It’s been years since it happened, but an event at a job early in my career helped to shape the type of manager I would eventually become.
I hadn’t yet crossed my one-year anniversary at this particular job, but I’d been very careful to save up my vacation time in preparation for my first big trip over seas. I had the vacation time, I was performing above expectations and I had a plan for covering my duties while I was away. The only thing I was waiting for was a call from a travel agent with a deal that I—barely out of college—could afford.
On a Tuesday morning, I got the call. The travel agent had worked a miracle and figured out a way to get me to Ireland on an entry-level salary. I immediately sent my manager a time off request and indicated the urgency of receiving her response; I had to book by midnight on Friday or lose the deal. I heard nothing, and by 6 p.m. on Friday, I made the decision to book the trip. I had followed all the rules, requesting the time several months out.
To make a long story short, her lack of action coupled with my decision to act turned into a battle. We ended up in the VP’s office. She screamed. I actually lost my cool and cried out of anger and hurt. Ultimately, the VP took my side, and I enjoyed a wonderful week in Ireland.
However, that situation damaged our relationship for a long time afterward. I was a hard worker, performing well, and I was asking to take time that I had earned. Yet she wasn’t willing to reward me. Perhaps she felt I’d ignored her authority and wanted to set an example. But still to this day I think that she was just being mean.
It was a valuable learning experience, and I’ve carried that feeling she gave me of being underappreciated. So when my employees ask for time off, I live by these rules:
- Say “Yes,” as long as they have the time and their work is covered. In fact, I often step in to assist them with work, or we plan and back up assignments accordingly so that they can truly relax and enjoy their vacations.
- Don’t dig for details. If they share their plans with me, great. I love to hear about what they’re doing, but I honestly feel that what they decide to do with their earned time off is none of my business.
- Don’t make them feeling guilty. My employees deserve every minute of their personal time. Time away from work is critical to their health and their performance on the job.
- Approve their time off requests immediately so that they can make plans. They need to arrange schedules with spouses or other family members, book hotels and make travel arrangements. I refuse to hold up that process.
As a result, in my years leading team, I’ve only had one person abuse the process. More important is that my employees are masters of planning around scheduled time off, and before they even submit requests, they’ve already formed a plan to cover their assignments. It’s a beautiful thing.
How did a supervisor’s actions—either good or bad—shape your career?
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/jmverco.]