Some years ago a colleague – a very conscientious hardworking staff member – was boldly declaring she enjoyed 50 leave days a year! Naturally as everyone else only had 25 days leave a year we wanted to know what was going on (writing as a Brit due sympathies to USA colleagues who continue the noble vacation ethic of the Founding Fathers). She pointed out somewhat dryly that she enjoyed not only her own 25 vacation days but a further 25 days at work when her boss was on vacation. As her “boss” I had to admire this stoical point of view.
We are approaching that time of year where many are thinking about vacation and holiday. It is also the time managers get caught out when discovering key personnel are away presumably enjoying themselves. Of course “key” redefines itself at this time. It won’t be the first time the absence of the quiet conscientious worker in a “small” part of the process brings the whole system to a grinding halt. In the main “weightier” process is brought into sharp focus as auto-responders hit the network heralding re-alignment of project schedules and business goals. They also reveal the staff who could keep things on course also “jetted” out a few days earlier. Workplace tension increases, blame culture kicks-in and the unstated implication of the “I’ve already paid my deposit” riposte is uttered in hushed tones over the water-cooler.
When staff encounter large chunks of leave, “ring-fenced” several months, if not a year earlier, for popular holiday periods they feel aggrieved. Facing little pity from others who got their vacation schedule sorted “in good time” only makes resentment worse. Nevertheless managers learn to live with a few irksome weeks of leave “grabbing” and figure out how to make up later. Eventually the popular holiday periods are out of the way, staff get back and settle down to business. If only it was that simple. Staff who have worked all through the holiday period now take their banked vacation for an out of season group soirée. Vacation and leave scheduling can be an all round year nightmare.
Poor vacation or leave scheduling can raise staff temperature that will keep them warm right through the winter months and into the following year. If that isn’t bad enough it can be more serious for the business. Missed deadlines, extended time to market and frustrated customers. Without a proper system of vacation scheduling managers may learn to ignore staff resentment, or even the wrath of senior management. Few managers however can learn to ignore the pincer grip of both.
Being caught like this need not happen. Good vacation or leave scheduling involves planning ahead and that much seems obvious. It is the context of other business goals and workplace scheduling that is often missing which leads to these conflicts. Simply recording a vacation balance against a staff leave entitlement is not good enough. All that does is tell you when someone can’t have anymore vacation or …