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Responding to vacation request

Q: I am a new supervisor. I am being besieged by the requests from my employees. Right now the hot button is vacation requests. Everyone wants to take the week after Independence Day off. It is impossible to grant everyone that week off. If I did, I would not have anyone in my department. What is the best way to handle such requests?

A: The onset of summer often brings these conflicts to the forefront. Here are some recommendations:

1. Find out what has been done historically in your department. If the former supervisor is available, ask him or her if any commitments may have already been made. Sometimes employees will request time off well in advance. It is important to understand certain special requests. Sometimes an employee may be getting married or have a cruise booked. Or an employee may have plans to attend a family reunion our of state.

2. Check any policies that your company may have with respect to vacation requests. There may be a company policy in place that provides some guidance on how to handle these requests.

3. Ask your employees to submit their vacation requests (in writing) in order of first choice, second choice, etc. Sometimes it may not be possible to honor all the first choices that are submitted. And you should be clear about that. By asking for these requests in writing as first choice, second choice, etc., you are implicitly saying that employees should submit their requests, but they are just that - requests.

4. Many companies use one of the following criteria to help them respond to these requests in a fair manner:
• First come, first served. By this I mean, those who submit their requests earlier are more likely to get their first choice of vacation week(s).
• Seniority. Often a date of hire is used to determine whose requests will be at the “top of the pile.”
• Names in a hat. I have some clients who put the names of the employees into a hat. The first name picked gets their top vacation week choices off.

Finally, there may be work-related commitments that prevent a certain group of employees (or even just one specific employee) from taking time off at a specific time. For example, if the company has a significant client deadline on July 15th, then the Independence Day week might be off-limits to those working toward this deadline.

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