our time off is being rescinded — Hunger Games style

A reader writes:

I work in an office with three coworkers in my department and a manager. We have a satellite office where I work every Wednesday. Six months ago, I requested my vacation for a particular week, which was granted. Three months ago, one coworker (Carly) requested the Wednesday and Thursday the same week off, which was also granted. Last month, another coworker (Regina) requested Wednesday off of the same week, again granted. Now, two weeks before our PTO, the manager sits the three of us in the conference room and states because of scheduling conflicts–meaning she forgot to transfer Carly’s and my PTO into her new calendar as well as three people off Wednesday–one request will be rescinded so someone will work Wednesday.

It is worth mentioning that Regina is notorious for being unreliable with attendance, and with her family beginning the stages of illness, it is a good chance she won’t be there and the main office will be empty, with that point being brought up to us by the manager as well. The clincher is, we have to decide among ourselves who will work. If we can’t, all of our requests will be retracted due to not being team players.

None of us wants to budge because its not our fault she did not organize the schedule or the last coworker has been allowed to have poor attendance. But we discussed it hypothetically. Here are the circumstances. I’m going on a cruise, which I have foregone four years of vacations to save for and will lose all of my money if I cancel. Carly’s husband is taking her out of town to celebrate her five-year cancer-free anniversary, and Wednesday and Thursday were the only days he could get off, as he works weekends. Regina turned in her time last, but is seeing her son off who is going on military tour, which is self-explanatory why she wants her time off. I was told that since I am single and don’t have familial duties, I should be the one to cancel. I don’t think me not having a husband or children should penalize me to always being the fall guy (which has happened a several times before now). This has resulted in some resentment on my end. Needless to say, this is an unfair position for us to be in because of someone else’s negligence. How would you handle this from our end and from the manager’s end?

Wow. It’s one thing to suggest working it out amongst yourselves if there were signs that you were likely to be able to do that and if the stakes weren’t so high for everyone. But that’s not the case here, and it’s unfair of your manager to abdicate her responsibility in this — and it’s especially ridiculous to say that if you can’t work it out, the solution will be that none of you get to take your time off. Your approved time off, no less.

The ideal approach here would be for your manager to find some way of letting you all take the time off that she approved. If that’s not possible — and it’s true that sometimes circumstances change — then she should apologize profusely to Regina but tell her that she approved her time off by mistake, due to a calendar error, and that she needs to rescind it. The reason that’s the right call is because if her calendar had been working correctly, that would have been the answer Regina would have received originally. (Or at least I assume it would have been, since you and Carly already had PTO scheduled for that time period.) She should then work with Regina to see what she can do to minimize the impact for her — such as letting her come in early or leave late that day, or giving her a different day off.

But since she’s abdicating her responsibility to manage the situation, the question becomes what the three of you should do. Assuming that Regina doesn’t respond to the logic of the argument above, then all you can really do is go to your manager and say something like, “I’d love to be able to work this out ourselves, but we haven’t been able to. I think the most logical thing to do is to handle this the way it would have been handled if your calendar error hadn’t occurred. In that case, presumably Regina’s request would have been denied since Carly and I were already scheduled to be out. I think it’s fairest to stick with that, and I hope that’s the solution you’ll choose. I would help if I could, but I can’t afford to lose $2500 (or whatever your cruise costs), when I booked it on good faith after receiving your okay.”

How she handles this will tell you a lot about who you’re working for.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Another option your manager could pursue is to close the office for the day. It’s not ideal, but as managers we all need to have a plan for how to proceed when the office is empty.

    1. Ed*

      I don’t know many companies where this is a realistic option. I certainly wouldn’t want to call my director and say we’re closing the office today because of planned vacation time that I approved. I might as well send in my resignation letter at the same time.

      1. Julie*

        The manager could cover the office on that day since it’s her fault the office will probably be empty.

        1. Gjest*

          That was my thought- that the manager should have to suck it up and do it, since it is her screw-up.

      2. Anonymous*

        There has to be some sort of a fall back plan. With offices that small, these things can happen. The damage to the manager was already done. Now it’s time to face the music.

        If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that there needs to be an emergency plan.

      3. Anonymous*

        I think that’s a great idea. If you messed this up like that? I’m entirely ok with you sending in your resignation letter.

  2. Diet Coke Addict*

    Is there some reason your boss is encouraging you to make this decision yourselves–i.e., to avoid heat from her boss for failing to coordinate PTO requests?

    Also you are correct in that it is unfair to ask you to rescind your time-off request simply because you are single and have no children.

    1. Mike C.*

      Here’s the reason: the manager screwed up and doesn’t want to take responsibility for screwing up, thus she calls it “being a team player”.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, exactly. That is such bullshit. The manager needs to take the heat and tell Regina that she has to suck it up. Instead, she’s doing a divide and conquer thing with her subordinate. That alone would make me look for another job.

      2. Jess*

        Exactly. It’s pushing her responsibility off on to her subordinates in the hope the issue will go away and she won’t have to actually deal with the unpleasantness.

  3. Mike C.*

    In addition to everything else that has been said (which is so incredibly messed up in it’s own right), your manager is setting you all up to fail. If you look at this as a game theory exercise, then no one wins. The “loser” can simply chose not to agree, and drag everyone else down out of frustration. So if you’re feeling cruel/heartless/simply don’t care, announce to the rest of the group that you’re taking your time and if not then no one will. Either someone budges, or no one gets their vacation. It’s an ugly, nasty game of chicken, but if you have to play by the rules set out by your manager, that’s the only thing you can do.

    There’s so much here that’s simply insane, from factoring out the poor attendance issues (who’s to say someone won’t decide to be “sick” to see their kid off to war?), the fact that not having a family apparently means your time isn’t worth anything to the fact that your manager won’t own up to her own mistake, christ.

    Just remember that this isn’t the fault of your coworkers, and remind your coworkers that it isn’t your fault either. Frankly, I think all three of you should be sick. H1N1 is really nasty this year, after all…

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, it’s ironic that it’s being phrased as a team player exercise when it’s actually likeliest to reward the person who’s most self-centered.

      1. Abbie*

        Not to mention turn the three employees on each other and make them truly not want to be team players and help each other out in the future due to resentment over this situation.

        If your manager won’t budge, as she should since this is totally her fault, I’d ask her then her manager how the company can reimburse you for all trip related expenses. You should not be penalized for not having kids, you still get to have a life ugh! Regina asked last so she’s out of luck. Also, when is her son leaving? Do you see someone off all day? She could come in late.

        If someone must be there and the boss can’t handle the office, can a temp come in?

  4. Bryan*

    It’s so awful your manager is making all of you suffer for her mistake.

    I agree with the above advice. Is is possible for Regina to take the day before off? I may take heat for that but I think in the situation it’s just one day different. Also would Cindy be out money like you would if they delay one week?

    You may take heat from Carly and Regina but it’s so not fair to you to be out thousands of dollars because you’re single. Have you explained to them it’s non-refundable. And saying Regina should get the day off because she probably won’t show up isn’t a good response by your boss either. If Regina doesn’t show up she should be let go.

    1. AnonAthon*

      Ditto on the non-refundable aspect. You made a serious financial decision based on the information that your manager gave you (ie: that you could take time off) … and now you are getting financially penalized for acting on her word. It’s crazy.

      1. John B Public*

        …and your boss as well. I’d actually argue that your boss should bear the greatest burden, as the person who not only dropped the ball but also refuses to pick it back up again.
        What a mess. Good question, though, OP. This scenario definitely could use some crowd sourcing.

      1. Laura*

        Here’s some advice for the OP : stay alive.

        And resist the temptation to tell the manager: “fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”

  5. Just a Reader*

    This is ridiculous.

    I might actually just go to HR over it, in the OP’s shoes. Managers need to manage. And pay attention. And take responsibility for errors. Certainly they should not be making mistakes and failing to correct them at the expense of employees’ happiness at work, time with their families, wallets and general sense of well being.

    1. Cat*

      Yeah, I might escalate this too, to be honest. Obviously that entails some risk, but this situation is ridiculous.

    2. NylaW*

      +1 This seems like a bad enough situation that someone other than the manager needs to step in. By turning it back on the staff in such a poor way, the manager has shown that she can’t handle it.

    3. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

      Or go to the manager’s manager.

      If I were somehow to let this situation arise and there were no way to get outside support, I know my manager would be working alongside me that day, deeply ticked off at me for doing this to her.

    4. Senior Staff Systems Engineer - Aerospace*

      Perhaps OP can ask manager to go *with* her to HR to see how she will be compensated by the company for expenses incurred due to this rescheduling.

      1. John B Public*

        Oh this is a delicious way to turn it around. Oh, you don’t want to make a decision? Well let’s ask HR, and see what they suggest. Perhaps it involves demoting you…

    5. kas*


      I had a similar situation at work two months ago and I wish I had escalated the issue. I was promised ONE day off to give myself an extra long weekend to go on a family trip. I spoke to my manager several times to ensure I had that day off and she kept telling me it was no problem. I ended up ruining the family trip as my manager told me THE DAY BEFORE that she actually could not give me the day off and I would have to go into work.

      Needless to say I was not a happy camper and kept my contact with her very limited over the next few weeks, I barely acknowledged her.

  6. Ruffingit*

    Take your time off OP and let the chips fall where they may. Of course, you should talk to your manager about this as per Alison’s advice, but seriously do not budge on this. You should not lose a cruise and all the money that entails because your manager made a mistake nor should Regina be allowed to come in at the last minute and ruin everyone’s plans. I really hope your manager doesn’t threaten you with your job over this, but if she does I’d still take the cruise and maybe you can work on your resume while you’re lounging on the deck chairs. Hell, I’d probably do that anyway because your manager sucks. Good luck and please come back with an update!!

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m thinking more than one person needs to be present in the office? Don’t know, but if that isn’t the case then yeah the manager should be the team player here and cover.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        See, having worked in food service, this is what the manager does. It’s one reason I decided I didn’t want to manage in that field (that and I couldn’t do the payroll).

    2. MaryMary*

      I was wondering about that too. If I was the manager and messed up my employees’ PTO requests, I’d suck it up and cover myself.

