By | August 17, 2010

This morning I heard an interesting survey on the radio about people who don’t take their vacation time….apparently almost 50% of Americans aren’t taking their vacation time due to fears about job security.   Sounded ridiculous to me…at first.   And then I remembered a client telling me that their employees were not utilizing their summer Fridays because the leadership team doesn’t leave early.   Employees think using those Fridays when their boss is in the office somehow reflects poorly on them.

Leaders lead by example, even when they aren’t trying to.  So every time you cancel your vacation (something I’ve been known to do, especially when my plan is to hang by the pool rather than head to the airport) you are setting an example.  When you sneak out to a soccer game, and give people the impression you are at a meeting, you are sending a signal.  And it isn’t a good one.  I haven’t been able to find the specific study I heard about today, but Expedia’s Vacation Deprivation survey suggests that this is not a recent trend…apparently Americans have been vacation deprived for a long time.  Maybe the economy is just a convenient excuse…a habit we learn from an early age.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been worrying about my 15-year-old daughter who is showing early signs of being a work-a-holic at her first job as a lifeguard.  She says yes to any request to sub for a fellow guard.  She took on lifeguard hours as soon as she got certified, but didn’t give up her “box” hours taking cards at the gate. She is working 6 and 7 days every week, plus her basketball workouts and volleyball practices.   I wonder where she learned that?  (What is the J equivalent for sarcasm?)  Maybe from her mother who routinely cancels vacation days?  Or her father who is on his BB day and night?

The data for the benefits of vacation exists. People who take their vacation avoid burnout, are more productive and happier in their jobs, and their lives.    In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, some companies believe so strongly in the importance of vacation, they offer unlimited PTO.  They don’t limit time off because they trust their employees to get the job done, to manage their time, and to be responsible.

Maybe it’s time to lead by example…and take some vacation.

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