacation like this at one job with a big exception.

    If you took time around a holiday this year, you were banned from taking that same time the next year. So if you want a long weekend every holiday in 2016, go for it. But you aren’t getting any in 2017. We also were slotted to work 2 of 6 “corporate” holidays.

    When I worked there, 75% of the staff had been there 10+ years so it was pretty fair and it supported a culture where people would civilly make trades. It wouldn’t work everywhere.

    Reply
  42. Nutabella

    I can see why people are arguing to what degree Jane was at fault, but I’m surprised to see so many people trying to say she wasn’t at all at fault. She didn’t break a rule, yes, but she violated a social/work faux pas that, if nothing else, she should care about because she’s going to continue working there for at least a year. Doesn’t sound like she’s retiring or quitting any time soon. If she’s going to be selfish, she should at least look at the situation selfishly this way: “people are going to be really cheesed off at me.”

    If you just don’t want to assume she’s a jerk, which is fair given that we don’t get a complete picture, maybe she just doesn’t comprehend some social cues? I knew someone like that in high school.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I’m honestly surprised that so many people think that what she did was normal and fine. It’s so mean and antisocial.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Or the people saying the fact that she waited a week makes it OK. If you’ll pardon a colorful analogy, that’s a bit like saying you let the person you hooked up with stay in your bed for half an hour before you kicked them out of your apartment. It’s not a generous amount of time.

        Reply
  43. art_ticulate

    OP, is there no way you can go to skeleton crew on at least the Fridays before holidays? I had a job where we did this and it worked beautifully. We asked for volunteers with the understanding that they’d get to take extra days somewhere else, and we also made sure that we rotated each year. So if I worked black Friday and/or Christmas Eve one year, I wouldn’t be expected to do it again (although I often did, because it was while I lived in the same city as my family and I didn’t mind if it allowed other coworkers to travel). We were able to open up and operate with just two people in the building, and business was dead slow around holidays, so it never affected any of our ongoing projects. Is that something you could look into doing from now on?

    Reply
  44. Bumblebee

    A while ago we had a colleague that was feeling spiteful and announced that she would go in the calendar and take leave around every long weekend. Not only did it not get approved, but it counted against her with the whole team. Co-workers no longer trusted her and management no longer thought she could be a ‘team player’.

    Reply
  45. BWL

    Someone said this above and it really boggles my mind:

    If Jane just wanted a four-day long weekend, why can’t she take Thursday-Friday? Or Monday-Tuesday?? That way at least the other end of the weekend can be open for someone else. And Jane still gets the same number of days off!

    But no, she has to take Friday and Monday. At this point I can’t help but think she’s TRYING to keep other people from ever being able to have a long weekend or full week off.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Actually, I can totally see a manager saying: “no one may have both Friday and Tuesday around a three-day weekend.” That would be totally fair.
      With the caveat of, “if we get to within 2 weeks of that weekend, and no one has spoke for the other day, you can have it then; sorry it’s short notice.” And allowing people to say, “Oh, sure, she can have it, since it’s about visiting her dying grandmother, I’ll take some other time.”

      Reply
  46. Rachael

    I worked at a place that had a “only one person out at a time, too. We had some one go and put every Friday from July and August off. Which meant that nobody could take off a full week for any vacation. I complained and she had to let some go, but COME ON, she full well knew what she was doing.

    Reply
  47. OP

    Wow…you have given me so much to think about! I truly appreciate the input.

    I think this issue is just a symptom of growing pains. This has been a tiny company for a very long time and is starting to grow much more rapidly in the last few years, so processes that worked fine when there were only 10 people just don’t work so well anymore, and adjustments have been by trial and error.

    Part of my goal is to help navigate us over these bumps in the road, and you, Gentle Commenters, along with AAM herself, are my roadmap. Thank you!

    Reply
  48. Anonymous tx

    In my line of work (hospitality) we have a lot of staff and business varies a lot. We might need everyone to be here on new years eve or we might have no work for all of christmas week depending on business.

