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Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Career Q&A: Picking prime vacation days

Q: I am angry with one of my co-workers because she stole my vacation slot. In our office, employees select vacation dates based on seniority. A calendar is circulated, and everyone marks off the days they want. I get first pick because I've been here for 18 years, and I always choose the last week in June.

A few weeks ago, "Stacy," my co-worker, asked when I was planning to take vacation this year. I told her I hadn't made up my mind, but that my husband seemed to prefer the end of June. When the signup sheet came around, we were told to pass it on within two days, but I kept it a little longer because my husband and I were still discussing our options.

Before I could make my selection, our supervisor took the signup sheet off my desk and gave it to Stacy, who chose the last week in June. I am hurt and upset that Stacy did this behind my back. Now she says she won't take that week if it's going to make me mad. Do you think I'm overreacting?

A: While your disappointment is understandable, I do believe you are blowing this out of proportion. Because of the July Fourth holiday, the end of June and beginning of July are extremely popular vacation dates. These weeks are in such demand that some companies rotate their availability.

By failing to make your selection within the required time period, you created an opening for someone else to claim a highly desirable slot. When Stacy received the calendar, she had every right to pick any week that was available. Given your previous conversation, she could easily have assumed that you had other plans in mind.

Nevertheless, Stacy's offer to retract her choice is a clear sign that repairing this relationship is more important to her than the vacation schedule. Therefore, the mature response on your part would be to thank her for her generous gesture, then have a nice, friendly chat about who needs this week the most.

Ask about ways to fix lower ratings

Q: On our recent appraisals, everyone on my team received a lower rating than last year, despite the fact that our level of performance hasn't changed at all. We have always gotten good reviews in the past, so this is very troubling. Several months ago, our company was acquired, top management was replaced, and a new appraisal system was implemented. But I don't see why this would reduce our ratings. What do you make of it?

A: Unfortunately, you have now learned the hard way that many factors can influence performance appraisal scores. Given your company's recent history, the sudden ratings decline is undoubtedly being driven by a shift in management policies or expectations.

If this phenomenon is widespread, with many people receiving lower scores, the company may be trying to correct a case of "ratings creep," which occurs when managers bestow high marks too freely. The common fix for this problem is to restrict higher ratings to a certain percentage of employees.

But if other groups have not been downgraded, then the new executives are probably dissatisfied with your team's performance. Expectations often change radically when a company is acquired, so your previously acceptable results may now be considered insufficient.

Of course, management ought to have warned employees about any change that could affect performance reviews. But since they failed to do so, you should take the initiative to ask your boss or human resources manager why the ratings were lowered and how they can be improved.

Career Q&A: Picking prime vacation days 06/09/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 9, 2012 5:30am]

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