granting and denying vacation requests

A reader writes:

I’m a new supervisor of a small software team. I’m responsible for granting and denying vacation time.

I often find myself in a situation where an employee would like to take a random day off… say Friday. They will often bring this to my attention the day before.

Our workplace has generally been very flexible. One particular employee is a long-time friend of mine, and he feels as if he should be allowed to take a day off here and there if there’s nothing going on. I feel as if it puts me in a difficult situation where if I have employees that can take days off with an informal request the day before, that it sets a precedent that is difficult to deal with. What’s the norm in terms of advanced notice for time off? What should I expect?

Well, why would setting that precedent be difficult to deal with?

It seems to me that the way to decide whether or not to grant a vacation request — whether it’s last minute or not — is by looking at what impact it will have on the work that needs to get done. That’s the precedent you want to set.

And last-minute days off can sometimes work well with that: For instance, you had a really productive week, got everything under control, and now realize that you could take Friday off without impacting much. You often wouldn’t have been able to know in advance that that was going to happen, but common sense tells you that you could do it now.

Now of course, if an employee asks you on Thursday if she can have Friday off and you know that she has work due on Friday that can’t reasonably be delayed, that’s a different matter. So is a situation where the nature of the work demands that you have a certain number of people physically present (such as, say, teaching or customer service), in which case last-minute requests may prevent your ability to keep your area running smoothly.

But basing your policy on actual impact, rather than on rules for rules’ sake, will be a real benefit to your employees.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Evil HR Lady*

    I frequently decide the day before that I want to take the next day off. And I do. Why? Because I know what my workload is, I know what my deadlines are, and I know if I can take a day off.

    There have also been cases where I have scheduled a day off far in advance, but then have looked at my workload and ended up working that day anyway.

    Let employees be adults and manage their own time. Managers should only jump in if there is a problem.

  2. Totally Consumed*

    “But basing your policy on actual impact … will be a real benefit to your employees” and to your company, your boss, your customer, your mental health …

  3. Anonymous*

    Yes, what totally consumed said. Doing what Ask a Manager suggests not only benefits the employees, but also the company and everybody else!

    My case is similar to Evil HR Lady’s – planning day offs in advance usually requires me to cancel them because of unexpected situations. So, deciding at the last minute whether to take a day off actually helps my employer more than myself…

  4. Bryan*

    It sounds like there are a lot of comments from employees, never having to deal with the situation.

    Of the employees I manage, I’ve never had a real problem with granting vacation time. They know if they work hard and are open with me then I will return the consideration.

    However, while employees are first, the interests of the business have to be taken into consideration. If there are deadlines then the employees should know it would be dumb to even ask for time off.

    Fridays are easy to grant off. Why? Because productivity is lower on Fridays and it might actually save the company money.

    Bottom line. Treat your employees as equals and you’ll never have a problem.

  5. Anonymous*

    I am a manager myself. There are rules in place, you need a certain amount of time to request off or it is denied. You need to set this example right away or you will find your employees moral dropping due to favoritsm. The best things to do is stay equal. The reason the manager is there, is to do just that. Manage. If employees could work on their own, they would be contract employees and there would be no need for the manager.

    Make them fill out a form for leave, they need one months notice. If one month cannot be provided, it may still be granted depending on the circumstance. I also give them a copy of the denial and of the blurb in their employee handbook that backs up my decision.

    1. Vicki*

      I am _sooooo_ happy I don’t work “for” you. This is the kind of attitude that makes employees dislike managers.
      Also, not every company has those “rules” in place (mine doesn’t) and, if there are such rules, someone needs to ask why? As AAM asked: is the OP asking because there is an effect on the Work? Or because there is a n arbitrary “rule”.

  6. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous: But why? That sounds like rules and bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. Why not hire good employees who you can trust to act responsible and grant them leave requests if it won’t disrupt the flow of business? I would be irate if I needed to give a month’s notice to get a day off. Good employees will leave situations like that, and go somewhere else.

  7. Anonymous*

    Bryan said:

    If there are deadlines then the employees should know it would be dumb to even ask for time off.

    This seems a bit smug. I can see how this would be the case if the request is a last minute one with unfinished work and a hard deadline. But if the request is made well in advance and with some good planning on both the management's and employee's part, it should work. Someone doesn't always have the luxury of avoiding certain deadlines, especially when there are always deadlines looming. What happens if that person has a sudden but significant illness or if close relatives need them in some serious event? That doesn't always respect deadlines and rigid schedules and part of being a good manager is having a contingency plan in place to deal with these things that come up, especially for good employees.

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