Submitted by PeteH on
I would be grateful for some advice, please. My company is a large organisation, and vacation being granted to employees in the last month of the financial year is not forbidden, but most definitely frowned upon. In fact, the onus is put on the manager to ensure that there is enough coverage in the business to ensure a smooth and successful year end etc etc.
One of my high performing Account Directors has requested 2 weeks leave in the last month of the FY. He is an usher at a wedding in the Far East, so his time traveling is extensive and he wants to make more of a vacation of it, hence the 2 weeks request. Given the time of year and as he is performing a function at the wedding, I have tried to be flexible and approved 1 week vacation.
However, he feels I am doing him a massive injustice, and as the decision is at 'my discretion' he is taking it personally. There is a very good chance that he will have already over-achieved against his annual quota by this time, he has internal coverage in his team and in fact there are probably other departments that would follow the guidelines less.
In a similar scenario this year end, he took leave and then his internal cover went sick and this caused issues. He had, however, over-achieved but we still missed opportunities.
Should I capitulate and approve the 2 weeks? Thanks for any advice!
There is a very good chance
There is a very good chance that he will have already over-achieved against his annual quota by this time, he has internal coverage in his team
If I was your direct, I'd probably be looking for another job over something like this, particularly with being difficult about a wedding that I feel is important enough to fly to the far east for. I have to imagine he's rather close to the people in the wedding, given that he's an usher.
I'd be looking at it this way: a) how likely is my internal cover to get sick again, b) if he does get sick, why doesn't my boss have my back at that time because I'm a top performer and have his back the rest of the year, and c) if these missed opportunities are that important, why isn't my boss forcing another member of the team to step up and close the deals -- why do I always have to be the hero?
Your direct may not think the same as me, but I'm posting my personal take to make you aware that this is going to be a deal-breaker for some employees.
If he's that much of a top
If he's that much of a top achiever, then I'd say to give him the leave.
Giving him one week is basically saying "You can take off, but you can't go to the wedding." He's right, that's not a grant that's useful to him in any way.
Why is this an issue?
Some things to think about --
I can understand how retail outlets are very stingy about vacation time around the holidays because there's so much shopping going on and they have a real need for people in seats, but why is this an issue for your company? If it's just that everyone is scrambling around to pump up the numbers before closing the books, then why shouldn't you encourage someone to pump up their numbers a month earlier and then attend a wedding. It doesn't sound like the timing is discretionary on his part. You didn't say exactly what the issue is, but sounds like you have discretion and therefore you can't blame corporate policy for denying these requests.
You mention the risk of losing opportunities, but wouldn't that happen no matter when he goes on vacation? Sounds like the end of year is high-volume, but on the other hand he seems to be overachieving even without this high volume period, so it's hard to make a case for denying his request. Of course I have no idea how appropriate his quota was to begin with.
You may be worried other team members will resent that this guy gets 2 weeks when they get nothing, but if it were me, I'd almost hold this out to my entire organization as a motivator -- if you meet your quota early I'll open up the last month to vacation time. That kind of thing can really be more powerful than money. Obviously you may have to prioritize schedules in order to have enough coverage, but as long as you have appropriate quotas then why not. And if they're not appropriate (corporate says you really need to hit 110% of quota), then tell your team if you hit 110% early you can take vacation, etc.
One other suggestion, and it may not work for you -- I've had employees who wanted to extend their vacation (especially if they have to travel great distances). But often they were willing to work remotely from a nearby office for part of their stay (i.e. out of office for 2 weeks but working remotely for one). That way they don't fall behind on work, but can still visit with family in the evenings, etc. Obviously this depends on technology, the nature of the work, and what they're willing to do.
