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I work work a programmer in IT in a ~100 people company. My company offers 2 weeks of vacation days. Due to various personal, family, and lifestyle circumstances I have the need to request an extension, since my work-life demands more time off.

Knowing the company stance on trying to keep vacation to 2 weeks for all and it being "fair", my immediate boss asked how much is enough before he went to HR. I said more is always better, but I said 3 weeks is enough as it will put me in a good spot and it's not too big of a chunk to where the company will flat out say no way.

Boss went to HR, HR said "no", but offered me to work overtime to make up for extra days off, kind of shift my hours. I am happy with 40 hours work week so far and working more is not convenient enough for me, so ... my immediate boss and I talked about this and he suggested he'd escalate the issue higher up. I don't know how escalating this will work given that it is a small company so there may be more politics and "hard feelings" about things than in a big company but that's more so up to my boss and his relations.

But ... I have received a suggestion from others that it may be a good idea to show my current company letters from recruiters that I get. Those are, namely:

  • an almost standing offer from one of the big name IT companies that I keep in touch with, and also possibly
  • details of the offer that I passed up before accepting my current position, where my days off and PTO schedule was about twice the size of my current offer.

My questions are:

  • is it appropriate to print out those letters, one with offer details, and one with standing offer, and show them to the boss as "ammunition"?
  • Do I remove any information from those letters (such as recruiter names, company names, salary requirements), or do I keep them as is?

My boss values me. He does not want to lose me. He has seen a few key people leave the company and he does not want me to go. And I also want to stay with the company. My hope of doing this (showing offer letters), is to have the company ask themselves "do we value this employee enough to want to keep him?" And if yes, "can we give him what he wants?" and this also may be some concrete evidence - what the company needs, and a way for the company justify giving me that extra time off.

Given all this in consideration, will this be an appropriate action? My plan is to show letters and say "I like this company and want to stay, but given that my value is seen as presented here by other companies, I want to make a backing to request ... "

  • @JoeStrazzere it depends where the OP is. In some areas, this is a legitimate tactic. – bharal Feb 9 '15 at 2:55
  • @JoeStrazzere the OP's profile states Michigan; a US location can be assumed. – Dan Neely Feb 9 '15 at 4:31
  • not exactly. I have a previous offer that I passed on before I joined the company. I have regular emails from recruiters. I did not go out and seek new offers. – dennismv Feb 9 '15 at 4:42
  • A letter from a recruiter is not an offer. It's just a possibility that something like that might be offered to the right applicant. Don't conflate the two. – NotMe Feb 11 '15 at 17:35
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It's likely perceived as a threat and I don't know anyone who reacts well to being threatened. I realize you're just trying to show your perceived value, but the only perception that counts is the company you're working for.

At a minimum it seems to be manipulative.

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Given all this in consideration, will this be an appropriate action?

It appears that one additional week of vacation is the sole issue here.

It seems as if the company offered a compromise (overtime to make up for unpaid days off), but you rejected that for some reason. This seems to indicate that the company doesn't wish to make exceptions to its vacation policy, and that you aren't interested in anything other than an extra vacation week.

So it appears to be an impasse. Unless you are willing to leave over one additional week of vacation (something only you can decide), it might not make sense to use the threat of leaving as leverage.

As a hiring manager, I know from experience that people seldom leave over one issue. There are most often many reasons - and curing one doesn't make the other reasons go away. Perhaps that's not the case for you.

In general, if employees come to me with a threat of leaving and ask for something to keep them around, I'm pretty confident that they will be leaving soon anyway. And thus, I seldom assent to their demands. Instead, I start planning for their departure. No more important projects, no more raises, no promotion of course, and I make sure all their work is well-documented.

I'd doubt if showing offers from other companies would make a difference - particularly offers that you rejected. Obviously, there was something about your current company that made it more appealing than the rejected company, in spite of the difference in vacation policy. If you are a good employee, your employer already knows that you are capable of leaving and getting hired elsewhere. I'd be surprised if printed offers would change anything.

But you never know. If you are truly willing to leave if you don't get the extra week, you might as well give showing off your offers a try, and indicating that the only thing that will retain you is one more week of vacation. The worst that could happen is that you are let go quickly (unlikely) or are treated as a short-timer from that point on (more likely).