    3. OP*

      On that day, the manager has to go to the satellite office, which means someone will have to be at the main office.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I really hope you don’t budge on this. You’d be out a lot of money and it’s just patently unfair. Regina should be the one to have to take the hit here.

        1. Laufey*

          Possibly. The later states that OP, Regina, and Carly were the ones thrown into the Hunger Games arena, but it looks like there’s at least three others involved – “as well as three people off Wednesday”

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I wondered about that too, but I wasn’t sure if they were the OP, Carly, and Regina.

            This is the hardest story problem I’ve faced since the GREs!

            1. KJR*

              Those deductive reasoning questions? I used to dream about them! Bob is wearing a yellow shirt, but can’t sit next to Tim…AHHHH!

              1. the gold digger*

                I wasted way too much time on the GRE on the question about how to seat six people in two canoes to work together toward a common goal – one of the conditions was that Bob couldn’t work with women, which just ticked me off. Why should that be my problem? Bob needed to suck it up and keep his mouth shut.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Hah, no shit. In real life, Bob should be forced to take some classes in how to work with others and learn that he can’t get his way like that.

                  Cannot believe they seriously put that question on the GRE’s. Really?!

      2. BJ McKay*

        Can your office hire a temp for one day? Seems reasonable without knowing your field/office situation.

        1. Kim*

          What one earth is a temp for one day going to be able to do? Nobody is going to be there to train him/her and a temp on their first day won’t be able to answer any questions that anybody has. I do not see how this is a solution.

          1. fposte*

            There are plenty of positions where a single-day temp could hold down the fort. We don’t really know enough about this one to say whether it’s possible here or not.

              1. KJR*

                It might work…maybe you could bring them temp in ahead of time to train just to cover the bare essentials?

          2. Snowy*

            I used to do one- and two-day gigs all the time. You answer phones, maybe do some filing. Basically, you’re the warm body with a pleasant greeting who’s there to make sure everyone who walks in is greeted, and everyone who works there can go to lunch.

          3. Mander*

            I’ve done a number of one-day temp gigs where I was the only person in the front office. I just took messages and told people that I was a temp, that there had been some emergency (although really I had no idea why I was the only one there), and left it at that. Some people got mad, but really, what could either of us do? I didn’t know anyone in the office except the person who spent 10 minutes showing me where the bathroom was and how to transfer calls, and since I was only there for one day it’s not like they could fire me.

      3. Anna*

        I wonder what you mean by “has to be”. What happens if SHE takes vacation and can’t be in the satellite office? What happens if she’s sick? Since this is a one off, or should be, unless something is going to actually explode if she’s not there, I would think she could work that around.

  7. Chocolate Teapot*

    Once, whilst trying not to budge on travelling over Christmas, I got the “You should sort it out between yourselves” line from my then boss.

    Which was all well and good, but nobody else wanted to budge either! And I got the comments that I was being mean for wanting to get my request in first.

    1. Melissa*

      We did, too. I worked a res life job that needed coverage 365 days a year. The deal was that if you covered the 13 days between Christmas and New Year’s, you got out of duty for the entire rest of the fall semester. The department was dysfunctional and the person who volunteered to cover Christmas and New Year’s quit towards the end of the fall semester, so in November our bosses told us that someone would have to cover Christmas and New Year’s and we would need to figure it out amongst ourselves.

      The good news is that we were all a pretty friendly group and so there wasn’t any animosity, but I was kind of annoyed that people on the team budged rather than forcing our supposed managers to figure it out themselves. I refused – I had already made travel plans and I was NOT going to adjust them for their dysfunction issues.

  8. Confused*

    “I was told that since I am single and don’t have familial duties, I should be the one to cancel.”
    What about the money you already spent on the cruise, are your co-workers and boss going to refund you? I don’t think so.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It’s discriminatory in that she’s being treated differently, but it’s not discriminatory in the legal sense because being single/childless is not a protected class. There are no legal protections for her on this. It’s unfair and terrible, but not illegal.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Marital status isn’t a protected class under the EEOC, although some states may protect it. (That said, marital status sometimes comes up as a factor in sex discrimination, but it’s not a protected class in and of itself.)

        1. NylaW*

          Right, but this is definitely one of those times where even though it’s legal, it’s not right. If the HR department or the boss’s boss doesn’t suck as much as the manager does right now, they wouldn’t want the single/childless status to dictate how PTO requests are handled.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I didn’t say to ignore it. I’m trying to make sure the OP doesn’t think this is illegal and go marching into HR claiming illegal discrimination.

            Discrimination is not necessarily illegal. Discrimination based on certain protected classes is.

            1. NylaW*

              I understood what you were saying. :) And yes the OP needs to be careful about throwing around legal/illegal, as do we all.

              1. Anna*

                The OP can couch it in phrases like “I feel like I’m being singled out due to my marital status”. Even if it’s not a protected class, I doubt HR would want the whiff of treating people differently to be associated with them.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t know, this sounds like treating it as if it had the gravity of an illegal discrimination (with the hinting) when it’s something that won’t get anybody in trouble, and when it’s not even the basis of the problem here.

    1. holly*

      what about how you were organized enough to ask first, plus plan out this vacation for four years. no. no. no. no. no. no. i could go on…

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      That line had me very curious indeed. *Who* is telling OP she should cancel because she’s single? If it’s the coworkers who think their families are more important than OP’s cruise, they need to wake up and realize that the boss is the ogre here, not OP.

      If it’s the boss, I’d go to HR if they’re any good and lay out the situation in cool and unemotional terms. Hopefully, although it doesn’t sound like there are any *legal* issues here, HR would be wise enough to realize that it’s wrong and put the kibosh on it.

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        I don’t understand why the person celebrating the anniversary can’t reschedule for the following week? Yes, I understand that an anniversary is to mark a specific date, but she’ll be just as cured a week from now. This celebration is entirely under her control vs. a scheduled cruise and deployment (which are not under an individual’s control).

        I’m married and if I were unfortunate enough to be in a situation like this, I’d talk it over with my husband and most likely reschedule or just be forced to scale back. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I’d do it.

        1. Laura*

          You know, I think you’re right. Strictly speaking, it does look as though Regina should be the one to give up her time off, but the person celebrating the anniversary seems to have the most practical solution.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not so sure of that – her husband’s job seem a touch inflexible, so there is no way to know if they will be cooperative. And, of course, they may also be out money for their get-away.

        2. Judy*

          Not that I don’t think Carly is the one to best move her plans from the information we’ve been given, but I did want to say that it’s not a wedding anniversary. It’s her FIVE YEAR CANCER FREE anniversary. It’s a big deal, speaking as someone who had a family dinner for my dad in December to celebrate this. Look at the survival statistics.

          1. Dan*

            Notice we’re getting into judgement calls about what kinds of “special occasions” are more important, which is a place I’d rather not go. Truth is, I don’t think any anniversary needs to be celebrated on its exact.

            Anniversary celebration should have to reschedule, if we have to choose who “deserves” the time off more.

          2. TL*

            Yup. 5 years is the official “cure” (more like permanent remission, I think) date.

            It’s basically when they say you’re officially out of the danger zone.

          3. JuliB*

            As a cancer survivor (26 years now), I think Carly should reschedule, unless she’s planning on relapsing the following week.

        3. Melissa*

          Same, unless Carly is also going on a non-refundable vacation. It does mention that she’s going out of town.

  9. Ruffingit*

    Just a general note – the working world needs to stop thinking that single people should be first in line for the firing squad. Just because you don’t have a husband or kids doesn’t mean you don’t have a life. Single people did not hatch out of a pod and roam the earth untethered from family ties, from friends, from obligations. It’s insulting and crappy to act like that your husband or your kid is more important than what a single person has on their plate. JUST SAYING. UGH.

    1. sunny-dee*


      I remember once we had a last-minute change to make on a project, and I was trying to coordinate an ASAP call between someone in the Czech Republic, me (Central US), and Australia. The Czech guy offered to do the call at 6am, I was going to stay up till midnight, and the Australian chick had to call in at 3pm (when she was supposed to be at her desk, anyway). But she wanted us to reschedule because she didn’t want to miss picking her daughter up at the bus stop.

      The Czech and I just did the call ourselves, at better hours for us.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Also, I don’t really think you should have to explain how you want to use your leave. If I want to sit on my butt at home and watch re-runs of Judge Judy all day, that’s just as valid as someone wanting to go on a family vacation. THe content of the leave shouldn’t dictate whether or not it gets approved. Come on, manager. Do your job.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Totally agreed. I don’t care what someone does with their vacation time, that’s up to them. No one activity/task is better than any other. The only exception I might make there is if someone wanted to take time for chemo vs. another person who just wanted to be home watching TV. But that’s a human thing in that we help each other get what we need. As a general rule though yeah do what you want with your time, it’s no one’s business to judge that.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I do think there’s a little wiggle room, though. All three of these coworkers have really solid reasons for why they want this particular Wednesday off instead of some other day. If one of them instead just wanted to stay home, I think it would be reasonable for the manager to *ask* if they could take a different day off instead.

      3. Adam V*

        True, but having $2500 in non-refundable, planned-out-far-in-advance cruise tickets should sway anyone who might otherwise ask you “could you possibly consider switching your vacation?”

        It’s still not right to ask you to interrupt your Judge Judy marathon when you’ve had it planned out that far in advance either, but the cost to you to reschedule is (probably) far less than the OP.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          But the point is you ask – you don’t just tell someone “I deemed your leave less worthy than this other person’s.” You ask. Most people are reasonable and would be willing to trade.

          1. Adam V*

            Totally agreed. And honestly, if you got your request in first, you should feel perfectly justified in saying “sorry, I can’t give it up” no matter what it is you’re doing.

    3. Del*


      I don’t have a spouse or children, but I still have a large family. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews… they’re all family too!

      1. Melissa*

        Exactly this! I am married, but before I was I would go to see my little cousins’ recitals and games, fly home to visit with my parents, went to my grandparents’ funerals, etc. I have a very large extended family. I don’t understand why people thing single = unattached with no family obligations.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      THANK YOU. Being single doesn’t mean our lives revolve around our jobs!

