How to Avoid Vacation Conflicts During the Holidays

Posted on December 6, 2011.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, the average American worker will forgo two days of vacation this year. As you sit there trying to figure out how you’re going to let your whole staff off for the Holidays, you’re wondering how that could be possible.  Where are those sacrificing employees when you need them?  How are you going to determine who gets time off and who needs to provide coverage. There are some simple rules you need to follow.

1. Don’t wait until December to accept vacation requests. It may be too late for this year, but going forward, make sure everyone gives you his or her vacation schedule by spring.  Sure some will say they aren’t sure yet, but the people that have already made plans, likely spent money or made reservations should get priority.  So the people that told you back in May that they needed the week of Christmas off should get priority over the procrastinators.

2. Determine who is critical.  Most companies have a core group of people that are critical to operations.  For the most part, these people already know that their ability to take time off when everyone else is gone is limited.  But often, people become critical because of some task they need to complete before the end of the year. And yet, so many of this latter group will still not hesitate to ask for the time off and “dump” the year end work on others. Make it a policy early on that anyone who has year-end deadlines cannot take off.

3. Be fair. It’s tempting to let your best employees take the time off even if they wait until the least minute to ask. You need to stick with rules 1 and 2 above. Once you’ve taken the time to establish protocols and policies, making exceptions completely negates them. Playing favorites is never a good idea but around the Holidays it can crush morale just when you want everyone to feel good.

4. Plan for contingencies. If you’re lucky enough to be able to work with a skeleton crew, make sure the people left in the office have a way to contact those that are gone.  Being MIA at the end of the year is unacceptable.  It’s just not good business to have a crisis arise and no way to contact the only people that can help.

Everyone wants to take off during the Holidays but unless you work for a public school, it’s just not realistic.  If you can establish some protocols that are communicated quickly, everyone will be able to plan accordingly.