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I have some tasks that I do every day, and they may take around half an hour on average. If I want to go on vacation and I ask a coworker to cover that task, but they say no, is this something worth escalating to the boss? Or should I just suck it up and do it on my day off since it doesn't take that long. Someone has to do this task every day.

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  • 49
    It sounds like you haven't requested time off yet; do you request leave time and your boss either approves or denies it? That should be the point at which the boss finds someone to cover the duty or denies your request. Feb 13, 2023 at 20:31
  • 39
    Who does the task when you are sick?
    – Pieter B
    Feb 14, 2023 at 8:42
  • 53
    What would happen if you were hit by a bus? Feb 14, 2023 at 12:49
  • 5
    What's happened when you went on vacation before? have you had this issue in the past?
    – WernerCD
    Feb 15, 2023 at 0:36

7 Answers 7

156

is this something worth escalating to boss?

If the task truly must be performed every day, then clearly your boss needs to find someone else to do it while you are away.

Something like, "Boss, task X still needs to be done while I'm gone. I haven't been able to find anyone who would agree to do it. What should we do?" is appropriate.

For the long term, this is something that should probably be automated if at all possible.

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  • 81
    +1, plus the boss should already have plans in place for someone else to do the job if the OP were ever off ill.
    – TripeHound
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:50
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    Automated or not, it should be on the abstract list of things that are formally somebody's responsibility (so your boss would know, without you saying, that the thing wouldn't be done while you were on holiday) and the non-obvious parts of the procedure should be documented.
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 14, 2023 at 3:15
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    Instead of asking 'what should we do' TS should come up with a recommendation. E.g. colleague X and colleague Y have experience with the underlying system, it'll take me 2 hours to train them. If we train them both we have coverage during vacations or expected / unexpected PTO.
    – Anemoia
    Feb 14, 2023 at 6:25
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    I wouldn't add the "what should we do" part. It's the boss's job to find a replacement. The first sentence, framed as a heads-up/reminder, should do the job. "Boss, heads-up that I'll be on vacation between x-y. The team relies on this task usually I'm handling daily. Please let me know if you need any information for the hemporary handover of this task."
    – Neinstein
    Feb 14, 2023 at 11:30
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    @Neinstein The "what should we do" is more at the levels of how adults operate, and when there is a degree of goodwill between employee and employer. Being shown to be willing to work with your employer has its benefits, such as your leave being more likely to be approved. Feb 15, 2023 at 6:02
80

You don't work on your day off. Even if it's only half an hour (exception if there is an absolute emergency that could cause massive damage).

It's your responsibility that all work that has a deadline is done within that deadline. You achieve that by first asking a co-worker, and if they refuse, by asking your manager. If you tell your manager that this work will not be done because your co-worker refuses, then it's in the manager's hand and their responsibility.

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    So, it's ultimately your managers responsibility, right? Your responsibility is just to make your manager aware of it.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 13, 2023 at 12:03
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    Well, it's your responsibility usually to do the work unless you have a day off, and to put in some effort (asking the colleague) to get it done. But ultimately it's the manager's responsibility. And if they are properly told about the problem then they have no excuse.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:21
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    Everything is ultimately your manager's responsibility. The manager may have delegated responsibility to you, but if for some reason you fail to do it, it's your manager's responsibility to ensure that an effective back-up plan is in place.
    – EvilSnack
    Feb 14, 2023 at 3:28
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    Sometimes nobody else can do it. The assumption is that your employer knows what an emergency is, and that they compensate you properly.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 15, 2023 at 7:15
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    I'm not sure you should ask your colleague before you ask your manager. What if the manager said "Why didn't you leave that to me?" Feb 15, 2023 at 11:25
57

This seems to be a pretty clear case for escalation - but without bringing up the employee who's refusing to cover.

Assigning tasks that need to be done is the job of a boss - so delegate to the boss by letting them know that you will be away and thus unable to perform the tasks.

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When you're on vacation (or in hospital, or six feet under) it's not your responsibility to do that work as you're not at work.

