whenever I take time off work, my boss calls me a slacker

A reader writes:

Whenever I take time off work, my boss calls me a slacker. I know he is partly joking, but there is definitely some seriousness to it. I can tell it bothers him when I inform him I’m taking time off. Is this something I should feel guilty about? I get 6 hours of paid time off each pay period, which at this point has accrued to several work days. Over the past 3 months, I have taken one day each month, with this month taking 2 days. I make sure to schedule my time in accordance with our programming, and notify my boss within 2 weeks of the date.

In my opinion, I am entitled to take paid time off whenever I want, as long as I have the hours — and preferably with decent notice and convenience for my office. This is especially because I’m severely underpaid, can’t afford the company’s health insurance, get almost no dental coverage, and not to mention there is no retirement fund either. This is the last thing I have from this company besides my measely paycheck and it really upsets me when someone tries to take it away.

Well, there are two different issues here: whether you’re using/scheduling time off appropriately, and your boss’s comments.

Yes, time off is a benefit that you earn, just like you earn your paycheck. However, it’s different from a paycheck in that you can’t just take it like clockwork without checking with your boss and complying with your company’s cultural norms on it. For instance, there are absolutely places where it’s fine to simply let your boss know what days you’ll be taking off. But there are others where you’re expected to clear it in advance, not just announce it. And your manager generally reserves the right to say, “Sorry, that’s a bad time” — because too many others will be out then, or it’s a busy time, or there’s an important meeting that day that can’t be missed.

There are also offices where taking a day off every month would be more disruptive than taking a week off twice a year. I say this as someone who far prefers doing it your way, but it’s worth being aware of.

So my first question is whether the way you’re approaching time off aligns with your company’s norms on it. If not, your boss should tell you that — but not every boss is the ideal manager, and so it’s smart to look around and figure it out for yourself.

Of course, you don’t need to comply with company norms if you’re not being directly told to — although being out of sync with them can cause an array of problems for you, from how you’re perceived to what kind of feedback, raises, and references you get. And if you’re approaching all this as “you owe me these days because I’m so underpaid and you don’t give me other benefits,” you’re potentially risking those things without realizing it.

(That said, if the company norms were, say, that no one ever took any vacation, ever, I’d tell you to ignore that and take some damn vacation — because that’s extreme. But it’s entirely possible for your company to have pretty reasonable expectations around time off that you’re violating without realizing it.)

In any case, none of that excuses your boss calling you a slacker for taking time off. If he has a real concern, he should address it with you. And if he’s genuinely joking, he should realize that there are some things that managers can’t joke about with employees, and this is one of them.

So the next time he calls you a slacker, ask about it. Say this: “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but in case there’s any real concern behind that, should I be handling my time off differently?”

He might assure you that he’s truly just joking, or he might tell you that actually, yes, he’d rather you handle it another way. If the latter, then great — now you have some information, and can decide what to do with it. If he says he’s just joking, my bet is that he won’t continue the comments in the future … although if he does, it’s reasonable to again say, “I know you’ve said you were joking, but it’s hard not to read that as possible concern about how I’m taking my PTO. Should I be doing something differently?”

A couple times of this, and the comments should stop. And if they don’t, you’ll be on record as asking multiple times if you should handle your PTO differently and being told that what you’re doing is just fine, and at that point you can ignore the slacker comments and write them off as annoying silliness.

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. Ash*

    I would also add to Alison’s advice to start polishing up the resume and cover letter to find a new job. You (and your job) sound absolutely miserable and you don’t have to put up with it.

    1. WWWONKA*

      I agree, start using that time off to start interviewing at other companies. Being miserable at work is not worth it. I feel that unless there is a written vacation policy then do as you are doing. ( you can also flip that boss the bird behind his back) :)

  2. Bryant*

    It is still absolutely appalling to me how many places in the U.S. offer paid vacation but then either dictate when employees can and cannot use it, or get passive-aggressive about employees taking time off. Time away from work is essential for everyone, and there is no virtue in dying at your desk never having used your vacation or sick leave. Alison’s advice may be smart, but the idea that anyone should have to hew to an “office culture” instead of using their vacation, a part of their standard compensation package, in any way other than what suits them best, is extremely frustrating.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      the idea that anyone should have to hew to an “office culture” instead of using their vacation, a part of their standard compensation package, in any way other than what suits them best, is extremely frustrating.

