can my boss tell me how to manage my vacation time — and my “energy”?

A reader writes:

I work at a very small (<10 people) mission-oriented company. In addition to aligning our business practices with our mission, management also makes an effort to ensure that employees feel happy, heard, and valued.

In reality, management’s approach to ensuring that the team feels happy, heard, and valued often feels overbearing and quite condescending to me. My boss will reference in check-ins that I am taking in so much right now, wanting to get me support (but being very unspecific about what type of support), and making sure that I am “protecting my energy.” The truth is, what is “so much” in her eyes is just me doing my job — which does often involve putting out fires and managing high-stress situations, but it was what I signed up for and I mostly enjoy it. As another example, I will volunteer to work on projects that are interesting and exciting to me, but then will be shut down by my boss in the name of me having “too much going on right now,” even though I feel capable of taking on the work and have received nothing but positive feedback about my ability to handle my workload.

Recently, this trend of my manager dictating where my energies should be directed to what I feel is an inappropriate level has really crossed a line for me. My boss asked me to consider taking some vacation time this quarter. I am in my second year at the company and at this level, I get just 10 vacation days/year. Given my limited opportunities for vacation and no specific plans in this quarter, I didn’t get back to her because I didn’t have the desire to take off any planned vacation. Well, she followed up three separate times saying that I was the only one on the team who wasn’t planning a vacation this quarter, and that I really should not be banking vacation days. I essentially felt backed into a corner and to get her off my case, I submitted a few dates which she approved.

I know that I sometimes struggle with being told what to do. Is she within her rights as a manager to dictate my vacation (and energy) to this degree?

Well … yes and no.

It’s fine for a manager to nudge someone to take some time off if it’s been a while since they have, and especially if they have a high-stress job. In fact, that can be a really good thing since otherwise some people won’t take off any time — because of their own preferences, or because they feel like there’s never a good time to do it, or because they think it would be frowned upon — which can end up being a problem for everyone if they eventually burn out. (And in some industries you’re required to take at least one full-week vacation every year because that’s a good way for companies to detect fraud.)

But a manager should also accept hearing “I don’t have any vacation plans this quarter, but I’m planning to take off some time later this year and am saving my days for that.” You didn’t say that, so we don’t know if your manager would have been satisfied with that or not — but she should be. It’s also okay to say things like “I find it more restful to save up most of my days for one big vacation” or “I have some family stuff going on and am saving my days in case I need them for that” or so forth. You felt pressured by her, which isn’t great, but then you just gave in without explaining your own needs, which also isn’t great. It’s okay, and sometimes necessary, to speak up and explain what works for you.

Something similar is true for a manager expressing concern that someone is taking on too much work and needs to protect their energy. This is fair game for a manager to worry about! If you take on too much, it can end up meaning that you’re not at your best when she needs you to be, or that you start making mistakes or getting burned out. And even that stuff aside, a good manager wants to make sure she’s not overloading people and won’t just pile more and more onto one person. However, this should be a two-way conversation — not just your boss announcing that you can’t handle anymore, unless she’s also explaining her reasons for thinking that (like that you’ve already had to push back other priorities or have started making mistakes).

So ideally, when your boss says that she thinks you’re taking on a lot and wants to make sure you’re protecting your energy, you’d give her a substantive response. For example: “Actually, my workload is fine right now — I’m busy, but I enjoy it, and I’m not in any danger of burning out. I’d really like to take on project X and I can make room for it without sacrificing my attention to other work.” Or, “I hear you that you’re worried I have too much going on right now, but actually I’m really excited to take on X and I can fit it in without overloading myself. I’d appreciate being allowed to do it, because it’s important to me to broaden my experience in that area” (or “because I get a lot of satisfaction from that type of work” or so forth).

And if your boss says she wants to get you support, rather than being annoyed that she’s not being specific about what that means, ask her! Say something like, “I think I’m doing fine, but what type of support did you have in mind, specifically?” Yes, she should tell you proactively, but since she’s not, you should ask. I think you’re currently reading it as “there’s nothing real behind her offer and that’s annoying” — and maybe that’s true. But maybe if you ask, you’ll find out there are options you didn’t know about, like pulling in helpers from other teams or hiring a temp to take some of the lower-level work off your plate or all kinds of other things.

In other words, all of this should be a conversation. Right now she’s doing her side of it, but you’re not really picking up your end of it — you’re just getting annoyed that she’s overstepping. But she’s not really overstepping — or at least, we don’t know if she is, because we don’t know what will happen when you pick up your end of the conversation and say “I need this but not that” or otherwise express your own needs.

You said that you sometimes struggle with being told what to do, and my hunch is that right now you’re bristling at that piece of this, and that bristling is preventing you from seeing your manager’s comments as dialogue rather than dictates — dialogue that you can play an active role in. Try that and see what happens.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose

    My husband has the authority to dictate when his people are going on vacation if they bank too much. The conversation usually looks like, “You have too much time banked. Either tell me when you’re going on vacation, or I’ll tell you.”

    So the question I have is, when did you last go on vacation? Because when your boss says “banking” days, I wonder if you’ve got some left over from last year.

    1. disgruntled vacationer

      I took a few days for a trip in the fall, as well as around the holidays (Christmas/New Years).

      1. Amber Rose

        Well then. Your boss is just pushy. Alison’s scripts should come in handy.

        My boss is a little similar, in that she usually pushes me to take time off around Christmas even though I also only get 10 days and have usually used them all up by July.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.

      OP writes that she gets 10 days a year and doesn’t say anything about carrying over. My place gives 10 days for the first three years and nope, you can’t carry over a day. Well, you can, but you have to have it on the calendar for the first week of January and there’s actually paper work that requires two levels of management to sign. I now have four weeks. I take them in one year.

      1. Amber Rose

        I only get 10 days for the first five years. I can carry them over, though if I tried that with too many I’d probably get a talking-to from my boss.

        1. Emily K

          Our company just defines in the HR guide how much you can roll over so that it’s very clear how many hours is too many to bank – the maximum rollover is 1.5 times your annual allotment of vacation days, so the theoretical maximum vacation you can hold at any time would be 2.5 times your annual allotment in December, if you rolled over 1.5x at the end of the previous year and then didn’t take any vacation all year and accumulated another year’s worth. But then at the end of December you would again only be able to roll over 1.5x out of that 2.5x you’d built up.

  2. EBStarr

    Ew. Seems reasonable for a boss to push a report to take vacation if they take it too infrequently… but at 10 days a year that adds up to a 1-week vacation every 6 months. OBVIOUSLY you are not going to take vacation every quarter! Did you remind her that you don’t have as much as other people may have? Maybe if she wants you to take a vacation every quarter she should fight for you to get a reasonable vacation allowance. Jeez.

    I get 15 days a year and I have to be so miserly with them that I spend hours just stressing about it (can I leave a day early for this destination wedding in May or does that mean I can’t take a full week to travel with my husband in October?). That’s 50% more days than you get and still, if my boss pressured me to use some before I was ready, I would be FURIOUS.

    1. Sloan Kittering

      Yeah of everything in the letter that’s the point that I thought OP should have pushed back on. “I only get ten days a year, so if I ever want to take more than a week off I need to use my time carefully.” The boss should realize the impacts of the current policy.

      1. BookishMiss

        Yeah, I moved into a job with decent time off, and I’m still in the “must hoard pto” mode. When I only had ten days a year? You could pry them out of my frozen hands. I needed them for sick and snow days, not fun days.

        1. TootsNYC

          or for your nephew’s wedding in August, and the family reunion in October. Or maybe you’re hoping for time off at Christmas!

    2. An Elephant Never Baguettes

      Yeah that’s what I was thinking – ‘you haven’t had a day off in 3 months, please take some’ is a pretty common refrain at my place of work, but we get 30 days, which is why these requests make sense! If you submit a couple of days with just 10 days/year, that means there’s barely anything left, of course you’re ‘banking’ them.

    3. sunny-dee

      The boss didn’t say to take off every quarter — she said everyone else was planning on taking time off for *this* quarter, and there may be really good reasons for it, like they’re in accounting and it’s common to take time off after tax season or they have a major event / release, and most people take time off after.

      It’s really on the OP here — if people commonly take time off right now (maybe it’s a slow period so coverage isn’t an issue, whatever), then it’s natural for the boss to ask or expect the same behavior. If the OP wants to do something different, she can say that — but she didn’t, so got passive-aggressive about it.

      1. EBStarr

        Meh… if there was a reason, wouldn’t/shouldn’t the boss have said so? Given the OP’s description of this — that it’s a mission-oriented company, which, maybe I’m just narrow-minded but that doesn’t sound like an accounting firm to me!; and that the only reason her boss gave for taking time off was that everyone else was doing it; it doesn’t sound like anything but the boss being invasive, or at the very least, did a very bad job of communicating why she was focusing on this.

        I don’t see a reason to harp on the OP for being passive-aggressive — if anything, the boss is being passive-aggressive by repeatedly asking OP to “consider” something without giving a good reason. And what she’s asking for is highly burdensome and interferes with how the OP uses her benefits, so it should come with a *very* good reason!

        1. sunny-dee

          No, as someone else pointed out, the OP simply is blowing her boss off — the boss is bringing it up again because the OP is refusing to respond. How on earth would the OP even know or listen to a reason when the boss says, “hey, everyone else has some vacation time scheduled, are you planning time off yourself?” and the OP just starts muttering “b*** is trying to tell me how to spend my time and won’t even give me a good reason for it.”

          That is really passive-aggressive. It’s not possible to be passive aggressive if you’re being pretty clear and direct in asking a question.

          1. Competent Commenter

            I think that’s being really harsh on the OP. She could just have been at a loss as to what to do.

          2. Annette

            Yes sunny dee. Boss is being direct – asking with words. LW is being passive agreessive – ignoring and hoping boss drops it. Everyone needs to learn the difference.

