Be Wary of Employees Who Won’t Take Vacation


Steve Kiernan
Co-Founder & CEO
April 12, 2018
minutes to read

Get to the Point

  1. Give Vacation Time - It might feel frustrating to pay employees for time they didn’t work, but giving vacation time to your employees is critical to a healthy company.
  2. Make Sure People Use Vacation Time - You might think offering vacation time is all you need to keep your employees happy.
  3. Improve Processes - When you’re down an employee it’s easy to see where there are gaps in your company. Once somebody takes a week off, you’ll know how to improve processes so others can seamlessly cover their work in the future.

Vacations are necessary.

When you own a small service business, it's tempting to look on employee vacations as a necessary evil. After all, when your income is from employees getting paid for doing work, every vacation day represents lost revenue. On top of everything, when you run a small business, you're probably not taking vacation and there's always a nagging part of you that thinks your employees should love your business as much as you do. Given all this, it's easy to fall in love with an employee who doesn't take vacation, but this behavior hurts your business more than it helps. There are a lot of reasons why employees don't take vacation, but there are four really bad scenarios you need to watch out for:

There's a problem at home.

One unfortunate reason employees don't use vacation time is because there is something wrong at home that they are avoiding. It could be a financial issue, a problem in a marriage, or substance abuse. It's great to have people ready to jump in when someone is out sick or you need to meet a deadline, but watch out for employees who come in early and stay late all the time and who use very little vacation time.

They don't think the company can run without them.

Sometimes an employee thinks that nobody else can do their job. This manifests in a number of ways and it’s a sure sign of a morale problem in the organization. Employees who feel this way tend to think less of co-workers (and you) and try and gain political power. This behavior can also be seen in employees who develop complicated processes that ensure they have job security. If you think someone in your organization is truly irreplaceable, I suggest you read my post on hiring decisions which I hope will change your mind.

They are afraid you'll find out they're bad at their job.

Always being in the office means no one is likely to check your work and find out its substandard. Maybe the employee is actually be doing fine but has a self-esteem issue. Progressive coaching and clearly stating your expectations can help address this. Alternately, the employee might really be doing a bad job, exposing issues that need corrective action. Either way, talking to the employee about vacation time is a great way to start the conversation.

They are afraid you'll find out they're stealing.

Once in awhile you'll find that an employee isn't taking vacation because they are doing some bad stuff. Being in the office means less chance of getting caught. When an employee is REALLY adamant about not taking time off, it’s a gigantic red flag that something is wrong.

What can you do?

I believe that having employees rest and recharge helps them gain perspective and return a better worker. It's simply not possible to do this when vacations are made up of half days and long weekends. I think it's a good rule to require all your full-time employees to take a minimum of one full week of vacation once a year. This helps the business in a few ways: It makes the employees recharge, it gives you an opportunity to make sure you are process-driven instead of people-centric, and the asking brings to light potential employee issues that you can address professionally (and personally) before there is a crisis.

Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

Pass Along these Points

There's more where that came from.