      And just because we’re single (still), that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. It’s the same crap that people who are unemployed for a long time get–“Oh you haven’t found a job/husband/wife yet? There must be something wrong with you!”

    5. EngineerGirl*

      I used to get this on one program I worked. I let them clearly know that I was supporting a sister and a terminally ill father.
      Just because you are single doesnt mean you don’t have ties and obligations.

    6. AmyNYC*

      Remember the woman (a nurse?) a few years ago that said parents should get first dibs at PTO for the holidays? Still makes me angry.

    7. Liz in a library*

      Yeah, this is so offensive, the idea that people without children or a spouse have less important family/social lives. I’m not single, but I am permanently child-free, and like others here, I hear this all the time, in all areas of my life.

      News flash: we still have families (parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, or a chosen family of friends and neighbors). We have obligations. These things matter to us just as much as your own families and obligations matter to you.

      Obviously, I’m using the general you, not addressing anyone specific.

    8. AnonAthon*

      Totally agree. I’m not single either, but that doesn’t mean my personal time is uniquely valuable somehow.

      I would guess though that children throw a specific wrench into the work because they are 100% non-self-sufficient. We can leave our middle-aged dog home alone for an extra 30 minutes, but you can’t leave an infant alone for 30 seconds. Moreover, when you have a kid, you suddenly have twice (or three times) as many medical appointments, educational commitment, etc. Commitments that you can’t negotiate or move.

      I think the mistake that some folks make is conflating “parental responsibilities” with “responsibilities that are not flexible.” By the nature of the gig, parenting (or full-time care for another person, child or otherwise) tends to involve a disproportionate number of said non-flexible duties. But it’s important to realize that everyone has some of those, and a doctor’s appointment or major trip isn’t less critical because there is no child involved.

      1. A Teacher*

        Or not…I have a 13+ year old dog with bladder issues. My parents try to let her out during the day but in this lovely snow that we’re having in the midwest, its not happening this past 2 weeks. She can’t go that “extra 30 minutes” or she has accidents that destroy my wood floors.

        1. Anonathon*

          Oh no! I’m sorry, that sounds rough. (I was only using our specific dog as an example because she is, at present, fairly low-maintenance. Not the case when we first got her though!)

          1. A Teacher*

            I foster dogs (#24 at present), so I understand what you are saying…It just drives me crazy when I have co-workers say “well you only have dogs…” and the same as others said about being single.

        2. A pet owner too*

          Yeah… but it’s not illegal and morally reprehensible to leave your incontinent dog alone for an extra 30 minutes. Leaving your four-year-old on the street corner after kindergarten bus drop-off for 30 minutes is insane.

          Children>pets, period. If it’s a walking-out-the-door, “hey one of you suddenly needs to stay late NOW” situation it’s unfair to let the dog be alone longer but illegal to let the kid wait alone.

          1. Velma*

            it’s illegal for the parent to leave the kids alone, but it is certainly not illegal for the employer to require an employee to stay late.

            It’s up to the employee to make sure their home obligations if any are covered in that scenario.

          2. A Teacher*

            You prob won’t see this, but I never said it was. Kind of like many others said though, just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t have other responsibilities. And I do consider it pretty bad to just leave the dog extra because of work, but that’s me.

    9. Dan*

      I’m lucky, in my line of work, we don’t have to fight for time off. The whole office could be off on the same day and it just wouldn’t matter.

      So this single guy has never had to suck it up for the married folk. Not withstanding that at the last job I had, something like 70% of the staff was young, single, and childless.

  10. Katie the Fed*

    Wow. Concur 100% with Alison’s advice, but I want to say that I HATE the assumption that single people have less important commitments than married people/parents. My leave is very important to me, and while I’m usually happy to work Christmas Eve and/or the day after Thanksgiving, it’s not because I’m single/childless. It’s my choice. Shame on those who would pressure someone to forgo personal plans because of their marital/family status.

    1. Confused*

      What if it wasn’t a chioce to be single/childless? Maybe you don’t believe in marriage, maybe you can’t legally get married, maybe you are not able to have children, or you’re on a wait-list to adopt. So many possibilities.
      Single people don’t have Grinch hearts, we’re not waiting on vows and kids to help our hearts grow to normal size. I still have a family/friends/relationships/life to give time to.

      1. fposte*

        I agree the notion sucks, but I don’t think it’s based on whether it was a choice or not. The (misguided) theory is that you don’t have immediate personal obligations, with a secondary misguided theory that you’re therefore obliged to take responsibilities for those people who do have those responsibilities.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Exactly. Like what I said above – if I feel like I want to spend a day watching Judge Judy reruns and eating ramen, that’s my choice if I use my leave. It’s not more or less important than someone taking their kids to disneyworld. What you’re doing on your leave shouldn’t factor into the decision to grant it, except in really extreme cases.

          1. Colette*

            It would be relevant in this situation, if one of the three was taking a day off to spend time at home, and if the manager approached it as “I’m so sorry I messed up, would you possibly be able to switch to the next week?”

            Not because it’s less important, but because it may be more flexible.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              No I agree. If someone had a kid going off to war I might ask if either of the other two had more flexible plans. But you’ve got to use your brain. I’ve managed to coordinate leave among a big team and make sure we’re covered on all the holidays and it’s never been an issue.

    2. sunny-dee*

      Single/childless doesn’t mean no responsibilities. My uncle is single/childless, and is the sole caregiver for my grandmother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I have good friends who are single and/or childless and have helped nurse nieces with cancer, take care of pregnant sisters on bed rest, and do chores for elderly relatives because there was no one else to do them.

    3. Jamie*

      I also hate this assumption – so much. And I say this as someone who is married with kids.

      This situation is absolutely ridiculous – but yes, the only way to do it is to rescind the time of the person you wouldn’t have approved if you knew how to work a calendar (and we all know how complicated they are.)

    4. NylaW*

      This makes my blood boil. Even those of us who are married with kids were once single and childless, and we had obligations then too. Just because the nature of the commitments changes does not make one automatically more or less important than another.

  11. Anonie*

    The last person to request the time off should be the one to work. That is the fair thing to do. The OP should not be the one because she asked first and scheduled and entire week off. It grates me to no end that that the other two think that because the OP isn’t married or doesn’t have children that she should be the one to come to work. What kind of logic is that???

    1. Adam V*

      Exactly. If they hadn’t been utterly incapable of working a *calendar*, the manager would have told Regina “I’m sorry, I can’t give you this day off, your coworkers already requested it”. If Regina wanted to, she could try to convince a coworker to switch dates.

      However, now that the manager approved it, the manager needs to go back to Regina and tell her essentially the same thing. Putting that onto the team is a cop-out.

  12. Yup*

    “If we can’t, all of our requests will be retracted due to not being team players.”

    I’d just like to point out that this scenario is NOT how that works. Time off requests are approved/denied based on things like business needs or priority deadlines, not on whether someone has been a good little girl or boy that week. Your manager appears to have pretty self-serving ideas about her role and responsibilities. Because if anyone is letting down the team here, it’s her.

    I wish I had constructive advice about how to handle this, but my mind’s a blank because I’m so annoyed with your boss right now.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yes, this. Especially if the boss is doing this as a way to cover her ass rather than look bad.

    2. bearing*

      Right. “That’s how the three of us decided to work it out amongst ourselves, as instructed.”

        1. TheExchequer*

          Some things are worth possible repercussions. I would say a manager reneging on a promise then trying to foist off the responsibility is one of those things. (Frankly, with the stakes involved, the manager is lucky he or she is not receiving three resignation letters).

  13. Anonsie*

    This sounds like an ethics class hypothetical. The rebel in me wants you all to tell the manager “tough buttons” and all take your time off as planned, leave it to her to figure out how to make it work. That’s a bad idea, probably, but hot damn.

    This is beautiful for my supervillain lair business model, though. On Skull Island, all conflicting PTO requests will be settled in The Arena.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m reminded of that scene in “The Dark Knight” where the Joker looks at two underlings, announces that he’s “hiring”, breaks a pool stick in two and throws it down. “Settle it amongst yourselves” indeed.

        1. Cube Ninja*

          I am reasonably certain that I was the only person to completely lose it in the theatre following the magic trick. Clearly I am horrible people for laughing my face off at morbid humor. :)

        1. Liane*

          If I’m entering, I want a lightsaber! Double-bladed! So I can take down my opponents 2 at a time & thus get started on my vacation that much sooner!

          Seriously, though, in real life this is awful. For all 3 of these coworkers.

    2. Nancie*

      I plan to pattern the management of my evil lair after Hank Scorpio.

      If the OP agrees to reschedule, the company would pay reimburse her and pay for a cabin upgrade.

      If Carly reschedules, she and her husband would be offered a couple of days at the satellite lair in the Bahamas (with use of a private jet.)

      Regina wouldn’t be offered anything to reschedule, but her son would be offered a job as a security minion. (Competitive wages, with full medical and dental, and a matching 401-K.)

      If nobody wants to reschedule, then the manager who messed up would be force-cloned so that she can cover both offices. At the end of the day, the original and clone would have to fight it out to see who survives. (I would still be evil, after all.)

  14. Allison*

    If the boss really wants someone to volunteer to rescind their vacation time, she should offer some sort of incentive to the person who does. Like whoever does it will get paid time extra, or get extra PTO days to use later.

    1. Rin*

      I was going to say that the OP should volunteer only if the company pays for rebooking and gives an extra few days for the delayed cruise.

      1. Steve*

        OP might be traveling with friends or relatives. Often my single friends and I vacation together, so asking me to change the dates once it’s planned not only screws me, but anyone else I might have been traveling with – and if that was just one other single friend it’s not really a good option to say “I can’t go, you just go on ahead by yourself. “

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yes, that is true and if that is the case, then I absolutely would not budge at all. It wouldn’t be fair to my traveling companions.

        2. SM*

          Absolutely. I think too many people forget that most folks travel with at least one other person – whether you are single or not! What if the plan is to go with just one other person? What then with their vacation plans, their cancellation costs, their disappointment?

