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Vacations are for Suckers

It’s difficult to believe, but some working people are actually thinking about taking vacations.

You would think that in this economy simply having a job to go to and a desk to sit behind and a boss to complain about would be a vacation. At least, it’s a vacation from spending 9 to 5 couch surfing and waiting for the repo men to repossess your electric toothbrush.

But instead of happily sending postcards to their friends at the unemployment office, ungrateful employees across the nation have apparently noticed that it’s summertime; time to take some time off.

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That’s where the danger starts.

I’m not talking about the so-called danger in so-called adventure vacations. Leaving your job for even five minutes can result in more peril than you’ll ever face parasailing in Portugal or petting piranhas in Peru. One or two weeks of you not being at work can easily result in you no longer having any work.

If you think I am being paranoid here, consider the question posed by Eilene Zimmerman, the Career Couch columnist of The New York Times.

“You’d like to take some time off this summer, but you have a heavy workload and are worried about falling behind. Should you take time off anyway?”

“Generally, yes,” is Ms. Z’s answer. For confirmation of her affirmation, she turns to Jeff Cannon, an executive coach, who suggests that “taking a vacation is like hitting a reset button, allowing you to become more creative and more productive.”

Putting aside the question of how you could become more creative, especially when it comes to thinking up ways to become less productive, I’m not sure that “hitting the reset button” is the right analogy. Especially if you suspect that your boss believes your reset button is on the tip of your nose.

Carol Sladek, a “work-life consulting leader,” addresses those slackers whose bosses don’t believe it is a basic human right to stuff yourself into a bikini and gross out the natives. “You may work in an organization where few people use all their vacation time,” she muses, suggesting that management’s reluctance to let you bug out before you freak out “relates to corporate culture and unstated norms.”

In my experience, these nose-to-the-grindstone norms are rarely unstated. How many times have you had your manager complain that she is far too essential to even consider taking one day off? “Of course, you can leave whenever you want,” she might add, twisting the knife. As if you didn’t know you were so nonessential that the company would not only survive without you, it would thrive.

Another vacation-related issue Zimmerman considers is what happens when the week for which you’ve planned, waited and probably paid-for turns out to be the No. 1 choice of everyone else in your department. “Team planning” is the solution suggested by Leslie A. Perlow, a professor of organizational behavior at Harvard. But that makes no sense. You don’t even want to talk the people on your team. How horrible would it be to actually plan with them? Professor Perlow is the author of “Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work.” This sounds rude to me. My smartphone and I have just started dating. It’s way too early to start sleeping together.

“How can you enjoy your vacation without worrying about the office?” is another question on the mind of the vacation bound, but I’m not sure it applies to you. After all, you don’t worry about the office when you’re in the office. By the time you get to the talcum powder beaches of Bongo-Bongo, you won’t even remember that you have an office. And if you’ve got direct reports below you, you may be right. Your office can disappear as fast as your third Bahama Mama.

“Your vacation could actually be a boon for high-potential employees in your department,” says Dawn Fay, of the staffing firm Robert Half International. “By letting them take on some of your duties, they become more visible to your manager and have a chance to show they can handle more responsibility.”

Of course, if they handle that responsibility better than you, and get paid less than you, your two-week vacation may become a 52-week vacation.

The solution? Vacation in the office. Spread some sand under your desk. Slather yourself in sun tan lotion. Drink your coffee from a coconut shell. You’ll be miserable, but you’ll be employed.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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