My boss is making something that I would have to do in my own time away from work and cost money as a Work Goal on the performance review. What he has written is this Self-Improvement Goal

Take a Self improvement course Some goal to take a special vacation

This has no bearing on my my work life and I question the legality of it. So is this something a corporation can do legally?

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    Legal questions require a location tag. Laws vary A LOT all over the world.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Mar 22 at 13:59
  • this looks related: How can we motivate employees to complete IT certificates?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 22 at 14:53
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    @Retz Yes to both, depending on where you live, companies in some countries value their employees, I've taken 2 weeks paid of holiday where I work at as a "Thank you" for some overtime I did.
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:16
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    There are lots of free courses that are offered, additionally a vacation can mean many things, including staying friends or family. All can be free or practically free.
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 22 at 18:23
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    We don't know the format and context of this performance review. Are these written as suggestions or requirements? Commented Mar 22 at 22:19

4 Answers 4


To me this is not so much a legal issue as a boundaries issue.

Although I agree with the sentiment that manager's concern for overall well-being of their staff is not a terrible thing, this seems like overreach, legal or not.

Concern about employees' well-being is one thing, but documenting ambiguous goals related to employees' personal life in their performance plan that goes in their HR file is another matter.

Whatever the manager's sentiment, they need to realize that they are the manager only at work, and they are not the manager of the individual's life outside of work and have no business telling subordinates what to do on their time off.

You can go to HR and pose this question to them, unless you think your boss might find out and consider this going behind his back (in which case you might be better served addressing this with the boss directly).

The goal is not to press for legality but to understand how this aligns with corporate policy, what may be the consequences of not achieving this "goal", and whether it would be appropriate to request that goals related to personal life be kept off the formal performance plan.

Stay cordial and professional throughout the interaction, don't bring in your emotions, and focus on the point that this goal is unrelated to your performance in your opinion (they can have fun proving otherwise). Good luck!

  • I don't know that I'd go so far as to call it overreach, and I wouldn't really handle it the way OP describes. When I do these things it's always with the agreement of the individual in question. Commented Mar 22 at 21:03
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    As an employer, this employer is over the line. The only question is can they get away with it. If you want an employee with certain skills you have to either hire them and/or train them. It is crazy or lazy to expect to the employees to train themselves on their own time!
    – DogBoy37
    Commented Mar 23 at 1:42

"Hey boss, thanks for thinking of me. I'll definitely consider that special vacation.

Out of interest what will happen in next year's review if I don't manage to achieve that?"

Your boss can then either say "well, if you don't manage it, that's fine. I just want you to think about it" and you don't need to worry about it.

Or he can say something ludicrous like "well, you won't get as big a pay increase". In which case you can take that to HR, or his boss.

Whether it's legal or not probably won't help you much, unless you're ready to take expensive legal action and potentially destroy relations with your employer.


He's expecting you to want to better your life in some way. Is it so awful that you have a manager who is thinking of your well-being and believes that if you are taking care of yourself outside of work your performance inside of work will benefit?

I do similar things for my folks. I don't do it because I want to punish them. I do it because many of them are so consumed with "the system" that all they think about is work or they think their personal wellness has no impact on their work performance.

I can't speak to the legality of it because IANAL, and I can absolutely tell you that you're completely wrong that it has no bearing on your work life. There is no legitimate separation between "work" life and "personal" life that has any meaning. When work is not going well, your personal life suffers. When your personal life is not going well, your work suffers.

My advice is that you take this as the empathetic gesture that it is. Someone at work that you work for cares enough about your health and well-being that they want to highlight it as a goal and document it. You should be thanking this person rather than trying to find a way out of it.

  • I don't believe its legal to make me spend funds on a "special vacation" or have this related to my personal - non-work life and hold me hostage. Its obvious you are not addressing this as a legal issue, and only covering your own interests. A corporation should not hold your Work Performance hostage for your personal life and costs. If the company actually cared about my personal life quality - maybe they shouldn't be so concerned with my Disability causing me to lose time at work (against Federal law to ding a legal disability). I didn't ask if he meant well, as I know what he's trying to do
    – Retz
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:08
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    @Retz - There are free community classes and a vacation can mean many things, going down to the beach or downtown for a day, both can be done for little to no cost. Your question mentioned no disability, not that it should matter, which is strange why you would bring it up.
    – Donald
    Commented Mar 22 at 18:26

I don't have a definitive answer for you re: legality, although Florida's status as an at-will state doesn't bode well for there being much legal protection here. The entirety of your employment with them is something that, barring discrimination over a protected characteristic, is subject to their whims.

That said, if it were something you could pursue legally would it be a good idea to do so? I doubt it, particularly not if you like the job and employer otherwise. Legal action isn't just the big red button that nukes your future career at that employer it is also expensive, not always certain to succeed, and the best outcome you could hope for is a monetary settlement of some kind.

You're annoyed, I can relate, I've had the same experience of feeling like work was overstepping in my personal life. Heck, in one instance it was a far, far, bigger intrusion that what you're talking about - I won't go into that one here for y'know privacy, suffice it to say it was extreme enough that you probably wouldn't even believe me and I left the company as soon as I could.

In another it was remarkably similar to yours - I was all but ordered to take time off and relax, and I had the same gut reaction you did, that how dare they tell me what I should be doing outside of my work duties? reaction.

Of course in my situation my boss was absolutely correct - I was burnt out and it was affecting my performance, I was just so deep in the burn-out that I couldn't even recognise it. I don't know if the same holds true for you or not, but I recommend taking a look in the proverbial mirror and asking yourself honestly if you've been neglecting your life outside of work a bit too much.

I also think you're overthinking the "costs" aspects of this - a "special vacation" is a pretty wide goal, presumably you do take vacations of some kind, and what makes a special vacation for you is entirely in you control. Is your idea of the perfect vacation to take a week off to lounge on the couch in your PJs and binge watch Gossip Girl? Knock yourself out - that's your "special vacation" right there.

Similarly the "self-improvement course", any skills or subjects that interest you? (And I mean you as opposed to it having to be a work-required skill) There's going to be ton of free "courses" out there on the Internet for you to digest at your leisure.

Only you can decide whether the principle of the thing is more important to you or not but if you want you complete two of your performance review goals, with near-zero cost and effort and can have a quietly smug grin to yourself at gaming the system.

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    And in fact your management may be willing to pay for some serious courses if they're considered potentially useful to the company. Mine would reimburse college classes in my field as long as I passed, for example. Got to refresh my compiler knowledge at their expense even though I wasn't working on a compiler at the time. (Need to review that, at some point.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 22 at 20:54

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