Will Taking a Long Vacation Be Held Against You?

by TTMK on June 18, 2012 · 23 comments

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

It’s a well-known, old saying that refers to the notion that one should not be totally consumed with work. What the saying doesn’t convey is that not only does “all work” make someone a bit dull, but it can also wear a person out, perpetuate stress, and not allow time for mental and physical decompression.  We all need a break every now and then, right?

Well, a recent article on Yahoo! Finance caught my eye, in its discussion on whether or not people should actually take a 2 week vacation while employed.  Yes, you might have the vacation time saved up, and you might get your manager’s approval.  However, the question is: will it actually be viewed negatively, and used against you.

I think that smart organizations know that people need to have balance, and that includes taking time off to disengage from work.  In the end, the idea is that balance will allow people to perform better in each area of life.  Yes, that means work too.

However, what might seem to make sense to me or others who agree with this point of view might not resonate with every single company or manager within such companies.   In other words, what we think is fair might not matter to someone else.  It took  me a while (maybe too long) to learn this, but we can’t automatically expect life to be “fair”.  We can choose situations that fit our worldview, but not everyone will share it.

So, back to the question of whether or not to take a two week vacation.  While it can be great to do so, I think that whether or not we actually take it should depend on the organization for which we each work.  This is independent of official vacation policy, and whether or not you have the available time.

Even with available time and supervisor approval, there are probably some places where it would be acceptable or tolerable to take the vacation, and others where it will quietly be used against you.  Maybe the next performance review will be impacted (indirectly, of course), or maybe you’ll get passed up for a promotion.  Worse, perhaps you might be on a list to be let go on the next round of layoffs.

So while I advocate extended taking time off when possible to recharge and live life to its fullest, I also say that we need to be careful and fully understand the “unofficial” impact of taking a long vacation.  As with anything, we can’t get something for nothing.

That being said, I’m looking forward to my next mini-vacation.  And yes, this one will be safe J

My Questions for You:

Do you think that taking a long vacation from work can be detrimental to career success, or do you think that it’s important to take your time off no matter what?

Have you ever taken a vacation from work that was 2 weeks? What was the reaction at work to you doing it?

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Trey June 18, 2012 at 6:25 am

I can only speak from my experience but the answer to this question often depends on the person taking the vacation. I have had employees who show up, put in the least amount of work possible to get by and then also ask for a couple of weeks off. For those types of employees, there are negative consequences, not because they took two weeks off but because they failed to perform at the level required once they returned to work. Personally, I think it is important to take time off as long as you are not putting your employer in a tough situation. I have put in for a week off during a slow period at work and my boss suggested that I take two weeks, if I wanted. I produce a great work product and often exceed their expectations, so they exceeded mine. I took the two weeks and there were no negative consequences.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:11 am

Trey – it sure does help to be a value-added, high performer! If somebody is hard to replace and truly needed, accomodations can be made in many cases. For those that are slackers or marginal performers, I can see how there would be less tolerance for time off. Never mind though that in reality, whether high performer or mediocre performer, each has probably earned the time off in reality.

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SB @ One Cent At A Time June 18, 2012 at 6:43 am

A decision like this can’t be a company wide policy. Individual managers implement their own strategy as part of the team dynamics. While I don’t mind my people taking leaves for three weeks when his/her work can be stopped. If it can’t be stopped, during critical phases, I don’t even allow more than 5 day of leave. So it actually depends on circumstances.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:05 am

SB – sure, it could depend on circumstances. In the case of having a bad boss, that person might hold it against somebody no matter when they took time off. This despite the employee actually having “earned” the time off per the terms of employment.

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Michelle June 18, 2012 at 7:19 am

I think it all depends on when you’re going. Are you going during a busy work time or a slow time? Are there people who could cover your work while you’re gone?

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:03 am

Michelle – sure, it can impact the perceptions of others about one’s willingness to be a “team” player. Timing might matter.

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Daisy June 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

I think it depends. If you decide to take your vacation in the middle of a project or a busy season, then maybe yes. But usually, vacation entitlement is an entitlement, and everyone takes it – so you’re only viewed as badly as the rest of people taking their vacation, which would be everyone.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:03 am

Daisy – I think it depends on the organization. In some places, even though you’re “entitled” to get 2 or 3 weeks vacation, you might be making a career limiting move by taking 2 weeks at a time. Sure, it might officially be okay. But indirectly and behind the scenes, employees could be punished. It might take untila performance review, for example, to figure that out and connect the dots.

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From Shopping to Saving June 18, 2012 at 11:23 am

If everyone else in the office or your dept or your company does the whole 2 week vacation once a year thing, then I don’t think it’s too bad. I think it’s worse when you take so many days off throughout the year, even during busy times – or worse, when no one else takes vacations. It makes it hard for you to go unnoticed, and probably makes others bitter.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:01 am

FS2S – I think you make a good point here, in terms of introducting co-worker context to the mix.

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland June 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

It would absolutely not affect my career, but it would affect my boyfriend’s — he’s a contract employee, and his contract is up in early October. If he decided to take a long vacation now, he’d give up the right to get his contract renewed, since he was hired for a busy time.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Kathleen – makes sense that if somebody was hired on contract for the specific purpose of helping during a busy time, that it would be tough to leave for a break.

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Emily @ evolvingPF June 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I took off two weeks plus a couple days for our two weddings and a honeymoon. I don’t think the vacation itself affected how I was perceived at work at all (though the copious amounts of time spent wedding planning probably did). In academia it’s common for professors to disappear for weeks (mine was just gone almost continuously for over a month) and it’s not clear if that’s work, vacation, or some combination so I don’t think anyone scrutinizes it too closely. Many of the international students in my lab go back to their home countries for a month or more every couple years, so no one blinked at my 2-week weddings/honeymoon time off!

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 12:58 am

Emily – the story you shared in your comment really serves as a good example on how where somebody works can influence the perception of long breaks. It’s something to think about, in terms of how such things are viewed in a specific organization. I think all too often, people compare from entity to entity trying to make apples-to-apples comparisons, when that’s not always possible.

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Call Me What You Want Even Cheap June 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I do think it’s important to take vacation, but at the right time. Unless of course there is some type of emergency and you have to use your vacation time.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 12:56 am

CMWYWEC – Yes, we have to pick our spots when possible. As you said though, sometimes emergencies happen and we have to use time.

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Edward Antrobus June 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I went on my first vacation as an adult last year. It was 1 week. I don’t actually get paid vacation days, so that was a good reason to limit to the time off. But aside from that, I really couldn’t imagine taking more time than that off. 2 weeks? Sorry, I just can’t sit still that long.

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TTMK June 19, 2012 at 12:55 am

Edward – we’re all different with out intrests in taking vacation. Not getting paid has a way of reducing the interest in long vacations!

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Brilliant Finances June 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

I agree with SB, timing is critical. I also think teamwork is critical to the workplace so it depends on the attitude of the one taking the vacation.

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Financial Samurai June 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm

It definitely is a net negative for your career imo. I’m writing about it in my upcoming book on how to profitably leave your job. It’s a great strategy though for those who want to leave!

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TTMK June 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Sam – should be interesting what you have to say on this topic!

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Mike June 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I think it depends on the boss and the company culture. I worked for a jerk once who had a real problem with those of us who used sick days and took even ONE week of vacation. That reflected poorly on our work ethic he thought……….

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TTMK June 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Mike – that’s unfortunate, it’s not like it’s someone’s fault for being sick!

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