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My manager wants me to cancel my nonrefundable vacation for work!

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Question - (30 January 2017) 11 Answers - (Newest, 1 February 2017)
A female United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

Long story short, I back up one of my colleagues whenever she goes on vacation. We're in different departments. I'm happy to do so and she always only takes one day off at a time anyway. Anything that requires her expertise that I cannot handle right away, I'll flag it for her follow-up.

We work for a 10-person company. There is no HR and everything goes through our direct manager. Today our manager suddenly announced she wants to send my colleague abroad for two weeks to train our overseas team. I will need to back her up for two weeks. I don't mind this, however am slightly hesitant because I'm not that experienced in the department. However my manager knows this and any issues I have I'll just ask her.

I'm more concerned with my vacation. I'm taking just two days off but already booked nonrefundable flights and packages for the long weekend. It will be with my boyfriend and two other couples. It was tough coordinating the trip together and it's finally established but now my manager is asking me to cancel / reschedule. I told her I'll look into it today and get back to her tomorrow. But my heart is set on not cancelling. Self evaluations are also due tomorrow which is reviewed by management and determines our annual bonus. I'm annoyed with the timing as I don't want my bonus to be affected. Although to everyone's knowledge nobody has ever been denied bonus before.

Any advice on how to explain to my manager that I cannot cancel my vacation? It's my first job and first time dealing with this tricky issue. Thank you.

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland +, writes (1 February 2017):

aunt honesty agony auntIt should not effect your bonus, be honest with her and tell her it is non refundable and see what she has to say. Tell us how you get on.

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A female reader, maverick494 United States +, writes (1 February 2017):

Your manager probably hasn't realized your trip has already been cleared by the company, and that it is booked and non refundable. This should not be a big deal, so I'd suggest not approaching it as one. Simply go up to your manager and tell them:

"I promised I'd look into it and I'm sorry, but I can't cancel. The booking is non refundable, plus it has already been cleared by the company in writing." Show her the papers if necessary.

Then you can add: "It's only two days; I can pick up any task that cannot be completed by someone else in those days when I get back."

And that's it. State your case calmly and clearly.

I would be very surprised if she would make a big deal out of it and this is coming from someone who has worked at companies that had cockroach infestations and doors falling in when you open them.

Plus, drawing a line makes people respect you more, not less. At the current company I work at there's this guy, let's call him Tom, who has a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience. He gets asked to solve problems by many people. He barely takes a vacation day and he is at all the important meetings. Then he takes one day off because his wife is in labour and expected to give birth that day. The manager comes in, can't find him and after hearing from us where Tom is, he calls him up because he has to attend this "very important meeting." An hour later, guess who's in the office. Tom. He chose a meeting over seeing his own kid being born. The manager was all like "I appreciate you decided to come here" but he didn't, not really. He just took Tom for granted because Tom had come part of the company furniture. Useful, dependable. And when he gets old: expendable.

Don't ever be Tom, is what I'm saying. (Tom was lucky because his colleagues couldn't keep our traps shut and told the manager that if he really thought this meeting was important enough for a man to miss his child being born and supporting his wife, we were all going to leave the company that same day. Talk about messed up priorities.)

Anyway, if the company forces you to come in anyway, they create a lose-lose situation in which they cannot expect loyalty to uphold. It's not even about decency or fairness, it's about being smart about doing business. They can fire you for someone else, like another reader dramatically suggested, but that means they will lose more than two days having to find a replacement and bringing said replacement up to speed.

So take a deep breath, don't worry and go on that trip. Because there is no way a manager with a brain bigger than an amoeba is going to give you shit when you're well within your rights.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 February 2017):

I agree with Chi-girl's advice. Tell your supervisor that the trip you have already planned is non-refundable, and cannot be changed. Since it was already pre-approved this should not affect your review or standing at your employer. You have followed all protocols.

It is ultimately your manager's responsibility to cover your co-worker's projects while she is gone to training. Maybe this will be an eye opener to her that she needs to have more than just one person trained to cover others when there are only 10 people in the company. It is always possible that something will happen to the one backup person, or they may leave for some reason. Then where would your manager be?

Best of luck. I think honesty and tact are your best friends here.

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A male reader, Fatherly Advice United States + , writes (31 January 2017):

Fatherly Advice agony auntI've been a small employer in the US. My advice is to go to your employer with the papers in your hand showing how much you will lose by rescheduling your vacation. Explain that it really isn't a matter of convenience, but the only way you will have this vacation because you will lose all the money you saved for it. Your boss will find a way to get around 2 days. your manager is hopeful but has no realistic belief that you will give up your scheduled vacation.

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A female reader, So_Very_Confused United States +, writes (31 January 2017):

So_Very_Confused agony auntso everything you do for her has to be done the day it comes in. There is no lag?

It's two days. even for me in the federal government two days is not a lifetime. IN fact, if i do something right away I am often told "thanks for the quick turnaround"

If what you do is not life or death why can't it wait 2 business days?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 January 2017):

I live in Canada. We sign papers when we take vacation. It is approved by management.

