my boss refuses to close the office between Christmas and New Year’s

A reader writes:

I work for a small marketing company. There are four of us: John the boss, Sarah, Mark, and me.

For the last two years, the office has been open during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The boss and Sarah traveled those years, so it fell to Mark and me to alternate being alone in the office.

There was no reason for us to be there. The phone literally never rang. No emails came in. All our clients were closed. I caught up on some work, but I really resented sitting in a chair for eight hours while friends and family were free.

Once again, the company calendar shows John and Sarah traveling, so Mark and I must once again rotate into the office the Thursday and Friday after Christmas and the Monday and Tuesday before the New Year. Since there’s no HR department, and no real process for requesting time off, we decided to sit down with John and ask for us both to have those four days off: we’d forward the phone to our cellphones and check our email once a day. We pointed out it was our third year in a row of being asked to give up some of our holiday. And this has been a bad year for the company, so we’re probably not getting raises or bonuses; this four-day vacation could be a little year-end gift.

John seemed offended at the very notion. He didn’t like our “attitudes” at bringing the issue up. We went through all the reasons not to be there — since Mark and I knew firsthand and John had never been there — and it was like arguing with a wall. He kept saying “The office is open,” as if it wasn’t his decision. He talked about having someone in the office to get the mail and deposit checks, but mail can be left at the building’s front desk and how many checks need to be deposited in a week’s time?

I’m very angry at having to give up part of my holiday week for no reason other than the boss likes the idea of a warm body in an office. Even our proposal of working those two or four days from home — which the boss and Sarah do all the time! — was anathema.

So: what is our next move? Is there a next move?

Nope, probably not.

Your boss doesn’t want to close the office during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

You might think that’s silly based on the lack of work that week, but it’s not outrageous. Many, many offices are open that week, and yes, many of them are very slow during that period. But they’re open — because clients could call or work needs to move forward or something could come up that would require staff there to deal with it, or yes, just because their management feels the office should be open.

I agree it would be nice if you could have those days off, and it’s frustrating when you can’t see any reason to show up and simply sit in the office without much to do. But sometimes that happens at this time of year. It’s pretty normal.

It doesn’t make sense to be angry at having to “give up part of your holiday week” when there’s no particular entitlement to have that week off. You weren’t told you’d have it off when you were hired (presumably), and it’s not so common to have that week off that there was reason to assume/expect that you would. The reality is that your office doesn’t do that. You asked your boss to consider it, he didn’t want to, and … that’s pretty much the end of it. Being angry about this isn’t going to take you anywhere good.

What your boss is telling you is that this is the job. It includes staffing the office during this week. You’re free to reject those terms and find somewhere where you can take that week off. But it doesn’t make sense to be angry or resentful over something that isn’t all that unusual.

{ 381 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I love being alone in the office at the holidays. Clean your desk, organize your files, play some tunes. Catch up on journals. Fabulous.

    1. belle*

      +1. Plus you can leave early too.

      Not too many companies close between christmas and NYs. My current job will be closes between those dates, but we have to use our PTO to cover non holiday dates.

      1. fposte*

        That’s what I was thinking–that’s a lot of PTO to blow on days that aren’t that taxing to work. Save the time off for days that you’d really like to miss.

        1. HR Administrator*

          I like this idea, you can always use the vacation for days when you’re really burnt out and want to go away for a longer period of time instead of just the four days. you can add these vacation days to another vacation (presumably)

        2. Anonymous*

          I consider the holidays to be 1/2 days since the work load is down. Not as many people bugging me and i get a lot more done.

    2. S3*


      I do not relate to OP’s issue at all. This is seriously my favorite time of year to be at work.

    3. Amber*

      And if there isn’t any work to do at all, just surf the Internet! :P

      …Granted, this may not be allowed at real workplaces. But at school people do it all the time, even when there IS work to be done. :

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Oh, me too. I always take at least the Tuesday and Wednesday of Thankgiving week off, because each year I have at least 20 people descending on me on Thursday, and I need time to do prep work.

      But I always volunteer to work on the Friday, because the office is so nice and quiet. Everyone else can go brave the lunatics out shopping on Black Friday.

  2. Sadsack*

    Slow times are when I catch up on cleaning and organization at my office. Yeah, it’s the pits when I am one of the few in the office because I used my vacation time earlier in the year and didn’t save any for year-end like many others. I wouldn’t expect management to just give me an extra week’s vacation though. It would be nice, but why should they? Especially at an organization that is doing poorly, how can they justify paying people for not working an entire week? Unless you can get a week off without pay as an alternative, I say suck it up and clean out the filing cabinets like the rest of us will be doing.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s exactly what I always did at Exjob during that week. I had to dump a backlog of files once a year anyway, and that was the best time to do it. Since I answered the phone, it was difficult to be away from the desk any other time. But the phone was dead during that week so I could do what I had to do with very few interruptions.

    2. Schnauz*

      “… how can they justify paying people for not working an entire week?”

      I think that’s where Op is coming from – either way, they’re doing nothing. Whether it’s at home or the office, in Op’s eyes, shouldn’t matter to the bosses but it makes a big difference to Op.

      1. Sadsack*

        OP wrote that in past years she “caught up on some work, but I really resented sitting in a chair for eight hours while friends and family were free.” Catching up on work isn’t doing nothing, it is working. OP would rather not be working. So would I, but guess what…

        1. Vicki*

          “Caught up on some work” doesn’t mean “spent 8 hours a day doing work”.

          It hurts some of us to twiddle our thumbs and be paid to do nothing. Yes, you can can say “But you’re being paid” but honestly it feels wrong to be paid to Do Nothing. At least let me do the nothing without the commute and the forced presence.

  3. Hous*

    OP, would it be possible to set up a rotation? It seems unlikely that your boss will just close the office, but it seems odd to me that Sarah always gets this time off while you and Kevin don’t. If it were me, I would see if others were willing to switch off the year that they are the one who has to stay–instead of you and Kevin switching off who comes in day-to-day, one person goes in and two are off the entire week. You’ll still have to be in the office for that week once every few years, but it might help with the resentment.

    (I’m assuming here that your boss will also not agree to be part of the rotation, but some bosses would, so YMMV.)

    1. Cat*

      Though it doesn’t sound like the OP has even asked to be able to use PTO at that time, so it’s unclear whether the boss would be totally fine with it.

      1. MaryTerry*

        I got the impression that the OP wanted them to close the office and give them the days off as extra vacation. “this four-day vacation could be a little year-end gift.”

        Are John and Sarah traveling for work? Do they potentially need support from the office?

        Our company is closing between the 24th and the 2nd, but I need to use three PTO days. If you don’t have three saved up, you’re allowed to go negative, though you can probably take them without pay if you don’t have them.

    2. Steven M*

      It’s not clear to me that Sarah has this time off. OP just says she’s travelling… that could be business travel or time off.

      If it is time off for Sarah, and OP really wants this week, next year I suggest asking for it early. It could be as simple as Sarah asked first.

      1. Hous*

        I admit, it hadn’t even occurred to me that Sarah and/or the boss might be doing work-related travel. If so, OP’s resentment about it seems completely bizarre, since everyone in the office is working that week, not just her and Kevin.

    3. AnonAnony*

      Yeah, I took one for the team and stayed in the office for the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

      The next year, those people that I’d helped out? Had moved on to other jobs. And I had to be in the office for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years again.

      In a company where there needs to be coverage, alternating the weeks of Christmas and New Years within the same year might be a fair option, rather than both people staying and alternating the individual days.

    4. themmases*

      That was what I thought when I read this too. I have one coworker in my area who doesn’t really do the same work as me, but close enough that we cover each other. We’re not really supposed to be gone at the same time unless it’s an emergency. So in the fall we decide who wants what for the holidays. Sometimes, if I’m making plans with a big group of friends, we start at least putting out feelers even earlier than that. In that case I let her and my boss know as soon as I know.

      Of course, I’m super lucky in that my coworker is Orthodox and her family lives in the suburbs so even for other holidays she’s rarely going far. But I’d be open to switching off if she wanted to– that’s the whole reason I ask.

    5. kasey*

      ipod, speakers, podcasts and a massive organization/cleaning spree, sounds good to me. but seriously, boss is shtupping Sarah?

      1. Jamie*

        Because that’s the only way a woman can get the PTO she wants?

        If Sarah was Sam would you have kept to the same assumption?

  4. FiveNine*

    Honestly, school was the last place I’ve been where I’ve had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. I mean we do get half a day off on Christmas Eve, all of Christmas Day is a holiday, and New Year’s Day is a holiday. That’s already a lot of holiday. Sometimes I take vacation days off one or both weeks, but usually not.

    1. Jen*

      It depends on the industry. I know a lot of agencies close up during that week. My husbad works in advertising and he’s been at 5 different agencies over the years and they all shut down between Christmas & New Year. Sometimes I have to work with an outside PR agency and they’re very often closed during that week. In the past I’ve worked at non-profits and they’re never closed during that week but the office is dead quiet. In my current job, we’re closed for that entire week.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Wow, it really must vary by industry, because I know almost no-one who gets that week off — Christmas, New Year’s, and maybe one other day around Christmas is the norm for almost everyone I know.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          My last job was at a foodservice wholesaler. We worked the day after Thanksgiving. Granted, the office was short staffed, because the powers that were wanted as many people off as possible. But someone had to answer the phones and keep the servers running.

          New Years Eve is huge in foodservice. Between people who were actually required to get the food on the trucks and the clerical people doing year-end closeout plus inventory, everyone was on the job.

        2. Sara M*

          It’s common in Bay Area tech companies to give the whole week off. This is explained during hiring, though, and I wouldn’t expect it from a company who hadn’t explicitly said they’d do it.

      2. A Jane*

        Jen is correct – the advertising industry typically closes down between Christmas & New Year’s. I currently work at one of the giant global advertising firms, and traditionally the office closes down at that time. Granted, there’s an assumption that if there is a client issue, you’ll be available. But from what I’ve seen, even the usual requests wait till the new year.

        1. A Jane*

          Another thing is that the Christmas and New Year’s time off isn’t guaranteed. If it were a bad financial year, I would assume I’d be in the the office for that last week trying to close deals.

      3. Kara*

        When I worked in media, I and every other major company in my sector was closed that week. I’m in a different industry now and we stay open, but pretty much everyone who has PTO to use up does because it’s completely dead. My department is taking that week off; the only people I’m aware of who are coming in are people who have no PTO left.

      4. Andrea*

        My husband is an IT consultant and his firm is closed that week. I write freelance for PR and lobbying firms, and they’re always closed during that week, too. I love this.

    2. anon*

      I think it’s more common for colleges/universities to close for a longer chunk of time over the holidays. I had one job at a university where the university shut down for two weeks and the two weeks didn’t come out of your PTO (this was especially nice my first year there, since I’d started in August and wasn’t allowed to take any PTO for my first six months). At my current university, nonfaculty get two weeks off, but we have to take PTO for the second week.

        1. fposte*

          Heh–and I work for a university and I don’t get the week off. What we do get off varies with the calendar a little, but generally there are three working days between Christmas and New Year’s, and you can take them unpaid or as vacation if you want them off.

          1. anon*

            Ours varies with the calendar, too. When I first got here (in a May) they apparently had had to take the time as furlough days, so even though people grumble about losing the PTO, at least there’s a *P* in PTO now. (There have been no raises here in any form for about 7 years, so it’s otherwise not all a bowl of cherries…).

      1. Sascha*

        It is, but it’s a good thing to check. The state university I work at now shuts down for a full 7 business days, and it does not come out of your PTO. The private university I worked at previously closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s, and god help you if you wanted anything outside of that. They didn’t really like it when people took time off. :) (one of the many, many, MANY reasons I’m no longer there!)

      2. Anonymous*

        I worked at a university for 8 years. We had 4 paid holidays around that time (Christmas Eve/Day, New Year’s Eve/Day), and they would close down between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. You could come work under some circumstances (I had one job where we always had a backlog of work, and it was nice to be alone and undistrubed to tackle the pile).

        A few years before I left, they started doing a soft closure and encouraging departments to close for 2 weeks around the holiday. No one was required to not work, but your supervisors generally didn’t complain if you wanted to use PTO and be out the full 2 weeks. Personally, I always bookended the holidays with my PTO and would try to leave the country for a month.

        1. Anonymous*

          My university is closed that week, and most of it is paid. They use minor holidays (employee’s birthday, Daisy Gatson Bates day, etc) to pay us for the non-holiday days. There are still a couple of days that aren’t coverrd, but we Can work extra hours at the beginning of December to make it up in advance if we don ‘t want to use annual leave for those days.

        2. Jennifer*

          Same here- those 4 paid days, and then every year they debate about closing the office for the other three days, and do it, but you have to use your own vacation time for it. I don’t know why they don’t just formally close everything for a week, though—I don’t know why you would want to come here during vacation!

      3. Diet Coke Addict*

        Some education-adjacent business close as well. My company (educational products for technology/energy) virtually might as well not even answer the phones between December 20th and January 5th or so, because 99% of our business comes from educational institutions and they are not spending any money during that period. Everyone’s minds are elsewhere.

      4. Cassie*

        Our univ shuts down for two weeks but we only get paid for the official holidays (Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve and Day) – for the rest of the days, we have to use vacation or go without pay. If you are a new employee and haven’t accrued vacation, they will let you “borrow” future vacation days (which they normally don’t allow).

        Campus used to stay open during that time (aside from the holidays) – I loved working then because students were off and there wasn’t much to do so it wasn’t crazy stressful. And there’s heat in the building!

    3. Piper*

      I used to work for a global manufacturing company that closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s and it was all paid holiday time with the exception of one day of that week that required employees to use one day of PTO. It was a pretty sweet deal.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yup. My dad works at a defense contractor that does on-site manufacturing/assembly and they always shut down between Christmas and New Year’s.

        1. Emma*

          My mother works for a defense contractor that does the same. Wonder if it’s the same one? But her job is honestly the only one I’ve ever heard doing this in the United States. Otherwise, I’ve only ever heard of the week-off happening more commonly in the UK.

    4. Penny*

      Yeah I’ve never worked anywhere that closes that week or known anyone who does. At one place they wouldn’t even let you use your vacation or pto before and after the holidays and you were lucky if they let you leave at 4 on Christmas Eve and the place was dead! They were basically paying us to surf the web. It sucks, but it’s not uncommon and you aren’t just entitled to it. Sadly we don’t get awesome long breaks likes Europeans!

      1. Gjest*

        Even here in Norway, though, I will be taking some PTO days for my time off between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s not just given off for nothing. Granted I will still have 9 weeks of vacation even after I use 2 weeks over the holidays, so a couple of PTO days used is not a big deal. But the point is that I will still have to use PTO, while the OP here seems to be saying she wants the week off without having to use any PTO.

    5. Colette*

      Every high tech company I’ve worked for shuts down for about a week and a half over the holidays (no PTO required). It’s certainly not required, but it’s something I ask about before I take a job.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        I worked for Microsoft, and we were very much required to be warm bodies in seats all year long. And none of the other seven software companies I’ve worked for have closed, either. You’ve been quite fortunate!

  5. Anoners*

    We have the option to take it paid or unpaid, which is nice. Most of my friends don’t get the time off though, just the actual stat holidays.

