how can I get employees to stop saving all their vacation time for December, I don’t want my photos on my company’s Facebook page, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. How can I get employees to stop saving all their vacation time for December?

I am an office manager for a small company (under 10 employees). Every year it seems we run into the same problem – everyone wants to use their vacation time in December (we have a “use it or lose it” vacation policy). The line of work that we are in requires that we bill clients hourly. It has already been a tight year and it will be tough to make payroll if half or more of the company is leaving us without billable hours. How do we avoid this situation without upsetting employees?

Let people know in advance: “We often need all hands on deck in December, which means that we can’t promise vacation time will be approved that month. While we’ll make every attempt to do so, the reality is that we might not be able to approve more than a couple of days off per person that month. People are strongly encouraged to use all or most of their vacation time before December for that reason.”

And for this year, assuming you didn’t warn people in advance this time around, if you can’t approve all of the requested time-off in December, make a one-time exception to your “use it or lose it” policy and let them roll it over to next year (or until March, or whatever seems reasonable).

2. I don’t want my photos on my company’s Facebook page

My company wants to post employee pictures on Facebook. I do not want mine posted that were taken at company functions. I am a big guy and would be embarrassed to have them on Facebook worldwide.

The date of an employee snapped a few shots at a function and emailed them to us the day after. Our company posted them the company Facebook page but did not tell us they were going to be posted there for advertising. I asked the company to remove them and they did, but now they are mad and telling us in the future they want to post pictures from company functions. Can they post them?

Yes, they can — but you can certainly have a conversation with whoever is in charge of posting the photos and explain that you’re uncomfortable with it. If you’re polite about it and simply explain that you’re self-conscious about having your picture up, reasonable people won’t force you to do it.

3. Can I include event planning for personal events on my resume?

I have planned a wedding for 70 people (somewhat traditional: invites, photographer, DJ, food, renting a space, etc.; we didn’t use an all-in-one place). It was mine, which removes some credibility, I know. I am also in charge of organizing our family’s parties. We’re talking about emailing everyone to make sure they know the where, when, what and, specifically, organizing who gets to cook what for New Year’s Eve (nothing too onerous) and handling the whole logistics of a weekend away in the summer: renting the place, getting a head count, deciding the menu, buying the groceries, dispatching the cooking and cleaning duties (hey, it’s my weekend off too!), paying for the place, calculating the amount each person owes me (since I’m centralizing all the purchases).

Could any or all of these experiences count as managing a project or organizing an event? And if so, how would I go about presenting it on a résumé?

I wouldn’t. It does reflect organization and the ability to juggle lots of details, but it’s the kind of thing that so many people do in the course of normal life that it doesn’t really hit the bar for “personal stuff that is resume-worthy.” Even if these events were unusually involved, it would look a little silly and likely hurt more than help.

4. Handling an upcoming work trip when I’m getting ready to resign

My current manager wants to schedule a work trip out of state for me. However, I am currently in negotiations for a position with a different company. (I have been waiting for an opening at this company for 2 years!) I expect to start with the new company before/around the time that this trip is to take place. I have tried suggesting that someone else go in my stead, but she isn’t budging. What do I do?

Proceed as you would if you weren’t expecting to take a new job. Until you have a firm agreement with the other company (meaning an offer that’s been made and accepted, with all terms agreed to, and a start date), you have to proceed as if it might not happen. If it does (and hopefully it will), then at that point you can talk with your manager and figure out how to handle the trip. But it’s generally a bad idea to make work decisions on the assumption that you’ll be in a new job soon, until that is actually 100% confirmed.

(And once that happens, your current job will survive. They’ll cancel the trip or send someone else in your place, and this is a normal cost of doing business. The exception would be if they were, say, planning to send you to Alaska for a year or something else very long-term.)

5. How to explain I don’t want to grow professionally right now

I am unsure how to handle a situation in year-end performance reviews. I work for a large Fortune 500 company and am truly blessed with a position I am very happy with, great teammates, and a supervisor who is great and really encourages all of us to grow into learning new skills, new technology and is supportive if we want to pursue other opportunities within the company, including overseas assignments. I started about 18 months ago, so my review last year was based on about 7-8 months of the year. This year is my first full year and I feel I have hit all the goals we agreed upon for 2013.

My question/problem is this. My manager will inquire about my thoughts on growing, etc. I don’t know how to tell her that I am content and happy where I am at, and risk sounding like I don’t want to grow into other areas or consider an overseas assignment. A colleague recently transitioned to another department and some of her projects will fall on me, which I am excited about as there are some new skill sets that I will learn by taking over these projects for the next 18-24+ months. I feel if I tell her I am happy in my current role she may take that as a negative and feel I don’t want to grow and not fill me in about a new position or assignment that may come up. I don’t want her to think she can’t approach me about new opportunities, as I would like to be the one that gets approached and decide if it is right for my career path and my family’s goals. For example, we have two small kids at home in addition to a husband who is transitioning to a new career in 2014, and right now is not the right time to take an overseas assignment, but perhaps in 2-3 years would be ideal. I just feel I run the risk of blacklisting myself if I answer/present my goals in the wrong light.

This is all in how you frame it. Don’t say “I don’t want to grow right now, but maybe later.” Instead, say, “I’m really excited about getting better at XYZ (stuff you’re currently doing) and taking on Jane’s projects now that she’s changed teams.” And if she asks about something that you’re specifically not interested in right now, like overseas work, it’s fine to explain that you’d be excited to talk about it in 2-3 years but that right now you’re more excited about ___. (And especially with overseas work, it’s very normal and understandable to need to time it with other things in your life.)

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. Another Emily*

    #2 At least you know where they stand. In your shoes, I would avoid any person with a camera like the plague at any company function or better yet, get that person on your side and ask them not to take pictures of you. Hopefully the photographer is a reasonable and empathetic person.

    If you end up in a photo on Facebook, there is one thing you can control at least. You can remove any tag of you on a photo, and it can’t be added back. This will at least take away the direct link to your profile on a photo of yourself you don’t like.

    Your company has a pretty crappy attitude around posting photos to Facebook. Telling your employees that you’ll take pictures of them and then do whatever they damn well please could end up driving people away from social functions, which is actually the opposite intent of Facebook when you think about it.

    1. Jen in RO*

      For most people, photos being posted on Facebook (especially untagged) wouldn’t be a problem, so the company doesn’t have too much to worry about.

      For the OP, I think Emily’s advice is best: just avoid the photos as much as possible and get the photographer/social media person/whoever on your side to avoid any pictures of you being published.

      1. Jessa*

        That is presuming the person doesn’t have issues such as a lousy ex who may be stalking them or other problems. There are reasons people might not want their pictures made public. And I think if they’re being used for advertising specifically there may be an issue with that. Mere employment I don’t think is enough to override them needing permission for that. IANAL but I’d check with one.

    2. Brett*

      “You can remove any tag of you on a photo, and it can’t be added back.”
      Although, if the company is already strong arming employees into giving consent to use their image commercially, it is a pretty simple step to say that the employees will not remove their tags on photos too.
      The only thing keeping those photos up (since they require consent to post commercially), it the threat of firing employees. The same threat could be used to keep tags on photos.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Although if you appear not to have Facebook, they can’t tag you. (Although if you really do have Facebook, is that even possible to do anymore with their privacy setting changes? I’m not sure.)

        1. Anne*

          There are still settings to prevent people from tagging you, I believe – or at the very least to prevent any of the tags being displayed in relation to your profile unless you specifically approve them.

          But I think they’ve made everyone searchable now.

          1. TL*

            Yup, my Facebook is set so no tags show up in my profile/timeline unless I allow them.

            Everyone’s searchable but you can severely limit the amount of information someone searching you can see. And, honestly, if you just change your name – i.e., I have my last initial instead of my last name – it becomes very difficult to find someone without a friend in common + good memory of their face (assuming you have yourself as your profile picture.)

    3. Graciosa*

      I saw your comment about driving people away from social functions, and it reminded me of a situation I encountered at OldJob. OldJob (Fortune 100 at the time) claimed to wish to encourage volunteerism as part of good corporate citizenship. All employees were encouraged to use one designated day to work together at OldJob’s expense on volunteer projects. Different departments or groups picked local projects to work together – so good team building, community service, and public relations, right?

      In order to track our hours, OldJob put together a registration page which included a grant of permission to use photos taken at the events worldwide for any purpose. I doubt most people read the fine print, but I did, and was not interested in signing up to participate in an advertising campaign. I asked about how to opt out – but that was not an option. Result – I stopped participating the year that they added that requirement.

      There are plenty of people who would be thrilled to have their faces picked to represent the company in an advertising campaign / publicity brochure / end of the year report to investors. The company could have worked with those that wanted to be photographed, but decided the trouble of paying attention to who wants to be involved and who doesn’t was not worth the hassle.

      I can’t think of anything that they could have done which could have made it clearer how much the company was not interested in team building or community service.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Eh, I’d guess this was less nefarious than you’re thinking. It’s pretty standard to include a photo release in event registration. If you’ve ever been to a professional sporting event, a concert, or anything like that you’ve likely agreed for your image to be used in advertising.

        As someone who used to plan events, the reason we did that was not because we wanted to get free models for our ad campaigns, but because pictures were always taken and we wanted the possibility of using one – without tracking down and getting permission from the 30 blurry people in the background – in a blog post about the event or something like that.

        1. LMW*

          Exactly this. Also, the people who arrange the volunteer work and the people who ask for the disclaimer/photos are usually two completely different teams at a Fortune 500 company. It’s more like the community relations team is helping the communications team by including the disclaimer. Makes our jobs much easier since we don’t need to figure out who everyone is (out of thousands of employees participating). People always have the option of saying no thank you when the photographer asks them to pose, even if they signed the disclaimer.

          1. Current Employee at OldJob*

            I think I work for the company in question and it isn’t even the community relations team taking the photos, since we have employees worldwide and each location picks their own volunteer sites, it’s people at that location who are taking photos (other volunteers) who may send them in, in addition, the organizations themselves use them.

            I love the opportunity to volunteer for a half day at the company’s expense, doing good work in my community (as I love the opportunity to have the company match my donations to charities I select).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s possible that you work for the company in question, but it’s also true that lots of companies have systems like this. (I think with a lot of situations here, it’s pretty easy to think it sounds like somewhere you work o worked, but I’d bet it’s rarely really the case when people think that, just because so many of these situations are so common.)

