I have about 20 years of job experience and I’ve been working for my current company for 3 and half years. Throughout my career I've used this pattern for my vacations:

  • the last working day before a vacation I come to the office with my suitcase and get out a few hours earlier
  • I spend the entire holiday away from home (usually 3 weeks)
  • I get back the first day a few hours after the regular start of the workday

I've never had a problem with this. Early exits and late arrivals are covered by PTO approved by my manager and are registered in my time-sheet as such, all per company policy. Leaving early on the last day before a vacation is very common here and many colleagues, managers included, do so. Arriving late on the first day back isn't uncommon either.

Yesterday after coming back from vacation a manager outside my division hierarchy from a cross-divisional department who has limited authority over all employees officially warned me because “this behavior is not professional”, “not being at home, especially the days before going back to work, shows little commitment” and “this MUST end quickly”, apparently referring to this practice in general at our company. According to the manager, not being at home, at least for the last days before coming back to work, is the main issue. Leaving early and returning late is a minor issue. The only reason given is a generic "lack of commitment" with no further explanation and it seems that this manager has decided to take a stand against this flexibility we have around holidays.

I am very annoyed by this warning and I think it is completely nonsense. The time I spend outside work shouldn't matter to my company. I want to understand which is the best pattern here:

  • go to HR and ask them to review the warning and remove it** (with the risk that this manager bears a grudge against me and targets me)?
  • Involve my manager (but he will return back in 2 weeks)?
  • Simply ignore all of this (with the risk that this manager will monitor me and discipline me again, more severely, next time, in January)?

Thanks to everybody for your help. I decided to send an email to my manager and his manager (who is in the office) to ask for a brief meeting on the topic (to be confirmed for the next Monday). After that I will go to the HR, I hope with my manager/his manager support

In Italy an official warning is defined by the law and is the first (and less severe) discipline action a company can take against an employee. It requires some formalities and 2 witnesses. It remains “active” for 2 years and can lead to more severe discipline actions in case of other violations in the 2 years.

I can “appeal” against any discipline action inside (upper authority) and outside (court) the company. A cancelled/removed warning will not exist any more.

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    When you return to work, are you in good working condition? (I.e. not jet lagged, hung over, physically exhausted, etc.) Not saying anything about you personally, but I have seen people try to come in to work after arriving in the early morning on a very long flight, and they weren't really able to do work that day. – user3067860 Sep 2 '20 at 17:00
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    (+1) I would mention Italy earlier in the question and avoid the word “PTO”. All this differs quite a bit between countries and it would make the question easier to read. – Relaxed Sep 2 '20 at 18:26
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    @Aganju I never told to that manager anything. I've never interacted with him before. Half an hour after my first day back to work I saw him near my office looking around, a few minutes later he arrived with other 2 people and disciplined me – Vacationer Sep 3 '20 at 6:26
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    If official warnings in Italy are similar to the ones in France, shouldn't such a warning be issued by the company representative (HR, in conjunction with our manager). How come a random guy in the company can issue these? If anyone can issue anything, I would give that guy a warning for harassment (not raise a concern - give an official warning, the same way he did to you). – WoJ Sep 3 '20 at 8:07
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    @AlexandreAubrey I am not supposed to be reachable during weekends. A part a very small group of IT/network guys, nobody works on weekend – Vacationer Sep 4 '20 at 7:05

I am very annoyed by this warning and I think it is completely nonsense.

You are right to be and it is.

So there are two aspects to this. One is merely silly, the other is patently ridiculous.

By and large, your employer doesn't get to dictate how you spend your time off. If you want to maximise your travel time during a holiday that's entirely up to you. While plenty of people like to spend the final days of their vacation at home to unwind from the sometimes chaotic journey home from a trip, that's by no means universal and it's nonsensical to enforce that mentality. The manager complaining about this is wildly off base.

Now, the fact that you leave early and/or arrive late on the days before/after your holiday is maybe not a great look. It rather depends on your workplace culture. It does read to me as not particularly professional but that doesn't mean it's outright unprofessional and it certainly doesn't make it a problem that Needs Addressing. The only real exception is if you're a in a role where coverage is important (reception, call centres, opening a store, ...). If I were managing you I would never talk to you about this unless I was concerned about your hours, had broader issues with your professional behaviour at work, or I saw that the optics were (wrongly) impacting your reputation with others. Then I might advise you to be stricter with your hours but making it A Thing like this would be really rare. It certainly sounds like your direct managers never considered it a problem either so I imagine you're handling this fine. Seeing as how you commented that you actually register these early departures and late arrivals as vacation time, this entire paragraph is basically moot. If it's PTO it's PTO and unless your manager objects to it there's zero problem.

