While I was on vacation recently, another vacationer related this story. She was a young woman who had worked for a small company in sales and about a year ago had taken a one-week vacation. She returned to the office to consternation. Her boss showed her the company’s recent sales figures, which were the lowest of the year.
“And why do think that is?” he pointedly asked her.
The displeased pressure she felt from her management about having the temerity to take a short vacation gave her hives and she soon ended up in a hospital emergency room — a decidedly unrelaxing end to what should have been a relaxing time.
It would be one thing if this were an isolated incident but it isn’t. Americans’ vacations are being systematically hijacked.
We’re becoming vacation-phobic
New research from Kimble Applications (a U.K. based software company) shows that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year and 21% “left more than five vacation days on the table.” Approximately 1,200 full-time U.S. employees were surveyed for the research.
The research highlights four main reasons for this aversion to vacations, all of which resonated with me both from my own career and from what I’ve read elsewhere. The bottom line is that this is, simply put, a fine kettle of fish. We’re becoming vacation-phobic. Let’s review the four explanations.
– Vacations sometimes cause (not reduce) stress. Twenty-seven percent of respondents felt they had “too many projects or deadlines” and 13% fear “the amount of work they’ll return to.” Yep, sounds familiar – note Exhibit A, the sales story above. Recriminations over sales declines weren’t exactly a stress-reducer.
– My boss doesn’t like it. Nineteen percent of respondents reported being “pressured by their manager not to take a vacation.” (Again, see Exhibit A above.)
– Thanks to technology, it’s harder than ever to unplug. Thanks to (or perhaps “no thanks” to) mobile devices and ubiquitous wifi, it’s harder than ever to disconnect, clear one’s mind and relax. Forty-eight percent of respondents say they “check on work while vacationing,” including 19% who do it every day.
– It’ll derail my career. Fourteen percent of respondents believe not using all of their vacation time “increases their chances for advancement.” As for “derailment” opportunities, once again note Exhibit A above. (P.S. The teller of the story is no longer with the company.)
Doing more with less
My own perspective here is that today’s prevailing management philosophy is “to do more with less” and this often places serious pressure on most anything getting in the way of this results-orientation.
Hey, I’m all for positive results. Management is, and should be, a results-oriented endeavor. But obliterating vacation time isn’t diligent management, it’s crazy stuff. Making employees feel guilty about taking vacation time is counterproductive. Employees don’t get to relax, recharge and take time to think and gain perspective.
Inadequate time off makes employees anxious, tired and wired.
Not to mention gives them hives.