    What we do is we have a small date book that lives in the manager’s desk. You can write in days you need to request off as far ahead of time as you need but you have to at least get your name on the days you want off before the schedule is put out for the next week. Just having your name in the book doesn’t mean you get that day off but it gives you priority if you’re at the top of the list for that day. It’s also a pretty small book (3inches by 4 inches dimensions) so I guess it’s pretty obvious when you camp out in the office writing your name on every major holiday and the days before/after. Since we do schedules a week ahead of time, we can kind of catch things like Linda is asking for her 4th friday in a row and Brian hasn’t asked for any days all year – well, Brian might get Friday off over her.

    We also have vacation time forms for when you’re planning a vacation and want to get approval from the manager before you lay down cash. Obviously they’ll get priority over other people in the book because they did it further ahead of time.

    Of course, the hospitality industry is kind of a wonky place for scheduling. You might use the date book to ask for wednesday off for an appointment but you might still be working 6 days that week…you just needed to let management know that you had the appointment. Or, we might not have any business that week and everyone has the whole week off and filling out your name for that wednesday was moot.

    We actually have a different problem – people not asking for days off far enough ahead! If the schedule for the next week is done on Tuesday, people will still try to ask for days off even after it’s posted.

    Reply
  49. MsChanandlerBong

    My mother works for a company with 8,000 employees, and they do something similar, except you can’t sign up for time off any more than 60 days in advance. So instead of rushing the calendar on January 1, they’re rushing it on the first of every month to schedule days off for the next two months. They also work in shifts, so the person who works 6:30 to 3:00 always gets her preference over the 7:30 to 4:00 and 8:30 to 5:00 people.

    Reply
  50. Mustache Cat

    Jane’s actions here really cheese me off!

    I see people above me addressing how broken this policy is, and I completely agree. But Jane was so incredibly inconsiderate, especially since she has more vacation time than others.

    Consider: if she has 20 vacation days, and takes the day before and after a three day weekend, she now has a five day vacation for the price of one tenth of her vacation. So she can repeat this for all ten federal holidays. But her coworker with only 10 vacation days, in order to take the same total amount of vacation time, would have to find some normal weekend and take a full 30% of her vacation time. At the end of the year, Jane would have taken 50 days of vacation (and yes, I am assuming that she is actually using that time as vacation and not for normal weekend activities) and her coworker would have had sixteen.

    I admit my analysis is faulty, but still…I’m not arguing that Jane didn’t have a right to do what she did, but it was a real douche maneuver.

    Reply
    1. Joseph

      Related, if someone wants to take a full week off for a long vacation (with the weekend bookends), Jane has taken 20 of the 52 weeks completely off the calendar.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      I actually don’t think that Jane had a right to do what she did. It’s so jerky. She exploited a system that honestly works well in most places.

      I work at a large law firm, and our secretarial teams are organized by floor to back each other up. They have a calendar on our Intranet site and only 2 people are allowed off at a time, unless there is a special reason (which they get permission for, and reach out to another floor for coverage).

      Reply
    3. Roscoe

      That logic doesn’t really work. She didn’t get 50 days of vacation, she got 20. She wouldn’t have been working those weekends anyway.

      Reply
    4. Chickaletta

      I get what you’re saying. The whole issues isn’t how many days of PTO each person gets, but how many CONSECUTIVE days they get without having to show up to work. The more consecutive days someone gets off, the more opportunities they have to take a true vacation (ie travel over some distance). Most people don’t want to spend a day on a plane, one day on vacation, and the third day traveling back; but five days off makes it reasonable to actually hop on a plane and go somewhere. What Jane has done is taken away those opportunities for her coworkers to do that, and they are now forced to use more PTO time to take the same amount of consecutive days off that she gets. And she’s done that for the entire year (it’s one thing to claim one holiday, but all of them???). I’d be pissed too.

      Reply
      1. Izzy

        Five consecutive days PTO = nine days off because of the two weekends, assuming normal M-F work weeks.

        Reply
        1. Desdemona

          I can’t tell if you’re agreeing or disagreeing. If you take PTO on a holiday week (say Thanksgiving), then three consecutive PTO days = nine days off because of the two weekends. Jane has bogeyed all of those weeks, meaning any time her coworkers want nine consecutive days off, they have to use full five PTO days, and they have only 32 weeks of the year to choose from to make that happen, thanks to Jane taking up the Monday or Friday of 20 other weeks.

          Reply
  51. Oviraptor

    I am a bit conflicted about this situation. I see many valid sides to this. Earlier in the comments, someone made a comment similar to what I have been mulling over.