        2. Graciosa*

          In reality, OldJob did use these photos (not just posed shots) for advertising in conventional media.

          And yes, I understand it’s easier not to have to ask for permission – however it does make it clear that the other aspects of the program are very much secondary to the PR campaign when there are no options to participate without risking having your face show up in a brochure.

  2. Anonymous*

    Planning a wedding for 70 people is not resume worthy. Even for an entry level job with as event planner that wouldn’t get you very far.

    1. AnonK*

      Agreed. I’ve seen some pretty entertaining “filler” on a resume before, but this one would take the cake.

      I’m sure the wedding was a beautiful affair and everything is cooked at the right time for your family meals, but it isn’t a skill or experience that is worth mentioning, since it is very common for people to coordinate their own wedding or make sure that Aunt Dana remembers that it is her turn to do the mashed potatoes this year.

        1. Jubilance*

          When I took my project management course, our instructor kept reinforcing how any project, even if it was planning a wedding or the church bazaar, could count towards your required number of hours to sit for the PMP. Maybe that’s where the LW’s thinking is coming from – that there was project management methodology used, even if it was for a personal event.

          1. thenoiseinspace*

            See, to me, that’s a different category. That’s counting toward a certificate (I’m assuming that’s what a PMP is?), and the certificate is what would go on the resume. It makes sense to count it towards that, but just like you wouldn’t include “took an English class in college” on a resume for a writing job, you would list the certificate/degree, not its component parts. But if that’s the thinking going through the program, then I can see how that thinking might lead the OP into thinking that this belongs on a resume.

            1. Audiophile*

              See when I was applying for jobs post-college graduation, a few people recommended I list individual courses under a ‘relevant experience’ header. I guess this was to try to supplement the internship experience. Or to act as a substitute for solid experience. I didn’t keep this version for very long, as it looked weird to me.

              1. KellyK*

                Under relevant experience? No, that just looks silly.

                More detail on specific classes might be useful in
                *some* cases, but even then, it definitely goes under education.

                I’d be inclined to highlight specific classes if you were applying for things outside your major, or if you had a really broad major and you want to highlight that you did have relevant coursework. But even then, it’d be a short list.

                Like, for example, my husband majored in physics, but took a bunch of comp sci courses (just shy of a minor). When he applied for programming jobs, I think he listed those so they wouldn’t wonder *why* he was applying to be a programmer with a physics major.

                1. Ethyl*

                  I always listed relevant *projects* I completed rather than coursework, but that was in grad school where the projects were pretty substantial.

          2. Aimee*

            Yeah, I’m going to be working on getting my PMP next year, and all those meals for 30+ people I planned, my wedding, etc. are going to be counted toward my hours.

            None of that is on my resume though!

        2. Cat*

          I’d roll my eyes then e-mail it around to my co-workers. I’m not saying I’m a good person, but yeah.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            I’m not saying I’m a good person, but yeah.

            You’re the only Cat I like. :)

            Yeah, if I saw someone put “planned my very own wedding” on their resume, I’d lose my sh*t and it would be fwded around the office.

    2. Just a Reader*

      I planned my wedding and do all the big events in my family, but it never occurred to me that I might actually be an event planner! :)

      It is a good idea to take the skills necessary to manage these events and find work-related examples to illustrate your proficiency. So organization, communication, executing on a vision, etc.–those all apply to PM work. Just need professional examples.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I planned my wedding and organized international graduate-level academic conferences with hundreds of attendees. Now I’m going to hang out my shingle as an event-planner–surely everyone will enjoy my frequent keyboard-tossing rages! (Neither was my favourite experience.)

        The conference planning really has gotten me far in interviews, but the difference is that it’s a public, job-related event, not a personal family-related one. They’re such different beasts that it’s difficult to compare them even in the broadest sense of, say, “organizing groups and delegating tasks.”

    3. hamster*

      My mom planned my 180 person wedding and she considered herself quite the event planner. I told her you need to have a wedding every ( other ) weekend in order to say that. One wedding and a whole year and a very amenable bride ( me) that didn’t throw any temper tantrums does not make one a wedding planner.

    4. Ethyl*

      I AM an event planner (I plan, coordinate, promote, and execute events for between 50 and 500 people for a religious organization throughout the year), and LW 3’s list of “accomplishments” is not even a sliver of what my day-to-day job entails. It would be insulting if it wasn’t so laughable.

    5. Zahra (OP #3)*

      Don’t worry everybody, I haven’t put that on my résumé yet. However, a colleague made a comment in passing and I was wondering about it. It made me wonder, although my first impression was “Really? And people would take this seriously?”

      I’m happy to hear that my instincts were sound.

      1. Anne*

        Sympathy, Zahra. This sounds like the kind of thing that when I was just out of college, my mom would have INSISTED I put on my resume no matter how awkward I felt about it. It’s so uneasy to fall into doubting your own instincts when someone else suggests it.

      2. Ethyl*

        Sorry if I came across as snarky or mean, and I’m glad to hear your instincts were right on! I just run up against people sometimes thinking my job is literally all fun and games because they once planned Great Aunt Ruth’s 75th birthday party, and it’s really frustrating.

        File your colleague under “people I should not take resume advice from,” I guess :)

        1. Ruffingit*

          I get your frustration. I used to be a reporter and so many people thought that would be awesome. You get to interview people and meet famous people, right?? UM…no. It’s more quickly getting information and hoping you can get it into a reasonable format by deadline because you also have several other stories to complete for the day in addition to a meeting with the editor, etc.

          Many jobs look like something they’re not. I had a friend who was an event planner for a hotel chain and holy moly was that job hard. I would not ever think it’s something “anyone” can do because I know different from what she went through.

          1. VintageLydia*

            Hah my FIL and his best friend are both media people. His friend used to get the “privilege” of going out with a camera and audio kit by herself back in the days where that equipment was easily well over 100lbs. She’d have to trudge it all on location, set it all up, point it to where she thought she’d be framed properly, then give the report and pray nothing needed to be adjusted. She was also one of the only women and one of the youngest at the time, too.

          2. Ethyl*

            “Many jobs look like something they’re not.”

            Preach. I mean, I used to be a geologist, for pete’s sake — you would not believe the stupid questions I would get (nor how many people confuse geology with anthropology, but I digress).

            1. Paige Turner*

              Well people also confuse (cultural) anthropology with archeology or even paleontology, in my experience..but geology? Wow. That makes the people who asked me if I was like Indiana Jones sound smarter in retrospect ;)

        2. E.B.*

          As someone who plans parties (personal ones) a couple of times per year, I don’t understand how anyone thinks it’s fun. I’m a wreck the week before the party. Though I tend to go overboard and handmake everything myself. Those diy blogs make it look so easy. It took me eight hours alone to design the invitations for my last party. However, it is fun to see everyone marvel at the finished result.

        3. Ellie H.*

          I absolutely hate event planning, which I have to do some parts of for my jobs, so I’m really glad there are professionals like you to do it for others! I definitely don’t think it’s all fun and games, haha. Just like anything else, there are some kinds of work, tasks or chores that people really have an aptitude for and other things they would do anything to avoid.

          1. Jamie*

            This. I consider myself a fairly competent person, but I am terrible at personal event planning…no matter how small.

            Doing it professionally would be impossible for me, its so complicated. I am so glad there are people out there who offer this service or when the time comes for my daughter to get married (many, many years from now) it will be a pop tart and e-invite affair since that would be all I’d be able to manage.

      3. Ruffingit*

        If you’re interested in getting into the event planning field, consider doing this for other people. I personally know two people who loved planning their own weddings so they both opened event planning businesses and now do this for other people. Both were able to do it on the side for others while they still had full-time jobs and then eventually their planning businesses became their full-time jobs. Just saying that if you want to get into event planning in a way that is outside your own family stuff, you can do so by offering to plan other people’s events (weddings, family parties, etc.) and once you’ve done it for a few different people, it’s more legitimate to say you are an event planner. Just a thought.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I wish someone would volunteer to plan my wedding. The options make my head want to explode. Colors?? I need colors?? Insanity!

          1. Zahra (OP #3)*

            You don’t need colors, believe me. You need people, a wedding ceremony and a happy atmosphere. The rest? It’s just gravy ;)

            Take all the possible choices and cut. Be ruthless. I didn’t have flowers, no colors, no wedding cake, no garter, no favors. There was only me and my attendant that needed hair and makeup, so we did the hair at a mall salon and I had my makeup done at a department store’s makeup counter (The Bay, for my fellow Canadians).

          2. Judy*

            I had a book that I really loved. I think it was called “Weddings for Grown-ups”. Basically it can be summed up with “Pick 2-3 things that really matter to you, then delegate the rest”. I cared about my dress, my flowers and the food. My husband cared about the photography, the cake and the music. (Although I do say the afternoon we spent with the organist, where we’d say something, and he’d page through his file cabinet, pull out sheet music, play something on the piano and then we’d give our impressions, repeated multiple times was probably more fun than anything except picking the flowers. Flowers = color + smell.)

            Table decorations? Whatever you want, Mom. Aunt Carol wants to make the favors for us? Sure.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is what I did! I cared about the setting (bucolic) and the food (delicious), and very little else.

              You think we should have favors? Great, feel free to make that happen.

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                OMFG THIS. I was, all, “We don’t need favors.” And my sister-in-law was OBSESSED with favors. She would not rest until I had favors. Me: “Fine, if you want to put them together.” So we had these silly useless mini wineglasses filled with tulle bags of Jordan almonds. And then she went on and on about how she put together 50 of these things “for me.” There was so much “NOBODY ASKED YOU!” in my brain, my head almost exploded.

                Also my mother really really REALLY wanted to buy this equally silly cardboard gazebo for us to use for guests to drop cards and gifts into. It was so ugly and not my style, but hey, if it makes Mom feel like she did something special for the wedding, have at it. I did make sure all my friends knew after the fact that it was HER gazebo, though ;)

                1. Sara M*

                  I totally do not understand favors or why anyone cares. The only favors I understand are disposable ones (i.e. cookies with the couple’s name on them or something). Oh, I guess I saw one other favor I liked; a friend gave away seedlings of basil and cilantro and parsley to anyone who wanted one.

