Help me convince the boss I DON'T have to be in the office 12/26-12/31
November 21, 2013 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to show up at the office for the four weekdays between Xmas and January 1 -- AGAIN. But the boss is taking vacation. More drama inside.

My employer only has three employees, plus the boss -- Samantha. My co-workers are Lacy, Tom, and me. We're an "office"-type company, where there are no clients to walk in, no customers, no dealing with the public. Most of our work is on the internet.

Samantha insists on keeping the office open between Christmas and New Year's Day. For the last two years, Tom and I have drawn the short straw, since Lacy and Samantha are out of town. But we have nothing to do. No email. No phone calls. We ended up organizing paper files and Swiffering the floors. But everyone else in my life, including my SO, is off -- and wondering why I can't join them for (daytime) holiday fun.

Yesterday, Tom and I approached Samantha to see about closing the office all four days so none of us has to come in. We offered to check email and call in for voicemail, but really, no one is going to contact us during that deadest of dead weeks.

Boy, Samantha didn't like that. She dismissed every one of our reasons -- and they are reasons, with logic and evidence and everything -- and just couldn't conceive of the office not being open...for reasons she never made clear. Work from home? Absolutely out of the question. Though she and Lacy do it virtually every week.

We're not getting raises this year. Or bonuses. Having the four days off would be a show of gratitude for all Tom and I have done for the company during this difficult year. It would cost Samantha nothing and not affect her life in the slightest if Tom and I didn't come in. Tom and I are even willing to forgo our pay for those four days, though Samantha angrily ended the conversation before we could retreat to that position.

I really resent this. Three years in a row is too much. But I don't know what else to do. I don't know what I can offer when the boss doesn't want to negotiate at all. She didn't even sympathize with us or show any concern. Tom and I simply lost the "be the first to request your vacation on the shared calendar" contest and now we're stuck. Even Lacy, the other out-of-towner, is on our side, just out of principle.

Is there anything Tom and I can do? One year, we alternated working days, since all Samantha requires is a warm body in the office for eight hours. That means we're each losing two days instead of four, but it still makes my blood boil. Do I still have options?
posted by Flying Saucer to Work & Money (56 answers total)
You do have an option, but unfortunately it is "get a new job." If your boss won't let you stay home, you have to go to work. I suppose you and Tom could also collude somehow to make her think the office is open when actually neither of you bother to go in, but as that could result in you getting fired, I probably would not do that.

I have to work the holidays, too, and it's boring and it sucks. But that's adulthood sometimes.

One thing I would do is put in your vacation request immediately for Christmas Week 2014.
posted by something something at 6:37 AM on November 21, 2013 [28 favorites]

She's your boss. She has the right to tell you when she wants the office open, and if you need to show up to work then. If you don't agree with that, you need to find a place more open to the way you want to work.
posted by xingcat at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I say this as an employer and owner of a small business*. You've made your case and its been rejected you really don't have any legal recourse and logic seems to be failing. Find a new gig.

*we're giving everyone the holiday time off who asks for it this year.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

Do I still have options?

Quit? Change your attitude and be thankful you have a job? I think that's about the sum total of options available to you.

The boss makes the rules (subject to labor laws); when you are the boss, you will make the rules. I, too, have to come in between Christmas and New Years, and on the day after Thanksgiving.

Bring a book to work. Watch Netflix or movies on your phone. Write thank you notes. I think being at work those days is like getting study hall; it's a great time to catch up on personal and professional matters.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

She is allowed to be out of the office because she has someone to delegate things She's the boss, applesauce, and she is letting you know how things are. So, split days with Tom and look for a new job that has a more flexible boss or a bigger staff that will allow you to choose your off days more easily.

So, no. Other than some kind of ultimatum that may get you fired, you and Tom are sadly stuuuuuck.
posted by inturnaround at 6:42 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Boss says the office is open with no exceptions, then you've gotta do it with no exceptions. Modify your plans accordingly.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:43 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi, I worked in the exact same environment. My advice? Start making your escape plan right now, particularly during the time you're forced to come into the office.

