Be Wary of Employees Who Won’t Take Vacation


Steve Kiernan
Co-Founder & CEO
April 12, 2018
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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.

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