          3. Ruffingit*

            The options for weddings totally can make your head explode. Ideas I made use of for my wedding – have 1 or no attendants, pick a local florist and do simple bouquet for you, boutonniere for husband and be done with it, make your own centerpieces (pick something simple like candles in a simple glass vase with those aquarium rocks around the bottom, these are actually easy to do on the cheap), plan a lunchtime wedding with buffet, don’t bother with a seating chart, get the cake from a store bakery (I got mine from Wal-Mart and it was beautiful, cheap, and tasted great). Those are all things I did that helped make it a lot easier. Really, the only things you absolutely need for a nice wedding is you, your fiance, someone licensed to perform the marriage, a good photographer, and some food since guests tend to like that. Anything else is negotiable.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Also, tell the florist your budget and leave the rest to them. We gave our florist almost no direction at all, and the flowers were insanely beautiful — probably because she is an expert in creating beautiful flowers and we are not. (And also because flowers are beautiful. How wrong could they go?)

              We did the same thing with our musicians. We got a cellist and a violist and told them to play whatever they wanted. It was lovely and didn’t become another thing for us to stress over.

              You don’t have to micromanage all this stuff.

              1. Jessa*

                I think I might also say colours as well as budget. It just wouldn’t do to have all the attendants in something that completely clashes with the bows and stuff on the bouquets.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Well, we did tell her “fire colors,” but that probably would have happened anyway, since it was fall. And speaking of attendants, I solved that by just having one (my sister) and telling her to wear anything she wanted. Much less stressful!

              2. Katie the Fed*

                ermmm I know this might not be the right place for it but I’d love your florist recommendation! you have my email address if you want (I sent you the post on what not to say to furloughed employees). I think we’re both in the DC area. Any other recommendations would be awesome too.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, I’ll email you! Also, we got married at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia, which is incredibly beautiful … and they even made a bonfire for us after dinner, which was awesome. They’re a great location if you’re having a small wedding. (Plus, they’re renowned for their food.)

              3. Ruffingit*

                Exactly. Just giving your budget and letting someone do their thing is often the best way to go. Unless you have something very specific in mind (as in, you want a specific song for father/daughter dance), then it’s very helpful to let people have freedom to do whatever. If you hire professionals with a good rep, they know what to do and will do a good job. No need to stress.

              4. straws*

                This is so true. Everything I delegated for my wedding turned out better than I could have done it myself. My dad took on the cake, and it was incredible – he even incorporated our cats. I never would have come up with anything remotely similar, but now it’s one of my favorite parts of that day.

              5. LD*

                Well, how wrong could they go? Yellow flowers are my least favorite, so of course all the bouquets were full of yellow and mine was ALL YELLOW. Apparently telling the florist to use anything but yellow make that the color that sticks in the mind.

            2. Sara M*

              If your families will tolerate it, I highly recommend eloping, then having a big party/picnic sort of thing later where you renew your vows. I understand this isn’t for everyone, but if it’s an option, it saves tons of money and can be wonderful.

          4. Malissa*

            Destination weddings include everything but the dress and the ring. And you can get married on a beach or in Vegas by Elvis. I would so do that if I were ever going to get married again. I gave up and basically eloped because I didn’t want to plan a wedding the first time. I may have missed out on getting 3 fondue pots, but 15 years later I still have a husband and those fondue pots would just be gathering dust.

          5. Gene*

            We got married in Vegas. Chartered a bus for the day and rented the Unitarian Hall for the reception. Sent out invites to everyone telling them the day and for them to call us with their hotel info and phone number.

            The day before the wedding we went to Costco and got two half-sheet cakes (chocolate and vanilla) and everything needed to serve a buffet-style sandwich and sides lunch with beer and wine. Then we looked at where people were staying and called them all with approximate times to be waiting outside their hotel. One uncle had connections and got the two families, best man and wife, and Maid of Honor and boyfriend a comped dinner at a nice Strip restaurant.

            Day of the wedding I met the bus driver in front of our hotel and we drove around Vegas picking up guests. Driver side of the aisle was Groom side. We met up with my bride at A Little White Chapel’s Drive Up Wedding Window, went inside to do paperwork and the minister came onto the bus. The Lovely Bride walked up the aisle while everyone hummed the Wedding March and we did the deed.

            We had the bus driver give everyone a bathroom break, then kill some time driving to the hall to give us time to get stuff set up. We drove madly to the hall and set up the reception, then did the receiving line as everyone got off the bus. The driver pulled out his lunchbox, but we told him to come on in and enjoy the reception.

            Everyone had a fun time except a girlfriend of one of wife’s old roommates who was a status-obsessed b5 from Hollywood who just “couldn’t imagine how ANYONE could ruin a wedding like this!” After the reception, everyone except us got back on the bus and got delivered to their hotels safely. We cleaned up, loaded stuff into the car and went back to our hotel.

            Total budget, less than $2000, excluding the trip to Vegas. And we didn’t have to entertain anyone. Since family and friends are scattered coast to coast and border to border, travel for them was (relatively) inexpensive and they could pick the budget for their accomodations.

      4. webDev*

        Volunteer to do the same job at your church or ? then put *that* on your resume, especially if the job you want includes organizing events.

      5. NatalieR*

        I would say, however, that if you handled it well, it could be a nice cover letter or interview tidbit about how you got interested in events. Something like: “In handling X family events, I realized I had an aptitude for/interest in planning, so then I did Y and Z to get more professional experience in it. Now I found that I love organizing circuses and traveling carnivals but can also book and manage vaudeville acts and fire eaters.”

        1. Ruffingit*

          I totally want to hire the person who can organize circuses and traveling carnivals but can also book and manage vaudeville acts and fire eaters.

          1. Anon*

            I actually DID plan carnivals with fire eaters and acrobats at my last job (public programming at a historic house)! It was a blast, but worrying about the payment, lodging, and crazy personalities of all involved (on top of 70-80 hour work weeks) made me want to pull my hair out! As you can probably imagine, folks in that line of work are interesting to say the least :)

            1. T*


              I’d love to chat some time to hear about your experiences and get your perspective. I’ve recently completed a public history degree and am applying for jobs at museums and historic sites. Any insights I could get would really help.

              First, would you be interested? Second, how do we connect? I know there’s a LinkedIn group (I just requested to join it), but I don’t know how to connect without giving out personal information (I’m ok with giving you my name). Thanks

  3. quix*

    #1: What I usually see with friends who have use-it-or-lose it vacation days is that they never have a chance to use it during the year because the company pressures them to stay on and do projects, and then they have to use it at the end of the year or they lose the benefit entirely.

    Might be something to consider.

    1. AnonK*

      I can relate with the OP on this one. In my experience, it is simply poor planning on the employee’s part. My personal favorite was when I’d get someone with 3 weeks of vacation stored up come to me on December 20 and wants to know how they can use it all. Happens literally every year. Even though I remind my team at least quarterly to get all vacation requests in early. There may be the perception that one can’t take vacation, but I’ve never been denied nor have I seen someone be denied their time off, as long as it was planned with reasonable notice. The pressure is often self created. I let my boss know – “I have a family vacation planned in six months. It is very important that I take it on these dates. Let me know if there will be concerns and I will do what I can to ensure that my deliverables are covered while I am out”. Pressure comes when someone decides out of the blue to take time off (or forgot to notify anyone) during a busy time of year.

      I used to try to let a few days slide under the radar into the next year. But after time, I saw I was being taken advantage of with that policy and had to turn it into a no exception rule.

      I’m so happy that my current company allows some rollover, because this was the bane of my existence as a manager.

      1. Elkay*

        I agree with this. I often hear people say “We’re not allowed to” or “The company won’t let us” but I see requests coming in and I know that these people aren’t even asking.

        I like having roll over because it means I can tie my holiday year in with my husband’s holiday year.

        1. doreen*

          I agree about the poor planning. My employer doesn’t have a “use it or lose it policy” but our vacation balance does have to be 40 days or less on April 1 each year, and every year the same people want to take most of March off so they don’t lose vacation.

          1. Cruella Da Boss*

            My company has written policy to avoid being short handed during peak times. We have two “black out” periods every year. These are days that no one gets vacation. One is in the Spring either May or June (changes back and forth each year) and the other is December. Everyone seems to be okay with that and plans their vacations accordingly. Of course, we do seem to have a lot of sickness during that time.

        2. Vicki*

          You may not see requests coming in because they don’t get to you. If someone asks their manager and the manager says “No, we need you here then”, they won’t ever file the official request.

      2. TychaBrahe*

        Right now my manager is on “vacation” to help out her sister during her recuperation from back surgery. What this actually means is she does about half her work remotely, from her sister’s house. I’ve seen people on vacation being required to comment on email, sit in on overseas conference calls, and meet deadlines. It’s nuts.

        One thing out company does do is base the vacation cycle on your anniversary date. So I have 10 days to burn, but by February 15th, not the end of the month. I’m taking some time off around the federal holidays to take my niece to some museums.

        1. Contessa*

          When I was hired, I was specifically told that I would be expected to be available by email and phone while on vacation, although they “try” not to bother you. They gave one of my co-workers a Blackberry with international capabilities when she went on her honeymoon, just in case.

      3. BCW*

        I wouldn’t call it poor planning, but there are a lot of reasons to take it in December. Lots of hollidys, cold weather where you don’t want to leave the house, kids out of school. I think use it or lose it policies tend to encourage these things, which is why I hate them. Maybe if the policy was changed to where they could only roll over a portion, then people wouldn’t feel like they are getting cheated if they don’t take it all at the end.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Even just shifting the “use it or lose it” deadline to something other than January 1 would help. It creates an artificial pressure during a time when a lot of people want to take vacation anyway.

        2. Anne*

          That’s what our company does – you can roll over up to 5 days, but you have to use them in the first quarter of the next year. It helps in situations like these.

        3. Jen*

          This is my thought – I think there’s nothing anyone can do to eliminate the need for vacation in December. There are holidays in December. People travel to see family and need to take days off or they have family visiting and need to take days off. My son’s school is closed for two weeks and he’s not old enough to sit at home by himself during that time so my husband and I alternate days off. There are also snow days which require time off or working from home.

        4. Eva R*

          At my company we have to used our “vacation” time if we are ill or make up the hours that week, and we also sometimes have mandatory shutdowns because of epic computer failure, so people tend to do this.

          To be honest, I’d probably do the same thing because of either poor planning/wanting to take vacation at the “right” time when nothing important would be going on, or just because I wasn’t sure what to do on a vacation. Also, keep in mind many people may just legitimately want lots of time off during the holiday season.