      There are few offices where you can use it at absolutely any time, with no regard for workflow, busy times, other people being out, etc. It’s normal to plan around those things.

      It IS a problem when someone can never take time off, but that’s different than not being able to take it at absolutely any time that suits you best.

      1. Anna*

        My feeling is even if the manager is crummy, I’m going to move forward under the assumption that when I take time off is all right unless someone says something specific like, “That’s not a good time” or “Usually we schedule days off X weeks in advance and you haven’t been doing that”. If people aren’t communicating to me what the policy is, written or otherwise, you can’t expect me to know it. Passive aggressive is not a trait I respond to well.

    2. Yup*

      Elements of this attitude may relate to all the recession downsizing, where staffing is so cut to the bone that someone taking multiple days off really does have a huge impact on operations because they’re performing multiple key functions with no backup. (Not that this makes it OK. Just observing cause and effect.)

    3. KarenT*

      I don’t think that Alison meant anyone should be “dying at their desks” in an attempt at martyrdom, but rather that some cultures have better times for vacation. I worked in magazine publishing. No one was allowed to take vacation one week before we went to print (save for emergencies). However, we all took our vacation time with no hassle at other times of the month.

      1. Jamie*

        This. I can’t imagine asking for (or getting) time off during an external audit, or during twice yearly shutdown (my busiest time is when everyone else is off) or even end of month unless it was something urgent…but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want me to take my time.

        Some times are worse than others – that’s all.

        1. Kerry*

          Some times are worse than others – that’s all.

          Yeah, I agree. There’s two extremes here, I think: employees wanting to be able to take time off whenever and for how long they’d like (‘but airline tickets are cheapest in the week before the major conference I’m project managing!’), or on the other side employers for whom every time is a ‘bad time’ (because of staffing and workload management issues).

          In my opinion the ideal version is in the middle – where there are good times and bad times to take PTO, and people plan to take off during the good times. But even then, if someone has to take a few days off during crunch time (for a funeral, for a medical emergency) it might be difficult but it shouldn’t completely kill the workload.

    4. Anonymous*

      In my last job, I had one coworker who had gotten used to taking her vacation during a certain 2 weeks and had been doing it for decades. When we changed how we were performing a major process, it changed our busiest 2 weeks of the year to be during this person’s vacation. She continued to insist on taking it and management continued to let her, but it caused a lot of stress and frustration for everyone else in the office, and delayed the delivery of the final product. Especially because there was no reason her vacation HAD to be those 2 weeks – she was just staying at home and doing little day trips around town! So I would have preferred that management consider the needs of the office as a whole over one person’s right to do whatever they want.

    5. Girasol*

      Passive aggressive! That’s so apt. Restriction of vacation or training time by saying “yes you may go” and then calling the returning vacationer or trainee a slacker and hinting that they wangled a privilege undeserved. After awhile people don’t dare ask, and start bragging in front of the boss about who’s piled up the most unused vacation. It’s a great way to deny promised benefits without ever actually denying anything.

    6. Sophie*

      From my view, it’s just about being considerate to your coworkers. If a coworker took vacation time during an established busy period, it just loads more work onto those left in the office and increases stress.

      You should want to make your vacation easy on everyone left, just as a matter of courtesy and being nice to the people you have to work with for the rest of the year.

  3. AJ-in-Memphis*

    I think it would be a problem if the employee is taking off *without* notice. This is different and if the boss didn’t want him to take off, then he shouldn’t approve them. I think the comments are unnecessary and he just needs to stop.

  4. mollsbot*

    I had a similar situation with a previous employer/manager. Because it is a small office I had to be extremely conscientious of the amount of time I was taking, coverage, time of month, etc. Even though I did all that, every sick day or vacation came with a steaming pile of guilt.

