mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sure, you don't get fired for taking days off, but still...

I've mentioned my reluctance to take days off, and have gotten feedback - both from people in the meatspace and in the comments of the blog - that "you don't get fired for taking days off".

That's probably true. Few people are told their reason for termination is that they used their vacation days.

But that doesn't mean that using vacation time is a good idea, at least in my situation.

First of all, there are certain things at work that are my responsibility, and that if I don't do, don't get done. That means when I'm out, those things pile up. It also means that if I'm not around to do them, end users get angry because they aren't done, and when they complain, it will be me and my failure to do them that they will be complaining about. Having people complain about you is never good for your career.

Secondly, success at work is often about being at the right place at the right time - being the person who solves a tricky problem, who pacifies an angry end user, who gets something done. If I'm not at work, I might miss those opportunities.

Also, if I'm not at work, that means my coworkers need to pick up the slack, to do my job for me in addition to their own. That's not really fair to them, and how is it going to help me career wise to make them mad at me?

Then there is the opposite problem - if I don't go to work, and things work perfectly well, management can start to think that they don't really need me, since things work fine without me.

There are very few opportunities to move up where I work, and I don't feel like I have enough transferable skills to go elsewhere. When positions open up, a number of qualified experienced people apply for them. Doing anything to hurt my chances competing against said people is foolish.

Right now, I'm having trouble getting everything I need to get done finished. If I can't get everything done when I come to work every day, how would I get it done if I wasn't at work?

This isn't to say I never take vacation days - I've taken a few. With a few exceptions, though, I generally try to take them around holidays where work is closed, because lots of other people take those days off and there isn't a whole lot of work to do, since most of our end users are also off.


At 1:37 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Anthony, here's the deal, and I can speak from authority on this for two reasons - 1. I work with managers on this kind of stuff every day, and 2. I used to be in your situation.

Back in the day when I (singular) was the eLearning department, I had a blackberry attached to my hip, and I was on call 24/7. Responsible for 25,000 user accounts, and the users ability to access from any point at work or home. Considering that I work for a healthcare system, there is shift work - ie night-time employees as well. It sucked, as they would send me to really great conferences, but I'd spend most of my time on the cell in the hallway answering calls. My ex boyfriend took me to Hawaii twice for his work, and I sat on Waikiki Beach with a laptop programming applications because I had deadlines.

Not being able to complete your work is not a sign that you are not competent. It's a sign that there's too much work to do, and your boss has a staffing and management problem. Having more work is not a punishment, it's a sign that you are producing great work, and are in demand.

When I reached my boiling point, by having weekly meetings with my boss to show them exactly what I was doing, and how much - the first thing out of her mouth was that I needed a team. And she got me one.

Let go of the Catholic guilt, I have a lot of it too - becaues you can't get it all done in one day, doesn't mean you are unworthy, it means that you are overworked. Bad staffing problem! NOT YOUR FAULT!

There's also a great book that I want you to read - It's called the Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz. Not because I want you to become a skilled faciliator, but because there is an entire section in there about "left column communications". In a nutshell, it means that it's human nature to make assumptions about actions from someone else. For instance, your boss will say something, a friend, or even a girl on the street, and it's natural human nature to make assumptions about what was intended - which rile your emotions and leads to unclear thought patterns that aren't rational. So to resolve it, you have to be the mature one and start questioning any assumption you make about something. You do that by saying, "Boss, when you gave that project to So-So, are you implying that I could not have handled the work?" Then you wait for them to respond with the answer, and you dialog about it. By making an assumption that they are making a judgement call on your abilities, you're living in the dark. By asking for clarification, you know exactly where you stand, and if you have anything to worry about.

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. But its pointless to point it out to the boss that you're overworked due to a staffing issue! They'll just assume you can't do the job and try someone else, right?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Not at all. If you can consistently show that you are putting in 110% effort, and this involves showing true and specific data, then their only choice is to see the writing on the wall.

This requires keeping spread sheets of your time, tracking interruptions, and tracking how many visits you go through on a day. Once you have consistently completed that for two weeks, you have a clear snapshot of your working time. At this point you can see if there are time-wasters that you are engaging in - ie having long periods of off-work-topic conversation during the day because your coworkers like to chat. Or a pattern getting sucked into answering all the email first thing in the morning.

Once you have evaluated all of your time, and clearly see that it's not you having the problem, then go to your boss about it. First they are going to be impressed because you took initiative to study the work flow in the department. Secondly you can clearly say, "this piece is sucking a lot of my time, and seems like a priority to the work I'm doing. How can we work together to figure out a way for me to focus more time on the priorities, and not bogged down in things that are not priorities to make me more efficient."

After having that frank discussion about your work time/flow, and the boss can still not see that you are spreading yourself thin, then the issue is upon the manager. If they do not care enough about their employees then you need to do a personal evaluation to conclude if this is the type of person you want to work for.

It's a balance of recognizing your own contribution to the problem by not speaking up. As employees we like to assume that our managers "should know", and the reality is that they are so bogged down in what they have to do, that they don't always know. It's the responsibility of the employee to engaged the manager in dialog about the work, and what's working or not in the department. You are responsible for your own career, that's how you get noticed. That's how you get promoted, by being proactive and actively engaged in the betterment of the department. Not by just showing up and doing what you were hired to do. Yeah, you are meeting requirements, but you aren't being a super-star employee.


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