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I'm in a difficult position because I was denied vacation time (only 1.5 days off requested). Well, my manager did not explicitly say no but replied to me with "It will be difficult for me to approve this time of year [because company is busy atm]".

Normally, I would probably just suck it up and move on but I am planning on proposing to my girlfriend during this vacation.

Should I try to explain to my manager why this specific vacation request is important to me or should I just take sick days? I rather keep the proposal private right now, because to be honest I just don't feel like sharing it with everyone and I don't see them as friends.

For background:

I have worked at this company for a few years and I am consistently one of their top performers if not the top performer. I haven't taken many vacations, but when I have I still went out of my way to complete all my work. I haven't worked many weekends, or late nights because I usually get all my work done quickly and even take extra work that teammates need help with.

I'm having a hard time seeing my manager's point of view on this. On principle, I believe work should be performance based. SO from my perspective, I am accomplishing everything that comes my way and more. I am feeling undervalued because I accomplish so much, but yet still am held down by seemingly arbitrary rules.

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    How much advance notice did you give for this vacation time? Also (this would be part of an answer), you are under no obligation to divulge what you're using your vacation time for, nor where you're going. – alroc Jun 28 at 3:22
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    A location tag might help – L.Dutch Jun 28 at 5:59
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    @L.Dutch Very much this. Legalities regarding vacation time can vary significantly between English-speaking countries, let alone between the many non-English speaking countries. – nick012000 Jun 28 at 9:33
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    Do you actually think your boss won't notice the coincidence of you being sick on the exact days he just said you couldn't take for vacation? – pyro Jun 28 at 10:11
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    If they are having trouble giving you permission to schedule a day and a half of vacation, even with advance notice, one has to wonder how much advance notice they need for an emergency hospitalization. (I've had several such, for severe asthma, one for a DVT that threw a PE, and one for anomalous chest pain that turned out not to be anything.) One also wonders how much advance notice they require for a fatal car crash. (Translation: Consider finding another job.) – John R. Strohm Jun 28 at 19:55
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You do not need to give away the private reasons why this vacation is important to you, if you don't want to, even though it could help your case. If they insist, you can say that you want to keep that private for now (they will probably be able to guess then, but you can still expect your manager to keep that to themselves).

Your manager is usually not interested in ruining your holiday plans, but they want to prevent any problems caused by you being away during a busy time. If you think about this from the other side, it means your work is important to the company.

Try to convince them that there will be no problems. You can say something like:

I would like to bring up my vacation once more. Going between ____ and ____ is important to me, I would really appreciate if we can make it happen.

I know that we are very busy at this time of the year, so I have been thinking about the projects I'm on and how we could make it work.

Here's how we can make sure we still ______ (business goal, e.g. meet our schedule, ...) even if I'm not there for that week. ...

Be sure to name 2-3 actions you and others can take to realistically make it work.

  • Managers like solutions, not problems. If you can help them avoid a "problem" you are "making" so it isn't a problem, you'll probably get what you want. If you can provide reasonable assurances that the benefits outweigh the potential issues, there's also a good chance you'll get it approved. Just make sure you aren't hurting yourself more than helping. A vaca is supposed to be stress relief, not a stress source. – computercarguy Jun 28 at 16:02
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Should I try to explain to my manager why this specific vacation request is important to me or should I just take sick days? I rather keep the proposal private right now, because to be honest I just don't feel like sharing it with everyone and I don't see them as friends.

I think it's important for team member to take vacation regularly. Come back recharged and working more efficiently. While you absolutely can keep why you want to take vacation to yourself, but divulging that you want to take a vacation to spend time with your significant other and you haven't taken a vacation in a while or very much this year are all great data points to help your manager make a good case on why you deserve the time off.

  • In a non-toxic workplace, this should work well. A manager should recognize time off earned as well as unused. Just understand this still won't work if the manager is making excuses, just as nothing will work except for unsavory and unprofessional actions in an unsavory and unprofessional environment. – computercarguy Jun 28 at 18:53
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It is always to your advantage to explain WHY you want something - you increase your chances to get something substantially. You may provide the real reason, or another reason.

In your case, you can choose a "middle ground" saying that you feel exhausted. Even if you do not let it show.

It is also important how long is the vacation. One day is much easier to get, then three weeks.

Study the project schedule, see what is coming your way until the date of finishing the vacation. Can you finish all that before the vacation, by doing overtime? If yes, discuss this with your boss.

I would definitely use the overtime alternative, otherwise I would raise the level of expectations from me in the future.

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    I would not recommend pretending to feel exhausted if that is not the case. OP might look bad as a result. – Michael Jaros Jun 28 at 8:05
  • That is one easy, plausible, unverifiable reasoning. It was just an example. Many other reasons might work as well. From my point of view, it is better than just taking sick days off. – virolino Jun 28 at 8:52
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    I agree with your last sentence. But being exhausted does not mandate taking vacation exactly during the desired date range, they could offer to send OP to vaction earlier or later. – Michael Jaros Jun 28 at 9:53
  • I agree with your last sentence too :) The idea is that we cannot provide a perfect sentence for the OP. We give ideas and alternatives, so he can actually choose what is best, according to all the information, including the one we do not have. – virolino Jun 28 at 9:56
  • Lying to your boss to get anything is a bad president to set. If/when you get caught, there'll probably be problems of trust later on. Your private life is exactly that, private. Your boss doesn't need to know, even if you are on friendly terms. If the company really is at a busy time, it won't matter, and if the boss is just using "busy" as an excuse, it still won't matter. – computercarguy Jun 28 at 15:59
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Depending on the legalities of your location, you may want to consider simply making an ultimatum: tell him that taking this particular vacation is very important to you, and that if he doesn't approve it, you'll just take sick days instead. Telling him why you want it might make it more clear to him why it's so important to you, but like many things, this is a negotiation, and it's one that you have the upper hand in - either way, you're not going to be there, but if it's formally entered in as a vacation day for you, he'll be able to more easily adjust his management planning ahead of time.

Note that doing this may harm your relationship with your boss, and if he calls your ultimatum, you need to be prepared to go through with it, and comply with any policies your company has for sick days.

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    This is stupid advice, please do not do this. Straight up telling your boss you're just going to pretend to be sick to get the time off you were denied is insane. Also bear in mind a vacation is normally at least a week, for which you'd usually expect to provide a doctor's note if you were ill. Which you can't. Because you're not ill. Enjoy your P45 or equivalent. – pyro Jun 28 at 10:09
  • @pyro Again, depending on local legalities and company policy. There are doctors who are willing to sign "mental health" notes for sick days, and places where retaliation against employees for taking sick days is flat-up illegal. – nick012000 Jun 28 at 10:14
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    It's also an underhanded and extremely unprofessional way of getting what you want. If I had an employee who did this they'd be out as soon as I could legally do it. – pyro Jun 28 at 10:21
  • @pyro Like I said, it may harm his relationship with his boss. If this vacation is sufficiently important to the OP, he may be willing to do that. It's also arguably less underhanded than asking for it, then just pulling a sickie on him with no warning if he says no, which the OP was considering doing. – nick012000 Jun 28 at 10:24
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    This is the right answer. The boss is playing stupid games and should get stupid prizes for it. – user106141 Jun 29 at 3:42

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