Dear J.T. & Dale: Our company has been through two rounds of layoffs this year. I've been lucky enough to keep my job, and at this point, it seems the company is stable. My question is this: Do you think it's OK for me to go on my annual two-week vacation? I've been afraid to ask for time off because of the layoffs. Should I skip it this year? I'm tired and burnt out, but don't want to be seen as uncommitted. — Clive Dale: It's painful to think what this economy has reduced us to. You want to get away, and you know you can work things out so the department will function smoothly in your absence, but then again, you don't want it to function SO smoothly that someone starts to think, "Hey, look at us, we're getting along just fine without Clive." And you aren't the only one — I've seen more than one study saying employees are skipping vacations this year. Plus, companies are cutting back on paid vacation. I know one government office where the employees were required to take unpaid furlough time; however, when employees actually left the office, the executive in charge grew incensed, feeling they should work anyway ... a furlowblow. J.T.: Ouch. Here's my belief: If people have accrued time, they should take it. It ultimately helps your employer when you have time off to rest and recharge. Still, Clive, your point is well taken — it's good to be sensitive to layoffs. So here's a suggestion: Ask your managers if they are taking time off this summer, and see what response you get. Either you'll hear, "Oh my, yes; I need it after the tough year we've had," or "Now would be the wrong time to be away." Dale: This is another case where questions are the answer. Inquiring about their plans will carry you tidily into the conversation about vacations. And if all you can get is a day here or there, I'd like to suggest a new kind of "staycation" — the "straycation," where you take time off from work to search for an employer who's thriving, one who's encouraging employees to use their vacation time.
August 15, 2009