          Chances are that other single person is going along to have a partner to travel with.

        3. KellyK*

          Ooh, good point. If she’s made plans that involve other people, then even reimbursing her doesn’t make it okay.

    2. amp2140*

      I agree.

      Just like my boss suggested for a woman on the finance team. Her birthday was always on the close of the quarter, and she always wound up with PTO/sick. My boss always suggested they give her a day on either side of July Fourth off for free, but she had to work on her birthday (her birthday was near July fourth).

  15. Coelura*

    No matter how this specific one is resolved, the OP might want to start resume work. After all, the OP mentions that this is not the first time his/her single status has been used to justify mistreatment in the past. So this is a situation that will likely continue to be problematic going forward. If I’m not being treated as an equal in my workplace because of anything other than performance, I’d want to look for another workplace where at least I am on equal footing with everyone else.

    1. KellyK*

      Also very true. Your boss doesn’t want to manage, and you’re the whipping girl because you’re single. There’s got to be something better out there.

  16. Marie*

    Sorry you’re in this situation, OP! Please let us know how it turns out. Also, I know 2014 has just begun, but I’m betting that this manager will be a top contender for the annual AAM “Worst Manager of the Year”. So wrong on so many levels!

  17. KellyK*

    Honestly, I think there are two reasonable options. Regina works the day, because she requested last, and her request shouldn’t have been approved. Her boss, mortified for having screwed this up for her, makes some sort of accommodation so she can still see her son off. (Coming in late, leaving early, getting the prior day off—something.)

    The other reasonable option is that OP cancels *on the condition* that the company reimburses her for all her non-refundable expenses, and she gets first pick of whatever week she wants to reschedule, assuming it’s not a busy time where no one can take off, or in the middle of someone else’s maternity or post-surgery time off.

    1. fposte*

      I’m totally with you, but I think the odds of the reasonable thing happening in this particular office are those of a snowball’s survival in hell.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, you’re right. Probably *worse* odds. If Dante’s description of hell was accurate, the snowball will be fine.

    2. MaryMary*

      Honestly, I don’t know that it’s realistic the company would reimburse OP for rescheduling her vacation. It would be nice, particularly given the situation, but I’ve never known a company to pay for personal travel changes.

      1. Annie*

        I had a friend who scheduled a trip to visit us for the weekend, then was told that he had to fly to Dubai that weekend, and the company paid the change fee to move the tickets to a different weekend. Seems like it was the least they could do under the circumstances.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        I’m not so sure of that. PTO is part of your work contract, and it was approved. Some states, such as California, consider verbal contracts to be binding. In this case it’s pretty easy to prove what the agreement was, so proving it is no issue. There is a potential breach of contract here, and there would be damages because of it.

        Of course you never say this to HR or management, but you might want to raise it in a “nice” way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think so though — CA law might require her to be allowed to take PTO, but I’ve never seen a company PTO policy that didn’t make it clear that the company could exercise discretion over when it was taken. That includes that right to rescind approval and direct her to take it another time.

          1. CEMgr*

            California contract law also has a requirement of good faith and fair dealing. Neither party to a contract can act unilaterally frustrate the other’s expectation and right to the benefit of their bargain. Company policy definitely does not trump state contract law. At best, the policy must be taken into account in applying the law. The test will be whether it is reasonable to expect that vacation scheduled far in advance and used for a cruise will be denied at the eleventh hour. A typical juror would likely find that it is NOT reasonable. (Not that I think the OP will necessarily benefit much from that line of thinking in practice, of course.)

          2. Chinook*

            I know that the Canadian Forces had a rule that if your approved leave got pulled on short notice, they would reimburse any expenses resulting from it (up to and including flying you back). Since they could legally have you arrested for not showing up for duty and many people would have to fly to there places just to visit family, it is a nice compromise that also meant nobody was recalled without justification.

  18. Zelos*

    I would say Carly has the most flexible schedule–unless for some reason her husband cannot take the previous or next Wednesday/Thursday off, she has the lowest stakes. OP would be out the money of a cruise and Regina cannot delay seeing her son off.

    All that said, the manager is absolutely ridiculous for pitting OP and her coworkers against each other. (And that comment about OP should be the fall guy because she’s single and childless makes me see red.) If the manager doesn’t work with you on this, I think it’s time to make a case to the manager’s boss and/or HR.

    1. KellyK*

      That is true. I would say that if she and her husband have already made non-refundable arrangements, they should get reimbursed if she volunteers to cover.

    2. Ethyl*

      I actually agree — if Carly’s husband works weekends, maybe they could take off Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday the following week. A quick overnight out of town in a nice hotel doesn’t sound like they’re going to be out the thousands of dollars that the OP is. I mean, I still think Regina is the one who should lose out, because that’s what would have happened in the absence of the calendar mess-up, but I definitely feel like Carly needs to step up here.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Except that now Carly’s husband has to go back to his boss and say no never mind about the vacation. This solution isn’t without impact.

        1. Zelos*

          Oh, I don’t mean to imply that Carly has any responsibility whatsoever to give up her time off if she doesn’t want to. She did put in her request ahead of time, her husband booked the time off. I mean that in the grand scheme of things, she has the most potential flexibility of the three of them, assuming her husband’s bosses are okay with rescinding plans…which they may not be. But her stepping up would be a kindness, not a foregone conclusion. This mess is squarely on their manager’s shoulders.

          Regina’s flakiness should not be a factor here, I agree. But it sounds like if this was the type of workplace that could possibly accommodate Regina taking a half-day…well, one full day isn’t that much more, time-wise. I just don’t see the four hours difference being that mission critical. To me, it sounds like if they’re having this argument, then there must be a person in there that day, full stop. And that just sucks.

    3. HR lady*

      I agree. Carly seems to have the most flexibility in her plans. So it should be Carly or Regina (because she was the last to make the request). OP, don’t back down!

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agree with this. If Carly could move her plans, it would be nice of her to offer (and she ought to get an incentive or reward for doing so), but if no one backs down, it should be last in, first out for Regina. OP needs to stick to her guns.

        But this sucks out loud for everyone.

      2. Mil Wife*

        She was likely the last one to ask because the military often does not tell you the exact date you are deploying until one or two weeks ahead of time in fact my husband only had 72 hours notice before he left for a year long deployment.

        1. Anon*

          +1. When my husband deployed to Afghanistan, his departure date was changed two dozen times. First it was Wednesday, then it was Tuesday, then it was next Thursday. Then it was definitely Wednesday, pinkie swear for realsies this time. Oh, did I say Wednesday? I meant two weeks from Friday, so be sure to be packed and ready by tomorrow.

          Right up to the day of departure. It was infuriating, and impossible to plan around. I feel for Regina, having to choose between putting her foot down for a date that she might not even need, and being flexible about a date that is 100% confirmed.

          Sucky situation for everyone.

        2. Anonymous*

          This. Having experienced it, as well, I can vouch. It’s wait, wait, wait…then “you have 72 hours.” It is likely possible that Regina would’ve had no way of knowing far enough in advance when the deployment would be.

        3. Melissa*

          This is true, but there have been many times that I couldn’t see my husband off on the exact date that he deployed or went on an extended TDY. We got together the weekend before or a few days before instead. Not that it doesn’t suck, but IMO both Carly and Regina have a bit of flexibility that OP simply does not have.

    4. EJ*

      I think no matter how you slice this, it’s Regina who needs to give up the time. She was the last one to ask, and has the least number of days impacted (Carly or the OP would need to cancel two days of plans, or a week of plans respectively, at a financial loss, whereas Regina has no financial loss at stake and can probably work out a half day off). The fact tht Regina is irresponsible has no play in the decision – that’s for the manager to deal with.

      As all of this should have been.

      1. Mil Wife*

        She was likely the last one to ask because the military often does not tell you the exact date you are deploying until one or two weeks ahead of time in fact my husband only had 72 hours notice before he left for a year long deployment. And the DOL has special provisions under FMLA to attend deployment cerimonies.

  19. BCW*

    Wow, this does suck. Although I do think people are being a bit hard on Regina here. Its not HER fault the boss screwed up. And because the boss screwed up, I don’t know that she should automatically be expected to give up the time she was granted. I get the logic that she should probably be the one who its taken from if the boss wants to manage and make a decision, but people who just expect her to be that altruistic when I’d argue her reason is bigger (going off to war there is definitely that chance it will be the last time she’ll see her son) than just a weekend getaway just isn’t realistic either.

    1. NK*

      No, it’s certainly not Regina’s fault. But, had the boss not screwed up her calendar, Regina’s request would have been denied since OP and Carly already had approved time off. At that point, Regina could have approached OP and Carly to ask them to switch with her, but that’s a different situation than the boss telling them to figure it out amongst themselves. I absolutely feel for Regina, though.

    2. mel*

      Honestly I don’t think any one person’s plans are more important than the others.

      There was probably a cruise during some week out of 52 that didn’t coincide with every other employee’s plan. Any day can be somebody’s “last day” with someone else, you don’t have to wait until they literally drive away. An anniversary can be easily celebrated even a week before or after and still be timely and enjoyable. All three are self-indulgent, and none of them are day-specific.

      But only one person is going to be stuck with a huge bill in this situation, and who was apparently first in line.

      1. Anonie*

        But the OP requested time off before the other two and it was approved. This should be settled between the other two. This should be about what is fair and it is not fair to the OP to have to consider changing her vacation when she asked for the time off first.

        1. fposte*

          I disagree–it was the manager’s error, and it’s a failure on her part to make the solving the problem the responsibility of any of the three employees, whether that includes the OP or not.

        2. BCW*

          I don’t think it should be any of the employees responsibility. Unless there is a public calender and they could see that people had already asked for it off, they did nothing wrong by asking, and being granted, the same day. The manager needs to be the one to handle it.

  20. TheExchequer*

    Geez. Where do people get the idea that it’s acceptable to manage like this? I can see the train of thought: “Oh, fudge. I let everyone take the day off and I didn’t mean to at all.” But the train completely derails at: “Let’s make the employees fix it!”