    From what I am understanding
    (1) This is a new procedure started sometime last year, but it is the first year the calendar method has actually been used (the letter doesn’t mention using this calendar for the part of the year after the new procedure).
    (2) It is (obviously) not working. A good portion of the comments point this out.
    (3) It seems this procedure was implemented to make it less work for the managers and pass more of the negotiation of trading vacation days, holidays and so on to the employees. This was also mentioned in some comments.

    To explain what I have been pondering I am going to approach this by giving Jane the benefit of the doubt. So, please bear with me a moment.

    Why would I do this?
    (1) Jane has worked there the longest of all the employees (not sure if that is the entire company or in her work area).
    (2) She has probably had many different ways of requesting time off/vacation/holidays over the years. (I have worked at the same company 20+ years and I have had numerous methods of requesting time off over that time span).
    (3) I am thinking she had come to the same conclusion about how awful this system is. The commenters don’t even work there and realize it.
    (4) Jane actually has the unique opportunity to change this procedure of time off and pushing the scheduling of time off back to the managers/supervisors, where it belongs.
    (5) Someone brought up that Jane should have told her co-workers her plan. The thing with that is, the more people who know the reason she did this, the more likely management will find out. Then possibly nothing will change because management will feel there really isn’t an issue. This was only Jane’s problem with scheduling and that is why she took all the good days to try to prove a point. As opposed to everyone having an issue with it and voicing their concerns.

    I am thinking back to some of my bosses and I am imagining how they would handle having an entire department (except Jane) quite angry or only having Jane angry because she can’t have all the good days. What my managers would have done is what possibly got them in this mess to start with. They took the path of least resistance. How? First, the scheduling of time off was in some way inconvenient to management. Our solution? We will just hang up a calendar and whoever chooses the day first gets it. Great! Now we don’t have to deal with telling people no. The person who has their name on that day just did it for us! The ever slippery slope of scheduling holidays off? Not a problem any longer! Just see whose name is on the schedule! And management is saying to each other ‘Scheduling is easy peasy now! This is brilliant! Why didn’t we do this sooner?! We deserve bonuses and extra time off for reducing the time spent on scheduling!’
    And now that this whole scheduling thing has backfired, what is the path of least resistance? Only having 1 angry employee rather than the entire department (except Jane) angry.

    I am also going to assume the company can be reasonable as the previous time off procedure must have worked (better). There was nothing in the letter to suggest it sucked, but this new way sucks so much more there are gale force winds permanently outside the building.

    Thank you for reading my comment as to why I think Jane deserves the benefit of the doubt and sometimes in getting a policy/procedure changed you have to be the ‘bad guy’ and hopefully in the end others will see your true intentions.

    I apologize in advance for the length of my first post and I hope what I have typed makes as much sense as it does in my head.

    One last thing. I do know I could be completely wrong and Jane is inconsiderate, management is awful for coming up with this and the extended forecast is windy.

    Reply
  52. Zach

    What an instructive comment thread. Find yourself sympathizing with Jane or cooking up weird fantasies to explain away her behavior? Then I’d strongly recommend bookmarking this page and rereading it as frequently as you can; there is much for you to learn about “human beings”!

    At best, Jane’s behavior is freakishly antisocial. If you are unable to internalize any other information in this thread, maybe at least you can understand that people like Jane are loathed and shunned by the rest of us. Don’t want to be despised? Don’t be like Jane.

    (This is not to say OP’s co stumbled on the greatest PTO system the world has yet seen, but in the absence of sociopathic employees it probably works adequately.)

    Reply
    1. mistersquawk

      Yeah, I kinda wonder if Jane just put down any and every day she thought she might possibly want off, maybe with the plan to drop some later.

      Reply
  53. jefe

    I would love a policy where single days off (or less-than-two-days off) are only approved 1-2 weeks before the scheduled event. In this calendar example Jane might be formally pencilled-in then “converted to ink” the Friday before.

    If one is serious about taking a day off, they should book at least 2-3 days to get it, way in advance.

    Source: I worked in a field where we had to work weekends per the official job description/ schedule, but one jerk took 16 Saturdays off. For anyone else to take a full vacation in one of those 16 weeks would have meant paying overtime for two fill-ins.

    Reply

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