Bosses squalking like this is just the tip of the iceberg and I urge you to get out ASAP. When it's physically impossible to show at the office, I.e. Blizzard, illness, bomb scare, your boss might still have the same attitude of bodies in seats.

Please consider leaving this environment. I know there are so many reasons to stay, but if boss acts this way over Christmas and more importantly won't even listen or entertain their employees, it's time to go!
posted by Chorus at 6:45 AM on November 21, 2013 [18 favorites]

Do I still have options?

Work so that you and Tom only work two consecutive days over the 4 day "holiday". If you both want the two days after Christmas, draw straws. Loser gets those two days next year.

Think of a light project to work on during those two dead days.

You don't have any control over this situation, other than quitting, so make your peace with that and move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

For whatever its worth, whenever I (or guys on my team) had to work that period, it was a week of long lunches, Tekken on the PS, hacking on personal projects and general goofing around. It sucked having to go in at all, but it was generally quiet. We had successfully lobbied for a change-freeze for the month of December, so no real work was going on anyway. We were there to just keep all the little green lights lit and steady.

On the other hand, it was a series of holiday-ruining "emergencies" one year that convinced me to start looking for a different job.
posted by jquinby at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

You laid out some pretty logical arguments and she still said no. I can't say that I'm surprised. I work in an office and know how illogical some managers can be and how many subscribe to my way or the highway. Nothing you come up with is going to change her mind. I have similar problems in my office and have realized that it's time to get a new job.
posted by hazel79 at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You already know that the only option is to quit on December 24. Then you'll have the time off.

Do you honestly think your boss cares about you and your feelings when it comes to her business? She doesn't. She's not even willing to discuss it. Or work with you on it. There's no convincing her. At. All.

So do it this year and look for a job in the new year.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

Ain't nothing you can do about this I agree. But my advice is re:

Tom and I simply lost the "be the first to request your vacation on the shared calendar" contest

Petition to change that because there's no reason time off at the office should be decided the way teenagers decide who rides shotgun. If time off during the holidays is seen as a privilege, it should be distributed fairly, not a footrace.
posted by griphus at 6:50 AM on November 21, 2013 [16 favorites]

It's probably too late to work something out with Lacy if her travel reservations, etc., are made, but if you're going to stay there, talk to her well in advance next year and see if she can take a turn - sounds like she owes you at this point.

Otherwise, yes, it sucks but your boss is within her rights to ask you to do this. Plan to trade days with Tom, and start thinking about how you can make these days as pleasant as possible for you. Can your SO stop by and bring you something tasty for lunch so you can hang out for a while at the office? Can you stream some show you've always meant to watch off Netflix to keep you entertained while you file and clean? Bring your thank-you-card list in and polish them off while you're at your desk being the warm body your boss requires? Give yourself some really great nail art? Set up Skype dates with distant friends you don't talk to enough? Whatever will pass the time.

I'm not usually a fan of goofing off in the office too much, but in this case - if she requires a warm body there, fine, but see if you can make it pleasant for yourself in the meanwhile.
posted by Stacey at 6:51 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spend those four days building an effigy of Samantha and brushing up on your darts accuracy. And looking for a new job.
posted by phunniemee at 6:52 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Samantha will be out of town, yes? Come in/punch in/clock in/whatever you do, go home, come back before closing time and clock out. All four days. Same with Tom.

I disagree with "the boss has spoken" viewpoints. As long as your commute isn't long, my way fun trumps office boredom.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:57 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Come in/punch in/clock in/whatever you do, go home, come back before closing time and clock out.