    1. The IT Manager*

      +1 to this and everyone else who pointed out that the LW kept referring to “give up part of your holiday week” like she’s entitled to have the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. I’ve worked for two government entities; I only ever got Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off – the government/statuatory holidays. Many people do take those other days off by putting in for leave time.

      If you want vacation, put in for vacation out of your vacation/PTO bucket. Perhaps it is your perspective that that week off is an entitlement is what threw off your meeting with your boss. Maybe Sarah and the boss are taking those days as vacation out of their PTO, and your request to just have the time off is what he found so offputting and confusing.

      Also who are your family and free who are free? Are they students, teachers? Are they unemployeed? Are they freelancers? Did they travel and take PTO? Because it’s been my experience that other than schools, most businesses and government entities are open during the holiday except for Christmas and New Year’s eve and day.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — and if Sarah is taking PTO, the boss could cause problems by letting the OP and the other coworker just have the days off without charging them PTO for it (if, for instance, they’ve run out of PTO for the year). Sarah would rightfully be upset to have saved hers to use for this week and then have her coworkers get an extra week of vacation that she doesn’t get. (And make Sarah a protected class, and we potentially have a disparate treatment issue.)

        1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

          Well, that could easily be fixed by crediting Sarah with the PTO. It’s an office of four; they have some flexibility.

          I have more sympathy with the OP than most, because her boss is frankly being an idiot–generating ill will among his employees for no real benefit. But the answer is still the same, suck it up and deal. It’s hardly worth going to the mat over two quiet days in the office.

          1. Laurel*

            You say the boss is “generating ill will” – how so? Every time an employee has a demand (which, in this case, some clearly perceive as unreasonable), the boss must give in to the demand or else be held accountable for creating ill will? While my take on this issue is straightforward (employee is out of line by believing that working is “giving up some of [his] holiday”), I see that it’s not a black and white issue. Some believe the employee is justified in expecting the standard American vacation days (Christmas and New Years) between extended to each that that falls in between. But, that said, a boss has a right to determine when his/her business is open and, ultimately, the employee needs to accept the boss’s decision or go elsewhere. Why then is the boss “creating ill will” when the employee struggles to accept that decision?

            1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

              This person was approached with a fairly reasonable request, and rather than try to be accommodating or explain why it would be genuinely problematic to do so, just handed out a flat No, alienating the employees in the process. Good managers get better results than that.

              Granted, I’m taking much of OP’s summary at face value, and the situation may have been less hostile than it sounds. If OP just didn’t listen to anything the manager said other than “no,” or he’s been a problem employee whom the manager doesn’t care about retaining, that’s a different matter.

              1. Christine*

                It really depends on the LW’s delivery, too . If she came off as oblivious or entitled or out of touch with her company’s needs, a flat “no” might have been the best response. I’ve gotten a wakeup call from a blunt refusal before.

              2. Melissa*

                You’re assuming its a reasonable request. And even still, the LW said that the manager did give some reasons he wanted them there, just not reasons the LW liked.

      2. De Minimis*

        Government, or at least the federal government, is pretty harsh as far as “extra” holiday time. We do get a lot of the lesser holidays off, but we don’t get anything outside the actual holiday, so no day after Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., unless you take your vacation time. Sometimes you will see something where the President gives Christmas Eve off as he did last year, but that was at the last minute, and it ended up depending on the individual workplace–mine involves healthcare, and we remained open but some people were able to be off if they worked out an agreement where someone was willing to come in and ensure there was sufficient staffing.

        Personally I like being at work when it’s slower, easy to catch up on things I don’t have enough time to do the rest of the time.

      3. Anna*

        Do they work somewhere with a really generous holiday policy? Old Job gives Thanksgiving and day after off, plus they let everyone go early the Wednesday before. For Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are paid days off and you get off early the day before. New Year’s Day is paid off and you get off early. Best scenario is when Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is Thursday/Friday or one falls on the weekend. Four day weekend!

  6. anonymous*

    I’m not really understanding where the resentment is coming from. I’ve been working full-time for 10 years and this is the first time in my entire career I’ve ever been permitted to take time off at the holidays.

    I’m not really understanding why the OP feels entitled to time off but suspect that frustration is coming from somewhere/thing else.

    1. Steve*

      I can understand a little resentment if the same people get to take vacation days during that time every year and no one else gets to take a turn vacationing on those days. It actually sounds like Sarah is a favorite that’s getting special attention (when I first read it I wrongfully assumed Sarah was John’s wife). Personally I think even John (despite being the boss) ought to be in the holiday time off rotation if for no other reason than being a compassionate boss that shows that vacation time is granted fairly.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There are legitimate reasons for letting Sarah vacation during that time and not letting others — for instance, she could do a different type of work that means there’s less need to have her in the office (for instance, if the OP is a receptionist or takes client calls and Sarah work is more solo).

        (That also assumes that she’s vacationing; the letter just says that she’s traveling, which could be work travel.)

      2. Diane*

        But it sounds like Mark and Sarah aren’t taking vacation — they are traveling for work. Schlepping around a busy airport and dealing with weather delays is no fun for them either. Maybe Mark figures that if he has to work, everyone has to work.

      3. some1*

        But we don’t know why Sarah is allowed to take the time. Maybe this is the only time Sarah takes a week off at a time all year, and maybe the LW and Mark already took full weeks off.

  7. Kelly O*

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked the odd days between Christmas and New Year’s, or the day after Thanksgiving for that matter.

    It’s a good time to clean your desk, organize files, sort through things on your computer to make sure your digital files are in order too. If you do document storage, or rotate through your files every year, it can be a good opportunity to purge things, or shred if need be.

    Take your radio or iPhone, plug in some good music or your favorite podcast, and just enjoy the quiet day. Trust me, you will not be the only one working that day.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’m working 12 hour days on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after. I’m looking forward to catching up on all the organizational stuff I’ve been putting off.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Completely agree. On days like this, I treat myself by leaving for work a little early and picking up coffee and breakfast to have when I get there. With no one else in the office, I catch up on work, but I also give myself more free time than usual–I’ll read the newspaper and take any personal calls that come in.

  8. Allison*

    I had to do that last year, the hardest part was trying to stay productive in such a slow time. Little did I know I’d be having panic attacks in January over all the work that was pushed to Q1 for budget reasons. So this year I’ll use my down time in December preparing for all the work that will need to get done in January.

    As for why they do this, I can think of a couple reasons. One being professionalism – they might not really need to stay open during that week, but they’re afraid that closing the office will make them seem lazy, wheras staying open says “we’re here when you need us,” and may make it seem like their services are more important than they are.

  9. Matthew Soffen*

    When I worked for Hamilton Standard (Now Hamilton Sunstrand) we would get from Christmas Eve to the day after New Years off (with pay). Granted we didn’t get many holidays off during the year though.

    The reason we got that time off was that since we were a manufacturing company (i.e. Stuff for jet engines) and the “floor” was union and the floor was shut down, They saw no need for engineering to be in during that down time. So the whole company shut-down for the 10 days (Except ones during the 1st gulf war – then we all got double time and a half for the days we had to work).

    It was a trade-off. Time off through-out the year or 10 or so days at the end of the year.

  10. Cat*

    My office isn’t even closed the day after Thanksgiving. It’s fine; I just plan my vacation time accordingly.

      1. some1*

        When I worked for the government, they had dropped Columbus Day as a paid holiday and we got Thanksgiving and the day after paid instead.

      2. Adam V*

        Plenty of companies give that day off since people don’t particularly like working three days, then having one day off, then having to come back for one more day. It makes long-distance travel near-impossible.

        Also, that Friday is Black Friday; it’s possible that retailers have pushed hard for that day to remain an unofficial holiday to help increase retail sales.

        And then there’s the follow-the-herd factor – “everyone else is off that Friday, so we should take it off too”. That’s easier to apply when it’s one day; it’s harder to justify when it’s four.

        1. Anonymous*

          Ahhh sorry, I get it, I wasn’t thinking of American thanksgiving. Ours is on a Monday thats why I was confused about the next day being a day off as well.

          1. Cat*

            I have to say, I’ve always thought Canadian Thanksgiving is at such a better time than American Thanksgiving. I would really like to have that additional 1.5 months between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          My company doesn’t, and we only get the very basic holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

          This is because my company is in the aviation sector, and so we need to have 24/7 support for pilots and other customers. When I started here, it was explained to me that the company did not think it would be fair to make days like the Friday after Thanksgiving a company holiday, when certain departments have to work all the time. So instead, we all get an additional 5 floating holidays each year that we can use any time.

          1. Eric*

            That seems like a good arrangement to me!

            Right now I work for a former city agency, and we get 12 paid holidays a year. We get Columbus Day and Veterans Day off. It’s a little strange.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    OP, I feel your pain. Really, really do. In my industry many companies do close that week, and mine used to be one of them. Used to be. And it’s bloody annoying not to be able to make travel plans because I have to be here on the 26th; also bloody annoying to be sitting in the office doing nothing when most people are gone.

    I guess if you’re used to working those days, it seems like someone who complains about not getting them off is feeling entitled. But I just wanted to say I’m right there with you, even if that makes me entitled, too.

    (That being said, your boss does get to set the terms, and you get to accept them or leave, now that you’ve tried to negotiate and failed.)

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      PS, yes, of course I realize that I could take PTO…

      …theoretically. That’s the problem with insisting on keeping the office open even though hardly anyone is working: there has to be coverage for each team when the office is open. Which means someone has to volunteer to be that coverage…or else whoever asks last/has been with the company or the team the shortest amount of time/is the most junior, is told “no, you cannot have those days off.” That middle reason is the one that’s been my personal roadblock the last couple of years.

      1. Adam V*

        Sometimes companies realize that that’s a very-prized PTO day, and they give some small added benefit to the people who volunteer to work on it. For example, maybe if you work that Friday, your December vacation requests take precedence over more senior people. (That’s a nice way to make sure that junior people, who often get stuck working the least desireable dates, get something in return.)

        1. Stryker*

          I used to work at a 24-hr factory that didn’t shut down for the major holidays, but you’d get automatic overtime if you volunteered for those days and they’d feed you/other perks. My Nana works at the same place, and for years, she’d do Thanksgiving for the family, then go to work, where they’d feed her another Thanksgiving dinner at midnight or so, complete with the turkey.

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

            Hahaha! When my husband and I were Union, we enjoyed coming in on Holidays when all workers were given a free Turkey Lunch w/ Fixins courtesy of the company (not to mention Holiday pay). No cooking, no dishes, no bill! Felt like we were running a scam!

            While I do understand that people like to have time off during holidays to spend with their families, way I figure it, if I am going to be doing back-breaking labor while dealing with people I’d rather not, I want to get paid!

            So, I may as well come to work….

  12. Jeanne*

    I’m not clear why Sarah always gets to travel instead of helping but maybe she is using vacation days. I used to like days when my boss wasn’t there and it was quiet. Just relax and enjoy yourself. Maybe you can work it out with Mark so you both have a longer span off, one near Christmas and one near New Year’s.

  13. DivaDivine*

    I think you’re being unprofessional, really. I have zero reason to be at work this week or Christmas week. But I am. Because management says I have to be. Even though the past 3 years, I’ve worked from home those weeks.

    I don’t like it one bit so I’m looking for a job that closes that week. And if that’s not possible, I suck it up like a big girl.

    1. Mike C.*

      I really, really despise this attitude. “Things are bad but I just Suck It Up because I’m an Adult and any effort to try and change things from the inside is just petty Entitlement”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But there’s only so much you can do to try to change something (relatively small) like this. If you try and get nowhere, it would be unreasonable to keep pushing this kind of issue — and I think DivaDivine is right to call this kind of resentment unprofessional.

        1. Mike C.*

          I think diminishing someone’s frustration in a show of “I’m better than you” isn’t very useful. Yes, maybe there’s little that can actually be done, but I think on a human level we can understand why someone might be unhappy at having to stare at the wall for several days while other employees get to leave f0r no other reason than because The Owner Said So.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not about belittling him for having human emotion. It’s about pointing out that it’s irrational to feel entitled to something that you aren’t in fact entitled to (and that there’s no good reason for you to be entitled to).

              1. Kelly O*

                This, 100%.

                It’s not about lacking empathy for the OP. Trust me, I’d rather be home with my family too, or out shopping, or taking a long holiday weekend trip.

                But the fact of the matter is, there are a large percentage of companies and industries that don’t shut down for holidays. Many, many, many of us have worked odd days before and after holidays since joining the working world, and while you can complain about it not being “fair” that’s just how it is.

                It’s the attitude of entitlement that bothers me the most, and what is rubbing me the wrong way about the conversation – especially the idea that somehow those who say “suck up and deal with it” (to paraphrase) are somehow not being kind to the OP.

                It’s your right to feel what you want to feel – but it doesn’t mean someone else has to change because your feelings are hurt. I don’t mean that to sound cold or cruel, it’s just life.

        2. Tinker*

          It’s probably picking nits, but I don’t favor referring to thoughts or emotional states (e.g. “resentment”) as “professional” or “unprofessional”. Professionalism, I think, is about conduct — your thoughts are your own business. It isn’t a particularly good idea to cultivate resentment for other reasons, among them being that it decreases their quality of life and makes it more difficult to act correctly, but the OP is entitled to have that reaction nonetheless.

          1. Eric*

            This is fantastic! Having emotions isn’t professional or unprofessional–actions are. If I’m resentful and you know it (by me acting like a child) that’s unprofessional. If I’m resentful and you never know it, that’s professional (and kind of awesome–I love masking my feelings like this.)

        3. Nonprofit Office Manager*

          I don’t think that resentment—even a huge amount of resentment over a “small” issue—is automatically unprofessional. To me, unprofessional resentment implies that the resentment has interfered with someone’s work product, has become a distraction, has made others uncomfortable, etc. In other words, there has to be an outward-facing component to it, rather than just a feeling. I can think of one or two things that I realllly “resent” my boss for, but she has no idea. I mean, she knows I’m unhappy about these things because they have been discussed. But I’ve accepted the fact that if I want to remain in my position, I have to deal with X, Y, and Z. But X,Y, and Z (maddening as they are) do not prevent me from having a positive and productive relationship with my boss. OP and her coworker asked for the week off. Boss said “no.” OP is allowed to be annoyed without being labeled unprofessional as long as she shows up on the requested days with a smile on her face.

      2. Colette*

        I think it has to be a balance – you’re never going to get a job where everything is exactly perfect, so you have to choose to either suck it up (i.e. decide it’s not worth leaving over) or leave and find a job that better suits you.

        Obviously, there are things that are worth leaving over, but having to work three slow days is not one of them, IMO.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m sorry, did I use the phrase “human rights issue” here? Given that human trafficking is a very real problem in the world, I don’t think that’s very funny.

          I’m asking for a little empathy, nothing more.

          1. fposte*

            But you’re also suggesting places that don’t close down for a week aren’t being human. That’s pretty extreme.

            1. Mike C.*

              No, I’m not actually. I’m really more irritated that no explanation is given, and that half the workplace does get to leave, not the actual vacation itself.

              1. fposte*

                You’re right–I misread you. I apologize. I’m not actually as displeased with the manager as you, but I misrepresented your position.