          I agree with the idea of blackout times, where you let people know in advance that they won’t be able to take time off then because it will be busy, and with the idea that “use it or lose it” isn’t the best plan. Really, what’s the worst that could happen if people can rollover their vacation time? Most people have life events and family gatherings and either will never use every single day unless an emergency comes up, or will use it at more or less the same as the current rate.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Rollover is nice. At Newjob, we get a certain amount of PTO rollover at the end of the fiscal year. Anything you haven’t taken before that is gone. So June is very quiet in here.

        Exjob didn’t do any rollover. You had to be there for seven years before you got any more than two weeks for the entire year, and there was no paid sick time.

        1. Editor*

          When one of my employers sold the business, the new employer didn’t allow people to roll over any vacation. Some people had three months of PTO banked, mostly because they had years of seniority and also wanted time in case they got really ill. The new employer basically said they didn’t want to have to carry PTO as a liability into the new fiscal year, so the “use it or lose it” allowed them to zero out a financial liability.

          This caused instant dissatisfaction. I now believe that the best practice in terms of employee satisfaction is to use the employee’s anniversary date for a PTO year and to award PTO on a rolling basis, allowing at least some rollover to prepare for unexpected issues.

          Having PTO cutoffs aligned with the fiscal year, calendar year, or some other arbitrary date alwasy seems to lead to clusters of absences, because even people who schedule vacation time ahead may save a day or two for the end of the year just in case, and then the last week or two, employees are all jockeying for long weekends.

      5. EM*

        The thing is, though, that I have no idea if/when I’m going on vacation 6 months out. I think that’s kind of a ridiculous time frame.

        If it’s a big, planned out vacation (this year my husband & I went out of the country), I did have (& give) about 3 months notice, but if you are staying in the States, it’s quite reasonable and normal to book a vacation within a month/3 weeks.

        1. AnonK*

          Wow I have NEVER planned a vacation within a month. I always plan them far out. I know now where all my vacations will be until spring of 2015, but I’m pretty type A that way. It shouldn’t be a requirement to give your employer that much notice, but I think a month or 3 weeks is fair to expect of an employee if it’s significant time off.

          I once had an employee come to me and dropped the bombshell that he was visiting Mt. Everest basecamp and would be unreachable for 3 weeks. Oh, and by the way, the three weeks were starting at close of business. WTF…. That wasn’t something he just decided to book on orbitz over lunch. It took planning. Deciding not to inform your employer was beyond selfish. I wasn’t going to tell him “no” (even though he wasn’t requesting time off, he was informing and I was tempted to remind him that all requests must be approved in writing by his boss – that’s me) because I appreciate how much effort he must have spent planning the vacation. But it sure put me in a bind.

          Situations like this have hardened me. I have no sympathy anymore for the employee who isn’t adult enough to 1. Plan and inform of their vacation with a realistic notice period to their boss or 2. Didn’t get around to using their earned days before they “lose it”.

          1. Judy*

            It’s also a question of what the company allows for other time off. I have kids.

            Can I use sick time to stay home with my kids? If not, I feel like I need to keep 5 days or so of vacation banked in case the kids get sick.

            What can I do about snow days? The office has been open the last week, but my kids have had snow days Friday, Monday and Tuesday. The timing was lucky, because my husband doesn’t go to campus on Fridays and his office hours are over at 2pm on Monday and Tuesday, so I just worked from home those days, and took only one vacation day. (I figure I got one day of work done during the two days he was gone.)

            What about that year my dad had chemo? How about the year my Father In Law had a heart attack and died 2 days later? Last month when my high school best friend’s mom died?

            Saving some vacation days for emergencies is just smart. I do schedule vacations, but I generally keep at least 5 of my 15 days as emergency days.

          2. Kou*

            You may be shocked to find how quickly and easily one can plan a trip to Everest nowadays.

            I think you’re interpreting “vacation” as a big planned event, too. It’s still vacation time (or PTO, or whatever) if I take a long weekend to drive a whole 30 minutes out of town to camp and fish, and I could put together a trip like that in about an hour including packing and buying snacks. We can go to the next city over about four hours away and stay with in in-laws. I’ve never ever planning anything like this more than maybe two weeks in advance, and often less. Even if I was going overseas I would never book anything more than three months in advance, and even three seems like a really long time. I might know I’m going in June, but I’m not going to know what days until I book my flight at the best price.

            It’s not because I’m disorganized or don’t know how to plan my own time or whathaveyou, I’m extremely uptight with my schedule and knowing what I’m doing when. That’s why plans made too far in advance make me uncomfortable– things can come up and prices can change and all kinds of things in six flipping months.

            1. Eva R*

              If you’re taking a long weekend, more than a week or so in advance is probably a bit much, but I don’t think a month’s notice is unreasonable if you are taking a week or more off. I think it’s all relative to how long you will be gone.

          3. Prickly Pear*

            Or… You could work where I do, where I’ve tried all year to kill off vacation days, only to be scheduled around the off days and hit December with a crazy amount of days left.

        2. Bea W*

          Yes, except for a pre-organized trip I am taking with a group that required a huge amount of planning, I only at best have some loose plans for time off, and then schedule it based on whatever I have going on in my life and my workload because things can change so quickly. It actually makes me uncomfortable to have had this one trip planned 18 months in advance. It does not allow me as much flexibility in adjusting my plans to accommodate life, which is much more fluid and always changing. I usually schedule about a month out, sometimes 2 months, usually not more than that, because I like to schedule around workload and other things going on at home.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Many companies have the problem of sending contradictory messages like this. You hear all about how much the employer values work-life balance, but the reality is you can’t use your vacation time because of looming deadlines, projects, and so on.

      1. Betsy*

        This is so true! One of my favorite moments in my current job was when my manager, the tech read for the project I’m on, took a week and a half off, ending 2 days before a semi-annual release to production. It really drove home the message: NO ONE is mission-critical on any given day.

        Since then, we all just request the time we want/need, and since we’re adults and don’t abuse it, things get done, the same people aren’t always out at high-stress times, and most of us use all of our vacation days every year.

    3. Rational*

      “I can relate with the OP on this one. In my experience, it is simply poor planning on the employee’s part. ”

      It’s not all poor planning. It’s also part of rational behavior. Hording 3 weeks till December is a bit much, but hording five days till the last month makes sense to me.

      Since people have limited vacation time, of course they’ll horde it just in case they have something come up in their personal lives that needs time. Otherwise, they might use up all their vacation and then be screwed.

      If you don’t want people taking it all around the same time, then let all or some of it roll over. We have use-it-or lose it now where I work, and it’s all horded till the last moment. Which is March. This is rational behavior on employees part.

      1. Rational*


        One other thing – in life, if a policy causes most people to bevave a certain way, then “blame” for that should rest mainly wiht the policy. Most people are making choices that suit them. If you want it another way, you can force it (such as not allowing too much vacation in December) but don’t look at a common behavior and think “they’re all such poor planners.” Doing that with customers is sure way to lose business. With employees you can force them to do what you want, but it’s worth at least considering the reasons for their behavior.

        – Romance and intellect over brute force and cynicism –

      2. Editor*

        One place I worked vested vacation twice a year — it was accrued continuously, but if you requested vacation before the vesting date, you had to sign a declaration promising to pay back the money if you left the job before the vesting date. The fiscal year wasn’t January to December. People got pretty cranky five or six months in because they felt they shouldn’t take time off, then they took a lot of time off after the first vesting date, which was at the end of the first six months of the fiscal year. Supervisors complained about people delaying vacation until it was vested.

        Even worse was later in the fiscal year. The second vesting date was the first day of the 11th month of the fiscal year, but no one was supposed to take time off in the last month of the fiscal year and there was a use-it-or-lose-it policy. So in the next-to-the-last month of the fiscal year, many, many people were jockeying for vacation. Executives and supervisors sent memos telling people to take vacation earlier, but the CEO, CFO and the head of HR refused to change the policy in order to get a different result.

  4. Sarahnova*

    LW#5, you’re thinking about the question of ‘growth’ in too literal a way. Your supervisor doesn’t need to hear that you want X promotion or Y move; she just wants to know what skills you are focusing on building and what will stretch and stimulate you for the coming year. Indeed, if you haven’t been in your position long, I’d rather have someone focusing on peak performance in their role than overly focused on new ones. Allison’s answers are great, or you could talk about an area you’re less strong in, or focusing on growing, etc. It’s about showing you’re active and not passive in your own development, not necessarily that you’re bucking for an upwards move.

    1. AB Normal*

      Exactly — no smart company would be expecting employees to be moving / getting promoted to a new role every 18 months. Growing within the role, to learn new skills, and take on more responsibility (which seems to be what the OP is doing), yes, but an actual promotion with change in title and even department, doesn’t need to happen all the time.

  5. Hugo*

    #1 – I used to limit the amount of people who could be on vacation at any one time – say a max of two – that way people knew they had to put in early for vacation and weren’t saving up until the end of the year. You can also make and publish a simple matrix showing what days have already been requested by other workers so people aren’t surprised ahead of time when their vacation is denied.

    1. WIncredible*

      My husband has to pick most of his vacation time for the next year in advance. For example, he had to choose 2014 vacation dates in November 2013. He has a job where coverage is always needed, but it’s very hard to know what to pick that far in advance. However, he can roll days into a sabbatical fund in lieu of using them. So, at least he doesn’t lose time.

      1. Chinook*

        I remember my dad having to do that when I was a kid. He would bring home the matrix in February and he and my mom would sit down and plan when he would take time off.

  6. Pete*

    #1 – Did a manager write into Ask A Manager? Are there not enough resources out there for how to deny employees the benefits they’ve earned?

    It’s not All Hands on Deck in December because there’s a big project. It’s All Hands on Deck To Pay Employees For Their Hours Worked and Vested Benefits. It’s All Hands on Deck To Pay Employees Every Month!

    If he company needs billable hours this month to make payroll this month then that’s clearly poor planning on Management’s part. Management doesn’t want its employees to take all their accrued vacation. It won’t be able to make payroll come December!

    As an employee it makes me very uncomfortable to have no accrued vacation. I believe good employees will find better places work than companies that offer “Use It or Lose It” benefits.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I don’t think “use it or lose it” is inherently a problem. It’s common in my state because unused has to be paid out when an employee leaves, so if people rolled their vacation over from year to year, the company could ultimately have to pay out huge amounts, which isn’t really the intended purpose of vacation time.

