Friday, October 16, 2015

Respect the Vacation Days!

Personal life post ahead. Feel free to disregard. It's something I needed to get off my chest today.

Preachy post! Here’s the TLDR version: Don’t let people bully you into thinking you don’t deserve vacation time. You’ve earned it. Use it.

Long version:

I got my vacation notification today and I was surprised at how little I’m receiving. I don’t earn a single day until I’ve worked here for a year, and even then, I can’t use a day until July (a year and 2 months after I began the job). I’m only receiving 5 days. And those 5 days have to stretch until July of 2017.

I love this job a lot. A whole lot. It’s the first time I have enjoyed waking up and going to work. And I can’t imagine a nicer group of people to work with. But this vacation calculation blows. I don’t know how they came up with this insanity. I think it’s meant to curb people from the stores from accepting the job and then immediately taking vacation. But to only give 5 days as a starter makes no sense. Why not 2 weeks, like it’s listed in the new employee manual?

My boss is going through the same thing. She started a few days into January this year and will only receive 7 days. She’s been working her ass off. She deserves her 2 weeks.

So I’ll be taking quite a few unpaid days to attend weddings and conventions that I’ve been committed to over the next year. While I’m not concerned about my boss giving me grief for the time off (it’s only 7 days in total; just 2 will be paid- have to save up the other 3 for 2017), I know I’ll hear it from somewhere in the office. I’ve dealt with it before. Someone is going to try and guilt trip me into not taking vacations.

“Don’t you care about the company? Don’t you care about your job? This place can’t run without you.”

Well…yeah it can. I had 2 days off earlier this year for personal reason and things were still going when I came back. I finished all of my tasks and prepared for the extra work the following week. Things ran smoothly. I can care about the company, do a good job, and still take vacation. It’s not the end of the world.

Why am I talking about this? A few years back when I was younger, naive, and thought I would have a long career with the business. I worked for a company that was all about the guilt trip for vacation and sick days. You get one guess on which company I’m talking about, and yes I have mentioned it before. They sell video games.

Some bosses there were perfect at making you feel like the world would cease to exist if you weren’t in the office. For three years I never took a single vacation day. I earned 2 weeks at the beginning of each year, but they never carry over. Use them or lose them. And for 3 years I dropped 6 weeks of vacation because I was constantly told the same rhetoric that if you take vacation time, you put your job and the company in jeopardy.

I believed it.

And in turn it made me really sick. I worked for so long and so hard I was constantly stressed out. I was developing headaches almost daily. I had trouble sleeping (more so then usual). Even when I contracted a really bad stomach virus that ate some of my intestinal lining, I still showed up. I still worked. I was threatened with being written up if I took a sick day. So I never took one.
A few things happened during my third year that changed my attitude.

The first was a nightmare of an ice storm. In Texas when anything water based falls from the sky the state shuts down. The roads, the maintenance crew, and the drivers do not know how to handle snow and ice. And this was a legit ice storm. There was 4 inches of solid ice on the streets around my home, and anywhere from 6-8 in my driveway (because it’s on a slope). Roads were blocked off by police and fire. It was unsafe for anyone to be out.

Work still required me to be there even though the rest of the office was closed. Not our department! I got up 5 hours before I needed to be at work (about 3 am) and started de-icing as best as I could. One perk of having lived in up North, I know things about snow and ice. Shocking!

After about 3 hours, I was able to get my car out of the driveway and slowly made my way to the first intersection. I should note that there is only one way out of my neighborhood. And it’s that road. Over a bridge. With a lake that occasional floods over said bridge. That day it was closed off by police barricades. I called the neighborhood office complex and they were informed that all roads were going to be closed until 11am, and they will monitor the situation. With no way around, I called my boss. Surprisingly he was up at that hour, and proceeded to berate me about how it was my responsibility to get to work on time. I explained to him that the roads were closed. There were police barricades up. I have no way to getting there until they take them down. Even then, I still had 20 miles of highway driving, which would likely take me a long time. I’ll get there when I get there.

Not good enough. I remember my boss saying “Well, can’t you just move or drive around them?”

“…what?”

“Drive around them! I’m sure it’ll be fine. You don’t want to get written up for being late.”

