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Since March of this year, I've been employed part-time at an amusement park in food service. I'd like to think I'm a good employee:

  • I show up before my shift starts and clock in at the right time
  • I clean up without complaints
  • I'm friendly with customers; I don't mind switching positions
  • I don't make a lot of requests from anyone other than the occasional explanation, since I'm still pretty new.

Anyway, back in the middle of August, I requested this upcoming weekend off, knowing that I would not be in town, and therefore could not trade shifts with someone else, as is our usual policy. However, when the weekly schedule was posted, she had placed me in various positions on all four days I have off next weekend. When I asked her about this, she told me not to expect a guarantee for requested days off, despite having been sent a confirmation that I would be squared away for those days by her only a few weeks before. She's since been forwarded her original response to the message, yet still expected me to find replacements for my shifts. I already have, in an attempt not to get written up, but the whole ordeal has made me wonder: am I being unreasonable or is she?

I'm more than aware of our vacation days policy, and it's gotten stricter with staff flat-out not appearing for positions, leaving us somewhat understaffed. I'm often working two or more positions in order to keep a location open, and again, I don't complain, nor do I ask for much. I asked off MONTHS ago. I can't help but feel like this isn't 100% okay.


As a side note: I am 17 and this is my first job.


Update (Dec. 23, 2018): I realize many readers enjoy seeing the turn of events in relation to matters such as these, and so I provide a long overdue update to this whole situation.

My boss ended up taking long enough to respond that I was able to find replacements for all but one of my shifts that I'd been scheduled for. When she did get back around to me, she was very grateful that I'd done so despite her having no expectation of that from me. She'd fully owned up to her mistake, assuring me that I had no worries. I genuinely believe she simply forgot, and I can't entirely fault her for that. For the duration of my first year, the scheduling software she'd been using was completely MIA with no estimate on how soon we could expect her to get it back. Throughout this time, she had been making our schedules biweekly by hand. Regardless, I enjoyed my extended weekend on a gorgeous, albeit unseasonably warm, autumn campout.

Now that said, here's a plot twist: I still returned the week after to a write-up, though this occurred by way of a small communication error. My leads were all informed that I would not be there, but the one who wrote me up either didn't receive the message or included my name alongside the several others who left us short-staffed for that evening. This story has a happy ending though. I explained all of this rather nervously to a different lead who oversaw the meeting to discuss my failure to arrive for my shift and the write-up was unceremoniously and quite literally thrown into the trash.

For those curious, I do still work at this place, though my boss left us at the end of last year. She'd threatened to quit in front of our big boss a number of times in response to things he'd done that made life difficult for all of us, so when she finally did, it was all a bit unexpected and sudden. Myself and a number of other employees who worked under her still miss her greatly.

Where I work is a place of enormous significance in my area, and having this job on my resume may end up helping to secure a job with the parent company if I choose to do so in the future. This place has grounds for an insane degree of upward mobility, and at the same time, getting fired from here can easily be troublesome. All of this weighed heavily on my mind when this was going on. Looking back over all the responses and the insane amount of attention this question received though, I really do appreciate how many users reaffirmed that I'd done everything correctly and how quick everyone was to assuage my fears.

As mentioned, I still am still employed at this park, though a number of commenters recommended leaving. That's not to say I stayed in spite of them but rather that they were missing some of the bigger picture. We're only open on weekends while in I'm in school, and I am paid well above minimum wage (I even got a decent raise last year). This is also the only major incident or any of any real note. This definitely isn't the end-all, be-all of jobs for me, but it's been very good to me while still going to school in the area, and I honestly will probably miss working here when I go off to university after this next season.

Regardless, thank you again to those who took the time to listen to and answer an anxious 17-year-old. I look forward to being able to rely on this community again should the need arise.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. (Summary: lots of people agree the boss is in the wrong, some discussion of legalities in various locations, and suggestions about how to respond.) – Monica Cellio Oct 16 '16 at 18:36

10 Answers 10

165

You've done everything right.

