What do you do when your boss is stalling on approving your holiday?
November 10, 2021 2:06 AM   Subscribe

He is not responding to my attempts at following up on the status of my request. I have tried emailing him with HR copied, and sending him texts (I know this is not recommended, but I am desperate).

Our team is going through a restructuring. By restructuring I mean that our small team of 5 is now 3.

Before my manager left she had approved my vacation request, but it was rescinded by the CEO because there had been another vacation request by someone else on my team for the same period - their request came in two weeks later than mine, yet I was the one who was told to "be flexible" and to change my dates (this should be a a different post, but anyway), which I did.

Since I offered them my new dates there has been no response either from my boss or the HR department. HR is basically the boss's right-hand so I am sure that if my boss is ignoring me, I won't be able to get through to HR either.

I suspect that he is stalling so that when he finally does respond, he can say that it's now too close to my planned dates, and then reject the request.

What do I do?
posted by antihistameme to Work & Money (13 answers total)
 
This is so typical at big companies, especially the prioritization of some leave over others! There’s not much you can do except leverage this oversight into a nice, week-long vacation in the future because they want to make it up to you. Or call in sick, if you have the leave and don’t mind a white lie.
posted by halfnhalfling at 3:02 AM on November 10, 2021


At my company every week the request sat unanswered it would automatically escalate to the next manager up, all the way to the CEO. If it were to get that far the CEO would give his direct report (the director of that org) a hard time about why didn't the approval stop with them, and likely at this point HR would get involved.

I am in HR, on the ops side. For my role in this I would generally go to the original manager who neglected the time off request and condescendingly ask them if I could provide them some training in how to use our time off approval system, please reach out at any time, happy to walk you through it. And then one of our HR partner folks would bring it up as a concerning trend to watch for and avoid on the team meetings with that group.

Which is all to say that at a company that actually values its employees this is extremely rare and there are systems in place to keep it from happening.

So if I were you I would be looking for a new job. And then I might, depending on how pissed off I was, send the nuclear email of "As I have received no response to this I assume my proposed dates are fine, I will be on vacation from date to date." The job market is way too hot right now for employers to be pulling this kind of crap. Your boss and HR are being profoundly stupid. You have options.
posted by phunniemee at 4:47 AM on November 10, 2021 [35 favorites]


Have you called him? I would call him.
posted by something something at 4:53 AM on November 10, 2021 [7 favorites]


Do you need approval? You can send a follow-up note, CC'ing his boss and HR, stating that due to his lack of response you are scheduling the time off, that so-and-so will be covering any hot issues while you are away, and that other projects/tasks are on schedule or will not be impacted by your absence.

At the worst you'll get quick response saying No; at the best you'll get no response and you take your holiday.

Be sure you include your holiday schedule in your weekly statuses so that nobody can say they didn't know.

They may attempt to tell you, shortly before you leave, that your holiday was never approved...in which case you call their bluff and tell them you're either taking holiday or quitting. Because when a team down-sizes like that they can't afford to lose you.
posted by jpeacock at 5:17 AM on November 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


so frustrating I'm sure -

What do I do? You look for a company that is professional and treats you with a professional respect. If they are treating you this way (rescinding your time off, not answering any communication) , then you don't want to work for them, right? (like a relationship) In this job market, and the restructuring, YOU are the one in power here. I like phunniemee's 'nuclear email' suggestion.

All that said - I'm curious about the timeline here... have you been trying for weeks, i.e. since early Oct? Or shorter term, like just the past week?
posted by mrmarley at 6:01 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


Where I live, if the employer does not answer within two weeks then the request is considered to be approved. Might be different in your area.
posted by Akke at 7:44 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


Akke's comment above suggests that a diplomatic* way to follow-up might be to to say something like "I previously worked in [company / state / country] and requests that weren't explicitly refused within two weeks were considered to be approved. Can I confirm that this is the case here, too?"

I've previously threatened to quit over holiday shenanigans and it worked. Crucially, I was actually willing to quit over the issue - it's not a situation in which you want to be making an empty threat.