    1. Ruffingit*

      The manager is refusing to take the heat. She knows she’s going to make one of the employees upset by rescinding their vacation time and she’s refusing to face that music. She’s trying to make this into a team player situation when in fact it’s a poor management situation.

      1. TheExchequer*

        It is a lack of taking responsibility for mistakes. As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Mistakes have been made. Others will be blamed.”

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Heh. I have a magnet on my office wall that says, “I didn’t say it was your fault. I said ‘I’m going to blame you.’ “

        2. Dulcinea*

          I was once told by a supervisor, ” I didn’t say it was your fault, but it is your problem” (So I had to fix someone else’s work).

          1. fposte*

            That, however, seems pretty much a statement of life to me. I think all of us have many problems to solve under that rubric. (As I prepare to drive out into the snow, which often brings one of those problems sliding into your car’s rear end.)

    2. Yup*

      You know? “Oh geez, I forgot to invoice the clients last month so we’re going to be short on Friday’s payroll. You guys decide who’s going without — whiners get nothing!”

        1. Yup*

          I may apply to be Anonsie’s Chief Morale Officer for Skull Island, just so I can finally put a bunch of past experiences to good use.

          1. TheExchequer*

            What if I embrodier “Mistakes Have Been Made; Others Will Be Blamed” on a pillow for you? Will you reconsider? At least don’t have the checks bounce every week!

            1. Laufey*

              Oh, no, no, no. Bouncing every other week makes it much more exciting. Maybe we’ll even bounce them on based on Fibonacci or something!

    1. fposte*

      It would certainly be satisfying to change your vacation request to a notification of your departure from the organization.

      1. Colette*

        Wouldn’t it?

        My actual response to the boss would probably be “unfortunately, I’m not able to change my plans, so I’ll be on vacation from X to Y, as approved by you on Z.”

        Of course, I don’t recommend that as the best approach for the OP.

        1. mel*

          It might be in this case, if management is so opposed to confrontation! If she can’t handle an RTO error, then how would she fire anyone?

    2. Katie the Fed*

      so, way back in the day, I volunteered to fill a position in Iraq. I’m a civilian – going to a warzone is a choice, and chose to go to fill a critical position there.

      When I was nearing the end of my assignment, I found a 3-week dream vacation I really wanted to take. I figured the timing would be good since I hadn’t taken leave for so long and the office was used to having me gone.

      So I asked my boss and he responded “No – you’ve been gone long enough and we need you back in the office working as soon as possible.”

      So…eff that. I applied for and got a new job in the same agency before I ever came home. I didn’t end up doing the trip since I was new to my new job, but my former boss got to deal with that position being empty for several months before he could get a replacement in. Ha!

      It’s funny because that decision took my career in completely unanticipated directions – I’m doing completely different things than I would be if I had stayed in that job. And all because of pure, unadulterated spite. :)

      1. Ruffingit*

        SPITE FOR THE WIN!! You have to tell us what your boss’s reaction was when you were like “So yeah, I won’t be coming back AT ALL. Suck it Boss Man!” Though I’m sure that wasn’t your resignation letter. ;)

  21. Mike C.*

    In the meantime, I think the OP needs to question the accuracy of every document that her boss touches. You know, just to make sure it’s correct and up to date.

    After all, if you’ve screwed up a simply calendar, what else have you screwed up?

      1. Mike C.*

        Hahaha, yes, who wants to bet that anyone who ends up giving up their vacation has it charged anyway?

  22. Brett*

    I’m confused on the situation.
    OP is normally in the satellite office on Wednesday while the Manager and Carly and Regina are in the main office?

    So, the satellite office is already going to be closed on Wednesday no matter what happens, and that means the Manager could potentially staff the main office on their own (and likely will if Regina is the vacation loser)? Or is the Manager in the satellite office while the vacation loser staffs the main office, and then you end up with only the satellite office open anyway?

    1. Brett*

      And to add to this, which request is being rescinded for each person?

      Does the OP only have to come in on Wednesday, but still gets PTO granted for the other four days (would she be required to take the four days off still)? Or does the OP lose the entire week? I have, unfortunately, had this happen. I requested a vacation week and only had four days granted (I even think Wednesday was the day I was not granted). The other four days were coming off my PTO balance whether or not I used them, so I had to do a staycation instead.

      If Carly has to come in Wednesday, does she still get Thursday off? Does her PTO get debited for Thursday because the request was granted? Does her Thursday request as well as her Wednesday request get cancalled?

      1. Adam V*

        That’s…. incredible.

        My vacation requests, especially week-long ones, are an all-or-nothing affair. I’m not going to fly back from Walt Disney World on a Tuesday night just so I can work Wednesday and fly back after work. If you can’t give it all to me, tell me “no” and I’ll pick a different week.

        If my boss had pulled that one on me I’d have been *cough*cough*sick on Wednesday.

      2. OP*

        The office won’t be closed. The normal routine is all four of us coworkers and the manager work in the main office. On Wednesdays, the main office and the satellite office are both open, and I commute to the satellite office. If I happen to be off on a Wednesday, then the manager commutes, leaving the three coworkers in the main office. Because of the nature of the business, we don’t close because employees are off. More than likey, she will still got to the satellite while one of us works

        If we don’t come to a resolution, all days are taken, meaning my whole week and Carly’s two days.

        1. Lillie Lane*

          And it took you four years to save up days for this vacation? Plus you’d be out your payment for the cruise. Horrible.

        2. KLH*

          Honestly, at that point I’d call the manager’s bluff and just go. Apparently she can’t supervise Brittany and hold her accountable, can’t keep track of PTO, and can’t/won’t manage, and can’t lose face to her higher ups.

          Maybe I’d go above her to her manager and HR first, but I think you should go on vacation no matter what.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah — I mean, if she can’t hold Brittany accountable, how likely is it that she’ll be able to enforce real consequences on you for saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t cancel this approved time away”?

  23. mel*

    Nope, that non-familial duty remark is a line crosser. If they all gang up on you and you end up having to cancel, send them an invoice for your fees and call collections. That’s total crap.

    And I think you’re being really nice by suggesting that their reasons for RTO are more important than yours. More sensitive topics maybe, but they’re equally as indulgent.

    1. Ethyl*

      Yeah I mean, I actually think Carly and OP’s PTO requests are equivalent (cancer-free anniversary aside, which I think shouldn’t even be in play), but I wouldn’t call wanting to see your son off as he’s getting deployed overseas and may not come back as “indulgent.”

        1. fposte*

          But I think that’s true of all three, which is kind of the point I saw mel as making–it’s not like one of them is a “I wanted to paint my nails that day” situation and the other is heart surgery.

          And in general, I think it’s a bad plan for a workplace to evaluate the seriousness of reasons for wanting time off anyway, and I don’t want to buy into the competition notion here.

        2. Beebs*

          Yeah . . . I mean, days off for whatever reason aren’t “indulgent.” They are crucial to a happy, sane life. Somehow that word hits me wrong for any of the three requests.

  24. Anonymous*

    That makes my blood boil that the boss said that the OP doesn’t have either a marital or children commitment to worry about. I’m also single without children. My coworker thinks that gives her allowance to run my life – always available to do her work plus mine. I’m waiting for the day she actually verbally throws it up in my face. I do someday want to get married and have a child or two, but I hope I remember these years of single-hood and not walk over my coworkers.

    1. louise*

      Good news: you will remember. Nice single people make nice married people. A married person who is a jerk was typically a single jerk previously.

    2. Melissa*

      You’ll remember. I’m married and I think it’s absurd that single and/or childless people are expected to give up their personal lives more often than married folks and/or parents.

  25. Rebecca*

    The OP should be allowed to go on her cruise. She asked first, her manager approved it, and she booked the cruise. Her manager is handling it this way so her bosses don’t find out she can’t keep track of a simple thing like supervising 3 people and their vacation schedule.

    We have the opposite problem in our office. My manager demands time off requests for the entire year, in January, and threatens to assign days off if we don’t provide them. When we do provide them, she claims she can’t OK time off that far ahead of time. She has no sympathy for people who want to book cruises, plane tickets, etc. So, here we are, requests were submitted, and the calendar is blank. No one can make plans.

    I asked for a day off later this month (request sent 2 weeks ago). I still don’t know if I’m allowed to take the day off. I hate to ask her, as I get the standard “do you know how many emails I receive” or “you should just assume you can take the day off” or “I haven’t decided yet”, take your pick. So frustrating.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      So, her standard replies are “you know the answer is yes”, “you know the answer is no”, and “you know I haven’t decided yet”? So, why don’t you know? :/

        1. Laufey*

          *snort* You can either know you’ll have a vacation, but not the dates, or you can know the dates, but not know you’ll get the time. But never both at the same time, because the mere act of observing the vacation calender will influence the manager’s decision.

  26. Anonymous*

    I know it’s too late for the OP, but just as a general rule, this is exactly the situation I envisioned when I paid $100 for trip insurance on my cruise.

    1. Elizabeth*

      We did too, but the insurance wouldn’t have paid out had I had to cancel for work reasons. Read the policy very, very carefully.

    2. TychaBrahe*

      Would it cover it? I purchased trip insurance last October for the first time, for a trip to take part in an event that I knew was iffy. The event was postponed to February, and the insurance denied payment, because that fact that I had no reason to go was insufficient for canceling the trip.

      1. The Clerk*

        I know that when I booked a Disney vacation and had a dick manager who insisted I work, I was covered. I have a coworker who accidentally–as in she slept through it–missed her flight to meet her cruise ship and she was covered too–that surprised me, and that’s why I got insurance when I went on my trip, since it seemed like if they covered oversleeping they’d cover everything. This is all within the last two years. I guess we two were just randomly lucky or something?

      2. KimmieSue*

        Same thing happened to me as well as my son. My excuse was that for personal reasons (had to go to court) I couldn’t go on a trip. I purchased the insurance because I knew it was a possibility that upcoming court hearings would conflict with my awesome Southern CA vacation (I was a witness and had to go). My son is active duty military and was required by his command when booking travel to purchase the insurance. His already approved vacation was revoked (stuff happening on base and the entire command was stuck there) and the darn insurance company would not reimburse for his ticket. That one boiled my blood. We were allowed to use the airline credit later but had to pay a fee and basically paid for the insurance for no benefit. Zero control over either cancellations. Of course, we complained to the airlines but they “outsource” that service to a third party insurance company. They bear no responsibility. I’ll personally never purchase travel insurance again.