          2. Cat*

            I’m not sure how saying this isn’t a human rights issue has anything whatsoever to do with human trafficking. What it is saying is that comparing what is at best a nice perk to actual workers’ rights issues is kind of ridiculous and trivializing of actual issues. No, your workplace is not cruel, inhumane, or unempathetic for not shutting down between Christmas and New Years.

            1. Mike C.*

              I haven’t mentioned workers right in this whole damn argument!

              Will you people stop putting words into my mouth, and deal with the actual words on the screen? This is simply getting nuts!

      3. LOLwhut*


        I have to say I don’t get the reactions to this. He didn’t ask if this is legal. He’s not talking about sabotaging the office or raising hell with the boss. He’d like a little consideration. And guess what? A lot of businesses won’t give you that time off, but a lot of them will.

        His solution is simple– decide if this is a deal-breaker, and if it is, find another job. What’s so outrageous about that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nothing is outrageous about that. What people are reacting to is the OP’s language like “really resented” and “I’m very angry at having to give up part of my holiday week,” which sounds like the OP thinks he’s somewhat entitled to be able to have this time off (not even as PTO, it sounds like — just free time off).

          1. Mike C.*

            So the OP was expressing some anger in what they felt was a safe forum, what’s the harm in that? We all complain about our jobs from time to time, even those of us (I put myself in this group) who are lucky enough to have great jobs.

            And frankly, if I saw other people able to leave and I wasn’t allowed to and even bringing it up was considered “bad behavior” by the owner, I’d be irritated too.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              To me, it indicates someone who doesn’t understand how this stuff generally works and who therefore someone who might (a) approach their manager really poorly/ineffectively about it, (b) make bad decisions for themselves as a result, and/or (c) stew for no reason. So it’s useful to point out.

            2. Kathryn in Finance*

              I actually think that it’s helpful for the OP to see how the vast majority of people are reacting to their letter. A lot of times I’ve been quite angry about something that happened at work, and I’ve vented to someone else about it. When their reaction was “You’re acting entitled and it’s not that bad as you’re making it out to be” it’s made me realize I was really upset over nothing. Seeing a different perspective can change your entire attitude about a situation. A lot of us have to work over the holidays and don’t resent it. I work those weeks because somebody needs to be here, and I am the junior employee. It’s nothing to feel angry about.

        2. The Hello Kitty*

          Love your username.

          I’m confused as to why everyone’s getting on the OP’s case as well.

          1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

            The fact that it’s common and normal doesn’t make it rational or sensible; it’s an employee benefit the company could offer at virtually no cost, and the boss chooses not to provide it. An attempt to address the situation, and irritation at being dismissed out of hand, aren’t out of line.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Being angry at “having to give up part of my holiday week” when in fact there is no established idea of a holiday week where you can safely assume you won’t be working seems pretty unwarranted to me, to say nothing of wanting to have the time paid and not use PTO for it as “gift” from the business.

              1. Rye-Ann*

                I wonder if the OP has recently graduated? After all, it’s pretty common in school, even post-secondary education, to have from the first few days before Christmas through New Years entirely off. I’m not saying that that makes the OP entitled, but I can kind of see how the way school gives holiday time off could build up that expectation, even after one gets out.

              2. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

                Eh. I wouldn’t make so much of that one phrase; it’s indeed a week when the working world outside of retail and food service slows to a crawl, and spending it in your cube when you know your employer isn’t even getting value out of your presence is really a drag.

          2. BCW*

            Maybe in this person’s experience, it was normal. Maybe they have had many jobs where if it was literally nothing to do, then they let people work from home (my job does that). Or maybe at the minimum, people got to rotate who got the holidays off and it wasn’t just the chosen one. But people are really jumping down the OPs throat for this one.

      4. Jennifer*

        Yeah, sometimes it is just not possible to get something (or anything) changed in a way that you want. “Suck it up” is pretty much my life mantra, really. You don’t have the power, they want to say no, that’s all you can do unless you want to become an entrepreneur or go into management yourself.

      5. Nicole Z.*

        +1, Mike. I’m totally on board with the OP, and I’m a bit disturbed by many commenters’ responses. The advice alone seems like the type of advice that satisfies the status quo, and limits progressive change in the workplace. It essentially boils down to, “management made this policy, so you have to comply and blindly follow it and not push limits and be grateful for whatever he/she has chosen to bestow on you.” Bullocks!

        Hooray for the OP! Her boss was being unreasonable and should share the burden of being in the office if he is so committed to it being open. It’s only fair for him and the other absent employee to participate in rotations. At the very least, he should have provided her with a credible reason, which it seems he did not. For every so-called reason he offered, she suggested a cooperative solution and he rejected that solution. Basically, he was being intransigent. (Perhaps he’s a member Congress!)

        Also, I don’t see the OP as being unprofessional for feeling disgruntled at being stymied (giving employees additional (paid) time off allows them to spend more quality time with family and friends around these major holidays. This improves employees’ quality of life, and makes for a happier workplace!)

        While many commenters relish working during the week after Christmas, I despise it. I’m not as productive because of all the silence and I’m fairly disengaged. I wished management would just shut down the office that week. If they did, I wouldn’t have to leave my family in my home state immediately after Christmas — and then depart again right before New Year’s Eve.

        Using PTO for this week almost feels like a waste. It’s already bad enough that junior level employees are given a paltry 12 paid vacation days at my org. Those days are precious!

    2. Anonicorn*

      Unless they went to their boss and literally whined, discussing something like this with your boss is not unprofessional. It’s also not unprofessional to want time off.

      What’s strange to me is why their boss seemed bothered by merely having the discussion:
      John seemed offended at the very notion. He didn’t like our “attitudes” at bringing the issue up.

      I can understand why sitting in an office alone for a week doing absolutely nothing, two years in a row, while everyone else is out would make the OP upset. It doesn’t seem logical without any more explanation than “the office is open.”

      I don’t know if you’d feel any better, OP, if you had some actual work to do, but maybe you can ask your boss if (s)he has any suggestions for how you can be productive during that time.

      1. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

        Ooh, I wouldn’t do that to a manager who was annoyed at me. That would most likely come off as a passive-aggressive dig, and turn a brief conflict into a more serious issue.

      2. Jennifer*

        The OP could always dust the computers…that’s what an employer of my mom’s told her when he wanted her to come in on Thanksgiving (note: she was a receptionist and literally everyone else in the office had the day off). She quit pretty soon thereafter.

        Could be worse?

      3. Sophia*

        Well to be fair, a lot of commenters (including me) don’t like the “attitude” that is coming off from her written word so it makes me wonder how this request was given in person.

  14. A.Y. Siu*

    I’ve spent almost my entire career working in schools (public, private, secondary, post-secondary). In the schools environment, having Christmas through New Year’s off is standard. You may, if you’re teaching, get even more than that “off” (meaning you’re out of the office, but I guarantee you’ll be grading during that time, so technically you’re still working).

    The one job I’ve had in a non-school has Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and New Year’s day off, but nothing in between. I believe that’s pretty standard.

    1. fposte*

      And schools are also pretty varied–as I said above, I’m in a public university and I get two additional days off but not the whole week.

  15. Rebecca*

    Yeah, in my industry (retail) we’re always open that week. Since I’ve moved into a corporate job, it’s usually super quiet since everyone else takes off to travel. (My and my husband’s families are local so I volunteer to cover my department since so many others travel to see family.) I love it, I can clean, listen to my music as loud as I want, shop online… :)

  16. Sarah*

    I have worked in universities where we closed between Christmas and New Year. It was awesome and made up for the lack of a decent salary.

    However, I wonder if the two that take vacation around Christmas travel during that time. My family lives half way across the country and if we try to travel during the holidays, we make it a longer trip (only see them twice a year). If that’s the case, I can understand why some people are always in the office during those days.

    However, I think it would be nice for your boss to be a little more flexible – shorter work days, working from home, forwarding calls, etc. But he has shown that he’s not going to allow that, so you just have to move on about it. The resentment is going to make your working harder.

  17. Anonymous*

    You’re alone in the office?! You can wear PJs, bring a blow up mattress, read books, etc. It sounds like it’s not going to change so you should make the most out of it while you’re there.

    1. k*

      That was along the lines of my first reaction. At a job in a law office where the main partner didn’t come between Christmas and New Year’s unless it was an important client, most of us treated that time as catch up and casual days. Most people didn’t come in until almost 9 am unless there was an earlier appointment scheduled and left by 3 or 4, in addition to taking long lunches. Several people bought their kids with them. Most people used that time to tie up any cases that had to be closed for tax purposes by the end of the year. A couple people started getting the tax forms ready to be sent to clients. The general idea was to get caught up on cleaning and organization before tax season started. The dress code shifted from business professional to really casual, too. Quite a bit of catchup got done in this laid back atmosphere.

  18. Apollo Warbucks*

    Your boss is being ridicules, anyone who needs to could get hold of you if anything urgent came up and there’s no need to have the office open. You shouldn’t be the only ones to work every year at Christmas. There isn’t a lot you can do now but I would bring it up again after the holiday and tell him that is was so quiet it was a waste of your time being in the office.

    1. LF*

      Boss might be ridiculous but I also think OP’s attitude towards being required to work the week between Christmas and New Year’s is ridiculous. No one is “entitled” to time off just because people around them are off.

      I’m also confused about how it is that so many of OP’s friends and family are also off — they must work in very different industries than the ones that my friends and family work in.

      1. Windchime*

        Same here. I’m in IT, but for a healthcare organization. We get Thanksgiving Day off, but some clinical parts of the organization are open and some people will have to work. I also get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. That’s it. Anything more and I would have to take PTO. I’ve never worked at a place that is off during the holiday week.

    2. AVP*

      This is not actually true…but here is a true story. When I worked for a tiny company, I volunteered to work the week between Christmas and New Years. It was in the dead middle of the recession, and the phone only rang once the entire time.

      …and it was a new client calling to discuss an $800K contract. Had I been on call forwarding and in the middle of a grocery store when he called, we never would have gotten it. Sometimes having someone in the office ready to work at the right moment can make the difference that matters. It really depends on the company.

  19. Lanya*

    OP, while I understand your resentment that John and Sarah regularly get that holiday time off while you and Mark don’t…it is John’s choice whether the office is open or not. Even if nothing is going on. He could decide to keep it open even if the zombie apocalypse happened, and it’s your choice to show up.

    Have you asked him about taking vacation time instead?

    For the record, I have never worked anywhere that closed between Christmas and New Year. I just have to take vacation time if I want to be home those days.

  20. Anonymous*

    I don’t think the issue is having to work over Christmas, the issue is that Sarah gets this time off every single year. I don’t blame OP for being resentful.

    1. Colette*

      Maybe Sarah’s family lives across the country, so if she doesn’t get the time off, she won’t be able to see them, or she saves her PTO for a winter vacation while the other 2 use theirs in the summer.

      It doesn’t sound to me like the OP requested the time off (i.e. using PTO) – she just wants the company to close so she gets the days off anyway.

      1. Minette*

        But should personal circumstances dictate who gets to take vacation? Assuming that both employees are in a position to be away from work for the week (in terms of available PTO, job function, etc.), why should management get to decide who’s more “worthy” of a vacation? It would be more effective to have a system in place: senior employees getting first choice, a rotation, or something similar.

        1. Colette*

          Sure, if everyone asks for it off. But in this case, only Sarah asked for the time off (until the OP & Mark suggested that the entire business shut down).

          If the OP wants the days off next year, she should request them early.

          1. Editor*

            Sometimes people get outmaneuvered when they ask to take time off. I worked for a fairly small department for several years.

            My first year, I had to work every day except Christmas and New Year’s and couldn’t travel to be with family. So in January I asked when I should ask for holiday time off, since I wanted at least a couple of days. I was told it was “too early.” I asked when I should ask, and boss said around the end of October.

            So, I go in Oct. 15 or thereabouts, and boss says, no, the same two people who were off last Christmas requested vacation time for the holidays. I said I had mentioned my preference in January, and he’d told me to come back in October. He was annoyed and told me the others had asked first and that was that. So, I said I wanted to go on record requesting vacation around Christmas in the following year. Boss said I should come back the following year in mid-September.

            So, I remind boss around Easter that I will want some time off at Christmas, and boss says it is too soon. I decide to try earlier than September. I go to the boss in mid-August to ask if it too early to ask for vacation time at Christmas, and I get told that one employee has already been granted the whole week and another has half a week then, but I can have two days at New Year’s. I said I’d been told not to ask until September, so why did they have time off already, and was told, “they just asked, okay?” In other words, boss was never, ever going to make my requests a priority. Yes, indeed, I did start job hunting.

            If Sarah kept asking for the holiday time off earlier and earlier each year, it isn’t surprising that the OP and the other worker didn’t get a chance to take the time off. It might not even be deliberate — she may have a travel agent or a family member who is organizing things earlier and earlier to get a better or surer deal. It may not have happened in a way that parallels my experience, but I am not going to fault the OP for not asking “soon enough.” Been there, done that, and did not enjoy the experience.

            1. Colette*

              If it were an issue like that, I’d agree the OP should be job hunting, but I don’t see any evidence that the OP asked for the time off at all before asking that the office close.

      2. Laufey*

        IMHO, Sarah should not get priority in time off just because her family lives across the country – unless it she negotiated it before her hire, which may or may not be the case, and which the OP may not know about. However, if Sarah’s getting priority because she saved her time and the other two haven’t or she has seniority over the other two, or is traveling for work, that’s fair game.

        1. Colette*

          Right, I didn’t mean to imply that she should get priority, just that she likely plans to take the time off – including saving the PTO days and asking for it well in advance – while the OP doesn’t.

  21. LOLwhut*

    Your boss is an ass, and your only recourse is to find another job, and maybe try to work out some extra PTO in the deal.

    Yet another reason small, family-owned businesses are a living hell.

      1. LOLwhut*

        1- For giving Sarah preference without talking it over with the rest of his three-person team.
        2- For insisting that the office be staffed when it’s pretty clear they won’t need a warm body for four days, and the two of them have agreed to be on call and work remotely.
        3- For taking their merely mentioning the issue as a matter of “attitude”.
        4- For frequently working from home , and allowing Sarah the same option, while denying his people the option to occasionally do the same

        It’s not like John is running GM. It’s a four-person shop and a little flexibility goes a long way.

        The guy has every right to run his business his way. He also has the right to be a jerk. It looks like he’s exercising both.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We have no way of knowing whether Sarah’s role is different and therefore more easily allows those things … or whether there are other reasons for those difference, like performance level.

          And it doesn’t sound like the boss took the mere mention of it as “attitude,” but rather pushing it to the extent they did (and, I would bet, sounding outraged by something that isn’t outrage-worthy).

          1. LOLwhut*

            In a four-person office, I’m willing to bet roles aren’t terribly rigid, and if it’s a performance issue, than that’s something either the OP or the boss should address.

            If the OP’s account is to be believed (and he might not be telling the whole story, who knows) all they did was bring up the subject and lay out their case. If that’s the whole story, and the boss complained about their attitude, he’s being awfully defensive.

            All I said was, the OP should look for a new job, as is his right. It’s the boss’s right to run his shop the way he wants, and his loss if he’s going to lose people over it. But I don’t see a lot to defend in his actions.