          3. TassieTiger

            Mmmm…This is where I’m trying to sort some things out. I feel like Allison has given advice in the past that you can ignore things and see if people get the idea about it. Like wasn’t that the advice for the ergonomic ball chair? Or different things I thought… Sometimes if and really unreasonable demand is made that ignoring it and seeing if it just blows over has been offered by the commentariat as an idea too..

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hmmm, that wasn’t the advice for the ball chair!

              I can recall giving that advice when a rogue HR person was insisting people put their personal cell numbers in the email signatures, but that was unusual. Typically you don’t want to ignore direct questions from your manager.

            2. Not So NewReader

              You can’t really ignore a boss. Additionally, because the boss has asked a couple times, not responding is probably not the best idea.
              However, OP could say, “Gee, I haven’t gotten that far yet. I was thinking of taking time in the last half of the year. Do you need an answer right now?”

              I do think that OP can show her the math and explain– “I get ten days. I should reserve some for sick time or bad weather. This leaves me with a week. I just had vacation, so I would like to be strategic about using my remaining week. I don’t want to use up my time at the beginning of the year and then have no vacation time to look forward to.”

          4. OP

            OP here! I’m seeing a lot of people note what you are noting, and what Alison’s advice was: to be more direct and less passive. That’s advice that I’ll take to heart, but I would say that the situation was presented to me as: “tell me when you’re taking time off, please” — the assumption that I would do so was already there; it was not presented as a neutral question as you suggested. Changes the calculation a little but I think the advice still stands!

        2. CJM

          I don’t think you’re being narrow minded. As a CPA, I’ve yet to encounter a firm that’s mission oriented. The one place i worked that claimed to be had a generous PTO allowance, but the workload wss such that you could never take it.

    4. ursula

      Yeah, if this boss is so into making sure people aren’t overworked and don’t burn out, I’d start by negotiating more vacation time.

        1. CJM

          It surprises me that so many people feel this way. I thought that was pretty standard in the US until you’ve been with an employer at least 5 years.

          Where I live, it’s common to have more vacation if you’re a professional, but in other jobs it’s not. Including if you work at a professional firm, but aren’t one of the professionals.

          I know a lot of places that don’t give you any vacation for one year and you get 5 days to use during your second year. After that, you get 10 days and it never increases, no longer how long you work there. That’s so common here that it’s not something people would leave a job over, since it probably wouldn’t be any better elsewhere.

          I’m not lumping vacation in with sick pay, though. If you only get 10 days as total PTO, that’s pretty bad.

          1. Michaela Westen

            It is common in the US to get 10 days vacation. Originally it was actually vacation and sick days were separate. Now many employers combine sick and vacation. So it sounds the same, but isn’t enough.

          2. Emily K

            That’s been my sense as well. 2 weeks is common for service industry jobs (usually regardless of level, the retail and food service managers I had never seemed to go on vacation) and entry-level professional jobs, with more becoming common as you move up the ranks in a professional career.

      1. Sam.

        This is what I would do. The boss needs to pick either more vacation time or not pressuring people, and I think I’d want to express that (perhaps using language other folks here have recommended. I would not repeat what I did when in this situation, which was to say, perhaps a bit snidely, “I would love to take some time off then, but I don’t have as much vacation time as some people.” I mean, it worked – my boss dropped the issue of vacation time almost immediately, as he’d clearly forgotten to factor that into his thinking – but not an approach I would necessarily recommend…)

    5. Liz

      I actually get 20 per year, plus another 7 personal etc., and I do the same thing! it started when my parents moved 8 hours away, so much of my time, although not all, we used going to see them, and later my mom. Since it took the better part of a day to travel each way, i needed a decent amount for each visit. now that my mom is local, I still do it, and stress I don’t have much time left, when in fact, i actually do! I just can’t break myself of that habit though.

      Next year i get an additional week but for me, vacation is like closet or storage space. when you get more its like Christmas, but gradually you use it or fill it up!

  3. Fiddlesticks

    “And in some industries you’re required to take at least one full-week vacation every year because that’s a good way for companies to detect fraud.”

    Err…what?! What kind of “fraud” results if an employee chooses not to use their vacation time?

    1. RabbitRabbit

      Financial, generally. If you’re always around and are the accountant, you can cook the books. Generally having other sets of eyes on it – and not yours – turns up issues.

      1. Works in IT

        This, it’s not banking vacation time resulting in fraud it’s that x days away in a row allow other people to notice any fraud you may or may not doing.

        Fraudulent bookkeeping is something that can generally continue undetected until the fraudulent bookkeeper is unexpectedly sick otherwise.

        1. RJ the Newbie

          This is a first for me and I’ve been in accounting for quite some time! My branch is project accounting, though. We’re encouraged to take some time off, but not a lot. It’s been a constant source of annoyance.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            It’s certainly not the norm in accounting/bookkeeping as a whole. It’s mostly regulatory agencies, they do it in banking, just like they have multiple keys for the same reason for certain thresholds, etc.

            1. CJM

              When I worked at a bank, you had to take off two weeks all at once. And unless you’d been there at least 5 years, that’s the only vacation days you got.

          2. Maria Lopez

            Small group or solo medical and dental practices in the past were known to have problems like this, and still may, but I haven’t been in that end of the business in years. There was usually one long-time trusted employee or office manager who had his or her “system” for doing things and was very protective of it. Everyone would just think that it was a dedicated worker.

      2. Kuododi

        We had a staff person get caught committing Medicaid billing fraud at the state mental health clinic where we both worked. This person supervised a program for at risk children/adolescents. They had to take leave for an extended time due to illness. It was discovered that they had been submitting inflated billing numbers for the program staff to make themselves look good. They additionally billed for services not provided, or bill for inflated services. (is…billing for crisis mgmt instead of the phone consultation actually provided. Crisis mgmt was the highest reimbursement at that time. Phone consultation was one of the lowest.)

        1. Vibey Vibes

          I… Flames! on the side of my face! People really need those services and funding for those services! Especially at-risk children and adolescents! I do not have a large vengeful streak but I am so glad that person got caught and I hope they were able to recover some of the funds.

          1. CJM

            If I’m understanding this correctly (and I’m not sure I am), it’s not the clinic that was out the money, it was medicaid. And if money was recovered, it would have been the clinic paying it back to Medicaid.

            Of course Medicaid is underfunded in a lot of states, too. And it’s taxpayer dollars. And all fraud is bad.

            Your concerned about the services the clinic provides being cheated out of the money, and that may not have been the case. Again, I’m a little unclear on this and asked the commentor to clarify this for me if they come back here.

        2. Not So NewReader

          I have a story of a CEO who was very involved with the books. Suddenly he got sick. Oddly auditors came in about the same time. It made news headlines he had taken a quarter mil in the period of the last five years. Who knows how much he had taken over the decades he was there. He ended up too sick to return to work….
          It was because he was not there every day that the whole thing blew up.

        3. CJM

          Am I understand in you correctly in that the employee didn’t get the money, the clinic did? And they just did it to try and show whoever (their superiors, the board, etc.) that they were able to make the clinic a lot of money?

          I’m in no way saying that makes it any less bad, I just want to be clear on how I understand it.

          1. Kuododi

            Yes… you’ve got it!!! It was all very convoluted between Medicaid policies which had to be followed to the letter and the labyrinthine billing system of the state mental health center.

            Boiling the story down to the essentials… the consensus was that my colleague was trying to prove themselves to management by showing how their program consistently brought in the top billing/reimbursement numbers for the department. (Think ” gumption” on steroids!) If I am remembering correctly, this person ultimately made a deal with the director, senior management to take a heavy duty demotion, pay cut, and a bunch of other in house consequences to avoid getting turned over to the legal system for falsifying medical records, fraud etc. I don’t know if my colleague had to help pay back the associated Medicaid penalty or not. (I do remember that some of the offenses resulted in triple damages for the center.)

            Bear in mind this was a State agency so pretty much the only way to get fired would be to commit violence on a client in full view of the Medical Director. Life was not at all dull!!! Hope I cleared stuff up for you!!

            1. nonegiven

              I’m pretty sure Medicaid fraud would be grounds for dismissal even in a state agency.

        4. TardyTardis

          My friend worked for an auto shop that double billed both insurance and the customers. I told her to ‘run away, run away’ as the first person who gets in trouble when it’s finally discovered is, you guessed, the accountant.

    2. Parenthetically

      We’ve had a letter about this before — someone who worked in an industry that required them to take two weeks off and was balking even though it was absolutely non-negotiable. In finance, they do it to prevent fraud — skimming and other kinds of scams that require ongoing monitoring can be detected during that time.

      (Link in reply.)

    3. min

      When I worked for one of the large US banks, the policy was that at least 5 of your vacation days had to be taken consecutively. The concern wasn’t about fraud with your vacation, it was about fraud in your work.

      If you spread your vacation out and only takes a day or two at a time, odds are no one really covers your job. If you’re off for a full week, they’re more likely to catch if you’re doing things you shouldn’t because someone has to take over while you’re gone.

      1. Fiddlesticks

        Oh! Thanks for the info, everyone. I’m a career government paper-pusher and don’t deal with anything financial, so I had no idea vacations were used as an opportunity to fraud-check employees!

        1. Observer

          It’s not just financial fraud, either. I’ve seen some fairly hair raising stories of someone going out on unexpected leave and all sorts of shenanigans being uncovered. Time-sheet fraud, work left undone, inappropriate use of resources, etc.

          The best story I heard is about a place I don’t know anything about – I heard it from an auditor who was doing a workshop on financial controls. In NYC Senior Centers have to have a box for voluntary donations when people come for meals – they drop their donation in when they come to get a ticket for the meal. All of the money needs to be counted and accounted for when it is spent. Often the person handling this task is a volunteer (although this has become somewhat less common over time, ime.)