Of course, that leaves you with how to proceed. There are a few things you should do. I won't go into detail as I trust you can navigate these discussions but let me know if I should expand on any.

  • talk to your direct manager, covering these points:
    • confirm the way you use vacation time is up to you
    • confirm it's not an issue that you leave early and arrive late, using PTO for those hours
    • confirm he has your back in pursuing a retraction of this complaint
  • talk to HR (optional):
    • confirm that your vacation time is yours to do with as you wish (the behaviour of this manager should be a red flag to them!)
    • confirm that your direct manager is the one to approve and/or complain about how you schedule time off (no one gets to complain about how you use it!)
    • ask whether they or your manager can retract the warning if the complaining manager won't
  • talk to the complaining manager to explain that :
    • surely your vacation time is yours to use as you see fit
    • when you leave early or arrive late you register that as PTO
    • your manager is aware of this and has never considered it a problem;
    • and to request that he retracts this warning in light of the above

That should hopefully lead to this entire thing blowing over.

They key thing for the conversation with the complaining manager is to explain the context that he might not have. Hopefully that should get him to see reason and withdraw the complaint. If he digs in his heels on the "you should be at home during your holiday" nonsense then I frankly don't see any way to handle this that doesn't involve going over his head short of accepting the warning and moving on. You could ask them to withdraw the warning since you weren't aware this was an issue and say you'll take the advice to heart, then just ignore it. It's incredibly unlikely they'll ever discover the particulars of your holiday planning again in future after all.

After later updates, it would seem that this manager has decided to take a stand against the flexibility you've traditionally enjoyed here. How to tackle that specific mindset is something I'd leave up to your manager. It's a question on workplace culture and that's not a discussion you likely have a part to play in. But you absolutely can and should argue that if this flexibility is now frowned upon, you should not be officially reprimanded over it. You can tell the complaining manager that you'll make sure not to do this in future but ask him to withdraw the official warning since you weren't aware that it's now frowned upon. (You can then still ignore this entirely as long as you don't actually discuss it at work. As long as you don't bring a suitcase to work and chance upon this manager, how would he find out after all?)

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    This is Italy. As an Italian, I feel it would be important for @vacationer to find a way to allow for the complaining manager to graciously save face, otherwise this thing won't blow over, it has a 50-50 chance to blow up. – STT LCU Sep 2 '20 at 8:09
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    @STTLCU retaliation from that manager is also my fear, even if warning will be removed by HR – Vacationer Sep 2 '20 at 8:18
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    @Vacationer it's a concrete risk. I'd advise checking with the union what they/you can do – STT LCU Sep 2 '20 at 8:19
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    If the issue escalates to HR and he's not a direct manager, I would not worry too much. As a matter of fact, discussing the whereabouts of an employee during their free time is called stalking. – m.raynal Sep 2 '20 at 9:18
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    @Fildor Asked OP the same question in the chatroom on this question. If there's no deadline it's safer to park this entire topic until the manager is back. – Lilienthal Sep 3 '20 at 8:52

I have worked in Italy, and the behavior of the manager who filed this warning doesn't surprise me.

While working as engineer in the "Ufficio Tecnico" of a company, with my working hours were clearly stated to be Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00, I had to listen to complaints voiced by the CEO for:

  • leaving earlier than the CEO (the CEO worked 15:00 to 18:00)
  • not answering an unplanned phone call on a Saturday morning (the CEO had decided to visit a prospective customer and wanted some questions answered).

In my experience this is not a serious violation (the motivations are clearly thin air), rather an alarm bell signaling some maneuver: either against you (preparing the ground for having you gone, by putting some pressure on you in the hope you will make more serious mistakes) or against your manager (if their reports are seen as lousy, their image in the company will be damaged).

While you wait for their vacation to finish and for them to be back, be aware for traces of mobbing or vexation (and as much as possible try to document them).

If you have a good relationship with your direct manager, I would advice also checking with them.

