A reader writes:
I am an office manager of nine years in a small doctor's practice. I have one other co-worker, who is going on her 11th year. With the failing economy, our boss cut our holiday bonus in half, most recently took three months to deposit our simple IRA contributions and matches, took our paid holidays for 2009, and cut our hours.
Now he is thinking of taking a vacation. How do I address the situation without attacking him personally? He has asked his dedicated employees to sacrifice and said he "can barely pay bills," and now a family vacation is in the pipeline. When the doctor is away, there are NO patients and no income coming in. HELLOO??? Is it just me?
Well, ultimately this guy owns the business, and it's his to run as he sees fit (aside from the delay in depositing your IRA contributions, which may not be legal in your state). So I think you've got to keep that in mind as you think about the situation.
Regarding the family vacation, you presumably don't know all the details. Maybe his wife is paying for it. Maybe he promised her he'd go for reasons too personal too share with employees, despite the hardship it may cause the business. We don't know. Plus, he may quite reasonably feel that he needs to get some time off in order to do his job well; most people do.
All that said, I do think you can talk to him about the situation, but it's important that you keep all the above in mind, since that will influence your approach. You could say something like, "I don't know if you realize this, but Sharon and I are both very stressed out about the financial troubles we're having, and we couldn't help but get concerned when we realized that we won't have any patients during the time you're on vacation. Do you have ideas for other things we can do with that time that will help contribute?" Keep in mind that the last thing this guy may need is his employees pressuring him about a situation he may not be able to do anything about; keep the focus on how you can help, not on nagging him.
All that said, please start looking around for other jobs. The signs you're seeing are ones of a struggling business, and you would be smart to start looking for escape routes now.