Asking for time off at a brand-new job
August 5, 2015 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I start a new job next Monday. HR specifically asked if I had any prior obligations, and I said "no" — I had plans for Labor Day weekend, but didn't think I'd need to take any extra time off. Turns out I was wrong. For reasons of logistics, I will either need to take Friday off work or else cancel my plans. Realistically, can I ask my new boss for that day off now without looking like a terrible flake? (And should I ask now, or wait and bring it up on my first day of work?)
posted by nebulawindphone to Work & Money (28 answers total)
(Clarification: I start on the 10th of August, five days from now. And the day I would need to take off work is the Friday before Labor Day, the 5th of September)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2015

Cancel the plans. It's a bummer, I know. But there are very few situations where it isn't a bad idea to take time off from a new job (e.g. your own wedding), and Labor Day weekend vacation logistics is not one of them.
posted by The World Famous at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think for a major holiday weekend like Labor Day, a lot of jobs are going to be very chill with giving you the Friday off. If this isn't the kind of place where that's kosher, so be it, but I can think of many jobs where they wouldn't mind. Heck, they might be thinking of closing the office early that day anyway. Approaching a boss with a request like this somewhat obsequiously and with a vibe of "it's totally fine if it's not ok!" will get you far.
posted by cakelite at 9:08 AM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do you mean Friday, the 4th of September? It would be nice if you really did mean to say the 5th, because that's a Saturday . ...
posted by merejane at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2015

(Yes, I mean Friday the 4th. *exasperated self-deprecating noises*)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2015

This is ONE day, not a month long vacation. You earn time off as part of this job, right? You are allowed to use it. Bring it up now, see what the response is and if it's negative (unlikely), you can cancel the trip.
posted by Flamingo at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think this really varies - in my industry (tech in SF) I can't imagine anybody really caring at all, at least about asking as long as you were nice about it, but I don't know about more "formal" industries. If you can write a good note with an easy escape clause (along the lines of what cakelight wrote above) it ought to be fine? I personally would ask now, but again I think industry/location is pretty important here.
posted by brainmouse at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would ask, but I am in academia where lenient scheduling helps make up for low pay. YMMV.
posted by Stacey at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think this totally depends on your job/level/industry/location. I took a week off from a new job three weeks after starting (I told them it was already booked and planned the day I started). But if this is a much more conservative situation, I'd go with cakelite's suggestion of assuring them it's fine if they say no. I'd be inclined to just ask, because I don't like the whole power dynamic of having to ask permission or grovel for vacation, but again, that depends on where the power dynamic actually lies in your situation.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2015

If your workplace provides employees with flexible scheduling, then I think it's fine to ask.

You should approach your new boss with a plan for making up the time you'd miss - an extra Saturday the following week or work a few longer days the week before. I think as long as you can show that any and all work and deadlines will be completed/met without negatively impacting any of your co-workers then you'll be okay.
posted by brookeb at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2015

Cancel the plans because you have two factors going against you here.

1.) HR asked you if you had plans and you said no. If you renege on this, it either looks like you are making plans at the last minute and don't value your new job very much, or you forgot to disclose them and it makes you look disorganized. Both not good things.

2.) Unless your boss is the rare breed that doesn't draw inferences on your work ethic and motivation from vacation time usage, requesting time off so soon will color, even ever so slightly, his/her initial impression of you.
posted by incolorinred at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

This is ONE day, not a month long vacation. You earn time off as part of this job, right? You are allowed to use it.

In many companies employees start accruing paid vacation time from the beginning but can't take it during the first 30 or 90 days. This is not uncommon in my and my friends' experience, and it really depends on the job and industry.
posted by andrewesque at 9:30 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

(This is a non-technical position at a fairly well-established non-startup tech company. The culture there is generally casual, but they do not permit work-from-home or most kinds of flexible scheduling.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2015

HR gave you the chance to mention it and you didn't. Unless it's a visit to a dying relative or you're standing up in a wedding, asking now could make it look like you're either disorganized/absentminded about schedules or you made plans to take a day off after you knew you were hired and told HR you didn't have plans. Neither is a good first impression.
posted by quince at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

As an addition to all the people saying "you didn't ask HR, therefore it's forfeit", at pretty much all the companies I've worked at, once HR onboards you, they don't care one bit about what you do with your vacation-- it's pretty much just up to your manager at that point.

