About a month ago, my boss came back from a 2 week vacation. I have a lot of PTO (paid time off) built up and I wanted to take a week so I wouldn't lose it. My boss denied it saying we had a high priority project that needed to be finished.

I contacted HR and they say I won't lose the time, but I would still like to take it. I finished the project (plus a few others) and my boss has lined to several more 'high priority' projects that need to be finished within a week. But, I still need to take PTO and if I ask now, it will look like I'm the one delaying these new priorities.

Should I just put it off again and wait for the next set of high priority tasks, or should I push to get these days off. If I leave the company (or get laid off), I will lose these benefits which I earned (they are carry over days from last year).


Actually, he didn't technically 'Deny' the days. He just came to my cube and asked me to remove the requests. Maybe he didn't want the denial on paper??

  • 32
    Why not ask him when would be the best time to take PTO over the next two months?
    – Pete B.
    Feb 2, 2017 at 14:31
  • 10
    Out of curiosity, how much of a notice are you giving him? 1 month, 2 months, etc? Does the company handbook specify how much in advance you should request PTO?
    – mikeazo
    Feb 2, 2017 at 14:55
  • 80
    Why would he ask you to remove the request rather than deny it? That seems very sketchy to me.
    – David K
    Feb 2, 2017 at 17:02
  • 6
    Well, it looks like your boss doesn't actually want you to use your PTO. In my country, I get paid for unused PTO hours if I leave. Last time I had plenties of unused PTOs and my goodbye salary was out of scale. Think about it, if you leave they will save a lot of money. Do you think that is what they want. Do they behave the same with others? Is your boss close to the C-level or is he just part of the chain? Feb 2, 2017 at 20:37
  • 21
    if he asks you to remove it, ask him to reject the request instead, to keep a trail.
    – njzk2
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:25

7 Answers 7


I guess I'm asking what I should do if he does deny it again, so I'll be ready. If I ask him right now, when we have this NEW high priority project, I'm expecting he will deny it again. Maybe he won't, but I'd like to see what other people would do in this situation in case he does.

Put in the new request. If he approves, great!

If he denies (or asks you to remove it), remind him that he already had you do this once. Tell him that you need some time off to decompress so that you can be even more productive for the company, so you can perform to your highest levels. Tell him that you would really like to take your PTO on the requested days.

If he still pushes back after this, I'd suggest asking him to suggest some possible days and then you pick the ones that best suit your needs. Ask him to do it there, on the spot, not "okay, I'll get back with you". If some of those dates are acceptable to you, then schedule your PTO right then with him.

It sounds like from your question and comments that you have some flexibility, but really want some time off. Let your boss see that you are a team player, but feel strongly about the need to decompress in order to be the best you can be.

  • 75
    "Have your boss suggest the days" - ironically, this is the same tactic I use to get my children to do something. It works.
    – corsiKa
    Feb 2, 2017 at 18:42
  • 77
    @corsiKa - I found that many child raising techniques are very effective in workplace, including when managing up.
    – user13655
    Feb 2, 2017 at 19:40
  • 17
    Who would have thought that children behave like real people?
    – Buhb
    Feb 3, 2017 at 9:55
  • 39
    @Buhb Who would have thought that children behave like real people? ...who said anything about real people? They behave like management :P
    – xDaizu
    Feb 3, 2017 at 10:56
  • 2
    @displayName I believe the way it works is kid proposes one or more suggestions, parent picks among those options. If none of the options are acceptable the parent rejects. It's kind of like the "I cut the cake, you pick" way of dividing things, in which you always have the option of smashing the cake if you don't like the division.
    – stannius
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:57

It's pretty normal that vacation is denied when there is a high priority task to complete. And it does not seem to be that your boss is 'continuously' denying you vacation, he's just doing it once. There may be further denials due to upcoming high priority tasks, but you don't know that yet. However there are some things you should do to ensure this situation does not become a problem.

  1. Talk to your boss about the situation. Ask him about the upcoming projects, and ask if they are going to prevent you taking vacation. Ask him when he expects you will be able to take your vacation.
  2. Get your manager's denial of vacation in writing. It's a small red flag that he asked you to take down the request instead of denying it. Write him an email saying "As you asked, I've withdrawn my request for vacation due to project priorities. Please confirm that I will be able to take the unused vacation at a future date." Make sure he replies to it and agrees.
  3. Get confirmation in writing from HR that you will be able to take unused vacation, if they haven't done so. Send them a similar email to the above, and get them to reply to it. Make sure they tell you of any restrictions on future vacation, such as when it must be used by. Ask about what happens if you were to leave the company, and make sure they answer it.

You are entitled to vacation, just like you are entitled to salary, so you should not be afraid to ask. It is generally a good idea to ask as far in advance as possible. If you are coming up to the end of a leave year, then book the time you would lose well in advance. You can always cancel it if you need to.

  • 1
    Always have email confirmation (i.e document everything). Good points. Feb 3, 2017 at 13:54
  • 2
    If you reread the question, this boss seems the kind to always have high priority projects. I finished the project (plus a few others) and my boss has lined to several more 'high priority' projects that need to be finished within a week, though i wonder what "project" mean here for many of them being finished in a week ...
    – Walfrat
    Feb 3, 2017 at 15:36

I'm a but confused. You say continuously denying PTO, but it's only happened once?