          So, this volunteer had been handling the meal tickets for a LOOONG time. She was as reliable as the sunrise – NEVER missed a day. Donations were low, but it was a low enough income demographic that no one was really surprised. Well, she had to miss a few days suddenly with zero chance to plan for it. And they discovered the ACTUAL reason why the donations were so low. It was because everyone was giving Volunteer money for the meal ticket, and the box was a “second” donation. This is something that no audit would ever have uncovered, since that money never showed up anywhere. Volunteer did not take money from the box it never went there in the first place!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            Yeah, any time there’s cash being exchanged, you’re at the highest risk for theft like that. That’s why you have to have multiple people at all times but of course in a volunteer situation, not so easy to do! And you rarely assume someone is evil enough to steal from charity but it happens all the time, where there is so much trust and relying on the honor system, you find snakes in the grass.

          1. Zephy

            I’ve read that article and the one that it got the story from three times now and I’m still not sure I get it. Was he, I guess, ordering fajitas in bulk from a food service company of some kind, using the company card, and then taking them home? Why fajitas? Why 800 lbs at a time? How often does the juvie where he was working order more food?? How did nobody notice the regular shipments of a half-ton of fajitas for nine years??

            1. schnauzerfan

              The article says he delivered them to “his own customers” so I’m assuming he had a side hustle running a food truck or diner or some such thing. My Mom had a similar story where a person was buying food at her commissary (sales limited to military and their immediate families) and reselling it at a little mom and pop cstore that he ran.

            2. Not So NewReader

              It’s a variation on a story I have heard about Sears. Sears had a life time warranty on their hand tools. So customers brought back their dull screwdrivers or whatever. A few employees would set the bad tools to one side and later return them as their own, thus improving their own tool collection also. This is what happens when there are gaps in the system annnnd when employees feel they aren’t being treated/paid fairly.

              1. Michaela Westen

                The thing is, some people never feel they’re being treated and paid fairly, no matter how good they have it.
                I saw two highly paid specialists – they literally make more part-time than others to full-time – who had PTO and all benefits as part-timers, make a fuss about having 4 days less PTO than full-timers and go over my boss’ head to get it adjusted.
                If I had their high salary, benefits and part-time schedule, I would have kept my mouth shut and been very grateful. If I had half of that, I’d be grateful. I’m grateful for my current job.

          2. Kuododi

            “Giggle-snort!!!”. I enjoy a good fajita from time to time but that was ridiculous!!!

    4. Lucille2

      It doesn’t only uncover fraud but also some undesirable practices or critical work left undone. I have taken over projects for coworkers when they took an unexpected leave or accepted a promotion or another job, and it can be a mess to find all the pieces left undone or done badly. Employees often give themselves too much or not enough credit for the work they’re doing. Covering for them during vacation is a way to have full visibility.

      1. Zephy

        > it can be a mess to find all the pieces left undone or done badly

        When I started CurrentJob, there was a coworker that I was informed was out on FMLA leave. She just…never came back. That was six months ago, and we’re still finding files of hers that fell through the cracks and never got handed off to anyone.

      2. Quiltrrrr

        My boss exactly. Went out on leave, and now we see the fallout. I already knew, but I think it’s been eye-opening for upper management.

      3. TardyTardis

        This is why I spent the day before I went on vacation clearing out the ratpiles on my desk. Nothing too bad, but some things are better off not seeing the light. And I needed to call those people anyway .

    5. facepalm

      We had an admin (who had receptionist duties) get caught embezzling this way. She never took vacation and took her lunch at her desk, and everyone thought she was a superstar hard worker and really dedicated. They started giving her access to some light financial work and training since she was such a great, hard worker. Then one day she was in the restroom and someone happened to be in the lobby when the phone was ringing and they grabbed it.

      “Hi, I’m calling about your past due ___ credit card.”
      “This is [business name], we don’t have _____ credit card.”

      The whole thing unraveled spectacularly. One day I was at my desk and a SECRET SERVICE AGENT came in because they were part of the investigation (I had no idea they dealt with things like that). It was insane. And she was just an admin with not too much technical knowledge. Imagine the damage someone with more financial/banking/accounting/technical/computer background could do.

      1. Autumnheart

        Yep, the primary responsibility of the Secret Service is to investigate financial crimes.

        1. 1865

          Actually, the USSS has dual missions. Financial Crime Investigation is not the primary mission, and neither is Protection.

      2. Zephy

        Fun fact: the Secret Service was originally established to fight counterfeiting and they still have jurisdiction to investigate financial crimes. The Presidential-bodyguard duties became part of the job in 1901, after McKinley was assassinated.

      3. Admin. Asst.

        I mean you shouldn’t assume admins don’t know or have financial/banking/accounting/technical/computer backgrounds. I am an administrative assistant with deep, working knowledge of all those.

        1. Annie

          I don’t think this person was making any assumptions about the admin assistant, just stating that they knew that the AA didn’t have much technical knowledge.

        2. facepalm

          That’s quite an assumption that I was making that assumption that admins are unskilled. Of course many admins have a plethora of knowledge, responsibilities, and deep skill sets not reflected in the generic title “admin.” But the particular one in this story did not. My entire point was that if someone without too much industry knowledge could wreak so much damage, someone with intimate knowledge of a particular company/industry could do much worse.

      4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

        Wait, what? She had taken out a credit card in the company name? More details please, this sounds juicy!

        1. CJM

          I’m thinking what? also. Taking out a card in the company name and using it for personal purchases only makes sense if the company pays it off. Did she handle accounts payable and could cut the check? If so, didn’t somebody else have to sign the checks that would have known the company didn’t have this card? Or had she just started doing this, had charged it up big time, and had no way to get the company to pay, which is why it was past due? Or what?

          Inquiring minds want to know.

        2. facepalm

          So she gained the reputation as a responsible, dedicated, and hardworking employee (because she never took lunches or vacations), and she expressed an interest in or was asked whether she would like to learn some bookkeeping/financial duties to support the guy who was in charge of those. (Who himself should never have been in the role, as we’ll see later.) She began to provide some backup/support/assistance, and things were going great. Until the phone call about her past due bill.

          It turns out that it started with her using the company name to take out one card, which she had routed to a PO Box. She initially was making payments just fine. Then she either got greedy or was emboldened by her success, and she took out additional cards. The finance guy (bookkeeping/payroll) was super lazy and he dumped the responsibility of reimbursements and invoices and the like onto her (without the knowledge of anyone at the top). He did not review her work, and just signed off on whatever she brought him. (He himself had been in a sort of admin role until the bookkeeper left, and he asked for the chance to change roles.) Everyone at this place traveled, and everyone had company cards. Lots of shipping and expenses, so lots of chances for her to create invoices/bills to repay credit card bills. So she began diverting company funds to pay her own bills. But then her spending increased and she couldn’t pay or didn’t want to or who knows what, but I bet she still regrets that trip to the bathroom.

          It should surprise no one that this happened at a nonprofit, which had about 10 people at the time. Staggeringly, the financial guy didn’t even get fired. But the nonprofit lost tens of thousands of dollars due to her theft and limped on for a few months until it folded shortly thereafter.

      5. SusanIvanova

        The Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas has been around for over a century, and if you think fruitcakes are terrible things you should try theirs. If you were a Texas kid, you likely kept your crayons and other treasures in a Collin Street Fruitcake tin.

        But they nearly went under because their head of accounting embezzled $16M – for the longest time they thought they were just having a hard time transitioning to the web-based economy, even though they’d been doing mail order just fine for decades. It all fell apart because a newer accountant double-checked an account she didn’t recognize and it turned out to be fake.

      6. Not So NewReader

        Then there’s the story about the accountant who skimmed tenths of a cent off each bill. He put it directly into his own account. I guess he never looked at his own account??? The IRS wanted to know how a person making x amount per year was able to bank x amount per year. He was done.

      7. Michaela Westen

        At the bank I used to use, I would find 3-4 instances a year where a small ATM withdrawal had not been recorded.
        I was 90% sure I wasn’t that careless about keeping receipts and recording withdrawals. I might miss one/year, but not three or four.
        I suspect someone at the bank was taking small amounts of money from accounts and making it look like ATM withdrawals. If they did it with enough accounts, it could add up to a lot.
        I wrote a letter to the bank, but they blew it off. “We’re not required to investigate amounts less than $50”.
        I have a better bank now.

    6. Anonymous Engineer

      Fun fact: that’s the only way they caught the woman who embezzled MILLIONS from the small town in Illinois where she was the comptroller. She had been skimming for several decades, and spent her ill-gotten fortune to build up a Quarter Horse empire. She got caught by the person filling in for her while she was away for a long horse show.

      I know about her because I used to compete at the same shows as her but there’s a great documentary, All the Queen’s Horses.

      1. Ribiko

        We read about this case in my public budgeting class! Craziness and a great illustration of the need for separation of duties as a fraud control.

      2. Pomona Sprout

        I remember that case. I live in IL (though not in the area where this occurred), and it was HUGE news, statewide. Largest known municipal fraud in US history!

      3. CMart

        Yes, Dixon, IL is my go-to example for things like this! The power of an unsuspecting person going “wait, this looks weird” and then following up on it is incredible.

    7. TardyTardis

      The only thing scarier than a bookkeeper who takes too much vacation is the bookkeeper who never takes any (told that to an accountant friend who was afraid for some reason of using any of her vacation days, long story).

  4. That Girl From Quinn's House

    With only 10 days of PTO, you really don’t have the freedom to take much vacation time just because. You need to save it for sick days or life events (a friend’s wedding, the cable guy can come between 7 am and 9 pm, etc.)

    1. Kiki

      Because your boss is encouraging you to take vacation/ protect yourself from burning out, now may be an ideal time to float getting more vacation days.

    2. Oh So Anon

      But bosses like the OP’s probably don’t want you to admit to needing things like sick days or days to cover life events.

        1. Annette

          Yes LCL. Wild speculation. I would assume the opposite. Boss is saying – you need a break! People need to stop reading minds third degree thru the screen.