I've been in a similar situation as an IT professional. Asked for time off well in advance with the request confirmed and approved by management. I even reminded them a few days before hand with an all clear. Day comes and goes, management pitches a toddler style fit that I was gone.

I'm not sure why some people are like this. Best advice I can think of for you is to remember this later so you can be a much better manager than her.

  • 32
    For anyone in a work environment where Outlook is used (not sure of other services), I recommend creating a calendar appointment noting the period of time you'll be out of the office, and invite anyone who needs to know as an attendee. They can accept the item so it'll appear on their calendar with any appropriate notifications, and even if they don't act on it the item will still appear on their calendar. Just set the "Show As" portion to "Out of Office", and title it with your name and the reason you're out, or just your name and Out of Office. – MattD Oct 10 '16 at 20:58
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    @MattD: That's not quite right; you don't want to send out invitations to an appointment set with "Show As" set to "Out of Office", because then everyone who accepts the invite will show up as being out-of-office themselves. Instead, you create two separate appointments: one for just you, with "Show As" set to "Out of Office", and one that you send out invitations for, with "Show As" set to "Free". – ruakh Oct 10 '16 at 22:16
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    @ruakh There is no need for two appointments. Just create one with "Show as" set to "Free" and send it out. Then you open it in your calendar, change the "Show as" field to "Out of Office" and you only SAVE it, do NOT SEND it. Now everyone is happy. ;-) – okolnost Oct 10 '16 at 23:38
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    @okolnost: That seems very error-prone to me -- you need to remember to repeat the juggling act if you need to update the invite for any reason (e.g. to forward it to someone else) -- but if it's what makes you happy, then don't let me stop you. :-) – ruakh Oct 10 '16 at 23:40
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    @MattD this isn't about communication, it's about immaturity. If they are acting like toddlers, an Outlook calendar isn't going make a difference one bit. They are upset you had the gaul to put your personal life first. These are toxic environments, leave at your first opportunity. – Bill Leeper Oct 12 '16 at 14:35
95

You are going above and beyond, and your manager is acting, well, like a retail manager. All they care about is warm bodies and a full shift. To achieve that they will bully, cajole, harass, menace, annoy, threaten, and act like over-tired toddlers with empty bellies and full diapers.

Some industries are better than others as far as this goes and don't let managers pull these tantrums while others....

What you seem to have already learned is a good work ethic, which will be a good bargaining chip in future jobs. Combine this with an in-demand skill and you'll find yourself in positions where this will not occur again.

Most companies will not want to let a good employee go, and if you do more work than others, your absence will be noticed. You are being more than reasonable, your manager is being unreasonable.

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    "your manager is acting, well, like a retail manager." No. They are acting like a BAD manager. I've worked in retail and there are plenty of good managers who would not pull this kind of crap. – Kevin Oct 10 '16 at 19:52
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    @Kevin, I've worked in retail as well. The majority of managers I've encountered acted like this one. It's one of the reasons retail has such a high turnover rate despite real opportunity for advancement. – Retired Codger Oct 10 '16 at 19:56
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    Retail is well ... retail, even. Most of the reason people get out of there ASAP is because management usually sucks. – Magisch Oct 11 '16 at 6:57
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    As noted in the notes above, you have a bad manager, and this is unfortunately very common in low skilled jobs. They can hire anybody to do your job and looking around my neighborhood amusement park, they do. This should be a wake up call that you need to work hard at finding a job that is more skilled where doing a good job is rewarded, not punished. – Bill Leeper Oct 12 '16 at 14:36
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    @BillLeeper it's a seventeen year old, he's not ready for wall st. There are many entry level jobs where this kind of abuse is not the rule, and as in noted above, these scenarios can happen in IT as well. It does however validate the old saw about interviewing a company as they interview you. – Retired Codger Oct 12 '16 at 15:49
38

I agree with NotMe - you've done everything right so far.