    Because of this it was really hard for me to feel GOOD about taking time off at my current position. I call it PTO-PTSD, it took me over a year to get used to a boss and manager saying ‘go have fun, don’t think about us!’

    My advice, as long as you following the rules of requesting time off try to shake off your boss’ comments. Or, turn it into a positive think to yourself ‘I get a guilt trip because I’m a good worker; I’m a good worker so I deserve time off!’

    1. Tiff*

      Haha, I have the performance review version of not-quite-ptsd. My last job was so ruthless and random at performance review time that many of us felt physically ill going in. Cut to current job, none of that nonsense is here and it took me 4 years to be able to go into a review that was positive, that I KNEW would be positive, without a queasy stomach, shaking hands and sweat. It’s like my body would not sync with what my mind knew and would auto-react to that time.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    1) It might help if you phrase the request just slightly differently. Some managers prefer if you phrase it as a question instead of a statement. I know it seems like a minor difference, but when you ask you’re indicating that you understand that what’s convenient for you might not be convenient for the team. I’ve never denied a leave request, FYI. But it comes across better when you phrase it like “I’d like to take leave on June 18-23rd, if that works for you” versus “I’m just letting you know I’ll be out on June 18-23rd.

    2) He might legitimately be kidding. I tease some of my hardest working employees from time to time. We both know they’re doing great, and I can rib them a little if they’ve gone a few hours without doing some big project. But I know my team pretty well too and we have a good camaraderie.

    1. A Disillusioned Employee*

      This is why I like the system some companies have in place where you make your request electronically. It then goes to your boss for approval. No issues of “asking” vs. “telling”.

      That said, I know of at least one place where taking all of your vacation days will get you dinged on the performance review for “excessive absences”. You may even end up on the “PIP” with the predetermined outcome of getting fired.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Eww that’s terrible!

        You have leave for a reason! It’s good for you. It’s also good for the team to develop other talent to fill in for you when you’re gone.

        I have to nudge some of my folks to take their leave. But I don’t want them to be in a use-or-lose situation.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow. They should include a note to job candidates in their benefits materials explaining that (“We’ll give you 14 days of vacation annually, but you’ll be fired if you use more than 10”).

        1. Ruffingit*

          No doubt. One of the things I used to do at my old job was tell new people the unwritten rules of company culture. It helped a lot because it kept them from getting in trouble for the things the rest of us had to learn the hard way – such as the boss absolutely hating chatting of any kind. It was like working in a masoleum half the time. Even outsiders who visited the office commented on the unusually silent atmosphere.

          On the topic of vacation though, I once had a job where I was the only person who took all the vacation time I was allotted and one of my co-workers (who was also and still is a friend) commented on it once telling me I was the only one who did that. At the time, I was working split shifts twice a week at this place, plus covering events on weekends frequently (this was a newspaper) in addition to working a regular schedule every day. Hell yes I’m taking my vacation, I was working hard.

          Not to mention that one year, we were all told we needed to do something about our health because we had reached the insurance cap, which was 1 million dollars. This was across 9 newspapers owned by the corporation, but still, my thought was “Well yeah no surprise. Everyone here is stressed to the max and made to feel badly if they take all the time off they have coming to them.”

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I really don’t understand the workaholic culture and the unwritten office rules about this. I work darn hard. But you know – if people want to think I’m a slacker or not fully committed because I take vacations, that’s fine with me. I’d rather be on my deathbed reminiscing about the awesome trips I’ve taken than all the leave I forfeited at work!

            1. Ruffingit*

              AMEN! I work to live, I don’t live to work. At the newspaper, the guy who was my boss was in horrible health. He’d been a newspaper man all his life and the workaholic culture he’d been subjected to showed. He was in his 60s and looked like he was on death’s door. He’d already had a heart attack, currently had diabetes, etc. Just a walking mess. He died not long after retiring. Was it worth it? I’d say no.

                1. Jamie*

                  People say that all the time, but I would imagine some people do. A lot of people have regrets about not committing enough to their career or being as successful as they’d like to have been…so I bet there are people who do wish they’d worked more.