            1. FiveNine*

              OP says the two pointed out to the owner that they’re “being asked to give up some of our holiday” — the boss must have been incredulous, he repeatedly told them the office is open (which the two took to be like talking to a wall). OP flat-out says in the letter that shutting down the operation and just giving them those four days off (not suggesting using PTO, just giving them PTO) would be a nice year-end gift because it’s not clear they’re going to get bonuses or raises. It’s stunning, really. No wonder the owner thought there was a little “attitude” there.

            2. Laufey*

              No, you called the boss an ass and simultaneously insulted functional small-business owners and those who prefer working for a smaller shop.

              And no one is questioning the OP’s right to look for a new job, but rather, what will be achieved by it, since we’ve pretty much established getting the week off between Christmas and New Year’s isn’t standard in most industries/geographic locations.

              And it might have been wiser to actually ask for vacation or for the boss to address the vacation policy (which was evenutally asked, but not at first) rather than ask for the boss to shut down the whole office.

              1. LOLwhut*

                Yep, I said all that, and I could say more. U mad bro?

                The OP came to the boss with a reasonable request, which the boss shot down with nothing but an “I’m in charge.” That’s his right, as is his right to be an ass. This has all been established.

                And plenty of places, especially in OP’s line of work, can and do work this same situation our reasonably.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It might be a reasonable request, but the way it was presented in the letter here wasn’t all that reasonable, so if the OP took a similar approach with his boss, it’s not surprising that it didn’t go over well. I think that’s what people are pointing out; it’s not about the request itself, but the framing.

                2. Laufey*

                  Admittedly, I do not have a ton of working experience. But drawing on my family’s experience, which has generally been middle class office workers in a wide variety of industries, with some retail thrown in, none of us have ever gotten the week between Christmas and New Year’s off after graduation. I can’t even imagine suggesting to a boss that we close the office. Ergo, there are many of us that feel the OP did, in fact, make an unreasonable request, one that is unheard of in many industries (and how do you even know what line of work the OP is in? I didn’t see that anywhere.).

                  If a boss/small business owner wants to have their office open to provide customer service/maintain the float/hold the fort in case chaos erupts, they are perfectly entitled to do so. If the OP decides that this is, in fact, the hill she wants to die on and find employment elsewhere, she is also entitled to do so.

                  Asking an employee to do the work the employee is being paid to do does not make the employer an ass.

          2. Shelley*

            I think we are making a lot of assumptions. We clearly need more information. Hope the OP comes to the comments section and sheds some light.

        2. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

          We are also only getting one side of the story here. I know that’s true with all letters, but it’s possible John has a side that makes his actions make sense, and isn’t at all ass-like.

    1. Orange Panda*

      Wow, extreme response. I work for the government and we only get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. And it was like that when I worked in the private sector as well.

    2. KL*

      I don’t have these days off and I work at a 5000+ employee business. Why the instant attack on family-owned businesses?

        1. De Minimis*

          I worked at a global company, we didn’t get any additional time off other than closing a little early the day before. Our office was totally dead, and they probably could have given us additional days but chose not to. I don’t think this is anything specific to small family businesses–if anything I’d think they might be more likely to give more time off just because the logistics of doing so is far less complicated than with a large company.

  22. Cameron*

    I’m the OP.

    Part of the issue was that the vacation policy is not clear. The boss never said, “OK, it’s Labor Day, so in two weeks, turn in your holiday vacation requests.” Basically Mark and I lost the “get on the calendar first” contest, most likely because we didn’t buy airline tickets, like Sarah did. Yes, we deserve some blame for failing to act, but the boss deserves some for not having any policy in place, or asking us our plans, or telling us “Now that Sarah has requested time off, so it’s down to you two.” In fact, I could still take those days off and make Mark come in all four days. What if I made vacation plans today? Would Mark have the right to be mad at me? Should I feel guilty?

    I had another talk with the boss today and, like before, got no traction on closing the office or working from home during those four days. Where I DID get agreement was that the vacation policy was virtually non-existent, and she promised to correct that in January. This was a private discussion she wanted to have with each of us individually, since she felt “ganged up on” by me and Mark before.

    As the comments show, some companies are closed during that week and some are open, so my expectations simply don’t line up with the boss’s. As for catching up on work during the slow week — my prediction is that December 23 and 24 will be slow. And January 2 and 3 will be slow. Those four days would be a great time to catch up on work. But obviously I’m in the minority in that opinion.

    Thanks to everyone, especially Allison, for your thoughts.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. It’s not really your boss’s responsibility to do that. In most workplaces, the onus would be on you to speak up about your vacation plans, not wait to be asked about them.

      1. Steven M*

        Agreed. I’ve never worked for a company where the vacation policy included anyone proactively asking me when I’d be taking time. The closest would be when I’ve worked for companies with ‘use it or lose it’ PTO policies, and we’d get a reminder about 3 months before the ‘lose it’ date with how much time we had to use up if we didn’t want to lose it. Even that wasn’t a requirement of the policy, I think they just did it to head off answering individual questions about it/reduce the number of surprised and upset individuals when the ‘lose it’ date passed and PTO balances were reset.

        1. Judy*

          I’ve never personally been in situations that required coverage, but everywhere I worked that required coverage from someone there was a plan in place. For example, back when admins for engineering groups existed, our 3 admins that supported the group of 45 of us worked out their vacations so that at least one was always working during days the office was open.

          What if everyone had kids and all wanted to take the local school’s spring break week off? I think in our admin’s case, it was handled it by the previous quarter. So October1 they put in what they wanted to use in Jan, Feb and March and if there were days all 3 wanted off, they would draw straws for them. After October1, it was first request for the Q1 days.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            We were asked about days off for the holidays to make sure someone was covering the front desk during lunch, because the office will be open (it rotates among the admins). Our clients will be open on Friday and so will our office.

        2. A Bug!*

          The call center I worked at had this policy. Vacations were decided a month before the start of the applicable year. Everyone was given a vacation request form, they’d submit three requests in order of preference, and then Scheduling would process them by seniority. Anyone who didn’t get their forms in, or who couldn’t get any of their three requests, were assigned vacation time out of what was left.

          Which makes me wonder if that sort of arrangement makes up most of the OP’s experience with vacation scheduling. It can be a bit jarring to move from a highly structured work environment to a more casual arrangement. I can see how it would suck to miss out on things because expectations weren’t made clear.

          OP, you have my sympathy. I hope you’re able to find an arrangement for next Christmas that is less upsetting for you.

        3. Xay*

          I haven’t worked anywhere that didn’t ask for vacation plans in advance just to ensure there was coverage over the holidays. First call on holiday vacation time in my office was in October, after which we were free to look at the calendar and take time as needed as long as there was some coverage during the holiday. One would think that this would be even more important as part of the manager’s role in a 4 person business.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I work in a team of 5 we all spoke weeks ago to decide who would work over Christmas. We try an accommodate everyone who wants time off and have always managed to. So I think the manager should have given a little thought to staff levels over Christmas to try and be fair, it’s not reasonable for it to always fall to the same people every year.

        years a go when I worked in retail the boss re did the entire schedule over Christmases so people could get a few days off in one go and he ask what our plans were and what days we wanted off. And that was. Much bigger team than 4 to organise.

        1. Minette*

          I think it behooves management to make clear expectations about required holiday staffing levels, which doesn’t seem to have happened here, and then attempt to meet employee vacation requests accordingly. When everyone wants to same week off, it isn’t fair or good for employee morale to grant it to the same people and not to others year after year, assuming there aren’t mitigating circumstances.

          1. fposte*

            I certainly think it would be good if management did ask, but I can also see the manager assuming that if the way it was done last year was an issue, the people it affected would speak up. Given how many people on this thread would rather go in those days and take vacation later, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the manager to assume that’s the case with the OP and her co-worker.

            It’s also not clear if the OP would find it acceptable if it were coming out of her vacation–her initial request is to have it as a “gift.” And that, I think, is pretty unlikely if other people have to take it as leave.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Have you talked about policies around who gets vacation when before? I’m sure I’ve read something about that here, but I’d be interested in hearing more (and a conversation with commenters) about it.

        It’s a tough nut to crack. I don’t think a system where the person who happens to get the request in first (for desirable days, like the day after Thanksgiving, the week between Christmas and New Years, etc.) gets the days. But how should the priority work? Seniority? Rotation (Sarah gets Thanksgiving week, Mark gets Christmas week, etc.)?

        1. doreen*

          Here’s the thing- no matter what policy you have, some group of people are going to be unhappy.
          In my experience, most places don’t have a policy specific to Thanksgiving/Christmas/ New Years time off. Either the same policy applies all the time, or there’s a policy that applies to all high demand periods including the summer.

          Set a deadline or deadlines for requests and then seniority- not good for me. I’ve got 20 years and am least senior in my title- and those are the people I’d be competing with. Also, in some of these systems, it can be difficult to coordinate schedules with an SO. For example , there are jobs where it would be very difficult to switch if you were approved for 12/22 to 12/27 and found out two weeks later ( when that job published approvals ) that your spouse could only get 12/30 to 1/3.

          Approve requests as they come in- not good for people who don’t plan ahead and are inflexible about dates for whatever reason.

          Reverse deadlines- approve requests as they come in but not more than X months/weeks in advance. Not good for the people who want to submit a request on 1/2 for every day they want off in 2014, or for anyone planning a wedding or other big event unless there’s a mechanism for exceptions. ( which will also be seen as unfair- just by different people)

          Rotation- that works as long as all the employees are equally interested in the same popular vacation weeks and don’t mind whether they get Thanksgiving week or Christmas week or the weeks school is out for winter or spring break Employees who want time off for one but aren’t interested in the others (and it’s not necessarily a religious thing) will be dissatisfied because they only get the desired week every X year.

          I don’t think any of these systems are automatically unreasonable but I also don’t think there’s a single system that everyone will like. The fairness will have to come via application to all- I might not like the system but I can hardly say it’s unfair if it applies equally to all.

      4. BCW*

        I agree its not the boss’s responsibility. But at the same time, it really isn’t fair that Sarah gets the time off every single year just because she buys tickets first, maybe because she is travelling and is trying to get them cheaper. I mean, if thats the case, the OP should just put in their request on January 1. There should be a rotation or something. I can understand the frustration there.

        1. Jeanne*

          I always had to pick my main vacation times early in January. That’s when the boss put up the vacation calendar. I had seniority so I got to pick some days first. If I didn’t write down Christmas days then in Jan, I couldn’t have them in Dec because someone else would want them. The boss said most days only one person could have vacation although some days at holidays could have two. Of course the boss got time off for all holidays.

      5. Ann Furthermore*

        Yep, this exactly. People need to figure out what they want to do for vacation, and then get the time off cleared with their boss.

        I started my job in November, got married in May, and then we took our honeymoon the next November. We went to Australia, so we wanted to be there during the spring months.

        It was a 2 week trip, and I felt bad about basically hogging up all the November/Thanksgiving vacation time from my co-workers, especially since I’d only been there a few months. But when I told them my plans, I apologized in advance, and then told them both I would not take any additional time off during December or January and let them take whatever time they wanted. They appreciated that and it all worked out just fine.

      6. Laura*

        Really? It kind of surprises me, actually, why the boss of a 4 person operation *wouldn’t* at least ask people about their holiday plans for time off. I mean, yes, as many people have pointed out, most places don’t give that week off. But in my experience – and I’ve mostly worked for larger organizations – *lots* of people use PTO that week – and expect to be able to do so.

        We don’t know whether Sarah and the boss are using those days for work travel, but let’s say they are taking that time off for the holidays. In that case, it just seems like it would be nice for the manager to check in with the OP and Mark before approving Sarah’s PTO.

        Of course, the boss doesn’t *have* to do this, and I’m not a manager, so what do I know. But it just seems like that level of communication and teamwork between four people would be an easy and nice thing to do – you know, working a holiday schedule that is, if not perfectly fair, then at least transparent and understandable to the folks who have to work more. The OP might have burned that bridge if he approached his boss antagonistically, though.

        Also? The boss saying she didn’t like their attitudes? I dunno, that sounds like something someone says when they’re trying to shut you up for asking for something they don’t want to give. I can’t think of a situation where I’ve heard someone say that to another adult and *didn’t* think the person saying it was being an ass. So there’s that.

      7. Editor*

        It may not be the boss’s responsibility to ask about holiday plans, but I’ve worked in more than one office where telling the boss about holiday plans was a guessing game (see my note upthread about the worst one).

        When I ran an office with a small staff, I always asked about holiday plans well in advance so we could hash things out. Even though I was the supervisor, I didn’t give myself priority for the holidays and staffing varied from year to year. My feeling that I should work some holidays I wanted off reflects my experience, but I found it worked very well.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I think you’ve nailed the heart of the problem: your expectations don’t line up with your boss’s. You now know her expectations and only you can decide if they’re a deal-breaker or not.

    3. B*

      If you would like vacation time you should never wait for the boss to ask. You ask for time off as soon as you know and put it in email as well or at least confirm in email. If you want next year off, ask for it sooner.

      I have always had to work that week and yes, it sucks. But I’d rather not waste my PTO on easy days.

      1. Editor*

        As I noted upthread, I’ve had managers who wouldn’t accept my requests for time off because they wanted to procrastinate about making vacation decisions. Sometimes asking isn’t enough, and it may annoy a procrastinating or disorganized manager.

    4. Anonymous*

      I just want to point out that holidays are not an entitlement. Nor is vacation. Nor is having a leave policy.

      That said Union shops often have very clear policies on leave so you may want to look at a company with a Union so you always know you are going to get your leave following an exact policy (though I’ve never seen one that would require the employer to ask the staff what their plans were).

      1. Elise*

        But, if it’s union then vacation will be based on seniority. If Sarah has been there the longest then they are in the same boat.

      1. themmases*

        I thought the same thing. The first year I could see being confused and unhappy with the outcome, but I’m not clear on why the policy would have changed from last year if the OP never expressed displeasure before now.

    5. Cat*

      But if you never said you wanted vacation until very late in the process, how would your boss know? Plenty of people have no issue working those days, and even like it because the office is slow and they can save their PTO for busier times. It’s not reasonable to expect your boss to assume you want that and then to stew for not accommodating something you didn’t express.

    6. some1*

      “In fact, I could still take those days off and make Mark come in all four days. What if I made vacation plans today? Would Mark have the right to be mad at me? Should I feel guilty?”

      Imo, not taking vacation time that you have earned (vs. calling in sick all the time when you’re not really sick) because you feel bad about sticking your co-worker(s) with work is a recipe for resentment.

    7. Wilton Businessman*

      I have coverage minimums to meet. I publish the schedule of who is out at what time and people that work for me know who is in and who is out. I work on a “first-come-first-served” basis and whenever someone tells me they are going to be out, it goes on the schedule. My group already knows that if somebody else has that day, you need to talk to the boss before you schedule yourself out.

      If you want the week of Thanksgiving off or the week between Christmas and New Years, you better ask in January or February to guarantee it.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I schedule almost identically to that. If two requests hit my desk on the same day for the same time, it goes by seniority.

    8. Colette*

      In fact, I could still take those days off and make Mark come in all four days.