*Or passive aggressive, depending on your perspective.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


They may attempt to tell you, shortly before you leave, that your holiday was never approved...in which case you call their bluff and tell them you're either taking holiday or quitting. Because when a team down-sizes like that they can't afford to lose you.

I wouldn't bother with a threat to quit. Tell them you're taking the time off and take the time off.

If they decide they want to fire you in retribution, collect unemployment while you're looking for a new job. But you should be looking for a new job right now anyway. There's no reason for letting an employer treat you like crap in this job market; you're undervalued and mistreated in your current position. Let's see them try to get the work done with a team of two.

There’s not much you can do except leverage this oversight into a nice, week-long vacation in the future because they want to make it up to you.

I would never, never trust them to make it up to you. They've already proven themselves untrustworthy. You hold significant power here and you should use it. They need you more than you need them.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:47 AM on November 10, 2021 [9 favorites]


I'd start calling, or using some different and less ignorable and more expensive methods of communication. Make it clear that you need an answer even if the answer is no, because no answer at all is unacceptable. You could also escalate to your manager's manager (or whoever would fill in if your manager is sick) and say you're worried if they're out sick/their email is broken but regardless you need a response on this issue. Frame it as a breakdown in normal business communication and not a personal request for vacation (which is absolutely a normal business request but some people seem to be jerks about vacation).

Even if HR isn't on "the ruse", they're not likely to interject themselves into a vacation discussion between a manager and their employee. It's not their job and they usually don't have the power to make your manager do anything (unless it's a violation of the law and puts the company at risk).
posted by meowzilla at 9:50 AM on November 10, 2021


I would never, never trust them to make it up to you. They've already proven themselves untrustworthy.

A way to recontextualize this: your vacation time is part of your compensation. If your employer neglected to pay you a full week of payroll, and you kept asking them hey where is my money, and they kept ignoring you, how would you interpret that.
posted by phunniemee at 10:01 AM on November 10, 2021 [11 favorites]


Basically, your company is either badly run or screwing you around, so it is time to either hunker down and put up with it in because you don't have the option to look elsewhere, or to start checking for other opportunities. My first concern is that the reason your boss isn't replying on this is because he knows you won't be working for that company anyway by the dates you are requesting and that you are on the list for being culled in the next round of restructuring. Once they start treating you like they don't care if you quit, it's worth considering if they would be happy to see you go so that they can avoid paying severance and they are hinting that you should leave.

It could just be that your boss is useless, that happens too. They may have altogether too much on their plate to do their job competently, if the restructuring left them with new responsibilities and the work previously done by four people. It's also possible that your boss needs to get it cleared with someone higher up who is ignoring them. How are they about responding to other issues? Prompt and efficient? If they are good at responding to other stuff then probably someone else is blocking them from responding to you. They may no longer have the staff to cover if you get a vacation, so their yes or no is dependent on getting someone trained before they can answer.

If staffing is really badly messed up they are planning on forcing you to ask for your vacation pay in lieu of the vacation time off. I know one company that lost 3/4s of their workforce for the last two weeks of December and didn't even have anyone to answer the phones, because they kept declining vacation requests until about December 10th when they told their staff that anyone who hadn't taken vacation that year was getting money in lieu of it in their first January paycheck.

Another possibility is that your company is planning on dictating when you get your vacation. In some industries they do that - everyone can only take their vacation during slack times. There may soon be an announcement that no on can get time off during the time period you've requested. Your boss may not be allowed to tell you yes or no, because then you might ask why, but they are not cleared to give you advance notice before the CEO makes a company wide announcement.

Either way you can't make plans because you could find yourself at a new job where it is too soon to get time off, or getting told that your vacation has to be some other time of year. You don't have the leverage to get a yes or no if they are not ready to give you one so you have to assume the vacation is not going to happen.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I would assume approval and act accordingly. Block the time off your calendar as out of office. I wouldn't bring it up again unless it's necessary, i.e., someone asks you to do something when you're going to be out.
posted by shoesietart at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


There are much more diplomatic options above, but perhaps mull the possiblity of asking them to schedule either your vacation as requested, or a salary review.
posted by rhizome at 5:14 PM on November 10, 2021


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