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    I have a goog relation both with my manager and my manager's manager. I know also the division director, but not in a strong relationship – Vacationer Sep 2 '20 at 12:09
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    Also, start sending out resumes any time you suspect "maneuvers", especially if they are against you. – Mad Physicist Sep 2 '20 at 20:52
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    Agree - admittedly limited experience with only a 6 month secondment to Milan offices - but I experienced more posturing and unreasonable demands than I'm used to from Italian managers. The accusing manager was probably having a bad day and wanted to use his position to strike out at some people lower down the pecking order. – Lio Elbammalf Sep 3 '20 at 13:56

I want to understand which is the best pattern here:

First let it be clear that no matter what action you take, the offending manager is already holding a grudge and is already targeting you so you need to defend yourself to hopefully stop his current behavior. The fact that he would even have details as to whether or not you are at your home during your PTO is troubling and borderline stalking.

You should get your manager involved ASAP and go through the formal appeal process.

Speak to your manager and make sure that he is clearly aware that you leave early and return late and that you are away the entirety of your PTO and that he 100% approves your actions.

After that, you need to follow the formal appeal process for this warning. Ask your manager if he is willing to help with this process. If this involves going directly to HR then do so. Make sure that your employee handbook does not support the offending manager's complaint in any way. If your company's appeal process is reasonable and you are fully within your company's regulations you should have no issue winning the appeal.

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    Looks like best answer here. I would also like to add that HR is not your friend, meaning all and any interactions you should document offsite, including communications and evidence of company wide practice of the actions you have been warned – Strader Sep 2 '20 at 16:47

The problem here IMO is that the offending manager is using weasel-words, in this case "professional". He's not saying it's against the rules (to which you could pull out your contract and ask him to point to the paragraph, or you could ash HR, who sets the rules, for clarification and tell him to shove it when they say you're right), he's not saying it's against company culture (which it isn't, as you say), he's not saying it's illegal in any way, e.g. misreporting your hours (which you could claim PTO and tell him to shove it). He's saying it's unprofessional, and that could mean literally anything, so there's no argument to be made there, because everyone's opinion of "unprofessional" is different. Heck, in the past, I've been called "unprofessional" because my learning style involves asking a lot of questions and I was expected to read manuals and not talk to anyone, which would negatively impact my performance.

However, the opening you have is that this manager has raised a formal complaint against you. I don't know exactly what the details of that are in Italy, but I presume they involve HR in some way. Meaning, they can't actually act on anything without HR being involved, and agreeing there is a violation. Meaning, HR is aware of the situation and believes some rule to have been broken. Meaning, you can actually go to HR and ask for clarification. So you should do that. Contact HR and ask them specifically what company policy you have broken which requires a formal complaint to be made. Clarify that all the time you have taken off was confirmed with your direct manager, approved, and charged with PTO. You will get one of two answers:

  1. They will tell you that you are not allowed to use your PTO for vacation and/or for recuperating after a vacation, and PTO must be taken at home, you must be available for work tasks during PTO, and so on, as this complaining manager has said. In which case, you should probably look into your local labour laws to see if this is actually legal (given that it's Italy and my image of Italy is it's more lax than North America, which is already pretty lax, my guess is it's probably not legal). If it's not legal, you may have cause to fight this formal complaint in court and get a settlement. Once you have determined that this practice is not legal, inform HR of the illegality of this policy; they should reverse the policy and cancel your complaint, and if they don't, then you should have a pretty clean-cut case to sue them. In preparation for this possible outcome, you should document everything; any in-person conversations you have (including the ones you have already had), you should write down the dates, approximate times, and contents of the conversation, and, if it's legal in Italy, you should voice record all other conversations going forward, or take detailed notes; you should also keep a record of all text conversations you have as well to use as evidence. Another option if you don't feel like going the legal route, is to get out of this company ASAP.

  2. They will tell you that the complaining manager is spewing BS, and keep doing what you're doing. You should then inform them that you consider the complaint as harassment (using whatever the legal word for "harassment" is in Italian, make sure to use that word, don't just say "it hurt my feelings" or whatever), and you want it canceled and you want the complaining manager to receive a formal complaint from you. Then consider the case over and done with and continue to do what you're doing.

One of the tenets of workplace culture (and this site), is that HR is not your friend. Baked into this is that HR will never help you, unless you can convince them that your goals and their goals align. Their goal is to protect the company at all costs, from e.g. lawsuits, bad PR, threats, and so on. This is why you have to invoke the legal system when dealing with them.