      But … your vacation still needs to be approved by your manager, so that’s not something you can unilaterally decide. I mean, maybe she’d say yes – since Mark is still working – but she also could say no because it’s too late/she wants a backup in case Mark isn’t available/she’s annoyed that you expect the time off/you’re out of PTO.

    9. The IT Manager*

      This is different issue than what I thought you described in the letter.

      I agree that it is annoying/frustrating when the holiday coverage schedule is on first come first served. basis or just some other unfair method that favors certain people. On the other hand, you say this has been going on for two years now so I don’t understand why you didn’t make an attempt to put in for PTO those four days off before Sarah so you can spend it with your friends and family. It still kind of sounds like Sarah has requested PTO and you and Mark were requesting to get off for those days without taking PTO.

      I am glad that your boss will be discussing the issue with you in the future in order to try to resolve the issue.

      Fairness of the holiday coverage is something offices that are open during the holiday really should think about. And favoring people who have children or people who’s only family live far away and must buy plane tickets “home” is unfair.

    10. doreen*

      But apparently your boss did have a policy in place – she approves vacation requests as they come in, rather than setting a deadline and not considering any requests until after that date. It might not be the policy you prefer, or the one you’re used to but it’s not an uncommon policy at all.

      And BTW, don’t discount the possiblility that Sarah requested the time off before buying the tickets. Lots of people request time off way in advance and then buy the tickets- I’m taking a week off in March and requested the time in October specifically because I wanted to book my tickets.

      1. Colette*

        Yes, I always check in before booking tickets, as well. If Sarah is booking tickets without requesting the time off, that would be something her manager should be bringing up – but it’s certainly nothing the OP needs to know about or be involved with.

      2. Xay*

        This is true too – I work in a very busy program that schedules conferences and meetings in the spring so I requested my time off in the spring well in advance to make sure that it wouldn’t interfere with the office schedule.

    11. Lanya*

      If your boss actually said she felt “ganged up on” by you and Mark about this in the past, I would take that as a loud and clear message that you overstepped your bounds. Maybe it’s time to find a workplace that is more in line with your expectations.

      1. Jamie*

        This. From a purely pragmatic pov it’s good you know how your communication approach felt to your boss so you can adjust. A good end result is rarely had from antagonizing the decision maker.

        1. FiveNine*

          I know it’s so hard for OP to see it from the boss’s perspective right now, but it had to have come as a shock — this has been the Christmas-New Year’s vacation arrangement in the office not one, not two, but three years now (the two previous years and now this one). OP and Mark held it in all this time and finally, this year, went to the boss with it … right before Thanksgiving holiday … asking that both of them be gifted four days off.

    12. KM*

      OP, for what it’s worth, I feel you on being angry. To me, it’s not the fact that the office is open, itself, it’s that, from what you’ve described, your boss has been using a wild west coverage policy where the least selfish person gets shafted and everyone’s supposed to be okay with that.

      Where it’s an office with so few people, I completely agree with you that it’s more respectful to have a collaborative discussion about what’s going to happen at times when everyone wants to be away (the holiday season or otherwise). I also completely agree with you that saying “The office is open” as if that’s something that lies outside the boss’ control is a really poor answer to your question.

      On the plus side, it sounds like the boss eventually heard what you were trying to say and will do something about the vacation policy so… cautiously optimistic?

    13. Joey*

      If you’re expecting actual policies to address issues when there are only four people in play I’m not quite sure this is the right work environment for you.

    14. Anonymous*

      You got pretty flamed for your question. I feel bad everyone was responding so harshly (including Alison. No offense, but I felt like you really dug into OP and anyone on his side today).

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think feeling angry and resentful is outrageous, irrational, or unprofessional. It’s a normal, human, emotional reaction. I don’t get the sense you flew into a rage and flipped a table over it. You talked to your boss, got shot down, and asked for advice. I think that’s pretty mature.

      I also didn’t think Sarah had this super top secret job description in a 4 person office either that a lot of people were stating “she could be traveling for work!” before you explained she asked first. Now that you explained it more, I see a lot of, “Well, how’s it Sarah’s fault you weren’t proactive?” Geez, people. Really?

      I feel like I work at the only college that is open during that time. There is no work for me to do because all the students are gone and everyone else just assumes we’re closed. I feel you, man.

      1. Laura*


        I’m not seeing the unreasonable/entitled attitude that Alison and others are pointing out either.

        Maybe it was unreasonable to ask the boss to close the office and give them those days off for “free,” but I would also argue that after having been there last year – when the boss was not there – perhaps the OP is actually in a position to have an opinion on whether it makes sense for the office to be open. A lot of people are saying “obviously the boss has a reason for wanting to keep the office open,” and that may be true. But it’s also not insane to go to your boss and point out what happened in your experience and ask if it makes sense to keep doing things that way. Maybe the OP didn’t ask in a particularly conciliatory manner, so the boss didn’t want to hear it, but that hardly means that pointing out a perceived inefficiency to your boss is out of line.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Absolutely it’s not out of line. Continuing to push after the manager has heard you out and said no, and framing it to the boss as “part of my holiday week is being taken away” is the part that’s out of line. But simply raising it isn’t.

        2. Jamie*

          I think hour example is part of what is reading to many as entitled.

          The thought of them as free days the company should gift them because the op assumes there are no raises, bonuses coming is really off putting. It’s the equivalent of my telling someone since I assume they won’t be getting me a car or jewelry for Christmas they should get me a a sweater instead. Who says they were going to get me anything.

          End of year raises and bonuses are great and I am a big fan, but unless they are a required part of your compensation and legally owed you…no one is entitled to them. So to assume since they aren’t giving you X and Y compensating your with Z is the least they could do is the definition of entitled, since they don’t owe you any of it.

          I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with professionally pointing out to ones boss an opportunity for improvement including working from home or whatever…I don’t think that’s the problem. What people (at least me) are reacting to is the tone. It reads as if this time off is owed and it’s just odd to me because that’s not common practice. If I wrote into Alison asking how to get my boss to reconsider paying me for mileage for my daily commute because I don’t think it’s fair that I have to pay for gas to get to work it would be the same response…people would find it odd that I’m expressing an entitlement to something that is not customary.

          I didn’t read anyone saying the op was wrong to want it, or to even speak to her boss about it…but if the way you talk to your boss gets you a response that he felt ganged up on then maybe the tone in the letter is also being expressed at work…and it can only help the op to see that many find that off putting.

          And i. Response to the anonymous post to which you’re responding, I’m always baffled when people complain about flaming here. Disagreement isn’t flaming – and I always find it interesting when a significant majority is on one side of an issue and since it’s such a diverse group here I think when things seem one sided it’s an important point – because it’s probably reflective of the POV of many they work with irl.

          1. Laura*

            I see your point re: “flaming.” And it probably is the POV of many others, including the OP’s boss, that the OP is being entitled and/or unreasonable. I’m usually in agreement with Alison (and the general consensus of the commenters on here) so I’m trying to figure out what’s different about this post.

            I think maybe it’s that I’m getting a very different picture of the boss in this situation than other folks. And I’m completely open to the possibility that I’m not reading the situation accurately. Something about the boss saying he didn’t like their attitude just seemed….weirdly dismissive and/or controlling? I don’t know. And then to say you felt ganged up on? Again, I wasn’t there, I don’t know what they said, but I feel like a manager should be able to cope a little better with 2 unsatisfied employees coming to him with a problem, even if they did so in an entitled or bratty way. Then again, maybe they surprised him with this and he was just genuinely taken aback because he’d never known there was an issue and they’d let it fester. So I can understand feeling ganged up on in that context.

            So I dunno. Either way, I agree with you that the OP handled this the wrong way. I just can’t shake the impression that the boss is an ass, which makes me more sympathetic to the OP.

            1. Anonymous*

              This is exactly what I was thinking. The boss seemed like an ass for getting so defensive and basically responding to OP’s request with “I’m the boss!” It’s like the adult version of “Because I said so!” Also regarding the “ganged up on” response. The boss should really know how to handle 3 employees. This just seemed whiney to me. I feel this could have easily been resolved as such:

              Employee: Hey, boss, me and coworker have been here the last 3 years during this time and we haven’t really done anything because there’s no work. Why do we have to come in? Can we just have it off?

              Boss: Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, but I’d like the office to stay open because XYZ.


              Boss: I see. That does seem unfair. We don’t have a vacation policy. Let me draft one effective Jan. 1 so we are all on the same page and this doesn’t happen again.

              Instead it seemed like the boss pitched a fit. Didn’t explain anything, leaving the other 2 employees pissed. Rightfully so. I didn’t read it as “I’m pissed I don’t get holidays off because it is my constitutional right.”

              1. Forrest*

                Per the original email, the boss did handle it like your first option ie “Boss: Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, but I’d like the office to stay open because XYZ.” He listed a couple reasons why.

                People seem to be forgetting that workplaces aren’t democracies. The OP’s boss is free to keep the office open and doesn’t have to justify her decision at all. The OP is free to find another job.

                Its not really that complicated people.

                1. Nicole Z.*

                  “People seem to be forgetting that workplaces aren’t democracies.” And this is what’s wrong with most workplaces, and why labor will continue to suffer. We complacently accept the conditions we’re given (including stagnant salaries but with increasing responsibilities) until we’re driven into an early retire or pull an “Eat, Pray, Love”. Thank goodness there was an era of worker activities who demanded such “luxuries” as weekends and paid sick days.

    15. Jen S. 2.0*

      As frustrating as it is that there’s no policy in place, the fact remains that it was perfectly reasonable of you to ask politely for the boss to consider shutting the office for those days …and it was equally reasonable for the boss to decide not to do so. Then, in this case, it’s the boss’s opinion that matters. Their office, their rules. If you don’t like the rules, you can make different ones someday when you are the boss.

      Not only that, but you aren’t giving up any of your holiday. Like it or not, December 23 and January 3 are not holidays. It’s not that we don’t feel your frustration about hauling it to the office to do nothing, and it’ s not that you don’t have a point that there are ways to cover some work without being present, but you don’t have much of a leg to stand on with the “holiday week” part. The holiday is not a week long.

      Sorry, Charlie.

    16. Anonymous*

      Get some books, load your iPad or computer or whatever up with some TV series you want to binge watch and enjoy the time in the office rather than pouting about it — if you have to be there, do something to make it enjoyable. Want to spend time with your friends or family? Have lunch with them at the office.

      Bottom line: Your boss gets to decide vacation policy. You get to decide whether the vacation policy is a dealbreaker for you, and if it is, you can find some place to work more in line with how you want to manage the holidays. At the very least, hopefully this discussion has made you aware that many many people are working this time and being expected to show up for work on days when your business is OPEN is not unusual.

  23. AdminAnon*

    My office only has 6 holidays per year, so we are open every day during the holiday season except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

    Since the office has to be open, I just took my Thanksgiving time off last week (Thursday and Friday) and this week I get to have the office mostly to myself (completely to myself on Friday). I’m ok with it because, as others have posted above, I get some time to listen to music and organize my office/computer before our work picks up after the start of the year.

    I am lucky enough to have negotiated my Christmas time off this year as part of my offer (I just started this job in March), so I’m off the entire week of Christmas, but I will be back in the office the week of New Year’s, except for the 1st. But again, I’ll be on my own and life will be just grand!

    OP, I agree with what others have posted re: splitting the time. I say you should each pick half of the time to have off (if indeed you can use PTO that way) and just enjoy the solitude! Play some Christmas music, make some cocoa, and clean your office (or read AAM…either way).

  24. JMegan*

    I’m with you, OP. This is the first year I’m working those days since 2002, and I am definitely feeling a little whiny about it!

    But what can you do, really. The office is open, the office is open – somebody has to be there. And if you’ve asked the boss to consider alternatives and he’s not open to it, then you’ve done all you can do. I don’t know about you, but this is definitely not the hill I want to die on at the office.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      It could explain why John is the boss in this letter & in the comment posted by Cameron the OP, the boss is referred to as a she. -:)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually changed the names in the letter in case they were real names but thought I kept the genders (but now that I look at the original names, I realize the boss name was unisex). Either way, I’m all for people anonymizing details!

        1. Laufey*

          We have a female family friend named Scott. She goes by Scottie, but has to use Scott when the legal name is required.

    2. Laufey*

      And I have to say, I love the respect and maturity of this group, that no one suggested sabotaging the office or faking a 911 emergency like that other website.

        1. Laufey*

          Yes, they did. To they’re credit, there were several people who pointed out that that was a Really Bad Idea, and that it’s never good to fake emergencies, and that 911 respondents have families, too. So, not the entire internet is crazy, but it was still said.

        2. Jamie*

          I followed the link and read over there and it makes me all the more grateful for the discourse here.

          I don’t agree with everyone here all the time, which is good because if I did I’d have stopped reading the comments ages ago – it’s not interesting and you don’t learn anything if everyone is in perfect lockstep with each other. But except for the really rare exception of a trolling post (always quickly mitigated) debate is still reasonable – it’s the perfect example of how reasonable people can see the same situation very differently.

          Then I read stuff like the comments in the link and it reminds me of how much of the internet comment sections are filled with nasty comments and suggestions to lie, scam, and where suggestions to make a false 911 report to get out of work is something considered worthy of typing and submitting.

          Wading through virtual disagreement is so much more pleasant than wading through actual flames.

      1. A Bug!*

        I would imagine that AAM’s readership is quite large. It only takes one person who reads both Metafilter and AAM to point it out to everyone else.

  25. Anonymous*

    I don’t think there is anything the OP can do but I understand the frustration. It’s ridiculous that Sarah doesn’t have to share the holiday staffing rotation and that you have to play some game to scramble to see who buys their plane tickets first!

    1. Penny*

      It’s not about who bought tickets first. If the OP knew she wanted this time off, she could have requested it the first of the year ans Sarah could have been out of luck when she requesyed it 6 months later. In my experience, especially in small offices, it’s a first come first serve situation. Sucks if you can’t nail down your plans early, but now she knows.

  26. Mike C.*

    I have plenty of that time off at Christmas as company policy, around a week or so. If you end up having to work (due to an emergency) you get double time and managers are really flexible about who works when if they’re able to.

    It’s called “being a human”. There’s no legal requirement for it, but it goes a long way towards maintaining high employee morale.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s an awfully broad definition of being a human. I’d guess that the vast majority of workplaces in the U.S. don’t give that week off and people don’t find it inhumane.

      1. Mike C.*

        “Being a human” means having some basic empathy, nothing more. As in “managers listen to their employees and try to be reasonable with how they schedule time over the holiday and do their best to make sure folks taking care of the load in a fair and reasonable manner”.

        The OP’s boss just told them they had bad attitudes. See the difference?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the OP has an unwarranted attitude about this issue in his letter, so I don’t think it’s inconceivable that it came across in the conversation with the boss, or that the boss was reasonable in pointing out that the OP’s stance on this was unwarranted.

        2. Anonymous*

          “Being a human” is important. When I was very young (about 19) I had a job at a bank. One of the tellers was newly married and had family in another state. She wanted off for a couple of days for Christmas and another teller had already requested time off. I remember her crying hard in the break room (she and I were the same age) and management decided to give her the time off anyway. That always stayed with me that they were a company with a good heart.

