my boss refuses to close the office between Christmas and New Year’s

A reader writes:

I work for a small marketing company. There are four of us: John the boss, Sarah, Mark, and me.

For the last two years, the office has been open during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The boss and Sarah traveled those years, so it fell to Mark and me to alternate being alone in the office.

There was no reason for us to be there. The phone literally never rang. No emails came in. All our clients were closed. I caught up on some work, but I really resented sitting in a chair for eight hours while friends and family were free.

Once again, the company calendar shows John and Sarah traveling, so Mark and I must once again rotate into the office the Thursday and Friday after Christmas and the Monday and Tuesday before the New Year. Since there’s no HR department, and no real process for requesting time off, we decided to sit down with John and ask for us both to have those four days off: we’d forward the phone to our cellphones and check our email once a day. We pointed out it was our third year in a row of being asked to give up some of our holiday. And this has been a bad year for the company, so we’re probably not getting raises or bonuses; this four-day vacation could be a little year-end gift.

John seemed offended at the very notion. He didn’t like our “attitudes” at bringing the issue up. We went through all the reasons not to be there — since Mark and I knew firsthand and John had never been there — and it was like arguing with a wall. He kept saying “The office is open,” as if it wasn’t his decision. He talked about having someone in the office to get the mail and deposit checks, but mail can be left at the building’s front desk and how many checks need to be deposited in a week’s time?

I’m very angry at having to give up part of my holiday week for no reason other than the boss likes the idea of a warm body in an office. Even our proposal of working those two or four days from home — which the boss and Sarah do all the time! — was anathema.

So: what is our next move? Is there a next move?

Nope, probably not.

Your boss doesn’t want to close the office during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

You might think that’s silly based on the lack of work that week, but it’s not outrageous. Many, many offices are open that week, and yes, many of them are very slow during that period. But they’re open — because clients could call or work needs to move forward or something could come up that would require staff there to deal with it, or yes, just because their management feels the office should be open.

I agree it would be nice if you could have those days off, and it’s frustrating when you can’t see any reason to show up and simply sit in the office without much to do. But sometimes that happens at this time of year. It’s pretty normal.

It doesn’t make sense to be angry at having to “give up part of your holiday week” when there’s no particular entitlement to have that week off. You weren’t told you’d have it off when you were hired (presumably), and it’s not so common to have that week off that there was reason to assume/expect that you would. The reality is that your office doesn’t do that. You asked your boss to consider it, he didn’t want to, and … that’s pretty much the end of it. Being angry about this isn’t going to take you anywhere good.

What your boss is telling you is that this is the job. It includes staffing the office during this week. You’re free to reject those terms and find somewhere where you can take that week off. But it doesn’t make sense to be angry or resentful over something that isn’t all that unusual.

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