In the first case, you need to express to them that the company has legal liability due to illegal workplace practices and enforcement of such practices (in particular, use of PTO). Then their goal will be to reverse the offending practices to eliminate the liability; your goal is to reverse those practices so you can do what you want with your PTO. Your goals align.

In the second case, you need to express to them that what you are undergoing, you consider to be workplace harassment, specifically because the complaining manager has launched a formal complaint which could be used against you in promotion or termination decisions. Your career is being threatened over an issue that is not against company policy. It's pretty easy to argue that this constitutes harassment. The company would, of course, be liable in such a lawsuit, as they were notified about the harassment and they failed to do anything about it. Their goal, therefore, is to eliminate the harassment, because they don't want the company to be liable. You want the harassment to stop so you don't have to worry about your future career goals and/or how you use your PTO. Your goals align. And then the icing on the cake is that this manager put the company in a legally precarious position, so it should be relatively easy to argue that he should be formally reprimanded as well.

  • For point 1, such a policy will be illegal and in fact does not exist. For less severe discipline actions (official warning and written warning) a manager can only notify the HR. HR register these actions on their records. – Vacationer Sep 2 '20 at 15:25
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    @Vacationer Great! You should still confirm with HR that it does not exist. There are plenty of examples on this site of people asking questions about legally tenuous things which their companies are doing despite them being legally tenuous, you should make sure you're not in such a situation. And then, since HR has been notified of your formal complaint, they should have the details, so ask for them! – Ertai87 Sep 2 '20 at 15:27
  • Another concern of management is that the OP might be tired from their flight, and not fully productive on the first day. If mistakes are costly to the company, then they might be concerned about that as well – CSM Sep 2 '20 at 16:22
  • @CSM Then they would need to show that to be the case. It's not enough to assume it, especially it depends on what kind of transportation OP used. If OP travels within Europe, they could travel on a sleeper train, where they sleep on the train so they're not tired when they arrive, for example. – Ertai87 Sep 2 '20 at 17:03
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    @CSM That's still garbage though because if that was the case then you would complain about their workplace performance the day they came back when it was subpar, not forbidding them from doing what they did yesterday, and even then, that's only if if there was a visible issue to begin with rather than some pre-emptive concern. If someone comes in with a hangover, you don't forbid them from drinking the night before unless you're their mother. You tell them to not come into work with hangover. And if they drink the night before but don't come in with a hangover then you can't say anything. – DKNguyen Sep 2 '20 at 23:01

Your answer to my comment

as I wrote, for less severe discipline actions (at least in my company) it is possible to only notify the HR and the HR writes down them in their records. For other actions, HR must be involved before and must be present

This is extremely weird (I am French and our employment law is similar to the one in Italy) but in that case, if I understood correctly, I see two possible cases:

The manager went to HR, told them what to write in the warning and they did - because this is the law

In such a case, it means that anyone can file a warning (of that level). I would go to HR and demand a warning is filed with him for harassment.

If HR tells that this goes into the "serious" part of complains, I would ask for a definition of serious vs not serious, in writing. And a confirmation that what I did is indeed the "non serious warning anyone can file"; In which case I would immediately file a warning for him in the same category (not harassment this time, more in the category of "annoying behaviour which distracts people from their work")

The manager went to HR, told them what to write in the warning and they did because he was a "manager" - but they should not have

I would request the warning in writing, with the reasoning and legal anchors ("Mr Vacationer MUST HAVE NOT left earlier, according to the law"). To what I would officially ask how this is aligned with the vacations you filed and that were accepted.

YES, this is confrontational. The point is that you have an official warning in writing and either it is simply erased (when HR sees that they went too far), or you have documented grounds should the thing go bad.

I would not worry about upsetting the manager - he already hates you. It becomes an office fight, except if you take the risk of letting it go and hope that he will go "assert his dominance" on someone else.

Make sure that you do all the exchange in writing, again - you got an official warning, not some corridor discussion. Official warnings deserve official replies.


Early exits and late arrivals are covered by PTO approved by my manager and are registered in my time-sheet as such, all per company policy

This other manager really doesn't have any grounds for complaining to you about this. You asked about this in advance and the company told you that it was OK. If there was something wrong with you doing this, then the PTO should never have been approved in the first place. That's one of the main purposes of having official approval processes for things like this. If this guy has a problem with it, he should be directing his complaint at whoever approved the PTO.

