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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Vacation Days Policy for Executives Is Insulting




In almost every placement we make, I have to negotiate vacation days. Most people plan real vacations months in advance, so when a new job comes up, time off has already been scheduled. It is almost never an issue; most companies accept time off for their executives, even if that time off is within a short time after they start work.

Executives are paid by the year.  They are expected to get their jobs done. Period. As long as they accomplish their work, most companies actually don’t pay attention to vacation policies, or at least they shouldn't.  Almost every executive I know works far more than a 40 hour week.  In fact, sixty or seventy hour weeks or more are not uncommon.

So why do companies actually enforce vacation time? 

One senior vice president I know had scheduled a week's vacation and sent an email and included his human resources manager.  He out actually received a notice that he was not yet entitled to take this time off.  He had started his job about four months prior and had worked for most of that time seven days a week, including a lot of travel. The notice he received said that he was not yet entitled to vacation time because he had not been employed for six months.  The executive was furious at the note, as well he should have been.  Whoever sent the note looked only at his days out of the office rather than looking at his total time worked.  They also didn’t look at the person or the job he was doing and what he had accomplished.  They merely looked at just the numbers. It was highly bureaucratic and insulting.  Of course, he took his week off without any issues.  But it shouldn’t have been an issue at all.

Most executives are truly responsible.  They work hard and, occasionally, play hard.  Someone who travels weeks at a time, works until midnight and spends weekends in the office, is certainly entitled to time off.  There should be no one week, two week or three week rules for these people.  They take what they need to keep their batteries charged and stay refreshed.  No one should be counting their days out of the office; and if they do, they should be compared to hours worked.

If an employee is getting his or her work done, then there should be no formalized vacation.  Those rules make executives feel like clerical employees and are demoralizing and unnecessary.

If companies want productive and motivated executives, they have to be treated like trusted adults.

12 comments:

  1. Completely agree, and unfortunately, this is largely a US problem. Two problems, in fact. 1) the insanely few number of days off given by companies and 2) that employers actually moan when the number exceeds 2-3 weeks. In most of Europe, four weeks is the standard amount of vacation days off. If you add national holidays, you can usually extend this to between 5-6 weeks per year. Every European takes at least one two-week holiday per year, and having done it for the past fifteen years, I can attest to the benefits of stepping away from the grind for considered periods of time. Re-charging, call it what you like, but it makes you a better executive. Fact. And no supervisor in Europe I've ever met has ever shown disdain or disapproval for staff taking time off that they're entitled to. I have a colleague in the US who's boss signed a vacation slip, but also remarked that a promotion was being offered whilst she was away. She postponed her break for fear of this jerk's intimidating tactics. Americans might be far less uptight if they chilled out and took more time off. They'd also likely be far more productive.

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    1. @Unknown: Sorry you didn't identify yourself because I like your attitude. Everything you write is true, unfortunately. Study after study shows that people are more productive if they are relaxed.

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  2. I've been lucky in that after leaving the 'holding company' world, management at the independent agencies I've worked at have been more enlightened.

    Although I've almost never used my full 'earned' allotment of vacation/personal days, my managers all had a 'don't worry about it' attitude. I would presume that the bigger the company, the more rigid the enforcement. Although maybe, like many issues, it largely depends on your direct report (which I've always felt was the most impactful contributor to quality of work life.)

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    1. @Ed: The person you report to has a lot to do with it. But executives need to pace themselves and take what they both when they can. i think you may be right that the bigger the company, the more rigid they are. But I have rarely had an issue negotiating vacations with any size company. I think once, many years ago, I couldn't get a candidate enough time off. He took the job anyway and then took the extra week off with no repercussions. I think once they know you, it makes a big difference.

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  3. I haven't asked for or used a PTO day in over 10 years. I don't keep track and neither have my employers. They know if something big is brewing, I am on top of it, no matter where I am. My office is the world.

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  4. To me the $64,000 question for employees at all levels is … Do you live to work or work to live? To provide for yourself and your families while being able to spend quality time with them; to decompress from the madness of the daily grind; to see friends; or just to be alone with your thoughts for awhile and think about the things and people in your life that ultimately matter? Because in the end, no company will ever cry over you when you’re inevitably gone.

    Of course and in reality, striking the right and happy balance between the two alternatives put in my question is the hardest part for all – especially for those with children … the kids always being the most neglected of all agency constituencies, in my opinion, as I know from personal experience.

    I don’t have the answer, but Paul raises some very important issues regarding certain kinds of agency employers and their attitudes. Because, as any thoroughbred jockey will tell you, when you have a winning horse in “the stretch”, just let him/her run and enjoy the ride. If a competitor seems to be catching up around the final turn, show the crop, stick or whip, but don’t actually use it unless it’s down to a length or nose.

    This may be a stupid analogy, but winners usually win, and sometimes employers just need to get off their backs.

    Bill Crandall

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  5. Only once in my 30 year career have I taken a 2 week vacation, and that was in 1991. I have never felt so refreshed, relaxed, or recharged as after that trip. In today's environment, everything moves so fast that trying to take 2 weeks at a time could unfortunately be career suicide. I wish we had the same attitude as the Europeans.

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    1. @Anon: It is your loss. If you have had a 30 year career and only took one vacation of two weeks, you are doing yourself and your family a disservice. Look around you, There are plenty of people who do take that time off - perhaps not every year, but frequently - and it actually is not career suicide nor does it impact on their career. Time off is soon forgotten by everyone, I am sure at age 50+, it will not affect your career, but it will refresh you and improve your performance. And the funny thing is that when you return after two weeks, you will be surprised at how little has been accomplished (during any two week period).

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  6. I have encountered both sides of this in my career.

    The good news is that I've mostly been able to take the time I need, when I need it.

    A bit off topic, but an example of a company doing right by their executives was when my son, now age 10, was born unexpectedly and very prematurely.

    Not only was he very premature, but he had additional medical issues that required him to be moved to a hospital about 100 miles from our home. In all, I was out of the office for a little over three weeks.

    When I got back, I diligently filled out all of the paperwork that the employee manual indicated I needed to. I then took that paperwork to our CMO, my boss, for a signature.

    His response was priceless..."I'm not signing that s*#t and if HR asks me, you've been in the field. Now get the hell out of my office and let's not talk about this anymore."

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    1. Love it. That is priceless and wonderful. It is also the way it should be. Thanks for sharing.

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