    3. Frank Doyle

      She says vacation, not PTO. She shouldn’t need to save vacation time for getting sick.

      1. Calpurrnia

        There’s no difference between the two anywhere I’ve ever worked. Every job I’ve had for at least 15 years of work history, the two terms “vacation” and “PTO” are synonymous. It’s time off you get paid for.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

          My current org does a shared bucket of PTO that covers the paid holidays (so if I don’t want to take Labor Day off I don’t have to, I can save that 8 hours for another occasion), vacation and sick time. (It is a bucket of reasonable size, I get 33 days a year.).

          My previous org did holidays each on their own merit (but standard for everyone, not flexible), 8 hours of sick time accrued per month that could only be taken for medical reasons (yours or a dependent’s, planned or unplanned), and vacation accrual based on tenure – two flexible but separate buckets, technically, plus the holidays.

        2. MissDisplaced

          Not where I work. We have vacation, sick and floating days. All are accrued and accounted for differently and floating days run calendar year while the others run on fiscal year.

        3. londonedit

          In the UK, holiday is holiday (and most people get a minimum of 20 days plus public holidays). You don’t use your holiday allowance for sick time – that’s totally different.

        4. biobotb

          My employer separates vacation and sick leave into different buckets, so having one PTO bucket is not universal.

  5. Zona the Great

    Yeah my threshold for being burned out is very very very high. So high I’ve not found it. I am always a high performer and have had bosses tell me they don’t believe that I don’t go home and work at night–I never ever do. I have outproduced everyone I have ever met and am very aware that I’m an exception. I was raised by immigrants in a culture that values hard work. I grew up grinding wheat to make our own flour and butchering our dinner each week.

    If this were happening to me, OP, I would just have the frank discussion with my boss that I have not met a work load that has heaped me yet. That she can give me more with confidence and know that I accept additional work with absolute glee. That if my work were not almost always challenging, I’d be in a different field. That the day I’m bored is the day I’m gone.

    She needs to hear this. She may not have ever met someone like you.

    1. Hiring Mgr

      I’ve butchered MANY dinners myself.. therefore I’m ususally told to stay out of the kitchen.

    2. NW Mossy

      If I were your boss, I’d still push you to take vacation and not take on a workload far in excess of what’s typically expected in the position. How the employee feels isn’t the only (or even most important) factor in deciding what they should be doing with their time.

      It’s great that you’re a machine that can go indefinitely and produce way more than anyone else you’ve ever met. What a skill to have! But if you work for me, I’m thinking that you’re likely to outgrow the position faster than most, be at higher risk of leaving for an offer I can’t match, and/or set a model that leads other people into burning themselves out trying to keep up. All of that creates risk that I have to manage.

      When you’re working for someone else, you’re not just you. You’re a piece of a larger system that needs to be able to continue without you. For that sustainability to happen, your boss has to think about what would happen if you weren’t there and plan for a future where the work is being done by people who aren’t an exception like you. A huge piece of that planning is making choices today that limit how much business-critical stuff is handled by any one person. What feels like wing-clipping to you might be savvy strategy if you pan out to the big picture.

      1. The Other Dawn

        These are my thoughts, too. Plus, it doesn’t give other team members a chance to learn and grow if one person is always taking on the work. I’m dealing with this situation right now in my new job, and I’m at a loss as to how to deal with this person. But I plan to post in the open thread tomorrow and hopefully someone has some ideas.

      2. OP

        This is super helpful; I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I have not thought of this before because the way you laid it out, it now seems super obvious. Do you have any tips for how to prompt a manager to share this kind of thinking – or if it would be appropriate for them to do so?

    3. Annette

      If you’ve never met anyone like yourself. Why assume LW is such a person. Odds seem poor.

    4. TootsNYC

      definitely–tell her.

      For me, it would be, “I get energized by a full workload, and difficult projects are really just intriguing puzzles.”

      The most I need is permission to come in late now and then so I can take care of crucial household stuff I couldn’t do when I was working late.

    5. Not So NewReader

      I have worked with people like you, ZTG. And I live in farm country, these folks here can put many people to shame as they have one hell of a work ethic.

      Just because burnout tolerance is high does not mean it is not there. That burnout level is still there. And the problem with burnout is that the employee is irretrievably gone, this is a loss to the boss and the company.

      Another way of talking things over with a hardworking employee is to suggest that they take the time and use it as they see fit. So perhaps they can take an odd job for a week doing something else. Me, I would be tempted to take that course in glass blowing or whatever caught my eye. Go work on something else, just the shift in work can be a rest of sorts. I’d frame it as, “Boss ordered me to take this glass-blowing course!”, just to keep some humor about it.

      I don’t think this helps in OP’s particular setting.

      I know I could get myself really worked up worrying about not having time for a sick day or a snow day. I could really fret about it, to the point that I probably made myself sick. (Toxic environment on top of everything else.)
      The boss seemed totally incapable of understanding the problems with stretching the PTO and had no plan of ever trying to understand. Once I did take the time, I would leave my work labeled and a long note for the person filling in for me. If that person messed up, the boss would spend the week saying how she was going to nail my butt when I got back. There really seemed to be no point in taking a vacation. Perhaps OP has toxic stuff like this going on and OP is trying to ignore it.

    6. RUKiddingMe

      My immigrant husband and two immigrant sisters-in-law should be ashamed. They get their wheat and meat from the grocery store.

    7. Eleanor Rigby

      Lucky you but from all the people I know and work with – this is not them. At all. Very much so.
      And honestly, talk about humblebrag.

    8. Mike C.

      So you think that there are cultures which don’t value hard work? There’s a lot to unpack there.

  6. pleaset

    “10 vacation days/year”
    That’s f’d up.

    I get moderate amount of time off for the US – 22 a year and try to always have 10 banked just in case. 10 a year. That’s terrible.

    1. Washi

      That seems normal to me, if it’s not the only time off. I get 10 vacation days and 12 sick days, plus maybe 6 holidays.

      But it’s certainly not so many that it would make sense to take a vacation every quarter! Especially if this is a recent letter – a lot of people take time around the winter holidays and in the summer and don’t do much in between.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Especially if OP hasn’t been in the role very long or if things don’t roll over. My boss always goes on about our “generous leave” (it’s NOT that generous) but she forgets you don’t earn that until the end of your full first year, and even after 6 months I don’t have much.

      2. AntOnMyTable

        Wow. I work as an RN and we get a total of 40 hours of sick leave if we work full time. We can take those hours with impunity but once they are used up we can call out one more time during a year rollback. Anymore and we get written up. I can’t imagine working for a place that recognizes that you might get sick a little more frequently.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s actually pretty common. Keep in mind it doesn’t include federal holidays (10 if they follow the federal government, although not all do) or sick leave. Two weeks vacation is a pretty common thing for junior people early in their careers.

      1. It WAS the bebe!

        Common, but also f’ed-up. And a lot of employers have cut back to 8 holidays. That is not enough vacation time, as the rest of the world knows, and hounding someone about taking vacation time on top of that is insult + injury. My very bad advice to this LW would be to say sweetly “Oh I’d just *love* to take some time off this quarter but with just 10 days a year of vacation time, I have to plan it carefully, and thst would conflict with my plan for a summer vacation and to take some time off around the winter holidays.”

        1. Coffee Bean

          It seems to me that you are suggesting the OP be sarcastic to her boss, to clearly indicate that the OP feels she doesn’t get enough PTO. The problem here is that it is a very standard PTO package in the US, and acting like that will give her employer the impression that she is out of touch. It also isn’t a great way to speak to your manager, being sarcastic and in this case a bit passive aggressive is not the way you should approach your compensation with your manager. If you have an issue there being direct and open about it will get you much further.

          But, the other part of your message, about how she would prefer to save her time off to take it around summer or winter holidays/vacations aligns with Alison’s advice. Alison has suggested a different tone though, one that is more collaborative and kind so that both the OP and the manager are on the same page.

              1. Not So NewReader

                OP could just simply state, “I plan to take time in the summer and time around the holidays.” And that would get the baseline message across.

                I do think that many bosses don’t understand that ten days is not that big a deal and most people don’t see a need to do much planning for it. They act like they think they have just given the employee a million dollars and the employee does not even notice.

          1. pleaset

            That doesn’t seem to be sarcasm. Sarcasm would be “Oh yeah, I’ll pull from the many days I’ve banked due to our very generour vacation policy.”

            Saying they don’t have enough vacation and need to hold it for later is truth – not sarcasm.

        2. pleaset

          “Common, but also f’ed-up.

          Yup. Where I work it’s 22 plus about 10 or 11 holiday plus sick days (i don’t know the limits on sick days, but it’s at least five and maybe many many more). For everyone.

          Though it has be be earned over the course of the year, so junior people come in with zero but build it up quickly.

      2. TootsNYC

        when I started, it was common in my industry to be 5 days AFTER your first year, 10 after your second year. And you had to get to 5 years or so before you got 3.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yep, I have seen that schedule in quite a few places myself.
          We had a running joke at one work place, we needed two weeks off at a time because it took the first week to convince ourselves that we were actually on vacation. The second week was the real vacation week.

    3. Parenthetically

      10 a year is 2 weeks a year, which is VERY standard in my observation, especially at lower levels/experience. Definitely not enough to pressure people to take a vacation quarterly, though.

    4. Coffee Bean

      I don’t think this is messed up at all, especially if those 10 days aren’t also used for sick days and normal big holidays are being given.

      10 days is two weeks of vacation, seems pretty standard.

    5. Cafe au Lait

      Ha! My brother gets five days a year. For sick AND vacation. Apparently one of the bosses thought people were taking too much sick time off and restricted it to three days a year. Their HR manager was able to convince the boss that two extra days wouldn’t hurt the business.

      I think my brother is sticking it out until he and his wife have a baby. I have a suspicion he’ll quit to be a stay-at-home Dad. His wife is really career-driven; she’s a VP of HR and she turned thirty in December. My brother, not so much. I think he’ll have a higher quality of life staying home with kids than he will working.

