update: my boss is angry that I lied about the reason for my vacation

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss was angry that she lied about the reason for her vacation? Here’s the update.

Thank you for your advice and the advice of the readers! I really appreciated it. As an avid reader of your site, I love hearing updates from writers so thought I would include mine. I updated some in the comments, but wanted to include more info. While some in the comments were speculating that the friend I told was the one who told my boss about my vacation, this was not the case. I found out shortly after that my boss’s best friend on campus was following me on Instagram and I hadn’t checked to see if any other coworkers were following my account before making it private. This was how my boss discovered that I was elsewhere. Throughout the rest of the week, my boss ignored me and when she did talk to me, she talked down to me like I was a toddler. Once she cooled down, things went back to normal however I knew that I wanted to look for a new opportunity.

Before this incident, I had been looking for a new position for a multitude of reasons. There was no room for advancement unless my boss retired (which she kept putting off), she wouldn’t train me on the managerial responsibilities I would need once she retired even though I asked multiple times, there were many lulls where I wouldn’t have any work and she wouldn’t assign me anything even though I would ask, the work she did give me wasn’t challenging/enough to fill the day, and the year before I had found out that this role had immense turnover with me being the longest in the role for the past decade. This incident was the last straw for me and I really dug in on my job search.

This past summer, I had applied to a couple of graduate programs in the country where my boyfriend at the time lived in case things were to work out between us. Unfortunately, we broke up shortly after our trip, however the programs that I had applied for were in a field that I’ve been wanting to transition into for a while, so I continued to pursue those opportunities. Last week, I found out that I had been accepted to one of these programs and knew that this would be an amazing opportunity, even though I was no longer with my partner, and decided to attend. Things have been a bit of a whirlwind since I’ve put in my notice, but it’s exciting knowing that at the end of the semester I’ll be pursuing a new field that will open a lot of doors career wise!

P.S. There’s been a bit of turnover since the beginning of the year and after talking to a few other teachers, I’ve found that others have had similar issues with our administration and that it’s highly possible for there to be more turnover at the end of the year. They all told me I’m leaving at the right time!

{ 44 comments… read them below }

  1. Pumpernickel Princess*

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re moving on to an exciting new opportunity, OP! I’ve been in a similar (but not work related) secret-relationship-in-a-catholic-setting situation before (and I’m not even catholic! But my secret girlfriend was…) and oy gefreakinvey was it rough, so I really empathized with your original letter. Safe travels and I wish you all the best in your new career!

  2. Meg*

    I’m still of the mind that going on a vacation to see your boyfriend is still a family vacation. Boyfriend is family!

    1. Cherry*

      This?! I would 100% call that a family vacation. When I say I don’t have a family, I mean “I don’t have a partner or kids”, not “I am literally related to no one”.

    2. Boof*

      I get it but if you know full well the person you’re telling it to wouldn’t think of it that way and say it specifically because you know they wouldn’t approve the vacation for your actual plans, well, it is pretty much lying. There might be good reasons for fudging the truth but it’s still going to be seen that way if they find out what’s up.

    3. shuu_iam*

      I think to me, “family vacation” has connotations of a bunch of people all needing to coordinate one possible date when they’re free, while going on a trip with a boyfriend, a friend, or a family member involves way fewer logistics. “Family vacation” sounds like you’re asking 4-20 people to reschedule if a date doesn’t work with work deadlines. So it’s less about relationship closeness, more about number of people involved.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But… like… what do you call it if it’s less than 5 people total? say, a married couple and two kids going on vacation, and the kids don’t have work deadlines because they are preschoolers? how’s that not a family vacation?

        1. pancakes*

          That is indeed a family vacation by anyone’s definition, surely? A vacation with just a partner is just a vacation.

          1. Mannequin*

            If my husband & I went on a trip by ourselves, I’d call it a family vacation. Why not? We are a complete family.

        2. shuu_iam*

          Haha, that definitely is a family vacation; I was commenting less about the technical definition of a family vacation and more about the likely connotations people might read into it when hearing the term. The reference to work deadlines wasn’t actually meaning everyone on the trip had to have competing work deadlines, but rather that from the manager’s perspective, if she wanted to say “that’s a bad time for you to go on vacation; could you go during a less busy season at work?”, she might have assumed 5-20 – or 4, or 3; these are not exact numbers – people would be inconvenienced.

          1. doreen*

            There’s the different connotations part – which is also affected by experience and knowledge. I mean, if I knew someone had a spouse and two pre-schoolers living in their home and they told me they were going on a “family vacation” , I would assume that there were more distant family members going along as well. Not because the couple and two kids aren’t a family – it’s more because in my experience that’s the typical vacation for that sort of household and therefore it’s the atypical vacations that get adjectives/descriptions – family vacation, couple vacation , friends’ trip. And if empty nesters were to describe something as a “family vacation” that might involve any number of other people – but if it’s just the two of them, it’s just a vacation.