I advise against this. You will be royally screwed if Samantha either decides to have a change of heart and send y'all home early or decides to give the office a call to make sure you're not doing exactly this because you made such a big deal about it.
posted by griphus at 7:00 AM on November 21, 2013 [16 favorites]

At the very least, I don't see why you and Tom don't go in two days each and catch up on reading or tv or whatever.
posted by jeather at 7:01 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your other option is to split each 8 hour shift with Tom so that all you have to do is go in for a few hours each day.... That wouldn't be so bad, go in, surf the net, watch a film, then boom- time to go home... I know for me, the 8 hours lone-working would really drag at hour 5, I felt like I'd been there ages and would still have 3 more hours to go!
posted by misspony at 7:02 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree there isn't much you can do except go in. However, I would do it so you went in for two days in a row and Tom went in for two days in a row so that at least you both got a longer, non-interrupted break.

Then I would go back at the start of the year and tell her you are not working those days next year because 4 years in a row is a non-starter.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:03 AM on November 21, 2013

Samantha will be out of town, yes? Come in/punch in/clock in/whatever you do, go home, come back before closing time and clock out. All four days. Same with Tom.

Don't do this unless the worst-case scenario is okay with you, which in this case would be: she finds out, she fires you, you don't get unemployment, you can't get a reference, and she tells this story to anyone who will listen. And I would not assume that most prospective bosses will consider "I didn't get the entire week off between Christmas and New Year's, so naturally I deceived my boss into paying me when I was in fact sitting at home" will be persuasive.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:07 AM on November 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

Split the days with Tom and have your SO stop in for a long lunch and a movie.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:08 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

That wouldn't be so bad, go in, surf the net, watch a film,

Oh god yes, this. Bring some popcorn and some DVDs and spend the time you're in there dicking around with Tom and being completely unproductive. Wear pajama pants or at least something that breaks the dress code. Play music.

I have done this in a similar situation (very small office, boss went on vacation for a week and so we couldn't do any work, but he refused to officially close the office, so we just watched movies the whole time).
posted by phunniemee at 7:08 AM on November 21, 2013 [11 favorites]

You could also have something scary happen, like hear a pretend burglar and phone 911 or the police... or fake a carbon monoxide detector by sticking it by your exhaust pipe... find a fault with the fire alarm just after the stores all close on christmas eve so that it would be breaking regulation for you to stay there without one....

(I assume that managers are responsible for filing paperwork and stuff like this when emergencies arise)

Samantha might be more in favor of shutting down the office next year if she has a little taste of that.
posted by misspony at 7:09 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sign up on the shared calendar for that week for next year, and the two years after. Do it today so you don't lose that "contest" again. You've done your turn.

And then do all the other things above that make your life easier and won't get you fired. (Active sabotaging or lying about time in the office: no. Swapping days, taking long lunches, finding an entertaining 16 hour project: yes. I'd be bringing my spinning wheel in and setting up Netflix on the office projector, but your bliss may be elsewhere.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The last time our boss insisted that we stay open during the holiday season, people openly slept at their desks and/or watched videos all day. I made a nest of winter coats in the footwell of my desk and watched all the Resident Evil movies on my ipad. If there is nothing to do but you have to be there, then do whatever you would do on a lazy day at home if you had to wait around for the plumber. Wear sweat pants and slippers. Eat donuts messily. You're getting paid for doing nothing, with the alternative being the loss of your job, so you might as well make the best of it.

Start looking for a new job on 01/01/14.

on preview: oh my god do not fake a 911 emergency. the other advice above to pretend that you are in the office when you are not is also similarly bad awful advice.
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 AM on November 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

I know that you can't really sabotage the office.

But one thing you could do is selflessly take it upon yourself to do the fire safety checks... and find all the stuff that needs fixing. There is always something.

And then she can fix it all when she gets back, or you could let her know by email and ask her if she insists you stay in the office. She would be very hesitant to put it in writing that she demanded you stay in a building that wasn't up to scratch on its fire safety.

That fantasy aside... yeah... find a way to enjoy that time. I always did, but its hard not to feel mad when other people seem to get a luckier draw.
posted by misspony at 7:20 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with all those who say that, ultimately, the boss makes the rules, and is not obliged to give you holidays off. That said, there are a few things in your story that lead me to think there *might* be some room for further negotiation efforts:

[the boss] just couldn't conceive of the office not being open...for reasons she never made clear...