    6. Sara without an H

      I gather from her letter that the OP hasn’t been there very long. It’s not uncommon to start with a small amount of vacation (10 days or so), then accrue more days as you gain seniority. The idea is to reward people who stick around.

        1. Tathren

          Eh, that depends on the company. Some won’t budge on vacation days at all. Neither my current employer nor my previous one offered any flexibility with vacation when I was negotiating my job offers (though they were willing to budge on salary).

          1. TootsNYC

            I worked for a place that was really rigid about vacation; you could not get another week, period, no matter how bad they wanted you.

            The funny thing is, that place had previously been owned by a company that, when they hired me to work in a different branch, gave 3 weeks at the very start to people who were being hired above a certain level. They said that if they didn’t do that, they might never be able to recruit someone away from a job elsewhere.

            1. Liz

              My friend, who used to work for a large financial institution, was able to “buy” extra vacation, and have it taken out of her checks. She routinely “purchased” 2-3 extra weeks on top of what she got.

    7. Tigger

      I have noticed that 10 is standard. In my past jobs I have gotten 5 days or no days.

      I get 10 personal days and 5 sick days, but since myself and 1 other employee are the only hires in the past 10 years, our hr doesn’t mind if we take an extra day or two because everyone one else has 25 personal days and 10 sick days.

      We also get 10 stat holidays and there is a rumor that we will get a floating holiday because headquarters is getting an 11th fed holiday.

    8. Turquoisecow

      It’s essentially 2 weeks, which seems reasonable, especially for a new employee. (Assuming you get separate sick time – sick and vacation lumped together is not fun.)

      I got ten days at my first full time job. I usually took a full week in the summer at some point and spread the rest of my days out over the year, taking a long weekend or a random mental health day every few months. Only once did I have to take a day without pay, and that was after a large snowstorm.

      1. Nicotene

        Really hope the office was closed over the winter holidays then. With ten days, a week in the summer and a few scattered long weekends means I’m not seeing my family for Christmas :(

    9. Annette

      Maybe you are in a bubble. But you should know this is much higher than ‘moderate’ in U.S. offices. Sad but true!

    10. coffee cup

      It is, no matter how many people say it’s ‘normal’. It’s still bad! That’s hardly any time across a year to really refresh and have a break. I know everyone is different, but genuine time off from work isn’t a bad thing, and I get so tired of it being portrayed as if it is (not here, I mean in general). It doesn’t mean people don’t work hard or care about their jobs if they enjoy a decent number of days off. Even if someone is junior, it doesn’t mean they should be having hardly any downtime.

      1. I Took A Mint

        I agree. Where I work, the legally mandated minimum for entry-level employees is 10 days a year (including sick leave). It’s not enough! If you take 3 days for a holiday, 3 days here and there for colds, 1 for administrative errands, 1 for mental health/preventing burnout… that’s just 2 days left, better not get the flu.

    11. Constantly Sick Coworker

      22 days vacation as moderate? I need to work where you do.

      I work for an Australian company with legally mandated minimum amounts of leave and I get 20 vacation days a year. And most of the time when I tell people that I get “wow that’s so much!”.

      That’s just vacation, though. It’s separate from sick leave (10 days) and federal holidays (another 10).

      1. Mellow cello

        Fellow Aussie here! We also get long service leave and my workplace gives us 2 weeks professional development leave each year.

  7. Jennifer

    It’s possible that your boss is overbearing. It’s also possible that you don’t realize you’re seeming stressed to her or maybe being a bit short when you speak to her. Another possibility is that she’s just being a normal human being checking to be sure another human being is okay and it seems overbearing to you because you bristle at being told what to do. This is one of those things where it’s really hard to know what’s going on without seeing the interactions.

    1. valentine

      It’s also possible that you don’t realize you’re seeming stressed to her
      This is something to look at, but I read “energy” as the woo-woo kind and the vacation as balancing the books or micromanaging, with OP experiencing it as “You’re the only one who hasn’t gone to the restroom in x time.”

    2. Galahad

      I had a stressful, travel-filled job at one point, and hired an exec assistant for myself and two other directors in similar positions (we had been pulling / sharing from the admin pool previously). I deliberately did not hire the by far most exceptional candidate, because she was so highly efficient, productive, energized and on task.

      I knew that the stress of my job got to me at times, and when I was in the office, I did not need yet antoher person nearby (even junior) with EXPECTATIONS that I would be on the ball at all times. I had my hands full with junior technical staff needing support when I was in town. Instead, I needed a soft landing at work to recharge before my next client-facing trip, or project managmeent crisis. and especially in a direct support role.

      We hired a “B” player, who had been out of work for a couple of years (harder to get exec admin work as a male, it seems), who lasted about 4 years with the company before he was encouraged to go on mutual terms. (after I left, my replacement needed someone with more focus for different types of tasks).

      Think about it — does your boss have peers that have gone on stress leave? Does she seem to be a candidate for work overload, herself? If so, she may just be doing all tha she can to keep her “home ” space (internal support staff) as smooth and calm as possible, and sees all this energy bounding off of your desk, and it is adding to her stress.

      The best solution, if so, is to repeat how much you love your job and that the ability to do so many things and try new things and projects is what keeps you going. That not doing very much is depressing, and you will let her know when / if you need help. You could also give a specific example of what that help might look like in future (delegating tasks that are very routine, perhaps), and that you will let her know in advance if you will need it. That way, she can mentally prepare to get that sort of help from others / walk it through other managers in advance. Your manager having a plan will help her calm down.

      I agree that asking someone with 10 days to take vacation not in week long chunks is very poor practice. These were the only staff that I allowed to “bank” an extra day to add to another vacation day later. (allowed by law where I live).

      I also know that it is 100% legal here to tell staff what ENTIRE WEEK (s) will be their vacation that year. If you are not an idiot, you do this well in adavance of the vacation week. It allows for office closures or plant shutdowns. It is not legal here to tell a person to take only part weeks off, (five fridays), only the employee can ask for that if it is vacation time taken.

  8. Squirreling

    You don’t mention if this is the case, but I’ve also been told to take a vacation in a part of the year when my boss knew that the days coming up would be out “busy” season, even when I didn’t feel burned out or like I needed to take a break. Could that be a contributing factor to needing to take time this “quarter”?

    (For context, in a direct-service, mission-oriented non-profit. My first year, our team was understaffed, and it turns out I am remarkably efficient, and so it is easy for me to take on more than other teammates and while staffing was in the air, was giving 125-150% easily. Part of the balance this year has been having the conversations that Allison mentions, because my boss has taken on some of my roles and projects so I can return to 100%, but that’s been a give-and-take because I was struggling with feeling demoted, or that core parts of my job were taken “away” instead of just rebalanced evenly.

    For projects that I love, there’s also been an on-and-off again pattern where I’ll express interest in a project one week, my boss will usually demur because of my workload, I’ll ennumerate the reasons why I want it, and she’ll express concerns with my docket, and we’ll let it sit and come back to it in a subsequent week. I would say having to name the things I want vs the tradeoffs have led quite a few times to reframing the project into its core pieces I want and throwing out the things that are “usually” done but aren’t things that’ll add to it or are at the core of what I want. And sorry, not sure why this parenthetical turned into longer than my response proper!)

    1. TootsNYC

      But if a boss needs to not be surprised by when people are taking vacation, or wants to be able to plan, it’s OK to say, “I need to know all your plans for the year / next 3 months / Christmas season.”

      But when you only get 10 days, I think is a jerk move to pressure someone about taking days off in the first quarter!

  9. Qwerty

    > ” I didn’t get back to her because I didn’t have the desire to take off any planned vacation”

    This is a problem and probably why your boss followed up with you multiple times. You refused to engage in the conversation and just blew off your boss. You are getting annoyed at her for bringing up the topic three times, but you never completed the conversation! It sounds like she assumed that you were too busy to get back to her, which is kinder than believing that you would ignore your boss, and probably just made her more concerned about you burning out. She may have let it go if you had just said that you were saving up your vacation or were still feeling rested from the holidays. Given that she thinks taking time off is important, she may have even pushed for changes to the vacation policy so in the future you wouldn’t have to hoard your days. (Because only giving 10 days off does not match up with the company wanting to make sure employees are happy and rested)

    The same thing goes for suggestions of support and other ways that you feel your boss is intruding. Finish the conversation and be engaged! Have you told your boss how much you enjoy your workload? The way you are bristling at your boss is similar to how many people act when they are stressed and overwhelmed.

    1. Annette

      Yes Qwerty. If you don’t answer someone’s question. How can you be surprised they keep asking it.

      1. Not So NewReader

        In some cases it can be pretty rude not to answer a boss.
        However, your answer could be, “I don’t know yet. How soon do you need to know?” That IS an answer.

        But generally when the boss asks a question, answering is not optional. But it is fine to ask for clarification.

    2. The Other Dawn

      Yes, the fact that the boss had to ask *three* times because OP just blew her off really stood out to me. You don’t just blow off your boss no matter how you feel about it.

  10. Sara without an H

    Hi, OP — Yes, it’s possible that your manager is being patronizing, or she may just be bad at explaining herself. But you need to use your words. You say she turned down your request to take on an additional project because you had too much going on. What would have happened had you responded: “Oh? Is there something specific that concerns you about my workload?”

    You need to get her talking about this. It may feel as though she’s patronizing you, but it’s also possible that she just hasn’t had anybody in your position who was energetic and well-organized. See what you can do to surface her specific concerns.

    1. LCL

      We have had trouble in the past with some people taking on too many projects. Then when something inevitably slips, and their workload must be reduced and some things reassigned, the overworked person gets angry. It’s much easier to manage this before an employee gets too deep into a project, it’s can be really demoralizing to reassign a project.