                  I don’t think work will cross my mind one way or the other. Probably just a mix of panic that I’m dying and my control freak self issuing last minute instructions for life to my family.

        2. Windchime*

          “We’ll give you 14 days of vacation annually, but you’ll be fired if you use more than 10

          I used to work someplace that was almost like this. PTO (vacation + sic) was accrued at ‘x’ hours per pay period for a certain amount (we’ll say 14 days) annually. But if you were in certain roles, like Reception, you were required to keep at least 3 days (24 hours) in reserve, in case you were sick.

          People in other departments could take it right down to 0 hours, but receptionists were required to keep this buffer so that, if they were sick, they would have 3 days worth of PTO and then they could dip into their EI (Extended Illness) account. Unfortunately, people who were healthy were penalized because there was always 3 days of their measly 14 days that they could never, ever use. So really they were only getting 11 days per year.

          1. Cat*

            That is my big problem with the combined PTO pools. Even if it wasn’t a requirement, I’d feel obligated to keep at least 3 days in reserve in case I got sick (I hardly ever take them; but hey, things happen. I was out for 4 days last fall for the first time ever.) So unless the allowance is pretty generous – i.e., more than you used to get in vacation – you’re going to either take some serious risks or come out behind.

      3. Kara*

        We request PTO electronically at my job and you can cancel it that way too. You get an email saying that your manager is reviewing it and another when it’s approved or denied. It’s a good system, I think. I usually run it by my team and manager before I request it so requesting it electronically is just a formality.

    2. Liz in the City*

      I agree that it might be in the way the OP is asking/telling his manager.

      On the other hand, when I was dealing with a manager who was very passive-agressive and would take WEEKS to approve time off (even if it was just a half day), I started telling her in my requests rather than asking. She started responding when it was me telling her rather than me asking her. I think she thought that “asking” meant she actually had to make a decision other than “yes, please use your PTO.”

    3. Vicki*

      I’ve had managers who have replied “You don’t need to ask my permission. You only need to tell me ahead of time.”

      Cultures is definitely important.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    I like when my team takes leave. It’s good for them and therefore good for the team. I just reminded them to put in for 5th of July (Friday) so I can ensure coverage.

    Of course I like to think I’m setting a good example by taking 2-week vacations at a time. But it’s probably more that I really like going on vacation :D

      1. Katie the Fed*

        aww thanks! I wish I did, but our budget is getting slashed and it’s pretty rough right now.

        But thanks for the vote of confidence. One of the best leaders I ever had told me early on “take care of your people and they’ll take care of the mission.”

        1. Nicole*

          You’re so right, Katie, and it’s refreshing to see a manager who genuinely cares about their employees and doesn’t work them to death. Kudos to you!

  7. Anonymous*

    I worked at a large call center, which gave a surprising amount of PTO, that the manager would never approve you to take off. BUT you could call out 3 days in a row without a doctor’s note and have it count as 1 occurance. You could have 5 occurances in a rolling year. You can pretty much guess how that ended up.

    1. Josh S*

      Pretty sure I know the company, since it’s the same policy they had when I worked there… Are you in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, perchance?

  8. Anonymous*

    I used to work in Japan, it’s worse there. The guilt brought to bear is unbelievable.

    1. SB*

      I used to work for the Korean government (as a contract employee in the US). You got vacation and sick days, but if you used them you got incredible amounts of guilt and they would still call and e-mail you. I got yelled at by my boss once when I ended up in the hospital with respiratory issues and didn’t answer his calls or e-mails.

    2. Anonymous*

      One of my friends who is current working in Japan tells me she can’t call out sick without literally being in the hospital.