If you are able to get any more of her time/attention, it might be worth trying to understand her reasons for wanting you around. Right now, her reasons just seem irrational to you. Your best hope in getting the time off probably lies in understanding *why*she wants you there. It's likely/possible that there is *some* reason, but you don't know what it is. If it's possible for you to understand those interests, there might be ways you can find to satisfy them without ruining your holiday.

It would cost Samantha nothing and not affect her life in the slightest if Tom and I didn't come in.
(I guess I'm saying you should question that assumption. As a general rule - when I find that another party's position seems completely irrational to me, I usually take it as a sign that I don't fully understand what their interests are....)

Tom and I are even willing to forgo our pay for those four days, though Samantha angrily ended the conversation before we could retreat to that position.

This seems important! Samantha may be thinking that you are asking for 4 days of paid leave, when in fact you are willing (?) to take 4 days of unpaid leave. You might want to try clearing that up.

None of this is to say that you will get the time off, or that the boss is obliged to give it to you. Just that there's still more to look into, if you're able to get more of Samantha's time/attention.
posted by ManInSuit at 7:20 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nothing you can do to change her mind. I've been there.
1. Put in time immediately for 2014. It doesn't matter if someone else has to travel and Lacy owes you guys.
2. Use the time you have to sit around there prepping to look for a new job.
3. Use the time you have to sit around there getting ahead on some stuff so when Samantha and Lacy walk back in you've got the jump on everything, "Ball's in your court bitches!".
4. Goof off.

There really isn't much else to do at this point.
posted by marylynn at 7:21 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with everyone who says you don't really have a choice here (unless you don't mind potentially being fired).

So all you can do is change your attitude - your boss is paying you just to show up. You can surf the net, watch movies, do personal stuff, whatever. You won't have to deal with the boss, you'll have minimal, if any, actual work to do. It'll be the easiest money you'll ever make, and you can spend it on a holiday treat when you do get some time off.
posted by pianissimo at 7:24 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh also, on my "There is still more talking to be done" point, this:

Even Lacy, the other out-of-towner, is on our side, just out of principle.

Will Lacy back you on this? It might be worth getting her to point out that feeling to Samantha. It might be persuasive to Samantha to know that *everyone* who works in the office thinks the work-on-holidays policy is a bad one.
posted by ManInSuit at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2013

If Lacy was on your side, she would have volunteered to work those days in the past three years.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on November 21, 2013 [11 favorites]

I've always worked in offices that stay open for the holidays (except Christmas and New Year's itself), and while I'll usually take a day or two off right around Christmas, I work the rest of the week. Two things to consider about this that may give you some perspective on it:

1) Do Samantha and/or Lacy need to travel to see family for the holidays? If that's why they are getting the time off, I wouldn't quite call it "vacation." I don't have to go very far for my family holidays, and I generally don't mind taking less time off so that the people who do have to go far can make it worth their while.

2) As you, and others, have noted, not much happens in the office during that week. Is it kinda pointless to be there? Yeah (though in my case there is a sort-of reason). But I'd rather save up the bulk of my vacation days for actual vacations.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Irrespective of whether or not you have found a new job by then, book the days between next Christmas and New Year off right now.
posted by mr_silver at 7:47 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Small business owners are nuts. Some are charmingly nuts. Some bizarrely nuts. It goes with the territory. I'm guessing that she has some anxiety about being away from the business for a period of time and you two suggesting that the whole thing close down just sends her anxiety meter into overdrive. So, maybe take a moment and think about that while you decide what to do.

I agree that you and Tom can strategize about how to spend the time. It sounds like if you both agree to be "on call" that one of you can be the warm body for all or a part of the day. A partial day would probably be best – if she calls, you can say that Tom went to the post office and should be back soon, etc. I would do an afternoon shift one day with a morning shift the next day and alternate that way with Tom.

