Take the 2-minute tour ×
The Workplace Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for members of the workforce navigating the professional setting. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This recently happened to me and I was so taken aback by it that I didn't really respond (yet) - but I suspect I'll need to act soon (tomorrow).

I'm a salaried employee with X days of vacation per year. The process for vacation here is that I formally request time-off through an HR website then my manager approves or denies it. Generally speaking, time-off is approved except when we'd be too short-staffed to handle business.

I was approved for time-off, then days before the time-off, I was approached my manager's manager asking me to 'reschedule'. The question was phrased in such a way that it wasn't much of a question.

Him: Hey, user3497, I saw you were taking Friday off? Could you go in the HR website and reschedule that since X, Y and Z is happening?

Me: Ummm....yeah, I can take a look at that.

Him: Great - just go ahead and schedule it for another day.

Now, in my particular case, it's a single day off and I don't have any actual plans. I'm a pretty boring guy. I'd probably spend my Friday having a Walking Dead Marathon. But this strikes me as a HUGE no-no.

Can people share their opinions on this? Does this seem like a reasonable thing to ask an employee to do? I feel like it is crossing a line and sets a precedent where my vacation time isn't seen as valuable. I'm tempted to say something alone the lines of,

Well, I tried to cancel, but I setup my reservations for the weekend through a Groupon discount, and it's non-refundable. I'm happy enough to work on Friday, but I'm afraid I'd need to be reimbursed...

That would be:

  1. Completely dishonest
  2. Illustrate that my time is valuable and there is an associated cost with asking me to change my plans at the list minute. Many people do plan things and many of those things are non-refundable/carry an associated cost.
  3. Would ultimately let my boss's boss place a monetary value on moving my holiday time. If he truly feels it's important, $200 is a drop in the bucket for a large company. If $200 is a problem, then certainly, it's not that important that I be there.

Does anyone know of a more appropriate/better way to handle this?

EDIT: To clarify - I was involved with project 'Y' (but not X or Z). It's a software project and deadline came from outside of the company.

It was known when I scheduled the time off and, the day in question is actually after the go-live date. So, I did go out of my way to schedule it for 'after' the project's big push would be over. Likewise, my manager should have been equally aware of the deadlines/dates when it was approved.

share|improve this question
3  
Could you clarify whether or not you / your manager / the company knew about X, Y and Z when you initially scheduled the time off? That can really change the answer. –  Tacroy Oct 30 '12 at 20:51
5  
This is an issue of culture. I know that holidays in the UK (once agreed) are considered way more sacrosanct than holidays in the US, where they are often revoked at the drop of a hat. Can you give us an idea where you are? –  pdr Oct 30 '12 at 21:40
14  
Definitely don't do the thing you say you were tempted do. –  NickC Oct 30 '12 at 22:13
1  
I have to agree with @pdr - As someone from the UK I'd be quite hesitant to just roll over for this, actually I'd be surprised to be asked unless I knew there was a crisis on, but a lot of replies seem quite accepting. I guess I'd balance how much you wanted that day off against how urgent the reason you're being asked to work is and how you think people will take a refusal. I'd agree with the 'don't lie' advice either way though. Not because you "might get caught" or whatever but because you shouldn't have to - there's nothing wrong with taking a well earned day off. –  RobM Nov 3 '12 at 20:36
1  
this is SOMEWHAT related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/7095/… –  amphibient Jan 30 '13 at 16:30
show 5 more comments

11 Answers 11

In my experience, it is a fairly common occurrence. Usually, but not always, people are careful to do this only when there is a genuine need for you to be there.

You were asked to come in, so you could have responded with "I have unchangeable plans and I got permission to go then and we were aware of x, y, z at the time of the request."

You could also have responded with "Sure but I want ..." Use this with caution and only if they are asking you to cancel some major amount of vacation time that involves a non-refundable cost.

Or you could just do it.

All of this depends on the context of the request and the actual plans you have. For instance, we had a urgent issue come up out of the blue one time and the CEO of the company asked me to cancel a week's vacation and reschedule later. There was a cost associated with cancelling and he paid it, He also gave me extra vacation days.