  9. Andrea*

    When I worked for Social Security Administration, the team I was on was always short-staffed (and those of us who actually worked—about 60% of everyone there—were very overworked). One of my coworkers got pregnant, and once she was in the last month or so of her pregnancy, our manager started refusing to approve anyone’s requests, “just in case Tonya has her baby then.” She also refused to approve any requests in the six weeks or so after the due date, since my coworker would be on maternity leave then. We pointed out that it was Tonya’s choice to have a baby, and that it shouldn’t affect those of us who wanted to use our earned time off…to no avail. Several of us had to complain to HR to get her to wise up, and they did stop the manager from refusing to let anyone take off, but they didn’t reprimand her or anything. But after HR stepped in, every leave request would be met with a passive-aggressive announcement from our boss, who would walk through the office repeating that she just didn’t know what we were going to do and wondering out loud about whether Tonya was going to have her baby when John was at his family reunion or when Angela was at her sister’s graduation or when Linda was on vacation. I laughed about it—it was all just so absurd; at one point when the manager was going on and on, I was tearing up from laughing so hard—but a lot of people really did avoid putting in leave requests just to avoid the confrontation. (I put in my notice not long after that, because that was the tip of the iceberg, and on my last day, two of my tires were not-so-mysteriously slashed. The security guard gave me the tape that clearly showed the manager doing it, and so I was eventually reimbursed.)

      1. Andrea*

        Oh, no, she did not. She should have been. She was a lifer though, and maybe even second-generation civil servant (wasn’t civil service anymore, but she’d been hired when it was). I worked there for just under three years and ran for the door…that was just over 10 years ago. I eventually moved away, and I lost touch with my friends who worked there a few years back. Last I heard, she retired right on time (probably that was about 2007), not forced out or anything.

        But I have a lot of great stories from working there, that’s for sure.

    1. KellyK*

      Your manager is definitely a grade-A jerk. (Slashing tires? Seriously? I’m glad he was caught and you got reimbursed.) And probably pretty over-cautious in not allowing *anyone* to take leave during any point at which Tonya might have had her baby.

      However, the whole “it was her choice to have a baby” thing isn’t really relevant (and, for that matter, may not be an entirely true statement). A manager does have a responsibility to make sure they have enough people to cover, and if someone is out on maternity leave, that affects things. You’re not owed a vacation at a certain date if that date is going to be a problem for your employer, and if someone else is already scheduled to be out, it might be.

      1. Andrea*

        Well, the bigger issue was that she tried to block off a period of about 10 weeks where no one was allowed to take any leave because she thought the baby might come early or whatever. She gave one woman problems over some dental work she needed to have done, and she tried to tell another employee that he would have to reschedule a vacation that he’d already cleared months earlier. In any case, HR stepped in and made her quit that, and then all of the leave requests were approved, but not without everyone having to hear her wander around and complain about it. The short-staffed thing was really just in our department, and the way it worked was that we could get floaters and other employees from other areas to come and help, she just didn’t want to, or something (my memory may be fuzzy on that one).

        1. fposte*

          I’m thinking of how weird Tonya would have felt in the middle of this–I’d be thinking “Please don’t rope me into your crazy.”

          1. Kara*

            Yeah, I’d feel awful if I were pregnant and that meant no one could take any kind of leave for the duration of my maternity leave. It’s not Tonya’s fault – it’s the manager’s for promoting that kind of culture. But still.

      2. Mike C.*

        One person’s pregnancy shouldn’t over rule every other request for leave. The manager should have appropriate staffing to take care of issues that come up.

    2. just another hiring manager...*

      It isn’t crazy not to approve vacation when another employee is out on leave–whether it is that employee’s choice or not! But, the way this manager handled it is crazy

  10. Anonymous*

    It’s one thing to be respectful and not take time off during busy season.. corporate culture not allowing anyone to take any time off is like corporate culture dictating that once a month, no one deposits their checks.

  11. Michelle*

    The OP indicated that they scheduled and notified the manager in advance. I think that is the real issue. Notifying vs. asking. It may seem like a little thing but it is a big distinction. The manager is responsible for making sure the department’s work is getting done and having a say on scheduling is critical to this.

    I’m not trying to defend the manager, as his passive-aggressive behavior is ridiculous, but I think the OP is contributing to the problem.