      That said, I agree that the OP’s problem doesn’t make any sense. If the employees had taken vacation earlier in the year, the business would *still* be short on billable hours.

      1. Bea W*

        That’s why companies who allow roll over, limit the amount of time that can be rolled over. Every place I’ve worked with roll over, set an expiration on the time that is rolled over and/or limits the amount of time you can bank.

        After seeing it done both ways, I really think “use it or lose it” is a problem. In theory, people would be spreading their time off over the year. In practice, it’s often not the case, and not because people horde time for the end of the year, because people get caught up in work, keep putting it off for a more convenient time, and then panic when November rolls around and they are reminded they will lose all the PTO. I really dislike use it or lose it. My company switched, and the transformation in requests and staffing levels in from Thanksgiving through the end of the year was dramatic. I hear over and over again how people think if they do not use that time, they are losing that theoretical money, and people really really hate losing money.

        1. Steve*

          If your company won’t allow any rollover, you might consider expiring employees’ vacation time on their anniversary date. That first year of transition might be tricky so that no one feels like they’re getting cheated, but presumably you’ll have anniversary dates spread throughout the year. (Unless everyone there has been with the company since start up.)

        2. Graciosa*

          I really wish my current employer allowed some rollover (other than in California, where it is legally required). I think this was a trend among large corporations some years ago to make their books look better by reining in liability for accrued vacation – a lot of them instituted these policies around the same time. However, OldJob handled it a bit better than my current employer by using January 31st as the deadline – eliminating the end-of-year have-to-make-the-numbers conflict with vacation policy.

          A policy that might work for the OP here would be to try level-loading the year a bit. X vacation days can be taken in any particular month or quarter by whoever has the vacation and signs up first. X needs to be generous enough to give some cushion so you’re not forcing a perfectly equal distribution – maybe allowing no more than a third of the total available company vacation to be taken in any individual quarter? – but if you make this data very publicly visible to everyone, you will eventually change the behavior.

        3. Windchime*

          I don’t like “use it or lose it”, either. My company allows us to roll over quite a generous amount (your yearly allotment + 40 hours). The generous roll-over amount means that people can take 3 week vacations to visit family who live in Russia or Asia periodically.

          And we aren’t awarded our PTO on a certain date; instead, we accrue it by getting X number of hours per pay period (where X is different for each person, depending on how long you’ve been with the company). Some people are workaholics and end up having to cash out the excess at the end of the year, but most people seem pretty happy with the system. I’ve never been denied PTO when I’ve asked to be out; that would be such a bummer.

          1. cecilhungry*

            This is how my company does it. Monthly PTO earned (can’t use it for your first 90 days, but it’s still accruing) based on seniority, can rollover up to a certain amount (1.5 years, I think), after which you can’t accrue anymore (but could theoretically carry it over from year to year forever). I think it’s a pretty good system, although admittedly, I haven’t been working here long enough to test it out.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            I wouldn’t like the use it or lose it either. When I do take a big vacation, I’ve managed to have a 2 week summer holiday visiting my cousins in NZ in February. I could never do something like that without accruing time over the previous year. And I need to be able to carry over more than 40 hours to be able to have 80 accrued by early February.

        4. themmases*

          This is how it works at my employer. We have a PTO ceiling, and once we reach it we’ll stop accruing time until we use some. Some people who have trouble taking time off, like managers, do approach the ceiling but they are definitely aware of it and make sure to use their time before reaching it.

          My company also allows employees to cash out PTO a couple of times a year as long as they keep a minimum bank of 80 hours for full-time people, prorated for part-timers. This ensures that no one decides to take the money and then gets sick the next week with no PTO to use. I recently used PTO towards buying a discounted computer through my employer’s account.

          I really think use it or lose it policies are counter-productive. They punish and effectively cut the pay of the people who work the most. If a company can’t afford to pay their employees’ PTO or run while honoring it, they clearly can’t afford to have offered it in the first place.

          1. Bea W*

            I had an issue this year where my manager kept giving me comp days or freebies because I was putting in a lot of hours. I’d schedule vacation time, and then not use it.It kind of stressed me out a little because by summer I was thinking “I need to use this vacation time or else!”

            Not the worst “problem” to have, but under the old roll over policy, I would have been able to enjoy those freebie days without any additional worry about how I would ever manage to use all my PTO by the end of the year.

        5. Jessa*

          Not to mention in some companies you get managers that are either very subtle or very obvious about NOT wanting people to take time off during the year. Or you have policies that only permit a certain number of people to take a day off but there are way too many people to make that reasonable. If you have a lot of people holding time til the end of the year take a good look at your supervisors and managers and make sure they’re encouraging people to take the time. Not subtly DISCOURAGING them even if the employees are misunderstanding their signals.

          I’ve worked at companies where upper management has been clear that they want people to take the time off, but if you try to schedule it or even before you do, you get supervisors who are “oh we’re SOOOOO busy now,” so you put off asking, but they’re ALWAYS soooo busy now. The constant signal that “no we really DON’T want you to really take time off, is an issue.

          Also if you have a black out period, the time to say something is a few months before it. “Employee x you have y hours, you cannot take them this time or that, I’d like your schedule by next week.” It’s worthwhile to remind people and make it clear they need to take this time. While also NOT penalising them by giving them side looks or leaving all their work for when they return and then have to rush to catch up. Because then they won’t do it again.

    2. WIncredible*

      Absolutely. The first thing I thought of is that if revenue for payroll is so tight they need billables in the same month to make it, there are serious cash flow issues. And of course people don’t want to lose vacation time! Gosh, let them roll over five days or something for the first quarter.

  7. WIncredible*

    If it is required to use or lose vacation, why should ee’s have to lose it? Seems like things at busy all year, so ee’s don’t take vacation but as December rolls around, they know they need to use it or lose it. Not fun. Not fair.

    So, there needs to be more flexibility for vacation, less micromanaging of it, and actually letting ee’s have timrpd.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I worked somewhere that was use it or lose it, but I had a really reasonable manager, so our convo my first year went like this:

      “Hey, it looks like everyone is taking the last few weeks of December, and I have more flexibility around my family holiday commitments, so I’d actually prefer to take off the second week of January when airfare and hotel prices drop back down to reasonable levels. Can I cover Christmas through New Year’s and then use the last of this year’s vacation time a few weeks late?”


    2. fposte*

      It’s also a problem emphasized by having the work year as calendar year; separating out the desirable holiday time from the use-it-or-lose-it pressure might solve a lot of the problem all on its own.

          1. doreen*

            My employer has an April 1 deadline for vacation leave- lots of people ask for time off in March on short notice . And ours is only use it or lose it for the vacation balance in excess of 40 days- so these people aren’t saving the time to avoid needing unpaid leave if they get sick or have some other emergency.
            At my employer different types of leave expire on different dates but the one constant is whenever the leave expires , there will be a large number of people requesting it at the last minute.

            1. Sandrine*

              France vacation time is calculated June to May.

              What I earn from June 2013 to May 2014 I have to use between June 2014 and May 2015, and so on and so forth. Not sure if we can roll over days, I even managed to use up some of mine in advance cause darn it sometimes mental days off are such a necessity…

          2. Bea W*

            Yes, if all employees have the same PTO reset date, it won’t matter too much when it happens. People will try to use up their last days to keep from losing it.

        1. Anonymous*

          This is how it’s set up at my job. I work at a college. It’s super slow during the summer & doesn’t end up being a big deal if everyone is trying to get days off before the deadline.

  8. Bea W*

    #1 –
    Presumably – you’ve been getting more billable hours throughout the rest of the year, since your employees have not been taking the time allotted to them. So the financial piece should balance itself out. If you can’t afford to lose the number of billable hours equivalent to PTO given to employees, don’t offer as much PTO. That’s just a recipe for trouble. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

    In addition to making policies about requests and how many people can be off at any give time, consider the following.

    Allow and encourage vacation during other times of the year. Why are employees ending up with unused time at the end of the year? I know for us (and probably many other teams), we are so swamped it’s hard to feel like we can really take time off. Encouragement and support from management helps. My work has a “use it or lose it” policy, so come November, people who have felt like they couldn’t take the time during the year are looking at either finding some way to use as many days as possible or losing them. It’s not pretty.

    Rethink “use it or lose it”. My company switched to this policy a couple years ago. It sends everyone scrambling in December, as I just described, because people don’t want to lose that time. Allowing people to carry over some or all of their time to the next year takes the pressure off to use it all up by Dec 31. I sure wish I could have rolled over some vacation time for next year. I have had a 2 week trip abroad planned plus an out of state wedding, plus travel for Thanksgiving, and there’s all my PTO, without a buffer if I feel I need a long weekend here or there or some long distance family crisis comes up.

    In all cases where an employer allowed PTO to roll over into the next year, you had to use the extra by the end of the next year, and then you would lose it. Some employers also limit the amount that can be rolled over to the next year – up to a week or 2. So that people aren’t hording PTO. This does make tracking an accounting for PTO more complex, but the trade off is that you don’t have a mass exodus of employees desperately tying to use up all their PTO in December.

    Another policy you could consider is paying out some or all of the unused PTO in a check. What I hear most often about why employees end up scrambling to use their PTO is because they feel it’s like throwing money away not to use it. If they feel like they won’t lose that money by working, they’d work. My co-workers actually stress over using their time up because they have x amount of work to do and would rather schedule time off later, but feel like they are losing gobs of money if they don’t take the PTO. I know some of my workers, when they were able, were more than happy to just take some (it was up to a week I think) of their unused PTO in a check rather than taking the time off.

    1. BCW*

      Thats a great idea. Instead of a lose it or use it, why not use it or get paid out on 85% of it. Essentially use it or lose it is, especially when you put regulations on when an employee can actually use it, is trying to scam employees.

        1. BCW*

          I’m not encouraging it, but I do know of a couple places that say if you don’t use your sick or vacation days you get a certain dollar amount per day, which ended up being around 85%. It seemed to work out for both parties alright.

          1. Mike C.*

            Ah, I see. My personal experience was to just pay in out in full. In fact, some places I’ve seen will allow folks with too much time to simply cash it in at full value just to get it off the books.