Put your request in. The work can be scheduled around your time off. If he asks you to remove it, I would politely decline. You shouldn't have to live in fear of asking for what is rightfully yours.

  • I guess I'm asking what I should do if he does deny it again, so I'll be ready. If I ask him right now, when we have this NEW high priority project, I'm expecting he will deny it again. Maybe he won't, but I'd like to see what other people would do in this situation in case he does. Better to ask a question so I can be ready rather than wait until AFTER it happens and ask what I should have done.
    – L_7337
    Feb 2, 2017 at 13:53
  • 1
    Of course. I would say don't remove the request. If he continually denies yoru requests you can then speak to HR to discuss the situation. If he is still scheduling High Priority work, he may be aboe to schedule around your holiday. Feb 2, 2017 at 14:14
  • @L_7337 you may want to retitle the question
    – Goose
    Feb 2, 2017 at 20:31
  • 1
    "The work can be scheduled around your time off".. in what kind of field are you working where deadlines can be moved arbitrarily around? I find that it's generally customary to plan vacations with the team at least weeks in advance. If someone at work just turned up and wanted a week off starting next Monday I'd deny the request just as much. Although obviously this doesn't mean he can't take time off at all - just that this has to be scheduled and planned.
    – Voo
    Feb 3, 2017 at 17:18
  • It's implied that this very important work is being scheduled rather than it already has been scheduled. A week isn't going to impact it too much as long as timescales are effectively communicated Feb 3, 2017 at 17:26

Postpone instead of decline

You shouldn't treat your boss "decline" as a decline but instead as shifting it to some other time. If they request to not take PTO because it's a bad time, then a most appropriate response would be to schedule a specific more appropriate time for that vacation, preferably right then and there - so the discussion never even enters a stage where the vacation is cancelled and needs to be re-negotiated.


I will not answer the question directly, but give you an alternative option instead.

I have been in your shoes. My direct report (I was a consultant though worked much like an employee) was never being mean, he had priorities that he needed to meet that were seemingly never ending. A larger requirement for leave was difficult to satisfy for anyone in such a fast-paced environment. It was a fun and very rewarding place to work and so most all of us preferred to be at work than at home, if you can believe it!

You have to decide if you want the time off in one lump sum, smaller chunks, or if one day at a time would be okay.

In my case, I wanted to take time off to get at-home priorities taken care of such as replacing a hot water heater, up-grading my at-home network, of just goofing off. I realized that multiple days off are valuable, however, adding a day here or there to a weekend was just as valuable to me. Fortunately, Fridays or Mondays could be slower sometimes and knowing in advance was easy to determine from a schedule short of an emergency.

I discussed with my direct report taking either Fridays or Mondays off for a period and gave him the option of deciding in advance which one and which weeks. I also gave him the option of changing his mind in the case of an emergency either switching days or optioning for another week. We discussed why I wanted time off and that the particular day did not matter unless I had to schedule an appointment.

This worked a treat! In fact, for years while I was with the company, this is the way it worked for all leave since it suited us both very well. I was more pleased with this arrangement than had I taken a week at a time. As well, sometimes half days on Fridays felt like a welcomed release especially on warm sunny days. I would go home and cook a big dinner! Often in the smoker.

This may not fit your requirements, however, for some, it can be a viable alternative. I Hope it helps.


I've been there. After a few rough things, I took to scheduling all my PTO with at least 3 months advance notice, preferably more, and then not withdrawing them later. Usually what happens is my immediate manager looks at the schedule, sees that is doesn't go that far out, and approves the vacation. We have a quirk of running these on actual physical paper, so there's really no good way to revoke the approval later. Hasn't stopped them from trying, but between me pointing out that it's already been approved and the emergency never seems to end they finally gave up that pointless fight.

  • 1
    I agree with this, but even 3 months might not be enough. For 1 week or longer vacations, I have always given them to my boss for the whole year in the prior December. Especially for August or Thanksgiving time. For example, if I want the second week of August 2017 and the first week of October 2017, I'd get it approved in December 2016. A good boss would ask all direct reports to do the same so that the whole year was coordinated. Feb 3, 2017 at 17:46

I'm more of an A type personality, so take that into acccount.

If I feel like I've sufficently done my part to contribute to a project, and it's time for the company to pony up, I would push for my days off. What you consider to be sufficient is ultimately up to you, but PTO is a part of the contract. If they didn't want to provide time off, they shouldn't have offered it.

Before you begin pushing, I would take a serious look at your value to the company versus the value of the company to you. If you need them more than they need you, they could can you and make money on the unspent PTO (my employer doesn't pay out unspent PTO). If the reverse is true (no dependents, good savings, opportunities) and you successfully make the push, you might find it easier to get your due in the future. Any good capitalist will bend you over if you let them.

In my opinion, money is a means to be happy, not the other way around. If you can't find the time to enjoy your earnings, what good are they?

  • That is why I said "my employer doesn't pay out unspent PTO" in parenthesis. You are entitled to the PTO you earned, therefore that's money they've already paid you for your labor. If your employer doesn't cash it out, and you don't take it, you're giving part of your salary back. If you no longer work there, you clearly won't be taking advantage of that PTO.
    – SomeGuy
    Feb 3, 2017 at 19:53

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