            1. Jennifer M.*

              Just for future reference, buying insurance from the airline is not generally a good idea (because it isn’t actually insurance it is travel protection or something and so they get away with a lot). The policies are heavily weighted in their favor. If you go to a website like Squaremouth dot com, it allows you compare several different plans and explore cancel for any reason coverage (which doesn’t cover 100% and still may have exclusions). Usually as long as you buy the insurance within a short window as purchasing the trip, it is covered. One thing to be careful of – when they ask you to enter full cost of trip they mean airfare plus hotels plus everything.

        1. Melissa*

          I never buy it because I’ve read the covered reasons for several of the third-party agencies and they only cover things that happen VERY uncommonly. It seems like more of a money-making scam than anything else.

  27. Brett*

    Sounds like the OP did not get travel insurance, but then I checked into how this would work.
    Looks like if you voluntarily choose to work and cancel your vacation, the cancellation is not covered by travel insurance. And even if insured, many policies will not cover a change in vacation schedule if there was not a corresponding major workplace restructuring (such as layoffs or employee resignations).

    So even if OP was insured, the manager’s method would be putting that insurance in jeopardy.

    1. Anna*

      Even if she were insured, she shouldn’t have to use it for this situation. That’s why I tend to book and tell. I’m not asking for time off, I’m politely letting you know when I’m taking time off. It’s never been an issue for me.

      1. plain jane*

        As a manager I really really really hate “book and tell”. You don’t know who else on the team has already requested that time off and I’ve approved. You don’t know what study just got booked and you’re the person assigned.

        Don’t politely tell me when you are taking time off. I’ll start politely thinking about how you don’t understand how an office works.

        I predict that if the OP had booked the vacation before getting approval and was the third one in, and the manager said “unfortunately Carly & Regina got in before you”, they’d be getting sympathy for the situation, but a lot of people would be saying they made their own bed.

        1. Judy*

          Offices differ. I am an engineer. My projects take from 6-12 months. I know right now roughly how the rest of the year is going to be going. Want to see my gantt chart? I know when my deliverables are due, usually about every 2 months. I prepare my schedule with granularity of 1 week for the next 3 months, and larger granularity further out. I have in the past put a week in a schedule because my aunt was put into hospice. “I’m going to need to travel across the country for a week sometime in the next 2 months.” I don’t have to cover a reception desk. My manager doesn’t care if everyone takes the same week off, as long as we meet the schedule that our projects need. Taking 2 weeks off right before a release? I already know it’s not going to happen.

          I am in charge of getting my work done on time.

          1. Anonymous*

            I used to work with someone who always booked trips to fabulous locations every time the Gantt chart showed *her* projects had deliverables. Over four years, her record was perfect. And we always covered for her, as her project team we would have taken the heat if we didn’t make the deadline. First time I ran into the “book and tell” thing. As a manager now, I’d really question an employee’s dedication if they did that. It would most definitely reflect in the project wrap-up review cycle.

            1. Artemesia*

              I had a subordinate who directed a major department under my authority who had a baby during the peak demand season three our of four years in a row. We had one 3 month period each year that was hell on wheels, all hands on deck crazy. She managed to deliver those kids at the start of that period each time. I have no doubt that this was planned carefully.

              1. KellyK*

                The odds of getting pregnant in a specific month aren’t all that high—you’d have to be amazingly fertile to be able to plan it that perfectly.

                Besides, having a kid to get a month or two off might not be the best trade.

                1. Artemesia*

                  She wanted to have 3 kids — it is the timing that made life difficult for those who had to cover for her. And yes, I think she timed them to get out of the heavy workload periods. If each had arrived 3 mos later, she could have taken the 3 mos leave each time with no real problem for anyone.

                  The work she was responsible for was mission critical and no one could really step up to get it done except her supervisor — alas, me. It doubled my workload and gave me 70 hour weeks several years running.

          2. MaryMary*

            I knew a girl who rescheduled her wedding TWICE because her wedding weekend fell into major project crunch time (either directly before or after a live date). She made plans over a year in advance, but due to new project work and scope creep and myriad other issues, both dates ended up in the all hands on deck portion of the project.

            Personally, I would have gotten married and taken my honeymoon anyways. No one person is that important to a project.

            1. A Bug!*

              Can you imagine the havoc that would wreak on all the invitees’ schedules? Getting time off work three times for one wedding? Especially if travel’s involved?

              I’m with you. I’d have just gotten hitched and rescheduled the honeymoon if possible.

        2. Anna*

          I’m a manager too and this is always how I’ve approached the situation. It has everything to do with my philosophy of working and nothing at all to do with wanting to screw anyone over.

        3. Jennifer M.*

          I absolutely agree on disliking book and tell. I am always upfront with my team that I am more than happy to approve reasonable leave requests (especially since senior management really wants people to take their leave since it is a liability on the books as it rolls over from year to year), but that I must approve leave requests. My department is not “revenue generating” for the company so we run very lean and I need to make sure the coverage is in place. For one or two days off, a week is plenty of notice, for a week or more, I’d like a month’s notice at least.

          I had a colleague who was senior technical but had never really been a manager and he was a book and tell guy. One time when I was complaining about some of the book and tell issues that were happening in my department (under different managers) he expressed genuine surprise that book and tell would be anything less than acceptable. I pointed out the coverage issues and then of course my ace in the hole, the company Operations Manual clearly states that supervisors are responsible for approving leave requested. See “requested”.

      2. LCL*

        You don’t work for a 24/7 operation, I can tell! There is one person in our group that thinks all vacs should be granted on request, and it causes a lot of friction. He did know the conditions here before he joined this group.

    2. AVP*

      As someone who manages a lot of travel for work…I can tell you that there is almost no situation in which travel insurance actually kicks in. I don’t want to say that it’s a total scam, but 99% of the time, even when you do end up needing to change your arrangements for unforeseen events, it’s a waste of money.

    3. EM*

      Travel insurance is a joke. My parents bought it for plane tickets they purchased. My father is a governmental worker and was furloughed during the shut down. They tried to get the insurance to reimburse the plane tickets because my dad was not working, they had no idea when he’d be back to work, and they had no idea if he would be paid for the time he wasn’t working, so wanted to cancel the trip.

      The insurance refused saying the only acceptable situation was if he was permanently laid off or fired.

      1. Dan*

        Travel insurance isn’t a joke, but “travel protection” plans are. If it’s offered directly through the travel provided, odds are it’s just going to let you reschedule your trip without losing your deposit.

        Travel insurance is the one thing in your life where the whole document is “fine print”. You have to read it and know what your coverage gets you.

        If you want “cancel for any reason” plans, they can get expensive and generally won’t cover 100% of your costs.

        It’s one reason I like to do my major foreign trips on frequent flyer tickets. I have to book them far in advance, but if I have to cancel, I’m just out $150 and get ALL of my miles back. It’s the best form of insurance that there is — you only pay when you need it.

  28. Mike C.*


    We need more details? How are your coworkers taking this? Has your boss said anything more? Have you gone to your manager’s boss?

    What plan of action are you going to take?

    1. OP*

      Sorry, busy day. BUSY DAY!!! They are furious. Nothing yet, working on a way to talk to one of the bosses without sounding angry, because I am.

  29. holly*

    “How she handles this will tell you a lot about who you’re working for.”

    how the manager has already handled it tells me a lot about who she’s working for. ugh.

  30. JoAnna*

    I echo the above suggestions to go to HR or your boss’ boss with this.

    Find a way to show your manager you’re not a piece in her Games.

    1. Anonie*

      1000+ I always say I am going to do that. My dog will be my daugther but I am always afraid that I will slip up and say I had take her in for her rabies vaccination.

      1. Jess*

        I got bitten by a raccoon when I was a kid, and had to get a series of rabies shots just in case the thing was actually rabid. My mom had to take off work to take me to the hospital to get them. So, not really a slip up! :)

      2. the gold digger*

        I was bit by a mouse when I was a kid. Fourteen rabies shots in my stomach. I would not question your kid getting a rabies shot and I would wince in deepest sympathy.

        1. fposte*

          Fortunately, they’re much easier now. I had them a couple of years ago, and they’re regular needle size and just in arms and back muscle. Still a lot of shots (four on the day, five later) but not the old-school horror that you went through–just a bunch of regular shots.

    2. AmyNYC*

      In the first season of VEEP (which is great!) one character has a fake dog (he even has a photo in his wallet) that he uses an excuse to get out of working late. I think it’s brilliant.

    3. Jennifer*

      There used to be a blog online years ago (I think it’s been hidden/taken down) written by a childfree woman whose HR department was kept far away from the office she worked in. As far as her coworkers knew, she had twin sons and got all of these perks and benefits and time off because of her kids.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      I’m picturing Joey from Friends when he temped with Chandler’s firm and kept talking about his fake family. “I think Joseph and Karen might try and have another kid. You know what? They just did.” (Or however the quote went.)

  31. Anonymous*

    Haven’t read any of the comments, but…

    I am a manager, and if *I* had made that manager’s mistake, *I* would have covered the office on Wednesday so they could all go do what they need to do. What this manager is doing is ridiculous.

    In fact, even if I hadn’t biffed it, I would have done it, given the circumstances of Regina’s need for time off. Forget the attendance issue; this is basic human kindness, letting a parent see their child off for military deployment.

    This manager is a weenie.

    1. Joey*

      Its two offices. But I was thinking along those lines. Id hire a temp to cover. You migh have to eat some days to train the temp, but keep your word for heavens sake.

    2. Laura*

      OT, but I love how you call the manager a weenie. It gets the point across so much better than any expletive I was coming up with.

  32. Apollo Warbucks*

    Your manager sucks big time. I think Alison’s advice is spot on first come first served is the fairest way of allocating holiday.

