Vacation Time

“The older I get, the less vacation I take.” I hear this from a surprising number of people. Many of them are middle-aged white middle-managers for mid-sized companies. Their offices are painted a middling beige.

That odd sentiment is understandable if the person holds high stakes in the business, or has a clearly defined path up the corporate ladder and is handsomely rewarded in bonuses and company equity for all of their sacrifice. But an alarming number of the vacation-averse people I’ve met are not that way at all. They’re middling white collar workers who seem to be addicted to their jobs. And they are all, to a man, men.

Frankly, if some office dork in his beige dockers wants to be like that, fine. It’s your life, buddy. It becomes a problem, however, when that person is your boss, or your boss’s boss. Then it trickles down. Or more precisely, it is expected to trickle down.

Um. No. I’m very fortunate that I’ve never had this kind of thing thrust upon me directly, but I’ve come close a few times and I’ve seen other people fall victim to it. It enrages me.

It’s not just that as time marches on and the years seem to get shorter that vacation time feels more and more precious. No, I’m enraged at the sheer ignorance of the people who take this kind of work-inspired martyrdom for granted.

I am angry at the drones who fall victim to it, and I am particularly angry at the executives – the stakeholders – who don’t understand that for most of us salarymen these are just jobs. We don’t have the same dedication to the company as they do because we don’t own it. Yes, we want to succeed in our “careers,” and we want to do good work, but we want that for ourselves, for our own self respect. We know that none of us are going to get rich off of these gigs. None of us will be renowned in the company annals. None of us will retire gently into our Spanish villas bought with the generous stocks and bonuses that we’ve earned through our tireless devotion to the success of the company.

No. We work until we retire, and if we retire with money it’s because we saved it ourselves from our salaries and (if we’re lucky) the company’s meager 50% of 5% matching bonus. And that’s assuming we survived the periodic swinging of the layoff scythe that so regularly and indiscriminately reaps its bloody harvest.

So I’m going to take that vacation, and I’m going to take as many days and weeks of it as I can. As much as I might like my job and my career, and as keen as I am to see the company succeed, I also like my friends and family, and I want to see those rolling golden hills of Spain and the deep blue sea of the Mediterranean while I can, before the fixed income and the bad legs set in.

If you want me to sacrifice on the altar of the corporation like you do, then there’s got to be something in it for me. Something big. But I don’t own part of the company, and a cash bonus does me no good if I can’t leave my desk to spend it. About the only thing I have to negotiate is more vacation time. That’s right. I’ll work those long days and ruin the odd weekend for you, but not because I’m addicted to work or enamored with the company logo. I’ll do it for more vacation time.

12 thoughts on “Vacation Time

  1. I so agree with this post. I’m having a tough time taking a vacation. I only do staycations as I can’t afford to go to the places that I want to go to. I just took a 3 day leave to relax at home but I was swamped with phone calls from work. I still am waiting for a week to 10 days away from the city and the office and go to a quite place with a small room and lots of books to read. Just peace and quite and no one to bother me.

  2. I think people who don’t take their vacation days are NUTS. Even if you love your job, you shouldn’t be that wedded to it.

    Some of my friends have an atrocious work/life balance and I wouldn’t trade places with them for all the money in the world.

  3. Here! Here!

    I’m happy to say that the older I get, the more vacation I take (and try to get). I think in many cases, people that are that married to their jobs have not had any wake-up calls about their priorities.

    There are too many great things to do in life…why just limit it to one area?

  4. Unfortunately, it’s not only vacation time, it’s workday time.
    I always feel uncomfortable if I arrive later or leave earlier than my boss or, worse yet, arrive later and still leave earlier than a co-worker. Hell, I’m paid for my 37.5-40 hours a week, which I put in, so why should I feel guilty if I’m not putting in the same amount of hours that you (the coworker) does?

  5. I think there are two things going on.

    The first is that some high-level executives are married to their jobs, which is OK considering they’re probably really driven people and anyone who knows them or gets involved with them should understand that from the get-go. Such highly driven people usually have two things to gain from all that work; the first is the personal satisfaction they get from having their company succeed, and the second is the huge financial payoff they get when it succeeds.

    The second thing that’s going on is that a lot of middle-management suckers fall in line with this, even though they can never achieve the same level of personal satisfaction or financial payoff. THESE are the people that I feel sorry for. It’s one thing if they are young and are using their middle management position as a springboard into a higher position (or their own company), but many of them are forever stuck in the middle. I don’t understand their motivations at all.

    What really kills me about this is when the top-shelf, highly driven people EXPECT everyone under them to be equally driven. How can they be? They don’t own the company, and most never will own a company. It’s that lack of understanding that really annoys me; that sense that if people like me aren’t as driven as the guy who owns the company, that it’s some kind of mark against me.

    I see this a lot in the so-called “startup” mentality. Don’t get me wrong — I think highly-motivated and entrepreneurial people are great. These people can really affect change and bring about innovation in business and elsewhere. But they need to understand that when they hire people to work for them — I mean the regular people, not the executives — most of those people have different motivations. They are not all willing to to give everything for the company’s success. Work hard, do a good job, etc., is one thing, but you can’t expect “salarymen” to sacrifice their personal lives for what in the end is an expendable job.

    I’m not just thinking about the standard work/live balance discussion. This is about what executives and entrepreneurs should expect from the people they hire. In this case I’m focused on vacation time. If you hire a 45 year old whatever, with say 17 or 18 years of experience, why in Pete’s name would you offer them a measly two weeks of annual vacation? Would you not have a happier and more productive employee if you offered them a chance to enjoy their life as well as do good work?

  6. Michel, I used to worry about that too. But I don’t anymore. I let the work speak for itself. If anyone were to give me a hard time because I only put in the required hours, I’d ask them to show me where, in my produced work, there are signs of neglect. Is the stuff delivered on time? Is is good quality? Do I bring more than is expected to the job? Yes, yes, and yes, so shut the &^%^ up! ;-)

    It occurs to me that some people reading this thread might think I’m advocating working only to the bare minimum standards. For the record, that is NOT the case! At all! I’m advocating for a bit of understanding that if I do good work I’d like to be rewarded by having free time away from work without having to beg for it or feel guilty about it!

  7. How enlightening, coming from someone who waited a full six hours before committing a new job after being laid off ;-)

  8. Now now, that’s not true. I waited about four weeks to *commit,* although it was just a matter of hours before I “went into action.” (And that job I went after the same day I got axed is not the job I ended up taking.)

  9. Happy to read this entry. As for me, I have never, *ever* been a martyr for work, I always made life a priority over work though I would often feel “guilty” about not over-working as many of my colleagues often have. I do work hard and well within the time I am supposed to be in the office, but honestly, I value living well and in a balanced manner far beyond aiming to be the “best little worker ever”. It’s vacation time that is the true payoff in the 9-5 salaried jobs. I use mine for artistic pursuits, so I often am left taking extra days unpaid for a real rest.

  10. We’re twice as productive as workers in the past, yet we are putting in more time at work than they. Seems like it should be less… What’s that all about?!

    Add me to the crowd that’s holding our fists in the air for more time!

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