Also, what if on August 11th something came up and you needed to take the 4th off? Would you not ask because you didn't ask before you started? That doesn't make sense.

Again, your mileage may vary, but I think you'll know a lot more once you actually start the job and figure out what the rules (written and unwritten) are.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do you need the entire Friday off?

I would contact them ASAP -- and I agree with the people who say go to your new supervisor/manager, not HR -- and ask if all (or part, if that's workable for your plans) of Friday off is feasible, while acknowledging that you already said you didn't have plans. Forthright is the way to go here.

If they balk, then cancel your plans and eat any expenses -- the rewards of a new job are far greater than a great 4-day weekend.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it's probably worth asking next week, so long as you make it very clear that you will cancel your plans if it's important to them that you're there on Friday. Maybe your boss and half your coworkers are already planning on taking that Friday off, and there's not much point in your coming in anyway. Get the lay of the land and figure out what's normal.
posted by mskyle at 10:12 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

if your office is like mine, NO ONE WILL BE THERE on the 4th.

If you must ask HR, ask hr, otherwise ask your boss what they think the 4th will look like. Will so many people be out of the office that it would be fine to take that day off? Maybe say something like "My top priority is to onboard to this job and get to know the team and my roll. Do you think enough people will be around on the 4th so I could do that?"

I would take my advice with a grain of salt. I think it depends on the culture (which you don't know yet)
posted by rebent at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Depends on the office culture. Some offices need someone in the office on pre- and post- holiday days just so that there are some butts in the seats, and folks sort of trade off who will be around. If you're new I wouldn't assume you'd get first pick for that day everyone will want; it might indeed leave a bad impression. Totally depends on the attitude of your manager which you'll more aptly gauge when you start.

Any special reason your plans would take precedence here? Are these plans out of the ordinary, or are they just getting-on-the-road-for-vaca plans like everyone else has?
posted by kapers at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2015

In your first week, you probably won't even be busy yet and no one really needs you there yet. Time off is given to employees to use. I would just say briefly what you said here and ask if it would be a problem to take Friday off?

That said, I got a horrible cold when I was starting a new job. In any other circumstance, even if I had been there just a week, I would've called in sick, but it was my first day, so I showed up and was miserable but tried to make the best of it. Sometimes when you're starting a new job, you have to be careful to show them you care.

It really depends on what the job is, your role, what your boss is like, etc. I am not of the mind that this is a definite no or definite yes situation.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

i would not ask. you don't know enough about the culture yet to know if it is ok to ask. if i was the person you had the plans with, i would understand that you need to cancel for this reason.
posted by katieanne at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're starting on August 10 and want to take off September 4, you won't even have been at the job a month -- will you even have any vacation time built up? At my current job, vacation time is built up monthly, so I wouldn't have any to use until that first paycheck. At least in my office, it would be considered fine to use earned vacation days whenever one wanted to, but asking for unpaid time off is a pretty big deal to ask about -- the people I've know of who have done it have only done so for unanticipated emergencies or other unusual situations, not normal holiday travel. Of course, the culture is different everywhere, so you'll have to try and guage this. However, I think this is another reason not to do it -- in order to really give notice for the 4th, you'd have to be asking about the vacation day before you're really settled and have gotten a chance to see how your coworkers handle vacation requests.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe this makes me a terrible worker or whatever, but i'd at least ask. I mean fuck it when it comes to all that passive aggressive "oh this speaks badly of you" inferences and stuff.

You've been there so briefly that they don't even have an impression of you. I've seen, and understand, some reasons why that would be a negative, but i think if you do this and then are otherwise reliable they'll basically forget.

Also, the aforementioned point that it's a weekend everyone takes off.
posted by emptythought at 12:51 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am a manager. I am not your manager.