I changed the plans because it wasn't really a big deal if I went this week or the next and it never hurts to have the CEO of the company in your debt. However, if my week-long vacation had been for my wedding, there would be pretty much nothing he could offer to make me willingly cancel those plans. Normally, if you then tell the person, why the plans can't be moved and they know you planned this well in advance, they will find a way to work around you being absent.

When a client asked me to come in when I was on bereavement leave, the company told them "no way" which I always appreciated. Had the company asked me to come in, I would have told them that I wasn't able to do so. (If it had been a matter of losing my job, I would have come in though as I had just lost half my family income and I really couldn't have afforded to lose my job too; luckily there aren't too many professional workplaces that don't recognize that people actually need bereavement leave.)

Just doing it will often give you far more benefit in good will of those above you than the lost vacation time. They will see you as a team player. So if the vacation doesn't include unbreakable plans, you should consider just doing it. It will be to your advantage in the long run.

One case where you don't want to just do it is when cancelling your plans will upset your spouse or kids. Yeah, maybe you aren't terribly thrilled about attending that class play and are willing to work instead, but it is important to your daughter. Make sure it is critical to keeping your job before you disappoint your family. A job is not worth losing your family over. And cancelling too many times because you have to work is a good way to put yourself on the road to divorce. I have seen workaholics go down this route. They don't even need the company to ask them to cancel, they will do it on their own just before the event because they can't bear to let someone else handle whatever came up. Don't be one of these people.

If you truly have unbreakable plans, then do what you can to make sure that your designated alternate has the information he or she needs to do the work while you are out and that the person making the request is informed of who you have planned to handle your work while you are out. Making sure the company isn't left in the lurch because you are the only person who knows what to do will help you get to take that vacation. You can say something like: I can't come in that day because..., but I will fully brief George on that issue and then detail what you will do before that day to make sure George can handle the problem.

If somehow an emergency always comes up, then I have unbreakable plans. In fact I would deliberately make unbreakable plans and expect compensation if they ask me to break them. I would also be on the look out for a better company to work for.

share|improve this answer
18  
+1 "A job is not worth losing your family over." –  Erik Burigo Oct 31 '12 at 15:26
1  
Here's the thing - I don't have a family. I also don't make plans. I have friends who are constantly doing 'stuff' that is scheduled. They don't 'have' to go on trips or visit friends/family - they do it because they want to. Likewise, I also don't have children. It sounds like prioritizing time-off based on those things means that my time off is less important than co-workers with families or who enjoy traveling. That seems fundamentally unfair. I'd be willing to have 'low-priority' time-off, provided I was given more of it - but I'm not. –  user3497 Oct 31 '12 at 19:32
4  
You don't have to have family to have plans that can't be changed. But people who do have plans that can't be changed are going to be less likely to get asked to changed them (or less likely to agree to them). Even then it sometimes happens. But life isn't fair. Not for anyone. If you are suggesting your time off to hang out in your apartment is more important than my bereavement leave, I think most of us would disagree with you. Heck I get discriminated against for being single in terms of my compensation and taxes too. –  HLGEM Oct 31 '12 at 19:51
1  
@user3497 Is your PTO less important than your coworkers? Only if your manager seems to do this to single people who are not tied down. Regardless, you shouldnt concern yourself with others PTO situation as you shouldn't with their salary. Consider the total value of your employment situation, including quality of life and determine for yourself if you are being fairly compensated based on regional statistics, not your cube neighbor. –  maple_shaft Oct 31 '12 at 19:54
1  
@user3497 No, it's simply that those are non-negotiables that you aren't in control of. Postponing your Walking Dead marathon is in your control, and impacts nobody else if you postpone it. Doesn't mean you have to, but means you can. If your decision impacts other people (e.g. your family/friends), or will put you out of pocket, then that is a very different kind of decision, and you can't simply make it alone. –  deworde Jun 27 at 7:28
show 2 more comments
  1. Don't lie. You could asked for a receipt or something and then you are caught between a rock and a hard place.
  2. I think you should just work that day in this case. If you have actual plans that you can't/aren't wiling to cancel, that would have come up when asked. Better realtime replies are: "No, I need to do X that day", "No, I need that day off for personal reasons.", "I'll look into whether I can adjust my plans and let you know tomorrow." All of these have in common that you aren't committing to being open to canceling vacation.
  3. There is always a choice. Most of the time you won't be fired for not canceling a vacation. It isn't presented that way because it is easier for management if you "volunteer" to cancel. I've done my share of re-arranging. But not if I have a flight or the like.
share|improve this answer
7  
+1 for Don't lie –  maple_shaft Oct 31 '12 at 13:03
4  
I nearly +1'd for "Don't lie." but did not since the post goes on to effectively say 'because you might get caught'. Saying nothing about the damage to one's reputation and working relationship caused simply by the lie alone. –  Joshua Drake Oct 31 '12 at 14:17
    