It's also not your responsibility to find a substitute who can do your regular tasks on that day, it's your organization's responsibility to plan for such situations. This includes determining who is able to and will do the work when you're not available.

When you go on a planned vacation, you may tell that person that they will have to do the work as per that prior agreement, and you may tell your boss that you told your coworker, but both of this is actually optional - your boss needs to know what arrangements were made, and they should communicate with your coworker accordingly.

If these regular tasks are not something that your boss knows about, it's about time to tell them - there should not be any important part of your work that is unknown to your boss, exactly for the reasons stated.

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    I'm an optimist, so I replace "If you are hit by a bus" with "If you win millions in the lottery".
    – gnasher729
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:23
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    @gnasher729 if I win millions in the lottery I still would show up for work though, announce my resignation and finish my notice period.
    – Ivo
    Feb 14, 2023 at 7:40
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    NB: in some organisations, people have official substitutes, and may be asked to coordinate with their substitutes before asking their superior for planned time off.
    – gerrit
    Feb 14, 2023 at 7:41
  • @gerrit true, and when it is well organized such as that there should be predetermined conflict resolution strategies, so people would not ask here what to do when the substitute does not agree to do the work while they are on vacation. Feb 14, 2023 at 8:47
  • @Ivo if you win millions in the lottery you'd probably rethink that :-)
    – gnasher729
    Feb 16, 2023 at 11:36
12

Send your manager an email:

Hi manager/boss,

Just wanted to give a quick reminder that I'll be on vacation between x-y. The team relies on this task usually I'm handling daily. Please let me know if you need anything from me regarding the temporary handover of this task.

Thanks, and best regards,
You

Managing your replacement is not your responsibility, it's your manager's. (Hence the name.)

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    A responsibility they could delegate (which you've covered with "please let me know if you need anything from me") Feb 15, 2023 at 6:00
  • @GregoryCurrie yup, and now if they delegate it back to OP and there's still noone agreeing, there's a straightforward follow-up email: "Dear boss, I asked around but nobody volunteered. Could you please assign this task to someone you find suitable?"
    – Neinstein
    Feb 15, 2023 at 10:29
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    Yeah, this is ideal - I'd probably go to my boss first, and make a suggestion about who could handle it. It's my managers job to handle work prioritization, and they may need to deprioritize something else in the meantime.
    – lupe
    Feb 15, 2023 at 10:31
  • @Neinstein Maybe, except you can say: "The boss asked me to find someone" Feb 15, 2023 at 12:30
  • @GregoryCurrie at which point the boss delegated not only the task of finding the replacement to you, but also the authority to assign someone of your choice. No need for volunteers anymore - just an email to the lucky selected with boss in c.c.
    – Neinstein
    Feb 16, 2023 at 15:01
10

While this may depend on work culture and the exact nature of the organisation, I'd suggest going to your manager first and not approach your co-worker directly. It is your manager's responsibility to make sure your tasks are covered in your absence. It is your duty to make them aware of any critical tasks that must be done within the span of your absence.

Your boss is in a better position to judge whether this task is best done by your colleague, or someone else, since they would know other schedules and workloads, ideally.

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    Most managers will at least value an early attempt at getting this covered by someone else so that they don't have to wade into the fray. I also somewhat...disagree? with the notion that your manager is in a better position to judge who is more capable of doing the work based on workloads alone, but it definitely depends on how you're organized.
    – Makoto
    Feb 13, 2023 at 20:43
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It's not your job to find someone to cover your tasks while you're away, it's your boss'. Assigning resources is, quite literally, the only vaguely useful thing that management has to do.

You've been nice by trying to organise it yourself. Since your colleague said no, just tell your boss that he's going to have to find someone to cover it. I wouldn't mention that your colleague said no, just say you've had a quick look (to try and avoid bothering them with it) and haven't been able to find anyone.

Regardless of what is then said, you take your holiday, and don't work on your holiday. Your boss' inability to manage resource is not a reason for you to work over or not take your holiday.

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