It would depend on the situation. It's far enough out, and it's just one day, that it's not a slam-dunk "Oh noes don't do it" call. I'd feel out some of your co-workers and find out some things that might help you scorecard the situation:

On the plus side for doing it:

- it will be a slow day (honestly, we LIKE it when people use leave on slow days).
- if there's an established rotation of on-call or priority schedule as to who should/can be off, and you fit that pattern okay (in plainer English - you can tell by asking around whether asking off will inconvenience others. Ex: they've already had 3 of 4 available people ask off - bad. They've announced that it's going to be skeleton crew and seem to be inviting people to take off - good. Or there is a definable swap you can make with another co-worker (with your manager's permission) to let them take a day THEY want.

On the negative side of doing it:

- if there is a major project going on, and management seems tense about making deadline.
- it's retail, and you are a new guy.

I also value having people just, ya know -- ASK. Catch your supervisor at a good time and lay the situation out. Make it clear that you realize you forgot to mention it, that your plans CAN flex if the company needs you, and that you're not asking for a special favor. I guarantee that this will put you in the 90th percentile in the workplace.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:32 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

This sounds like a gamble that you have to be willing to take. You know nothing about the culture of this place. All you know is your field and what culture is like in that field, which really is no guarantee. You may not even know your boss; personality just from interviews. Was culture discussed in the interview process? Was there anything in the interviewing that made you think this would be OK? You were asked if there were any conflicts -- for two possible different reasons: 1) They have a lenient attitude toward time off and just wanted to know if you had any immediate conflicts to get it on the table and plan for your absence because it's summer and a lot of people vacation in the summer, or 2) your conflict could have been a deal breaker if they wanted someone right away that could dedicate time to the work before taking time off for vacationing. If it's 2 and they perceive you as dishonest or dismissive of workplace responsibilities, this is not going to go well for you -- maybe not in the immediate but certainly in the long term.

I personally would not even ask. But I'm not a risk taker when it comes to situations like this.
posted by archimago at 1:50 PM on August 5, 2015

Look at the scenarios:

You ask, and your employer considers asking to be neutral, and gives you the day off. Yay, you win.
You ask, and your employer considers asking to be negative, but still gives you the day off. Boo, you lose-ish. You got your day off, but you made yourself look bad.
You ask, and your employer considers asking to be neutral, but still can't give you the day off for policy or scheduling reasons. Boo, you lose-ish. You didn't get your day off, but at least you didn't piss off your boss.
You ask, and you employer considers asking to be negative, and can't or won't give you the day off. Boo, you lose so hard.

These aren't all even odds -- but I don't know which is more likely to be the case from the info you've provided, and it sounds like neither do you. Treating them as equally likely, there's only one good scenario here for you, out of four. I wouldn't like a 25% chance of a good outcome when considering trading one long weekend off for a long term job. It might change the calculus some if this is just a job to bide you over until you go back to school or something else with a foreseeable end date, but if this is a career job, it's just not worth it.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:36 PM on August 5, 2015

I think this really depends on the type of work and industry. I work in an office setting as a researcher and I cannot imagine NOT being able to take off for Labor Day because no one else would be available and I need other people in order to do my research. But, retail, nursing, or IT type jobs may be more difficult because there will be people to serve even on a national holiday.

It really doesn't hurt to ask. If they say no, don't push it and I doubt it will be held against you. If it is, then man, you may want to reconsider working there.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:57 PM on August 5, 2015

Is this the kind of job where they need you to jump right into leading a project and have work in mind for you and you are the candidate with the exact job skills they need to get this done ASAP? Or are you doing compliance trainings and reading SOPs for the first month and meeting all the groups you will be working with, and they are hiring someone just because they got an approval to increase headcount? If it's the latter, DEFINITELY ask - it's one day and you are asking a few weeks in advance - I can't imagine anyone saying no! HR probably wanted to know about longer vacation plans as a box-checking exercise and to make sure that their vacation policy is in line with your plans. If it's the former, then you can decide what the culture is like during your first few days there... and then if there are no pre-determined rotating vacation schedules and if people generally take time off around holiday weekends then you should also be fine.
posted by at 7:58 PM on August 5, 2015

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