The best part is that you have the original vacation request, and a copy of the original reply/permission to take the time.

If you're written up for this, the paper trail you have will be very helpful to show to her boss if it comes to that.

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    Since you're 17, you might as well fire the bullet and get her boss involved indeed. It might cost you your job, but you'd do good for the world. – Stephan Bijzitter Oct 11 '16 at 11:56
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    Would it be reasonable for the OP to remind the manager, in no uncertain terms, that the OP has already informed the manager that the OP won't be there on that day, and placement on the schedule won't change that. Any remotely-reasonable business will need to accommodate employees who give sufficient notice that they will be absolutely positively unavailable on certain days, and in cases where a business would demand unusually long notice (e.g. because the business needed to book something a year in advance) the business should be able to give the employee that much notice that... – supercat Oct 11 '16 at 15:09
  • ...the employee would need to be present at that time. Once the business has granted a time-off request, the business cannot reasonably punish an employee for taking that time off unless the employee has agreed to cancel it. – supercat Oct 11 '16 at 15:11
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    At 17, this is a life lesson. Use this as motivation to get a more skilled job. This doesn't have to be college, but something that not just anyone can do. College track this could be science, engineering, nursing, medical etc. Other tracks include trade skills that in demand, electricians, plumbing, welding, auto mechanics etc. There are reputable (not ITT) places to get these skills or even internships. They will very much appreciate your work ethic. – Bill Leeper Oct 12 '16 at 14:39
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    @StephanBijzitter Being 17 doesn't mean the OP's interests are not important, perhaps the opposite. He should not sacrifice himself just to send a message. – Jørgen Fogh Oct 13 '16 at 12:05
19

You are being perfectly reasonable. In fact, while you may simply regard your efforts as doing your due diligence as an employee, you are already showing magnitudes more responsibility than many adults.

Work on your resume, round up some references/letters of recommendation, and find another job. Even if it's just for a few more months (while you presumably finish high school), the exercise will be worth it because as others have indicated, this will not be the last time in your life that you get burned by a manager. Down the road, though, the stakes will be higher, and you will need to understand how to give yourself options.

The consciousness and work ethic that you describe yourself as having will always transcend your job title, and if you can convey those traits in an interview, a good manager will not only be glad to have you but will be happy to accommodate you because he or she values you.

As a side note - not to dig on your manager - but as a young person who is used to placing faith in authority, I would challenge you and urge you to consider that your manager maybe feels a little threatened by working with a rock star such as yourself. (And/or, your supervisor is taking advantage of you.) Beware of this dynamic as you continue to blaze trails and rock boats - some people don't like change, others don't like "upstarts." Good luck.

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    Probably better to go on said vacation, and see if they stupid enough to fire him. He'll win that one at the unemployment office and his next job interview will understand. "Fired for taking approved vacation" does not look good for the previous employer, not for the employee. – Joshua Oct 10 '16 at 20:35
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    @Joshua In principle, I agree with you. However, this job may provide critical income to the OP, or it's otherwise impractical to draw the line in the sand. This is precisely why I'm suggesting to the OP to learn from this experience and always have a resume and references ready for a job change - a resume is always a work in progress and reference contact information must be kept current. Knowing you're prepared can reduce the stress of a bad environment. If the OP has already spent any money on this trip, he may have more leverage, but even more reason to count on a paycheck when he returns. – Rocky Raccoon Oct 10 '16 at 20:52
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    @Joshua be careful suggesting unemployment office. Even when someone has full rights to unemployment, has done all the paperwork, and the previous employer doesn't fight it, there are many situations (like this one) where the paycheck itself is not worth the work. For example, in at least one jurisdiction, the paycheck would take the income from march-june (current and most recent quarter always ignored), divide it by 104 (number of weeks in 2 years), and that would be the maximum allowable weekly check. And some jurisdictions won't allow you to claim on a part time job, either. – CWilson Oct 10 '16 at 21:09
  • The last paragraph, fantastic. – axsvl77 Oct 11 '16 at 7:14
3

Another spin on this. You mentioned amusement park. This is seasonal work, they are only open when the weather is good, so this means may to September in most places in the US, other countries will vary, but also have a similar length season. You are now in the final push of the season, the extended season. They have already lost a lot of their workers who went back to other jobs or school. So while they may have had a policy, I have never known an operation like this to allow time off like that.