    I really dislike your co workers point of view that you should take the hit just because of your personal circumstances, you are every bit as entitled to take scheduled time off as anyone else .

    I hope this works out well for you

  33. Mena*

    I think your manager’s lack of management of a problem she created already tells you a lot about her (I make a mess and leave everyone else to fix it comes to mind…)

    Regina is out on this one since she was the last one to request and she was mistakenly approved to be out. I realize she has a compelling reason to be out of the office but that really isn’t the issue, unfortunately.

    1. Nikki T*

      Yeah, can she have Monday and Tuesday off? I know she really wanted Wednesday to see her son off, but the two days prior seem to be open..
      I don’t even know what to say really..

    2. Mil Wife*

      Actually it is an issue: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/MilitaryFLProvisions.htm

      DOL provides for parents and spouses to attend official military cerimonies (including deployment cerimonies) under FMLA. Additionally the military does not ever give you advance notice of exact deployment dates. My husband only had 72 hours notice for going on a year long deployment.

      1. fposte*

        Well, it *could* be an issue–it would still need to meet the FMLA and NDAA standards, which we don’t know that it does.

      2. Saturn9*

        My sympathies. The lack of notice clearly grates on you since you’ve decided it was necessary to make the same point three times in this thread.

  34. Tori*

    Wow, this is such a crappy situation to be in. I really hope you get to take your vacation, OP.

    Also, I couldn’t help thinking as I read this: “No one took me on vacation for my five year cancer-free anniversary.” *pout*

  35. NylaW*

    One thing that just came to mind but that I am not clear on is that I know there is family leave specifically for military families and it includes attending any ceremony that is part of a homecoming or deployment for spouse, son, daughter, etc. If what Regina is attending is that, could she claim that FMLA time and they’d have to give it to her?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s interesting; I didn’t know about that. Wow, regular service members weren’t covered until 2010!

      They’re not listing seeing somebody off as a “qualifying exigency” in the discussion of that standard–is that usually part of an official military ceremony? I don’t know how that works.

      1. Mil Wife*

        Usually there is an official ceremony when the servicemember is leaving with their unit (as opposed to joining later on there own which can be common for the Airforce).

        1. fposte*

          Okay, thanks for the info. I didn’t know anything about this kind of leave at all–thanks to you and NylaW for bringing it up! It looks like it’s got some pretty broad coverage, too, so I’m glad to have learned about it.

    2. JoAnna*

      Unless FMLA doesn’t apply here (which would be the case if the employer in question had less than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius, and/or if Regina had worked for the employer for less than 1 year).

    3. OP*

      We’re not faulting Regina, and we aren’t questioning her position. It’s between Carly and me. Ideally the other coworker not mentioned would be made to come in, but that’s another story.

        1. Elle D*

          Seriously! If there’s another co-worker, the easy solution is he comes in that day and takes a different day off that week.

          That being said, if it’s between the OP and Carly I think Carly should change her days. It seems like her husband can take a different Wednesday and Thursday off (the week before or the week after) to celebrate their occasion. OP stands to lose a ton of money.

          No matter what this whole situation sucks.

          1. OP*

            The whole reason all three of us are angry is this is being based on the assumption that the fourth coworker (Brittany) is going to call out because she’s been getting away with it for so long. She’s not being made to come in, we have to sacrifice because the woman’s family might be starting to get sick again.

            1. fposte*

              So she’s who you’re talking about in the second paragraph, not Regina? I think people got a very different view of Regina for the way she’s featured in paragraph 2.

            2. Turanga Leela*

              I didn’t realize that from the original letter. You mean this whole thing could be resolved by a firm statement from your boss to Brittany that she has to be in the office, come hell or high water?
              Your boss is appalling. I’m so sorry.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            I agree that Carly should be the one to change her days. Yes, being cancer-free for 5 years is cause for a big celebration, BUT she could easily do it the week before or after. I’m sure hubby gets other days off or could arrange it that way. OP shouldn’t have to forfeit the money and Regina should be able to see her son off. I think both of those trump Carly’s vacation request.

  36. Rachel*

    I know that this is probably a horrible idea, but honestly? I would be really, really tempted to tell the manager, “tough noogies. You approved all of our time, and all of us are going. You figure it out.”

    The ONLY reason I would be tempted in this situation is because, what can she do? Fire all three of you? (OK, sure, legally she can, but it’s not likely. It’d also be REALLY hard to retaliate and hate upon the 3 only workers you have to try and get them all to quit. The fear of losing her whole team will probably overshadow anything else).

    Unless there’s something here I’m not getting, I kind of feel like the team are in the position of power here. Am I missing an important piece here?

    (Again, I know that this is probably a really bad idea. But a collective push-back, I’m just not seeing a real downside to.)

    1. Thebe*

      I kind of love this, because it puts all the pressure where it belongs, on the manager.

      I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to give up her cruise, but I will say that the military is very unpredictable about deployment sometimes. My brother is in the Army and we didn’t have a hard date on when he was going overseas until the last minute. My mother needed to fly to Texas to see him off, and she had to fight with her boss for the time.

    2. Anonsie*

      This is my reaction as well. And I know we’re always more bold hypothetically, and there could easily be awful backlash, but the alternative of going along with it seems equally crummy.

    3. Rai*


      And I just want to chime in for the parents here: I agree with the general sentiment that my time isn’t more important just because I’m a parent and I might miss a school play or some such thing BECAUSE I agree with that sentiment, BUT…ain’t no way, ain’t no how I’m being kept from seeing my baby off to war. And as a human being, I’m not keeping another MOTHER from doing that (I’m lookin’ at Carly here). But then, I come from a family of service members, so maybe I’m a little more understanding about it?? THAT said, the Op doesn’t actually say he’s on his way to war, we’re just assuming. He could be serving an assignment in numerous foreign countries that aren’t at war or going out for his rotation in the Navy.

      1. fposte*

        Why are you looking at Carly here? She didn’t set the situation up, and she’s not the one preventing anybody from taking the day off.

  37. Anonymous*

    OP should volunteer to work that day as a team player, on the condition that she gets immediate reimbursement for the vacation costs and first choice of vacation time for the next five years. When they balk at that, compromise by taking the first choice thing off the table.

    1. Colette*

      Except that some trips aren’t replaceable by time and money. It’s entirely possible that the OP is going with other people, and missing the trip means she won’t be able to replace the experience (even if she goes on an identical cruise a week later).

      1. Anonymous*

        Colette, she didn’t say she was going with someone, but she did mention money. So, I took the OP’s stated concerns as her real concerns. I’m literal like that!

        1. Colette*

          I think money is an easier thing to explain – i.e. “I’d be out $X if I cancel”, but it’s likely that she’d also miss the trip altogether (and inconvenience whoever she’s going with). But you’re right, it could be that she’s going alone and all she’d be out is money – which is much easier to get the company to compensate her for.

        2. Vancouver Reader*

          Usually cruises are based on double occupancy, so it’s more than likely she’s sharing a cabin with someone show knows and therefore would inconvenience someone else if she didn’t go. Not to mention that other person might be out money as well as that person would either have to also cancel or pay more to go as a single.

          1. OP*

            I am going with my best friend, I just didn’t mention it. I am concerned about the money, though. Knowing her, she would still go, but will have to pay more.

            1. nonegiven*

              I don’t know how this turned out or if it has even had time to be over but I hope all three of you went to Brittany and told her if she doesn’t show up on Wednesday, her body will never be found.

  38. Nikki T*

    Is there no one else on the *entire planet* that can fill in on that Wednesday? You mentioned, ‘department’ is that part of a company or is it a company of four people?

    An intern, a temp, a different department, the gardener? Is there no way to have somebody taking messages, forwarding the phones, put up signage on where to call….

  39. Chris*

    I’m so sorry OP, I think your management hangs out with mine. I too have put vacation requests in and been approved months in advance, only to have them say a week beforehand that your time was cancelled due to “business needs”.

    I think in this situation the boss needs to own up to the situation she created. Regina should be offered a half day if the boss is close enough to both offices to split her time between the two, or Regina should get the full day if she can only do one office, and she should stay at yours to cover completely. Bad planning on her part does not mean you should lose out- that is something a manager should be prepared to deal with – maybe even bring someone from the other office over as “emergency coverage”. If she continues to be a flake I would definitely go above her to her boss/HR with the situation.

  40. Celeste*

    At first I thought, wow she approved all three and didn’t even notice 2 weeks before the day in question that she would have nobody staffing the two offices. But then I realized, if she has 3 people and always needs 2 on Wednesdays…she should never have approved leave for the second person, period. When the OP requested it 6 months ago, that should have been a flag on her calendar that nobody else could put in for that day. This manager is (has been) asleep at the wheel.

  41. EE*

    This makes me see red.

    Under NO circumstances forgo the cruise money. NONE.

    And yes, your manager could close the office for the day or do Regina’s work herself.

  42. Syd*

    Tell your coworkers if they would like to come up with the cost of the cruise to repay you, then you would gladly work that week.

  43. Anon*

    This is an absurd situation. It is not even a little bit acceptable for the OP to cancel a cruise, especially when it costs so much money and has been planned for a LONG time. The woman who is going away for two days definitely has the most flexibility, but it’s not her fault either. The manager should accept responsibility, offer some kind of incentive for someone to stay, and if not, cover it herself somehow.

  44. OP*

    But the main issue is there are FOUR of us that work here, not including the mananger. It’s all being based on the fourth person (I’ll call her Brittany) not coming to work because of her past pattern of absence, especially when help is needed. The manager has allowed it so long that she expects her to be out. This has added even more salt to the wound.

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      Wow. If Brittany can’t show up 99% of the time, then maybe she isn’t cut out to do the job she’s been hired for. Is your manager good at other parts of her job at least, because this action of hers is not exactly making her a finalist for Manager of the Year award.

      1. Windchime*

        For crying out loud. Fire Brittany and hire someone who will actually work her shifts as assigned. Sheesh.

        This is a terrible, terrible manager and I hereby second the nomination for Worst Manager of the Year for 2014.

