my boss won’t approve my time off for a video game competition

A reader writes:

It was in no small part thanks to your advice that about eight months ago I was able to land my first professional job! I have been enjoying the job so far, and even though it is not in my desired field, it is related. My manager, Fergus, has some quirks but has overall been nice and reasonable to work with. However, I had my first problem with him this week.

I play a video game competitively in my free time, and my team was very excited to qualify for an upcoming competition! It is the first time we have qualified, and we are all thrilled. The tournament will take place in a couple months on a Friday. I went to my boss today to request that Friday off. He seemed pleasant enough about it at first and did not give any indication it would be a problem. He even started pulling up the calendar system we use to coordinate time off, presumably to enter me in! He asked if I had something planned for the day in what seemed to be a nonchalant, small-talk way, so I told him that my team and I had qualified for a “sports competition.” He was interested in this and pressed me for what sport, and I told him it was a video game. At this point, he snapped and became very unpleasant. He was angry and was saying that he doesn’t give time off so people can “sit on their butt and play video games all day.” Despite my protests that this is not what I was doing, he ultimately he refused to grant my time off.

I am very angry about this. I was so excited to qualify for this tournament and I want to go desperately. My manager’s response seems out of line to me. From my point of view, my time off is for me to spend as wish. I think this is a valid reason to take time off, but ultimately if I wanted to sit at my house and play games recreationally all day, isn’t it my right to take time to do that as long as there is not any conflict at work? I want to take this to grandboss or HR. Would that be out of line? If I do take it to them, is there any language that would help make them more receptive than Fergus was?

He “doesn’t give time off so off so people can sit on their butts and play video games all day”? Does he only give time off for people who are climbing mountains, building large-scale rice sculptures, raking all the leaves in their neighborhood, or otherwise engaging in vigorous, sweat-producing activities? What if you wanted to go lay on the beach or simply rest and recharge at home? Are those also unacceptable? Or is it just video games because he thinks they’re the province of filthy degenerates?

Fergus may normally be nice and reasonable, but he’s being a bit of a turd here.

Your vacation time is part of your compensation package, and you get to decide how you use those days. By definition, what you do on those days is none of your employer’s business.

It’s certainly his prerogative to tell you that a particular date won’t work. But that wasn’t the problem here. The problem was that he doesn’t like how you plan to spend your time. Your time.

I’d go back to him and say something like this: “I want to ask you again about taking off April 28. It sounded like you were fine with the date until I mentioned my plans for the day. But my understanding is that my vacation time is part of my compensation package, and I don’t think my personal plans for the day should impact whether it’s approved if the day would otherwise work. I’d like to take that day as one of my X vacation days this year, and I’m asking you to approve that, as part of my regular use of my benefits.”

Just pushing back like this might fix it. But if he says no again, then say this: “So that I understand, both for this and in the future, do you really not want me to use my vacation days unless I’m spending them on something that you okay?” (This is to give him an opening to tell you if there was a work-related reason for the denial that somehow that got lost in his earlier outrage about your despicable video game playing.)

Then, yeah, at that point it’s not unreasonable to go talk to HR, which you can do in the guise of asking for help understanding how your benefits are supposed to work.

But whether or not you should do that depends to some extent on whether you think that will cause more tension than it’s worth in your relationship with Fergus. If Fergus is the type to hate you forever for going around him to get his decision reversed, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay that price. That’s not fair, but it may be the reality of it. And when this is a boss who you’ve liked up until this point and you’re in your first professional job, I’m hesitant to encourage you to risk that — even though you’re 100% right in your stance.

If you do talk to HR, though, you could say this way: “I wanted to get some clarity from you about how vacation time is supposed to work. Am I right in thinking that as long as a particular day off won’t cause work problems, my plans for the day should be irrelevant?” Your HR person will either say yes or (likely) ask for more details, at which point you can say, “I had asked for one day off in April, and Fergus seemed ready to approve it until I mentioned I’d be using the day for a video game tournament. At that point he said he doesn’t give days off just so people can, quote, ‘sit on their butts and play video games all day.’ I’m confused, because I don’t understand why the company cares if I play a video game on my day off. Is this how our allotment of vacation days is supposed to work — a manager can veto time off if he thinks you won’t use it productively enough?”

See how they respond, and have this phrase ready to go: “Since my vacation days are part of my compensation package, I’d like to be able to use them regardless of what my plans are for them. Is this something you could intervene on since it’s about the rules of engagement for benefits?”

And before this conversation ends, you could also say, “I’m concerned about causing tension in my relationship with Fergus, who I’ve always found great to work with aside from this. Is there a way to stress to him that I didn’t come to you to complain but just to get clarity on how this is supposed to work? And do you have advice for how I can make sure he’s not upset that I talked with you?”

It would also be smart to tell Fergus directly within a couple of days of your conversation with HR that you talked to them, so that you can explain directly why you did. You could say something like, “I wanted to mention to you that I talked to HR about that vacation day in April, because I wanted to make sure that I have the right expectations about vacation days going forward.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 622 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*

    Wow, your manager is being totally unreasonable. It shouldn’t matter what you’re doing with your time. I think Alison’s advice is right on.

  2. Anonymous Poster*

    I appreciate so much the time Alison takes in crafting what verbiage to use to approach these matters. I think it’s so key here and it’s a gift that I just don’t have as much as she does, and how to frame things.

    Framing it in terms of, “How are my benefits supposed to work here?” as opposed to, “Fergus is approving my activities on my days off” is important in this context.

    Also, good luck in your competition!

    1. Myrin*

      I was just thinking that! I love when she says something like “Have this phrase ready to use!” because I always imagine that situation as something where a translucent mini–Alison appears next to the OP and shoots helpful phrases at her at just the right moment with her Helpful-Phrase-Gun which I – very fitting for the topic at hand! – imagine to look like a Portal gun

    2. Triangle Pose*

      I agree and share my gratitute to Alison. Framing and suggested verbiage are SO CRUCIAL in these situations. I’ve learned so much here just based on those things.

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        …and within that, the clarification that one is not wrong or any other negative thing.

        LW is right to feel a bit pissed and insulted – it is so valuable to hear that, that is appropriate.

        And that this isn’t a “I’m new to the workforce therefore my needs/wants are somehow less valid” issue. It’s a ‘the boss is being silly and petty’ issue.

        The cherry on top is how to try to utilize HR responsibly and appropriately.

    3. 42*

      This is one where I hope the OP comes back with an update. Very interested in how this ends up playing out.

    1. Marcela*

      Not necessarily. I had a friend who hated computers in general, video games in particular. We are gen y?, so we were born without computers and internet, and most of us got access, first time, in college. By then computers were clunky, slow, with weird interfaces. Nothing was easy to do, you needed to make an effort to learn how to use them to your advantage. Well, my friend, who was good in almost anything, was NOT good with computers. Therefore, she decided they didn’t deserve her attention, and that the rest of us, who learned to love them (and like me, went to have a career working with them as administrator and programmer) were crazy and somehow lazy, because “everybody knows that things are better done by hand, not computers”. Video games were a particular affront, because then you played on computers, not consoles like it’s more popular today.

      This was 20, 25 years ago. I can very well imagine her refusing to change her stance all these years.

            1. Zombii*

              Clearly. :)

              Fwiw, I’ve spoken to several different people (born during the years that researchers still define differently as X or Millenial) who legitimately think they are a different thing called Generation Y because they heard it so often before the names were decided—and no one wants to be identified as a Millenial (thanks, lazy media!) until Generation Z gets old enough to become Those Kids We Criticize For Not Knowing Things Kids Don’t Know Yet.

      1. SleepyMel*

        I don’t know what the Mad Scientist even said but I can probably relate. It’s frustrating when people can’t accept that times change. Times are supposed to change and people change too. So funny how one form of entertainment is ok with this guy but not another. And that he thinks can tell you what to do on vacation!

        1. Mookie*

          I can guess what was said based on “generational bashing” and will counter with the fact that younger Boomers were the first generation of computer nerds and arcade fiends. My parents are the biggest (non-table-top) gamers (and audiophiles, for that matter) I know. They’re not in technical fields and are otherwise technically illiterate (runs in the family, though).

          1. Paula, with Two Kids*

            Such a true point. My dad, technically the Greatest Generation, bought our house our first computer in 1981. Me (gen-x) wrote basic programs on it as a teen and later became a programmer. There is no generation that cannot embrace new technologies. He is retired now, but still uses computer and when bored, does things like calculate orbital trajectories…

  3. The Anonymous One*

    I had a boss like this. He owned the company, it was a small business, and there was no HR. He once denied a vacation request because the employee was being evicted and needed to apartment search, which he believed she should on her own time. He even said, “if I let her do this then others will think they can use their vacation time such activities, too.”

    And while 100% agree with Allison’s advice, it would never work with him. OP, here’s hoping your company doesn’t suck.

    1. Lance*

      “if I let her do this then others will think they can use their vacation time such activities, too.”

      Isn’t that kind of… the point, though? That people will need to use vacation time for important things like this that they need to really focus and take some time on? Seriously, your boss sounds horribly out of touch with how people’s lives work.

      1. Amber T*

        That’s what I want to ask – is there any reason that an employee would give for time off that management can say no to using a vacation day? I completely understand not being able to grant time when you’re understaffed, deadlines coming up, etc., but is there ever a legit time where reason A would be allowed but reason B wouldn’t? (Not including bereavement/personal days when a manager is being generous or sympathetic.) I work under the assumption that my vacation time is my time, and as long as the time off is not super impacting the company negatively (within reason), why should my boss care what I do?

        I’ve taken vacation days to visit far away friends, to catch up on housework/errands, to go shopping, and to sit on my butt and play video games. No shame in any of them.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I think you’ve hit it – there could be reasons a manager would be generous/sympathetic and grant a day that they otherwise wouldn’t – but the reverse isn’t ok. (E.g. “That’s a really busy week but I understand your son’s graduation is important so go.”) But that’s for questions of *when* to take vacation, not if. It’d be okay for a boss to deny a day off to binge watch Netflix during a busy time, but not to always nix such a day off.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          My favorite boss gleefully modeled for the team the concept of taking a Mental Health Day 2-3 times a year. She would schedule herself a Monday or a Friday off, usually right after some stressful thing was completed, and cheerily label it MENTAL HEALTH DAY in her calendar. The idea was that when you were so stressed you were just totally over it, you grabbed a day when the company wouldn’t fall over without you and gave yourself a long weekend to just sit around and do whatever. I usually used mine to eat pizza and play video games because that’s what I find relaxing.

          This was a 100% acceptable way to use a sick day. Thought being that if you took one sick day to decompress you were less likely to need 3-4 sick days later to get over whatever illness your stress drove you to.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      That’s why you don’t tell the boss what you’re doing on vacation. None of their business. Give them a vague answer. Fortunately only a small percentage of managers are power tripping control freaks but that’s no comfort to those stuck working for that type.

      Time off for “family business” is my go-to explanation for nosy people. Usually works and if they push further I can play the privacy card.

      BTW Congrats on being accepted for the tournament. That takes serious skills and near superhuman eye-hand coordination to accomplish!

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        THIS. If there is *any* chance that your boss is unreasonable, you should not tell him/her about your vacation plans. Keep it vague. Family is a great excuse.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        The moral of these two stories are that sometimes it is ethical to lie. If someone has power over you and abuses it, it’s OK to lie to them when the truth doesn’t affect them one iota. Such as whether you’re a member of a protected class.

        1. TootsNYC*

          One nice thing: “family business” is never a lie.

          It’s the business of your family for you to: apartment hunt, do fun things like video game tournaments, interview for a new job, go to the dentist…

          1. Supa Secret Sista*

            I don’t think it’s necessary to say a rootin’ tootin’ ding-dang thing.

            “I would like to take a vacation day(s) on [dates]. Please let me know if my request can be accommodated. Thank you for your time, Fergus.”

            I could be cow tipping in a tutu and it shouldn’t matter to my boss.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Yeah, but it sounds like the OP tried that and the jerk boss had an agenda. Which IMO is the textbook case for why it’s sometimes ethical to lie.

            2. LJL*

              I’m not really clear about that image. Who is wearing the tutu…you or the cow? Or both? Now that would be entertaining…..

          2. Drew*

            Right. I’ve also used “just personal stuff.” I’ve never had any probe deeper than that.

            It’s actually pretty similar to the reader’s question, because I literally take time off to do flying trapeze lessons, and I don’t want to deal with whether my boss thinks that’s a worthy reason to take time off.

            1. MadGrad*

              Okay, but that’s objectively one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. Let no one ever judge you for your ridiculously cool hobby.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I did trapeze lessons a few years ago. I can say that it was one of the coolest things I ever did. Good for you!

            2. Wendy Darling*

              I liked telling my awesome boss when I was taking a day off because I was taking racecar lessons or learning to butcher a cow.

              On the other hand I had a horrible boss who thinks I have awful teeth because she was judgmental about time off so I always claimed I was going to the dentist. (I do have fairly bad teeth, just… not THAT bad.)

            3. Barbara Lander*

              I took time off in March to be part of March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. I didn’t tell anybody why because I didn’t think my political views are anybody’s business at my job.

      3. INFJ*

        Yeah, OP had no reason to believe that boss would be unreasonable about the request, and so felt comfortable being honest about it. Now OP knows going forward that boss isn’t reasonable, which means a lot of vague half-truths going forward.

        1. Zombii*

          I don’t think they did feel comfortable being honest. LW said they originally tried to hedge by saying “sports tournament,” but then their manager took interest and asked follow-up questions. It doesn’t matter much, because if they’d started with “my friends and I are in a competition,” the same chain of events would have most likely played out, but why the compulsion to hedge in the first place?

          Not doubting the LW, but pointing out that spontaneous half-truths are usually indicative of something. In this scenario, it sounds like LW had (potentially subconscious?) reason to believe the manager isn’t as “overall nice and reasonable to work with” as otherwise indicated.

        1. Newby*

          The only time it matters is if the day would pose an actual problem and they want to deny it but will juggle things around if it is something absolutely necessary. But that is changing a no to a yes, not a yes to a no.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Ehh, I don’t mind being asked as long as it’s chatty and obviously not a prerequisite for approval. If my boss signs the form and then says, “Doing something fun that day?” that seems as innocuous as asking on Monday, “Have a good weekend?” Of course if the reply is vague (“Oh, just need to take care of some stuff.”) then the asker shouldn’t pry.

          1. Michele*

            “Doing anything fun?” is my stock question. I always ask it after I approve the time off, never before.

            1. TheTallestOneEver*

              I always say it as a statement: “Hope you’re doing something fun on your day off.” That way, it’s clear that I’m not expecting an answer.

            2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              That’d work, but still, it’s putting an onus on them to answer, and they’re not actually obligated to.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It doesn’t really put the onus on them to answer. I mean, they have to respond, but if they don’t want to share details, they can easily say, “Oh, just some stuff I need to take care of” or anything else vague.

                Managers do not have an obligation to be perfectly neutral, and trying to do that can lead to weird management. It’s okay to interact like normal humans, within reasonable boundaries.

                1. Amber T*

                  Hahah the issue is I *can’t* lie at work – I just get super awkward. My most recent vacation day was taken on a Wednesday at the end of a long work project and two weekends in a row that I had (personal) plans. Introvert here needed to relax and have time alone. My plan for the day was to not have a plan – wake up when I want, do what I want (which, btw OP, ended up being several hours of various video games). When my boss (who I have a very good relationship) asked “doing anything fun?” I forgot how to people and sorta malfunctioned. “Uh, eh, just, you know, stuff.” He didn’t question it and approved my time off, but he had to be thinking either I was going for an interview somewhere, or that I’m just a weirdo.

                  Which isn’t to say a boss shouldn’t ask. Just don’t be weirded out if your underling… weirds out.

              2. Michele*

                It also gives them an opening to bring up issues that they might be shy about.
                “Are you doing anything fun?”
                “No, my mom has dementia and we are moving her into a nursing home.”
                “I am sorry to hear that. If you need any time off, we can definitely make that happen. Just let me know what you need.”
                (Based on a conversation I had with an employee last year)

            3. Jaykay*

              I HATE when coworkers ask me things like, “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” I have no interest in chit-chatting about my personal life with my coworkers. It’s not a kindness to ask, in my book, it’s a prying annoyance. But then, I hate pleasantries at work in general (besides a very basic, “Hi, how are you?”). They are a huge waste of time in my office on Monday mornings. I just want to get to work!

              1. Michele*

                Personally, I don’t like small talk, but a lot of people do. They use it to connect with other people. Many people like to be asked how their weekend was.

              2. Lily in NYC*

                It’s not like anyone cares or wants a real answer. Just say ‘fine thanks’ and go about your day. To me, it’s just the american way of saying hello and no one really expects to hear a paragraph about your weekend or really wants to know how you are (when someone says hi how are you).

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Yes, exactly. “It was great, hope yours was too, have to get to a meeting !” takes 30 seconds. I am approximately the most introverted person ever and also hate making small-talk, but I can fake it and have some canned answers to extricate myself while still seeming like I may have a social skill or two. (I probably don’t but can fake it for up to 5 minutes. :)

              3. Lissa*

                I get that you don’t like them, but assuming people are doing it to pry is really not true for many people, who want to connect with coworkers or actually like small-talk for some reason! (I do not like small talk. I wish I could skip right to us being friends or not friends! But I know not everyone feels that way). This just seems like assuming malice when it’s entirely a personality/preference thing.

              4. Mina*

                I agree. I learned fast just to be vague when asked about my weekend. One colleague would ask what I did over the weekend. If I my answer was something like “I saw a movie and attended a party” or anything else that indicated that I had a social life, she would answer “Oh, you’re so lucky that you have the time to do things like that. I can’t do anything because (insert responsibilities that she decided were more important than anything I ever did here).” After that I learned to just say that I was super busy and got a lot done. It’s a shame because some colleagues and bosses really are just being nice. But others are trying to assess your activities outside of work to claim your time.

              5. Silver*

                When someone asks me if I did or am going to do something fun over the weekend and I don’t want to share, I answer the question with a “yes” or “no” and give zero details. One-word answers satisfy the Chit Chat Requirement just enough that the really annoying ones decide I’m being rude and leave me alone, and the ones who respect my privacy stop when they realize I don’t want to talk about it.

              6. Cassie*

                I hate it too, but I’ll usually say “oh, just relaxed” or something along those lines. I had a coworker who would ask what I did over the weekend and would not accept the breezy answer “oh, nothing!” She would proceed to grill me with comments like “really? You did nothing? You sat in a dark room all weekend and did absolutely nothing?”

                I’ll be pleasant and cordial to people. I say hi and hello, but rarely ask “how are you?” because let’s face it, I don’t really care. I’ll answer “good!” when asked how I am. But do not assume you have the freedom to pry or to act like my answer isn’t good enough for you.

            4. HRish Dude*

              I ask that to people just to be sure I’m not telling them to enjoy their PTO when they’re going to check their mom into a nursing home or something.

          2. alter_ego*

            Yeah, my manager normally asks, but it’s definitely more of a conversational thing. And I’ve definitely had the answer “I need a bit of time to just sit and do nothing” and he’s just been like “wow, jealous, I have kids, that never happens anymore”. I don’t think it’s inherently bad to ask.

            1. SebbyGrrl*

              ;[] I am a “Did you do anything fun over the weekend?” asker.