Strictly speaking, if no one catches the lie it cannot damage your reputation or the working relationship - unless you either have a bad consciousness or you start to resent your employer because he is driving you to lie (whether this is an accurate impression or not) –  Erik Oct 31 '12 at 15:57
1  
@Joshua I thought that was implied. Guess not. –  Jeanne Boyarsky Nov 1 '12 at 1:29
    
@JeanneBoyarsky +1 Intention counts. –  Joshua Drake Nov 1 '12 at 13:29
show 1 more comment

If I was being conspiratorial, I would say that this smells like a seriously blown deadline. Someone higher up in the food-chain is making a mighty ruckus about it and heads risk rolling. Your boss's boss does not want to be the one blamed, so he's doing what he can to appear to be managing it. That includes calling people in for overtime. He probably knows the deadline is blown regardless, but I will at least make him look like he did everything he could. I've been in similar situations, forced overtime on obvious death-marches just so some boss can cover his ass to his boss who needs to cover to his boss etc. If the project is big enough, you'll eventually have individual managers competing about who worked their teams closest to the bone to fail at some impossible deadline.

So, if your feeling is that you skipping your day off would make a serious difference to the success of the project then I would say do it. Depending on the culture where you are, this can be played out different ways. In Sweden, asking people to move a pre-agreed vacation is pretty serious so it would be highly legitimate to negotiate compensations like extra time off later, double overtime or similar. Don't know where you are, so can't really say. It's pretty universally good to be considered a team-player though.

If, on the other hand, this is a pattern at your company and bosses usually roam around and try to shame people into stuff like this, then politely refuse. maple_shaft wrote a good answer and I'll refer to that.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 This is actually the exact situation I found myself stuck in a couple of times. I am not saying to be a difficult employee, just to open your eyes to what is really going on and why you are being asked to voluntarily move your approved vacation. People who are TOO easy going get walked on in situations like this. –  maple_shaft Oct 31 '12 at 13:16
add comment

Don't do any of this, accept that you made a mistake by saying Yes immediately and take it as a lesson for the next time this happens.

The only appropriate thing that you could have done is say that you have plans that can't be cancelled. Your manager will just look for somebody else to bully or pawn his problems off onto. If they continue to put pester and nag then ignore and continue to act as if you will throughly enjoy your time off.

Don't be Manipulated

The point is that you want to make it as difficult as possible for your manager to devalue your paid time off. You want to be stone cold and rock hard stubborn because this is the only way that you won't be taken advantage of or manipulated. Also don't think for a second that by not allowing yourself to get manipulated that you are hurting your chances for advancement in the company.

If being a pushover and being manipulated gets you advancement then the company is looking for drones to control, not talented workers that know how to take responsibility and get the job done right.