    2. BCW*

      So can someone who is a policy maker explain to me why they would implement a use it or lose it policy? I mean I get not wanting to have to pay out 6 months vacation if someone leaves, but it seems very extreme to say if you don’t use all of your vacation by the end of the year, we are taking our money back. Why not give them a percentage they can roll over, or even buy it back from them? Even though I’m currently on one of these policies, they have always seemed unfair to me.

      1. CAA*

        It’s a financial thing. If you owe employees money, then that’s a liability on your balance sheet and it reduces your profitability. That’s a big deal if you’re a public company, or if you’re a small company that might want to go public or sell itself to a new owner.

        Also, if an employee earns vacation at salary $X and then gets a raise, you have to pay out the vacation at $X+raise, so your liability keeps increasing.

        Personally I hate these policies and am glad I live in a state that forbids them. Most employers do cap the amount of vacation in your bank at 2x annual accrual, so if you get 3 weeks per year, you can have at most 6 weeks accrued. At that point, you simply stop earning more.

      2. Editor*

        As far as I know, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued a ruling designed to track unpaid PTO liabilities better. I am pretty certain GASB (the Governmental Accounting Standards Board) also came down hard on accruing PTO liabilities after some huge awards to outgoing municipal officials — in some cities, a police or fire chief would resign and it would turn out he had one or two years of pay coming in PTO, but the municipality hadn’t budgeted for the PTO and the salary of the replacement chief.

        Anyway, once the future cost of the PTO is accrued, then it has to be carried on the books as a liability, because sometime the company or municipality will have to pay out that money. Before the rulings, not all PTO was accrued on the books. It may have been listed in HR documents, but at some places it was an invisible cost of doing business — until it wasn’t invisible or minor.

    3. Joey*

      Allowing people to rollover a portion has the same problem. People end up with too much at the end of the year.

      Paying it out has a major downside as well. It increases your salary costs at the end of the year.

      Alison’s suggestions are better- just tell people far in advance that that time off opportunities in December will be limited and shouldn’t be assumed.

      1. Anon1*

        I’m not seeing how a rollover causes any major issues. Put a 3 or 6 month cap on it to get people to take vacation sometime other than December. Some of your snow sport lovers would like it – go skiing, etc in January or February when hopefully the slopes are less busy. Same with hot vacation-avoid the Christmas rush and extra oats.

        1. Bea W*

          My experience has been that when there is roll over, usage is more even. Many people still want time off in Dec for school vacation but many also want to work or just take a day or 2 off instead of a full week or more.

          I try to spread my time through the year, but like many people I keep some buffer days for unexpected things, and use it ot lose it means I end up taking unused buffer days in Dec with everyone else. I never took days off in Dec when I could roll time over.

      2. Mike C.*

        This doesn’t work well when sick leave/vacation are all in the same pot (thus you’re always going to have some left over in case you get sick!). Additionally, how many jobs out there can an employee know their particular workload months in advance? Sure, i can plan my vacations but unless I work for myself, I can’t plan my work!

        Frankly there’s no reason the costs to buy back vacation time couldn’t be spread out over a length of time. Just telling employees to plan in advance is an incomplete solution at best.

    4. Kaz*

      My employer allowed people with over 100 hours of vacation time to cash out 40 hours of it this year. It was faaaantastic, especially because I have only been here 2 years and I earn 20 days a year. Imagine how many stored hours others have!

    5. Mena*

      My company rethought use it or lose it and is moving to unlimited. Some folks will be fine with this (I will be), a few will abuse and likely be fired, and the rest of everyone will be too timid to take any time off.

        1. Betsy*

          I don’t understand this comment. Of course it’s possible to abuse unlimited time off. Unlimited time off means, “We trust you to fulfill your job responsibilities. Beyond that, take vacation when you like.” If you choose to take 186 days off and never do your job, you’re abusing the policy. What you can’t do is violate the policy, which means exceeding the allowed days off.

          In contrast, it isn’t possible to abuse a policy that says, “You have no time off, ever, and if you fail to be present for 1 scheduled minute, you’re fired,” because you either obey the letter of it and do what your employer wants, or you violate the policy and take the discipline.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    Here, it’s possible to carry over a certain number of days (to be taken before the end of March). If you resign for a job with days still to be taken, then it’s normal to be paid for them.

  10. tango*

    In my situation, I save vacation towards the end of the year because I like to know I have a cushion in case something comes up. NOT because I’m too swamped to take more earlier in the year. Yes, I have sick leave but what if I need surgery and use up my sick leave? Or come September I get an offer to visit a friend overseas? It’s nice to know I have a weeks vacation left to use if necessary. So this month I’m using up my last few days vacation and just taking it to take it verses losing it. So to assume that people aren’t taking vacation because they’re too swamped is wrong. They could be doing it like I am OR they want to be off over Christmas to spend with their families. In my department, 5 of my coworkers are taking vacation the days off before and after Christmas so will be out the whole week.

    It seems the company would be better served to set aside more money each month from their billable hours to have a cushion come December/January to cover when they have less receivables coming in.

    1. Judy*

      When my company switched to a use or loose policy for vacation, I started taking the several week December vacation. It was right around the time my kids were born, and with kids and sickness, you never know if you’re going to need it. So I’d keep at least a 5 day buffer in case someone got ill. So not only did I have the one day to make the “non holiday” day for a full week off between Christmas and New Year (we had a shutdown), I had the week before, or at least some part of it.

      We also had last Friday, this Monday and Tuesday as snow days. My husband is not on campus on Fridays, and his office hours are over at 2pm on Monday and Tuesday, so I only took one day of vacation for those days.

      I wish we could roll over some time each year, so I’d have some banked. Or maybe have the use or loose based on hire date, so that everyone wouldn’t loose it at the same time.

    2. AB Normal*

      “It seems the company would be better served to set aside more money each month from their billable hours to have a cushion come December/January to cover when they have less receivables coming in.”

      Someone else also pointed out this aspect, and I wanted to highlight it too. This company should be happy that they are earning payroll money for December BEFORE December. (Because employees are working all their hours in other months, and saving their vacation time for December, rather than taking it throughout the year.)

      I wonder what’s wrong that the company is using up the money already earned to cover the vacation expenses for the year, and want employees to work in December to be able to make payroll that month. Something is wrong here — if employees were taking next year’s vacation in December, than I could understand you’d be short in revenue to pay everybody, but in this case it doesn’t make sense. It’s not necessary to earn payroll money in the month you are paying people; you can anticipate it and hang on to the money until December comes.

  11. Diet Coke Addict*

    I have to stress this because it came up at my workplace: do your employees KNOW the vacation policy and know that you prefer time-off requests to be done in a certain way? Have you told them explicitly and put it in the employee handbook? Or is it a case of everyone being told something different and unclear?

    I work in a very small (under 10 employees) office, and we’ve been asking my boss for two months now about holiday time off. He’s been saying “Take as much unpaid time as you want, whatever, it’s fine” for two months, and we’ve been taking him at his word and emailing him our requests for, oh, the past seven weeks. Now that it’s two weeks before Christmas, he’s panicking and upset with us because everyone has requested off for the 27th. And honestly….it wouldn’t really be a problem as we can all manage our schedules and find someone to be in the office that day, BUT, the fact remains: if you want your employees to adhere to a policy, you must inform them of that policy and not expect them to mind-read.

    (The other best part of this scenario was where my boss informed us to “Read the Employee Manual.” We have no employee manual–at least, not one that 2 of the 6 of us are aware of. If you DO have an employee manual….why do you not GIVE IT TO YOUR NEW HIRES?)

  12. CAA*

    If you can’t make payroll without this month’s billable hours, then that’s a sign the company is in financial trouble. Money is being mismanaged, and you should consider getting out now.

    In a very small company that’s running on the edge like this one, you need an escrow account for benefits. Put the amount of vacation pay that was accrued into the escrow account every month. Then when someone takes vacation, pay those days from the escrow account and the rest from your current revenues. This way you’ll always have enough left in December to cover the payroll. Any interest earned in the escrow account goes straight to the bottom line.

    For this year, the owner could take out a loan or use a line of credit to pay people what they’ve earned (if you’ve got 10 employees earning 2 weeks each, and their average annual salary is $100K, you need $39K to pay all their vacation for the year.) If you need the coverage and can’t let them take the time off, then use the loan to offer a buy out of their earned vacation. Some people will probably prefer to take the extra cash and work instead. If the owner can’t qualify for a short term loan, then letting the vacation roll over this year is the best alternative.

    1. Judy*

      That’s one thing I was wondering. If you need the billable hours now to pay them, then if they had taken the time earlier in the year, you would have been short then, right?

      1. Ethyl*

        Yeah, this confused me, too. Not being able to make payroll in December is a much more serious concern than how and when people are taking their vacation, seems to me.

        1. Emily K*

          Yes, if many people taking leave means that revenue is below operating costs (incl payroll), then as a corollary there must be months where revenue is above operating costs (incl payroll). The company should be aware that they have to save money from flush months to cover skint months. I like the escrow idea above. The company should be treating vacation time as a known future expense that is budgeted for, not as a random pop-up expense that they scramble to deal with ad hoc.

  13. IndieGir*

    #1 — I always solved this problem as a manager by acting in advance. In September, I’d send an email to my team telling them how many days they had left, reminding them that they could only carry over five days, and stating that we had to have at least two people covering (out of a team of 7) over the holidays. I then asked for their holiday time off requests, and noted preference would be given to anyone who had worked that holiday the preceding year. If there will still days uncovered after this, I’d pull name from a hat to see who would cover (although it seldom came to that). I’d have the holiday time off calendar in good shape before October began, and any days anyone wanted off after that point were first come, first served. This also gave folks time to use up their days before December rather than lose them. Overall, it was very fair and worked well, and in particular newer members of the team appreciated they were not always stuck working the holidays because they didn’t have seniority.

    You may need more people in the office in December than I did, but you could take the same approach and modify it somewhat. At the very least, if this is something that happens every year, you should be addressing it in advance.

    1. some1*

      This is how a former sup of mine handled it, and the email would go out in early fall. She explicitly told us: “I’m not inclined to approve a 3-week vacation in December so you can use your vacation time.”

  14. NatalieR*

    #3 – I work in the event industry and have been involved in hiring planners for a large corporation. When people list personal events (personal to them, not just social events in general) on their resume, it makes them seem naive about the scope of experience and responsibilities of running an event professionally. I imagine most of these people had fantastic parties/weddings/etc., but that doesn’t always translate into professional skills.