    2. Yup*

      In my former job, December (particularly the end) was the single busiest season of the year. Didn’t matter how much we staffed up or cross-trained or contingency planned: the office was only closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, people rarely got any other days off approved, and everyone worked at least 10 hour days all month. It was the nature of the industry — our competitors had the same issue, and we were all told this before hiring so that people could self select out if desired. So while I agree that it’s very nice to get that week off, it’s not a universal thing.

      1. Mike C.*

        My point isn’t the time off, it’s the fact that managers try to make it fair for everyone, and at least communicates. My workplace does, the OP’s workplace does not.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t know that the OP’s workplace doesn’t try to make it fair to everyone. If Sarah is taking PTO, it would be extremely unfair for the OP and Mark to get the time off without using PTO.

          Similarly, if Sarah asked for the time off in June but the OP didn’t bring it up until the end of November, it’s not unfair for Sarah to get the time off and not the OP.

        2. Yup*

          I somewhat disagree with your assessment of the OP’s workplace as unfair. It doesn’t sound like there’s a system in place for organizing PTO, but maybe there is and we just can’t see it from here. Maybe Sarah is getting the time off because of seniority, or because she always works over July 4th when everyone else is off, or because she works 18 hours a day for a crazy client, or it’s the one time of year she insisted was critical to visiting her ailing grandmother or something. OP’s boss needs to do better on communicating expectations, but I’m not totally sold on the idea that there’s fundamental unfairness going on.

      2. Callie*

        It depends on the industry. Some are busy and some aren’t. The OP has already said that the office was dead the last two years… no one coming in or calling.

    3. Anonymous*

      I never minded having to work that week. And when I had some bad years with lack of family or lots of deaths in the family quite frankly I was glad to be able to come in and work those days and get a lot done. I would have hated to have had to sit at home waiting for an emergency and feeling alone.

      YAY for not being human.

      1. k*

        I worked retail the past two holidays, including black friday and christmas eve. I really didn’t mind working either day. It got me out of having to travel over 10 hours to spend it with relatives vastly overestimate their culinary skills and conversation skills. I can take mediocre conversation, but I draw the line at bad pie and turkey. I liked getting the time and a half for opening on black friday too and I stayed very busy. Christmas eve was usually a busy day – the last minute shoppers are the best types of impulse shoppers from the retail point of view because they spend more than planned. They were usually men and it was the same patterns as the day before Mother’s day.

        I’m working a job that has normal hours, so I don’t have the retail excuse to get out Thanksgiving. It doesn’t look like bad weather is going to hit the Midwest this year, which was my backup option. My sister’s in the same boat as me being forced to go by our father. He gets really sulky and pouty when he doesn’t get his way so it’s easier to give in to him. We did make it conditional on getting the car to go shopping on Thanksgiving evening. I’m not getting anything for me, and it’s our alone time together to grab some food and coffee before picking up a few gifts for our mother.

    4. Cat*

      Oh, come on. It’s nice, sure, but if employees are getting reasonable amounts of PTO (which IS a serious workplace rights issue), there’s no reason that some of it should automatically be put between Christmas and New Years for everyone lest the bosses be exposing their inhumanity.

      In fact, given that plenty of people don’t even celebrate Christmas, I think it’s actually better to, say, give everyone four weeks vacation to use as they please rather than three weeks plus the time between Christmas and New Years.

      1. fposte*

        Definitely. Some people would feel about getting the time off over Christmas and New Year’s the way the OP feels about having to be in the office–what a waste.

        1. Jamie*

          This. Most of my workplace is off during that week, but I have to work and my team love it…because they prefer working during these days and having that time to use as they see fit during the year.

          Otherwise they are home using PTO (for non-holiday days) due to shutdown. Some people want that time, but plenty of us love working when the building is practically empty and getting tons of work done in a more casual atmosphere. Something about wearing a sweatshirt and track pants to work just feels naughty and decadent – I need to get out more.

          1. Colette*

            I used to work stat holidays, and it was great coming to work when our team was the only one here. I think it was because the lights were on emergency lighting only – it just felt more relaxed.

      2. Parfait*

        Agree. Christmas isn’t really one of my holidays and I’ve never minded working those year-end days so that other people to whom the holiday is important can take the time. I actually really like being in the office then. My phone doesn’t ring, I don’t have any meetings, email interruptions are few…I get a lot done.

        Plus, there’s hardly any traffic (Los Angeles bonus) so my workday ends up being shorter door to door. Win!

      3. themmases*

        I agree. I have one coworker that covers for me and vice versa, and she is on a less common religious calendar so I strongly doubt that she wants the entire week between 12/25 and 1/1 off. In fact I know she doesn’t, because she never requests it off even when I offer to split it with her.

        I don’t see the problem with first-come, first-served policies that some people seem to have either. When anything in life is in high demand, I think it’s common knowledge that you make arrangements early or risk going without. I have to admit, though, that my coworker and I always check if someone wants/needs a day before requesting it because we will have to cover each other. So if I found out from my boss that a whole week I wanted was taken, and not from my coworker, I’d probably find it rude.

    5. Sunflower*

      I don’t think it’s ridiculous that OP for asked for the time off. It sounds like OP and Mark put together a well-thought out proposition that the boss wasn’t interested in. I’m sure he saw valid points but at the end of the day, he wants a body in the office.

      OP should not feel entitled to that time off though. And yes, it does sound as if OP is getting 2 days off and not having to use PTO which is actually quite generous IMO

      I’m more curious as to why OP was so shocked when this happened again this year. The same thing has happened the past 2 years so I know hindsight is 20/20, but why didn’t OP do something about this sooner?

  27. Mena*

    I can see why John didn’t like your attitude – he says the office is open, then it is open. He didn’t ask you whether you thought it should be open.

    And you resent being there while others are free? You’d paid to be there, right? I am completely lost on this one.

  28. Frieda*

    Throwing in another anecdote: my company is closed between Christmas and New Years every year and you do not need to use PTO. BUT it is also recognized to be a unique benefit of working in publishing rather than the standard that we should expect anywhere else. For example, even though we get these days off EVERY YEAR, they are not listed in the official list of company holidays. Instead, around late October/early November every year there is an announcement that due to good financial numbers/everyone working hard/something positive, as a bonus the office will be closed for that week with pay, no PTO required. They also include that you can carry over 4-5 vacation days to the first part of the next year–whatever the number of bonus days ends up being–so the implication is that if you MUST have that week off you should have saved PTO for it, but that they don’t want to penalize people who did save time and won’t be able to use it now that it’s already the end of the year.

    So even though we do get this time off, I was also surprised by the OPs tone that she’s “giving up some of her holiday” as if getting the whole week were standard. I’ve worked at 2 of the big 5 publishing companies, and have friends at others, and they all take this week off but make a huge point of reminding everyone that it is a special benefit that we should be thankful for, not a right.

      1. Frieda*

        It is definitely frustrating for people who want/have to make travel plans far in advance. Do you buy the plane ticket today at a good rate with the risk that we won’t get that week off?

        1. Jennifer*

          I think you just technically can’t make travel plans super far in advance at a job like that.

          Sounds kinda like my job debating every year whether or not to open for the three dead days in between paid days, though. “Maybe someone would like to come in to work?” Um, why? Again, who wants to come in here during their holiday, and they turn off the heat in the building to boot. We also work somewhere with more vacation days than most American places do, so generally everyone can afford to take the three days off.

          (Though I still think if the office is closed, we should get free days off. That apparently will never happen, though.)

          1. Anonymous*

            Without heat in the building, the office should be closed! And I agree that if the place is closed/without basic services (heat/ac, water) that staff should not be charged PTO.

      1. Frieda*

        That’s a bummer. Everyone I know at the big 5 NYC book publishers gets it off. Of course I can’t speak for smaller presses, newspaper/magazines/etc.

  29. Rebecca*

    My company is closed on Christmas Day. We might get out a little early on Christmas Eve Day, but that’s it. It’s back to work on Thursday and Friday, then the following Monday and Tuesday, off New Year’s Day, etc.

    If I worked for a small firm and had to be in the office by myself just in case someone called, I’d use the time to organize and close out items for the previous year, get ready for the next year, and if no one is truly around, I’d also learn to use a new electronic gadget or play computer games.

  30. Anonymous*

    OP I assume you are campaigning for public sector employees to get these rights and not going out shopping on these days too right?

        1. Anonymous*

          Don’t travel, don’t get sick, don’t burst a pipe or start a fire or have a break in or break down or break out…

  31. Lils*

    I understand why you’re feeling a little annoyed about this situation, but if I’m reading your letter correctly, you have to swap off with Mark, so you really only have to work 2 of these days? I gently suggest that you suck it up…and this question also makes me wonder if you are feeling disgruntled about other things. The fact that *someone* has to work seems like a minor issue, honestly. My advice would be to focus on the vacation policy, as you described in your comment above. But frankly, yeah, if you wait to make plans, your colleagues may snatch up the days you want off.

    I’ve said it before, but everyone should have to work retail or service industry at some point in their lives–makes you really grateful when all you have to do is pitch in for two days to sit in a quiet office by yourself instead of working back to back 14 hr days–sick or well–on your feet with no benefits or PTO.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      +1 about working in retail! There is nothing like working christmas eve until 4pm stocking up for the sale, working through the sale period and late on new years….

      1. Editor*

        I know a young woman who works for Walmart. Her Thanksgiving is a split shift, with half in the morning for stocking and then half four hours later when the store opens on the holiday.

        That leaves her four hours in between to drive 80 minutes to her mother’s, eat, and drive back. The trip isn’t happening because she’s worried she just won’t be able to get there and back in time for the rest of the shift, particularly if there are weather issues.

        Yes, I know her employer can require her to work o the holiday, but I am pretty angry on her behalf. She will miss her family a lot. The problem is, she lives in a community where she’s actually got one of the better jobs — changing her job would mean earning less than the $10 an hour she’s spent more than a decade working up to (moving really isn’t a practical option now, but she plans to move in the future when she can afford it). Since I don’t shop on Thanksgiving or Good Friday and I refuse to shop online those days, I don’t feel I’m being a hypocrite for being sympathetic to her disappointment.

        1. fposte*

          I share your sympathy, but for me the holiday issue is small potatoes compared to the general economics you describe.

          1. Editor*

            Yes, I’m very angry about the economics. But that’s a rant for another day — and I do rant about it. I have complained to Walmart, pretty much stopped shopping at Walmart (and some other businesses), and contacted politicians about the minimum wage.

        2. Lils*

          There are *lots* of people who have to work holidays and generally I think it’s ok because hopefully you get to trade off with your colleagues for other holidays or the following year. And I’m totally down with, say, the ER being open, and first responders and hotels or even restaurants where the employees make big bucks from generous holiday tippers. I feel sorry for people like your friend because Wal-mart employees don’t seem to have a ton of other options. At least in the hospitality industry, there is always another hotel or restaurant that’s hiring.

          1. Editor*

            Rural Southern towns like the one where she is don’t have a lot of employment options. I think the rural county where I grew up in the Northeast has more choices and better pay, even though it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. I always get annoyed when people who are tied to rural areas or otherwise geographically limited are told that shopping for a new job is likely to solve pay-rate problems — fortunately, I don’t see snarky dismissiveness about rural problems on Ask a Manager.

            1. Lils*

              I have been living in the rural south for the last 4 years and just moved to a really large metro area in a different state. I couldn’t agree more with your statement about lack of opportunity. In most places in my previous state, there were one or maybe two major employers, plus some fast food, maybe some low-wage government jobs. The idea that those people would be able to find another job without moving is almost laughable. It’s also unrealistic that they would move away from their support system and extracurricular responsibilities even if they had the funds to do so.

  32. Karyn*

    At LastJob, there were only three of us – my coworker, boss, and me. Coworker had seniority, so she took that week between Christmas and New Year’s off. My boss was in Florida for the entire month. And you know what I did? I sat in the office, watched the entire Kennedys miniseries on Netflix, read AAM, and read my Kindle. I was salary, granted, but frankly, there wasn’t any work for me to do, and since my boss just wanted a warm body there “in case,” I was getting paid to goof around. I even wore yoga pants most of the days, because we didn’t really have clients show up to our office.

    I understand if you don’t have those options (either because your boss watches you on camera, monitors your internet usage, whatever), but the fact of the matter is, you’re not really entitled to this time off, and if the boss wants warm bodies, that’s what he wants, and that’s his right. Sucks, but it’s true.

    Related, at NewJob, apparently a while ago my HR department and the management team came up with a way to still be open while we are closed during holidays without making people feel resentful: we are closed Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and the day after Thanksgiving, but HR sends out an email to interested assistants who might want some extra cash – if you volunteer to work 5 hours a day on any of those days, you get holiday pay, on top of the regular pay, on top of getting an extra day off to use the month after you volunteer. I’m Jewish, so Christmas Eve isn’t a big thing for me – so I signed up to work that day, and I’m really looking forward to having the quiet time as well as getting extra benefits out of it!

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Wow. I can’t conceive of not putting in 100% and doing my job even though my boss is not there. I learn something new every day.

        1. Jennifer*

          What concerns me is, some offices will understand if you’ve done everything you can and are just there to babysit. Others will get pissed at you for running out of work and act like it’s your fault and you get in trouble for it.

          Hopefully everyone works for the latter, where you can do something else while waiting around….

          1. Jennifer*

            Er, former. A saving grace of my place of business is that you don’t get crap for playing games or whatever when you are temporarily out of things to do.

      1. Anonymous*

        Sometimes there really is nothing to do, though. I used to have to work 12 hour shifts babysitting an empty golf clubhouse. The first few hours, I’d clean and organize everything, but after that was done, there was absolutely nothing left to do.

      2. Karyn*

        This was a tiny, little law firm where we had six clients, all of whom were closed during that week I was there alone. Literally had ZERO work I could do. Even if something had come in, the boss would have had to approve it, and she was unavailable for most of the time anyway. The phone rang three times the entire week – so unless I was supposed to sit there staring at a blank Word document, I had to do SOMETHING for eight hours a day, five days that week. Believe me, by the end of it, I’d WISHED I had something productive to do.

        1. A Bug!*

          This happens to me most holidays. I’m also in a small law firm, but litigation. I catch up on my filing, tidy my work area, and then… I get a lot of crosswords done. I answer the phone when it rings, and though it inevitably does ring, I still spend less than a quarter of my day on the phone.

          That’s the problem with many support roles. Your work comes directly from your primary, and you’re not able to generate it yourself. When your lawyer’s not there to generate work, but the phone still needs to be answered, it’s not a failure in work ethic to do something to pass the time between calls.

      3. Jamie*

        This. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I can honestly say my work product and/or ethic is exactly the same whether my boss is there or not, and whether I’m working in the office or at home.

        If ones work quality is dependent on who is watching that’s a pretty big problem.

        1. Karyn*

          In most cases, this is correct. But at some point, in roles where you have no authority and everything has to go through your boss for approval, and your boss isn’t there to give the approval, at some point, you run out of things to do. It’s not so much “who is watching,” but “is there anything I can do that I haven’t done already?” It’s not like I would have let a phone call go unanswered in order to finish my movie – if the phone rang, I answered it.

          It’s kind of like when I worked retail as a youngster. There were only so many times I could wipe down shelves before I had to resign myself to reading a magazine during the downtime.

