Career Advice

What to Do When Your Boss Won’t Approve Your Vacation Time

You work hard, and you’d like to play hard, too—on a one-week that is totally included in your employer’s benefits package. Except, when you ask for those five days off work, your boss says “no,” making you feel the only place you can visit with permission is your cubicle.

It’s frustrating to be denied vacation time—even when the reason is, well, reasonable. Lois A. Krause, MBA, practice leader in HR compliance at KardasLarson, says there are many reasons an employer might say “no” to time off, such as not having enough staff to cover in your absence, or that others have beat you to the vacation-time punch, requesting days off for the same week that you just did. But that doesn’t make a “no” any easier to swallow.

Luckily, you don’t have to take an initial no for a final answer, Krause says. There are steps you can take to (hopefully) tactfully change your boss’ mind. Here’s what to do after a “no”:

Ask at the right time.

As it turns out, there is a right time to ask for time off. Krause says it’s after you’ve finished a project—successfully. In the days after, “you can suggest you need some downtime to re-charge, [and] so, you would like to take some vacation time,” Krause says. Just be sure “you have researched the organization’s vacation policy and follow the process completely.”

So, if you asked for vacation time in the middle of a project—or without an accomplishment fresh in your boss’ mind—take a beat and ask again when you have a success on your side.  

Inquire why you were denied—nicely.

It’s OK to ask your employer why he or she said no to your time-off request as long as you do it “calmly, privately and in person if possible,” says Krause. “Bring documentation that you had requested the time properly, and you had the correct amount of time accrued.”

Provide evidence you’ll have your work done, or covered.

When you speak to your boss, make sure that your work is caught up—or that you have a plan in place to show your daily responsibilities and emergencies will be taken care of by team members in your absence. “Alert your supervisor to the team coverage,” Krause says.

Go to HR.

If you’ve taken the steps above and still be denied vacation time, “request a meeting with HR to investigate why you have been denied, ask for the policy to be explained again to you, and ask the best way to proceed in this case,” suggests Krause. Then, “follow that advice.”

She adds, “If all else fails, ask for a meeting with your supervisor’s manager to get a clear understanding of the denial, and when you’ll be allowed to take vacation [per] the policy.”

But take heart: “Most employees are not denied unless they lack the proper amount of accrued time, or if the organization is very short of staffing for this time period,” Krause assures us. If you are denied, it’s very likely that you can “work with your managers and HR to get this settled to the satisfaction of both the employee and the organization,” she says.

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