  12. Dr Lemur*

    I worked for a professor who was like this. To avoid the snide comments, we send email stating “I already have plane tickets to be gone these dates.” Plus when he was out of town, no one showed up to work. The only position that required legitimate prior approval was the admin. asst. (academia being odd like that) and they never lasted more than a year or two.

  13. Assistant Manager*

    As to the ‘ask vs. notify’ thing. I work directly underneath a woman who insists ‘asking’ is the way she would like her employees to tell her they’re going to take leave. She says she’s never denied someone leave so she doesn’t know why people insist on simply stopping by her office to say that they’ll be gone on whatever day usually short notice. I sit in the same office with her. I make my ‘requests’ for time off in the same manner as every other employee. Why? Because she’s CRAZY. As soon as you inform her that you need a day off or an hour off, she will immediately start complaining about what a hassle it will be for her. Here’s the thing though: it’s never a hassle for her. We have a pool of dedicated subs to call, lots of them in fact. People who need and want to work. Why does she whine to every employee who wants to take off? Power trip, plain and simple. We don’t have scheduling concerns due to the sub-pool. We will never be short-staffed. Our employees routinely wait until the last minute to tell us they need off, simply because she makes it into such a big deal. I’m learning exactly how not to manage or handle time off. In fact when she’s gone, there’s usually an influx of people signing up for their days off through me. My response when someone needs off: “Okay, I’ll call a sub, thanks for letting me know.” Sometimes employees revert to the notify method when the boss does something to indicate it’s necessary. If anyone’s having trouble with this, examine your first reaction to being told of someone’s leave. If your response is always negative, even though you always end up granting the leave, people are going to start reacting defensively to protect their time off.

  14. Rebecca*

    My manager doesn’t call me a slacker, she calls me a “part time employee”. I have taken exactly 5 sick days in 10 years. I am at work early every day and miss time only for scheduled vacation days or medical appointments. She probably thinks she’s being funny. I think she’s a jerk.

    And she’s another one who insists that we “request” time off and wait for her to approve it, so we are left in limbo when trying to schedule hotel and plane reservations. One of my coworkers had to cancel a cruise because she couldn’t get reasonable air fare because our manager didn’t “approve” the request in a timely manner. Manger’s response? Oh, you should have known I’d let you go on your little boat trip. Ugh.

    1. KellyK*

      That’s ridiculous. And you just know that if he’d assumed it’d be okay and made reservations, it would’ve been denied or she would’ve been upset with him for assuming.

      My mom ended up leaving a job where she requested vacation months in advance for a trip to Vegas and got no answer, despite asking repeatedly and making it clear that she wanted the time off for a trip. When she was just put on the schedule, without anyone saying a word to her, she gave her notice.

      I really think that if someone asks for time off, you need to get back to them within couple days, a week tops, with *some* kind of answer, even if that answer is “I won’t be able to determine that until X and Y happen, but I’ll let you know on Z date.” Just leaving people hanging is really unprofessional.

  15. Anon*

    Although I completely agree with the practice of taking more frequent long weekends instead of large chunks of vacation in general, coming from a field where we see a lot issues on this, I might offer a little insight from the workplace perspective if you let me play devil’s advocate for a second.

    From the boss’ or workplace perspective you appear to be using vacation to essentially modify your work schedule at your own discretion. I’m assuming your not intentionally scheduling days off to avoid meetings or busy or critical days for the company. However, while the boss may not think he has a valid reason to deny the requests, but may still feel miffed that you are taking days off routinely enough in his mind to be undermining the office’s “standard schedule.” Although 1 day a month does not cross that threshold for me personally. Whether it is an actual impact on work or not, it may just be the impression of taking days off and the boss not exactly being in control, like a power-play type issue. He may feel that this makes you less reliable or as someone who likes to “rock the boat.”

    Now, that said, I think what you are doing is fine, especially considering the circumstances. I just wrote that so you can see how sometimes managers can see things from a very different perspective. As long as you are being reasonable with the requests and following the protocols, I’d wager you can either ask the boss about it and/or just ignore the comments and enjoy the time off.

