7 Tips For Making That Time Off Request
Modern, hip workplaces have done away with cubicles, closed doors, and even vacation policies. The general notion is that you can take as much vacation as you want!
This is sneaky corporate antics to me. 54% of U.S. employees sacrificed 662 million vacation days, according to a U.S. Travel Association study released last year. That’s a lot of R&R. Taking away a policy altogether keeps people from feeling any right to time off at all.
I once worked for a company that had no system in place to track vacation despite advertising two weeks to everyone. For eight years. Some groups operated like they had unlimited vacation while others made up their own rules. This made for mixed morale and expectations.
So how do you approach this? What if you’re new to the team?
The bottom line is to respect your boss. And the bedrock of respect is communication. Communication leads to understanding. And understanding is where you’ll find the freedom to enjoy your vacation knowing you have a job to come back to when it’s over.
Ask Don’t Tell
Time off is not legally protected like parental leave, so it’s important to remember that vacation is a privilege, not a right. Make sure you frame the ask like a request, not a demand.
I have seen many junior people announce to their bosses that they are taking a certain day off because they think it makes them look confident. It doesn’t. It is counterproductive and risks making future requests that much more difficult.
Allow for at least two week notice for time off requests. This is just enough time for your boss to plan around any gaps in work or resourcing. Despite working at the center of a project team, remember there are broader company initiatives and dependencies that you may know nothing about.
If anything falls apart while you’re away, your boss will ultimately be the one responsible for picking up the slack. Tell them far in advance then remind them when closer. If they roll their eyes, you can always lean on the fact that you told them awhile back.
Explain The Circumstances
Ok, but you’ve been working day and night on a new project and haven’t had time to think more than one day in advance…but you still have March Madness tickets you bought from before this job. What then?
Well, for future reference, it’s perfectly sane to let a job manager know that you have pre-arranged plans at the beginning of a project. By not telling them you are inherently saying that you are willing to sacrifice your plans – which may or may not be the case. Be aware.
Now, your best bet is to let your manager know as soon as possible. I would target early morning to break the news. This ensures your boss has a clear head that’s not yet bogged down by the stress of the day.
Make it short and sweet. If you are willing to sacrifice your plans for the team, that would be a nice gesture – but don’t offer unless you are prepared for them to take the bait. They just might. Otherwise, stay silent and wait to talk about it offline.
Hi James, it’s been great working with you on this project. I just wanted to check in about any flexibility next Friday, March 16?
I made weekend travel plans before I was staffed and wanted to find the right time to bring it up. Let me know when is a good time to discuss. Thank you.
Plan The Workflow
As best as you can, try to identify backups for any foreseeable problems. Make sure somebody else on the team is up to speed on the pitfalls, personalities, and potential problems while you’re away. Most importantly, practice reciprocity by buying them a souvenir from your travels and promising to back them up next time they are in a pinch.
Once you have your manager’s blessing, they will likely not bother you while you are away. Generally karma seems to rule in this respect. But, especially if the project is tough, make sure your backup can reach you in case of emergencies.
I would suggest sharing your personal phone number, personal email, and the contact of someone you’re travelling with your backup just in case.
Put It In Writing
Once your manager has agreed to the time off, write him or her a short email to confirm everything you talked about. This serves as a reminder about what was discussed, the temporary workflow, and proves that the time off was essentially “approved.”
This is a sticking point especially in cultures where there is no technical vacation policy. Some people have been known to throw others in front of the bus when a project goes off the rails – and there is nobody like the person that’s on vacation to blame.
Call In Sick
If all else fails and you are too chicken to come clean, call in sick with a fever/cough/flu that’s going around. But beware. No posting on social media about what a great time you’re having on vacation!
Being caught in a lie is very, very bad.
There is only one thing worse than being disrespected. And that’s being lied to. Swallow your pride and ask for the time off honestly – what’s the worst that can happen? Nobody will fire you for taking vacation. But they could for lying.