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I'm looking for a good way to approach my manager that I believe his availability while on vacation sets a bad precedent for the team.

Some background. My manager is a People Manager of myself and my teammates. I'm a senior technical member of the team. Whenever he goes on vacation he's always available via company chat and email; he'll respond to email threads he's CC'd on, he'll obviously be paying attention to various chat channels and respond. I believe he means well and just wants to make sure things are under control and there are no blockers. While I can see how this can be viewed as him being "a manager going above and beyond" and "a good team player" etc I believe it is bad for two reasons: 1) he's not fully "unplugging"; I want him to come back from vacation fresh. 2) It sets a precedent to other team members that they're expected to be available when on vacation.

What I've tried so far: Whenever he's about to go on vacation I make sure to understand what projects need to be handled while he's gone and make sure that myself or someone else is on it. I also make it abundantly clear that we've got the situation under control and in the unlikely event of catastrophe we've got his phone number and will not hesitate to reach out.

Would it be best to approach him directly about this or would that be stepping on toes? ie, should I talk to his manager about it?

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    and why is that? Why do you need to do anything? – Sourav Ghosh Mar 27 at 17:24
  • there's probably no harm in having a conversation with him, if you say you're concerned that he's not enjoying his vacation, but definitely do not talk to his manager. Only go over your manager's head if there's serious misconduct. – mcknz Mar 27 at 17:36
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    Why do you care? It only sets an expectation if you allow it to. "I'm currently out of the office and can't respond to your email or phone calls. If you need immediate assistance please call xxx-xxxx. Thank you." – joeqwerty Mar 27 at 18:34
  • If you're worried about stepping on toes, going over his head and talking to his manager would be the absolute worst thing you could do. – AffableAmbler Mar 28 at 2:39
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    Agree with @joeqwerty . I have a boss who is similarly active while on vacay (or other off hours.) I myself never respond when I'm not on the clock. (To be fair, my input is not nearly as vital as his.) I've never gotten any flack for this, either professionally or in the form of dirty looks around the office or anything. He's available 24/7, I'm not. People understand this.. – Steve-O Mar 28 at 13:25
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It's their lookout, let them have it.

1) he's not fully "unplugging"; I want him to come back from vacation fresh.

Something that should not concern you.

2) It sets a precedent to other team members that they're expected to be available when on vacation.

You're assuming this. Unless this is actually asked in some direct or indirect way, I don't see how this is relevant, either.

Unless he mentions anything like:

  • He "has to" work because he thinks there's no one that can handle the work while he's away
  • He expects (asks / requests) others also to work during vacation time

I do not see any need for any action here. Keep calm and carry on.

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    agree that what a manager does while on vacation is very different from what an individual contributor is expected to do. – mcknz Mar 27 at 17:34
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    Everyone is different, he might like being available, while away from the office. – Donald Mar 28 at 1:10
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    +1, mind your business. – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Mar 28 at 2:06
  • Plus, OP don't know what type of agreement his manager have. Maybe they have "unregulated hours" and as such he should be available during his off time to "put out fires". – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 28 at 8:47
  • "You're assuming [this sets a precedent]" I don't see how that's a bad assumption. Sure, a more seasoned professional won't be swayed. But newer team members and younger team members have a greater tendency to "follow the leader" while they're learning the ropes. It's not just an assumption, I've seen it happen here and elsewhere. On more than one occasion I've told people, "you're on vacation today. Don't worry about that, we've got it." At the end of the day though, you're right, this is not a big deal. – Josh Johnson Mar 29 at 18:36
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If you're on friendly terms, nothing wrong with pulling him aside and telling him that you care about him as a person and want him to enjoy his vacation. Maybe drop a joke about making everyone else look bad because they all completely unplug.

If you're not that close to him, then I wouldn't do anything. It's not your place to tell him that.

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Bring it up during your next 1:1... If you don't do those, you can try to bring it up in passing at the next opportune moment -- once -- if you get along well.

Apart from that, consider trying to nudge him towards better habits next time he goes on vacation. Tell him you'd like to suggest your team that they avoid cc'ing him or communicating with him for the duration of his vacation so he can rest well, and that you'll brief him on what happened when he returns. If he goes with it and gives you the nod, great; if he does not, there's unfortunately not much else you can do, so let it go.

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Let it go. What your manager does on his vacations is none of your concern. If he wants to remain connected to the rest of the group, he is entitled to do so.

If you are worried about his actions setting a bad precedent, you may want to review your contract. Unless it explicitly states that you are required to be available for work during vacation there is no reason you think that your manager's actions are indicative of anything other than his own personal desires. There is no need to approach your manager about this matter.

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