I have a few directs who are tenured and accrue a lot of PTO. I’m supportive of people taking time off, but I see effectiveness in their role being hampered  because of PTO nearly every Friday, or sometimes Friday and Monday. Essentially, any teamwork that these folks are involved-in is impeded by these frequent absences. Traditional vacations are so much simpler to manage. I think about the idea of being a salaried professional and “getting the job done” but also how PTO should be used freely. Any advice or insights or telling me I’m bat shit crazy for asking this question is welcomed.

kabky108's picture

This is a great question!  I have a direct who continually tells me she is overwhelmed by all her responsibilties, which I would normally believe because she is working a dual role with somewhat conflicting priorities.  The problem I run into is that she continually takes Vacation or Sick Days typicaly on a Monday and Friday.  She does this approxiamately twice a month, and it does have significant impact on her work.  Any advice on how to coach to this would be great.  I do not want her to feel as though she cannot take time off, but would like her to look at when to take it better.  


thomascole's picture

As I think about it, it helps to know others see this happening too.

I've had 1 direct that was a high-contributor, and often called "mental health days", on short notice, expecially during moments of stress. My gut told me that supporting him in that was actually speeding up his eventual departure, but it had the desired effect when i supported him - helped build the trust, and he's grown alot, and stayed engaged.  So I think you have the contributors out there who's contribution is worth a litttle inconvenience. You might have one of those in your example.

I think the alternative is what does actually dealing with it look like? I dont think we can talk to these persons about "misuse" of their time, but what we can do is give feedback and talk about impact. Their job is to ensure that the work goes on. Perhaps the opportunity in both of our scenarios is to put the "problem" on the employee more: give the feedback on where the continuity is missing. Charge them with ensuring the continuity by having a plan. I think that avoids any poisonous messaging about how certain types of PTO are "ok" and others are not. Delivering that message is sure to spread like wildfire among colleagues.

pucciot's picture
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Yes this can be a difficult one.

It happens to us as well.

Once you have decided that this time off is negatively affecting the organization ....

PTO or not

If an employee is taking excessive pre-approved PTO in a provable pattern that disrupts the operations of the organization a supervisor may be able to deny future requests.

If the employee continues taking PTO sick-time "on the fly" in a documented pattern, this could be considered an abuse of PTO sick time.

It is time for FeedBack and correction.

PTO does not give the employee the right to take time off whenever they want.

It gives them the opportunity to request to take the time off.

The Organization gets to make a reasonable judgment about approving or denying that particular time off request.


And Sick PTO is even more restrictive about the reasons that can be proved.


  • Only you can determine if it is too disruptive.   So yeah – This is kinda a judgment call.  Try to be fair and keep in mind the needs of the employee and the organization.

* Consult with your HR Department and get the written PTO policies.

* Then make the judgement call.


Good Luck



uwavegeek's picture
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My guidance is that you focus on their results irrespective of PTO.

If their work is being effected (e.g. missed deadlines, missing critical meetings etc.).   Don't give them a pass.  Let them know they can take PTO whenever they want however their deadlines and commitments remain unchanged.  A lot of companies are combining vacation and sick time into one pool so saying 'no' could put you in the position of denying someone who is actually sick.  

Provide the feedback that not meeting their comittments for whatever reason will impact their future opportunities, raises etc.   Don't make it about PTO.

All the best,

N eil

pucciot's picture
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I agree with what you are saying here.


This is not about PTO --- it is about the misuse of PTO.

Often we also need to realize that for many jobs and workers 

* being on time

* being reliable

* giving advanced notice

* being flexible

* not establishing unauthorized PTO patterns

* coordinating schedules at work for at office activities

* not making time and schedule management too much of a burden for the supervisor

--- are all part of those commitments.


Don't discount this...

Often when a manager allows one employee to misuse PTO it can also affect the morale of other team members.

It will often look like favoritism. 

And it may also have other negative effects on team relationships.

Don't focus on "bottom line results" -- focus on  "performance results" and "organizational results"  - provide feedback.

Widen the view. 

It includes behaviors that affect more than just the basic deliverables.


Employees are brought into organizations as they grow to expand the impact and unburden the manager.

If an employee's performance starts to add a burden to the manager, then they are not doing their jobs.



** Please - don’t' be a jerk and simply fire folks because of this.  

And you also don't need to let it go unaddressed or under-corrected.




manag3r's picture

I don't understand. PTO = paid time off. Are you blaming your employees for using the benefits? that sounds ridiculous to me.

Chris Zeller's picture
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Hi Thomas,

Many good points have already been made. It's not unreasonable to expect that your tenured folks understand the impact that taking time off has on the rest of the team and the organization. If they don't, I'll also endorse Feedback as a good way to help them understand.

Here are a couple of other thoughts/suggestions:

  • Check to see if there's an organizational policy around lead time for PTO requests and if there's a distinction between "Scheduled PTO" and "Unscheduled PTO. When distinctions exist, they're usually managed separately.
  • Remind folks that more lead time = less disruption and scheduling things will reduce the end of year crunch and the possibility that some people may not be able to roll over or use all of their PTO. We're halfway through 2019.
  • Think about rolling out team norms for challenges not governed by the organization.
    • You might ask the veteran folks for their ideas on how to minimize disruption.
  •  This is also an opportunity for you and and your other directs to get more efficient, delegate less important tasks to the floor, and come together as a team to make sure that all of the necessary work still gets done to standard.
    • You can recognize anyone who goes above and beyond for exceptional Teamwork and give them positive feedback and/or above average reviews on that dimension when it comes time for the annual/semi-annual.

You've got this!