              I’m not meaning to pry or ‘force’ anyone into a conversarion.

              It can totally be small talk.

              I really value my time off, my down time and when I get a good weekend to engage in that it is such a great thing. So I’m asking because I hope you enjoyed yours the way you wanted to.

              I also try to leave room for people to say “Nope, it sucked. Happy Monday (wanh wanaah).”

              I get what people are saying about people who pry or do the ‘my stuff is so much more overwhelming than yours’ people.

        2. AMG*

          Yeah, Fergus shouldn’t ask and TBH, I don’t think I would have told him. I would say that I planned on a vacation day with friends to go out of state, or something vague like that–with backup answers because people DO make small talk like that.

          I will say that I think that no matter how it is phrased, you are burning a bridge if it gets back to Fergus that you went to HR. I have met plenty of Ferguses and none of the ones I know would be cool with this, even you AND HR clarify that it was for you to understand how vacation time works. I just don’t think he will see it as anything but a betrayal. Maybe I am biased right now because my own current boss is being really unreasonable with the whole team, but that’s where I think this will land.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, forming personal connections with people can be part of good management. Good bosses will also respect vague answers, of course … but this really doesn’t need to be on list of things bosses should never do.

          1. Sadsack*

            Agreed. My boss is very reasonable and does not/would not ever suggest that my reason for needing time off isn’t a good enough reason to take it. OP found out the hard way that her boss is unreasonable on this issue, but I think most are not unreasonable about it.

          2. Aurion*

            Yeah, this. I’ve mentioned I wanted to attend BlizzCon one of these days, and my boss–who is not a gamer or of the geeky persuasion at all–said “you totally should! Sounds like it’d be fun for you!”

            Most people are pretty reasonable.

          3. Honeybee*

            Yeah, this. I actually like that my boss is semi-interested in my life. She tells me amusing stories about her children and I tell her about my adventures in the dog park. It makes her more human (and me, likely, more human to her), and I feel more comfortable chatting with her about work-related personal things (like when I was so sick it interfered with work).

        4. Trout 'Waver*

          I disagree here. If one of team member was on a semi-pro video game team, I’d want to know about it so I could help accommodate it. If competitions are always Friday-Sunday, I’d want to know so I could schedule around it. Same with any recurring absence, even if vacation time is being used.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes, if it’s a recurring thing. But if it’s a once every quarter or six months, as long as they’re not asking when they know you’ll be busy, I don’t see the need. But yeh if it’s a regular scheduled thing, it’d be nice if work could help with that.

        5. TootsNYC*

          If my employee doesn’t specifically say, I won’t ask.

          If they wanted me to know they were visiting Grandma, they’d say.

          1. Anna Pigeon*

            I agree with both you and Allison, which is a tough line to walk. I don’t want to come off cold, but even basic questions often feel like prying to me. The way I’ve dealt with it is to be explicit early in the managerial relationship. (It probably matters than I’m supervising mostly young entry level employees.)

            “I won’t often ask direct personal questions, because I know it’s hard not to answer a direct question from a manager and I don’t want to put you on the spot. I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in getting to know you better, because I am, but I am going to assume that if you want me to know about something in your personal life, you’ll bring it up.”

            This will often lead to them volunteering something about their hobbies or family, which gives me a few topics that I can follow up on without feeling like I’m being invasive.

            1. JessaB*

              And if you do have to juggle – two people want the day and one has a fixed date thing and the other doesn’t, it helps to just say that. “Someone wants that day for something they cannot reschedule, can you?” Because if you’re reasonable you may not be strictly first come first served if you get two requests near to each other and one can be changed and the other can’t.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Or two people have a fixed event, and you say, “Mary, I absolutely can’t have both you and Charles out on the same day–I tried, and I just can’t. But Charles is getting married, and I can’t tell him he can’t have that day off so that you can go to your cousin’s bridal shower. I’m really sorry. I hope you will understand why I had to make that decision.”

        6. KTB*

          It’s not, but many managers have a good rapport with their staff, and asking non-invasive personal questions can be part of that rapport. My team tells me what they’re doing on their days off when they feel like it because we have good professional relationships. I know it’s none of my business, but I also like having conversations with my team members that aren’t strictly about work 100% of the time. We spend a lot of time together during the week, and it’s nice to learn about their other interests.

      4. DCompliance*

        I agree. Even if this does get resolved, I would keep things more private going forward. It sucks it has to be this way, but you’d be better off going forward.

      5. TheBeetsMotel*

        At my first ever retail job, everyone who’d worked for X amount of time became eligible for a week’s paid vacation. My boss casually, I thought, asked me my plans for my week. No sooner had I replied “oh, nothing much, thought maybe I’d…” she leapt in with “oh great! So actually I need you to work X and Y day during that week, and make up those other vacation days the week after. That’s cool cause you’re not going anywhere, right?”

        I was miffed, as I wanted the whole week clear, not in random bits and pieces. Lesson learned; even if it’s a lie, you’re “busy” or “going out of town” during your time off!

        1. Jaded*

          *agrees strongly* At my first permanent job, they were terrible for phoning employees repeatedly to get them to come in on their days off – like, literally every 15 minutes until they got an answer – or going round to their houses.

          So I learned early on: you’re always doing stuff on your days off. Always. And none of it can be cancelled. Some of the time you’re going away. But never give actual dates, so you have plausible deniability in case you’re seen at home. Also, you don’t want to tell coworkers when your house might be unoccupied (yes, it was that bad an area). Keep your streetside curtains closed, and never, ever answer the phone unless you can see who’s calling.

          Unfortunately, it’s been the most valuable lesson I learned from working, these last 20 years. Lie! Lie like a rug.

          1. mcr-red*

            For the last five years or so, my work has been unbearable about vacation days. Any day I wanted to use was a “problem” and it quickly became like you and Beets said – Approval of vacation day/then reversal of that because “they really need someone to work that and no one can cover,” phone calls at home/text messages on my cell. They were seriously one step away from what you said, going round to my house. At one point, the only way I found to be able to take any day off is to claim I had no childcare available. I wanted to go to an event with my boyfriend (who has zero trouble getting any day off) so I waited until the day before to notify work that my babysitter was going out of town and they freaked and wanted me to find someone else to babysit. Nope, I already checked, all the other babysitters were booked. I ended up having my babysitter park down the block and told her to not answer the phone, I was so paranoid!

            Seriously I have never fought so hard or had to play so many weird games in order to get a vacation day as how this job has become. My friends all think I’m exaggerating, it’s so weird.

          2. RipRiley*

            Yessss this was one of my workplaces in the past. I was out sick and was actually sick, as in coughing up a lung and sleeping all day. They called/texted to beg me to come in just to “cover lunches”. You want me to take time getting ready to drive over there for a half hour-hour while coughing all over everyone (bank teller job!) instead of getting better? Especially frustrating since my manager there was one of the “are you sick enough to stay home” type people so you know I’m sick enough but you still think I can/should come in??

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is why I usually answer “Stuff,” until I know whether my boss will or won’t do that. If they pry, I say, “Important stuff.” They don’t have to know if it’s watching an entire show on Netflix. :)

          1. Random Citizen*

            I used to have a coworker named “Fergus” who used to answer any small-talk questions about what he was doing with his time off work by saying, “Oh, you know, Fergus stuff.”

          2. Workaholic*

            I’ve recently heard “nothing” is still something, and often needs planned for, and if anybody asks if you’re busy – the answer is yes. You have plans

      6. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        What NoMoreMrFixit said. Also, do you know if your boss has done this to any of your colleagues? And I would definitely go to HR and maybe come right out and ask if he’s allowed to deny your vacation based solely on what you’ll be doing on YOUR time off.

      7. Steve*

        The other thing is that sometimes you are doing something you don’t want to talk about. For instance going to a job interview somewhere else. In my experience and/or opinion it is important to start out being vague right off the bat, so that it’s not suspicious when you are suddenly and uncharacteristically vague and evasive later on.

    3. Eleanora*

      Bosses like that deserve for you to phone in with the fake flu. With an attitude like that, you’ve lost the right to my honesty… You wouldn’t want to get caught, though.

      1. Jadelyn*

        That’s probably what I’d do. Like, okay, you want to deny me the use of my PTO so that I can do something I want to do, on my time off? Fine. *fake cough* Guess I can’t work that day anyway!

      2. AMG*

        Oh, please don’t do that. It will look like, ‘You didn’t give me the time off so I just took it anyway.’ Which I guess it kind of is…I would chalk this one up to a loss and lie to him from here on. I am not a big fan of dishonesty, but he isn’t being reasonable so in my book, you would get a pass.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          There is no way the OP should have to chalk it up as a loss! You don’t get in those tournaments every day. It takes hard work, even if you and the Boss don’t seem to think so.

          1. AMG*

            I agree that OP should not have to, but it’s going to hurt his/her relationship with the boss. I guess OP will have to decide what it’s worth if the boss doesn’t give in, even with HR’s support. The boss will find a thousand little ways to take it out on OP if he feels vindictive enough.

            1. Mike B.*

              Ordinarily I’d agree that someone’s career comes first…but unless this first job is a rare opportunity that won’t come again, I’d say that the tournament is a big enough deal that it would be worth getting on the manager’s bad side. In all probability, OP is not talking about a tenure-track faculty position or the understudy to the lead of a Broadway show; they’ll have a different, slightly better job and manager soon enough, but there won’t necessarily be more chances to compete at this level.

              1. RipRiley*

                I’m always hesitant to say career first because you run the risk of becoming like I was in my early 20’s – crappy job to crappy job always missing out on my life because of idiot managers or unreasonable employers. I would go to HR and if somehow they can’t sort this out, and talking to the manager doesn’t sort it out, but you decide it is a “can’t miss” then at least be sick like an extra day in advance to offset your lie.

                1. Steve*

                  I would try again with boss, then with HR, just as Alison said. But if they still shut me down I would either quit, or tell them I am taking the day and they can fire me if they don’t like it.

      3. Creag an Tuire*

        You’re probably joking, but this is a PARTICULARLY bad idea in this case. A tournament presumably has some publicity attached to it, so if OP were to win or place, or just end up on the website somehow, s/he’s fooked.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      I bet he then complained about the high turnover rate and blamed Generation Whatever for not wanting to work anymore, too. :P

  4. FOH Manager*

    Spot on advice Alison!!!

    This actually really shocked me – it’s your own business what you do with your vacation days, and what you spend your time doing should NOT factor in whether or not you get the day.

  5. Miriam*

    This is ridiculous. We never ask anyone why they are using a vacation day because it’s frankly none of our business! We have one manager that gets out of joint when he finds out people are taking vacation/personal time for children’s school-related activities that take place during business hours, so we’ve had to make up other vague reasons such as “appointment” or whatever. And God forbid you’re a male who’s missing for these reasons…”why can’t your wife take care of that??” Um, because the wives are at work too?? Whereas, he has no problem telling everyone he’s using his time to work on his boat or something similar. Yeah, OK.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What an ass. Even if my wife was a SAHM (she’s not), I’d be taking days off for kid-related activities. Because I’m the goddamned father and I want to be there as often as possible, that’s why. I’m just very grateful that if I was forced to choose, I have had enough options and enough flexibility that I could choose fatherhood over job working for a horrible manager like that. I can always find another job, even if it takes me a while.

      1. Michelle*

        Awesome! I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and I LOVE when my husband randomly shows up at one of our activities! He usually doesn’t say anything in advance, just in case he’s not able, but everybody enjoys the surprise. :) It’s good Dad-ing!

    2. Koko*

      I’m so distressed that this kind of passing judgment on the worthiness of one’s PTO usage is common enough that multiple people here have experienced it. It seems like such a clear boundary violation to think you can “allow” or not allow your employees to use their time outside of work however they please (so long as they aren’t harming the company somehow). What are these managers thinking, that their employees are their children??

      1. Kath*

        It’s particularly scary for people who need to use vacation days rather than other forms of PTO to deal with doctor’s appointments, etc. for health-related stuff that doesn’t affect their ability to work. It’s a use of PTO that’s stigmatized and makes people choose between their job and quality of life.

      2. halpful*

        Even from parents, when the “child” is actually an adult, it’s not appropriate. If you won’t “allow” your adult children to choose how they spend their own goddamn time/resources, they’re likely to spend less of it on you.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Are there no other managers to talk sense into him? It’s disgusting that he does this, and frankly sexist in a way that could create legal liability down the road (if people got word that he only allows women time-off for their kids but not men… wow).

      1. Miriam*

        He and I have had our go rounds on this, and he’s progressed somewhat. I think at times he is still living in the 50s – “Well, MY dad never went to any of this stuff!” so I explain to him that many dads “these days” are more involved than they were years ago, and he needs to accept that. I am the HR Manager, so I’ve done my best to try and update his thinking. It hasn’t been easy though, and has led to some really tense discussions. He’s also the one who feels that anything over 3 weeks of vacation is unnecessary. I’m working on that too!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Miriam, you deserve a patience award. This guy sounds truly disconnected from reality. I’m also a little surprised that “it’s not legal” isn’t enough to get him to see that his personal experience is not the benchmark for humane/reasonable job practices. Ugh.

        2. Candi*

          Miriam, you are awesome.

          Kids want their dads involved in their lives. My ex hasn’t been around for over a decade; my dad has stepped up. He’s the one who goes to their science fairs and concerts and father/kid things and whatnot, and they love it.

  6. Corporate Gamer*

    Keeping my fingers crossed for a positive update on this one! I’m a gamer, but generally don’t talk about it much at work unless it’s with other gamers. For some reason, people get super weird about it. I have a gamer co-worker who openly takes days off when new games are released, and while our company has the sense to grant him the days off, he does get made fun of for it by his own manager and the manager two levels up. It’s really not appropriate, but apparently video games = lazy and stupid to a lot of people. I hope this goes well for you OP, would love for you to get to compete in your tournament!

    1. Anna*

      It’s such a weird attitude, especially since most people in the working world now have grown up with video game systems, have played them themselves, or have friends and family members who do/did.

      1. Kate the Purple*

        I think it’s because they grew up video game systems that they have this attitude. For them, it was something they did to have fun. E-sports is relatively new and I think it will take some time before people learn the difference between having been a causal player, and someone who’s more competitively involved.

        1. Aurion*

          I try to do my part in raising esports’ reputation by waxing poetic about the awesomeness of the players :D Frankly regular sports aren’t as exciting to watch for me anymore after I discovered esports!

    2. Sophie*

      Yes, I also love taking days off for game releases! Last time I did that was for the newest World of Warcraft expansion, and I told the boss and he even asked questions about it when I returned back – I think people are just confused that you’re not going away on holiday as that is usually the de-facto reason for a week off. I can’t afford to go anywhere on holiday, so of course I will use my holiday time for my favourite activity :D

      1. AthenaC*

        It’s also cheaper than taking a trip!

        I don’t prioritize WoW expansions anymore, not because I’m “too good” for it but because I’m still traumatized by the early days of the BC expansion. Starting zones flooded with people so you literally could. not. get. anything. done. I know they fixed a lot of that in later expansions, but still – I’d just rather let the frenzy die down for a bit.

          1. (Another) B*

            My husband is into gaming (WoW and Battlefield). I think it’s great, and some of the gamers he follows make so much $$$$$$$. Wish he was able to make money off of it!

        1. seejay*

          yeah release days/first week are terrible.

          I also went to a midnight release for BC and it was the coldest night in Toronto at the time. I wound up having to stand outside a Best Buy for 2+ hours and it was *miserable*. Never again.

          I don’t bother with release day stuff until I get home from work. By then it’s usually a bit tolerable at least. Dunno, I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out anything by then. It’ll still be new to me, it’s not like anything disappears.

          1. AthenaC*

            I committed the cardinal sin of creating a Draenei shaman … a couple weeks into BC. It was STILL miserable in the starting zone. But it was still a teeny bit amusing to run around and see copies of me everywhere – same starting gear, same spells.

            I don’t remember MOP being that bad, but I was unemployed and had morning sickness shortly after release. The biggest thing I remember is the yellow EVERYWHERE in the lvl 90 zone that made my nausea worse. Lol.

            Nowadays I’m lazy enough that I like to wait until wowhead has built up some good content on the quests that are counterintuitive and/or bugged.

            1. seejay*

              God, I can remember guildies always wanting to raid on the latest and greatest race/class combo and then QQ’ing like crazy when they were bogged down while the rest of us were out leveling and they were struggling in the starter areas with everyone else. I think I waited 6 months before I rolled my first death knight cause heck with getting stuck with everyone else. Same with monk, worgen, draenei, shaman, blood elf, etc. There’s nothing that exciting about the brand new content to struggle with a thousand others doing the exact same thing and dropping down to 2 fps! ><

      2. Temperance*

        I sometimes bluff and say that I’ll be hanging out at home. My job is stressful enough that my boss is just like, ENJOY. Then again, she’s fine with me leaving early to meet my beer club, taking days off for Comic Con … I’m lucky.

      3. Nancie*

        Funny you should mention that. I can’t wait to get home today, because I realized that I’m going to (finally!!) hit exalted with Nightfallen on my druid with today’s emissary quest.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          I’m getting really excited because my copy of Pokemon Moon arrives tonight. I’ve been wanting since I first saw the legendary!

          1. Julia*

            I’ve been playing for a while now, though I’m still not even halfway through (I’m keeping most of it for a long flighty to Japan next month and am using the time at my parents’ house to play XD on my brother’s old GameCube), and it’s pretty different from previous Pokémon games. I’m not quite sure I like it, so far there isn’t any Pokémon that has made it into my favourites.

    3. Temperance*

      It’s ridiculous to me that the same people who take off work for a fantasy football draft or the college football draft or whatever judge others for their hobbies.

      1. LCL*

        It was really really hard for me to keep my mouth shut and do what needed to be done to get some people a short notice day off so they could go drink in a hotel and do their fantasy football draft. But I did keep quiet about what a waste of time that was, TO ME, and I was able to fill their vac request. To be honest, I was a little bent because this is one of those secret bonding opportunities for the men, but it had nothing to do with the company so I just let it go.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s exactly the reason I dislike fantasy football in the workplace, too. ;) I do fantasy EPL and scarily out-bro most of my male coworkers.

          1. Jaydee*

            Our workplace fantasy football league is dominated by women. Not because we outnumber the men (it’s actually pretty even) but because we are the most vocal and competitive about it and we are good at it and we win.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            It’s not that it takes a whole day per se, it’s just that there is usually alcohol involved. I’m a HUGE fantasy footballer so it’s not a “guy thing” and I definitely don’t think it’s any more of a waste of time than any other hobby.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yes, my partner does fantasy football and enjoys it quite a lot (it appeals to his statistics geekery), and the reason the draft takes a while for one of his leagues isn’t that it actually takes a while–it’s that for his fantasy football group, it’s a social event, and involves a lot of socializing, eating/drinking, etc., around the actual picking of the players. They certainly could do it a lot faster (and the other league gets it done really pretty quickly because they aren’t all hanging out, eating pizza and chatting), but since a lot of the point is the hanging-out-and-bonding it isn’t a priority to get it done in a hurry.

              Or I guess to put it another way, it’s pretty much just like any other recreational activity that also involves socializing.

              1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                Exactly this. I’m in three leagues. One is very social (and alcohol fueled) so the draft takes hours while we give each other crap about what a horrible pick they just made, etc… One is with work people so the draft is online and takes 45 minutes or so and the third is just family (including the kiddos) so it takes a while just because we’re hanging out and helping the kids.