    If you are trying to get into professional event planning, the best ways to do that are (any combination of): 1) volunteering for a fundraising event or festival planning committee in your area and take on a substantial role, don’t just show up to tear tickets or pour beers, 2) work event/meeting planning tasks into your existing job as much as it’s appropriate and keep track of those successes, 3) look for a job assisting a planner at a venue, with a caterer, or with an existing successful business. A lot of wedding/event planners will accept more than one event per evening, especially on a weekend, and need a second person to make sure their plans are executed correctly. So while you might not be in on all the initial work, you would get to see multiple events and what goes into each of them.

    I got into the industry mostly with a combination of 1 and 2. By volunteering I got a wide scope of experience and made a lot of contacts. Then I also had a great boss at my “real job” who let me work planning several major events into the scope of my duties as an incentive to stay and a way to grow when no promotion was available.

    Good luck!

    1. Cassie*

      I organize some small events for work, mostly like one day workshops or an all-day meeting. I would probably include it on my resume but just as a part of my job, not as my primary function (since it’s not).

      It’s like someone I know who brags about planning a one-day conference and all the effort it takes to put it together. I don’t disagree that event planning can be difficult (I certainly don’t enjoy it), but this event is so poorly planned and disorganized. A professional event planner this person is not.

      1. Zahra (OP #3)*

        … And that’s another reason why personal events shouldn’t be there: you don’t have any (honest, valuable) feedback on your organization skills.

  15. Jubilance*

    #1 I don’t have a solution but I’m not a fan of “use it or lose it” vacation policies. It strikes me that the LW’s office is one in which people are strongly encouraged to be in the office to increase the billable hours, so how exactly are people going to use their vacation time before they lose it if its frowned upon to take any time off?

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is the sense I got as well from the letter. I’d say let them roll it over into the next year with a reasonable cap (March/April) as Alison suggested. That might help with everyone wanting to take off in December.

  16. Anonymous*

    #4 describes my situation when I left my previous job. Except I was also trying to juggle scheduling two out of town interviews during the same time I was due to fly out on company business.

    A local offer came through at a fantastic place, and I ended up accepting that a week before my planned trip. I offered to continue with the trip since it would be during my notice period. As long as my previous employer continued to pay me, I would represent its best interests. Besides, I’m friends with several people there and still friendly with the rest. They ended up sending somebody else. Lost my airfare and had to pay extra for short notice for somebody else, but they never grumbled about that. Like Alison said, it’s just a cost of doing business. Nobody there holds it against me…to my knowledge. :)

  17. Erin*

    I’m confused by #1. I’ve held more than one job with billable hours requirements and it was always my responsibility to make sure I was making hours. If I came up to the end of the year and needed another 200 hours but had 5 vacation days in the bank, guess who was working through the Christmas week instead of taking vacation? If people aren’t making their hours for the year, that’s its own problem and has nothing to do with vacation policy. This all assumes, of course, that people have some control over hours and that they aren’t doled out piecemeal over the year. If it’s that you need X # of hours available in December to complete client work that comes in during that time, that’s not about people’s hours targets, but about having bodies to staff work. And that means setting policies like others described, e.g., no more than two people out on any given day with some system (seniority, first come first served) for determining who gets to be out if more than two people want a particular day.

    1. Emily K*

      Yeah, I’m not super familiar with this time of firm (working on billable hours) but this seems odd to me. If you grant employees say, 10 vacation days a year, I would think it’s because it’s possible for them to bill enough hours to bring in payroll money even if they take all 10 days. The comment that if everyone doesn’t work enough they won’t be able to make December’s payroll sounds to me like there must have been other months that nobody took vacation, brought in lots of money for the company, and the company just spent it all without regard for the fact that an increasing proportion of the remaining days of the year were owed to employees as vacation time they hadn’t yet used! The company’s budget shouldn’t be vulnerable to month-to-month whims like this. They should know that regardless of which months bring in more money and which months bring in less money, a certain amount of money needs to be set aside for payroll for the entire year.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It might simply be that they had an unexpected slowdown in work recently or semi-recently and to make up for it, they need to be at least moderately staffed in December.

    3. Lora*

      Depends. I have billable hours, but I’m still a W2 to my employer (the consulting firm). I get bonuses for overtime work, but if I don’t have 40 billable hours/week, I still get paid my base salary.

      For 1099s though, yeah, it is definitely on them.

      1. Erin*

        My experience is in a law firm environment where I would still get paid the same salary whether I billed 2500 hours or 1500 (going over target would result in a higher bonus). But I always had a target. Anyone who was short at the end of the year got no bonus and, if hours were 100 or 200 below the target, would also get a severe reprimand. More than one year of missing hours, and you’d better be looking for a new job. Maybe other places with billables don’t work this way?

        1. Ethyl*

          I worked in environmental consulting, and we had yearly targets we had to meet. That type of work was really sporadic, though, so that there were definitely months, especially in the winter, where things were slow. And we would hear about it, for sure, but if there was no work, there was no work, and for people at the level I was at, we really weren’t responsible for *getting* the work, just doing the work, which my supervisors generally understood. I never didn’t meet my yearly goals, and was generally proactive about finding work during slow times, so I never had any performance issues related to billability. I don’t think I’m the only former (or current) consultant here — anyone else have experience with not meeting your goals?

  18. AmyNYC*

    Somewhat related to #1 but mainly I’m just curious, do you (in general, I’m asking everyone not OP) have one person in your office that tracks everyone’s PTO or is it more self-policing?

    1. Windchime*

      I work for a big place so we have a timekeeping system. We request PTO online through this system and the request goes directly to our manager. When he approves the PTO, then it automatically goes onto my time sheet and is deducted from my PTO account. Accruals are also handled by the timekeeping system.

      1. Emily K*

        Exact same system here. Every payday I get an email reminding me to report any vacation/sick/other time taken in the prior two weeks, and my report is electronically sent to my manager to approve. Accrued and used leave are tracked on my pay stub.

    2. De*

      We have a very good self-made timekeeping system, including requesting vacation days and entering sick time. It’s not a large company (~70 employees), but we are in IT, so a trainee coded it :)

    3. Mints*

      At my office, people email the boss when they want time off, and put it on Outlook. Then I (admin) track it in an excel. That part is okay. The part that doesn’t work well is that I’m supposed to send it to HQ (we’re a remote branch), and there’s nobody who tracks it at HQ. So like I’ll know Bob took a week vacation and Maria had three sick days last month, but with seniority and roll over, I have no clue how much they have left.

    4. themmases*

      We have a combination.

      I work for a big place, so there is an electronic system that keeps track and where my boss reports any time I used. My current totals are reported on my pay stub from that.

      If I want time off, I email my boss and ask for it. One of my coworkers and I cover for each other, so I usually check with her first that she doesn’t want that day, and include that in my email. My boss keeps his own calendar of all the PTO he’s approved. I send my own meeting invite or email to my coworker and anyone else I’m working closely with at the time to let them know.

      I track my own PTO accrual with a spreadsheet my boss made, because the online system is slow, but it’s just for my personal use. It also allows me to test what my accrual will be under different conditions.

    5. Bea W*

      My jobs have all been pretty much self-policing. Your time is tracked on your paystub or in the payroll app or wherever, so you know exactly how much time you have used and how much you have left. In the companies where I worked where there was roll-over but the roll over hours expired after a certain time, people would get a one-time notice that X number of hours would expire, because when you have a chunk of hours and some are from the last year, it’s hard to keep track of how many of those hours are from the roll over and how many are from the current year.

  19. AmyNYC*

    And a note to OP – if you have an electronic office calendar of some sort (Google, Outlook) add a layer/color/whatever for vacation time and make it clear that only X people can be out at the same time – this makes it first come first served which also sucks, but it sucks less than one person deciding who gets to go home for Christmas and who get stuck at work.

  20. Jeanne*

    From a management standpoint, I think use it or lose it makes sense. Allowing employees to rollover more than a limited number of days places the organization at incredible financial liability. And, in high-stress environments, employees that don’t take their vacation are much less productive over the long term. If employers viewed vacation as a financial bonus, they would plan for everyone not to take their vacation and be prepared to pay for time not taken. But I think most employers view vacay as a way for employees to getaway and relax, not a financial bonus.

    However, if you have a “Use it or lose it” policy I agree that you have to tell people regularly the vacation policy and make sure the year doesn’t end around the holidays. We can roll over five days, and even tho our year runs January – December, we have a grace period to use our vacation until January 31 of the next year. I remind my team quarterly, beginning January 1 to be planning for their vacation and highlight time frames when it would be good to take holidays because there will be breaks in work. In spite of this, I ALWAYS have one employee who refuses to take it, to the detriment of his health. He’s just not a good planner, and there is only so much a manager can do.

    1. BCW*

      I guess my thing is with Use it or Lose it, if a company wants to do that, they shouldn’t also place regulations on when you can use it. Essentially they are saying you have to use your vacation time up in this 11 month time period, which is absurd to me

      1. The IT Manager*

        What they’re saying is everyone can’t take all of their vacation in the last part of Decmeber or the office would be empty.

        As someone mentioned above people wanting 2 weeks or more in December can be a problem if your office requires coverage over the holiday.

        1. BCW*

          I understand that, but my point still stands that at some point, you are putting too many restrictions on these “benefits” that people are getting. Luckily when I have worked places with use it or lose it, they never put these restrictions on it, but eventually it stops being a benefit to the employee all about how the employer can make out the best.

    2. Mike C.*

      If it’s such a terrible liability, buy the time back. I’m not seeing what’s so difficult about this except the desire to take back a paid benefit for free.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “in a given year, we expect you to take X weeks off,” as long as you’re making it possible for people to really take the time.

        1. Mike C.*

          That’s a pretty big “as long as”. There are immense social and political pressures to not take vacation in many places, especially in a time where many are doing the job of two or three people. There are other places where the workload is unpredictable and you can’t always plan ahead.

          It’s a paid benefit, and I see it no differently than I do my paycheck. I mean come on, if they’re willing to pay me for not coming in on a Monday, why can’t they pay me for not coming in on a Sunday? Or retroactively pay me for the last N weekends until the time is used up? Overtime laws don’t come into play here after all.

          Given that there are many ways to make this system work better while avoiding the liability issue, hearing “well we’ll just take it for free for our own financial benefit” comes across as a terrible choice.