    My current boss does that “not quite sure if you’re joking thing” about our start time, and I agree it is extremely irritating after a while. It’s like making a very hurtful comment and then saying, “just kidding,” the taste just doesn’t fully fade away. If the person is making the comments a lot, I’d either have to assume either they have a bad sense of humor and really think the running joke is funny, or there is actually a serious underlying issue they won’t address directly.

  16. Ruffingit*

    I worked for someone who made passive-aggressive comments about my hours in the office. Thing is, I was a contractor so I didn’t work for her really. I worked for myself, but she was my main client and I did spend a lot of time in the office. Her problem was one of control. She loved having contractors so she didn’t have to pay taxes, etc., but she hated not having control of my schedule and time. Thus, the snarky comments.

    It was seriously sad because the solution to it is not to hire contractors. If you want control, suck it up and hire employees and pay the taxes. She wanted her cake (not paying taxes) and to eat it too (total control). Sadly for her, work is not a bakery.

  17. TP*

    I had a boss who called me a “slacker” too the few times I actually requested time off. It was ridiculous and although I think he was half-kidding/half-serious, what he didn’t realize was how bad it made people feel. Part of the issue was that he never took time off for himself so he expected others to behave the same.

    As long as you don’t abuse it and insist on time off when you’re really needed, I don’t understand the resistance. Plus when you work at a place where you accrue a lot of time like I do, but can only carry over a certain amount each month, you start losing them. And when you leave, you’re supposed to be paid for your leftover vacation days (at least that’s been my experience) so why wouldn’t they want you to use them? It saves the company money in the long run.

  18. OP*

    Thank you for all your feedback! My boss rarely takes vacation, but will leave work early after a long day, or come in late if he was really busy the day before. In my 10 months at this company, he has taken a 5-day vacation. However, my colleagues take a day here and there all the time.

    If its interesting, I’d also like to point out that he once told me not to schedule all my PTO days on Fridays and/or Mondays, because it didn’t “look right”, and that if all our staff wanted to take Mondays and Fridays off we couldn’t run our office. Since we have programming that cycles every 5 weeks, running Monday-Thursday, there is only 3 days out of a month that I could schedule PTO on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday without interfering with our programs–which none of my colleagues are involved in and thus don’t have to adhere to. I thought Fridays and Mondays would be preferred, since most projects can be finished by Thursday or begun on a Tuesday, you know? Apparently not. So my most recent PTO days fell on a Wednesday and a Tuesday.

    Like I said in the original post, I plan my days off around times when we won’t have programming, meetings, or when a ton of others won’t be out. However, I get the feeling that maybe he wants me to just take a bunch of days at once, and then never again. Regardless, that would not work for me. I have personal issues to handle which I try to schedule all in one day so that hopefully soon I can actually take a real vacation. Is it wrong of me to feel entitled to this?

  19. Anonymous*

    I have a similar issue in that I like taking long weekends here and there and then maybe one full week off every other year. It seems more like the company culture where I work now to save up your time and take a 2-3 week vacation every two years. I could not hold out THAT long to take a vacation! My boss is also a workaholic and has told me several times how she has worked every weekend for the last 7 years, only takes 2-3 days off a year, etc. I think she’s venting to me because her job makes her so stressed but it in turn makes me stressed to ever request time off without looking like a slacker. She’ll make passive aggressive comments like “oh, so-and-so’s on vacation, must be nice. Don’t you hate it when other people are on vacation and you have to work all weekend?” The last time I requested time off, I was called into her office and she told me she was denying my request and that it looks bad for me to be taking so much time off, and that people will talk about it. Huh??! I have taken 6 days over the course of 6 months, that doesn’t seem that excessive to me. It’s just so frustrating since I enjoy most aspects of my job but it’s so stressful to take time off and I come back feeling so guilty about it.

  20. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

    My husband’s company has a very generous paid vacation package, he gets 3 weeks a year! One caveat: every last day is use or lose with no pay out for unused days, and his boss has made it crystal clear there is NEVER a good time to take it. Ever. Last year, my husband’s company was sold and everyone was told by HR they needed to take vacation, or not only lose it, but risk the new company’s wrath company culture. My husband’s boss (used to the old way, when the company paid out for every last day of unused vacation) denied EVERY request.