      2. justsomeone*

        I just flat out don’t understand judging people for their hobbies in general. What does it matter to you (in a general sense) if my hobbies are nail polish, video games and cat herding? Unless I’m trying to recruit you into doing one or another of those activities, just move along!

        1. Anna*

          I think we all kind of have “Are you even serious” moments when we hear about some hobbies, but you keep it to yourself and possibly you learn more about it and change your mind. That’s fine. The issue comes in when you actively tease someone or you tell your employee they can’t have the day off because their hobby is dumb.

          There are a lot of things that I still think are pretty weird, but am meh about. You do you, I do me. We just won’t expect each other to get excited about the latest whatever having to do with or respective hobbies.

          1. Marvel*

            I dunno, I’ve honestly never had an “are you even serious” moment regarding someone’s hobby before. I can’t actually think of any hobbies that would cause me to react that way, but maybe I’m missing something here.

            The only time I HAVE felt that way is when people say they don’t have ANY hobbies, they just kind of “hang out” and “do whatever.” I heavily prefer people who are passionate about something, ANYTHING, rather than apathetic.

            1. seejay*

              I did once (at least that I can think of off the top of my head).

              Way back when I was in my early 20s, a guy I started dating told me he was a graffiti artist and showed me a bunch of photos from well-known/popular artists. I kind of did an eyebrow-raise and a stinkface and said something along the lines of “um, art? That’s vandalism!”

              To be fair, at the time I had never heard of graffiti as an actual art form at the time… it was just “spray painting on walls to be an asshole”. I learned a lot more about it at the time and more about it since so I have a much more broader understanding of it and can now appreciate it as an art form and hobby instead of just mass-categorizing it as vandalism*, but at the time I definitely just gave it the “are you serious??” face.

              (*I do think there’s some places that graffiti artists need to knock off their painting, or at least get permits for it, since it *does* start crossing the lines into vandalism, but I don’t think this is the place to get into a debate about the legalities of it, nor do I want to get into an argument about it.)

            2. TL -*

              Oh I’ve felt that way about knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, video games, fantasy football, board games…

              But my idea of a good time is a mountain and below freezing weather. Eventually you learn not to judge but sometimes it’s hard to see what other people find enjoyable about things. :)

        2. On Fire*

          I’ll only judge you if you paint your entire cat-herd’s claws while playing video games – and only because it would most likely be quite messy.

          1. seejay*

            Is it bad that I had nail caps for my cats’ claws that made it look like they were polished?


            1. JessaB*

              No it is not bad it’s awesome because you don’t get needleclawed all over. If I could get my cat to wear them without screwing with them, trying to eat them, and stuffing them under the fridge I’d be thrilled.

              1. seejay*

                To be honest, they didn’t last long. I only put them on their back claws mainly because that’s the nails that were tearing up the floor from them running and one cat ignored them, but they didn’t stay on well, the other cat consistently chewed them off.

                It was amusing for the period of time that I put them on them (my black and white tuxedo cat looked dashing with hot pink nails) but it was more effort, annoyance and expense than just clipping them regularly (and living somewhere where they don’t destroy the floors).

                That being said, I’ve heard from some people that swear up and down by them as the most awesomest thing ever.

        3. AMG*

          And the whole point of hobbies is TO waste time doing something they like–it’s how people keep their batteries charged.

        4. AlterKate*

          Um…so did you just randomly pick my three favorite hobbies, or are they secretly yours too and we can be friends now?

    4. k*

      That sucks. I’m not a gamer but many of my friends are and I have other “geek” interests and hobbies. It’s weird how people view that differently than other hobbies. I once took a day off work because we were going to the midnight opening of a movie the night before, but didn’t give a reason for my time off request because I was afraid it sounded silly. But I would never hesitate to say that I was, oh I don’t know, participating in an art fair, attending a lecture, competing in a dog show, or some other hobby type activity.

      I feel lucky that I’ve never had to give a reason for time off requests. It may come up in a small talk way (how was your weekend, any exciting plans for your day off?), but never anything intrusive or judgmental.

      1. Kj*

        Yes. Taking a day off for a con shouldn’t be any more stigmatized that taking the day off for a sportsball game.

        And yes, I call it sportsball. Because I don’t care enough to get the differences between the sports, just like my workers don’t care enough to understand Star Wars vs Star Trek.

    5. Purest Green*

      I’m fortunate to have worked with people who understand gaming. So much so that it wasn’t weird when I dashed home on my lunch break to buy a rare item off the auction house or fight a mob that I’d been camping FOREVER.

      1. Pennilyn Lott*

        Purest Green, this is totally unrelated to anything, but I couldn’t let a Blackadder reference slip by without a virtual high five!

    6. Temperance*

      That’s really annoying, but I’ve come across that attitude, too. It doesn’t make sense to me, because most “cool” hobbies are also pretty lazy/sedentary – like watching sports, but there isn’t a huge social backlash to someone who takes a day off to go watch the Phillies play.

      I’m taking two days off for Comic Con this year, and hoping to do SDCC and PAX in the future. I really don’t care if something thinks that I’m weird or a loser or whatever for having nerd hobbies. FFS, I scheduled a late train home from a conference tomorrow so I can hit Midtown Comics before coming back home.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, most of my vacation days go toward SFF conventions too. And I think I benefit from “convention” sounding kind of official, and that people might balk more if I said “get drunk while dressed as BB-8.”

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, I’d never really thought of that before. Taking time off to go to a sports thing is considered totally legit, but it mainly involves sitting on your butt and eating and drinking.

      3. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

        Last year some of my co-workers were making fun of the people who’d attended the Rhode Island Con. My husband and son had gone – my son dressed in a pikachu costume I’d crafted myself! – and I was more than a little annoyed…to the point that I said something to my co-workers about how they hurt my feelings. I’ve actually become a little outspoken about not crapping on another person’s happy since then.

        Hobbies are things that make us happy. You don’t have to understand another person’s hobby…you just have to be accepting of the fact that it makes that person happy…and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone with their hobby what does it matter what they’re doing??

        1. NGL*

          “Don’t harsh my squee” and “don’t yuck on my yum” are two phrases an online community I’m in bandy around when talking about our (sometimes disparate) interests. It’s a light way to establish that a conversation space isn’t for debating how worthy an interest is, but for sharing excitement about said interest.

      4. Corporate Gamer*

        I took a couple days off for TennoCon and a week off for TwitchCon last year, but I told my boss that they were just “vacations to Ontario and San Diego”. Maybe this year I’ll grow a set and tell her why I’m really going :-)

      5. vpc*

        I take a week and a half off for Dragon Con in Atlanta every year! It’s my major vacation every end-of-summer. And I’m not the only one at my workplace.

    7. TL -*

      I am not fond of spending large amounts of free time on video/board games, to the point where none of my friends are serious gamers and only a few are even mild ones. I don’t know why; it just sets me off in a way few other hobbies do (my complete lack of interest doesn’t help).

      That being said, some of my coworkers have been gamers and I’ve never felt the need to comment on their activities. I don’t feel any desire to spend my free time with them, but if games make them happy, it’s not my place to say it should be otherwise. I can make small talk about games if they’re passionate about them.

    8. EW*

      A lot of games are very social too. My husband has a whole group of people that he plays different games with – some he knows in real life and others we have plans to see when they come to town. He wouldn’t ever tell anyone else this, but he’s in the top 5% in the world for this one game. I could see him taking off work for a tournament.

    9. paul*

      I don’t take off launch days (been burned too many times with buggy messes) but I’ll semi-regularly take a Friday off to sit on my butt, drink bourbon and play computer games. It’s fun once a quarter or so

    10. Jessesgirl72*

      My husband’s stodgy old midwest Fortune 500 company organizes LAN parties and both tabletop and computer gaming nights.

      So it may take awhile, but the attitude that video games=lazy and stupid is thankfully changing!

    11. all aboard the anon train*

      Not a gamer (the only game I’ve ever played has been the Dragon Age series), but I’ll take off for big movie premieres or streaming TV drop days. I like to go to midnight premieres and then a showing again the next day, and those are a big thing for some people, so I completely get it. I would never tell someone at work that I took the day off to see the two recent Star Wars movies or that I already have the Wonder Woman premiere marked off in my work calendar. I took off the Jessica Jones drop day so a friend and I could binge watch the entire thing the day it premiered. I didn’t mention why I needed the day off since it’s my vacation time, and I’m pretty sure my manager would have thought I was weird if I gave the reason anyway.

      I don’t talk about it outside of casual interest at work because like gaming, people can get strange about it and don’t think “geeky” movies/TV are a valid excuse for a vacation day. People get weird about vacation spent “at home” instead of traveling somewhere (which is an entirely different issue that really annoys me).

      So, OP, I’m in a totally different bracket hobby wise, but I get it and I hope it works out for you!

        1. VintageLydia*

          Never would’ve guessed with that screen name ;)

          (I love it, too. There are a few others hanging around. Alison seems to attract WoW and DA players more than any other game.)

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            Yeah, it’s a bit of an obsession in our household :)
            And I always get happy inside when someone on these threads mentions DA; I feel just a little less alone in the world.

    12. Elemeno P.*

      My last bosses (both my manager and director) were HUGE gamers and it was awesome. We all brought in our 3DS systems to StreetPass each other, and my director definitely took some days off around launches (since weekdays were the only days his kids weren’t around and he could get some solo time). He also went to E3 one year and waited in a long line to get me a freebie for a game I was waiting for. I miss those guys.

    13. straws*

      I had an employee who took off almost an entire week for the release of a game. I thought it was great. It was important to him, so it made sense to use his PTO for it. And I knew he’d be really relaxed when he came back. I really do not understand this mindset, but my family has been jumping on new tech as soon as it was available for personal consumption. I may be biased!

    14. Kat_Ma_Ras*

      Ha, I’m about to take off both Friday and Monday 3/3-3/6 for the Nintendo Switch and the new Legend of Zelda release that Friday. I’ve never Pre-Ordered or gotten the Release day hype, but I caught the bug this time.

      I wont, however, be alerting my bosses to the reason for my vacay. I’ll likely say my dad’s in town or similar.

    15. LoiraSafada*

      I’m a 29 year old married woman working in a technical field that loves to game (not even in a competitive or taking-time-off-from-work way) and it’s like telling people you eat puppies in your spare time.

    16. Chinook*

      ” It’s really not appropriate, but apparently video games = lazy and stupid to a lot of people.”

      I laugh at this because DH was quite happy to find out that the Nintendo gaming system is coming out on his day off and he doesn’t have to ask for time off. DH’s other hobbies include working towards getting his karate black belt, being able to bench press his own body weight (which is currently over 200 lbs and approx. 10% body fat) and generally working out 2 hours a day. In the summer he camps in the woods with a tent with his wolf (you all have met Marley).

      Yet, this is the stereotype that is the reason he hides from his coworkers the fact that he has owned every single Nintendo system since before the game cube and every Playstation system and that he was happy to find out he can play Final fantasy games on his phone when he has down time between emergency calls on a slow Sunday night.

      1. Gadfly*

        Pthbbb. Only a console player? :p JK. I am a casual player, but my husband really is into a handful of games and we both are team PC. That is the risk of sharing even if you find other gamers. ;)

    17. KellyK*

      It really is bizarre, especially when nobody would bat an eye if you took a Monday off because you were going to the Superbowl, or even if you wanted the day to clean up from an epic Superbowl party.

      1. A*

        I think the issue may be with the extroverted nature of our culture. A sports game or party are seen as social events, and are therefore “normal.” But video games tend to be viewed as solitary by people who don’t play. Maybe they have a subconscious association of gaming with “weirdo who practices shooting people.” That would explain some of the discomfort.

    18. Liane*

      Hope the OP gets to go as well.
      Not much of a gamer other than roleplaying games, but I do Star Wars costuming as part of one of the biggest clubs (Rebel Legion). This Saturday, I’ll be doing that at the local Museum of Discovery. I don’t have to ask for this one off as I am between jobs.
      And yes, I have gotten a few looks and questions at previous jobs, but after seeing a few pics–or me dressed in Jedi robes for Halloween–most people are cool with it.
      In addition to cons, we do a lot of appearances for children’s charities & hospitals, so I have pointed out that this is as much for charity as Race for the Cure which most of my previous employers have encouraged employees to get involved with.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The 501st Legion gets involved in all kinds of stuff here. It even had an exhibit at the big library branch recently.

        Plus, they had a free con one Saturday at the library, and it was PACKED. My Who group was there with our TARDIS (a member built it). I had no idea there would be so many people. The nerds are starting to come out around here. They don’t just hide and then slink off to the local tinycon anymore. :) And yes, I’ve actually taken time off to go to the tinycon before, which starts on Friday and goes through Sunday. People at Exjob were fine with it (lots of nerds).

    19. Michelle*

      I really don’t understand the bias against video games. One of my sons started playing Minecraft and Roblox when he was 7, progressed to writing little mods for the games, and ultimately started coding his own video games from scratch. Even if he’s never the next video game billionaire, he’s learning skills that are very likely to serve him well in a good career in the future. My husband makes 6 figures “writing BASH scripts to do my job for me.” Yet he gets constant flak from his friends and their parents about how “video games rot your brain.” Of course, those same parents are all in the Fantasy Football league at church.

    20. Mrs. Beaux Beaux*

      My husband tells me ahead of time he will be HBU-Home But Unavailable-when a new game comes out. He takes off work a few days too for it. lol. From the outside, it sounds crazy, but if it brings him joy and allows me to sleep uninterrupted for a few days….”Have fun honey! Need a drink?” lol. And I would be very proud if his team got into a tournament. His co-workers tease him too, but they take off for hunting season and other things. So to each his own…

    21. AnonEMoose*

      I took time off work when “Dragon Age: Inquisition” was released. I’d been waiting for over a year and wanted to be able to immerse myself in the story with as little disruption as possible. It was awesome!

      I’m typically more of a tabletop RPG person, but there are a few video games I like – the Dragon Age franchise, for one, and Diablo. I still go back to Diablo 3 when I’ve had a bad day and want to work off some frustration.

      Anyway, people do get judgmental about “geeky” hobbies sometimes. Gaming, conventions, etc. Fortunately, my boss thinks it’s cool that I volunteer with a science fiction convention, and makes sure I get the time off I need for it every year. Some of my coworkers don’t quite “get it,” but they know I enjoy it, and that seems to be enough for them. A couple have even asked me for advice on gifts for geek relatives or friends, because they didn’t know what to get, and thought I might have ideas.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I’m a little “lucky” in that I have a small side business making jewelry and we sell on the side at cons, so I guess it sounds more like I’m there in an official capacity and less “nerdy.” They don’t have to know that I geek out hard at cons, especially if I find other DragonAge fans (My husband bought me Inquisition for the 360, and then upgraded my computer for my birthday and bought the GOTY edition for me when it came out. He’s a keeper.)

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Dragon Age, to date, is the only video game franchise to make me cry. And I may have emitted an audible “SQUEEEE!” when it was announced that Cullen would be a romance option in Inquisition.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            My husband teases me about my “Cullen dating simulator”. It’s ok – he can romance Cassandra all he wants.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              First time through, I played a human female mage. partly because I figured Cullen deserved some closure.

    22. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I took a vacation day when Mockingjay (the book) was released so I could spend the day with my Kindle :)

    23. Lady Bug*

      Not a gamer, but I’m taking off at least 3 days to follow one of my favorite bands for a few shows. Everyone has nerdy hobbies and is entitled to use their vacation days to indulge them.

    24. tink*

      It’s really fun when people in the office judge someone for “playing video games” but then talk about say, optimizing their Farmville crops (or whatever popular Facebook game) with a straight face like it’s not exactly the same thing. (This was my experience in my first office job.)

    25. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I’m always like, has the person who thinks this way actually PLAYED a video game? Some of them are really hard! They require strategic thinking, adaptability, concentration. I don’t know about you but after I’ve played something for a while I’m fricking tired.

    26. Fushi*

      When I was in QA, it was super common to have like 30-50% of the floor taking time off when there was a major release. You’d come in in the morning, be confused for a sec, and then “…ah, Diablo III.”

      I’m now picturing OP’s uptight manager witnessing this and losing his mind. “You’re taking time off from playing video games to play MORE video games!? Heathens!”

    27. Tealeaves*

      I relate to this so much! I’m a gamer and have to keep it a secret in my corporate environment. Only a few fellow gamers in the office know about it. The stigma about gamers wasting their time and their lives is so bad that in an extreme case, a co-worker snarked at me when he spotted a casual game on my phone, including proudly declaring that he doesn’t even play Candy Crush. He was judging me so badly that I lied and said that I only play a couple of mainstream mobile games casually (and he still judged me for that). If he knew of my multiple consoles and video game collection at home, I think he’d have a seizure.

      People get snarky over hobbies they don’t like / understand. For hobbies with a known stigma or not “corporate normal” as I call it, you want to be cautious about revealing it to people until you get a sense of their character. I usually casually bait them with the topic and see how they respond. If they give bad vibes I change the subject. End of convo, and they don’t think of digging deeper. For gaming, Pokémon Go is a great topic to use as it’s mainstream to the point of being “corporate normal” now. (“Do you play Pokémon Go? Do you play any other games?”) You can even use the latest video game movies like AC and Warcraft as an opener (“Did you catch xyz? Are you familiar with the series?”), since movies are an “acceptable” small talk topic.

      In this case, OP knows that the next time he has to do anything gaming related, lie through the teeth! Even if Fergus directly challenges you by saying, “Going to sit on your butt again?”, stay calm and say nope, it’s family / personal business. You have to be prepared that he might keeping making your hobby a Big Deal in the future by bringing it up in conversations for no reason. Some weird kind of power trip.

    28. Den*

      I have my own crazy of planning to take two days off early March for the Nintendo Switch release. The console release is March 3rd (a friday), but want to take off the day prior to join in on the launch line throughout the day, assuming there will be one and the weather isn’t terrible. I live in New York, and I regular go to the official Nintendo Store so yeah, there will probably be something big going on there.

      It is a silly thing and not really justified since I can casually pick one up the next day since I pre-ordered, but as one of the few things I feel genuinely excited for nowadays, I may as well just not get self-conscious and just go all in a celebratory mood with fellow fans.

    29. Melissa*

      Some of the management at work play video games so I’m fairly open when I’m taking time off for new releases. Not actively talking about it necessarily (I’m not much for chit chat anyway), but if someone asks I’m happy to say exactly why. But my favorite non-answer is “staycation.” People can make their own assumptions and I can be honest if vague.

  7. JW*

    If I had realized that the activities planned for the day would impact my ability to be off I would have been really tempted to just say I was going to be doing what ever I did in that game – even if it was a completely outrageous thing like space travel.

    For example, I plan to go fishing really early in the morning, then run some errands for my friends around town, followed up with a little bit of bug catching and I will wrap the day up with a trip to the next town over for some shopping – you know the usual.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Could be Harvest Moon. ;)

        Which I prefer over the Real Time of Animal Crossing. (Okay, I prefer the original “Harvest Moon” that is now Story of Seasons over the US Harvest Moon. Which I just realized I hadn’t check on my preorder for the new one, and when did the release get pushed back to May? Grr!)