That being said, you have a wounded employee and I'm not sure you can heal the wound by simply giving in and saying "fine, take both weeks." You've already shown (in his eyes) that you don't see him as worthy of some special consideration, which he feels he is due (perhaps justifiably). So what you might consider doing is this -- in next O3 (hopefully you're having them so this little tiff is only a blip within an otherwise strong relationship), confess that you're initial reaction might not have been completely fair from his perspective and that you were trying to be accommodating to him while responding to the company policy, which came across as miserly. Decide beforehand what it's going to take to justify this decision to your bosses and then make him a partner in not making you look bad for being somewhat generous.
You might be surprised -- your boss might also see your response as a massive injustice and would be totally supportive of giving him 2 weeks. Be honest about whether this is a real thing or just your phobia about losing control during a critical time. And then address the real issue. If it's meeting a quota, address the quota. If it's customer response times, make sure you can handle the volume. If it's just going to give you stress because things might get crazy, then please think twice about letting that subjective reason undermine your relationship. In my experience haggling over vacation days is almost always a sure way to destroy a relationship unless you are clearly on solid ground (i.e. they've already used up their accrued days, or they're the 3rd person to ask for that week off and they already agreed they'd cover for them). As BFFFRANKLIN said, this could become a deal-breaker for him.
You've been burned
The problem is that you have been burned before and are of course hesitant to try again. His job, if he really wants to go, is to make sure no balls get dropped while he is gone. Since there is a history, you have the right to ask for a more robust coverage plan. Only when you are confident that no balls will get dropped would I consider approving it.
Mulling it over and mellowing
Firstly, thanks for the advice - and perhaps a bit of a reality check as well.
Yes, I've been burned and this is a part of the reason for enforecement. I also, from my own perspective, never take vacation at year end and I think a part of me is disappointed that he doesn't have the same view. So if I put myself in his position and I was an usher at a friends wedding, what would I do? I'd accomodate both my friend and my company - take a week to be there for my friend, but make sure I got back to support the company too. I'm High D, he's High I, of course there's going to be a difference in perspectives!
@Buhlerar, but I do get the point that it's about me losing control and planning properly so that the cover is in place and nothing slips through the gaps. It's also down to me to manage the perceptions of the rest of the team in their collective thought: "Golden Boy Gets His Way". Perhaps using it as a motivator for everyone else is a good idea!
So I went back to him and told him I would approve the two weeks vacation, on his word that he would put as many belts and braces in place as he could. That sounds like I took a resentful approach but I hoped it was with a reasonable amount of humility and it wasn't anything personal. Equally, I talked him through my rationale for my initial stance. So plenty of coaching and a feedback loop (feedback to myself, that is :)
@BFFranklin - True, and I considered that it could be a deal breaker but I believe we're close enough and I can manage our relationship back on track through O3's.
I appreciate your perspectives on this, it's helped me a lot, thank you.
Delegation is the key
I support what MJPETE says. It should be your direct's responsibility to create an acceptable coverage plan. It is your responsibility to articulate your concerns that must be addressed by that plan. I find this to be true for any vacation request. This request is only different because you have more concerns that need to be addressed. I would also make it clear to your direct that a successful implementation of the plan is ultimately his responsibility, not yours. His performance will be measured in part by the success of the plan.
If everyone on your team understands the ground rules for vacation planning and know that they apply equally to everyone, you shouldn't have a "Golden Boy Gets His Way" problem.
It's not his wedding
Pete, you wrote: "I also, from my own perspective, never take vacation at year end and I think a part of me is disappointed that he doesn't have the same view."
He didn't pick the date for this wedding any more than he picked the location. This isn't an indication that he will want to take two weeks off at the end of every year. You may want to come back to the issue later to reinforce the "not forbidden, but most definitely frowned upon" aspect for everyone on the team.
Don't think of approving his vacation as "capitulation" -- think of it as working with a high achiever to keep him achieving. As long as there is sufficient coverage for his absence, let him go for the two weeks so you can keep him after he comes back.
BFFranklin and TomW are right: allowing him only one week doesn't necessarily come across as you being accommodating... it could be read as you trying to mess this up for him.
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