How to avoid being a Grinch when your whole staff wants to be on vacation for the holidays



Depending on the industry you’re in, figuring out how to handle employee vacation requests for the holidays can vary from making your life as a manager slightly painful to downright miserable. Every manager wishes they had so much staff and such a huge budget that they could let everyone take vacation whenever they wanted, and hire people to cover when their team was out. No matter what your team structure looks like, and what kind of work needs to get done, here are 3 ways to help you avoid having your staff think you’re the Grinch of vacation time this holiday season.


1.Set expectations, review your vacation policy
When you get organized, and talk to your team about what you need from them to get through the holiday season while wanting to accommodate everyone’s right to take time off, they’re more likely to see you as someone who understands their wants and needs, and not just their manager. Review the vacation policy as a team, and explain that due to the nature of your business, you need the following days covered. Then propose your idea on how to make that happen. For example, you can say that you need X number of people in the office on “Black Friday,” and anyone who works that day will not have to work Christmas Eve. Or conversely, you can ask them to rank the holidays that are most important to them to have off, and you’ll do your best to accommodate everyone’s request. Lastly, tell them they need to have their vacation requests in to you by a certain date. Make sure to give yourself enough time to get the best version of a holiday schedule together, and release it in advance of the holidays.


2.Get your team in on it
Undoubtedly, there will be someone who you will have to disappoint. But, when you release the schedule, you can encourage your employees to trade and negotiate with one another on one condition, switches/ schedule changes need to have your approval. You might be surprised just how willing your team will be to help one another out on a personal level!


3.Can I make it up to you?
When all else fails, and you’re at a stalemate with your team about how to get work done during the holidays, show that you care. Talk to the employee that you can’t give the time of to and say something like, “I really wish I could give you the time off, but I do need you to work on (holiday x). Last Thanksgiving I was working because of the snowstorm, and the shipment of product was stuck in the port, so I know what I’m asking isn’t fun. If there’s something I can do to make it a little easier for you, let me know. Could I give you an extra day of vacation to use in the first quarter?” Ideally you know the employee well enough to know what might make working the holiday easier to swallow. Can you offer them overtime or holiday pay? Can you get them a gift card to their favorite retailer? Show the employee you care, and then following through on what you promise them is key to building goodwill in a crumby situation. Lastly, if you promise them that they won’t have to work next year because they worked this year, put that note on your calendar now!


While the holiday vacation request process can be tricky, it can also provide you with some key learnings about your team. It can uncover things like the need for cross-training, areas for improvement in communication, and necessary policy changes for team happiness. If you’re on the lookout for those things, not only will you get through the holidays without workflow coming to a complete lurch, you can also set up goals for yourself as a manager for the new year.