Therefore, if an employee went ahead and booked a trip, which was approved by their supervisor, and the trip was non refundable, it would be up to the company to do the right thing and find someone else to do the job in your absence. They know you spent money - hard earned money by the way - on a trip and they should understand this and they should find someone else to cover for you. Or the supervisor will do it themselves. Or hire a temp. Or move someone around from another department. It does not matter the size. Small companies must manage the same way as large ones. And the problem is your supervisor's to handle. It is her job. Not yours.

Anything in writing is binding.

Yes, company needs dictate what is necessary from employees.

But this case is different.

You are well within your rights to take your vacation.

You received prior approval AND booked your trip. Even IF you did not book a trip, you have every right to your vacation time.

They could have asked you if you are WILLING to not take vacation this time to cover. ASKED YOU, not demanded of you.

The problem is that it won't sit well with this supervisor under the current circumstances. If you stand your ground, you may get your trip and keep your job. Or worst case, you may lose your job and keep your trip.

Personally, I think that if that trip was approved in advance AND an employee spent money on a non refundable one at that, then in all fairness the company should see this and find another solution.

It is up to you.

I would not lose my money because they changed their mind. That isn't fair. And it has nothing to do with me. The minute they signed the consent form, it was a done deal.

I seriously doubt they would want to lose an employee at such a crucial time when they are already short man power with so few employees.

I would talk to the owner. Think you might rock a boat with the supervisor by doing that? Maybe. Depends on what kind of person they are. But what is more important? Taking a stand? Standing up for yourself? Or just caving in and letting them run you. And this believe it or not, allows her to continue doing stuff like this. They will see abuse this authority. In fact, trying to take away a planned vacation is already an abuse of authority.

I believe in doing the right thing.

I would stand up for my vacation which was approved and I paid for.

If they disagree, well then I would sing this song....

"Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more..."

There are plenty of other jobs out there. It is just a temporary set back. And maybe an opportunity in disguise to find something better. Something more worthy of your abilities and time. Next time, find a company that is larger and HAS an HR department. Do the research. Is it a good company to work for? Nobody needs a job BAD enough that they are treated this way. Nobody.

Food for thought.

Hope it all works out.

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy +, writes (31 January 2017):

CindyCares agony aunt@ Chigirl : eh... in Europe. But the OP does not work in Europe.

You have a very good point insofar probably the manager did not remember when the OP was going to leave , and / or did not know she has booked a non refundable vacation. Of course one can find common sense, kindness and team spirit in USA workplaces too , so hopefully employee says " But I have booked already, and it's not refundable " and employer says " Ah ok then, never mind, we'll find some other solution ". But it's not that management MUST say yes.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway +, writes (31 January 2017):

chigirl agony auntYou already told her about your vacation, so it's not like you are surprising her with this. She just asked if you can cancel it, she doesn't know it's non refundable and that you're traveling with other couples etc. For all she knows, you're just taking a short vacation to clean the house.

Just tell her, with no further information needed, that the vacation can not be cancelled. It's the MANAGERS PROBLEM when she decides to send her crew away despite of an already planned vacation. She knew there was no guarantee you would cancel your vacation, and she's already approved of this vacation in advance (she approved it before you booked it, surely, as you had to run it by her that you would take the time off in advance...). Then it's her problem. Not yours.

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy +, writes (31 January 2017):

CindyCares agony auntI am afraid that you won't have much choice.

In USA , employers are not required to provide vacations to employees under federal law or almost any state law. Therefore, even less they are obliged to provide vacations at a certain appointed time, particularly if it clashes with the company's needs.

It is true that in most states, if the employer provides vacations through the employee's handbook, the employer is obligated to honour the committment. Still, it is within the employer's discretion whether to grant the requested leave ; so, even if the boss had originally authorized the leave , it is likely that the employer's vacation policy is drafted broadly enough to permit the employers to change their mind due to changed business circumstances or labor needs.

A smart employee won't abuse of this mind - change option, unless it is really an emergency.

But, .. if your company is not a smart employer, or if this IS an emergency workwise, be aware that by not cancelling you might risk more than just your bonus.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 January 2017):

OP here. Thank you for your advice. Yes I did get clearance in writing and wrote my vacation into the company shared outlook calendar.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 January 2017):

Was your vacation CLEARED and signed off on by your supervisor IN WRITING before she sprung this news on you?

Not to have an HR Department is not a good thing for any company. It puts employees at risk for being abused and mistreated like you are now, assuming you had already cleared this vacation time.

My guess is you have booked this vacation time prior otherwise you would not have booked non refundable flights.

My suggestion is that there must be someone superior to your supervisor in this company and if you did book this vacation legitimately, you need to go to that person and raise your issue. Whether it is the company owner or partners. There is always a hierarchy.

I would not let her get away with treating you that way. If she had such plans, she should not have signed off on your vacation. I am quite certain that major company plans like this do not happen overnight. She had to have known about them in advance, and just told you last minute. That is not only unprofessional but it is rude and inconsiderate.

If all else fails, I would be looking at finding another job once you come back from your vacation.

However, if you did not get clearance and booked this trip regardless, then I would say you are going to lose your money. Either that or lose your job.

Good luck.

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