The mistake here was on the part of your manager who seemed to imply you were free to take off. What she probably meant was you are free as long as you still find someone to cover your shifts per policy, which is honestly unlikely since they probably already have everyone that could work scheduled.

Take this as a lesson learned. This is unskilled labor and as such you are not very valuable to them, even if you were always on time and worked hard. Use this as motivation to push yourself to something that is skilled, something you like and can make a career out of.

  • But the OP said that he was able to find others to cover the shift. So your "what she probably meant" is demonstrably incorrect. – CodeSeeker Oct 12 '16 at 21:30
2

Your boss is being unreasonable, not you. If I had already arranged that weekend, I would take those days off anyway and wouldn't worry much about it. Sure you can get fired, but if your boss is unfair like that you could get fired any time for no reason.

Additionaly, consider this:

She's since been forwarded her original response to the message, yet still expected me to find replacements for my shifts.

Filling the shifts is her job, not yours. She basically wants you to do some work for her while she's the one who will get paid. This fact alone would upset me enough to take the day off anyway, even if I could change my plans. But in the end, it's up to you to pick your fights.

  • "if your boss is unfair like that you could get fired any time for no reason" That depends on the country. In the civilised world this is impossible (or, at least, grounds for tribunal), unless you are already being paid under the table. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 12 '16 at 10:17
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit In civilised world it would also be impossible to fire for taking a vacation which was granted. – Dmitry Grigoryev Oct 12 '16 at 10:21
  • Correct. It is the same circumstance, in fact. N.B. nobody's been fired yet. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 12 '16 at 10:30
2

Your boss is being abusive though it may be standard culture for the industry.

The idea that time off that's been properly requested in advanced, and approved, is somehow not guaranteed is ludicrous.

Finding replacements for your shifts was nice of you but that really sounded like it was her job, not yours. Perhaps that's how she delegates. If she has lots of direct reports, that might be ok.

How bad do you want that job?

If you take the time off and she retaliates, I'd go to her supervisor. Your career there will be over, but it will probably be good for you to see how it ends. You're 17, don't worry about it.

  • So I worked in an amusement part (the now closed Astroworld), and it was a nightmare getting people to show up. After 2 years I was a manager for about 1/4 the park's food service stands. I would be happy to have only 2 no-shows, from the 20 people. Anything more, and it was nearly impossible to run all the stands. Yes, that culture can be abusive, so I led by being nice, tangibly nice. I would open early and cook breakfast. We had minimal no-shows, till the park complained about "electricity use" (I covered the food stuffs personally). Abusive culture? Absolutely right! – Edwin Buck Dec 22 '18 at 21:00
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As others have said, you did everything right. However, often times life requires us to be more correct than what is reasonable.

First understand that food service in amusement parks is a very entry level job. The turnover is high, and the working conditions are pretty darn difficult. Despite this it sounds like you are excelling. Good work. This is a step in your path through this life, but not so much for others. For some managing people like you and your peers is as good as it gets. They tend not to be very good at their jobs thus cannot be promoted or leave for a different position. I suspect your schedule creator forgot that you were going to be on vacation and blamed it on you. Or they simply could not create the schedule without you. Either way it was unfair, but you seemed to get over it and solve the problem yourself. Great work, that kind of experience is invaluable.

