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Negotiating vacation time with your boss

  • A step-by-step guide on how to increase the number of leaves you are entitled 
  • And no, you don’t need to lie about a relative’s sickness, you just need to plan ahead

Mrinal Bagaria (left) approached his CEO Ravi Kaklasaria (centre) with a vacation plan; Rakhee Malik (below) asked her co-workers to chip in.
Mrinal Bagaria (left) approached his CEO Ravi Kaklasaria (centre) with a vacation plan; Rakhee Malik (below) asked her co-workers to chip in. (Ramegowda Bopaiah/Mint)

For years, Bengaluru-based Mrinal Bagaria, longed for a long holiday to his home town Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. “Short visits are somehow worse than no visits. I’d not been home for two years and was becoming restless," says Bagaria, who is head of business continuity at SpringPeople, a corporate technology training company headquartered in Bengaluru. The 31-year-old is responsible for company operations, accounts, finance, purchases, approvals, partnerships and alliances. In the last two years, he has had to cancel his long holiday on account of urgent last minute projects.

In the beginning of 2018, he was determined to take a month-long break for Diwali holidays in November. In March of 2018, seven months before the leave, Bagaria approached his boss and the CEO of the company, Ravi Kaklasaria with a plan. “I wanted to ensure that when I take my leave, I won’t be compromising my responsibilities at work," he says. Bagaria included an employee in his chain of command to take on his responsibilities in his absence, training him for the next six months. By the end of October, he had distributed all his responsibilities among his team members and was ready to leave. “It wasn’t so much about negotiation as it was about planning," says Bagaria, reflecting on this. “I’ve been with the company since it began in 2009 and wanted to make sure there were zero disruptions to my responsibilities."

Set the range

Negotiation operates from the space of long-term interdependence between you and your boss and to get the holiday, you need to be willing to make sure the company doesn’t suffer in your absence, says Neharika Vohra, professor, organizational behaviour, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. “Before you approach your boss to ask for a holiday, think about what’s the maximum you want to ask, and what’s the minimum you will agree to. Include a plan on how your work will not get affected, who will be in charge in your absence and when and how you can be reached, if required," she adds.

Bagaria says there’s no point in trying to outsmart your manager or telling a fake story in order to get your leaves approved. “They’ve been in your place, and can spot your lie in a second, though they might not say it so as not to embarrass you," he says.

What you need to do is plan in advance and approach your boss honestly. “Clear communication helps your seniors plan the team capacity in advance, shows them that you have the company’s interest in mind and ensures that there is trust between you and your seniors," says Rakhee Malik, head and director of human resources, AT Kearney India, a management consulting company.

Malik speaks from experience. More than a decade age as a newly married woman and an assistant manager, she wanted to take a leave to travel outside India for three weeks. “This holiday was important as I wanted to travel down to meet my husband. However, I knew it would be difficult as I was part of a small team, had no one to fill in for my role, and the time period of June-July is the time when a lot of other employees usually take breaks," she says. After some deliberation, she approached her colleagues first to see if they were ready to take up her work in her absence. By the time she got to her boss, she was prepared. “As I had armed myself with possible solutions already, it became a two-way problem solving discussion and in the end, my boss approved the leave," says the 44-year-old.

Learn to facilitate

The incident all those years ago, also left Malik, who is now a manager herself, to create an open environment so her juniors can approach her for taking a leave. “It helped me understand the need to be open to other people’s request and creating an environment where juniors could openly approach me. Whenever a member from my team approaches me for taking a vacation, I try to see things from their perspective and work with them to ensure that they are not disturbed while on leave. The team is also expected to step in to help," says Malik.

Clear communication, says Malik, is appreciated and reciprocated by other team members when they go off on leaves, and paves the way for a trust-based relationship.

The best solution is to identify, understand and address the concerns of the employer, according to Manish Gupta, assistant professor, department of human resource, IBS Hyderabad. “To improve the probability of getting your holidays, make sure your relationship with your boss is cordial, your past performance and leave record has been positive and your employer gets enough time to think about it," he says. Don’t ask for it last minute, finish off the pending work, make sure you assign a colleague for the urgent work and for activities that are not important, assure your boss that you will finish them after you’re back. “Do all this, and you will get your leave," he says.

Rakhee Malik
Rakhee Malik (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

Get that holiday

Approach the boss with a solution: What can you do to ensure that your work does not get impacted during your absence? If you approach your seniors with a solution, half the battle is already won.

Find a replacement: It can be a colleague or someone hired temporarily. Work should’t suffer in your absence.

Plan ahead: Don’t decided to go on a leave last minute as it would burden your colleagues. Plan it ahead so your manager also has time to figure out what to do in your absence.

Be flexible: Build your leave request around others who might be planning to take time off. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated and reciprocated. 

Ask for more vacation time

A step-by-step guide on how to increase the number of leaves you are entitled

List down your achievements: Find out the number of hours you have put in, from the extras over the weekend, to working on projects that were outside your assigned duties. Assign monetary value to each of these and arrive at what you have saved or made.

Show the numbers: Bosses respect and understand statistics. Put down the costs of what you have saved for the company and instead of compensation, ask for more vacation time. Say that you want a ‘hike’ in the number of days you can take off or ask for being able to take more days off consecutively. Always start higher and then you can negotiate it down to 15-30%.

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