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            Add some romancing and more farming to Animal Crossing, and take out the real time, and you have Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons. :)

        1. esra (also a Canadian)*

          I’m really enjoying Story of Seasons, I liked the first couple Rune Factory games as well.

          “Oh, you know. I’ll be spending the day planting turnips and wooing multiple potential life partners. Pet my dog. Brush some cows.”

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I just got that game yesterday! And proceeded to play it for six hours straight…evidently I needed the immersion.

            1. AlterKate*

              Are you me? I could have left this exact same comment! I just picked it up yesterday too and stayed up an embarrassingly ungodly hour playing and I’m now on my third cup of coffee at work.

          2. Antilles*

            +1 – If you haven’t played it, Stardew Valley is absolutely awesome. Not sure when the next Steam sale is, but it’s been out long enough that you can probably pick it up cheap there if you need to save some $.

        2. Finny*

          According to EB Games up here in Canada, the game is still releasing on February 28th. The May date is for DLC.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            Must have been a temporary error. I just checked Amazon again, and it’s back to Feb 28th, and no mention of May 2nd at all.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I like this!

      “Hey Boss, I need Friday off. I’ve got plans to go run around some ancient ruins with a giant birdcat companion.”

      “Hey Boss, I need Friday off. I’m going to be parkouring across high-rises and fighting the cyberpunk corporate dystopia.”

      “Hey Boss, I need Friday off. I’m going to be stranded on an alien planet, exploring biomes and building vehicles and habitats while I wait for rescue.”

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        “Hey Boss, I need Friday off. I’m going to be parkouring across high-rises and fighting the cyberpunk corporate dystopia.”

        The only part of that I’d find questionable these days is the parkour.

      2. Lou*

        First one could be interpreted as Mabinogi, though I’m sure that’s not what you were going for…

        No idea about the second one. Maybe XCOM?

        Third one… Empyrion: Galactic Survival?


        1. nekussa*

          I’ve spent the weekend bingewatching “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” so that’s immediately where my mind went for the second one. :)

            1. VintageLydia*

              I could’ve sworn the second was Assassin’s Creed! I guess it’s technically not dystopian, but cyberpunk corporate overlords checks out.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        I shared this with my husband. He says maybe it’s not the best advice. ;)

        “Hey boss, I need Friday off to spend infiltrating terrorist cells and assassinating leaders.” might get you in trouble!

      4. Liane*

        RPG player Liane’s explanations:

        “Hey Boss, I need Friday off, got a hot date with my doctor boyfriend. And I swear I will frostbite whichever megalomaniacal supervillain spoils it!”

        “Hey Boss, I need Friday off to have to help my new friends get this girl out of Count Strahd’s way. Yes I need the whole day, gotta memorize spells and that takes hours.”

        “Hey Boss, I need Friday off. I’ve hired an ex-merc, a doctor, this guy with a lightsaber, and this geeky computer-genius kid to steal something from the Empire–& I can’t leave them unsupervised.” (When it’s my turn to be gamemaster.)

      5. Former Borders Refugee*

        “Hey boss, I need friday off. I’m going to a car race where I will try to win by throwing turtles at my competition.”

      6. ancolie*

        MIRROR’S EDGE!!! (Catalyst, for me).

        I find the controls and moves aggravatingly non-intuitive for me, but MAN, I just *adore* the whole concept of the game.

    2. Adam*

      Now I want to start a thread of “describe your favorite game in vague vacation terms”.

      Zelda – I’ll be doing a lot of hiking while visiting some local historical sites while being on the lookout for local fauna. If I have time I may also engage in some archery practice.

      1. Chinook*

        Mario Kart – gotta work on my driving skills while dodging random turtle shells.
        Okami – going to explore the wilderness with my wolf buddy.

        1. Finny*

          Okami! Yes! Though I do prefer the Okami-den sequel for DS–it’s easier for me to see when I can hold the small screen as close as I need.

      2. Games Games Games*

        Neko Atsume – I’ll be spending the day helping to build a new cat rescue centre and feeding strays

        LEGO The Hobbit – I’ll be helping to fundraise for my local volunteer wilderness rescue and firefighting squad

        The Unfinished Swan – I’m going paintballing

        This is hilarious XD

      3. Antilles*

        “I don’t know what I’m doing on my vacation. I was thinking of maybe building a country from scratch, starting a world war and conquering the planet. Maybe seize economic control over billions of people? Or I might just build a spaceship. I’ll see how the mood strikes me.” – Civilization

      4. JW*

        “Hey I am sorry boss, but my Dad went a little bit wild last night and destroyed like I don’t know half the planets. I need to help him out today by gathering up a bunch of random junk in a ball to rebuild things before it all goes south. Thanks”

      5. Lissa*

        I’ll be wandering a frozen landscape, helping villagers solve their problems, killing bandits, serving a demon or two, negotiating a civil war, and totally ignoring my ultimate destiny (Skyrim – main storyline? what main storyline?)

      6. Games Games Games*

        Neko Atsume – I’ll be helping to build a local animal shelter and putting food out for stray cats

        LEGO The Hobbit – I’ll be fundraising for my local wilderness rescue and firefighting team

        The Unfinished Swan – I’ll be going on a wilderness exploration adventure that’s a mix of orienteering and paintballing

        This is fun! XD

      7. Workaholic*

        Huh….. this actually is what i do IRL as a hobby. Hobbies? 4 out of 500 or so. I have enough hobbies for 7 or so people.

      8. Julia*

        Pokémon – “I need to walk around a big region and fight and befriend hundreds of monsters, other monster trainers, and save that region from an evil organisation.”

        The Sims – Yeah, I don’t even know what to say here.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. Gotta trade my fruit for the best prices in the other town and bring home some of that out-of-town fruit to sell at my home store. :-)

    4. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

      I love Animal Crossing and regularly bring my DS to work to play at my desk at lunch. I have a co-worker who asks me what I’m doing for lunch and I’ll just say “I’m shaking some trees down for money”. She plays too so she laughs!

      1. Adam*

        It’s amazing how much Animal Crossing lends itself to parody. Very NSFW (lots of blatant sexual references) but if you don’t mind that stuff in your free time lookup “Starbomb: The Book of Nook”. I don’t even play the games and laughed like crazy.

    5. Purest Green*

      During the daylight hours, I hope to finish laying some rail lines on the cobblestone bridge I built last week. Then at night I’ll go mining for more iron in the nearby cave systems. But most of my time will be spent crafting torches and pick axes and looking for where I put all my sticks.

      1. halpful*

        Meanwhile I’ll be reorganising all my storage chests, wiring up a teleporter network, and luring zombies into lava. Maybe we could team up and kill some santas! ;)

    6. TheMonkey*


      Mine would be:
      I’m heading to Mars to fight some giant alien turtles. Then probably a buzz around a wrecked spaceship to pick up a few things so I can improve my armor. After that, I’ll pull together a small group of friends and we’ll fight our way through a nano-infected industrial zone in order to take out a half-machine/half-alien before the nanos get out of control and destroy the world.

      Totally legit way to spend a vacation day, right?

    7. Maggie*

      Hah! That sounds a bit like The Sims, as well. I got the Sims 3 last month as part of a super-awesome Steam sale, and it’s super addicting. I’m not a huge gamer, but I really like this one!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’m going to completely redecorate and remodel my house. Of course, I’ll have to use the motherlode code several times until I have about $700,000, because I’m going to buy all new furniture, paint all the walls, add on some rooms and maybe a second floor, install a pool. Then I’m going to invite a bunch of people over so I can find someone to hit on.

    8. Candi*

      I’ll be unlocking a graveyard, breaking and entering a run-down mansion, exploring an underground cavern, and trying to free three ghosts from imprisonment.

      (Return from Ravenhearst)

      I’ll be hunting through an abandoned tourist town, seeking four lost college grad students and trying to appease a banshee who has ice powers and is dropping temperatures like a rock.

      (Dire Grove)

  8. Allison*

    Talk about rude and judgmental, not to mention ignorant! Either you can have the day off or you can’t, he can’t deny you on the basis that you won’t be sufficiently active or productive by his standards. Would be have been equally opposed if you were going to a chess tournament? Probably not, even though you’d be “sitting on your [butt]” just as much! I’ll bet he’d also deny time off for PAX, even though you’d be walking around all day, because it’s for a hobby he clearly has a problem with.

    OP, did you stress that you play on a team, and that qualifying for the competition was a big deal? Did you tell him it’s a huge, organized event? Not that you should need to, how you plan to spend your time off is your business, but since he’s being an ignorant meanie face, I’d try to educate him about the game, and the culture surrounding it. Going to HR is also appropriate, since they can clarify whether he has a right to deny you based on the reasons he gave you, and if he doesn’t, they can intervene on your behalf.

    Also, it may not have been wise to call it a sports competition, since that’s not vague but actually twisting the truth. I would have come right out and said it was for a gaming tournament. Saying it was for sports may have made him expect a physical activity, and then when he realized it wasn’t, he may have felt deceived, like you were trying to pull something over on him.

    1. Decimus*

      Except calling it a sports competition isn’t entirely wrong. “E-sports” is a thing. It may not be a traditional sport, but it is being called a sport, so calling it a sport is not deception.

      1. AthenaC*

        Agree. Remove the physical elements of traditional team sports, replace with fine motor hand-eye coordination, and you still have the real-time strategy and quick reaction times that are core to traditional sports.

        It really does make sense to call it e-sports.

      2. Emi.*

        It might not be technically deceptive but it sounds like it was misleading, which may have contributed to Fergus’s reaction. He was still out of line, but that could be something to keep in mind when dealing with him in future.

      3. Cyndi*

        It’s also become mainstream — you can find esport tournaments on ESPN and colleges now have teams for it. Hoorah!

        1. Adam*

          I’m a person who grew up with video games and still plays regularly today, but I’ve always twitched a little when they called video games e-sports for some reason. But I don’t make a stink about it since ESPN had already been covering Poker for years (which I’ve always thought was dumb), so it seemed like the precedent had already been set.

      1. Karen D*

        Oh, it goes WAY beyond ESPN. Twitch is an entire site devoted to gaming, much of it devoted to watching gamers game, and it is HUGE. (Wikipedia tells me that in 2014, Twitch was the fourth-largest generator of peak Internet traffic in the entire Internet (that position has obviously been taken over by AAM since then).

        There are sanctioning bodies and more than one pro circuit.

        Watching gamers game is, as it turns out, Big Bidness.

        Unfortunately, OP’s boss is unlikely to be impressed by any of this.

        1. E*

          Youtube also has a lot of gamers whose job is posting videos of them playing. Minecraft is one I watch often, and I’m in awe of the time they must spend not only in gaming but in editing and posting their videos.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      I did wonder if the Boss’s attitude came from feeling like the OP had mislead him in the conversation / he got derailed on the stupid point of whether or not gaming should have been described that way. He is wrong to fixate on this, and it’s irrelevant to OP’s right to have the time off, but it might have put the discussion on a bad foot.

    3. TootsNYC*

      If you decide to go back to him, you might stress that other people are counting on you. You have teammates who rely on your skills to participate in your hobby.

    4. Kate the Purple*

      I don’t think it’s deceptive at all to call it a sports competition. Perhaps I’m a bit sensitive to that because growing up, I was a serious competitor in a sport that many considered to not be a sport, despite the fact that it’s a major Olympic sport!

  9. Fiona the Lurker*

    Congratulations, LW, on qualifying for the tournament – that’s no small achievement. Your boss is behaving ridiculously; it’s none of his business how you spend your time off, and if there’s no other reason for refusing your request then he should just go ahead and grant it.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. Good luck!

  10. Gaia*

    Those closest I have ever come to asking what someone is doing on their day off is asking if they are doing anything fun – and even then if they just said “yes” I’d leave it at that. It really is not my business.

    I take that back. I have asked someone’s specific plans when it was unclear if I would be able to approve the day. In that case it was more to decipher “do you have plans” or are you just taking it off because you want a day off (in other words, would another day work?) not at all a judgement on what those plans might be.

    1. Lance*

      I’d call that fair game, when it’s up in the air whether the day would be available. When the day is available regardless, as is the case here, though… yeah, there’s really no need to pry into what someone’s using that day for.

    2. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

      Kinda awkward but also funny story relating to that?

      When my uncle passed away, my family decided to take a 10-day trip so that we could do the 12-hour drive to my aunt’s house over a few days and still have time to spend with my aunt after the funeral. When I reminded coworkers that I would be in a different state the day before the trip, they told me to “have fun.” I then had to explain that I was going to my uncle’s funeral and they would apologize so much. I’m a gallows humor kinda gal, so I wasn’t the least bit offended. :)

    3. Mirve*

      Wouldn’t it be better to just ask that then? This day could be a problem, would it work to take another instead? Instead of asking plans (which can lead to the idea that some plans are more “worthwhile” than others).

      1. Anna*

        Eh, I think in this case the intent is not to deem the activity “worthy” or not, but to figure out if it’s a fixed thing that can’t be moved. I think Gaia is okay.

      2. Gaia*

        I get that, but literally any indication of plans makes it worthy. For instance, I have a direct report who asked for a day off so he can go buy a video game when it comes out. To me there is no way I would use my vacation time like that. But to him, it is worthwhile, so it is his vacation time and his to use as he pleases. All I needed to know was if he had plans for that specific day. Hell, his plans could have been watching Netflix all day or volunteering at a school or visiting his Grandma. Doesn’t matter – they are all equally valid plans.

  11. jhhj*

    Asking why someone is using vacation is fine — it shows interest, it’s friendly, etc. Judging the reason is not fine! Though if a day doesn’t work for business reasons, I’d like to know why; I’d probably move mountains for ‘family wedding’ and ask about rescheduling for ‘I want to apartment search that day’.

    1. Allison*

      That’s absolutely fair. I think managers that are hesitant to give time off should be open for major reasons, like weddings, or major events that only happen once a year, or wanting to visit a sick friend, but being okay with giving someone a day off and then changing your mind when given the reason is ridiculous.

    2. Just Jess*

      I get what you’re saying, but that specific example is problematic. “I want to apartment search that day (because stressful family/personal issues that I don’t want to disclose and this is the ideal day).” I’m of a mind to have a blanket policy of not asking in order to reduce the opportunity for biases. But I don’t know; this is a good supervisors’ topic.

      1. jhhj*

        In truth, it’s never come up for us; people have never tried to go away on a day that would not work for us (there are about 5 days a year that are bad and everyone knows what they are, plus a coverage issue if the wrong people want to go away at the same time).

    3. MWKate*

      Yeah – I’ve never understood the need to interrogate people over using their vacation/sick days.

      If there are a lot of people out that day, I might ask something like, “We’re already pretty short handed, I’m not sure this is going to work. Is it something you can schedule for another time?”

      Otherwise – I’ve had (and currently do) have managers that feel the need to ask questions about my request for sick time. My only response to someone calling in sick, and I feel the only appropriate one is, “Feel better.” I’m not qualified to determine whether someone is “sick enough” to call in (who is?). If you just need a mental health day, I completely get that as well.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Yeah, I’ve said, “How important is it, that it be this day? It’s going to be really hard to make it work, so please don’t ask me for this if you can actually be flexible.”

  12. Camellia*

    I wouldn’t wait “a couple of days” to tell Fergus that you talked to HR; what if they came back to him right away? I would tell him right after talking to them.

    1. Camellia*

      Also, plan a script going forward so you can avoid telling Fergus what you will be doing with the vacation you are requesting.

      1. Zombii*

        So then he’ll definitely feel like you went behind his back, and whatever relationship you had with him is now redefined as passive-aggressive and adversarial?

        Going to HR will have very obvious consequences for the remainder of LW’s time at this job. Not talking to their manager based on some delusion that “finding out” from HR will have any kind of negative impact on the manager is childish at best and petty at worst.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. Right? My whole job is sitting on my butt all day looking at a computer screen. Some vigorous eye-hand-coordination action would be comparatively very active.

  13. Karanda Baywood*

    Be strong, Letter Writer. The skills you use to navigate this challenge will be ones you’ll need throughout your career.

  14. MH*

    This goes back to something i said last week: compensation packages are only as good as the places that are willing to enforce them.

    OP, you could be taking the day off to be playing video games because you felt like it… it’s your time off! You should enjoy it! I love movies, I’m taking a day off coming up because there’s a movie marathon. I’m just lucky that my boss is understanding, and while she enjoys knowing WHY I’m taking the day off, as long as it’s not busy, she really doesn’t care. (There are four weeks – non consecutive – that I’m not allowed to take a year because of how certain deadlines fall. Other than that, I can take day off for reasons such as “I have this cool trip planned” to “I don’t feel like putting on pants today.”)

    Thanks, Allison, for taking the time to craft the most diplomatic way to phrase things.

  15. beautiful Loser*

    Alison was spot on. I hope we hear back with a positive outcome. If not, this one may be a contender for worst boss or at least make the list.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nah, an otherwise good boss who’s an ass about one thing isn’t going to be competitive with truly horrible bosses. (But also, let’s avoid speculation on nominees this year because last year it became a steady drumbeat nearly every day.)

        1. VintageLydia*

          Yeah sorta hoping this boss does make the list due to lack of competition. We need a breather after last year.

      1. Grits McGee*

        I read “drumbeat” as “dump truck”, which I feel is equally accurate. (ie, “2016 was just a dump truck of horrible bosses!”)

  16. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    An important thing to ask: is it about the video games? Would the boss react the same if you had wanted to read a new release book on your day off? That’s sitting on your butt, too.

    I had my first job when the last Harry Potter book came out, and I absolutely would have taken the day off to read the book if I were scheduled to work the day after the midnight release. I wasn’t scheduled though, thank God.

    1. Temperance*

      I think it’s more telling to see if Fergus would get all bent out of shape if LW was interested in traveling to watch a football game, or doing a fantasy football draft.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        That example does make more sense- I’m just not into most sports. So it is more like, say, taking time off to watch the World Cup finals?

        1. Anja*

          I actually took a long lunch one day and an afternoon off on another during the UEFA Euros this past summer. Not finals – my beloved Germany didn’t make it that far – but regular (non-elimination) game and then knockouts. I probably would’ve taken more if some of my games didn’t fall on weekends.

          Boss laughed a bit but approved without hesitation.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            I was watching the Cup finals while at my inlaws for a weekly gathering. I didn’t have DVR then, so I insisted on watching it in the living room after lunch.

            …My jokester SIL encouraged her niece to root for “the blue guys” (Argentina, AFAIK), rather than the awesome Germans! I spent the whole game correcting her!

          2. Pebbles*

            I took an afternoon off because an NHL player was bringing the Stanley Cup to my city’s rec center and they were having a big to-do with Q&A, pictures, etc. Most of my office’s managers are all hockey fans so there was no problem.

            This is the same office that had a TV in the common area tuned to U.S. vs. Canada Men’s Hockey for the 2014 Winter Olympics. No one blinked an eye at people that would stop and watch for 10-15 minutes.

            1. EngineerInNL*

              Yeah my office brought in a TV and snacks so we could watch the gold medal hockey game for the 2014 Olympics, only rule for watching was that you had to have all your deliverables done before heading down

    2. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

      I definitely took the day off after the last Harry Potter movie came out so that I could see the midnight showing. Granted, this was back in the days when midnight showings were at midnight and not, like, 8:30. ::shakes fist at kids on my lawn::

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I was abroad when it came out! But I had to see it.

