Whether I’m on vacation or using a sick day, I like to think of my PTO as time when I’m being explicitly paid to NOT work. Like, on those days, relaxing is my job.
But unfortunately, too many bosses out there treat employees’ vacation time like any other work day. Even worse, some bosses take it as a personal offense if workers aren’t available at their beck and call — no matter how many months in advance their PTO was requested.
They wrote, “Over the holidays, I was on vacation time for two weeks. I ignored the calls, texts, and emails from my boss. Now, I’m back and have a meeting with HR. I don’t even know what to say!”
After meeting with HR, they added an update to answer some questions and share what happened next. They wrote, “*UPDATE: I’m a junior employee with no company phone. HR says my boss feels ignored and was ‘worried about me’ since I didn’t respond while on vacation. He claims a third party had a question for me on December 22 (something that could have waited).”
Finally, they said, “They gave me a ‘verbal warning’ because my egomaniac boss feels this is not the first time I’ve been ‘insubordinate’ to him 🤦♀️. I’m already applying to new places as we speak.”
In the comments, people are sharing similar stories of bosses who simply can’t be bothered to respect peoples’ private time. One person wrote, “I once worked for a Fortune 100 company. SIX MONTHS before my vacation, I began notifying everyone of my upcoming two-week honeymoon and that I would be out and unavailable for those two weeks. I made sure that these notices were sent weekly along with my end-of-week reports to every division that I supported.”
Another person shared, “Had a district manager call me one time while I was on vacation about metrics. Like, Jesus fuck, I am FOUR STATES AWAY in New Mexico, so what are you wanting me to do about it!?!? You can easily take your 30-minute drive and walk in to speak to my supervisors or maybe…I don’t know…CALL THE STORE! Why is it always an emergency when you go on vacation?”
On the other hand, some lucky souls are sharing how their companies do it right. One user wrote, “My husband’s company states that if you have to work at all on a vacation day (even a 15-minute phone call), you get another full day of PTO to make up for it.”
Another person chimed in, “I’m in HR, and if a manager came to me complaining that he couldn’t get in touch with an employee while they were on PTO, I’d tell them to suck it up. I’d talk to the manager about the importance of making sure we could cover our business needs when key personnel are unavailable, and stress that the problem isn’t the employee but with a failure of management. And then, at my next department meeting, I’d tell the other HR people, ‘Can you believe what this knucklehead tried to do?'”
Someone else shared, “Belgium has just activated a new law where it states that ‘work’ or ‘your boss’ can’t call you for work-related questions after working hours. There is an exception for time-sensitive and very high priority questions, but normal day-to-day work-related stuff should be kept for business hours. So, things are looking up.”
And people are also sharing advice for the original poster. One user wrote, “Get it in writing what part of the employee handbook you violated. If you’re expected to be on call when on PTO, that needs to be spelt out.”
Someone else suggested a more audacious response. “Straight off the bat you should thank your boss and HR for the meeting, but say that your boss making a formal apology for harassment over your vacation is not needed as you know it won’t happen again.”
And plenty of folks suggested that the OP should get ready to find a new job. One wrote, “Clean up your résumé and get the fuck out.”
Personally, if I was getting non-emergency texts from work during a vacation, I’d reply when I could with something like, “Hi, I’m on vacation, but I’m happy to discuss this on [date] when I get back.” That way, my boundaries around my time are clear and my boss or colleague doesn’t feel ignored.
Now, I’m curious — what would you do in the original poster’s shoes? Or, has something like this happened to you before? Tell me all about it in the comments.