      1. Sara without an H

        Good point. It would be helpful to know more about the office culture. Maybe OP could find a longer-term employee willing to fill her in on this kind of history.

    2. sunny-dee

      Also, I had a conversation once with someone who was talking on a lot of extra work, as were two other people on my team. I told him he (and they) were awesome, but the problem was that we were grossly understaffed, and I needed them to stop working 12+ hour days and taking on more work — even to let a project slip or fail — precisely because I needed to make this case to management. I also, long term, did not want them to burn out, which was a frequent problem. They weren’t there yet, but do that for a year or two and they would be.

      The boss may not want to give more to the OP because she wants to make sure they’re properly staffed in the right areas or because she needs the OP to have enough capacity to handle emergencies whenever they come up. That’s a legit management call to make, and the OP needs to have a discussion not attack her manager for “controlling” her “energies.”

      1. TootsNYC

        I was the employee in that situation once; I didn’t really do what my direct boss wanted, because it bothered me too much to let things fail.

  11. AnotherAlison

    Ugh, how I wish my boss would tell me to take vacation. I have 10 weeks banked, and am at my max. I get 4 hrs added every week, and I’m now losing them if I don’t them. I have a workload of “X” and it must get done whether I’m there or not. I’m just hurting myself if I take a day off, so I don’t like to unless I have a specific thing I want to do. I did want to take off a few weeks ago, but I had to go on a trip instead.

    Enough about me. OP, it sounds like the culture might be a mismatch for you. You sound more like a hard-charging driver type, working with a bunch of people who aren’t. Is this the only issue? Do you find yourself wondering why people aren’t done with that thing they’re supposed to do already? Or why everyone else is out the door at 4:55 and you stay till 7:00? If there are more issues, I’d consider if this is the best long-term fit for you.

    1. WellRed

      If no one but you can do All The Things that’s a whole ‘nother problem and one I hope you can address at some point because while it’s one thing to eat a few days of vacation (I do it myself every year) it’s part of your compensation.

    2. Flash Bristow

      This is why I love documenting everything. Document all the things that have to happen every day, and how to do them – and then announce a holiday and take it without guilt.

      I’ve always been big on documenting stuff, people laughed or thought it excessive, but when I resigned it meant people could take over – and the same would apply for leave.

      Get notating. If you were hit by a bus or won the lottery they’d be stuffed. So – make sure it’s all written down, and then feel free to take time off while handing the directions to someone else to cover you.

  12. Dust Bunny

    We get X hours of vacation and HR just sends us a notice at, say, X-10 hours, but we don’t get pestered about it. My job *does* actually want people to use their time off, though.

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch

    We want people to use their time but we wait until after 3rd quarter before we start nudging people, it’s common to store your time in case of emergency, asking you to take time from such a limited amount just 3 months into the year seems a bit much. I see why you’d be annoyed by this but yes, it’s somewhat common to nudge employees at times and require them to use vacation just because you feel they need it.

    1. Judy (since 2010)

      In my experience, it’s fairly usual sometime in July or August for managers to ask all of their employees their plan for vacation for the rest of the year. Of course, I’ve only had “use or lose” vacation policies, so they wanted to make sure that the entire team wouldn’t be taking all of December off.

      1. TootsNYC

        I realized after my 2nd year at this company that I needed to do this, so that I had some order in my world. Then they announced that we’d be getting the days off between Dec 25 and Jan 1, and all our plans were upended, and there weren’t enough days for me to stagger the coverage. And nobody could roll it over!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Ah see, we’d just deny a vacation request if they piled up at the end of the year, we make it really well known who’s off when and so they know that if their department mates have already claimed X date, they are probably not going to be granted vacation.

        It’s more of our way to be kind to people, it’s use it or lose it and we really do want people to use it! Well not completely, you can roll over some of it but you can reach the ceiling, then you do lose-lose it. Also you lose it if you leave for greener pastures and haven’t taken the time.

        But we’re a small crew and therefore it works. Everyone is fast to put in their time off most of the time, we just have a few stragglers who need a nudge. They’re a lot like me, they just don’t think to take time off until something comes up and often things don’t come up.

    2. TootsNYC

      My cousin worked somewhere they had unlimited vacation, and he found people weren’t taking even the standard 2 to 4 weeks, and that he had to call them and in demand they schedule a vacation. Or he’d go and say, “I want you to take 2 days off this month. I have X plan for handling your workload.”

      But they had unlimited vacay!

  14. LCL

    OP-for your own sake, make very sure you understand your company’s vacation policy, and how much can be carried over. If your company restricts vacations at all, and you aren’t allowed to carry over vacation, it makes sense to push employees to schedule vacation days here and there. If you are in the US Easter is the next holiday, and Memorial Day is the next big federal holiday. Take a long weekend.

      1. Kathleen_A

        We don’t officially get it, but unofficially we’re often given a half-day. It’s not a standard holiday at most U.S. companies, as far as I know, though there are definitely exceptions. It certainly isn’t uncommon for companies to observe it in a low-key way – like telling their employees at 10 a.m. “Anybody who is caught up on their work can leave at noon.”

      2. RabbitRabbit

        I’d assumed the meaning was Easter Sunday, but then I remembered I work in a hospital. And that even on federal/major religious holidays. someone has to work.

          1. RabbitRabbit

            Ah no, I got out of patient care a few years ago, but I have colleagues who do work the odd shifts. I’m in the regulatory end of things now. Less stress, still have some doctors blaming me for things I don’t control.

      3. Alli525

        It’s a NY Stock Exchange holiday, so I always got it off when I was working on Wall Street. I switched industries a few years ago to a nonprofit and was shocked when I discovered it wasn’t a holiday there, but I have more vacation days at the nonprofit so I just take it as a regular vacation day.

      4. Yvette

        In the US, stock market centered companies get Good Friday off because the Stock Exchange is closed.

      5. Jamie

        I work in manufacturing and we’ve always had Good Friday off. I know it’s not as common in other industries.

      6. LCL

        In the US it isn’t a common holiday off. But if you are scheduling vacations for a varied group of people, it’s helpful to be aware of the major religious and secular holidays, not just the paid holidays. Because it is really common for someone who observes Good Friday and Easter to try to schedule some time off for that. When Easter coincides with the schools’ spring break schedule, usually the first week in April here, scheduling can be tricky. I have also, depending on who is scheduled to work, had scheduling problems around Mother’s Day, and around 1 holiday open house someone in the group held in late December.

      7. JanetM

        My public university has “Spring Recess” — which by sheer coincidence always happens to fall on Good Friday — no classes and admin offices are closed (I think there may be skeleton crews for Police, Food Service, and Maintenance).

        This is separate from the week-long Spring Break, which is no classes but all administrative offices are open. When I started here 25 years ago, it was simply called Good Friday Holiday and we had Christmas Break (again, no classes and admin offices closed), but somewhere along the line the names changed to Spring Recess and Winter Break. I think that happened about the same time as the timing for Winter Break changed. When I started, it was the week from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day; it’s now the calendar week containing Christmas Day, so we always get the two weekends.

        That got long and involved.

        1. nonegiven

          When I was a kid, we got time out of school for cotton season. Most didn’t have to work by then, but some of our parents had stories about having to pull 200 pounds of cotton per day or get a beating.

      8. Clisby

        I never got Good Friday off unless I took a vacation day (I’m in the US) . My husband gets it off because it’s a stock exchange holiday, but that’s the only reason – he never got it as a holiday in previous jobs.

      9. Liz

        In my experience, 30 years working in larger corporations, small family owned companies etc. no. My current company, i think because we have a pretty diverse workforce, gives us 3 ‘floating holidays” which is basically extra PTO as its lumped in with personal days and vacation and called PTO, but they are technically meant to be used say for Good Friday, if you observe it, or any other religious holidays, or other holidays we don’t get off like MLK day, Veterans day etc. So everyone has a choice and opportunity to take off a day of their choosing and no one day is “forced” upon someone.

      10. nonegiven

        The only specific place I ever heard of that got Good Friday off was when my dad worked for Learjet in Kansas and that was in the late 60s. Nobody else I ever met got that day off as a paid holiday.

    1. TootsNYC

      If your company restricts vacations at all, and you aren’t allowed to carry over vacation, it makes sense to push employees to schedule vacation days here and there.

      I disagree.

      It makes sense to insist employees actually plan their vacations, and schedule them with you well in advance. But to insist on WHEN they take them is just rude.

    2. Nana

      Many years ago, I was one of several Jews working at a Catholic-owned business. We could choose one extra day off: either Yom Kippur OR Good Friday. Fair is fair!

  15. boo bot

    I want to be clear that I don’t think this is the OP’s situation, but I”m curious whether anyone else read this the way I did: if I heard this from a boss, I would be very worried that they meant, “Your quality of work is not good enough, and I’m hoping it’s just because you’re stressed and you’ll do better if you take a break or take on less.”

    Honestly, I wouldn’t even consider that there might BE another meaning (which wouldn’t matter much on the surface – I would respond with something like, “Can we talk more specifically about the concerns you’re having?” which would leave it open for the manager to say, “Your work is terrible!” or “You’re doing twice as much as Fergus, three times as well! I think you’ll explode if you work any faster!” or “I was going to steal that troll doll off your desk next time you’re on vacation but you just. won’t. go!”)

    Again, I don’t want to project that onto the OP, who seems confident this isn’t this issue, and everyone commenting so far seems to agree, while I tend to have a knee-jerk worry that I’m letting people down. I’m just curious if the subtext I read was something anyone else would take from this?

    1. Competent Commenter

      I agree it’s probably not what you’re saying, but I can see it being read that way. A boss who kept telling me “get support” and “take vacation” and “you’re too busy to take on more” when it didn’t seem at all warranted would make me worry that I was looking more stressed than I felt, doing poor work, or something else I couldn’t perceive. But I an hyperaware of social dynamics and worry a lot.

    2. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

      Well no, because any good boss would actually say this so it sounds a bit paranoid.