            1. Mannequin*

              In my experience/area, I don’t think I’ve ever heard people refer to a multi-family group vacation as a “family vacation” even when all the people are related, but it definitely wouldn’t be used for multiple unrelated families going on vacation together.

              It’s almost exclusively used to refer to a vacation taken by the members of a single family group (nuclear or otherwise) living in the same household, and if it’s more specific than that, people will usually say so. “We went on our family vacation with my adult child/parents/aunt/cousin’s family/etc”

              1. Nah*

                I always was under the impression that “family vacation” had connotations about the *type* of vacation–i.e., kid friendly, possibly theme park focused.

                1. Anon4This*

                  Yeah, I think that this thread shows that this phrase can have many different meanings!

                  Which is fine! The problem comes when a person like OPs ex boss makes an assumption about what that means, then gets mad at the other person because it has a different meaning to them. People aren’t “lying” because an ambiguous phrase has a different meaning to him.

      2. Mannequin*

        I grew up in the 1970s, and in our house, “family vacation” meant the two separate times my nuclear family w/stay at home mom took a road trip while us kids were on summer vacation & my dad had his annual 4 weeks off. No juggling logistics with anyone else.

        We lived in a big , BIG tourist area, so all our other “vacations” were what would be considered “staycations” these days- we spent the summer ( + sometimes winter/spring breaks, which my dad also had off) enjoying the local attractions.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        That’s where I stood as well. It’s not like “families” that are married with children or whatever deserve vacations more, but coordinating several households together is very difficult to find times that work for everyone and that’s what would make me more likely to be flexible in accommodating that. I go on lots of trips with my husband, but the only trips I would refer to as “family” vacations are the ones my dad organized that involved him and my step-mom and my step-siblings and their partners as well.

    4. RagingADHD*

      The LW stated in her original letter that calling it a family vacation was a lie, so I’m not sure why so many commenters jump on the “boyfriends are family” train.

      If you read the letter closely and read the updates, the boyfriend in question was a person from another country that the LW had never met in person, only chatted with online. The only reason for choosing to take the trip during the busiest week of the year was because they were impatient. There were no inherent difficulties to postponing it, it could have been scheduled at any time.

      Then, they broke up almost immediately after their first meeting.

      People certainly can and do form intense emotional attachments to people they meet online, but to characterize someone you’ve never laid actual eyes on or shared space with as “family” is stretching the definition so far that I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the rest of the world to understand it or give it equal weight.

      Indeed, it is so much of a stretch that the LW didn’t even consider the boyfriend to be family in the first place.

      1. CarolyntheLibrarian (OP)*

        The reason we decided on this timing for our trip was because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic. We would have met earlier if we had the possibility however these circumstances delayed our meeting by 1.5 years. We did not know when we would get the opportunity again so we took it! Some people have online friends that they’ve never met who are closer to them than their biological family. I can see both sides to this issue and while I personally do not consider an SO family until marriage, I can completely understand how some would definitely use that definition for these circumstances.

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          I met my husband online, we got engaged the week we met for the first time in person, more than 20 years ago. We also still have friends that we met online originally.

        2. Well...*

          Sounds pretty reasonable to me, I’m sorry people are trivializing it. The pandemic was so rough. My husband and I spent 9 months separated by effectively closed borders. I was on a flight the first day travel opened up between our countries, and two days later they closed travel to people with my citizenship, so it would have been >a year if I didn’t jump on it. The fact that you didn’t meet up in person has nothing to do with the seriousness of your relationship and it’s beside the point. I’m glad things are looking up for you!

        3. Mannequin*

          Same OP. It bums me out to see how weird people are being about an issue that is clearly your ex-managers fault.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Okay, so maybe OP should’ve thought on her feet and said “I wasn’t lying, my boyfriend is family!” And maybe the manager should’ve bought it. But she didn’t, because she intended it as a lie. What’s the point of debating whether it could’ve been not-a-lie coming from someone else?

    6. Frankie*

      This justification is beating a dead horse. In the original letter, OP herself said the family vacation was a lie.

  3. The Smiling Pug*

    Sorry to hear that you had to experience that awful manager, OP! But I’m glad that you’re pursuing a career in a field you’re passionate about.

  4. Michelle Smith*

    Congratulations! And going forward, always remember that it’s really not anyone’s business why you need time off. I don’t necessarily tell my boss why I’m taking time off. I got a job interview for Tuesday this week and when I requested the time off I just said I needed to take Tuesday off and would that be okay. It was – no further explanation requested or required!

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Same here! I had a phone interview this Monday and I asked for day off. My manager gave it to me, no questions asked.

  5. Scmill*

    Repeat after me:

    “I will be out of the office on personal business from xx to xx returning on xx.”

