A reader writes:
I'm a new supervisor of a small software team. I'm responsible for granting and denying vacation time.
I often find myself in a situation where an employee would like to take a random day off... say Friday. They will often bring this to my attention the day before.
Our workplace has generally been very flexible. One particular employee is a long-time friend of mine, and he feels as if he should be allowed to take a day off here and there if there's nothing going on. I feel as if it puts me in a difficult situation where if I have employees that can take days off with an informal request the day before, that it sets a precedent that is difficult to deal with. What's the norm in terms of advanced notice for time off? What should I expect?
Well, why would setting that precedent be difficult to deal with?
It seems to me that the way to decide whether or not to grant a vacation request -- whether it's last minute or not -- is by looking at what impact it will have on the work that needs to get done. That's the precedent you want to set.
And last-minute days off can sometimes work well with that: For instance, you had a really productive week, got everything under control, and now realize that you could take Friday off without impacting much. You often wouldn't have been able to know in advance that that was going to happen, but common sense tells you that you could do it now.
Now of course, if an employee asks you on Thursday if she can have Friday off and you know that she has work due on Friday that can't reasonably be delayed, that's a different matter. So is a situation where the nature of the work demands that you have a certain number of people physically present (such as, say, teaching or customer service), in which case last-minute requests may prevent your ability to keep your area running smoothly.
But basing your policy on actual impact, rather than on rules for rules' sake, will be a real benefit to your employees.