Force your manager to play hard ball

You basically play hard ball, politely, and if it is a true emergency he will have to toughen up and order you to come into work that day. Nine times out of ten it either isn't that important, or he/she is too weak to confront you and order you to do this. Weak managers look for easy targets and most managers in my professional experience are weak.

share|improve this answer
    
Strictly speaking - I did not agree to moving my vacation time. I only said 'yeah - I can look into that', meaning I would 'look into' whether or not I could move my vacation time. –  user3497 Oct 31 '12 at 19:34
3  
@user3497 - Sadly it sounds like your manager took yeah, I can take a look at that to be yeah, I'll do that. Better would have been I'll have to check and let you know tomorrow. –  Mark Booth Nov 5 '12 at 16:26
    
"You want to be stone cold and rock hard stubborn because this is the only way that you won't be taken advantage of or manipulated". That is true for some people (they have no tools to avoid being manipulated other than escalating rapidly to open antagonism). It's not true of everyone, though, so it's possible the questioner can do better. –  Steve Jessop Jul 3 at 22:48
add comment

Sometimes these things happen. At a place I worked, one of the leads had three weeks off planned, but then his most veteran employee (by which I mean the person who has been around the longest and had many responsibilities) gave his notice - he had no choice but to cancel.

Circumstances change and a date that was OK for the company is suddenly not so OK - it is fine for management to ask you to change your plans. Note that though in your eyes this was not phrased as a request, you could still say no.

It is possible that your manager did not consider your presence to be essential at that date, but that your manager's manager does (or simply want to cover all bases) - you may or may not agree with that assessment, but that's immaterial here - what's important is what they believe.

In your particular case, you lost nothing. If you had invested money that were non-refundable, or this were a once in a lifetime event you were going to, that would be a good reason to say no.

Whatever you do - do not lie. You can do that, but being caught in a lie is career limiting.

Since, as you said, the actual time off is not for something important to yourself, you are not in a position where you are losing something significant. I understand your concerns about being asked to give up a date that was already approved, but unless you find this becomes a regular occurrence, you should accept this - if nothing else, this would be viewed favourable by your manager's manager.

share|improve this answer
4  
I think I would be more understanding if some unexpected event happened. If a co-worker left and we need to pull together as a team - I'd have no problem. My problem is that nothing changed in my situation. Still - thank you for your answer. –  user3497 Oct 30 '12 at 20:57
    
@user3497 - I didn't see that addition when I wrote my answer. –  Oded Oct 30 '12 at 20:58
add comment

Be honest with yourself and evaluate the requirements : Would it be

  1. Fair on your team mates

  2. Logistically feasible (with regard to X,Y and Z)

If you went ahead and took that day off? Also:

  1. Are you some kind of load-bearing employee, In whose absence things will fall apart?
  2. Are you being singled out often to make such a sacrifice?
  3. Were you aware of X,Y and Z and your relevance therein, prior to scheduling your day off

I think such an "infraction" is hardly cause for alarm or worry over the value your manager places on your vacation time. Think of it as taking one for the team. If it happens 2 -3 more times, you might put your foot down (see immediate 3 above before you do this).

share|improve this answer
2  
Never heard the phrase "load-bearing employee" before, that's great! –  TMN Nov 1 '12 at 12:28
add comment

As others have stated, don't lie. This is why, when I take a single day off, I make sure that I have planned at least one appointment/event that can't be changed easily.

If the deadlines were known before you put in the request, and your manager approved the request, then his manager (the person who came to you, asking you to reschedule) needs to talk to your manager. Your manager's manager needs to talk to your manager, regardless - not come directly to you. You were approved for time off, now because of some factor presumably outside your control (but quite possibly within someone else's control, and they should have been able to adjust for your time off), they're taking it away.

Your manager should be the one coming to you saying "I know I approved your time off, but we're getting a lot of pressure on project Y from upstairs and it would really help us out if you were here on Friday."

Unless that day/weekend is your go-live date and it's "all hands on deck" to get things rolled out, missing a single person for a single day should not be a problem if the project is being managed well and should have been accounted for weeks ago.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It sounds like no one in this scenario is perfect:

  • if the change in a vacation day was really going to drive you crazy, you should have said "nope, can't do that" instead of "sure..." when first asked.

  • The conversation could have many overtones depending on tone of voice and body language - but at first glance, the manager could have approached this with more finesse - "would you mind canceling your plans?" or "what would be the impact of canceling your plans?" would have been a better way to go. But communication is a two way street and it was as much your job to say something as his job to ask.