    My husband asked for a week off during the slow season; denied. He asked for a three day weekend. Denied. He asked for a day off mid-week to go to the dentist who had no other openings… Okay this was granted, but only after showing his boss the broken tooth, and then he was only allowed to take 2 hours off that day, even though the company only allows 4 hour increments, so he basically worked for free two hours (confession: husband doesn’t clock in or out so he snuck an extra half an hour for lunch until that was made up, shady business all around I am sure.)

    At the end of the year, when our family couldn’t afford to do anything and I had started a seasonal job, his boss suddenly told him that he needed to take his vacation with less than a week’s notice. Then he turned around and lectured my husband about how he should have more consideration and not save up his vacation until the end of the year, because now the company was being inconvenienced (ie. HR had written him a message mandating he allow all employees with vacation time left to take it because it looked bad to corporate).

    My husband opened his drawer and pulled out the denied requests his boss had signed to demonstrate it wasn’t all his fault, to get another lecture about how it wasn’t HIS (the boss) responsibility to keep track of his employees’ leave, and no apology, and no, don’t ever let it happen again in the future because my husband will face penalty if he does.

    Apparently the head company’s accounting department discovered towards the end of the year that essentially no one had taken any time off, and came down on local HR about it. This resulted in my husband’s entire department having to take leave at the same time, even when the boss was mandated to allow this time off he STILL stalled and people wound up shorted last year. He was threatened by a PIP over this, and ever since has been making snide remarks about everyone and everything involved since ensuring employees are allowed to use their benefits is NOT his responsibility.

    Fast forward to today, and the boss still hems and haws about giving vacation time, and is super upset with the new policy that automatically grants anyone with vacation time left at the end of the year the remaining days so people don’t lose pay again. Even this new policy, it is not compelling him in the least to try work with the people who want to take time off during the year; they still are subject to the snide comments and lectures and implications that taking time off will result in more snide comments and lectures…

    1. Kelly*

      Oh my gosh, is the turn-over in that department high? I’m not sure how many people could work years on end without getting any time off… What a jerk boss!

  21. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

    I should have been more specific… The majority of the people at this company are seasonal workers and do not get vacation. The permanant people like my husband are generally the leads and supervisors, so when they were forced to take time off at the end of the year the company had to slow most production and run with a skeleton crew until after New Year’s. Of course, the seasonal workers were not happy about it, seeing as they were temporarily laid off during their bread and butter time (though the company played it off as if that had been the grand scheme all along, wisely perhaps)…

    I should have also used the phrase “begrudging but not entirely brutish” in my last post. I definitely made my husband’s boss out to be a complete jerk and I mostly regret that.

    In his defense, the boss didn’t have to worry that workers were leaving time and money on the table before, since previous policy dictated allowed the payout of unused days, people couldn’t be “shorted”. I suppose also, one cannot technically be “threatened” with a PIP (you are either put on one or not) since, all told, they are not supposed to be a punitive measure (though the boss went out of his way to make his displeasure with them known.) I am sure it’s not easy when the company you worked at for years undergoes a major shift in policy that keeps you floundering for staff at the worst time.

    As for turn-over, I suppose it could be that the other employees just take the rejection in stride and continue asking (read: nagging) until they hear “yes,” because honestly, turn-over is surprisingly low…

  22. Finneyz*

    @my company, vacations are few and far between. My primary supervisor, does not take time off. Even in a lot of pain. (Basically needs to see an orthopedist, and has yet to do so, for over 2 years).
    Our CEO of the company sees and wants people to work, HARD. Yet he comes in at 10-11 and leaves 3 comes back 5 leaves 7. (This is commonplace here for him to do that)
    I can say that for my primary sup, he is given the backhand from the ceo to push out our support, product, and continue to sit on 1-3 hour meetings 3 times a week. When is work accomplished if your constantly in meetings? In and out of the office. I hate that I hate it.

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