    1. Mary*

      That’s not at all how it works in school settings. I’ve taught in Catholic schools, higher ed, and public K-12 schools, and your advice is a great way to burn bridges with your building administrator. Vacation time is built in to the schoolyear, usually upward of 12 weeks, with sick days and maybe 2-3 personal days a year outside of those built-in breaks. No one is taking a week off as the kids are walking into the building for their first week back, as I recall OP did. I mean, sure, you can “repeat after me,” but the school administration is within rights to tell you that you’ve breached your teaching/school service contract and your return date has been bumped out to “never.” I would’ve just released her from her contract, TBH; no need to be passive aggressive about it.

      1. scmill*

        Certainly you need to stay within boundaries about your contract/workload, but your manager/administration doesn’t need to know *why* you are taking your time off as long as you are operating within the rules. Whether it’s “taking a day off to lay on the couch and eat bonbons” or “having minor surgery”, it’s really none of their business.

        1. Mary*

          IIRC the original letter correctly, OP took the time off during the first week of school, right after summer break, aka the 6-8 week built-in paid no-questions-asked vacation for school staff. OP herself said she purposely lied to get time off outside the appropriate vacation time boundaries and not get in trouble for taking off when the kids were walking back into the building after summer. I’m with RagingADHD and not sure what the argument is here about not needing to explain to a boss why you need a week off. It’s null. I’m glad OP is exploring work outside the school system; doesn’t seem like it was a good fit for her, or many people here for that matter.

          1. CarolyntheLibrarian (OP)*

            Like I stated in previous comments, my boss had taken time off during this month/ time period so did not think it was issue. There were no black out dates in my contract stating when I was not allowed to use the 10 vacation days I was alotted. I did not feel comfortable telling my boss the truth about my vacation because she was very controlling, from an older generation, and vocally disapproved online dating/vacationing with an SO. No matter when I chose to go on this vacation she would have disapproved because of this reason. This was not the type of environment where I could ask for time off without giving some type of reason.

  6. Mannequin*

    People did so much moralizing/rules lawyering in the comments of the original letter about “but OP *lied!!!*” and then – Surprise! It turns out that management sucked and is not going to change.

    1. Tali*

      Yeah whether the S.O. counted as “family” and whether OP “lied” doesn’t actually matter at all. OP inconvenienced their boss, their boss was a jerk about it, there were other problems going on, OP moved on and things improved.

      1. Anon4This*

        If your boss is going to judge your reasons for taking time off, and use that judgement to determine whether you “deserve” time off?

        Hiding the truth IS. NOT. A. LIE. It’s how you survive in n a dysfunctional workplace.

        This is EXACTLY what I mean by “rules lawyering” it. Because the only way OP could be treated fairly by a dysfunctional boss was to tell a mild untruth about something that was none of the boss’s business to begin with, we’ll TECHNICALLY that’s a lie so OP is a liar and they are automatically wrong/deserved any consequences. Obviously!

  7. Green Ruler*

    Congratulations, OP!

    And, can I just say, for the people in the back: it is NONE of your business what your direct reports, employees or coworkers do in their non-work time? Especially their holidays. Like, seriously. Just like if a team member needs to attend an emergency appointment, or if you’re checking if your team need to leave early, or right on time, on one particular day, it’s not your business as to why.

    They might tell you, but they don’t have to. It’s not your business.

    If you insist on knowing why everyone needs to leave on time or whatever, you risk making judgement calls on whose reasons for wanting to leave at the right time are more valid. Unless someone needs emergency surgery, and something is literally on fire at work, this is NOT needed.

    If you find out they’ve lied to you about what they were doing on holiday, or why they needed to leave work on time, it’s either that they don’t feel safe or comfortable telling you (likely because you’re forcing them to disclose), or because they’ve been burned before by other employers. So back off.

    1. Despachito*

      But this would mean that you, as a manager, would have no say if your employees wanted to take their holidays in the busiest time of the year, which is not the case.

      I agree that normally it is no one’s business what you are doing on your holiday, BUT if you want one at the “all hands on deck” moment, I’d feel it as appropriate (and will be accepted better) to come at least with a vague explanation why this is so pressing. People would be more willing to cover your work in a situation they themselves are busy enough if they know that you are dealing with a health issue/family emergency rather than you just decided to go home and twiddle your thumbs while they are working their a**es off.

  8. doreen*

    You are correct that it’s no one’s business what someone does on their time off – as long as they haven’t lied to get the time off approved . At my place of employment, no one ever asks why someone wants time off – it’s completely irrelevant until and unless the request for time off is not approved ( which would only be because too many other people have already been approved for time off). It is not uncommon for people to give a reason for why they want the time off in an effort to get reconsideration or avoid the denial in the first place – for example, if I have already approved the maximum number of people to be off on December 24, I may approve an additional person if that person says they have no heat and must stay home to get it fixed. That doesn’t mean it’s OK for someone to lie and say they need to wait for the repair person when they really want to finish up Christmas shopping – they were perfectly free to not give me a reason , they only lied to prevent me from denying the time off due to staffing.

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