        So I ended up crying over Dobby in a crowded theater full of German strangers. But I couldn’t wait the few more weeks to get back to the US!

        1. Bigglesworth*

          I was in a crowded theater full of Austrians! Weird! Still has to be one of my favorite theater experiences, though.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I did that with Return of the Jedi (not crying, though) during my first trip to London. Back then, films stayed in the cinema longer–and I had to go see it because it would have been gone by the time I got back.

          Missed Age of Ultron and I could have seen it a week before any of my friends! :P

      2. Allison*

        I know what you mean. I used to line up for midnight screenings because that’s the price you paid to be among the first to see the movie (and you couldn’t get prescreening passes). I did see Rogue One at 7PM but it just wasn’t the same.

        Also, I’ve never taken a day off after a midnight showing, but I have arranged to work from home so I could sleep in.

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, frankly, you could describe a LOT of vacations as “just sitting on your butt”:
      >Beach trips – sitting on your butt dozing in the sun
      >Family reunions – sitting on your butt listening to stories from people you barely know
      >Day off at home – sitting on your butt watching TV, possibly with a few errands/cleaning mixed in
      >Road trips – sitting on your butt as a passenger
      I have zero doubt that if OP’s vacation was for any of these things, the manager would have approved it without a second though. This is just something oddball about video games in particular.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        It’s funny – it’s the difference between watching the Olympics at home vs. watching them in person. Both of them, at the heart, are sitting on one’s bottom watching sports, but one would be much celebrated, while the other not so much.

        1. Chinook*

          Having watched the Olympics in person (Calgary ’88) , I have to say that watching them in person involves a heck of a lot more walking and standing then it does when I am at home. and a lot more security personnel.

      1. Kathlynn*

        Me two. Actually I’m hoping to get March 8th off, because I have two books coming out that day, and well, I’ll be very distracted wondering what’s going to happen in my two favorite series.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve taken a day off not even for the release, but just because it’s a good book and I’m in the throes of reading it. I wanted to take off today because I’m reading The Circle, but alas, I have too much work to do.

    4. Oryx*

      Ha, I worked at a bookstore for HP7. I worked the night before, stayed till midnight, got my book and went home and only read for an hour or two because I was scheduled to open the next morning (which I was okay with, because it meant I wouldn’t get spoiled) and it was my last day there. It was so slow, when my co-worker came in at 11 am or whenever I asked if I could just end my last day early and go home and read. They said yes.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think that was a Saturday–I stayed up really late to get the book, went home at 2 a.m. and went to sleep, then got up the next day and had a skating lesson. Then I read for the rest of the day. I remember being really glad I didn’t have to work!

        1. Zombii*

          Traditional publishers always release new books on Tuesdays. Which made the YA midnight parties really surreal, back when I worked at Borders in another life—why are all these 12 year olds still awake? where are their parents? oh, right, in line right behind them. ;P

        2. Julia*

          It was a Saturday. I had my book delivered and didn’t stop reading until I finished on Sunday morning. The German newspapers had terribly spoilt the sixth book, and I wanted to avoid that, but on Sunday, it turned out that I was apparently reading faster than them. (Or they weren’t allowed to do spoilers anymore.) Handed the book to my younger brother with “here, you can have it now” – he always takes much longer to read than I do.

  17. BRR*

    Depending on how Fergus responds or his personality I might pass on disclosing what your plans might be for future requests.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      True. In general it’s not unusual for a boss and an employee to discuss plans for a day off (although sometimes I do feel a little dicey, like they’re sussing out if they can call me back in during this time off) but in this case the Boss has lost the right to know what OP is doing. From now on OP you’ll want to politely skirt the issue and keep it vague when requesting time off, because you know the boss now considers it within bounds to base their decision on how much they like your answer.

  18. chickia*

    eeeeehhh yeah . . . so fergus is a butthead it turns out. The language from Allison is great, but is still likely to cause tension with fergus (talking to HR about your vacation is still talking to HR over his head, no matter how it’s innocently it’s phrased). But it’s also probable that he’s such a turd that he has already revised his opinion of you downward anyway, even if you don’t push back.

    Another thing you can try going forward is to figure out what things he considers a valuable use of time and try to work it into conversation so he thinks you have other redeeming qualities (not lying, but things you also do anyway, if you can figure out anything that jives with what he thinks is valuable – sports? hiking? church? volunteering? if you have the chance, make the video games thing seem a small harmless hobby and one of several). Also, at this point, assume you have to prove you are a great employee all over again, that he’s a jerk, and that you need to be very careful what you say around him. He could also have some reason for being so down on video games (maybe he has a drop out grandson who sits around and plays them all day?). Which of course would be completely unfair but at least would provide some context.

    1. Brogrammer*

      It’s possible that Fergus has had a bad experience involving videogames, but a lot of people just haven’t shaken the stereotype that videogames are for children, so an adult who enjoys them must be immature.

      1. ZVA*

        Yeah, my guess is that the stereotype is what’s at play here. My youngest brother (age 15) spends the vast majority of his free time playing video games and while he’s explained to my parents many times why he enjoys them, tried to kind of welcome them into that world, and while to their credit they have tried to understand, they still view it as more or less a waste of time, rotting your brain, etc. I’m guessing Fergus has a similar mindset, and that’s not something LW is likely to change (nor should they try).

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yep. People who have that kind of preconceived notion–“video games are mind-rotting waste of time” (or “comic books are for adolescents” or “adults shouldn’t collect stuffed animals” or, on the opposite end of the pop culture spectrum, “football is for testosterone-poisoned meatheads” or “makeup is the province of shallow people” or “only stupid people watch reality TV”–or whatever) are often almost impossible to shake out of those opinions; even if they eventually grudgingly acknowledge that maybe they’re being unfair, it’s often the case that they still judge it on a gut level. Safer, when it’s someone like a boss, to just avoid the topic entirely once you become aware of their opinion.

          1. ZVA*

            I take it one step further—I don’t bring up video games or nerdy stuff in general at all unless I know other person shares or is “sympathetic” to my interest! As you say, those opinions are super hard to shake off—even when you’re making a good faith effort, like my parents have… And I have plenty of other stuff to talk about. I guess you can’t avoid every “controversial” topic this way, and football/reality TV aren’t frowned upon at my job, but it does seem like even as gaming becomes more mainstream, people like LW’s boss & my parents are more common than not.

          2. Allison*

            I think a lot of adults feel that hobbies in general are just a way to take up free time, and should never interfere with work. Family is important, best friend weddings are important, seeing the world is important, but using vacation time or taking advantage of a flex schedule to partake in a hobby seems immature to some people, unless it’s a “serious adult” hobby. Which is why I sometimes feel weird about making my dancing a priority unless I have a competition coming up. People ask if I teach, and when I say no, they go “Oh . . . okay . . .”

            Sometimes I think having a real “role” in your hobby, like being a competitor, performer, teacher, presenter, or organizer is the only way to get fellow adults to take your interest in it seriously.

            1. Michele*

              It is weird how we assign hierarchies to hobbies. You are probably a better dancer than I am a triathlete, but if I said was taking a day off for a race, few people wouldn’t respect that. I also embroider, but people who look down on your dancing would probably really look down on that.

              1. Ramona*

                Re: I also embroider

                That’s really cool. I currently volunteer at a (not-for-profit) thrift store and we often get really nice embroidered pieces in that I just admire while trying to price it. Especially the really intricate ones (and the small intricate ones!).

            2. Lissa*

              There are also a heck of a lot of people who think all hobbies are a waste of time….except their own! That’s somehow different.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I had people ask me if I was a skating coach or a parent. No, I myself was the figure skater who needed to leave early for show rehearsal. But then most people thought it was cool. And a lot of times, they would misunderstand skating to mean “roller derby.”

          3. Chinook*

            The only person who ever told me “comic books are for adolescents” got a copy of “Maus” on his table the following week.

            1. Candi*


              That should cure anyone of thinking comics are for kids.

              Other options include Girl Genius or the Palace War arcs in ElfQuest.

          4. Ramona*

            “mind-rotting” – Also adding to this chain.

            Meanwhile, I’m over here firmly sitting in the casual gaming category because of how complicated and thought-provoking a lot of games are. There’s only so many intense things I can handle in a week. Hell, I’m still thinking of the ending of a game I bought a few months ago because I’m confused and it was a short game. Plus, I suck at them so it’s just better for my mental health to not go beyond casual.

            Even if something was “a waste of time”, as long as it’s not taking over the person’s life (or illegal), what’s the issue? Humans *need* downtime. It’s actually more productive for people to have some down time (balance is key here) than to not have any at all. Even if something is “mind-rotting”, so what? Why are people expected to be deep thinkers 100% of the time?

            People will be judging your hobbies, no matter what said hobbies are.

        2. Scarlott*

          Used to play videogames non-stop. I kind of do see them as a waste of MY time. The way I see it is that I could be doing literally anything else and it would be more productive to my self. But that doesn’t give me the right to judge others who feel that video games give them the most happiness. I do admit though, I do miss playing games, I just have such little time and energy for it, and I’ve taken up bigger and better (at least in my mind) hobbies.

          1. ZVA*

            I’m the same; I don’t game often these days—but not because I don’t love it… I just know that I have a finite amount of free time & there are quite a few other ways I’d rather use it. (I know that if I spend it reading, for example, I’ll be happier in the long run.) If I had an infinite amount of free time, though, it would be a different story!

          2. Allison*

            Same here, but recently I’ve realized I just don’t have the time to sit down and get really into a new game. Even when I do have that time, I rarely revisit the game to follow through and actually finish. I have so many unfinished games from my college and early professional days . . .

              1. Candi*

                I can’t do that. It’s like leaving a book half-read. I gots to know!

                But then, I primarily play HOS/Puzzle, and select based on people/companies/series that do tell good stories. The longest, most complex CE usually clicks in at under 4 hours.

                (My hand-eye coordination also stinks, and that usually doesn’t matter much in such games.)

          3. Kate*

            I used to play video games a fair amount, but then I started a hobby with concrete “products” at the end of the process, think woodworking, knitting, etc. I realized how disappointing/depressing it was for me to do something for hours and not have anything tangible to show for it. That was just me though, and I get that other people feel differently.

        3. Maxwell Edison*

          I’m not a gamer, but my son is, and I’ll sit and watch him play sometimes, ask questions, etc. so that I can understand what’s important to him and have a good conversation. Sometimes it’s a slog, but some of the games I really enjoy watching him play, and one or two I’d love to try out myself if I could ever figure out how to work the console control.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            And some have good plot lines!

            If my husband plays part of one of the Uncharted games while I’m out of the room, he has to catch me up on what happened in the story.

            1. Chinook*

              Glad to know that I am on the only one to watch their husband play video games. I truly enjoy the Final Fantasy and Prince of Persia storylines but just don’t have the hand/eye coordination to play and enjoy it at the same time. But, I am more than willing to pop the popcorn and watch while he plays.

            2. AnonEMoose*

              The story lines and the characters are why I love the Dragon Age franchise. The second game…honestly, not that great for the most part. But it did introduce some very cool characters, and established some important stuff for the third game.

              Only video game franchise to make me cry. And it brings up some really interesting (and sometimes difficult) choices.

        4. Temperance*

          FWIW, I was an avid reader as a kid, and even that was frowned upon. If you prefer solitary activities, you’re considered a weirdo. If you make contact with people through the internet, you’re an even bigger weirdo.

        5. Annie Moose*

          My mom… tries, but she has this sort of attitude of “if I don’t understand this thing, that’s because it’s not worthwhile”. For example, she didn’t grow up reading any sort of fantasy or sci-fi, so she dismisses all of it as childish. Same thing with videogames. She doesn’t “get” them, so that means they’re not something an adult should be interested in.

          Of course I’m the one, of all her children, who ended up a massive, unrepentant nerd. I used to feel like I had to hide this stuff around her, but eventually I realized that if I just talked about that kind of stuff as if it was all perfectly normal and of course she must agree that it’s all perfectly normal, it doesn’t give her an out to talk about how “immature” it is. (for example, if I talk about going to see such-and-such a superhero movie, and about the friends I’m going to see it with–it’s harder for her to dismiss it as childish if it’s in context of people she knows to be perfectly ordinary adults) Rather than try to argue her into changing her mind, I simply ignore any negative remarks she makes and continue to treat the subject as 100% unexceptional. (because it is!)

          And slowly–slowly!–her attitudes have started to change. I dunno if it was conscious or not, but I think she reached a point where she couldn’t reconcile the woman she knew me to be with the “childish” activities I did, and came down on the side of “well, if Annie does this thing [and is still a functional adult] then I guess it’s not that bad after all?”

      2. ZVA*

        I meant to say this in my prev. comment, sorry, but I downplay my own gaming (& nerdiness in general) because of that stereotype… It’s not something I reveal to colleagues/work contacts/casual acquaintances unless I know they’re into similar things, too. I’d rather not risk being seen as immature or childish in a situation where that might matter, especially since I mostly work with people old enough that they didn’t grow up gaming & thus are less likely to “get it” (in my experience).

        1. Anna*

          I did this, too. I played online RPGs and never told people. It is WAY more acceptable now than it used to be, but it took a long time for me to get comfortable talking about what games I played and so on.

        2. Candi*

          If you can do good work at your job, pay your bills, take care of your house, and make more than mac’n’cheese and ramen for dinner, you are free to be as ‘childish’ as you want!

          And what’s the point of being an adult if you can’t kick back, watch cartoons, and eat ice cream for breakfast when you want? Especially if you don’t have to be a ‘good role model’,

          (I may have occasionally okayed ice cream and cookies for dinner over the years for my kids.) :p

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        My FIL is like that, and always has been. And he’s a computer programmer! My husband grew up in the age of the NES, so there was no basis for “prior bad experience” since it didn’t exist, and his dad was always like that- wanted him and his siblings and then his employees to be out and doing something “productive” in their free time.

    2. Temperance*

      Honestly, I think this is a reach. I’ve met many people who think gaming is a waste of time, and that there are better things to do. I think pretending that it’s just a mere “small harmless hobby” in order to curry favor is probably not going to work out well. Pretending to care about sports or church because your boss does will not work out when he figures out that you don’t care about those things.

      I’m 33. Everyone I grew up with was exposed to video games, and I still come across some people who snidely dismiss them as a waste of time or for loser weirdos. People younger than me, even. It’s not an age thing.

      1. Adam*

        Yeah, I think a lot of people are fine with games when they’re younger, but consider it one of those things you should eventually grow out of in the same vein as cartoons and action figures.*

        *Which is also bogus. I’m 32 and love cartoons still and while I don’t play with action figures anymore I do own a “respectable” number of Amiibo (Google it. It’ll make sense).

        1. Temperance*

          I love Amiibo! I’m an unashamed Funko collector and I’ve been amassing a collection of Star Trek action figures. I just don’t care?

          I also am a huge cartoon freak. I sometimes think I get a bit of a “pass” because a lot of lawyers have weird hobbies and I’m female. The only piece of actual art in my home is an 8-bit nude painting.

          1. Adam*

            That’s awesome!

            Amiibo is such a trap. I’m generally reserved in my geeky collecting of things. Most of my items are T-Shirts or things that you can hang on a wall so they’re practical/don’t take up much space. But with Amiibo they’re so inexpensive and small (and I’m also a huge Nintendork) they’re like the perfect pint-sized collectible for me. Plus there’s the added psychological pull in that the more you have the cooler they collectively look.

        2. Michelle*

          Funny, I got flak for giving my Funko figurines to my 14yo son, because they are valuable collectibles and NOT FOR CHILDREN! (I signed up for a subscription box, but I really only wanted the comic books and t-shirts. My son loves the figurines and spends hours arranging them on his desk.) I guess people just have to judge you for something!

          1. Adam*

            To each their own, but in general I see these things as toys. If you keep yours in mint condition more power to you, but I’m not one for keeping things in boxes.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, whenever the issue of “screens” comes up in the NPR comment threads you’ll always get one or two parents who talk about how they prevented their kids from ever playing video games as if it were a moral imperative. It’s a really weird attitude.

          1. Candi*

            Because that’s an ‘easy, simple’ solution. That kind of thing makes me growls.

            I’ve found anecdata it prevents violence. People go home and blow virtual stuff up instead of getting into fights. Just having that valve available apparently helps.

        1. halpful*

          My mother wouldn’t even let me have a tamagotchi. Luckily a few computer games were allowed, though (or maybe it was just that she couldn’t stop my dad from getting me games for his computer). It *is* weird – mostly it just meant that I could only enjoy games with friends if they were the sort of games where button-mashing is fun (smash bros FTW!). One boyfriend was having serious trouble believing just how bad I was at trying to navigate in a 3d game – I couldn’t even walk in a straight line, let alone trying to turn corners. I think it took me an hour or two to cross one small ledge at the beginning of a zelda game – and it wasn’t even high enough for falling off to do damage.

          It did negatively affect my social life at one school, though – they weren’t sexist enough to not let me play games, but I was still at the button-mashing and running-off-cliffs level, so whichever team I was on was basically down a player.

      3. the_scientist*

        My brother played competitive minor hockey with a kid who was among Youtube’s top ten earners in the last two years. He makes an average of $300K A MONTH posting videos on Youtube of him and his buddies playing games. So far be it for me (or anyone) to tell another person that their hobby isn’t valuable enough or a good use of their time.

        Related, I’m apparently in the wrong field :)

      4. Robbenmel*

        I read this more as making an effort to connect in some other way…not “pretending to care” but just finding something in common, a human way to be friendly, rather than currying favor.

  19. Bee Eye LL*

    That’s major power tripping right there! His job is to approve the time off to make sure it doesn’t conflict with any other employee’s requested time off or company functions. His job is NOT to approve what you do on your time off.

  20. Turtle Candle*

    Wow, what a jerk move! Even if he thinks that video games are a complete and total waste of time–an opinion which I disagree with as a gamer myself, but whatever–it’s seriously none of his business. If you’d wanted to spend a vacation day lying in bed throwing darts at the ceiling, or arranging chinchilla races, or arranging matchsticks, or individually numbering your lentils, or any other pointless activity, that would also not be his business. Vacation is your time; that is the entire point of vacation. As long as what you plan to do isn’t “badmouth the company on national TV” or “rob banks,” it is not the business of your boss or your company.

    (You almost certainly already know this, but no matter how this shakes out, I think this is a good sign that you’ll want to be vague about personal stuff with this boss in the future; were this my boss, any question about what I was doing on my vacation or on the weekend or etc. would be met with answers like “spending time with friends” or similar. It sucks to have to do that, but now you know that this is someone who’s likely to get judgmental about your personal time. (I am fortunate that right now I have a boss who I can just straight-up tell “I’m taking March 21 off to play Mass Effect Andromeda on release day” and have the reply be “I wish I could do that! Have fun!” but that hasn’t always been the case, sadly.) To be clear, you shouldn’t have to be coy about how you spend your time, and I wouldn’t have expected to get that response either, but it might save you some headache if you are in the future with this boss specifically. With more reasonable bosses, sharing something like this wouldn’t be a problem.)

    1. fposte*

      Granted, I’m supremely lazy, but it just seems like a lot of managerial energy to have opinions on everything your staff does in their spare time. I’ve certainly vaguely thought that I wouldn’t enjoy that vacation/like that boyfriend/whatever when an employee consults me about time off, but ultimately who really cares aside from the employee?

