3 Ways to Tell That Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Take Vacation

Why wouldn’t you take all your vacation time? Maybe because you’re afraid you’re not supposed to. Managers don’t always say what they mean, especially when it comes to things like taking time off. The party line might be that taking PTO is encouraged and supported … but do you sense a little hesitation, maybe even a little judgment when people do take their holiday time? If you’re having trouble figuring out whether your boss really wants you to take that summer vacation, there are a few ways to figure it out.

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(Photo Credit: Nico Nelson/Flickr)

1. He doesn’t take vacation himself.

Does your boss brag about how he hasn’t had a day off since the turn of the century? Beware. Consciously or unconsciously, leaders often model the kind of behavior they want to see. (Unless they’re taking long lunches and fudging their expense accounts. Then it’s generally a case of “do what I say, not what I do.”)

When your manager holds up total lack of work-life balance as exemplary behavior, he’s showing you what he wants – employees as self-sacrificing as he is.

2. He calls or emails constantly when you do take time off.

There’s a particular type of boss that only has emergencies when you’re out of the office, whether you’ve gone home for the evening or gone to Aruba for your anniversary. This type of boss is the one you hope you don’t get.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence – or maybe he’s trying to tell you something, namely that you’re not allowed to have time off. Either way, it’s a pretty clear way of communicating that your personal life is not a priority.

3. He badmouths people who are out of the office, even for legitimate reasons.

In the post-recession economic landscape, a lot of companies are still running on a skeleton staff. Tensions are high, and stress brings out the worst in everyone. There’s still no excuse for a supervisor making snarky comments about one staff member to another.

If your boss does this, and especially if he frames taking scheduled time off as laziness or lack of dedication, watch out. He’s showing you that he thinks work-life balance doesn’t exist, and also giving you a pretty good idea of what’s going on when you’re not there, either.

So, what do you do if you figure out that your boss really doesn’t want you to take your hard-earned vacation time? Start looking for a new job.

If that sounds extreme, consider this: taking time off isn’t just in your best interests. A well-rested employee is more productive, more effective, and happier to be at work. If your boss doesn’t realize that, he has larger problems than just his personal theory on PTO.

Don’t quit outright, of course – the economy might improving, but not quickly enough to make it safe to resign from one job without having another lined up. But, do start looking for a job that will challenge and excite you, while allowing you to have something resembling a life. You’ll be a better worker, but more importantly, you’ll have a better life.

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