Use the office time to spruce up your resume. Get good samples of your work. Make a spreadsheet about how awesome you are and look for other work if you're unhappy there. If you're otherwise happy there, suck it up and, yeah, you guys need to address the fairness of this "FIRST!" policy for holidays. That just doesn't seem fair.
posted by amanda at 7:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's no convincing some people. Your boss may have good reasons, or this may be about anxiety, or seniority, or whatever.

Put in your holiday request now. And sit down with your boss over lunch well after the holidays to talk about next year, if you think it would be productive. Well after as in end of January, early February. Ask for a rotating schedule instead of a race for the holiday request. Suggest unpaid leave. Listen to your boss's concerns. Don't try to squash them, just listen.

And again, get your holiday request in before the co-worker who always grabs it. They are not on your side.
posted by zippy at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2013

Get drunk at work and invite people over for four-day holiday bonanza. Then quit if she finds out.
posted by Anonymous at 8:18 AM on November 21, 2013

And again, get your holiday request in before the co-worker who always grabs it.

Do not expect the situation to change, even if you mange to do this. Lacy clearly has senior position to you and Tom and will get these days off if she wants. You can try to change his, but don't get your hopes up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 AM on November 21, 2013

Get drunk at work and invite people over for four-day holiday bonanza. Then quit if she finds out.

It usually helps to have a new bridge built before burning the old one in a booze soaked, frustration-fueled reverie.

That being said: this boss of your sounds illogical. Maybe she isn't willing to share the reasons as to why the office stays open because those reasons are supposed to stay secret or perhaps its because she not acting rationally and doesn't want to give you any real proof that this is the case.

The weird working-from-home arrangement is also rubbing me the wrong way here, it sounds like Boss is using the both of you to keep the lights on while she and Lacy do as they please. Boss is entitled to doing this, because Boss, but Boss is most definitely not entitled to having that decision respected (or to be respected herself for such behavior).

I would consider finding a new job, though the four person office without clients sounds super nice.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:30 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

How essential is what you do to the company, how easily can you be fired and how likely is it that she will know whether you were there or not?

You and Tom represent 2/3 of her staff. Unless you can be easily replaced, I just wouldn't go in for those days or both "call in sick". But you both have to agree to do it.

and start looking for a new job NOW
posted by missmagenta at 8:36 AM on November 21, 2013

Irrespective of whether or not you have found a new job by then, book the days between next Christmas and New Year off right now.

Why just next year? How far in advance can you book it? If there's no limit I know that I'd be sending an email right now booking leave at Christmas for the next decade.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:39 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just don't show up and say you were sick.

Oh but be prepared to lose your job.
posted by windykites at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing that this is probably just Standard Issue small business owner nuttiness, and your boss will not be swayed by logic or evidence, or be able to come up with logic & evidence to support her position. Accept it & move on.

Nthing that you should view this as an opportunity to get paid for goofing off. You say in the past you've spent your time doing easy things like cleaning, or reorganizing some file cabinets, or whatever. Speaking from experience, if you can make it REALLY OBVIOUS you've done these minor tasks, when the boss returns it looks like you've been busy little beavers & she won't really question how you really spent your time. A gleaming bathroom and one package ready to mail = happy boss, and it won't even occur to her that these tasks took about 20 minutes total to accomplish.

Nthing that trying to organize "secret" time off between you & Tom sounds like a bad idea. Either be aboveboard about each of you gets two days off while the other one covers the office (like you've done in the past) or just both show up and get paid to goof.

And holy shit DO NOT call 911 and fake an emergency.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the last two years, Tom and I have drawn the short straw, since Lacy and Samantha are out of town.

So, no, you didn't "draw the short straw" at all.

Lacy and Samantha simply choose not to come in, and you two are left holding the bag.

It's ridiculous of your boss to feel that the office "needs to be open" while she, herself does not appear to "need to be" there.

I don't know, if it were me I'd probably either go in and do nothing (no swiffering, no filing, just go in and watch Netflix or dick around online or whatever). Take a looooong lunch break. Come up with some "errands" that need to be done that require you to come in at 10:30 and leave at 4. Etc.