      1. NW Mossy*

        So much this – it sounds exhausting. It’s helpful to me if they tell that if it’s for a fun reason or a non-fun reason simply so that I avoid the Foot In Mouth Disease situation where I tell them to enjoy their time off when they’re going to put their pet down or something, but that’s about it.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, exactly–I can’t imagine spending even a millisecond caring how another human being spends their vacation, as long as it’s not something like “kicking puppies” or “oppressing the weak.” I will sometimes ask in a small-talk-y way “Doing anything fun?” (although I certainly don’t press if I get a vague answer!), and if someone says something like “a polar bear plunge!” I might privately think wow, that so does not sound fun to me–but even then it’s not in a judgmental way but in a ‘what an amazing diversity of pleasures humans have!’ way. Actually caring? Nooooo, why would I?

      3. SCAnonibrarian*

        I am so glad I’m not the only one. I was feeling very introverted and uncaring because really I’m just like: do most bosses actually give a feathered crap what people get up to when they’re not at work? I actively try not to know because I figure it’s none of my business.

        1. ..Kat..*

          Feathered crapping sounds painful and an unworthy use of vacation time. Request for time off denied :)

      4. MWKate*

        Agreed. There are actual work things I can barely muster up the energy to care about, much less trying to put any significant emotional energy into caring about what someone is doing when they aren’t here.

      5. wealhtheow*

        I’m with you — I’m interested in hearing what my staff plan to do with their time off, if they want to tell me (and over the years many of them have — usually without my asking), but I don’t have the bandwidth to either pester them to tell me or judge them for their replies.

        We get sick days (for if you or a kid is sick or you have a bunch of medical appointments or whatever), personal days (for if you’re moving or need to do some kind of personal thing that can’t be done in the evening or on a weekend), and bereavement leave as well as vacation days. So I haven’t often run into the problem NW Mossy describes of saying “Enjoy your day off :)” to someone who’s taking a day off for a horrible reason. But of course people get way more vacation days (starting at 12 per calendar year employed) than personal days (3/year for everyone), so it has certainly happened a time or two that someone needed to use a vacation day for a non-fun purpose.

      6. TheBeetsMotel*

        At one point, a former manager at my job tried to impliment a policy whereby you had to tell him, during the week, it you were going out of town that weekend so he wouldn’t “try to call you if something came up”. (Bear in mind, this is an 8-5 mon-fri job, where weekend work is extremely rare).

        Yeah… no. No one took that one seriously. Guess what; the weekend’s the weekend, you should ALREADY ASSUME I’m not available because… it’s the weekend. “Going out if town” is not the only legitimate thing I could possibly be doing with my free time, and I’m running my personal life plans past precisely NOBODY for approval before I’m “allowed” to have my weekend to myself.

    2. INFJ*

      I almost spit my water out at “individually numbering your lentils”

      I’m actually wondering how this boss can be otherwise generally reasonable, except for this one thing. OP, if you’re reading, is this the first time you’ve asked for time off? Have any coworkers had a similar experience when requesting time off?

  21. Tuckerman*

    Your boss is obnoxious. The only thing I can think of, is if your company has a policy against using vacation time in the first year (my current job used to have this policy), he may see this as a special favor so attaching conditions is OK.
    Or, he might have been put off that you described it as a sports competition and then said it was for video games. It shouldn’t matter, but he might have thought you were trying to be sneaky and then overreacted to that.
    I hope you get to go to your competition and that you have a great time. I have a colleague who uses his vacation time almost exclusively for Scrabble tournaments. Has even competed internationally!

    1. Allison*

      The first YEAR? Dang . . . I could see it being frowned upon in the first few months, maybe the first 6 months, but to have a policy against taking any vacation for the first year is crazy.

      1. Tuckerman*

        So, we accrued time monthly, but it was to be used in the next FY. The vacation I’m using this FY was the time I earned last FY. They changed the policy a couple years ago, so we can also use what we’re currently accruing.

        1. wealhtheow*

          Ugh, my employer had this policy for a long time too, and it sucked, especially for those of us who started early in a new FY :P

          The conversation with job candidates about benefits is nicer now that we don’t have to say “… and you get 1 vacation day per month worked in your first year, but you can’t use it until next fiscal”.

      2. Chinook*

        I worked in an industry where that was the norm and it was a complete shock to all of us office staff (who were recruited form outside the industry) that we learned to give new staff a heads up about no vacation time in your first year. On the plus side, it meant a great little vacation pay out when I walked away from that job (since they still had to accrue it on my behalf).

  22. Temperance*

    Your manager sounds like a jerk. There are certain people who will hear “sports competition” and really get pumped and want to bro out about it, and those people seem to almost exclusively coincide with the type of people who are opposed to nerdy stuff. (I bet he wouldn’t care if you were taking the day off for a fantasy football draft, which also involves sitting around, or to watch a game of some sort.)

    I took time off work to go to Philly Comic Con. I’m doing it again this year, with no regrets. I regularly schedule a day off so I can sleep in and then watch Investigation Discovery all day.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I did wonder if the “sports” suggestion made the boss feel “lied to” when it came out to be what he considered “not a real sport.” OP couldn’t have predicted that, but I suppose for this particular boss it would have been better to keep it vague in another direction. Something for next time.

      1. Temperance*

        Some people have really strong feelings about e-sports being called sports (or e-sports), and react really weirdly about it. I agree with you that he could have felt lied to about the whole thing, because he considers sport superior.

  23. A.*

    This is another reason why it’s a good idea to not get too detailed about one’s personal life at the office. It’s a rookie mistake. Better to just request the time off and be vague if questioned. Taking a long weekend to go out of town, etc. It’s your time and the boss doesn’t get to decide what you do with it.

    1. Marcela*

      I absolutely disagree with that. I’m always very vocal about my love of cats and my hobbies. If you have a problem with that, I rather know it sooner than better so I can leave to be with better people. There WILL be a time when I will need a day off to take my cat to the vet. There WILL be a day when I won’t see my screen because I’m crying so much because my cat is dead. In those days, I will need a place full of decent and not judgemental people. Pretending you are some kind of bot without a life, and specially no “controversial” hobbies is precisely what’s going to land me in a place where I don’t want to be.

      1. fposte*

        I would split the difference and say it’s good to be circumspect while you’re still figuring out a new place, but that I really can’t agree that you never want to get too detailed. A lot of us work in places filled with decent and non-judgmental people, and sharing lives (within reason, oversharers!) increases work satisfaction.

        1. Anna*

          Exactly this. I tend to keep my hobbies quiet until I feel out a place, even though I live in a city with a massive number of geeky people, comic book publishers, and conventions.

        2. Emily*

          Yes, this! I might not talk much about my geekier hobbies and interests when I’m just getting to know people, but once I have a better read on the culture, I’m happy to tell people about the things I like. And I do filter a little depending on the audience (e.g. some people might only get to hear about how I play the viola and go to the climbing gym regularly, whereas I might tell other people about my favorite anime or how I’ve been playing a visual novel RPG where the goal is to keep a princess alive until her coronation).

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Agreed. I just requested time off and mentioned “family business.” That’s all my boss needs to know.

    3. EA*

      I sort of agree.

      I think it is better to be vague/quiet once people have proven to be nosy or judgement. I go on a lot of vacations on a pretty average salary (I budget for them and make compromises in other areas in order to afford them) and people always ask where I am going, I then respond, and I get ‘Oh are your parents or boyfriend taking you”; then I decide to be a smartass and respond “No, I am taking me”.

      Now people just get a vague “I have not decided yet”; and I only respond with the location if really pressed.

  24. Rincat*

    I’d definitely get clarification from Fergus about why he denied that. It sounds like it was because of the video gaming…but I’d want to be 100% before challenging that. It sucks that it seems like he has such a bias.
    I hope you can get it all worked out, OP! Congrats and good luck on the tournament!

    P.S. One of my hobbies is live action role playing, and in order to avoid situations such as this (which are ridiculous and it shouldn’t matter, but sometimes it does), I would just say I was camping. Which is technically true, and if my boss pressed for details, I’d just describe the place we were going (usually a state park), but there was no reason he needed any of the details about what we were doing.

  25. Pup Seal*

    I got last Friday off so I travel to another state to attend a writing conference. I was on my butt during most of that conference, and I also pitched my fantasy book to literary agents. From vacations, to conventions and conferences, to family conflicts, there are unlimited reasons why a person may want a day or week off from work, and I don’t think it’s the manager’s job to deem what activities are worthy to use up vacation days.

  26. Kalkin*

    Oof. You are totally in the right here, but even using Alison’s suggested phrasing, I’d be nervous about going to HR. Your manager might be reasonable about a lot of things, but his attitude so far on this matter suggests to me that he may very well see that as an attempt to undermine his authority, and could hold a grudge. (Obviously, a truly reasonable manager wouldn’t — but then, a truly reasonable manager wouldn’t have put you in this position.)

    I hope you can approach him and get it settled one-on-one. Personally, I would be tempted to tweak Alison’s suggestion and say something to him like, “OK, does our employee handbook have a list of what we are and aren’t allowed to use our vacation time for?” Phrasing it that way might force him to admit that he doesn’t really have any standing to deny your request.

    (If you have a trusted colleague who’s been there longer and knows him better, you might ask them for a read on the situation, too. It’s possible that your manager has been nice and reasonable because you’re a relatively green employee who rarely pushes back, and that he has a history of problematic behaviors along these lines, and is just exercising his authority unreasonably here because he feels confident he can get away with it in your case. If he’s been talked to about this kind of thing before, HR would more than likely want to know.)

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I agree and while I certainly hope for a positive outcome for OP, I’m not optimistic. I believe there are potentially some underlying issues with this boss that may not yet have surfaced since OP seems to be pretty new. Most reasonable and otherwise good bosses don’t do this kind of crap. I definitely agree with maybe chatting with a couple of trusted co-workers who’ve dealt with this boss for a while and have a good read on him to see what they’d say and what advice they might offer for dealing with him.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      Agree, unfortunately I suspect a boss like this needs to be handled with kid gloves and you should try your best to worm the day off out of him by his own agreement – or risk blowing the relationship, sadly. I would guess he’d take being “undermined” very badly. Give another conversation at least one more try, OP. If there’s any way to make it seem like his idea, or suck up a little, I’d suggest that route first … or maybe act like you’re just confirming that you have the day (assume the sale!) because past-him beneficently agreed to it. Don’t bring up video games again, just say you’re checking that you have the 21st off?

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        Rereading your letter OP if the boss really “refused to give you the time off” in a proactive way, then ignore my suggestion that you act like you thought he already granted it. (Also gas-lighting is wrong. But some things call for a Slytherin touch sometimes). If you really want to go to the competition, I propose getting visibly unwell the Wednesday before. Maybe go home a little early saying you feel sick. Then take Thursday and Friday as sick days (by not taking just the day you asked for originally you can hopefully avoid suspicion). I usually don’t recommend lying to new employees, but your boss is wrong here, and you don’t owe your employer your life.

  27. Bend & Snap*

    I had a boss like this once. It sucked. He wouldn’t approve vacation unless you told him you were going out of town. There was a year that I started trying to get vacation approved in September, he didn’t approve it till December and then yelled at me for wanting to take it all at once and revoked it.

    Everyone took a lot of “out of town” vacation days after that one.

    Not getting to take advantage of benefits is a real morale killer. Being judged for your hobbies is even worse. Now you know something valuable about your boss.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Only approved vacation for out of town trips?? Oh man, I hope someone said “If this is the only way you’re approving vacation, I’m going to need a raise so I can afford to leave town to use it all up.”

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      There’s this weird culture in almost every office I’ve worked at that if you don’t actually go somewhere on vacation, you’re either wasting your vacation days or are clearly sad and lonely and pathetic for taking days off to stay home. Which is ridiculous for a lot of reasons.

    3. Whats In A Name*

      I also had a boss like this!

      We lived in a tourist destination…family or friends in for a visit? Vacation denied. Want a day off to recoup after working 10 in a row because of weekend events? Vacation denied. Just want a day off because you live at the beach and it’s a slow time of year? Vacation denied.

      It was absurd. But no one ever quit. Instead we would call in sick and bid for any jobs in other departments.

    4. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Alison, can you suggest a good way to suss out a company’s vacation-taking culture? I’d only ask about it after an offer is made but can you suggest wording, please?

  28. Anonymouse*

    I was ordered to come back from a study staycation once when my boss realized that I had not gone out of town. I’m still not sure I was in the right. Regardless I learned to use as little PTO as possible.

    PTO is one of those “benefits” that I think a lot of companies don’t want you to actually use.

    1. H.C.*

      Sorry to hear, but you can (and probably should) push back when your boss called you to come in during your staycation, and hopefully you got those PTO hours back for those day(s).

      Also, if you are using as little PTO as possible – I hope that you are able to accrue those hours and that they get paid out when you leave that job.

    2. LoiraSafada*

      I got grief for using sick days to deal with an actual medical scare that required several appointments and an out-patient procedure. Everyone in my office EXCEPT MY THEN-BOSS went in on a get well soon arrangement for me. Awkward. Yet somehow, taking a full day off for a vague “dental appointment” or whatever was totally ok.

    3. Triangle Pose*

      Reasonable employers want you to use your PTO! I’m sorry you had that experience but I want to push back on the idea that a lot of employers don’t intend for you to use one of the pieces of your compensation.

    4. Mina*

      I once had a boss that commented, in an annoyed tone, during one of our weekly one-on-one calls, “wow, you really use all of your vacation days, don’t you?” when I requested upcoming PTO. I didn’t take excessive time off. I wasn’t requesting PTO during a busy time. Luckily, this person was an anomaly, as most bosses I’ve had were very reasonable about PTO.

  29. Kalkin*

    Also: It would be funny if you beat him, but then had to go on to fight a series of even bigger bosses to get your way.

    1. Adam*

      And funnily enough: the more bosses you beat down the line the more you reflect on how you’ve grown and how much of a pushover the first boss actually was.

    2. IrishEm*

      Maybe this was the first boss match and the protagonist has to go through a series of minibosses before returning to Fergus ;D

  30. Parenthetically*

    Full disclosure: I am a non-video-game person. I don’t understand the appeal, they are just not my jam, and I confess I have rolled my eyes at adults who spend 8 hours a day gaming. But all that is to say that even I think this is some ridiculous, judgy nonsense. If there isn’t a conflict, it is most definitely not his business whether you’re planning to sit in front of the tv in your underwear and systematically cover yourself in Dorito dust, or to serve food in a homeless shelter while blessing the residents with skillfully-rendered acoustic versions of their favorite 80s pop hits. Vacation days are vacation days, good Lord.

    1. Adam*

      Totally. Who’s to say how a person effectively recharges themselves? Lately I’ve been considering taking days off to sit at home and catch up on my personal reading.

    2. Lady Blerd*

      I can spend an entire a day Netflix and knitting. My friends think it may have something to do with why I’m a spinster but I don’t care, it’s how I decompress.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I love this and think we should be friends. Not least because I need to finish this baby sweater soon!

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Netflix and quilting here. Especially after school breaks or extended family visits. I schedule days like that into my week wherever I can. I know I’m not as productive as I would be if the TV were off but I don’t care.

        1. Nea*

          That’s why I listen to podcasts while knitting or quilting (I do both). Don’t have to look away from whatever I’m working on.

      3. Alex the Alchemist*

        I, too, am a Netflix and knitter. My girlfriend’s a gamer. We spend our days off in my dorm room with her playing video games and me watching movies and knitting. It works out that we’re both introverts who just enjoy each other’s company.

        1. Julia*

          That’s the best. My favourite times are putting some good show on and doing something like playing The Sims (in my case, I mostly build houses), trying to craft or similar, while my SO plays Pokémon on his 3DS. I could do without the occasional sudden “arrrrgh no”, though.

          1. Alex the Alchemist*

            I’ve been loving the Sims too, but I like to go full-on HGTV on the houses already built as opposed to building my own. Blame my mom for getting me obsessed with Property Brothers.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I share your view completely and indeed, vacation days are vacation days. I like to use mine for hair appts, nail appts, and random afternoons of shoe shopping and wouldn’t appreciate anyone judging me for what I choose to use my time for. To each their own.

    4. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

      I routinely take time off to take do things with my Girl Scout troop. I get some eye rolls from co-workers “But that’s not a vacation.” Yeah…I know. But it’s fun!

  31. paul*

    OP: take Alisons’ advice and furthermore, make it a general practice not to tell people what your vacation plans are. It isn’t their business.

    For all they know I may be out on a 10 mile hike…..or I may be getting slightly sloshed playing Fallout 4. It ain’t their business. The *only* time I give more details is if I’m going to be truly, utterly unreachable for a day or more (which is the case sometimes) since disaster response is part of my job–my boss needs to know that she’ll have to handle anything that comes up (fires, floods, tornadoes–mostly notifying other locations that we’ll be down and any major regional impacts).

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Another reason to keep the destination quiet is that a former boss used to pull me back to work if she felt like I was “just staying home” or whatever. She wouldn’t hesitate to email and then follow up her email with a call (like I was working from home, basically) if she knew I wasn’t unreachable. For 40K a year, with a crappy number of vacation days anyway, I really wanted my time off to be respected *as if* I was unreachable – so I stopped telling her where I was going. “I’ve got something to take care of,” I’d say, and exit stage left immediately. Didn’t stop her from emailing, but stopped the calls to my personal cell phone (that work didn’t pay for).

      1. Elizabeth*

        I used to do the “might book a last minute vacay somewhere!” card when I was taking a staycation. I actually did have a good level of separation between work and home, but I wanted that extra layer of “I might not be around, don’t contact me” just in case.

  32. Adam*

    In less than a month The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming out and I’m totally taking a day or two off to sit at home and play. I keep hitting my vacation accrual ceiling anyways and am too broke to take an actual trip somewhere so I might as well, right?

    1. Kalkin*

      In college, when we had no money for travel but were playing a bunch of Warcraft, one of my best friends and I joked about making shirts that read: “I SPENT MY SPRING BREAK IN AZEROTH.” Hyrule sounds even better!

        1. HR Bee*

          My BFF and I take a vacation day every year to play Zelda for 16 hours straight. Hyrule is the BEST vacation spot.

          1. Adam*

            Do you aim to complete a couple games in that time or play highlights of your favorites. :)

            I’ve been dubbed the Zelda Gatekeeper in my friend circle. My enthusiasm for the next game caused one guy who hadn’t bought a console in years to go and pre-order the Switch.

      1. Chinook*

        “Hyrule sounds even better!”

        Depending on which version you are visiting, you could technically stay there for ever with either the help of a few magical notes or a giant meteor.

        1. Adam*

          *Thumbs up*

          Also the one patterned after what (I think) might be the Mediterranean isles would be good for a vacation. Definitely wouldn’t live there though.

    2. Michelle*

      Both of my adult sons play Destiny on PS4. Whenever they have an update or expansion pack, they both take a day or two off and play. They have never had a problem with getting their time off approved.

      I think the boss in this submission is rude and judgmental. People enjoy different things and it’s not like OP asked him to come and watch.

    3. MH*

      That’s the best part! with the Switch you can take it ANYWHERE! So you can go to a place OP’s boss would approve, then play until your heart’s content.

      1. Adam*

        I am eager to test that part out. I think I’ll be too paranoid about breaking it so I probably won’t use that feature too much, but I may park myself in a few coffee shops to start out with.