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    If you don't think an extra week of vacation is important, you need to take better vacations. – user8365 Feb 9 '15 at 12:47
  • @JoeStrazzere The difference between 2 and 3 weeks vacation per year is huge. Maybe 1 extra week is of less value if you are getting much more to begin with. – Myles Feb 9 '15 at 17:07
  • The difference of 3 to 2 weeks is massive. Christ, I noticed (and lamented) the loss going from 5 to 4. – Jon Story Feb 9 '15 at 23:25
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    The difference is certainly massive but the time to negotiate for that extra week was BEFORE starting the job. Not after you've already accepted their terms and then want to change the rules on them. I wouldn't even consider a position where they wouldn't bring me in with at least 1 week extra vacation, but I've never had to reject a position for that reason either because each new company I was applying for knew that I was a senior person and fully expected me to ask for the extra vacation time. – Dunk Feb 10 '15 at 16:19
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Wait, you have offer letters from places you turned down. So are you prepared to give up whatever pay, and benefits made your current employer the better choice as a trade for more vacation?

You rejected company X because why?

When you show them the other offer you have told them that you are soon to leave, even if they give you this benefit. They may do something like tell you they will work on getting it started for next calendar or fiscal year, but expect you to be gone by then.

They won't fire you for this tactic, but they will decide that you are not somebody with a long term vision. That next promotion or cool project is probably going to somebody else. That expensive training or conference will be assigned to a loyal employee.

Bring it up at the next review. Talk in a non threatening environment. Wonder with management why some recent interviewees didn't pick the company.

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Provide data, but not your own.

It's important to give this company the information they need to make competitive offers assuming programmer retention is important. Don't give them your personal offers. I suggest you help your boss do some research on the job market in your area. Also, aggregate information collected from exit interviews on why people are leaving.

You don't want this to be about you. It's too easy for the company to take an adversarial approach and make this about you just being greedy. They don't want to set a precedent of employees thinking they can be demanding, so everyone will ask for everything. It's an awful mentality that too many people doing the hiring take.

Hopefully they'll see the big picture and realize there are many benefits they could be offering to employees that in the long-run could benefit the company. Well rested employees perform better and taking a vacation is one way to do that.

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No, don't do this.

Or rather

Get a proper written offer first from another company with the benefits you mention, then do this.

See, the way I see it - and look, this is a tricky situation, more on that below - but the way I see it is that you're effectively giving your company an ultimatum. It reads - and sure, it reads implicitly, not explicitly, but nonetheless - I, dennismv will totes act on these other potential offers unless you give me what i want.

When you say things like this - when you draw a line in the sand - you have to be prepared to cross that line. If you aren't, then what happens when they say "no" again? Do you leave? It isn't about losing face if you don't - it's that you've played the strongest, most nuclear hand you have, and they've called your out. You will struggle to make a more convincing argument to get what you want, so you probably won't get it.

Alternatively, they might just say "no" and then say "also, here is 2 weeks notice, we only want team players". Now what do you do? (if they do that, they're a rubbish company, but you're still out a job).

Of course, they might say yes - you have to weigh up the chance of them saying yes, and the risks otherwise.

All of the above is mitigated if you actually have an offer from another company. In that case, you can just leave, you can be fired (because you have a backup job)... and if they say yes? Well, you got what you want, let the other offer lapse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On the other hand, I get what you're trying to do. You're telling your company you will start looking, because this time off means a lot to you. At the same time, you want to tell your company you are happy there, and you don't want to leave, so just please please bend backwards?

How this gets received is based entirely on your relationship with your boss, your boss's boss - on your relationship with everybody who is going to hear about this. It might go down well - you'll have a gut instinct on that. I've been in companies where this would be fine to do. I've also been in companies where this wouldn't be - not because my relationship with my boss was bad, but because I didn't have a relationship with the boss's boss.

Treed carefully when you give ultimatums, and be prepared for the worst. In your case, having another job offer is the best preparation for this particular line of action you're thinking.

  • "Re: You're telling your company you will start looking" -- not really. I won't necessarily start looking right away or even in the near term, but I may start looking eventually, if my vacation time remains capped, because in the long term, I need more time to do the things I want to do in life. So far it has been sufficient but there are events in my life where it starts to seriously hit the 2 week limit and I don't want to squeeze out the details of various policies or work overtime, to be able to take days off that I need. As such, I do not want to give an ultimatum, but more so a nudge – dennismv Feb 9 '15 at 4:54
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    @dennismv right, but it just looks like an ultimatum. I mean, what you're saying is "hey look these other companies will hire me and they give the vacation time i want, hey hey, nudge nudge, wink wink" What else is it but an ultimatum? – bharal Feb 9 '15 at 13:12

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