Either that or just forward the office phones to your cell and say you're there if she calls. She's out of town. What is she gonna do, watch you guys on the surveillance camera?
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and you should have next year's request for time off on her desk waiting for her when she gets back from her vacation. If it's a first come first served thing, it is finally your turn to be First Served.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on November 21, 2013

This reminds me of the job where my mom was told she had to come in on Thanksgiving for work. When she asked what she'd do, they told her to dust the computers.

Nthing that you're stuck, and just sit there and watch movies all day, and look for another job--preferably with a big org rather than another crazy small business owner. Small businesses are a hell of a lot more nitpicky about things like this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:04 AM on November 21, 2013

Do you have enough money saved that you can quit and look for work? Bullshit like this is exactly why I have about 6 months of "f*ck you" money put aside. I'm a freelance contractor, so maybe it's a bit different...but if you can afford it I would get out of there. You deserve more respect than this.

There is some good advice in this thread from people who are a bit less adversarial career-wise than I am...but I am an agitator and I have done fine. I say your only options are to quit or swallow this bitter pill. I would quit, and potentially get Tom to quit too if he is in a position to do so.

Your employer has 3 employees? How would she like 2/3rds of her staff to walk out on her? If you are both in a position to exert this type of leverage...I would do it. She does not respect or care about you and has demonstrated that 3 times now.

If you aren't in a position to do something so dramatic then at least do what you can to slack at work without getting caught. People will make you feel that you are supposed to feel shame in doing this...but given the circumstances I think it's completely justifiable.

Work culture in the US sucks.
posted by jnnla at 11:19 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You have to work, and you'll get paid. It's cheesy that others have gotten 1st dibs on that time off, so next year, put in for it. If it's really that dead, could you and Tom flip for who gets the time off and who stays in the office?

I don't know where you are or what you do, but use the time to learn some new skills, watch training videos on youtube, take courses through iTunes U, MIT, or another free resource. You probably have a computer, so get your SO to watch the same movie with you, and IM all through it. You and Tom should take turns having lunch out of the office.

It sounds like you want the time as free time off, not using vacation time. I can see why a boss would react badly to that. If you like the job, this may be a thing that sucks, that you learn to accept. If you don't like the job, start looking.
posted by theora55 at 11:30 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you or Tom gotten your flu shots yet? If not...

Wouldn't it be awful if you got the flu the week between the holidays? Oh, what a stroke of bad luck! I sure hope it doesn't happen to you!
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've seen employees convince their employers so well that they weren't needed around that the employer realized that the employee was right and fired them or cut their hours.

Most employers are fairly up front with company policies, whenever you start, they explain that the office is closed on A, B and C, that there's X days of personal time, Y days of sick leave and Z days of vacation (with either a use it/lose it or roll over system).

It looks like your office is open for business on those days. When you apply for other jobs, be sure to ask if the office is closed for the week between Christmas and New Years and if not indicate that you'll be expecting to take that week off each year without dipping into your vacation days.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2013

In terms of other options, I have worked only one job ever in which the office closed between Christmas and New Year's, and they did it mainly because it saved them money because they didn't have to pay us (we were all hourly). I wouldn't at all plan on it being easy to find another job if that's a requirement.

I think your best option is to realize that keeping the office open on non-holiday days is standard, that your boss is not being as unreasonable as you think she is, and to drop the resentment.
posted by jaguar at 11:58 AM on November 21, 2013

Don't just go quit. There are crazy bosses everywhere, and sometimes you need work on making the fit better.

I agree with ManInTime - look at your boss's interests. That's is negotiation 101.
I would go back to you boss, and ask to have a meeting. During that meeting:
1) Thank you boss for considering the previous request, and acknowledge that while you don't necessarily agree with her decision, you respect her right to make it based on company policy of first-come, first-serve. Based on this experience, you'd like to put in a request for time off during those four days next year now.
2) Is there a specific list of things to get accomplished during this 4 day period that she would like? Or general things she wants to accomplish?

Don't approach this as a zero sum negotiation, and don't discount your boss as simply being irrational.