          1. Jamie*

            Yes, my response was based on having work to do and being able to do it autonomously. If it’s more a task based role dependent on other people then you can only do what you’re given to do.

          2. JCDC*

            I had a similar customer service job as a youngster, where I had to be on phone duty for X hours … and I wasn’t authorized to do anything else. I felt guilty messing around on the internet on slow days, but there truly wasn’t anything else to do. And when you’re on phone duty, you also can’t move!

            1. Frieda*

              In college I had a job working at the check-out desk at the art library, and there were literally hours and hours where not only was there nothing to do, but I couldn’t even leave the desk to make up something to do (cleaning, filing) because someone had to be there to check out books or course reserve materials–but being a small speciality library, there wasn’t much traffic. If you had a shift when the main art librarian was there (M-F, 9-5) I could sometimes help her with filing or something, but if you had an evening shift you were the only one there and you had to be at the desk the whole time (except for brief 5 min bathroom breaks, when you had to leave a sign).

              The main art librarian pulled some strings to keep me on (and keep paying me) past the standard work-study period because she loved my work ethic, but I still had hours and hours with absolutely nothing to do. Definitely watched a lot of movies from the library’s DVD collection.

          3. Joline*

            Yep. I worked the register at an arcade while in university and it was specifically said to me that if I wanted to read up front (ie. bring my textbooks) it was perfectly fine as long as I could still be aware of my surroundings and respond to customers when they came in and kept my books on the lower counter so they weren’t visible to customers.

            Someone needed to be up front at all times but there was not always work to do. Sometimes being stuck to a specific location can also really limit the amount of work that can be done.

        2. A Bug!*

          She didn’t say the quality of her work goes down. She said the quantity of work available to her goes down, because her lawyer isn’t there to assign it. When you’ve done your work, but you still have to be present, is it slacking off to find something to occupy your time?

      4. hospital anon*

        Sometimes part of your job is just to be available. I work the night shift at a hospital and there are times when I have caught up on everything I have to do and all that is left is for me to be available when someone needs me ;-)

  33. Carrie in Scotland*

    Gosh I wonder what offices you guys work in! Wearing jeans every day rather than just on a Friday is probably as good as it is going to get in my office.
    We are also quite quiet over the holidays, we are a govt agency, I guess so alot of people think we are closed so the phones and post are light. I think we are going to have to clear out cupboards during the holiday period (there are 5 of us on per day. 5 admins! Plus 2 of our bosses. So many bosses when very few of the people we do admin for will be at work)

  34. Just a Thought*

    In my experience (may be different from others) the people who generally have an issue with this are people who have not held leadership roles. They normally see the big picture (no one called us all week etc.) but cannot see the small picture and plan for things that may happen. I’ve held leadership roles and made calls that not everyone liked but it wasn’t because I was on a power trip or didn’t understand their needs; I made the decision that was best for the entire organization.

    I work at a major company and we do not shut down for that week. Our team is comprised of middle management employees – some being higher than others. We have to be available for the rest of the enterprise so our boss makes sure we understand that as a team, we have to be considerate of each other and their vacation needs.

    If she sees one person trying to hog days, she will straighten it out with that person.

    1. Minette*

      Well, we have no idea about the OP’s experience. But when I’ve been in low-level jobs that have required holiday work (receptionist, theme park employee), there’s been management on the job, too. However you feel about working during the holidays, there are fewer questions about fairness and the very necessity to work when management is there alongside you.

      I suspect part of OP’s resentment is that the boss is going to be out this year and has apparently not been there in previous years, so the boss is making a rule that he has never actually been subject to. That’s within management’s rights, certainly, but not a way to engender positive feelings among employees.

  35. AmyNYC*

    The best ways I’ve ever seen holiday scheduling work was as a college RA. Before anyone picked, everyone went around the room to say why they wanted or didn’t want X day. No one got special treatment per say, but they did tell everyone for example “My family lives across the country, if I have to work the day after Christmas there’s no way I’d see them on Christmas.” then it was up to the staff to consider. You got a number out of a hat and picked your duty day, first going up the numbers (1 to 20) then back down (20 to 1).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Could end up being really unfair, though, if everyone disliked someone, or if there was the appearance of some kind of illegal bias (race, religion, etc.).

      1. fposte*

        It also sounds like it could turn into a Queen for a Day-type sob story contest. “I haven’t seen my grandfather in 10 years and they say he doesn’t have long!” “My sister’s shipping out to Afghanistan in January!” I really don’t want to be making those calls.

        1. Laufey*

          All the above, and frankly, you knew your family was going to be that far away when you enrolled in college/signed up to RA/whatever.

    2. Lindsay J*

      I would absolutely hate this and don’t think it sounds fair or like an appropriate way to to determine time off at all.

      1. doreen*

        I think I’m reading it differently from everyone else. I think Amy’s talking about the RA’s getting together and going around the room to tell their stories and maybe the RA’s who live locally decide to work the day after Christmas so that those whose families are further can go home. It’s a really nice idea- if there weren’t any management involvement. I don’t think the management are making any calls but it does seem that they set the whole thing in motion which I think taints it.

        1. AmyNYC*

          Doreen got it – there was no management involved. After making our cases, we took turns selecting duty dates – so you could decide to factor in “sob stories” or ignore them

          1. Laufey*

            But you’re still asking the employees to rank their coworker’s sob stories, and you can’t tell me that some local RA is not going to be pressured into working a day she doesn’t want to work because otherwise she’d be the one cruel person who didn’t let Jesse go home to Santa Fe. I was a (more or less local) RA, I know how it works. We give up our holidays, or we’re the villains.

  36. Whippers*

    I used to do a job which involved visiting people in their homes. We were required to work Christmas day and did not get any extra pay or time off in lieu for this. In addition, we were not working the whole day as we only got paid per visit so had to go home in between. When we suggested to our employer that one employee could do all the visits, instead of having several people working for a few irregular hours on Christmas day, we were refused.
    So yeah not an awful lot of sympathy from me for this.

        1. Whippers*

          Yeah, it was ridiculous. Our employer said they wanted several people out in case there was a problem, but really they did not like taking suggestions from employees no matter how reasonable they were.

  37. JW*

    My office (same size and field of the OP) is closed for that week, and I’m so thankful. But, if we weren’t closed, I’d make sure to submit a vacation request ASAP to have that time off. It’s the most opportune time to spend with my family.

  38. JJ*

    Our busiest time of year is 1/1. In the insurance business, it’s pretty much forbidden to take off more than 1 day during those weeks. I can’t remember the last time i had off more than a day at a time for the holidays.

  39. Lia*

    At my last job, one of the people with administrative database rights had to be there every day we were open. There were three people: myself, a co-worker who had been there more than 20 years, and our boss. Guess who had to work every Christmas Eve, every Friday before a three-day weekend, etc? Yep, me, low man on the totem pole.
    My boss had no interest in trying to make the balance fair, so I got stuck working all of those days. Now, granted, I wore jeans and listened to music if I was the only one there, but it would have been nice to have the option to be off.

  40. PoohBear McGriddles*

    If the boss and Sarah are both females and OP and Mark are both males, there may be a case for disparate treatment. What gets me is that this is the 3rd year in a row this has happened. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me three times… there’s no saying for that.
    In my initial read I got the impression that John and Sarah were traveling together for work. Now it sounds like they both just schedule their vacations first. Something tells me that’s not going to change, since it would require John and/or BFF-Sarah to work those days

    1. Colette*

      Why should John and Sarah have to wait to make vacation plans in case the OP & Mark want to take the time off?

      If you want the time off (and will be upset if you don’t get it), book it early. This sounds like a “the early bird gets the worm” situation.

    2. Anonymous*

      There is nothing even in the OPs later comment that says that Sarah is john’s BFF. There is nothing that is favoritism here.

      She planned ahead. She requested. Why is planning ahead a crime against people who procrastinate? And why should she be punished in her PTO because she plans ahead? (Which she would be if the boss closed up shop without PTO required for the other two.)

      The OP does not say that they tried to schedule the day off in March last year and the boss said not allowed because Sarah might want it off later. (If that is the case then I’ll be with you but until the OP says that I think Sarah just happens to plan and it isn’t that big of a deal to plan in advance. Especially since most of the time cancelling a day off is not a big deal.)

  41. JCDC*

    I would like to defend the OP. Yes, no one likes working that week. I’m going to be working that week because I’m banking vacation time, and it will be blah. But in the OP’s case, I’d actually be more annoyed by the boss’ non-logic behind the decision than the decision itself. It is just de-motivating when you have to do something because the boss is stuck on the idea of it — not because he/she thinks it’s necessary or beneficial. Thus I wonder if the boss is like that about other decisions too.

    And it’s extra aggravating because the decision does not affect everyone equally (and it’s a small office where that kind of thing is obvious). If the boss said, “Five years ago, a client had a melt-down on December 30 and no one was there to assist them,” that would make total sense. Or if he said, “One person needs to be in the office on December 26 and we’ll rotate,” that would also be fine. But it doesn’t sound like either is the case here. Again, not much you can do and it’s a common situation. But I understand the frustration.

    1. Jamie*

      Actually plenty of us like working that week, several in this thread alone and my shutdown team over this time all volunteered because they prefer to work these days and have the extra pto to use as they see fit.

      1. JCDC*

        Good point. To re-phrase: it’s very common to have your office be open that week and to have to work despite your desire to be elsewhere. (Although there are of course perks as well.) But I was wondering whether the real problem was the boss’ not-well-articulated/illogical response to their request, which might be an issue beyond this particular vacation question.

        1. Anonicorn*

          Yes, I have issue with this as well. From what the OP described, it seemed like the boss’s response was more like how’d you answer a child than an employee. OP and his coworker certainly could have acted like children about it, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

      2. k*

        I had to use most of my available PTO that wouldn’t carry over at Christmas because I’m new and it kicks in for me then. I would have rather used it earlier in the year when it was nicer out and I could have gone somewhere.

    2. Minette*

      This seems very likely, and I too wonder if the OP-boss relationship is strained because of the dynamic in this discussion infecting other issues.

  42. De Minimis*

    I used to work graveyard shift at the Post Office, and holidays were particularly bad there due to their system. For graveyarders, Thanksgiving was actually Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, so Thanksgiving night was not a holiday, it was considered to be Friday, a regular work day.

    Day and swing shift people were the only ones who got the normal holiday off.

  43. Andrew*

    I don’t really think it’s weird that the office is open over the holidays. I would be more upset about the fact that only the same two employees seem to be able/allowed to take those days off year after year, since it seems from the letter that’s what’s happening.

  44. LadyTL*

    For people saying the OP should have just put in their days off in first, in a casual environment where discussion does not happen about those kind of things putting your time in early often does not help. If your time off system involves just telling your manager or asking them, nothing stops your boss/manager from forgetting and approving someone who put in their time after you. Then you are still out of luck.

    I’ve worked two jobs where there was no official days off system, where you just wrote a note and told/asked the manager and inevitably, despite me asking months in advance before everyone else, I don’t get those days I asked for. Someone who asked more recently did, or they were a favorite of the manager or the manager just simply forgot and approved someone else’s time and there still had to be coverage in the store.

    There is no good way to handle a manager who doesn’t want to really think about the schedule. Sometimes you get lucky and things work fine, other times you get to be a pushy clock watcher just because you had to buy plane tickets in advance and if you don’t say something every week about it you won’t get the time despite being the first to put in for it.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t see any evidence that that applies in this case, though – the OP doesn’t appear to have asked for the time off prior to suggesting that the business shut down.

    2. Editor*

      Yes — when the PTO request procedure isn’t a procedure, it’s a problem. I worked in a business that was pretty much Monday-Saturday year round, including holidays. In addition to having to grovel sometimes for the holiday time off we wanted, there were times when time off was granted and then withdrawn with only a couple of days notice. Two years in a row my daughter and I planned to have a long weekend together in December, only to lose it because my boss changed his mind at the last minute, in part because people with much more seniority insisted on taking time off in December.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      We had problems tracking requests for time off in one place I worked.
      We implemented a system where we filled out a form for the request AND wrote it on the boss’ wall calendar, once it was approved.
      The beauty of this was you could check the calendar to see if anyone had requested the same time you wanted, so you knew if you stood a chance of being approved or not.
      The requests were filed as back up for the notation on the calendar.
      The arguing stopped.

  45. Jamie*

    I’ve read through all of the posts and I am about to focus on the minutia – where are my accounting buddies?

    The flippant comment about how many checks can you get in a week just adds to the entitled tone of the letter. Checks, invoices…that all has to be processed before year end so you don’t have transactions crossing fiscal years.

    And I would think businesses who are closed during that time automatically are in the vast minority, so if this is a deal breaker for the op she should vet this in interviews at any future company.

    1. Mary Sue*

      Nope, sorry, our fiscal ends on July 1, but it is nice to catch up on all the quarterly stuff that comes due January 1 during the slowish time.

      I say slowish because I work in finance for a hospital, so, you know, we’re open 24/7/365 and there’s a lottery for who gets Christmas Day off. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that’s actually slow; the clinics are closed and management has the day off, but we have to show up. I’m bringing my knitting and a book. Eight hours of just kicking back (I’m hourly), and someone else is paying for the electricity and the heat, it’s going to be lovely.

    2. Nicole Z.*

      In general, I’m fairly annoyed with the boss’s inefficiencies. A better solution would be hire a part-time temp employee for those 4 days so that all four employees can take their desired time off. Also, he could notify all clients that the office will have reduced operating hours for that time period, and then train a temp to answer phone calls and process payments during the interim.

  46. Erin*

    My last job was also an office thing, but they had a New Year’s party and we actually had to work at midnight and stay up after the party to clean up. So instead of spending the time with my family or going out, I had to be there, as well as my colleagues, to serve as waitress and entertainer to some partners and clients. Now that sucked!
    The most we could do was to alternate between years, so some people would work one year, but get the next year off.
    And now I don’t work there anymore, I can do whatever I want and go wherever I want, it’s my husband’s turn to work during the holidays, so again we can’t do anything too crazy because he has to work on Dec 31 and Jan 1. (His company recently introduced on call days, so now they work weekends and all holidays, even days like Christmas and New Year. At least they are allowed to alternate.)

    1. Erin*

      Oh, and of course we weren’t paid extra and we didn’t get any extra PTO for this, although we were supposed to be a Mon-Fri 9-5 office.

  47. could be OP's twin*

    I recently had almost the same conversation with my boss, except I stumbled upon the issue rather than coming to him separately to propose the time off. And I felt the same emotions of resentment. Good thing it was towards the end of my day, because I kept logically telling myself I had no right to this time off, but the feelings and frustration lingered. That’s what can happen when you set up a plan in your head and expect that you will only receive one answer: the one that you want to hear. Even if it makes sense and is the smartest thing from your perspective, your boss may have a different sense of what is most important and you need to defer to him/her. That can be frustrating sometimes. The whole “Because I said so” doesn’t work well for any age, even if it’s said with more grace than those 4 words.

    I work in a small church office, and we’re very busy up until Dec. 24. We’re closed Dec. 25 and usually a few days after, depending what day of the week Christmas falls on. My boss was on board being closed Dec. 26-27, but resisted Dec. 30-31.