  33. Openly Geeky*

    As someone who generally uses vacation time to sit on my butt and rest from my strenuous work schedule, WTH? Isn’t that …. kind of the point of vacation?

    As popular as geek culture has gotten lately, there’s still a weirdness around it. I can’t hide my geekiness anymore, since I wrote a book about it, but my co-workers and professional contacts are still very surprised. No one’s been this hostile, but I wouldn’t say they think highly of it. Good luck, OP! I hope that Alison’s great advice works for you.

  34. Tomato Frog*

    Or just go back to your boss and say “Did I say video games? I meant decathlon. Now can I have the day off?”

  35. Amber Rose*

    Never tell a boss what you’re doing for vacation. I once told a boss that husband and I were hoping to take a couple days in a certain city with a popular park in it, and he apparently really hated that city and spent 15 minutes lecturing me on what a hole it is.

    So while gaming stuff is probably more likely to net you some flak (undeserved, but reality is reality), you really have no idea what’s going to set someone off. It’s just not worth the risk. Tell people “I have an event with some friends” or some vague non-thing and leave out the details.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I think that’s a silly rule. You can get to know your boss and workplace to judge this, but advising people to blanket “never tell what you’re doing” is going to create some really awkward interactions if people follow that advice.

      I went abroad over Christmas and took some time. At my workplace, I talked to my boss about how excited I was to go. It would’ve been really really weird and awkward if I avoided telling just because….

      1. Parenthetically*

        Just from reading this thread, it seems like this is an office culture thing. I have a great relationship with my boss and coworkers, and it would seem incredibly strange not to tell them about the big camping trip I was taking with my husband, or even the midwife appointment I have to take time off for next week. But in places with frostier, more formal cultures, I can see why it would be a smart self-protective maneuver to keep mum about stuff like this.

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Agree, it varies by place. Sadly, OP has now learned something about the culture at their workplace.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Not really. Your boss isn’t your friend. They don’t need to know what you are or aren’t excited about.

        Obviously it’s going to vary from workplace to workplace. I’ve been close enough to some of my managers to tell them, for example, about wanting to take a week off to dress up like an anime character at a con. But if you aren’t close enough to a manager to know, better to just shrug it off as “I have plans.”

        1. Parenthetically*

          “Your boss isn’t your friend. They don’t need to know what you are or aren’t excited about.”

          My boss is very much a friend. His wife was one of the first people who knew I was pregnant, and they’ve been there through a lot of stuff with me over the years. Again, this is about using your own best judgment and reading the culture of your particular office, not making blanket statements.

        2. Leatherwings*

          My boss isn’t my friend per say, no- it’s not like we go drinking together or go to the movies. But in *some* (probably many) workplaces, it’s going to come across as really really weird if you intentionally avoid disclosing major life events like a trip abroad or exciting vacation or dodge regular questions like “Oh, sure you can have next Friday off. Any particular plans?” all the time.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, exactly. It’s not a thing where blanket rules work. There are workplaces where people are genuinely warm and friendly about this kind of thing and where you’d come across as oddly chilly if you refused to ever say what your plans were outside of work, and others where you’ll learn that it’s better to be vague with a manager. But I don’t want to encourage people — especially junior people who are just figuring out how to operate — to think this is a “never do” because it’s not.

        1. Temperance*

          You can usually feel this out pretty quickly. I used to work for a woman who only approved of “normal” activities (hunting and fishing for men, crafting and crocheting for women), so I just kept my head down and talked about Quizzo if she wanted to know what I was doing for fun. I kept the fandom/nerdery away from her, because she was openly judgmental of anything “freaky” or “strange”.

    2. Jersey's Mom*

      Heh. If I plan a fun vacation to a destination, I usually tell my boss I’ll need XX days off, cause I’m going to “happy fun destination”, and before I can say another word, he’ll launch into a description of one of his past vacations.

      Maybe next time I’ll say Azeroth or Hyrule and see if he picks up on it…..or if I get another travelogue lecture about Seattle.

  36. Audiophile*

    I’m usually hesitant to divulge what I’m requesting time off for, because I’ve worked under several bosses that were as rigid as OP’s boss.

    I think there are a few issues here: when OP described it as a sports competition, boss was expecting to hear basketball, baseball, etc. Most people don’t equate video games with sports. I don’t think is necessarily generational, I have friends who wouldn’t consider a video game competition an appropriate use of time off. (We’re all in our mid 20s to early 30s.)
    The other issue is that OP felt the need to divulge in the first place why they were requesting time off. I’ve learned to just say I have a doctor’s appointment. It is usually easier than being completely honest.

    I agree that the boss is being unreasonable, but it may prove even more difficult to get the time off approved now.

  37. NW Mossy*

    When I first became a manager, my company had me in this multi-day training session to learn about managing people and work through simulations and such. One of the simulations involved managing a high-performing new hire who wanted to go to Bonaroo, but you needed her in the office on the requested day. The whole thing was framed as “look at how unreasonable this employee is being for something so frivolous!”, and to this day, it burns me up every time I think about it. No one else in my table group seemed to think it was a problem, and I admit that I jumped on a soapbox over this fake situation perhaps more intensely than strictly necessary, but I really wanted to put paid to the notion that it’s OK for managers to make emotional judgments about what’s a “good reason” to take time off.

    To me, the good reason for PTO is that you have it available to you as part of your benefits package. I don’t get some special right as a boss to tell people what their extracurriculars should be to please me. Unless you’re grooming people for public office and telling them to avoid behaving in ways that are illegal, unethical, or compromising to their electability in the future, stay out of it.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I haaaate that. I was at a panel at a very large industry conference where someone mentioned how their employee once asked off for their dog’s birthday, and everyone laughed. It wasn’t an isolated incident- a lot of managers in my industry seem to actively resent their employees for wanting a life outside of work, which is even weirder when you consider that my industry is known for low pay and poor benefits. Who cares what someone wants the day off for? If the time is available and they follow the company guidelines to ask, it shouldn’t matter.

      1. SL #2*

        It’s a 3-day music festival in Tennessee (I forget where exactly) that has camping options and whatnot, similar to Coachella. It tends to fall on a Friday-Sunday.

  38. Ghostwriter*

    I just negotiated a new job this morning and asked my soon-to-be-boss for two days off in June…so that I can run an adventure race across a state. I left that last part out, because many people don’t see the point in it.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I generally will only run if it’s from a bear or for a bus, but I have great admiration for people who take on these kinds of challenges. I’m horribly prone to side-stitches when I run (but can do other forms of cardio without issue), so I’ve got a little bit of envy for those that can get out there and kick butt.

  39. Liz2*

    As someone with a lot of Alt interests, this is why I generally keep it to “seeing friends from out of town” or “going out of town to see friends” generic. No, it should never matter, yes it often can.
    The advice given on how to navigate now is fabulous and I wish everyone could just be relaxed about what they do on their weekends. But no one is entitled to know and people WILL judge and cause negative consequences.

  40. Delta Delta*

    If you had to get a root canal and a crown you’d be “sitting on your butt.” Or if you had to get a colonoscopy you’d be, well, not “sitting on your butt” but certainly not doing a whole lot. Medical and vacation are different, I know, but where does this boss draw the line? Think he’d say you don’t get a medical day if you’re not actively symptomatic?

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      My last company wouldn’t let me take time off for a root canal because it was a doctor’s appointment and I wasn’t “sick”. My boss said that if she could come in after the procedure without taking time off, I could too. That was the last time I tried to schedule sock days in advance for medical appointments.

      So glad I don’t work there anymore.

      1. Oryx*

        Yeah, this seems to be a office by office mentality where “sick” time is supposed to be reserved for days you wake up with the flu or whatever. Thankfully I work somewhere that allows me to use sick time for doctor’s appointments and such.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Yeah, I know a few people who’ve had similar experiences. I rarely get sick, so I was always annoyed I couldn’t use my sick time for doctor’s appointments and had to use vacation time instead. It made no sense.

          Thankfully I work somewhere now that doesn’t require me to take time off for an hour or two appointment and trusts that I’ll make up the time/work later that day or week. It’s nice to know I can take time off for an appointment if I need to, but that I also have the option to just manage my own time as I see fit.

  41. Lady Blerd*

    It’s stories like this that remind me of why labour exist however imperfect they may be. I once had a HR manager who disapproved of an employee taking some time off because he was going overseas with his wife to adopt a child! He was a letter of the law type of person and because our book on leave benefits included two examples of what the PTO could be used for, said manager had a very narrow interpretaion for their use so. Thankfully, it was our CEO’s prerogative to decide if he’d grant it if judged the reasons to be valid. The manager was unsruprisingly overruled.

  42. LadyCop*

    Maybe he doesn’t understand its an actual competition…not that that would change how ridiculous he’s being.

    Also…Overwatch right?

  43. Lisa B*

    Hahahaha I took the day off for Prince William’s wedding to Catherine. My mom came up, we made tea and watched the whole thing. :) I worked in a great place and my colleagues only gave me some light-hearted teasing. I got zero push back. And I will absolutely not admit how old I am.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      This is great! I had a very close relationship with my former bosses and asked for days off for my hobbies on occasion. Their response was always, “Have fun, nerd.” They expected a similar response from me when they were out of office for their hobbies. It was a really good environment. :)

    2. Marillenbaum*

      That sounds delightful! I remember watching it that day–I had my Arabic final, and then I raced home to watch the whole thing on the Royal Family YouTube channel. It was so great!

  44. regina phalange*

    Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever had this issue. Once, my former boss and I both had teams in the Final 4 in a city that was within driving distance and he said if our teams were playing each other in the final that we were going to go – pretty sure he was serious. Most reasonable bosses don’t care. Sure they might ask out of curiosity and as a getting to know you type of thing but judging you for how you are spending your EARNED paid time is very much out of line. Would love to see an update on this as well.

  45. Fleur*

    We have a similar culture problem at our office, where basically your PTO isn’t respected unless you’re going out of town or to some wilderness somewhere, because rest assured, management will find an “emergency” to force you to come into work anyway.

    We work very long hours too, and personal/rest days are sorely needed, so now everyone is always “out of town with limited access to Internet with family,” regardless of what their actual plans are.

    OP, it sucks that the first time you encountered this was for an important tournament. I hope you can still work this out, but it may just end up being a painful lesson learned not to trust your manager with your plans.

    1. Liz2*

      Ah yes, I had a workplace like that also. I had to ask for time off MONTHS ahead of time, then not mention a single peep until I was headed out the door (with printed documentation of their approval of the time). They would be gawping like a fish out of water.

      If I gave them ANY reminder, suddenly my day would be filled with insane made up “emergencies” and micro management.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      LOL. Biglaw was JUST like this, except they were explicit and told us that on our vacations and weekend we were absolutely NOT ALLOWED to be unreachable by phone – no retreats in the mounts or anywhere that you don’t have internet/phone access. Unless you were literally in rehab (which is somehwhat protected by the ABA) you were not allowed to take vacation in a place that made you unreachable. The partner explicitly said that we cannot take vacations in any “no phones” destinations.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      What do these places do when they call you and you say “I just finished my 6th margarita and I can’t possibly come in?” Do you get in trouble for actually being unable to come to work on your vacation day?

      1. Pwyll*

        This happened to me in my law firm job with some crazy client fake emergency at 10 PM the 3rd day of my vacation. They told me to get a coffee, a water, and an advil, take 15 minutes to get my head straight, and then login and draft the documents they needed. Sigh.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          Yep, sounds about right. So glad I’m out of the law firm world now. Turns out law is a great gig once I don’t have to deal with fake client emergencies.

  46. Jael*

    A cool “I have personal business to attend to” has been my standard answer for many years. I’ve very rarely had to follow up being questioned with a frosty “Meaning none of yours”.

  47. Amethyst*

    I’d be so tempted to ask him what he does on his vacation days. I probably would not actually ask him unless he got all rant-y about it.

    Definitely go back and use Alison’s wording to see if you can get approved. It’s really none of his business how you use your time off, so I would be more vague in the future.

  48. V-Rex*

    Boss was very wrong. Luckily my boss doesn’t care what we do on our days off, as long as you put in notice before the schedule is written, and not try to take off during the busy season. I’m going to an anime con in a month, not because I care that much about anime but it’s a central gathering point of friends so I can see them all in one location.

    Here’s an oldie but goodie on entitlement and time off, although not from the same perspective.

    Here’s one of the most relevant quotes from the post.

    I remember hearing an upset comics editor telling a roomful of other editors about a comics artist who had taken a few weeks off to paint his house. The editor pointed out, repeatedly, that for the money the artist would have been paid for those weeks’ work he could easily have afforded to hire someone to paint his house, and made money too. And I thought, but did not say, “But what if he wanted to paint his house?”

    Best of luck, OP.

    1. Candi*

      My thought on that is, “How do you know he could afford to hire someone to paint his house?”

      If you’re not living with someone, you have no true idea of what part of their paycheck is dedicated to what. And it’s none of the boss’ business as long as the company isn’t at risk. (Thinking embezzlers specifically.)

  49. Nan*

    Boss is a turd. I name all my time off requests (we have an electronic system) and I have April 4th off because the new BDB book comes out. My request is labelled Book Nerd! Reading Day!! My boss approved it, and asked what I was reading. She said she took days off to read Harry Potter when they came out. So, yeah, I’m sitting on my butt, with my nose in a book, and if work interrupts me, I’ll be grumpy at them.

    The next time turd boss asks, tell him it’s your annual Hookers and Blow day.

      1. Nan*

        Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward. First book in the series is Dark Lover. Paranormal vampire romance. Don’t judge me :)

        1. Rachel Green*

          The series sounds familiar, but I haven’t read them. No judgement from me, though! I love all kinds of books!

  50. SCAnonibrarian*

    Your boss is a sh!tsock, and I’m sorry you have to find out this way that he’s a judgey grump.

    I really think Alison’s scripts will save this for you, but in the future, it’s always easier to have ‘appointments’ that you need the time off for. If he asks what the appointment is for, then the beautifully cheerful “I don’t discuss personal matters at work. It’s nothing that will impact my performance, don’t worry!” shuts that right down. (Also I think that combo of ‘appointments’ and ‘personal matters’ makes people think of vague and scary medical stuff without ever actually lying, which is a nice bonus.)

    Good luck and I hope you do well in your competition!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, in a lot of environments, saying “I don’t discuss personal matters at work” is going to mark you as out of sync with the culture. That doesn’t mean that you have to discuss personal matters at work; it just means that if you care about how you’re perceived, you need to soften the wording and instead say something vague like “oh, just a personal appointment.”

      1. Parenthetically*

        “I don’t discuss personal matters at work” might work in some contexts, but… I got a hilarious and sweary series of texts and accompanying photos last night from a coworker who is cleaning out her daughter’s bedroom, if that gives you any idea of where my workplace falls on that spectrum.

        1. SCAnonibrarian*


          I feel suddenly quite conservative and reserved in my workplaces so far. :)

          Still tho – the basic idea is the same, right? People need a solid non-negotiable phrase that fits their office culture but allows them to essentially say ‘I’m not answering your (nosy) question so stop pestering me about it.’

          It’s the purpose of the phrase that’s important – whatever level of casual or reserved or chilly or joking gets you there without burning bridges or being an oddball (but I personally think sometimes being known as a bit of an oddball is ok if that’s what it takes to stand up for yourself, if you’re a good employee and coworker and culture fit otherwise).

        2. wealhtheow*

          OMG I feel for your coworker! My kid left her room “decluttered” last summer when she went off to camp so I could repaint it … but when I opened the door I discovered that despite the many bags of stuff I had seen her remove from her bedroom, her definition of “decluttered” was my definition of OMG NOT DECLUTTERED AT ALL. I took progress photos every day for several weeks (she was gone a month) and saved them in an album on my phone called “Unf***ing [Name]’s Habitat”, and I for sure showed them to some of my colleagues, because I was damn proud of the transformation I achieved!

          (IOW, at my workplace some of us overshare more than others, but “I don’t discuss personal matters at work” would produce a lot of raised eyebrows and hurt feelings.)

          1. Parenthetically*

            This particularly cracked me up because the first picture in the text thread was of the cover of the new Un**** Your Habitat book.

        3. TMI Anon*

          My boss and I talk about our personal lives fairly freely, and he’s frequently used me as a sounding board for issues regarding children and technology (they had children rather late). This was fine, sometimes even hilarious, up until his oldest discovered adult websites last year. I credit AAM with how calmly I was able to say, “I actually don’t want to have this conversation. No, really. I’m not comfortable discussing your 12 year old’s… awakening. So, work thing…”

  51. animaniactoo*

    I have to admit that when I first saw the headline, I thought there was going to be a conflict and the employee was going to be the one out of line.

    But no. I’ve taken days off just to stay in bed. How you spend your time off is completely up to you. Nobody gets to say what a “legitimate” use of that time is. And pursuing something that you’re passionate about, one that keeps you happy and healthy is actually a pretty damn good use of that time.

    I think that even before getting into “It sounded like you were fine with my taking the day until I mentioned my plans”, I’d cross-check. “Fergus, is there a work conflict for the 28th? Is there anything in particular going on then?”

    Because I think it’s important to nail down that there’s no particular work conflict – in part so that OP can then go on to push the point that Fergus’ objection is OP’s plans, which is not up to Fergus to pass approval on – only whether or not that particular day works from a business standpoint. I think that waiting to say “do you really not want me to use my vacation days unless I’m spending them on something that you okay” is a little trapsetting and could be counterproductive rather than pushing the point upfront that there’s no business reason to deny the day and building from that agreement.

    1. Michele*

      Corporate policy here is that vacation days can only be carried over into the first quarter of the following year. We have reached the point where people are just taking three day weekends to use the days. Some people are absolutely taking days off this month just so they can sleep in and have the house to themselves for a few hours.

  52. Michele*

    I used to have a direct report whose previous boss was like Fergus. Any time he took a day off, he got himself worked up to give me a spiel about what he was going to do and why it was important. He never really accepted that the department policy (which I wholly support) is that as long as your work is done, your time is your time. It is messed up how a bad boss can create a paranoia that affects people for years.

    1. Parenthetically*

      That’s genuinely so awful. I see a similar thing with some of my students coming up from a particularly unkind, demanding teacher (who thankfully no longer works here) — they fall all over themselves explaining why they can’t do P.E., or ask for the lights off because they have a headache, and are truly shocked when I say, “Hey, it’s your body, I trust you. Do your best and listen to your limits.” Oddly (*eyeroll*) I never have problems with people faking sick or trying to get out of work. Treating people like adults so they’ll act like adults even works with 13-year-olds.

    2. Anna Pigeon*

      Yeah, the whole entitled millennial thing is so opposite my experience, especially on vacation time. My experience is with that young employees are visibly nervous when asking for time off, even if the response is consistently, “let me check my calendar, yup, that day/week is fine.”

      1. MadGrad*

        I almost feel like there’s a causal relationship there. We get so many messages about how lazy and entitled everyone supposedly thinks we are that a lot of us tend to second-guess asking for time off or similarly reasonable requests. Thankfully places like AAM are around to reinforce that it’s OKAY to do these things within reason.

    3. Candi*

      That’s another reason to despise bad bosses/employers. Not only do they screw up good workers, then the good managers afterwards have to help them heal and understand they’re safe now, which is all kinds of emotional awful for everyone, nevermind how it affects the business. (Which is the lesser concern.)