Based on your description, it sounds like this guy doesn't like the way that your office handles vacations and he's trying to make you a scapegoat for the whole issue. I definitely recommend discussing this with your direct manager (the one that approved the PTO). He should be able to show that you followed all relevant procedures and at that point, the complaint has no real substance.


It is true, that company doesn't have any say what you do with your vacation, but there might be another factor why manager thinks, that it's unprofessional. I thought it's great to think about why they might think so.

At least in my country, the world wide disease is still something that is relevant topic and thus, companies are pushing for people to isolate themselves for some time before getting back from travelling. As if one person brings the disease, the whole workforce might get sick, which results in chaos for said company.

Even if this is not the case for why they think that it's unprofessional, I would try to get answer from them for this question. Lack of commitment doesn't really say anything, and I would pressure further on this until there would be valid reason found or when they finally give up on this generic answer.

  • Such an argument works against the company, not for it. If they want to rely on covid-19 as justification, then they should not be requiring their staff to attend the office at all. In many countries, it is considered irresponsible to do so unless the job demands it. By requiring OP to be in the office, they have already made their position clear that they are fine with putting everybody at risk, so they can't have anything to say about OP's vacation. – Jon Bentley Sep 4 '20 at 13:46
  • My team and I went back to offices at the begin of June 3 days a week and daily from end of June. It's not mandatory: people here come to the office from 2 days a week to all workdays, always without any imposition. I spent my vacations in Italy – Vacationer Sep 7 '20 at 9:27
  • I see, well, then I'm eager to know, how it goes on the meeting. Keep us updated :) – Geit Sep 8 '20 at 6:14

I have a sort of deja-vu as I worked in Italy for many years and, regardless of the company size, I feel it has been common, in my experience, to see behaviours as such. More generally seeing highly opinionated Managers and Bosses inviting people to be more professional or more committed, with disregards of law or even company self-made code of conduct. A typical example are the working hours, mentioned in few answers, for which if you leave exactly on time, you might (and usually will) still be considered "not committed enough" or "unreliable".

Most of the answers here makes sense, some perhaps can be applied more to international workplaces, but in my Italian experience it can backfire if you react formally to somebody without giving him/her a chance to understand. "Backfire" here is very general, going from lack of growth opportunities for the future, to having somebody actively trying to shine low lights on you.

You mentioned you already reacted to this so I won't spend too much time on the "formal" part, as it's already been covered.

I feel it's extremely important to understand the true reasons why that manager reacted this way: Did he need help? Did he count on your availability for something important? Has it been some unforeseen circumstances for which somebody with your skills was needed?

This goes beyond the mere consideration of "What I do with my vacation days is not your business" or about the "If I leave early and return late, but it's all approved .. what's the problem?" - It's more trying to understand if there is a lesson learned, a business need, or a process to shape, to make sure the situation doesn't happen again.

I see this as ultimately caring for the business, and regardless of hurt feelings or personal considerations (such as "you are not behaving professionally") would help everybody to build a process (or a basic reciprocal understanding) which will help the business moving forward.

By opening this topic with your manager, and eventually with the other manager, you might as well find out that nothing really happened and it's all good, and the other manager just felt employees were "out of control" or some other power-problems.

I strongly recommend the pursuit of this clarification with the business continuity in your heart and mind, as it quickly become "What are we trying to achieve here?" instead of "How are we supposed to behave?" with everybody generally agreeing, sooner or later, for the former.

  • also, but this is not part of my official answer, when I was younger I used to retaliate to such behaviours. If my manager dared to call me at 9 in the evening, or during the week end... I would do the same with questions or ideas. Unexpectedly I built some good work relationship doing this over the years. – André Sep 4 '20 at 12:59
  • I've never worked for that manager before neither I've interact with him before. I barely saw him a few times around. – Vacationer Sep 7 '20 at 9:24

I agree with the other answers which say that the manager is out of line. However, I feel that a clarification is needed - if getting back from your holiday a few hours before starting work is affecting your productivity at work, then the manager may have a point. You are right that the workplace cannot dictate how you spend your vacations, but if the vacation affects the time when you are back at work, the manager may have a leg to stand on.

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