Hope this nice couple isn’t feeling too guilty about taking their vacation.
About a month ago I got a call from a journalist named Leslie Stevens-Huffman wanting to interview me about vacations and management. She’d noticed I’d written on the subject before (“Why America Has Become ‘The No-Vacation Nation’”) and that I’d been critical that large numbers of U.S. employees (47% in one survey) were not using all their vacation time.
To my surprise she didn’t want to speak to me about vacations and general management, but specifically about “vacation shaming” — which I’d never heard of. But I immediately sensed what she was referring to.
After I got back up off the floor (from my shock at this term not just having been created but even institutionalized), I asked her how widespread it was, and she explained it was becoming increasingly common.
She went on to define it in her article for the online pub Dice as a work environment “where co-workers and bosses use peer pressure and guilt trips to discourage employees from taking time off.”
Yep, got it. The last two days I did a couple posts on the rise of workplace stress and some tips on how to cope with it, and I must say vacation shaming is a prime example of stress-inducing behavior.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew about this phenomenon without even realizing I did. Just in the last month I talked to an old friend who described to me how he’d recently tried to take a vacation. His boss had been urging him to because he knew he needed one. But just about the time he was about to leave with his family a big project was on deadline so his boss began to grumble that it might not be such a good time after all. My friend went anyway on the alleged vacation (note use of “alleged,” as in “alleged” assailant), where he was constantly checking his phone for messages and beleaguered by a series of conference calls at odd hours. In some ways, he reflected, it was more stressful than being at work since the alleged vacation had continual uncertainty as to whether he’d be working or not.
Let me say it straight. This “vacation shaming” is crazy stuff. Nutsville. Loony tunes. Burnout City. And bad demoralizing management to boot.
People need to relax, refresh and recharge. Sometimes they just need to get away and disconnect. Long-term, vacation shaming isn’t a recipe for productivity but for resentment and retention problems.
From a management perspective, I think I understand the underlying drivers. An overly lean staffing environment (the fashion of the day) can make it harder to have one employee, even temporarily, away from the operation. But that explains it, it doesn’t excuse it.
BTW, feel free to make a copy of this article, highlighting any portions you’d like, and place it in plain sight of anyone at work who may need to see it