    3. Alianora

      If OP’s manager is the passive type, then yeah, I could see your read on it being the case.

  16. Lucille2

    While reading the letter, I kept finding myself in the manager’s shoes. I have encouraged employees to take time off under the following circumstances:

    – Maxing out on PTO so employee is not accruing additional hours, or at risk of losing paid vacation. I hate for someone to lose out on PTO. It’s also a sign that a person isn’t taking much time off and could use a break. And, as Alison suggested, an employee who doesn’t use vacation can be a signal of fraud.

    – Employee complaining excessively about the workload or challenges a project is giving them. If that person has a large bank of vacation, I encourage them to use it. I keep an eye on how much vacation is available before doing this. However, I’ve learned that there are people who want to complain about their situation with no intention of find a solution. So presenting them with a solution, like taking time off, is not welcome.

    – An employee having a personal crisis that is affecting their focus or demeanor at work. This is delicate, and I’m not sure I’ve handled it well in the past. But I did have an incident at work with an employee whom I knew was working through a family crisis at the time. I told her the incident was out of character and asked if she needed some time away from work. She agreed and took some time off.

    I share this because it’s possible that the manager is seeing an employee at risk of burnout while OP is seeing things in a different light. It would be best if the manager was direct with OP about seeing their work slipping or seeing signs of burnout, if that is the case. But too often, a manager approaches the needs of their employees as if they are their own. Whatever would cause the manager great stress, or whatever has caused other employees great stress and eventual burnout, is not necessarily the case for the OP though the manager doesn’t recognize it. I’m the kind of person who loves to work through complex problems and crises at work. However, I’ve learned the hard way as a manager that many people are not energized by problems to solve but burdened by them. And expecting them to behave in a situation the same way I would has always been a mistake.

    1. TootsNYC

      though, the first one–maxing out PTO and being in danger of losing it–absolutely doesn’t apply. Instead, the boss has pressured the OP into squandering a few of those 10 precious days, in the earliest part of the year!

      That could be a concern if it were October. But it’s not.

  17. Ann O. Nimitee

    This is timely for me. I’m having the opposite problem. I would fall off my chair if my boss said, “Are you doing okay? Are you taking on too much?” I’ve been buried in work since, well, day 1, but the lack of acknowledgement of this has really eaten away at me the past 6-8 months. I go over and over and over in my head how to bring this up with my boss, but everything I think of sounds like whining. And truthfully, I don’t think he cares. He is an extremely high-performing, results-oriented individual, and lacking in anything resembling sympathy/empathy. It feels like to him I am not seen as a human being, with needs and obligations outside my work to-do list. Work-life balance here is a joke. I snapped last fall and said in a late-night email that I could not keep working like this, coming in early, staying super late, but he never even acknowledged the email directly, so I figure why bother even bringing it up. Blerggghhhh.

    1. JenRN

      If you are falling off your chair you should maybe be Lucille2… I’m punchy…

      (context: comment above yours + arrested development)

  18. JenRN

    Could someone explain like I’m 5 how the mandated week off/fraud detection works? Like the fraudulent behaviour doesn’t show up in the books for a week? Wouldn’t savvy fraudsters set up a work-around somehow?

    1. sunny-dee

      It’s usually for 2 weeks when it’s mandated, but that’s exactly it. Most types of fraud require some kind of covering Transaction A by doing Transaction B. They have to be there to do that, because they can’t really schedule that kind of fraud without it being caught. The idea is that if you take it off, the discrepancies would show up because someone would audit your transactions.

      1. JenRN

        Thanks. I was thinking about it with regards to one case I know that involved taking bribes for getting particular contracts (like big lump sum) vs what this would catch (slow drips of funds coming in).

    2. RabbitRabbit

      Basically, yes, it doesn’t show up during the week, or the two weeks, or however long they’re forced to be away. Or accounts that used to balance out suddenly get ‘unbalanced’ and strange patterns reveal themselves.

      The company may even conduct an audit while the person is out and look through the records for past questionable shuffling, balance the books themselves, etc.

      Generally they are cut off from e-mail/computer access during that time as well, and ordered to not contact colleagues.

  19. Batgirl

    OP just try rephrasing ‘annoyance at this is even a thing’ as energy/motivation/recharge and you’ll be able to ask for whatever you want!

    – “Well a big part of my motivation currently is looking forward to my proper break later on which is when I’ll need it. It’s fun for me that I am still deciding; I have so many plans! I would hate to give up on them for a short unplanned break that couldn’t possibly recharge me, before I was even ready for a break”
    Or:
    -“Actually this project is hugely refreshing for my energy levels and I’d hate to lose it. My motivation really suffers when I am not engaged with enough challenge. I actually find being under-utilised quite a drain.”

  20. Toodie

    I think a person’s willingness to use PTO depends not only on how many days they get per year, but when they get them. At my old company I got about the same number I do now (20/21 days) but at the old company they were all given to us in one big bucket on our company anniversary dates. I would hoard hoard hoard because anything could come up: my daughter gets sick, I get sick, anything. Now I get about the same number of days, but I get 14 hours on the first of every month. So much easier not to get anxious about using a day here or there.

  21. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

    I don’t think it’s so egregious for your boss do want you to prioritise some projects over others you’d like to take on.

  22. CatCat

    Agree with Alison that OP needs to communicate better. For me, personally, if my boss sad, I “really should not be banking vacation days,” I’d also want to know more about that. Are they use them or lose them? I’d definitely want to know that.

    Otherwise, my preference is to bank a lot of vacation time. For me, it operates as a sort of emergency fund if I can’t work or lose my job so I have tremendous peace of mind having a significant amount of time saved up. I would tell my boss that if I were being nudged.

  23. Nobody Nowhere

    Maybe she’s just annoyed because her boss uses phrases like “protect your energy.”

    1. Batgirl

      I think it’s annoying to be told how you feel when you’re always the expert on how you feel. I think OP has interpreted this phrase as that.
      As well, OP is feeling it is kind of an overfamiliar touchy-feely thing.
      However if the boss went with phrasing like ‘prevent burn out and stress’ that might actually be more of a presumption because she’s assuming negative things.
      The word ‘energy’ leaves more room for a dialogue – for OP to say whether it’s high or low.
      Sure, Boss could ask, rather than tell OP that the energy of her employee is a concern. But some people are always going to handwave a bosses concerns away out of fear of looking weak.

    2. OP

      Yep. Since I don’t have a ton of other work experience, reading through these comments is helping me identify that this might be indicative of a larger mis-match that I should reflect upon.

      1. Oblomov

        The mismatch is that your employer claims to be caring then shafts you with a miserable 10 days holiday and then pesters you to fritter it away.

        I don’t get employers holiday meanness. An extra week is effectively a mere 2% pay rise, right ?

        1. alphabet soup

          It’s not clear that OP is being “pestered to fritter away” their vacation time. OP didn’t tell their boss that they didn’t wish to take a vacation or were saving up their days. So, the boss was really pestering them for *some* kind of communication.

  24. Asenath

    I think it’s necessary for OP to tell her boss what her vacation plans are for the year, not first ignore the question and then pick a day more or less at random. It doesn’t sound likely OP has too many vacation days accumulated only a couple of years in, and with that number in total, so I think it’s unlikely her boss just wants her to use up some of them. Now, I’ve got a “use it or lose it system” (once I reach a certain number of days), but even so, all that happens is I get a warning from HR just before the end of the financial year. It’s up to me whether I take the excess off, or lose them. I generally manage to get enough long weekends in to use up the time, if needed.

    1. Batgirl

      Hmm, I agree. The problem is she doesn’t have any.
      She was also specifically told to take time ‘this quarter’ and ‘don’t bank the time’ which would alarm me; I can’t take holidays when I want? I am not in charge of my own R&R? I have to holiday off season?
      But it’s baffling that OP didn’t simply respond with ‘Well no, I appreciate the concern but I don’t want to lose out on my actual plans which are pencilled in for approx (month); will let you know when they’re finalised’ particularly when she knows the whole conversation is driven by concern.
      The real puzzler (what really boggles my mind) is why a company so set on employee wellbeing gives such a paltry number of days. Id be half tempted to say “Theyre all being saved up yes, because thats what I need for a proper rest. I’d need a bigger holiday allowance to take time off now, before I need it”.

  25. Beatrice

    Re: not taking projects on because your boss says you have too much going on – is it possible that she has too much going on? Anything my direct reports take on, I’m indirectly responsible for. Even if they feel capable of taking on the direct responsibility, I may not have the bandwidth for the indirect responsibility. I become responsible for updating my boss and grandboss about it and answering their questions. My peers may come to me with questions or concerns about the project that I need to field. If my employee fails at the project or it winds up being more than they can take on, I become responsible for managing them through that. If they decide to leave before the project is complete, I am responsible for figuring out a transition plan for it. I’m feeling this HARD right now – I currently (temporarily) have too many employees reporting directly to me, and while they’re individually not overworked, it’s a lot of moving parts for me to monitor, and if someone comes to me with a stretch project, I’m probably going to tell them no. They’re not going to think about the risk that they’re indirectly adding to my workload, but I am, and I might not get this nuanced about explaining it to them — “too many things going on right now” might be exactly what I say, especially if explaining I’m spread too thin to oversee it will just spur them to tell me how they think it won’t be a problem when I know it will.

    1. BethDH

      Yeah, I had the same thought! There is also the pacing and coordination of how one team member’s work fits in with the patterns of the others.

  26. Fish Microwaver

    My boss will sometimes approach us if our vacation time is accumulating above a certain amount. We get 20 days annually. All she wants to know is that we have plans to use them, roughly what time of year or that we are accumulating for a specific longer vacation (family get together, overseas trip etc). She also encourages work life balance in taking time in lieu, study days etc.