      2. BCW*

        Exactly, buy it back from the person. But these policies are essentially making it difficult for people to really use all of their benefits which is part of their compensation package.

    3. Lora*

      Heh. One thing I really liked about Use It Or Lose It: HR held managers responsible if employees still had vacation days at the end of the year. As in, one year that had been exceptionally busy, with lots of not only vacation time but comp time owed, and my manager insisting I work through holidays, come December he actually had to give me and another engineer the entire month off and then into January a bit. He was not happy. And I was so burned out I really needed a full month of putting my feet up.

      The following year he made a point of encouraging folks to take off for spring break, summer break, Labor Day picnics at the beach, etc. Heh.

  21. Rebecca*

    My company is use it or lose it, but when we request time off (even months in advance so we can get cheap airfare, etc), our boss won’t approve it right away. And we get grief about being “part time employees”, and “you have too much vacation time”, etc. People are actually afraid to ask for time off.

  22. Employment lawyer*

    1. How can I get employees to stop saving all their vacation time for December?
    First, consider whether or not you’ll make more (and have happier employees) if you accommodate them. Would people rather have 10 days off, or have 7 days off but close the business between Xmas and New Year’s?

    Next, set up a policy which avoids gaming and pretense. Don’t let them schedule their own vacation unless you are willing to deal with what they schedule. Don’t let the same people constantly take their vacation on the same holidays, just because they are advance planners. And so on. You may need to get a vacation policy which (for example) ensures that everyone gets at least some of the major holidays off, and which also rotates on a yearly basis.

    Third, initiate a policy which limits the # of days that may be taken in December.

    4. Handling an upcoming work trip when I’m getting ready to resign
    Explain that to the new company. I think that exhibiting a level of professional concern is something which improves a candidate. Try something like this:

    ‘As you know, I would really like to work here. But as a professional, I would like to maintain good relations with my soon-to-be ex-employer. It just so happens that I’m being scheduled for a lengthy work trip. As I’m sure you would expect, i can’t let them know to reschedule until and unless I have a firm written offer. Is it possible that you could move the offer date up somewhat?” Etc.

  23. books*

    Re #4 – Do you book your own travel? If so, “book” it. Ie book a hotel reservation that you can cancel, tell your manager which “flight” you’re on, etc. Then they’re commitment to re-arranging travel plans is light – just putting another person on it vs managing your non-refundable tickets. If your company books travel then I assume they also have arrangements where tickets are refundable/transferable, and someone else can go in your stead.

  24. kac*

    Re #1: You’re probably going to continue having that problem while you have a “use it or lose it” vacation policy. People save time off, because they don’t know what their needs will be, and then no one wants to look at the end of the year and say “Eh, I’ll just sacrifice that time off.” I think it’s unreasonable to expect people to sacrifice their time off.

    A possible solution to consider: My company has a “use it or lose it” policy, but the deadline carries over into the first quarter of the new year. So I don’t have to take all my vacation by December; I can save it for February or March.

  25. S3*

    #1 – My husband’s company is about the same size. And they also have a use it or lose it policy. However, everyone’s vacation year refreshes on the anniversary of their hire date…so no two people are running out of time to use up vacation at the same time. It might be something for management to consider.

    1. AB Normal*

      A much smarter policy, in my opinion, than having the same deadline for “use or lose it” for all employees.

  26. anon-2*

    Where I work, we are under a “use it or lose it” policy — I have a few days left. I will likely lose something, but that’s MY fault – not my company’s.

    On the other hand, I had worked in places where you could not get approval more than a few weeks in advance, making vacation planning impossible. We could not plan a trip involving plane reservations, etc. Yes, it was nuts.

    We suspected that there was a system in place where managers were bonus’d on how much vacation they could force their employees to lose out on… never confirmed.

    At one place I worked – I had asked for a July vacation approval of two weeks, and the request was signed, sealed and approved in March. I then began making plans for a family trip to Europe. Flights. Hotels. Car Rental.

    Three weeks before my trip they asked me to come in and said “we’re in a crisis , can you reschedule…” OK, the crisis was not a real one, it was business as usual. But anyway – I said – “OK, let’s see how much this is going to cost YOU….”

    I added up all the money I had spent – of course, adding 35 percent because this is AFTER-TAX money I had spent — any reimbursement would obviously have to include that, wouldn’t it?

    And also the expectation that I would be able to take the time off before the summer so we could have a family vacation. I mean, that’s fair, no?

    They backed down. But they also asked me “can you file an itinerary with us? Where you’ll be on any given day?” I said I could not, because I *had no itinerary*. I was not on a Jolly Jingle Bus Tour, and I could only tell them where I would be on the first three days and the last two — the rest would be “as we want”. For some reason they were lost in space on that one.

    I have a “Dinner Table Story” about this trip as well and something my management tried while I was on it … funny … for a later time.

    1. Judy*

      When I worked for a large manufacturing company, we had a 2 week shutdown during July. I was in the department that designed the production machinery, so usually we didn’t get that time off. One year, my sister in law was returning to the US from teaching English in Japan for 2 years, and my husband’s parents had this great idea of a family trip to Hawaii to meet her on her way home. I requested time off during the shutdown in January, and it was denied. Two weeks before the shutdown my manager decided that I could take my vacation then.

  27. MR*

    I didn’t realize that the problem in No. 2’s letter still existed. I can remember 10 years ago, parents freaking out when pictures of their kids appeared on their school’s webpage (I was on a Board of Education and had to deal with ‘concerned’ parents on that issue – it was ridiculous).

    Since most people now have at a minimum, their own Facebook page (and if they don’t, their friends likely do), unless they are a recluse, their picture is likely on the Internet. It’s just a reality of this day and age.

    I just don’t see what the big deal is about this anymore. I’m just an Average Joe and don’t care who may stumble across my picture on an extremely tiny corner of the Internet.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know people with no pictures on the Internet, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to want that — or to at least want to control how their own image is used (or their kids’ images).

      (Not to mention people with stalking or other safety situations. Although I don’t think it takes that level of issue to just prefer not to have your image plastered up without your permission.)

      1. Tina*

        My best friend does not have a FB and though her husband does, they refuse to post any pictures of their small children, and ask that other people don’t post them either. I think it’s entirely fair. Frankly, I get quite aggravated with friends and family who post pictures of me without my knowledge or consent, and I’ve told them so. My mother has gotten an earful several times when she’s posted childhood or young adult photos of me, and I’ve untagged everything and then made her take them down.

        I agree with Alison that people should be able to control how their image is used and while I may be fighting a losing battle, it’s a major pet peeve of mine and I’m still going to fight it.

        1. Tina*

          And in the case of a professional conference I went to over the summer, the minute I saw the photographer drifting my way, I blocked my face entirely with a notebook. He got the hint :)

    2. Mike C.*

      Just because you don’t see it as a big deal doesn’t mean others don’t have issues you’re simply not aware of.

    3. Mints*

      Well he mentioned he’s a big guy, so my guess he’s concerned about someone finding it and posting it on a ridiculing board. Reddit is notorious for this. They’ll find pictures and mock them cruelly.
      I think the best course is to ask the photographer and social media person to not post pictures of him, even if he technically has to sign off for pictures where he might be in the background or something

        1. Mints*

          I hadn’t heard that term before yesterday, but completely agree. I read this article the other day about revenge porn. It’s not exactly what the OP is concerned about, but it’s a good story (“good” as in an interesting read) about how lives can be ruined by internet trolls, and being cautious is good policy

          1. fposte*

            Wow, that is really illuminating. I had no idea the lengths and depths they went to to drag people through the mud.

    4. Anonymous*

      This probably isn’t this guy’s issue, but after the very first time someone you used to know uses little internet breadcrumbs to track you down in person and “coincidentally” starts seeing you in random public places when you’re alone… You start to get nervous, I can say that from personal experience.

  28. knitcrazybooknut*

    #2 – I’d recommend that you check your employee handbook, if you have one. Some companies will ask that you sign a waiver saying that the company has the right to use your photo in promotional materials as part of the hiring process, with all the other paperwork you sign.

    The last time I signed something like that was over ten years ago, but even then, I looked askance at it. I didn’t ask at the time if you could opt out, but these days I probably would. I know that at conventions & gatherings, some people who would rather remain “anonymous” or at least not readily identifiable, wear nametags that ask people not to take pictures of them. That’s probably not practical for you, but as was said before, cultivating relationships with those responsible for the pictures is probably your safest bet.

  29. MaryTerry*

    #1: We earn PTO with each pay period. I think it’s tracked by our payroll system because it shows up on my pay stub every week. However, there’s a max number of hours you can have accrued, and then it doesn’t increase until you use some and are under the threshold. So once you reach 160 hours accrued (or whatever it is) then you don’t earn any more hours until you use some.

  30. Suz*

    Regarding the vacation issue, my company has a good way to handle it. They shifted the use-it-or-lose-it deadline. Vacation time can be carried over until the end of Feb. instead of expiring at the end of Dec., Also, our crazy busy time is August. Employees are only allowed to take one week of their vacation time during this period, regardless of how much time they have accrued.

  31. Mme Marie*

    #1 – Vacation
    I think shared vacation calendars can help a manager deal with this better.
    My Dad’s company often had staff figure out “big” vacation time ahead of time and had to set those on the vacation calendar for the year in pretty early on. More senior staff gets first pick, and there had to be enough coverage in a department (which could vary by thier busiest times of the year), so there would be blocked out days. If you were newer staff, you chose last and might not get that week off between Xmas & New Years you wanted. Short 1 or 2 day vacation times could be added as was allowed by the vacation calendar.

    My current position (at a Fortune 500) allows some PTO rollover. Our vacation & sick days are part of the same batch of PTO days. We can pretty much take what vacation days we like, but some operations teams only allow PTO on heavy work processing days to just one or two team members (who then are also responsible for finding someone to cover their customers). My support team doesn’t have such restrictions – but someone from our small team of 5 is expected to be in the office at all times. My coworkers all have kids and usually want to take after christmas off – I usually take the few days before christmas off instead. On our team, if everyone wanted the same day off – the last person to put in the request wouldn’t get approved (fortunately, we are all pretty mindful and wouldn’t request a day if we could see that all our coworkers already have requested it).

  32. Jessa*

    #5 you do want to grow professionally. You just want to do it by learning all the new cool stuff you can learn doing the extra projects coming your way. You can always say that.

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