Its sounds like office coverage during those four days in and of itself is important to your boss, and that she was expecting you guys to cover. She had probably developed an emotional comfort from knowing that you and Tom would be there. This may be because they want coverage in case of a last minute emergency, client concern, or just to have a live person to answer the phone. It doesn't matter then that no-one usually calls in, its a matter of if someone might call. Voicemail is not the same if someone calls. Having two people scheduled is pretty standard, in my experience. And for the larger offices I have worked for, we often gave extra business to those companies open on those in between days, just because something tended to come up last minute. It sounds like nothing you proposed to your boss would have alleviated that expectation of coverage.

I would look at proposing:
1) having the office phones forwarded to your personal cell phone, and that you alternate with Tom on what days you are responsible for it. On those days, you'll be close to a computer and ready to respond to whatever comes up. (No long hiking trips in the middle of nowhere, but home with family or near an internet connection).
2) before the holidays, you and Tom make sure that everything is closed out. No outstanding client work, no late paperwork.
3) Ask Sam/Lacy if they need you guys to check in with them during those four days.

It sounds like you are emotionally drained from this working experience, and that the company has been going through some tough times. If you don't believe in the company's future, and in your co-workers' ability to make it happen, then yes, you should look elsewhere. But over these four days alone? No.
posted by troytroy at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2013

Oh and if you keep this job, next year you should be "out of town".
posted by windykites at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2013

Small business owner here. There is nothing to lose by following up with a quick email laying out the business case for you having those days off - unpaid, or as a compromise, 50% paid. In other words, sum up the outgoings saved vs income lost and show how much it would profit her - or how much loss it would prevent - to agree to your request. Of course you're doing this because you have the best interests of the company at heart!
posted by cogat at 12:46 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

So I thought of another way to frame this.

A few people upthread have pointed out that most offices are open during the week between Christmas and New Years, so you have no real standing to demand the time off. And this is maybe true.

However, I wonder if the real source of your anger about this isn't the notion that the office might be open that week, but the allocation of time off. There is one company owner and three employees. Every year, the boss takes off that week. Which, IMO, is icky, but sure, she's the boss, I guess it's her prerogative. (I work in a field where, traditionally, higher ups take on more responsibility rather than less, so maybe I'm way off base about this.) But the even worse thing is that, every single year, the same employee takes off the week between Christmas and New Years, and the other two of you are stuck in the office every year like clockwork.

That's not fair.

There is absolutely no reason why one employee should have permanent dibs on traveling during the holidays, while all other employees must be forced to pick up the slack. And I say this as someone who lives across the country from family.

What about approaching your boss about formalizing the vacation request and holiday time off process, to make things more equitable going forward?


- A rotating plan for covering the holidays that is fair for everyone. If Lacy needs every single Christmas week for all of time, maybe you and Tom could get a longer Thanksgiving weekend, or the opportunity to extend a holiday weekend at another time of year.

- An official procedure for requesting time off. It's not "drawing straws" or "first come first served" if the same person gets the time off every year. Maybe the official procedure is that Lacy always gets that week off, and you and Tom never do. But if that's the case, it needs to be official and not couched in some kind of pretense of fairness that doesn't actually exist.

- How does time off get doled out at other popular times of the year, like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Fourth Of July, and Labor Day? What about popular summer travel times, or long weekends, summer Fridays, etc? Does Lacy get first dibs for every single holiday and all vacation time ever? Does she magically always seem to get First Served or Long Straw status, year in, year out, for all time off requests?
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't it be awful if you got the flu the week between the holidays? Oh, what a stroke of bad luck! I sure hope it doesn't happen to you!

Maybe just a joke by the earlier commenter, but faking sick days is not a good idea and a possibly way to get fired, particularly if you've already made a big deal out of getting the days in question off. I have honestly seen people (n > 5) fired for doing this (in 20-25 years of career).
posted by aught at 2:15 PM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can you call in sick? Can you work from home?
posted by floweredfish at 3:03 PM on November 21, 2013

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