    1. Liz

      Higher ups where I am will only if we are getting close to the end of the year, and people have more time than they can carry over, and there is potential to lose it.

      my company is actually very generous; we can carry over as much as we are entitled to in any given year, so if you just started, get 2 weeks and only use one, you can carry over that second. And so on. Many people have a TON of vacation because they’ve a. maxed out at 5 weeks and carried time over for years, and b. maybe only use their annual allotment, so they continually carry it over from year to year.

      so if it looks like you can only carry over 4 weeks because that’s what you get, and you have 6 left and its Thanksgiving, you need to find a way to use 10 days of that or lose it.

  27. DaffyDuck

    I have some vacation days scheduled for more than 9 months in advance. If I know I need to be gone for a special event I request the day(s) as soon as I have enough built up. My company does let us cancel vacations tho, so if something falls thru I don’t HAVE to take it. Sick leave is separate, I like to bank about a week just in case but use the rest for appointments (take a half or whole day even if it is just an hour early in the am).
    Past job was very problematic about vacation, and I had a ton stored up. Lost a huge amount when I left (voluntarily, for my spouse’s to-good-to-pass-up surprise job offer), now that I am old enough to know time=money I will never put myself in that situation again.

  28. JM60

    It may be a good time to check with your boss if your vacation time can be increased The remark about banking vacation time may be because he doesn’t want employees burning out due to going long stretches without taking vacations, and you could let him know that you’d take time off more frequently if you had more vacation.

  29. JulieCanCan

    I know this isn’t helpful to OP but I’m a tad envious. My boss (who is pretty cool, usually laid back, and not bad to work for) just told me a few days ago during an impromptu conversation about vacation days that I’m “not allowed” to take ANY time off until my associate is back from maternity leave in 4 months, and even after that, I have to wait until after all the summer months to take time. I HAVE the time available; we get our full bank of PTO after 1 month on the job. But because I’m just SO necessary for this small organization to run smoothly (his words not mine!), he doesn’t feel comfortable with me taking time off before the fall. I held back and didn’t argue – I was just taking it all in while in my head I was getting pissed. He also mentioned some other company policies that I disagree with which are totally beneficial to the employer and not the employees, and seemed to think these things were completely normal. I’m going to wait and gain some capital here before having a heart to heart with him about my thoughts (and even then I’ll need to hold back) but I’m in essentially the converse/opposite place that the OP is in. And I actually like my boss for the most part. But he’s is a very young (26), very smart MENSA member, computer guy who has never taken management courses but I can tell he has read things like those silly articles like “How to be a manager in the new technology age!” and probably thinks he’s got this management thing down. Yet many of his thoughts and ideas about running a company are just not ideal.

    I just wish my boss would encourage me to take time off and not take on too much work.

  30. UKCoffeeLover

    I can never get over the level of annual lave employees get in the US. I’m in the UK where 21 days is the statutory minimum (plus bank holiday of which we normally have 7) However that is still considered below average. Where I work we get 28days (plus bank holidays) per year and earn a day for each year of employment up to 5 years. So max is 33 days per year plus bank holidays. If we are ill we get paid sick leave. That can be for as long as 28 weeks (on a reduced rate but still paid)
    I could not survive on 10 days per year, I’d be burnt out.

  31. Mara

    On the note of your boss feeling you are taking on too much, is it possible that you’re not taking on too much for you, but taking on too much in the organizational context (e.g. taking on projects that aren’t in your mandate / taking on projects your boss or coworkers are supposed to handle and making others look bad / not leaving enough work for other people)? Sometimes if you’re too hyperfocused on what you want you can lose focus on the bigger team or organizational context, so just a thought.

    Echoing Alison and others who say better communication is needed on your part. Even though you “struggle with being told what to do” your manager’s job is to manage you. Working with your manager to make that easier on you both.

  32. Bertha

    This reminds me so much of my last job, where my boss and I would come in to conflicts about whether or not I was doing “too much” as well. I constantly told her I didn’t need any help — I thought this was pretty obvious from when she backed me up for a week when I went on vacation, and she literally had to do about an hour of my work that week. But, apparently not. Despite frequently saying I didn’t need help, she ended up making me a manager and hiring someone to work under me (without asking me if that was something I had any interest in–I did not have any interest in it).

    In retrospect, I think that since we were both females — which might be the case in your situation? — there was some projection going on from her own past and history, and not feeling like she had enough support at that time — so, she wanted to make sure I had it. She didn’t seem to be the same way with the males she managed, in fact, she’d often complain to them about me even though they had a lot more on their plate than I did! I think perhaps she thought I was being modest about not needing assistance, but I wasn’t. There were many times where I told her “I don’t need help” and she’d say “But you have this new project coming up” and I said “But I am finishing up this other project so I’ll have plenty of time for it.” (It was shortly after this that she hired my employee behind my back!!) There was something uniquely frustrating about having a manager who wanted to support me so much, but really was doing it in the way she thought was best without even asking what kind of support I really wanted.

    Speaking of projection.. maybe I’m just projecting my own situation on to yours ;) But I found there was something so uniquely frustrating and demoralizing about having a manager who kept saying she wanted to support me, wanted to make sure I wasn’t overloaded, but meanwhile didn’t actually care/ask what I wanted myself. What really struck me was when you said that she essentially won’t let you take on projects that excite you because you already have too much to do. My boss was the same way, even though I reassured her that I had plenty of time. And I DID — some weeks, I had maybe 20 hours of actual work. I also told her I thrived and was way more productive when I had a lot of work to do. I think Sara without an H may be on to something with the suggestion that perhaps other people in this role haven’t been so well-organized/energetic, because was that definitely the case with my position. I replaced someone with one foot out the door who basically didn’t do any work (I base this on how much cleaning up I had to do when I started). I’m sure what the answer is, but I think Alison is right that it at least starts with communication. I thought that’s what I was doing at the time, but I think I should have been a bit more honest, which you for you might mean speaking up when she shuts down work on exciting project, for example.

  33. Galahad

    Hmm.. I am wondering if “I really should not be banking vacation days”… really means that LW is working extra time here and there and trying to add it to PTO for future use later in the year, instead of taking time off in the next 7 days? e.g., within the pay period?

    That is completely in the realm of the mangager to shut down, and to insist on the employee taking the banked overtime as close as possible to the time it was accrued.

  34. LizardofOdds

    I empathize with OP because I take feedback like this a little personally. When my boss said, “your workload is quite high, you should take a break!” what I heard was, “you’re failing all over the place and I think you need to step away so you can get some perspective.” Anxiety. The struggle is real.

    After some years of taking this as critical feedback, I did as Alison suggested here and started using that as a point of discussion. At first I just asked back, “can you tell me why you feel it’s so important that I take vacation right now? I’m not feeling burned out, but am I sending signals otherwise?” Most of the time my managers have been surprised by this reaction, and they would say they were making these statements as a kindness. Then I was able to say, “I’m fine managing my own workload, and I promise I’ll let you know if things get out of control or I really need a break. I will also take a vacation later this year, so don’t worry about me!” And that settled it.

  35. milksnake

    I’m going to save this one and read it again and again because I relate to it so much.

    I’ve been having a similar struggle, where my boss keeps making decisions to “help make things easier” because “I have so much work to do.” When what’s really happening is they’re misjudging where I need the assistance, dismantling my systems, and giving away parts of my job temporarily until it gets messed up and then they ask me to go back and fix it.

    This post helps me to realize I need to speak up for myself more, but it’s hard because I worry about it coming off as disrespectful or ungrateful.

  36. Former Employee

    I think it is intrusive and overbearing/condescending. A grown person working a full time job should be believed when they say that they are fine with taking on another project or they are doing well with the work they have. The only exception should be if the person has a history of being such a people pleaser that they won’t admit they need help even when asked directly by their own boss.

    In addition, it would really bother me if a boss tried to push me to take vacation time when I had no interest in doing so and I don’t see why I should have to explain to them why I don’t want to take the time now or justify it using an elaborate story line about what’s happening in my life at some time later in the year. What I’m doing for my vacation is none of their business, whether I’m going to my BFF’s wedding, laying on the sand at a nude beach or hanging out at home.

  37. Yourethicsconfuseme

    I worked a job where we had to pick in the Fall all of our vacation for the entire next year. I only had 10 days PTO but had to let them know before the year even started. And we accumulated with each check so sometimes you couldn’t even take a full week until the end of the year. But we also were forbidden to call out sick, so no PTO was technically slotted as “sick time”. You did have to use PTO if you called out sick only if you got below your required hours for the two week pay period (when you were hired on your are required to work 20, 25, or 40 hours a week). Any time off has to be requested before the schedule was out, six weeks in advance. It was usually denied for lack of coverage. Calling out sick or leaving early was an automatic write up. Three of those and fired.

    Anyway I say this because – I agree that boss pesters because he hasn’t gotten an answer. I also think it’s not unreasonable if the culture is to plan vacations early in the year for coverage sake and you never tell anyone when you’re taking off. Or if you never take actual time time off, that your boss is concerned. Maybe there are other culture aspects you aren’t getting, like that your boss is willing to give you additional days off unpaid or paid, is willing to advocate for more PTO, that he doesn’t realize how much PTO you have, or that it’s just not a big deal to call out sick and others get that and don’t use PTO for it? You’ll not know if you get angry and keep avoiding them. Also, if you’re nitpicky because of the language he uses to talk to you (either because that’s just how he is or he’s trying to approach you differently because you’re ignoring him) he may be able to sense that and is thinking you’re not picking up multiple parts of the culture, or that you’re being passive aggressive. But that’s not a good reason to blow him off, he’s not being rude or condescending in any way that I can tell.

    Also, the amount of time off sucks. But I’d like to point out: most service industry jobs do not offer any time of PTO at all. Restaurants, retail, labor, even some low level professional jobs even in things like health care don’t offer time off or sick days or do so at a very low rate, and those are jobs that people have as careers too. Office jobs are not the only type of careers, but it seems like as far as protections no one cares about many blue collar workers.

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