  • I wouldn't be a bit surprised if in a closed office somewhere your vacation-approving manager and the vacation-canceling manager didn't have a chat that ended with the vacation-approving manager saying "oh expletive, I forgot that!" Where they have now realized they are short handed and need your help.

My thought would be to realize that a single event is different from a pattern. Vacation time is not sacred - in many jobs there is an expectation that for key dates, workers will be available (as you said, you planned around the big dates you knew about), and there is an expectation also that managers will allow employees to take vacation unless there is a critical risk to the mission. In this case, you ARE justified in saying "hey, why do you need me? Just asking so I can be prepared." It's a fair and conscientious question.

There's a mutual trust in most circumstances:

  • The employee should be able to trust that his approved and requested vacation time will not be treated lightly - that the company will take due caution in approviing vacation and that once permission is given, the retraction of permission is taken very cautiously and rarely. If this is just one time, they haven't broken this promise to you.
  • The employer should be able to trust that if a justifiable emergency arises, there is reason to believe that all employees that are needed can be available to help ... most of the time. Certainly different employees take vacation time for different reasons, but its reasonable to believe that everyone can take one for the team... once and a while.

If this scale tips too often in favor of one group or the other, it's fair to say someone's getting taken advantage of - but this is really only true when you are talking about a repeatable pattern. And if you are the one guy no one can live without, it's also fair to ask if you are compensated accordingly.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's clear your manager's manager could have been a little more tactful, but you've got to ask yourself what you're trying to gain here.

If you are trying to win one over on your management by taking the day off, you're going to lose in the long term. You will just convince them you are someone that's not going to help them out when things get tricky.

My advice...

If you like the company and want to move up, ask your management what need to be done. Work Friday. And Saturday. And even Sunday if it's going to make everyone successful. You've then got some credit in the bank for next time and all you're lost is some TV time.

If you think the company is trying to take advantage of you, then work Friday, but spend Saturday and Sunday starting to look for a new job. You're not going to change a large organization and the one you are in doesn't align to your personal goals. Don't stress - just move on.

I've had to ask people to cancel leave in the past and it is never fun. Especially when I though things would be fine, but projects didn't quite deliver on time. I do remember the people that help out though and next time the trip to somewhere interesting comes up they are the ones at the top of my list.

share|improve this answer
3  
I respect this opinion but being a pushover has never gotten me any meaningful advancement in any company. You've then got some credit in the bank for next time and all you're lost is some TV time. Pushovers don't get credit, they have credit taken from them almost every time. I learned this from years of experience, human nature is a tricky thing and workplace politics are not fair. I've had to ask people to cancel leave in the past and it is never fun. And did the world end if the person didn't immediately say Yes? If it is a true need on your part then you will order it, not request it. –  maple_shaft Oct 31 '12 at 12:02
    
@maple_shaft People who advance find opportunities where others don't. This is an opportunity to understand what the problem is and make things better - that can make a user3497 a team player, not a pushover. As for ordering people to do things - that's a sign of a poor manager. I always try explain why something needs to happen or what has gone wrong and ask people to help. It turns out if you treat people well they feel part of the team and want it to be successful. –  RichH Oct 31 '12 at 17:40
    
This is an opportunity to understand what the problem is and make things better The problem is the manager is short staffed and if he/she gets the "team player" to pay the price for this then the manager gets the credit for having critical staff available when it was clearly his mistake to begin with in wrongly approving the vacation in the first place. As for ordering people ... that's a sign of a poor manager. I agree. A good manager would do a better job of managing the vacation schedule to where ordering isn't necessary. You sound like a good manager, but most aren't like that. –  maple_shaft Oct 31 '12 at 18:11
2  
YMMV, but experience has taught me that being a team player rarely leads to advancement; often it just keeps you a team player. –  GreenMatt Jan 31 '13 at 3:58
add comment

You should probably just do as they ask. If I were you I would refrain from appealing unless you really do have important other plans. If you do have other plans, it makes sense to appeal. They'll probably will not bend.

But by appealing when it's important to you, you do them a favor. You'll be giving them advance warning of the cost of such requests. That's the kind of information a manager needs to plan ahead.

