Every year in the middle of May, we receive an excel file regarding the vacation plan. Each employee has to schedule his summer holidays in communication with the rest of his team members by logging in the file. This task has to be finished well in advance. When completed, the file depicts the vacation requests that are finally sent for approval to the management. The Chief Officer and the Human Resources make a review, in order to verify that the network is going to be sustainable and operational during summer. In the past, at times, there was a communication problem within my team when it was time to discuss our summer plans. We were gathered in front of my computer feeling anxious and worried, because the chances were that we would end in dispute.
From the very beginning I was trying to pull myself out of this silly controversy. In order to achieve this, I was scheduling my holidays in the peak work periods, during which vacations were very unpopular. I remember once, one of my teammates caught my arm and told me that he wanted to talk to me in private. I accepted his invitation and we walked to the kitchen, which we were using as a rest room. He was very antsy about the weekend of 28th of October, which would come five months later. In Greece it’s the National Independence Day and it’s a paid time off. I threw a glance at the calendar and I noticed that it was on Monday, so anyone would be able to extend his weekend one more day. He asked me “Who is going to be stand by on the 28th? I had been on New Year’s Eve, plus according to the plan, I have to be at the office on 15th of August. Don’t you think that the three of us, have to schedule our stand by program early enough”? I answered him that there was no reason to discuss a matter five months before and I encouraged him to speak out frankly that he was thinking of scheduling a family trip and that someone else should replace him. I was very surprised when I realized that we were talking about a hypothetical scenario, because by that kitchen meeting we had arranged the stand by program until the end of August. I could not understand the reason why would someone concern about such an issue, without have had discussed it first. Why scheduling a weekend would be so hard?
Often we were reaching a dead end because of two main reasons. At first, our team manager had invented extra restrictions which were out of the formal vacation policy. He wanted at least two of us (out of three engineers in total) to be present during the most popular vacation periods. He was afraid that too many employee absences might be bad for business, which was not grounded in reality. It was just an irrational fear. Secondly, my colleagues could not cooperate at all. Not only they couldn’t arrange their holiday, but every time they were requesting time off, they didn’t provide any help to each other, like a summary of work in progress, key contact information etc. There was no team spirit at all. Several times the management had asked them to shake hands and collaborate at ease, but in vain.
All these years, my main concern was to solve such problems instead of adding new ones on my shoulder. I was trying to think of alternatives in order everyone to be satisfied and happy with the vacation schedule. I consider holidays very important for the employees because they need a certain amount of rest in order to be productive. Otherwise it might jeopardize production schedules or quality of work. There were times when I chose to leave during unpopular vacation periods like early July or late September. I was trying to send the message that they were suffering with no reason at all.
In conclusion, my intention is to spend the vacation days whenever I wish. But being flexible is also a challenge. Disputes over high demand days should be handled. In order to achieve this goal, let’s make a more comprehensive and flexible approach.