      Just don’t poison good workers, bad bosses!

  53. LittleLove*

    While I have never taken time off for gaming, I am 59 years old and play most every day. And not candy crush. Serious DiabloIII. My demon hunter will eat your demon hunter for lunch. I find slaughtering demons and having to focus all my attention on the game is an enormous mental health benefit. Helps with my anxiety attacks and depression. So poo on this boss.
    My next vacation will be spent replacing windows and laying a new hardwood floor. I’d rather be killing demons.

    1. NW Mossy*

      Diablo II was the only game I ever got into, and while my schedule doesn’t allow for anything beyond Candy Crush on the bus any more, I still sometimes think of my Mephisto-farming Javazon with great fondness. Perhaps when I retire I’ll get back into gaming again, just in time for my atrophied reflexes to lead me to slaughter!

    2. paul*

      You’re killing the demons of home repair.

      We need to redo our floors but I’m as handy as a drunken bonobo so I’m putting it off.

  54. Lentils*

    Yikes! I hope you’re able to get the day off, OP. And good luck in the tournament! It sounds super fun even though I’m terrible at video games.

    I’m always a little vague about what I’m doing when I request days off for ComiCon, for this exact reason. My managers haven’t had an issue yet (and my former manager actually went to cons too, so he was totally chill about it) but I get anxious about asking anyway.

  55. ilikeaskamanager*

    I would actually like to hear from the OP and get a clarification: was the OP actually requesting a vacation day? This matters, and the letter isn’t clear. “a day off” might have been an unpaid day off, an accommodation (“I will work more on days xyz to make up the time”) or a vacation day.

    1. SCAnonibrarian*

      Why does it matter tho? I supervise a whole slew of part time people and they don’t get any paid time off – sick or otherwise. But we do have a schedule to cover and they do have lives outside of work, so they get to make vacation requests as they like – with the understanding that if they ask off they obviously aren’t getting those shifts and therefore not getting paid.

      If there’s an established leave policy of some kind, and no work-based conflicts, then why should it matter if it’s unpaid leave tracked just to keep the schedule viable, or PTO, or banked vacation leave or whatever? I’m genuinely curious because I’ve never thought of my part time workers’ vacation requests as different from those from the full timers.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Because I get a set number of paid days off per year, I am not allowed to take unpaid time off work. The idea being that I get X number of days and I am expected to have butt at desk the rest of the year, minus sick days.

        I’m not saying I agree with this policy, but in my experience it’s extremely common. Even my old job made me start eating into my vacation time if I took more than my six days of sick leave, because they refused to allow me unpaid time off. That really sucked when I had to take a week and a bit for pneumonia, let me tell you.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think we can give the LW the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t asking for anything they’re not supposed to do, like take unpaid time off in your example.

    2. wealhtheow*

      Does it matter? Why? Not snarking, genuinely curious.

      If it’s a vacation day, it’s part of LW’s compensation and is their time to do with as they like.

      If it’s an unpaid day, then as long as there’s no work-related reason that LW must be in the office that day, LW is adequately compensating their employer for their absence by not getting paid.

      If it’s a request to not work those hours and make them up some other time, then, again, it’s the manager’s prerogative to approve that or not (and the company may have a policy explicitly permitting or not permitting those kinds of arrangements), but the reason for the request should make no difference.

      If the LW had used up all their (paid) vacation days and was now asking for unpaid time, I as the manager might be annoyed because that’s an administrative PITA for payroll and also because I might feel it was poor planning on the LW’s part (though in this case not so much, because it sounds like LW was not totally expecting to make it into this competition so couldn’t have known they needed to save a vacation day for it). But in fact this is LW’s *first request for a vacation day*, so none of that applies.

      1. Pwyll*

        As someone who literally just finished a long weekend I scheduled for myself to just relax, eat pizza and play video games, I’m sorry OP. It’s one of the reasons I’m intentionally vague about my vacation plans, as many others have mentioned above. Which is silly, I should be able to share my plans the same as the crazy people who think walking up a mountain for hours is a good use of vacation time without being judged. But people are weird.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d like a clarification on why it matters. Also, keep in mind that it didn’t matter to the boss until he heard what the LW planned to do that day.

      1. ilikeaskamanager*

        it matters because while a vacation day is part of your compensation, taking an unpaid day or requesting a change in one’s schedule to accommodate time off in most organizations is not, and the company is not ‘obliged’ to give you the time off. That said, it sounds as though the manager was out of line, but it’s important to clarify that vacation time is different from accommodating somebody’s request for time off that isn’t part of their compensation package.

  56. Rachel Green*

    This is why I’m always very vague about my reasons for taking personal leave or even sick leave. People will judge you for how you spend your personal time off. And they will judge you for taking sick leave when “it’s just a cold.” If I want to stay home for a bad headache or take a day off to visit a cat cafe, that’s my call, and if my work isn’t seriously impacted by my absence, then what’s the problem?

    This post, though not as egregious, reminds me of the boss who was willing to grant time off for a concert, but not for an employee’s college graduation.

    1. Kath*

      Exactly. People who leave for weeks at a time for honeymoons and family reunions never get any flack regardless of how disruptive their absence is, but the judgy pushback I get for even considering scheduling one-off half days to take care of personal stuff is unbelievable. It makes me feel like there’s something legitimately wrong with my life choices that will always get in the way of having a healthy career.

        1. Zombii*

          “Promiscuous sex with multiple partners, obviously.” (If you’re in the mood for a bridge-burning.)

  57. Nathaniel*

    This is a good example of why lines should be kept between personal life and work life. Many of us have a tendency to overshare, which in a way is a subtle sign of under-confidence. Keep your boundaries up for the best professional outcome.

  58. Mark in Cali*

    I remember as a young, wide-eyed and naïve wage worker I ALWAYS told my managers why I needed the time off. In my head it somehow made me feel like a better worker so they knew I wasn’t wasting my time elsewhere. To be fair to myself, time off was usually requested so that I could balance multiple jobs at once and I was worried it would seem odd that I was asking for so much time off when I was already working limited, part-time hours.

    However, they never really cared why I was taking the time off, not even there. I’m sorry this is your experience with your first professional job manager, OP. What a presumptuous and haughty person to judge what you can and can’t do with your time off.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think this urge is leftover from school and parents, where the authorities really -did- have the right to say, “that’s not an excused absence” or “I don’t approve of your activity.”

      1. Michele*

        You are probably right. Throw in a few early restaurant or other jobs where they were treated like garbage, and young employees have to feel like they have to justify everything.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And managers probably get the urge from the same place.

        It’s always fascinating to me how often people get thrown off by trying to apply stereotypically parental or grade-school authority/roles in the business world.

        (Actually, my own mother’s parental style is something that often works for business–but she was a pretty unusual parents.)

    2. snowball*

      and most of the time as your manager I don’t care! I’ve had someone include in their request the exact reason why they needed to go see the dentist so soon after their last appointment (TMI) when “I have an appointment” would have been more than enough information!

      1. Zombii*

        Counterpoint: If you don’t want TMI, don’t ask open-ended questions; people sometimes misinterpret those as genuine interest. :) Ask whether it’s “PTO or medical,” and/or whatever your company uses.

  59. MadGrad*

    By contrast, my boyfriend just won an amazon gift card in a Mariokart 8 competition last Friday. He was loudly praised as bringing great honour and glory to his team. Some people play video games even at work!

  60. TootsNYC*

    Maybe go back to him and ask to take MORE days off.
    Tell him, “Since you won’t let me go to the tournament with the rest of my team, I’ve decided to go visit my cousin, and I need travel time.”

    Of course, that’s burning your days off. But you could THEN come back and say, “My cousin won’t be home; he couldn’t get the vacation days since his boss didn’t think he needed it for my visit. So I’m just going for the weekend, and I need Friday for travel time. I’m putting those days off back in the pot.”

  61. mf*

    Really good advice from Alison here. You could also try playing dumb when you talk to Fergus again:

    You: “I’m confused. It seems like you were fine with me taking a vacation day until I said it was for a video game competition. Why is that an issue?”
    Him: “I don’t give time off for my employees to sit on their butts and play video games.”
    You: [with a genuinely confused expression] “Sorry, I’m still really confused. I don’t understand why the way I spend my personal time has anything to how I’m allowed to use my vacation time. Can you explain?”
    Him: [rants about video games and/or why you should be working instead]
    You: “See, I still don’t get it. I thought vacation time was for things like this, so I can ensure that my personal life doesn’t interfere with work. Is there a company policy on this I can review? Is there a list of approved activities? I feel like that would be so helpful.”

  62. The Claims Examiner*

    I tempted at a place before my current job that frowned on a lady taking a day off to read the new Harry Potter book when it came out. One day, planned far in advance, to do whatever she pleased.

    This is ridiculous. I would just say “a vacation day” in the future.

  63. Yoshi (name-changed for this one)*

    I think people can get really weirdly snobby about some things other people do for fun.

    I used to work for Nintendo, so I associate gaming with work and not holidays!

  64. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    Sorry you had this experience.

    My manager asks why I’m taking time off, but just to make conversation and take an interest in my life – it has no bearing on whether I get it and she only asks after approving it.

    1. SL #2*

      And this is how it should be! Approval first, then asking about vacation plans as a conversation starter and as a social nicety. It would be very unlike my boss to not ask at all about my vacation plans, but she never asks until it’s approved and even then, she probably would not even blink an eye even if I told her that I planned on staying at home and sleeping.

  65. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    Next thing you know, OP’s boss will want to know what they do with their paychecks and then refuse to pay them if he doesn’t like the answer. :-(

    1. Gadfly*

      You can only buy bread if it is whole wheat. Dairy and eggs are okay for now, if low fat, cage free, etc. Next month you need to go vegan, however. Put half of that in savings–and rent a smaller, cheaper apartment…

      1. Julia*

        I would like to point out that I know far more meat eaters that lecture vegetarians/vegans on their eating habits than the other way around.

  66. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    Oh my.

    My boyfriend planned his vacation around World of Warcraft and some fighting game I don’t remember the name of last year. I’m not that big of a WoW person because I’m baaaaaaaaad, but even I got the extension and had LOTS of fun (I miss the invasions, I really do).

    I’m not the most hardcore gamer, but I enjoy video games, sometimes I stream them, and it’s just fun all around. And it’s not even about being lazy… I mean, I even went to a Hearthstone tournament a few days ago, and lemme tell you, the anticipation and stuff can be inteeeeeeeeeeeeeense.


    Anyway, just to say, boss is a jerk, and I hope it ends well.

    *Also, the Horde rules.

  67. beetrootqueen*

    I hope you get to go op because it sounds like one of those things that you’ll resent your work forever if they deny you this opportunity. Crossing my fingers that you get to go

  68. kms1025*

    In my fifth decade on Earth, I was introduced to the joys of IPad games :). I play Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and War Dragons. And I LOVE these games. Of course they waste too much of my time, but that’s a personal choice. I dare the fool that tells me I can’t choose to spend my free time this way! OP I am very sorry. Your boss is the kind of manager that inadvertently encourages people to lie to him when time off is needed. I like some of the vague language suggested here. I also would definitely go to HR about this. I’m sorry, but now that you know how he is, deliberately vague is the way to go in the future.

  69. mcr-red*

    Maybe we need a post on how to effectively ask for PTO with an unreasonable manager, since it seems to happen to a lot of people!

    1. Pwyll*

      “I’d like to use x days of my PTO on (dates).”
      “What are you doing?”
      “Oh, just some family obligations. Thank you!”

      Because I am my own family. And I have made obligations for myself.

      1. MH*

        “I’d like to use x days of of my PTO on (dates)”
        “What are you doing?”
        “I’m spending some time with Nunya.”

  70. anon*

    One of the things that made my Worst Boss Ever deserving of the title was her attitude to leave. She was constrained by the organisation’s very generous sick leave arrangements, and the way they were enacted, to not be *too* much of an arse around sick leave – if a person had the appropriate medical certification, there was in fact no option for her not to approve the sick leave (which didn’t stop her calling sick people at home or grumbling about it). She was, nonetheless, the only manager there who demanded a medical certificate for a single day sick if it fell on Monday or Friday. The organisation’s policies technically allowed for this, but no other manager there did it, only her.

    However, she was a nightmare about what in Australia we call rec leave (annual leave). She wouldn’t allow two people with similar functions to be off even one day at the same time, despite the reality that none of our jobs were that critical. She would delay forever approving leave, to the point that people were forced into booking travel arrangements and praying they weren’t going to get a knock-back. And yes, she quizzed us about what we planned to do in our time off, and we always thought, although she never said explicitly, that our answers made a difference to whether she approved it or not. We quickly learned that “interstate or overseas trip” or “child- or elder-care commitments” were the ONLY safe answers – she could identify with those so she okayed them. Heaven help you if you said you just wanted some downtime, had errands to catch up on, or were pursuing a hobby. It was amazing how many people in my team had the need to spend time with grandma or go to Fiji :-)

    1. Julia*

      I once had a boss who made others take vacation days instead of their sick days. She, however, used sick days to preserve her vacation time.
      I wasn’t surprised when I heard that, considering what I’d seen from her before. (I was a differently classed employee and got unlimited sick time.) She once asked me if I was pregnant. O_o

  71. Cromely*

    If I was feeling particularly snarky that day, I probably would have made the mistake of responding, “The question is not whether I can take Friday off. It’s if I should come back on Monday.”

    1. moss*

      I completely agree with this. Them’s quittin’ words. I would absolutely quit over this (assuming I wouldn’t send my children starving into the streets). How I spend my days off… Not Yer Business, Manager.

      1. Freya UK*

        Agree! As soon as an employer starts trying to compromise my actual life beyond my contractual terms with them, they’re in my bad books and I know to keep a careful eye on them (and update my CV).

  72. Lady Phoenix*

    I have asked gor time off because I go to an anime convention, and no judgements are made. Your boss is an asshole.

    1. MH*

      I’m going to judge you. Judge you awesome for going! Those things are a ton of fun. More people should go. I hope you told people in your office and invited them to come with you.

  73. Kj89*

    I’m a team leader. My process when a person asks me for leave? A) check their balance, to make sure they have leave, b) check the calendar to see if anyone else has those dates. Based on that they either get a yes, or a “hmm, X, y and z already have leave that week – is it something specific for that day or can it be shifted?”

    That answer then determines my answer. I really don’t care what they do! Some of my team members take to go on holiday, some to catch up on stuff around, house, family members visiting, school a tivites etc, and I. Do. Not . Care what the reason is!

    I’ve taken the day off due to going a midnight movie session, my boss didn’t care.

  74. Al who is that Al*

    What about all the people who “sit on their butt” watching sport like taking time off to watch the Superbowl ? That’s an even bigger waste of time. At least playing a video game requires thought and hand to eye co-ordination rather than just starting at a screen. I never watch sport, I find it pointless, playing sport – yes. Watching a bunch of millionaires kicking/throwing/hitting a ball about to increase their bank accounts – no.

    1. Michele*

      Or to come up with lies before they ask for the time. Suddenly everyone will be taking their mothers to doctor’s appointments.

  75. Office Administrator / Human Resources*

    I empathize with you, OP. I once had a week off approved many months in advance to attend a huge video game convention. I was SO EXCITED! I’d purchased my pass, hotel, and flight for myself and my husband and had my time off approved. However, when the time drew near my manager asked what I was doing and I screwed up and told her. She then immediately rescinded the approval, stating she was going to need me to stay and cover for someone else who wanted to attend a golf retreat, which was something far more “reasonable for actual adults.” I told her everything was paid for and she STILL took my approval away to give it to another employee. This manager is why I had 380 hours of vacation built up by the time she was let go – I could NEVER use my vacation!

    PS – I told her I was going, no way no how, and the big boss supported me.
    PPS – I now have her job (and I’m not a jerk manager!)

    1. EJ*

      I feel this, I go to SDCC almost every year… you know, flights, hotel, badges paid for well in advance. Boss is cool and never denied my vacation hours. But one year, someone ended up giving their 2 weeks, 2 weeks before my trip. Boss told me he almost had to rescind his approval of my vacation because they needed coverage at an event. He only told me this after I came back…Apparently things worked out. Lucky for me or I probably would have gotten fired if I spoke the words I was thinking. ;)

  76. Candi*

    Apparently the boss is unaware that these competitions are big business now -big enough to attract exploiters and those looking to make a sneaky buck off of them.

    Definitely push back; it’s your time that is part of your compensation for working there. As long as it’s legal, no one should care if you’re flagpole sitting or binge-playing all the Fallout games. (Telling someone at work you’re planning to do something illegal is another can of worms. /humor) :P

  77. 2horseygirls*

    My former boss, the Wicked Witch of the West’s eviler twin, denied my vacation request to take my just-got-the-all-clear-from-colon-cancer 78yo father to Montana (from the Midwest) for a reunion of the First Special Service Force, the predecessors to the US Special Forces/Canadian Special Operations Regiment (think the old movie “The Devil’s Brigade”), which, you know, won’t be around much longer, being WWII veterans and all . . . .

    Why? Because it was the first week of classes (higher ed) and I *might* be needed for something important. After she just spent 11 months telling me how useless and irritating I was.

    Oh he## yes I went to HR and the union, and demanded a review committee evaluate the request.

    It’s not like I was just swinging out the door saying “See y’all in a week!” I had developed and attached to my vacation request a list of my duties, what would be done ahead of my absence, what would be affected by my absence, and possible coverage. She was mad because *I didn’t consult her while making the list* [Umm, HELLO?!?! In the real world, it is called ‘taking initiative’!], so she denied the request — she told me later that she would have approved it had I asked her to help with the list (after 11 months of being told I needed to figure things out on my own, because she ‘already told me once’).

    My dad ended up travelling with my mom (who is not the most enthusiastic traveler, hence why I was taking him ;) ), so he got to go, at least.

    Me? I entered *TWO* contracts into the system. That was it. All. Flipping. Week.

  78. MH*

    When I was a contractor, I had a boss and a client. The client was essentially my boss in that I had to keep them happy, but I had a boss I needed to get approval for time off, etc. I had to ask the client as a courtesy, but unless there was a big event, rarely did anything get rejected. My client and my boss did not get along. I was tasked to work with this client due to the rest of the team and the client underperforming, and they did not like me.

    One day, I got a phone call that my sister was being deployed. I went to my boss to ask for the day off to see her off. I did so without checking with the client, mostly because I was scared for my sister and it was emotional for my family. When I announced I was taking the day off, my client was livid – going so far as to call on me in the middle of a meeting and ask how I could dare to request time off without asking her first. Not an extremely pretty sight.

    I calmly explained I was going to see my sister before she was shipped off to Iraq, and that she was welcome to ask me to stay if she wanted, but to expect me to call out sick if she denied me.

    The Ironic part: We were working for an agency that helped Military families deal with deployment.

    She and team were fired a few weeks later.

  79. workerbee*

    This one is giving me flashbacks. About 20 years ago I worked with a boss who was ahem controlling. I was a hard worker and rarely took time off. I requested and got time off to attend a comic convention (a hobby). Since I knew how she was I never said why I was asking for the time off. When I got back I was called into her office. She had confronted me that I had gone to a comic convention (she had asked coworkers and found out where I was going) and said she questioned my commitment to my work that I would take time off to do this, and whether I really wanted this job. I had to promise that I wouldn’t go to any more comic conventions! So now I know, ask for AL, don’t say what it is for.

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