0

In my role I have particular tasks - a mixture of day-to-day and project tasks.. 40% day-to-day troubleshooting/maintenance etc and 60% project work at a best guess. Others in the company have a similar workload.

But I am also designated as the "deputy" aka "person who can cover" for multiple other people in the organization, for a specific subject area -- whereby I can cover for their "core" responsibilities on a specific area on a short term basis (e.g. during vacations). We need cover for core stuff as we are customer facing and the customer never sleeps so vacations etc would be approved on the basis that "Someone can cover". and that 'someone' is me.

As such I can't take time off at the same time as the "primary" (person I am designated to cover for) is away... as I am their backup. I would also have to cover if something urgent came up and the person is off sick, unexpectedly out due to an emergency at home, or whatever.

I can see (on a shared calendar) time off for the people I would have to "cover" for. But there's no guarantee that the "person I am covering for" can't subsequently book their own time off (when I was already approved to be away) and then I would have to cancel my plans to cover for them. And of course no way to anticipate 'emergent' situations.

The potential people I would "cover for" would easily spread a full year of a calendar taking into account all their potential time offs.

Any vacation I could book is very short-notice and subject to cancellation (e.g if one of my "primary" people call out due to sickness) so in reality I can't plan anything, any trips away, whatever. My life at the moment is to acquiesce to other people and accommodate all their wishes. (and yes I'm resentful of that.)

This relationship is all one-way and there's no situation where they would cover for me in the future.

I don't have any influence/approval over "when they are away", it's "Jane X can cover for me in my absence" and then the manager approves time off on the basis that Jane X (me) can cover.

My question is:

  • how can I make an argument to bosses to get some time-off myself when many of my weeks are taken up with passively "being available to cover for others" (as well as doing my own work) and also, that anything could come up for people I am designated to cover for (emergencies at home etc) which can't be predicted, so I can't know in advance what weeks are available.

  • how do y'all handle this type of situation at other companies? Surely "Jane is the de facto backup for everyone so Jane can't ever take time off" isn't the way?

  • 3
    Are you paid a higher rate to compensate for the inconvenience? – P. Hopkinson May 29 at 21:30
  • 3
    Have you tried booking future time off and marking your calendar? It's unclear if you have attempted and had your request rescinded or if you haven't tried because the way the system is set up (at least on paper) wouldn't allow it. In a role that requires coverage typically if your backup is on vacation your vacation request would be turned down rather than theirs being cancelled. – Myles May 29 at 22:02
  • 2
    The problem isn't necessarily vacation; it's that your position has a Bus Factor of one (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor). You need to talk to your manager about bringing in resources to help you on a day to day basis, not just in case of emergency. They'll need that coverage for the day when you hand your notice in because of stress... – PeteCon May 29 at 23:06
3

"But there's no guarantee that the 'person I am covering for' can't subsequently book their own time off (when I was already approved to be away)"

Is it fair to say that this is the core of your problem?

Workplace holiday scheduling practices vary enormously but the most usual and fair practice is for holiday to be approved on a first come first served basis (with exceptions for busy periods such as Christmas). In your case this would mean that you could/should be allowed to schedule holiday in exactly the same way as other employees. Instead of you being told to cancel your plans they should be being told that they can't pick select holiday that overlaps with your current bookings.

If this is not already the case then you are in a tough spot. Unfortunately there isn't much motivation for your manager to make the system fair.

The best bet would be to start to establish precedent by booking a holiday well in advance and asking your manager to guarantee you the time off. Ideally you should have a good story explaining why you need the guarantee. e.g. you want to book plane tickets or you need to attend a wedding or family gathering. If you can make this work for you once then it will be easier to obtain a second and third time.

2

how can I make an argument to bosses to get some time-off myself

Simply announce that you are going on vacation and that means you cannot cover for anyone for that time (obviously). Your boss will have to ensure that either other people are not on vacation or there is another backup in case you are gone.

This relationship is all one-way and there's no situation where they would cover for me in the future.

Have you been told this? This seems like a terrible policy and a job that will lose people after only a few months.

We need cover for core stuff as we are customer facing and the customer never sleeps so vacations etc would be approved on the basis that "Someone can cover". and that 'someone' is me.

If this is really true, your company desperately need to implement an on-call system. Essentially all employees are trained well enough to handle customers. One individual is on-call, meaning they cannot go on vacation and may have to answer the phone at 3AM. Who is on-call is decided months in advance and then you'd just take your vacation when you are not on-call.

The system you describe would quickly burn out anyone. Talk to your boss immediately and get on this system if you are not already on it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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