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Vacations Are Hard Work

Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, so let me be the first to tell you — people are crazy.

The specific crazies I am obsessing on today are the workplace wackos who don’t take vacations.

They’d like to take a vacation, or so they say, but it’s just not possible. They’re way too important, and without their presence, the business would certainly fall apart. That’s why they have no choice but to make the ultimate sacrifice. In order to keep the business running, they’re keeping their noses to the grindstone.


This could be true, I suppose. There are people who are essential. I doubt we could have reality television if Honey Boo Boo decided to spend a month wine tasting in the Loire Valley. And how could we have celebrity news if Ryan Seacrest walked off the red carpet and onto a talcum powder white beach. (Heck, even I hesitate before deciding to lay down my quill and head off to climb Everest in my Speedo. Again. This column doesn’t write itself, you know.)

Fortunately, for those of you who are trying to balance your sense of essentiality to your work place and your need to get out of town before your head explodes, there is help available. Or there was, in June of 2012, when Eilene Zimmerman, a workplace columnist for The New York Times, published, “Balancing a Vacation and a Busy Office.”

Utilizing a Q and A approach popular with novice columnists, Zimmerman addressed pressing problems, such as what to do when you’re due for a vacation, but “you have a heavy workload and are worried about falling behind.”

Now, you may think this situation doesn’t apply to you, a person who has a feather-light workload and is only worried about being found out. But you’ve got the biggest problem of all. With no balls to drop, it won’t be good for your career when the business runs even more efficiently without you to gum up the works.

Zimmerman and her experts don’t have an answer for this problem, but I do. You certainly don’t want to start actually doing work, but you definitely could devote more energy to looking like you’re actually doing work. Come in super-early and let the boss find you at your desk, surrounded by paper cups of half-drunk coffee, balanced on stacks of paper and mountains of files.

“You’re in early,” the boss will say.
You smile wanly, and gasp, “Didn’t go home.”
Assure your boss that you’re on top of the mission-critical project, and you are 110 percent certain you can avoid the upcoming disaster and then get back to looking like you’re getting back to work. Chances are, the boss won’t ask you for details of the pending disaster. Hey, she has vacation plans, too. When the non-disaster is finally diverted and nothing happens, your vacation request will sail right through. And you can sail off into the sunset.

Another vacation question asked and answered is “how to get the week you want when others want it, too?” Zimmerman finds the typical answer from the typical Harvard professor, Leslie A. Perlow, who recommends making such scheduling decisions a “shared responsibility” between members of “your team.”

Considering that your team is you, the barista at Starbucks and the bartender at the Kit Kat Klub, this approach is unlikely to produce the required result. That’s why I suggest a more direct approach — lie. No one cares that you have booked a two-week tour of souvlaki stands in Spain, but no one can deny you time off to attend the funeral of your uncle in Antigua or your aunt in Aruba. Just be sure to keep track of your unfortunate relatives. Even a supervisor as dim as yours may catch on the third time your beloved grandmother in Grenada kicks it.

One vacation planning technique that you definitely want to avoid is becoming Mr. or Ms. Responsible and assigning the little work you actually do to other people. Once management sees how well your job can be done by someone else, your next vacation will likely be permanent. I could suggest you find co-workers more incompetent than you, but that will be impossible. A better solution is to ask your supervisor to handle your workload. Tell him that your assignments are so important he is the only person who could be trusted. He’ll be flattered, and since he usually does even less than you, it will be a big relief when you come back.

If you do come back.
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


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