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Should I Request A Vacation Day -- Or Just Call In Sick?

Forbes logo Forbes 24/10/2017 Liz Ryan, Contributor

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Dear Liz,

I like your practical workplace advice. I could use some advice myself.

Two weeks ago my wife experienced a serious health scare and spent two days in the hospital. She spent a week at home recovering when she got out of the hospital. Her sister came over and cared for her during the day when I was at work.

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My wife has a follow-up doctor’s appointment in two weeks and I told her I would go to the appointment with her.

My boss “Roger” is on a six-month assignment in Australia. The temporary manager in charge of our team is “Alex.” I have no relationship with him at all. Alex is all about rules and regulations.

Nobody in our team likes Alex. At our first staff meeting with Alex in charge, he told us “This assignment is setting me up to get promoted so don’t screw it up for me.”

I can ask Alex to approve a vacation day for my wife’s appointment but he could refuse to grant it.

In our company a manager has total discretion over our use of vacation time, even though I have over four weeks of vacation time available and I’ve worked here for seven years.

Alex might disallow my vacation request just to be a jerk. My colleague “Anita” requested two days off to attend her niece’s graduation from nursing school and Alex refused her request. He said “We have deadlines to meet and we all have to make sacrifices.”

There’s no one I can complain to if Alex says “You can’t take a vacation day to go to the doctor with your wife.” Should I skip the vacation request altogether and just call in sick on the day of my wife’s appointment, to be on the safe side?

Thanks Liz -

Yours,

Maciek

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Dear Maciek,

As a long-term HR leader I have always felt that any policy that makes people lie in order to take care of essential life activities is a bad policy.

You’ve saved up over four weeks of vacation time. You should be able to take a vacation day (with two weeks’ advance notice) whenever you want to!

Play it safe and call in sick on the day of your wife’s appointment. Sadly, Alex has given you no reason to believe that he will oblige your vacation request.

Your real problem is not Alex but a broken, bureaucratic HR system that gives even a temporary manager complete control over your use of earned vacation time.

That’s crazy. There’s no logic that would justify giving a manager that much control over your use of an employee benefit you earned through your hard work.

Your “real” manager will be back on the job eventually, but that’s not a long-term solution. Roger could quit his job or take another six-month assignment at any time.

Your quality of life should not suffer just because your usual manager isn’t in charge. Maybe it’s time to think about taking your talents to a company that will treat you better.

I hope your wife’s appointment goes well. You are well aware that being an attentive spouse is a million times more important than making your temporary manager happy.

This situation is annoying, but the good news is that you’ve got your priorities straight. No fearful manager can take that away from you!

All the best,

Liz

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