How to Take Time Off Without Screwing Over Your Coworkers

How to Take Time Off Without Screwing Over Your Coworkers
Photo: Samuel Corum, Getty Images

On Wednesday night, with a winter storm of historic magnitude battering Texas and leaving millions of residents without electricity or potable water, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz decamped for the sunny climes of Cancun, Mexico with his family.

What could have been merely an insidious Twitter rumour was soon confirmed — via photos of the senator holding a boarding pass and wearing familiar sneakers and his signature mask, emblazoned with his favourite second amendment rallying cry, “Come and take it,” and by major news outlets, including Fox News. Twitter was soon riddled with contempt for Cruz (even more than usual, anyway) for appearing to abandon his constituents and colleagues in an hour of crisis.

The outpouring seems to have been enough to wrest Cruz from the warm embrace of an oceanfront vacation, as reports indicate he was Texas-bound by Thursday morning. But it’s anyone’s guess whether Cruz — who’s as fond of tweeting as he apparently is a sun-dappled sojourn during a Congressional recess — learned any lessons from the episode, even as he left other Texans to do his job for him.

Though a high-profile example, Cruz’s missteps can prove instructional for the general, working populace in how to use your vacation time without leaving your colleagues in the lurch.

Don’t take leisure time off during a busy season

Chances are you aren’t a public official beholden to the needs of a broad base of constituents, but as a general rule, it’s best not to schedule your time off during a period when your colleagues will be under a more intense workload than usual.

Most industries have times of year that are busier than others, and you’ll do your reputation a service by resisting the urge to abscond when your abilities are needed most. In the case of Cruz, it’s likely that his family vacation wasn’t planned on a whim. But with millions of the state’s residents deprived of the electricity necessary to weather unusually frigid temperatures, he might have realised his efforts were needed closer to home.

Understand what times of year require an all-hands-on-deck approach, and plan your getaways accordingly. If a personal or family crisis arises even during a hectic schedule, then all of this goes out the window, obviously — your personal and family needs will always prevail over those of your employer.

Tell your colleagues when you’re leaving

If you’re afraid that your well-earned vacation will leave your co-workers buried under a deluge of your responsibilities, leave them a detailed note outlining what exactly it is you do that shouldn’t be ignored in your absence. If your duties have to be picked up by someone else, delineate those tasks in a memo to your colleagues.

They’ll appreciate your candor and that you’ve left them a clear outline demonstrating how you do your job, so they don’t have to scramble to figure it out themselves. If you fail to provide this, don’t be surprised if your colleagues take to lambasting you in private.

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Thank your coworkers for picking up the slack

You don’t need to grovel — everyone deserves a holiday, and to use their time off how they want to. But show your colleagues that you appreciate the courtesy if they had to add to their plates in your absence. You can do this with another written note, or by offering a different token of appreciation, such as a small gift or tasty snack (when your office is safely open again). Obviously you shouldn’t feel the need to lavish them with praise, but letting them know you appreciate how they’ve stepped up while you dipped your toes in a white sandy beach will surely be endearing.

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