I cracked at that point. I’ve only slept for an hour. I was stressed. I was exhausted from no sleep and picking away at ice all morning. I’m freezing. There are police barricades up meaning it’s not safe to drive. At all. Unless the company is willing to pay the ticket I will receive for messing with police property, as well as all of my legal fees from the ensuing ticket, then sure. I’ll move the barricades. And I want this in written form, signed by the CEO, to verify that the company will cover all of my court costs and the ticket for breaking the law.

No sir. I will not disobey the law just to get to work. Customers will have to deal with the fact that we had a huge ice storm and most of us cannot leave out homes to get to work. It’s not safe.
I even sent him a photo of the barricade blocking the entire street and sidewalk (meaning I’d have to drive on someone’s lawn to bypass them). He said well, okay. Just get in when you can, but we’ll have to talk about this. It’s not acceptable to be late to work.

Yeah. Whatever. At that point, I was so pissed I didn’t care. I’m not going to get ‘failure to comply with police instructions’ on my life record for the sake of work.

By the time the barricades went down it was well into the afternoon. I still went in. Finished up my shift and stayed late to cover a few hours for the people who couldn’t leave their homes at all. My boss never made it in. It was too dangerous to drive, he said. Yeah, f you. It’s clearly safe enough for your employees but not for you.

And yes. He did write me up. I went to HR and after a lovely 20 minute discussion (during my lunch because heaven forbid I handle work business during my working hours) they removed it from my record. When almost the entire building was closed, including the warehouse, because of the weather, me being late due to police barricades is well within reason for an excused clock-in delay.

The second time was when I got sick. Very sick. On top of digestive issues, I had one of the worse sore throats of my life. I’m surprised it wasn’t Strep or Bronchitis. I still tried to go to work but my mom forced me to stay home. I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. It was that bad. So she called in for me. Someone had to, I couldn’t speak! And I work a job that required me to be on phones. My boss kept telling her that I needed to be there. It was important! The department can’t run without me!

My mom laid into him. Hard core. I can’t remember the last time I heard her shout at someone, but holy crap. This was well worth being so sick. She berated him for his horrible attitude, for not caring about his employees, and for not giving me the time off I deserve for all of my hard work. The result: 2 days off to get my voice back and no write-ups.

It finally culminated in finding out that I was never going to advance within the company. I got into a starter department with hopes that I could move onto marketing, and branch out to the business that handles all of their in-store TV spots (since I have an RTF degree). And no matter how many times I tried to get out of the department, I kept getting turned down. I finally asked my boss (different one, I’ve had 4 bosses at one point for the same dept) what I was doing wrong.

Nothing. I wasn’t doing a damn thing wrong. I was too good to move to another dept, because it would cripple their numbers.

Seriously? I’m being held back from advancing because I’m too good at my job? Shouldn’t good work be rewarded with a chance to move forward with the company?

That’s the day I requested all of my vacation time, and told my boss that no guilt tripping. I’ve worked hard for 3 years. Never took a single day off and this place made me so sick that I HAD to take sick days. Something I’ve never done in my life, and now I have a chronic illness because of it. I’ve earned my vacation. I’m taking it. You can’t stop me. And if you do, I’m reporting it to HR.
Through that company I’ve learned how to be jaded. How to hate life. How to hate myself. How to hate people. How to distrust all authority figures outside of police, fire, and some medical. I’ve learned that no matter how many hours you work, how little time off you take, it doesn’t matter. You’re still just a peon. The work will be done whether you’re there or not.

On the positive, I learned the value of enjoying life. You can’t live to work. It’s not healthy, mentally or physically. And you can’t work to live. You have to find a balance between working and living.

There is not a damn thing wrong with enjoying life outside of work.

There is nothing wrong with taking vacation and seeing the world.

There is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to unplug from your job.

And I hate that it took my working at a sh*tty company to have that epiphany.

You are more than your job.

Go out there. Live life. Enjoy it! And you can still be great at work, doing well with the company, and earning your keep. But don’t let anyone, and I do mean anyone, bully you into thinking you can never have a day off. It’s not healthy. It’s a path that leads to self-destruction.

You have earned your time off. Use it. The company will still be there when you return. You’ll still have a job (and if someone ever threatens to fire you for taking vacation that you have earned, there are lots of city and national work services that you can file official complaints with – that’s usually enough to get the company to back off their threat). And the work will be handled.

Learn from my mistake.

I’m putting in my time off knowing that most of those days are unpaid. But you know what? I need those breaks. Without them, I’ll be going crazy by July, and will set myself up for more sickness and mental anguish that I refuse to repeat ever again.

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