Next time you are in this situation be sure to remind the person creating the schedule, a short time before they create the schedule, that you will be out. Its one of those times you might have to compensate for other's weaknesses. Still that may not be enough, but it is worth a try.

Your real goal is to rise above this position. What are your career aspirations? How do you achieve them? Set goals and meet them.

Some time in the future you will likely be able to patronize amusements park with your own friends or family. Recall your time working there and be patient and gracious to the workers serving food.

2

I worked in the service industry for a few years, I eventually became a manager in service industry too.

Your manager needs a certain number of people to keep the store fully functional. That number likely doesn't have any wiggle room for an extra person, should someone no-show. This means that your manager has to rely on everyone showing up, every time (and gets punished for this not happening).

Now, you did everything right; but, you probably did it right for a holiday / high need season. The manager knows that the minimum (or near minimum) wage isn't going to get people to show up, and so you can expect them to use every trick in the book to get you to show up. Odds are they don't have much to offer as an incentive, so they offer a threat.

How are they going to back that threat up? Probably they have little to back it up with. For example, I worked two 8-hour shifts near Thanksgiving (covering for a no-show). I then had my dad standing in the store, ready to drive me to a neighboring city so I could eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and due to even more people no-showing, my manager threatened to fire me if I didn't stay to work a 3rd shift. Despite the threats, I left, and when I came back to my job, nothing happened. I worked for that company for another two years.

If you can be flexible with your plans, this is the time to leverage your already approved vacation for your personal gain. As the manager "what's in it for you" to cancel your vacation plans. Get any promises in writing, if possible. Some things you can ask for include: management training, double-paid for your vacation and time, paid for overtime, two days of vacation for the one you lose, or whatever you can negotiate. Of course, with such an agreement, you'll have to show up, but at least gain more than a typical day of work. In addition, your manager may thank you for saving their skin more than you might think.

It's your choice. They probably won't fire you for following the company's procedures, even if they can; as long as you politely remind them that you're a good employee who is following the rules. However, should you break your plans for their convenience, it is only fitting that you ask for something tangible in return.

And don't accept "good will", these managers probably don't have enough power for their good will to translate into something when you need it.

  • 1
    Trying to think back to when this initially took place, the situation resolved much as you said and without consequence on my part. You are correct in that when I had scheduled off was during our busiest part of the season, with my main issue being how far in advance I'd asked off for those dates. I ended up being called into a meeting wherein the mistake was realized and my write-up was quite literally thrown into the trash. I've returned annually since. Some of this question was written with youthful ignorance, but I appreciate your response nonetheless. Hopefully, others can find it useful. – Pleiades Dec 23 '18 at 10:14
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It sounds like you are doing everything right. It also sounds like the manager might be taking advantage of the fact that you are such a reliable employee.

DISCLAIMER: my advice may not be appropriate for your situation. I leave it to your best judgment.

I work in an office environment and have run into this general situation from time to time: I make plans with someone; they fall through on their end; they expect me to make accommodations. I have found that it rarely sets a good precedent to cave completely and pick up the slack unless you know for sure that it's a genuine mistake and not an abusive pattern of behavior.

Based on encountering your specific situation a few times in different positions, I would recommend the following:

  1. Get approval for the vacation at least a month in advance
  2. Send a reminder email two weeks out (assuming they post schedules a week ahead) - managers forget things far more than their title might suggest...
  3. As soon as you find out that the manager scheduled you anyway, contact them with something like "Per my approved vacation request on [date], I will be on leave [dates]. I see that you have me on the schedule for those dates, but since I will not be here, please let me know if there is anything I can do between now and then to help find replacements!"

The benefit of this type of wording is that it underscores the steps you took to be proactive, it clearly states that you definitely will not be there which I have found sends the unspoken message "no amount of manipulation or abusive language will change the fact that I will be gone on these days", and finally it also reinforces your willingness to help make things work as long as it doesn't impact the commitment your manager made to you.

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