    2. KimmieSue*

      OP – I really feel for you and am sorry that you find yourself in this terrible situation. I hope I’m not reading too much into your responses, but I’m getting the feeling that you are fairly frustrated with the fourth, unreliable co-worker? If that is true, may I suggest that perhaps your frustration is misplaced? The person who over-committed was your manager. They have allowed some poor behavior to happen and it sounds like even accommodated or planned covering for poor behavior. That’s not okay. You and the others are in this spot because ONE person said yes to all and is continuing to avoid “managing” the situation.
      Like the others, I think it’s time to escalate this to your manager’s manager. As a group would be great, but at a minimum, you should act (and do it quickly).

    3. fposte*

      So is the person referred to as “Regina” in the second paragraph the one you’re calling Brittany here? Because I didn’t get why Regina’s illness made any difference to her being out for her son’s deployment.

      1. EAA*

        There are 5 people involved. Original letter wasn’t very clear about this.
        OP – cruise
        Carly – cancer free
        Regina – military son
        Brittany – unreliable

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The original letter said “It is worth mentioning the last coworker is notorious for being unreliable with attendance.” I assumed “the last coworker” meant the last one mentioned, which was Regina, and so I put her name there to make it clearer … but it appears that my edit changed the intended meaning entirely!

          1. Kelly L.*

            It all makes sense now! :) Definitely Brittany should suck it up, and if the boss doesn’t trust her to actually show up, then he needs to sack her and hire someone else.

            1. Fiona*

              The manager needs to get on the phone with Brittany (or sit her down if she’s in the office) and tell her in no uncertain terms that she MUST be in on Wednesday, and then if she doesn’t show up, she’s kaput.

          2. OP*

            Yeah, I didn’t make up a name for her then. When I wrote it, it seemed clear, But in my fury, I didn’t reread it to make sure that it was. Sorry!

          3. Fee*

            Ah, this makes things clearer. But also kind of worse.

            I did find it quite puzzling that “Regina” herself was part of a conversation about how if she’s refused her PTO everyone knows she won’t come in anyway :)

        2. majigail*

          Is Brittany on intermittent FMLA and the manager scared about messing with that? Hence the reason for allowing the unreliability?

      2. OP*

        No, I didn’t make up a name for the last coworker. I just called her the last coworker. Probably because I was furious.

    4. TheExchequer*

      OP, I am going to tell you something you probably already know: your manager is a moron. There is no magic wand to fix this (or Allison would be out of a blog).

      (Though Allison – just think how much you could make selling one!)

      I’m sorry about this for you and frustrated on your behalf. I can’t give you better advice than Allison has, so just add me to the list of people eager for an update, hopeful that things work out in your favor.

  45. Not So NewReader*

    I think the boss is counting on the three of you to end up fighting among yourselves.

    Stay strong. All three of you have something in common- you work for a boss that is not trustworthy. You ask for time off, make plans and then the approved time disappears. This is very bad for employee retention.

    So what happens in the end. One person gives up their vakay to man the ship so, of course, that person is livid. But the remaining two that go on vacation are left to wonder, “Well, I made it this year. But what about my next vacation? Will I actually get it or no?” The net result is the boss will have three workers that are really PO’ed and likely to quit at some point in the near future. Leaving her with Ms. Unreliable.

    Fortunately, you, OP, have the strongest case. And yeah, do ask the higher ups who will be reimbursing your lost expenses. I think that you should definitely bring in a third party to mediate because your boss has just thrown the place into total chaos. I cannot imagine that any of you are getting any real work done- it is tough to see the work when you are seeing RED.

    OP, I think if you take the lead on this one, you might pull it off. Tell the other two that the three of you are going on your vacation days. Tell them that “we need to stick together and go to [fill in name of big boss/HR]”.

    I tend to believe that you almost have to go this route because if you let the boss get away with this then she will keep pulling similar stunts in the future. Nip the behavior now- she made a mistake. Which is really not a big deal UNTIL she decided not to own that mistake. Her lack of ownership is the real problem.
    I do not see a strong boss here. She allows the fourth coworker to work whenever she feels like it and now the boss is pitting all of you against each other. Makes me wonder what else is going on here.

    Decide not to feed into her threats of “not being a team player”. Instead, focus on sticking together. Next week what will it be? Will she bring in some lions and convert the break room into a lion’s den? Am shaking my head….. Just refuse to play the game. It’s creating an atmosphere that is harmful to the business.

  46. another anonymo*

    1. This manager is an asshat.
    2. There’s a Britney Spears song that could be played to the “Brittany” person, in a funny version of this.
    3. I would be happy to donate $10 to an AAM fund for the OP to cover the costs of this person’s cruise, purely on principle. Also because I’m a pessimist.

    Good luck OP!!

  47. MovingRightAlong*

    I should know better than to hop on AAM when insomnia hits– there’s always a chance of getting vicariously outraged.

    So sorry you’re dealing with this OP. It seems like the perfect time for your manager to look into training someone new and firing Brittany when you’re all back from vacation. Stay strong!

  48. Sarah*

    Another idea: as a team, confirm with Brittany that she’s coming in as a solution. I understand that B is unreliable, but what can the manager really say to this solution? You got word from your coworker that she will cover.

  49. RobM*

    So what would the manager do if Carly and the OP took their time off and Regina had never asked for a day off but was ill on that day? (I don’t mean “ill *ahem*”, I meant genuinely unable to work due to an illness/unfortunate meeting with a bus?

    The manager should do whatever they would do in the above situation to cover in this case.

    The OP and their colleagues should go to the manager, or the manager’s manager, and tell them “Sorry, we refuse to play your game.”

  50. S.A.*

    Personally it’s presumptive to call someone “childless” when they are in FACT child FREE. A lot of people I know in the area I live didn’t want kids when they had them and never practiced safe sex. The consequences of their irresponsible actions were of course unplanned and unwanted pregnancies accompanied by marriages and divorces. They use their annoying offspring as the excuse for every little thing.

    They can’t stay late, can’t work weekends, can’t work holidays, can’t work the day after or before a freaking holiday, can’t come in early, can never cover for anyone, can leave work whenever they want, take personal phone calls and somehow are crazy enough to think THEY should be the first and only choice for a promotion just because they have reproduced. If you refuse to put forth the effort and be ambitious in your career then you don’t deserve it when you did absolutely NOTHING to earn it.

    Quite frankly I’d be looking for another job and it’s a great way to chase off competent employees and to discourage a lot of younger people from having children or getting married. Furthermore, if it’s always the woman being forced to leave her responsibilities and her job it continues to enforce the negative stereotypes of all women. There’s no point in promoting someone with a uterus if they’re just going to have a baby without any forethought as to how it affects everyone else.

    I personally can’t stand these people and avoid them both personally and professionally. I have two incomes and NO annoying brats. I’m a DINK! Ha ha ha! Yes, considering how poorly I’ve been treated by those who think they’re special just for having kids I do like to rub in the fact I can go where ever and whenever I would like to with minimal annoyance. Children are being viewed as obstacles due to the religious culture in this country and many women are opting out of parenthood altogether.

    Assuming the single person is and should be a fall guy/gal is the hallmark of a poorly managed company. The manager failed in her duties and I would just look elsewhere for employment. I know it’s not easy but considering what a nightmare this ordeal is you can bet that the manager’s incompetence will come through again.

  51. EvilQueenRegina*

    I think your manager should at least talk to Brittany, and do something to make sure she gets her butt into work. You, Carly and Regina all have good reasons to want the time off, she’s just slacking, it’s a no brainer to me.

    It reminds me a bit of a situation I had in my previous job with a coworker, I’ll call her Philomena. Philomena had a weekend job as a home carer as well as her main admin job. One day, she came back from a trip abroad and announced that she didn’t know when yet, but she wanted a week off her main job in order to undertake training for her weekend job, and despite not knowing when, she expected me to cancel my upcomng planned trip away regardless. If I was just having time out to chill out at home, then okay, I’d have been willing to move the dates if there had been a clash. But I was going away, I had my accommodation and travel booked and paid for, and it already wasn’t much notice – by the time she actually confirmed her dates it would have been even less notice if they had coincided.

    Philomena said that if she didn’t get the time off for her training she would lose her weekend job. I don’t know how likely that really was (before anyone offers any thoughts, I’ll add that we are in England where, from what I’ve read here, it seems to take a lot more to actually get fired).

    It could have been worked around. If push had come to shove, our manager could have pulled someone from another admin team in the department to cover. Philomena’s weekend job would also likely have allowed her to change her dates, although at the time she just snapped that she didn’t know. If they had coincided, I would have gone to our manager to ask if there was any way of resolving it without cancelling either. It didn’t come to it in the end – our manager did say afterwards that she wouldn’t have made me cancel my trip if it had. But Philomena gave me the cold shoulder for not offering to cancel my trip for her.

    I’d have been more sympathetic if I’d thought Philomena honestly believed they’d fire her over it. But the eventual outcome was, the weekend job gave her a different week for her training, a week when I would be in and could cover. Philomena told them to get lost, saying why should she give up her time off from her main job to do her training for her weekend one?! So, it was vitally important when it might inconvenience me but as soon as it didn’t she wasn’t prepared to do it. The next week they offered her did coincide with a different coworker’s planned trip away and she immediately asked Weekend Job if she could postpone it. She eventually did the training about six months later.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        There were too many examples to give of how this woman thought the world revolved around her. It’s a relief not to work with her any more.

  52. Snowy*

    The way the OP reads, there’s other people who work there, but wednesday happens to be their day off? If this is so, the most logical thing would be for Regina to switch days with one of them for that week. Everybody gets accommodated.

  53. Expat*

    I have not read all the comments but this brings up an issue that I have seen time and time again where if you are single your needs are not seen as important as those with “family” commitments. Your needs are your needs. Why you book time of is nobodies business and you all having to say why you want time off and your co-workers deeming it not as important as their requests is insulting. Equality needs to mean equality for everyone

  54. Mander*

    Is the OP also a woman? If so, I just want to add a further bit of outrage at how it is often single and child-free *women* who are expected to pick up the slack or make sacrifices for others’ convenience, rather than men.

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