Ask Helen: Vacation Blues

A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom: A fool is a person who trusts another fool.

Dear Helen:

I started my current job 325 days ago, doing fun engineering work, though for employers who flaunt their political conservatism. My wife and I got a sudden chance to go on an amazing 10-day tandem bike trip because two folks dropped out at the last minute. My employer (who has values out of the Eisenhower administration) says I’m not allowed to take any vacation time until 365 days after my start date. I explained the circumstances, but I think riding a tandem bike was proof I am a Democratic wacko (albeit a good engineer). He stopped listening to my very reasoned arguments about making up the time before I go, working more afterwards and offering not to take any other time off until Thanksgiving. I can sacrifice the trip, but if this is how they run the place, maybe I’d be better off freelancing again. To add insult to injury, I have no projects with deadlines; in fact we’re a little slow.


Dear Tethered:

Quitting for a trip is a radical response to petty and restrictive personnel policies. You might find another or better job if you looked, or even enjoy freelancing again. But if you’re willing to risk such extreme options, why not go with one that keeps you working for Mr. Old Fashioned while you look and also gets you on your trip.

Write your boss a memo saying you’re requesting the specified time off as leave without pay, given the policies and lack of work. Document that you have no current deadlines and are fully up to speed and on schedule. Say you understand that this will put your countdown to 365 days of employment on hold until you return, and that you will not be eligible to take any more time off until _____ (insert your understanding of his personnel math). Pray he says “Yes” – then go and have a great time. Come back and work very hard, being appreciative through gritted teeth and a forced smile for his “understanding and cooperation.” Then look for a new job that matches your own values regarding work, corporate culture and compensation. Be sure to include the following on your resume: Confidential search: Please do not contact current employer.

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