A similar thing happened to me personally once. Unfortunately I received a non-negotiable demand one Friday from my former employer to work the next day. I did have other plans -- important plans -- for that Saturday, but they wouldn't bend.

So I did as they asked, cancelling the other plans.

It was a seriously missed deadline. My department was doing fine, but we were being driven crazy by power-mad DBAs who would never accept any production requests after noon on Fridays. (Never mind it was a staging system.)

The DBAs didn't show up that Saturday, so the folks in my department sat around looking busy.

And a month later, I bid that employer goodbye.

This is a very costly move on the part of an employer, especially when they do it without regard to assembling the right team to get things done on the extra day.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm a salaried employee with X days of vacation per year. The process for vacation here is that I formally request time-off through an HR website then my manager approves or denies it.

It is the same in most companies.

I was approved for time-off, then days before the time-off, I was approached my manager's manager asking me to 'reschedule'. The question was phrased in such a way that it wasn't much of a question.

This happens: priorities change, managers need to have enough people in office to be able to handle unexpected events, etc. A manager should know that while approving your holiday, just as he should expect that asking you to reschedule, may incur sunken costs for you, or pushing you to cancel other made commitments.

Him: Hey, user3497, I saw you were taking Friday off? Could you go in the HR website and reschedule that since X, Y and Z is happening?

Me: Ummm....yeah, I can take a look at that.

This is/was your mistake. A manager is used to delegating. If you give an answer that sound so ... positive, most managers will consider they asked you to "handle the problem" and you said "yes". It wouldn't surprise me if you spoke with him again and he will go "you said you'd cancel".

It is probable that if you try to back out now, you will appear as unprofessional (if the manager thought he can rely on your presence after your conversation). Basically, you're better off in this situation, going to work on that day.

Can people share their opinions on this? Does this seem like a reasonable thing to ask an employee to do?

Yes, it is reasonable for him to ask, if he needs you in office. It is equally reasonable for you to say no to such a request, and your manager should expect that (if he needs you in office, all he can do is ask - and you can say "yes" or "no"). It is probable he was simply proposing it to you, and half expected you to say "no" to his request.

Once you did say "yes" (you made a commitment - no matter how fuzzy phrased it was), saying "no" is more difficult since it affects your professional image.

I feel like it is crossing a line and sets a precedent where my vacation time isn't seen as valuable.

It is only crossing a line if you cannot say "no" in the first place. In most situations where this happened to me, it involved saying "no" to requests for overtime.

I'm tempted to say something alone the lines of,

Well, I tried to cancel, but I setup my reservations for the weekend through a Groupon discount, and it's non-refundable. I'm happy enough to work on Friday, but I'm afraid I'd need to be reimbursed...

This is risky, and a bad idea overall: it doesn't sound like a big think, but it is fraud (you are stating there is a cost for you, which is not there).

Also, if they offer - for example - to move the reservations for you, or to pay for new ones - you may get caught (and if they offer to pay you the money, do so, then find out there was no cost at all, you will at least damage your profesional image - but you may also be accused of fraud).

Another aspect in this, is that by explaining why you cannot cancel your free time, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage, and transmitting a wrong image (regardless if you really had any reservations or not).

You do not owe him (or anyone else in the company) any explanation ( unless your boss is also your wife/husband ;) ). Stating that you cannot come is enough.

The wrong image you are transmitting is that if it weren't for the reason you have (the commitment you want to mention cancelling or not) you would be perfectly fine with canceling your time off. This is not true and should not be true.

If you do this, next time your manager has to choose between cancelling your time off and compromising on what the team can deliver, he may just go "it's no big deal to get user3497 to office on this Sunday and he will take care of it).

Your manager may do this, assuming that there is no reservation to hold you back this time.

It is easier to make a generic statement that implies you have costs (which may not be necessarily monetary) associated with canceling:

"I'm sorry but it is difficult to cancel my plans" / "I have already made commitments to be that require me to be out of town on Friday".

You can also point out that the management was perfectly aware of the situation when they approved the original request.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.