A reader writes:
Does it seem strange that my manager wants to know what I'm doing for any vacation request I submit? And not in the friendly conversational way of "where are you going" or "big plans?" but in the way that he's asking if it's worthy to give the vacation days. Is this right? I know it's the latter because he asks what the plans are before he grants the request. And I get the impression if I said staying home and relaxing, the answer would be no. Seems kind of odd to me. What are your thoughts?
Yes, it's odd. It's also unreasonable and bad management, if indeed your interpretation is correct.
Your vacation days are your own, to use in any way you want. You don't need to prove their worth in order to get them okayed.
However, there are two possible explanations that would let your manager off the hook:
1. He really might be trying to be friendly and doesn't realize he's giving you the impression that his okay your request hinges on whether your vacation plans meet his approval.
2. He might have someone else who has already requested those days off, and he'd rather not be short-staffed -- but if you want the time to do something like attend your brother's wedding, then he's going to okay it and just work around it ... but if it's something more flexible, he's going to ask you if you can pick a different week. In this case, he has a legitimate reason for asking but there's a better way to handle it. (He should say explicitly, "Jean already has those days off and I'd rather not have you both gone at the same time; are your plans flexible at all?")
My recommendation is that the next time he does this, smile and nicely say, "Does my ability to get the days approved depend on the answer?"