    I am supposed to be limiting my hours to 20 per week (for budget reasons) which has caused me a lot of stress in how I manage my time. The continual comments from my boss and church members about whether I’m going over my hours is also stressful. So, since I don’t receive any PTO or sick leave, and I’m only paid for the hours I work, I thought this would be a great way to allow me to put in the time on the earlier side (when it is essential–for worship preparation earlier in December) without going over my limit of 20 per week.

    For me, my emotions were coming from a place of working very hard–to do a good job, while also needing to accomplish just as much with fewer hours (I’m paid hourly)–and I viewed this time off (when there wouldn’t be much to do anyway) as my own consolation, similar to the OP. It was not wise of me to do so though.

    I enjoy my job and my work, but I also cherish time with family and this is a perfect opportunity to be efficient with both. Reorienting my mind to being thankful for the work I have is helping me get over my initial bitter and entitled reaction.

    P.S. If anyone has any feedback or other suggestions/approaches for my boss, please let me know. :)

    1. Colette*

      The first step is to understand why your boss is resisting you being off on Dec. 30 – 31. If you’re off, does that mean there’s no one to answer the phones? Is it a concern about an extended shutdown? Are there financial considerations with you working 40 hours one week and 0 another, even though it averages out to 20/week? What doesn’t happen while you’re not there (e.g. couples wanting to book their wedding while they’re in town can’t do so, people struggling with the holidays can’t get help, etc.)?

      Maybe there’s a reason you don’t know about, so it’s best to start by thinking about what the objection might be.

      1. could be OP's twin*

        Thanks for your response! I wouldn’t work 40 hours a week so I can avoid any full-time issues — the closest I’ve come is 35 and that was very abnormal. (It’d more likely be something like over a span of 5 weeks, hours per week: 25, 25, 25, 12, 13). If I’m off, he would be answering the phone (or I’d find a volunteer–but I’d hesitate to do that for the 30th & 31st. I try to ask people sparingly–similar to the way other employees are selective with the way they use their PTO). If I’m not in the office, there will just be a delay in responding (unless I have a volunteer taking over the responsibilities, then there’s no issue). But most matters are not urgent. One plus of my job–beyond the tasks I’m already aware of, most of my tasks are not urgent. The urgent ones I already know about I take care of before my time away.

        I think extended shutdown is the primary issue, and the relational disconnect from it. (He and I are the only 2 employees in the office.) It is his style to be relational and connected with people all the time–to be as available as possible. Honestly, that is great–and perfect for him as a pastor–but I often have work that could be more efficiently done with complete focus (and not answering phone and greeting visitors). In my botched proposal to him, I mentioned the idea of he and I still working on Dec. 30 or 31, and that the office being closed would be a good time for me to catch up on work without the distractions. He said he didn’t want to be “hiding out” from the public (if we were there in the morning, when we have our usual office hours). I explained I wasn’t thinking of being there in the morning.

        To his credit, he has been generous with allowing me unpaid time off – both vacations and family emergencies, and I’ve always found volunteers and prepared them well to serve the basic roles of my job while I’m away. He and I have a good relationship as well.

        To be honest, I think part of my irritation came from my personality style — I wanted to keep my options open (a la the P in the Myers-Briggs). I had suggested closing the office as a way to (in priority order) 1) give flexibility to my vacation time, 2) manage my hours, 3) use my work time to focus on tasks without interruptions.

      2. Al Lo*

        I know that my church’s office is open limited hours leading up to Dec 31, specifically so that last-minute donations can come in to the office and be counted for that year’s tax receipts. The staff is pretty bare-bones at that time, and the office is typically only open from 12-4 or 11-3 or something like that, but there definitely needs to be someone in on those last few post-Christmas days of the year.

        (Just to put another reason for that specific scenario [church office being open] out there.)

  48. Editor*

    Look, I’m sympathetic to the many different sides of this issue that commenters have raised. But in the end, I am mostly agreeing with the OP.

    I have worked and lived in several different states in the U.S., including a southern state, and my late spouse and I have worked in several different types of businesses. In the academic community where we first lived, everyone at the colleges expected to get a long Thanksgiving weekend and have the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. (The public schools also had a long spring vacation in order to allow time off for Passover and Easter; public school started after Labor Day and ended in mid to late June.) In addition, the local manufacturing plant found it saved money shutting down the line, so most of the plant workers were off the Christmas to New Year’s week. A lot of retail and restaurant and bar businesses reduced hours because demand was light. If someone in town had to work that week, they got a lot of sympathy. I think the worst dissatisfaction comes when some family members or close friends have a lot of time off at the same time a few people have to work.

    When we were transferred to a southern state, it was a tough change. No more week off between Christmas and New Year’s. No more long spring vacation, because school got out within a week of Memorial Day. Good Friday was treated like a national holiday and everything was shut down. We hoarded vacation in order to travel the six hours to the in-laws and the 15 hours to my family, and we really missed the long spring vacation. While an early end to the school year sounds like it gives more flexibility, it didn’t, because activities for our children filled those weeks — church camp where I’d grown up was something people went to anytime over an eight-week schedule, but church camp where we were transferred was soon after school ended and everyone from the same community went at the same time, or didn’t go. Similarly, other camps were scheduled for June (not much camp in August because there was tobacco harvest and then school began before Labor Day).

    Then we moved again when our kids were adults. For a while, both children were working in businesses in financial services, where days off were pretty much determined by the NYSE schedule. So, for instance, no Black Friday off, because the NYSE is open a half day — and that’s unlikely to change because the market brings those workers into town, and then lets them off midday to spend their money in Manhattan. It’s a big boost for city stores.

    My husband ended up working in corporate for a retail business, so there were no shutdowns between Christmas and New Year’s. Once again, we’re in an area that regards Good Friday as a national holiday, although it isn’t as universal as in the rural southern town we had been in — he always got Good Friday off even though he often had to work Christmas Eve. I ended up working in a newspaper, and there was just no guaranteed time off at any time of the year. Good Friday was particularly slow for the newspaper office where I worked, but we were never allowed to put a skeleton staff on that day. Every year the front office closed early, but we never knew what time we’d be allowed to leave in the newsroom. Trying to get the family together around the newspaper, the retail, and the NYSE schedule was often frustrating. Our family is close-knit and traditional about Christian holidays, so there was always a lot of planning that took place in order to get together. And scheduling activities in January didn’t work for us, because the children continued to work in jobs related to accounting and financial services that were mind-numbingly busy in December and in January.

    If you have to work on a slow day, it’s nice to tidy the desk and the files and clean out email folders (if you’re allowed to discard emails) and otherwise organize the work area and prep for busy times ahead. In the library we did a lot of shelf reading on slow days.

    But I’ve worked in offices where there was nothing to do except twiddle thumbs, read, or grumble about working for no reason. I don’t like sitting at a desk when there’s nothing to do, and I can understand why someone would complain about keeping the office open when it is boring and most of the work could be done from home. I don’t think it is wrong to want to spend time with friends and family if there’s nothing to do at the office — I understand employees are being paid to work, but I also understand the cooped-up feeling of being in the office for what seems like no reason at all. I have found that being able to look out a window really helps me deal with working when there’s no work — being without work in a windowless office is the worst.

    Having lived far from family and having worked in a couple of jobs where PTO scheduling was erratic and occasionally punitive, I’m biased toward employee preference when there’s no compelling business reason to be inflexible.

    A good manager has a clear policy about requesting and awarding paid time off. A not-so-good manager doesn’t see when the habits of the business and its managers have resulted in resentment or at least superficial inequities. A good manager takes into consideration the local traditions about time off, the standard for the industry, and the business realities of his or her specific department. A not-so-good manager is dismissive of employee suggestions or requests without considering all the factors and is inflexible.

    My bottom line with this letter is that the owner is entitled to do whatever, but I don’t think it is in the best interests of employee harmony to reject the OP’s request outright. I’d suggest splitting the preferences — allowing the employees to work half days (mornings) in the office and half days remotely and see how it goes. The boss’s decision to revisit the way PTO is awarded is a good one.

    I don’t like either the bashing or the self-righteousness about working between Christmas and New Year’s. The need for staffing will vary by business category, geography, and the requirements of the individual business. The desire to work those hours will vary by family tradition, personal inclination, whether workers live geographically close or far from people they share holidays with, the amount of work in the office, the perceived fairness of holiday allocations, whether there’s a holiday pay differential, and other factors that make an employee either a good fit or a poor fit. It takes cooperation and mutual respect to provide the best PTO schedule to suit the needs of the business and the needs of the employees.

    1. Nicole Z.*

      +1 This. Exactly. You’ve expressed my sentiments, and the essence of this debate, wonderfully!

  49. steve G*

    I think this situation is happening because business is slow. when business is slow, I think managers are ironically less inclined to allow time off. There is some mix of thought where they think employees don’t need time off to recharge, because work has been slow anyway, another thought where they think the employee should be happy to be working, and another that the big break or the big potential new customer will call while everyone is out and the opportunity will be lost. That is probably why the boss is so unbudging,

  50. BCW*

    I completely understand the frustration. The only thing worse than having to be in an office when there is no work to be done, is having to be there by yourself when there is no work to be done. My current job, I work with schools. There are many holidays that just about every school in the country has off that I have to go in, and it sucks. However, if I was the only one to go in, I’d be even more upset.

    I understand needing coverage, however if its a role that can be done remotely, to me they should let you work from home. It sounds like those things can be done (at least if you are the boss or Sarah) so to me it seems like the boss should let you guys at least work from home.

  51. Shannon*

    I’ve spent my entire career in advertising/media buying (since 1999). We’ve always been closed for the week in between Xmas/New Years. As others have mentioned up thread, this is pretty standard in this industry. I know if I ever work somewhere that doesn’t do this the adjustment will massively suck. I love having the week off.

    1. Carol*

      Wow so you have no deadlines. No clients with rush jobs for January? Im in advertising and this happens every year. Our clients would be livid if they couldn’t reach us.

  52. Midwest Grunt*

    As much as I believe that a good work environment, requires open communication. At some point The boss is going to make a decision and it is up to them if they want to provide an explanation. At that moment it is up to the worker to decide if they want to follow that decision or move on to a different career. The boss owes the OP no explanation. Unless the original job offer said that those days would be given, the boss owes the OP no explanation other than, “you are required to be at work on your scheduled days”

  53. Not So NewReader*

    I think every work place has something that everyone covets. I call it “the pie”. The pie can be anything- factory seconds, free meals, bonus checks… it can be anything. When some workers see other workers getting a piece of the pie that they themselves don’t have then a conflict is sure to follow.
    In OPs case it sounds the pie is having this one particular week off.

    The boss failed to realize that everyone was coveting this particular week off.
    The next step would be for the employees to ask the boss “hey can we rotate here, so everyone gets to enjoy a piece of this pie?”

    I tend to believe that if I wait until I am angry/ticked/emotional then I have waited TOO LONG to speak up. I should have spoke up sooner rather than let it fester. (It took me a minute to realize this…sigh.)

    Worse case scenario: Suppose the boss says NO. Using OPs example of the week off, I have to decide is this the hill to die on?
    Sometimes this is the way it falls. My question to OP is – do you have a week that you would pick as a second choice? If yes, is the boss willing to agree “Okay you work between the holidays and I will make sure you have this other week off.”?
    Maybe the alternative week does not have as high value to you but at least you will get something that is of value to you.

    It is tough when you constantly have to watch other people getting the preferred vacations etc. But it is also an opportunity to leverage for something you do want that is important to you.

  54. Mondaypartlycloudy*

    My company is officially closed from December 24 up til January 2. I started in April and just found out that if we want to have those days off we have to use our PTO. If we choose to work during that time we have to make a case in writing to senior management as to why we could be productive, and what we would accomplish.

      1. A Bug!*

        It would make more sense to me if there was a third choice: take the time off, unpaid. It seems pretty odd otherwise. What if a person doesn’t have PTO to use, and they’re not able to make a strong argument for working those days?

        If there is the third option, it would be a pretty reasonable (and common) arrangement. Yes, it sucks if you need the money, especially at Christmas, but it’s not unusual.

        1. Jamie*

          Great point. If I didn’t have the PTO on the books because I was new that would really stress me out.

          Places with that kind of shut down typically require employees to keep enough time on the books to cover shutdown or take it unpaid.

  55. Cassie*

    I get the frustration when procedures aren’t clear (e.g. if the OP and Mark were led to believe that there was some sort of “open enrollment” period for requesting vacations). For my position, it’s just me (supporting my boss) – and it’s been that way in all of the jobs I’ve held, so I’ve never really had to “schedule” vacations around other coworkers.

    For my mom’s workplace, since they need coverage across the entire department, supervisors start asking their subordinates before summertime about time off requests around the holidays. Not quite sure how they handle too many requests for the same days, but my guess is just first-come, first-serve (assuming the people do they same type of work).

  56. Lee*

    Just wanted to say that in Australia, in a lot of industries, having this time off would be fairly normal. I certainly didn’t have the same shocked reaction as others did . Having said that, 4 weeks of holidays per year is standard here.

  57. Matt*

    It’s not unusual having to work these days, but I find it highly unusual that it’s always the same employees who get vacation and the same who are denied …

    1. Carol*

      But there are only four of them. Are the other two the owners? because that makes perfect sense. You don’t like it find another job, no one is making you stay there.

  58. anonn*

    Is there a deeper issue here with Sarah? Just asking as it seems to be a ‘sarah always gets treated better…’.

    If there is try to deal with it and lay it aside or sort it.

    If there isn’t…. put up with it this time and then you or Mark arrange *early* next year about putting in requests for Christmas break – even have an office meeting arranged so that you all can talk about it?

  59. Jay*

    I do get the Friday after Thanksgiving off. I only get Xmas and New Years though. Every year though I take Xmas Eve off and usually the day after Xmas. This year I took the week off. One of my coworkers seems jealous about it but I go away to visit family. All of my relatives aren’t around here and it’s the only time I go to see them. I told my boss this and she has never given me a hard time about it. It’s also not like I’m abusing it and taking 2 weeks off. Personally, even if I didn’t travel for family I would never ever work on Xmas Eve. I don’t care who likes it or not. It’s just principle for me. It’s the biggest day of the year to me and my family.

  60. Carol*

    I can’t even believe anyone would post this. Im in my 40’s now but even in my 20’s I was appreciative to have a job. Are you also wanting to be paid for this week of staying in your pj’s and doing absolutely nothing. You’d be so fired if you worked for me. You have no incentive, no ethic. Put the shoe on the other foot. No one gives employees an entire week off! No production and no customer service? You’d bury a company! What are you 19? Wow

  61. Fred*

    I’ve never worked at a place that closed the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s. I take the opportunity of an empty office to fart at will during the work day.


    I agree that’s a bit frustrating. I have a friend who’s a customer sales rep and he’s always required to work even if it’s Christmas or New Year and he understands because that’s the nature of his work. On your case, if that’s what you boss wants then you have to follow him. You are lucky to have a job.

  63. unnom*

    Since the 4th of July falls on Saturday my boss says its a union holiday and only union employees will be off tomorrow Friday July 3rd and our non-union employees have to work. Is this legal. It’s a state holiday shouldn’t all employees have Friday off regardless of union member or not?

Comments are closed.