our time off is being rescinded — Hunger Games style

A reader writes:

I work in an office with three coworkers in my department and a manager. We have a satellite office where I work every Wednesday. Six months ago, I requested my vacation for a particular week, which was granted. Three months ago, one coworker (Carly) requested the Wednesday and Thursday the same week off, which was also granted. Last month, another coworker (Regina) requested Wednesday off of the same week, again granted. Now, two weeks before our PTO, the manager sits the three of us in the conference room and states because of scheduling conflicts–meaning she forgot to transfer Carly’s and my PTO into her new calendar as well as three people off Wednesday–one request will be rescinded so someone will work Wednesday.

It is worth mentioning that Regina is notorious for being unreliable with attendance, and with her family beginning the stages of illness, it is a good chance she won’t be there and the main office will be empty, with that point being brought up to us by the manager as well. The clincher is, we have to decide among ourselves who will work. If we can’t, all of our requests will be retracted due to not being team players.

None of us wants to budge because its not our fault she did not organize the schedule or the last coworker has been allowed to have poor attendance. But we discussed it hypothetically. Here are the circumstances. I’m going on a cruise, which I have foregone four years of vacations to save for and will lose all of my money if I cancel. Carly’s husband is taking her out of town to celebrate her five-year cancer-free anniversary, and Wednesday and Thursday were the only days he could get off, as he works weekends. Regina turned in her time last, but is seeing her son off who is going on military tour, which is self-explanatory why she wants her time off. I was told that since I am single and don’t have familial duties, I should be the one to cancel. I don’t think me not having a husband or children should penalize me to always being the fall guy (which has happened a several times before now). This has resulted in some resentment on my end. Needless to say, this is an unfair position for us to be in because of someone else’s negligence. How would you handle this from our end and from the manager’s end?

Wow. It’s one thing to suggest working it out amongst yourselves if there were signs that you were likely to be able to do that and if the stakes weren’t so high for everyone. But that’s not the case here, and it’s unfair of your manager to abdicate her responsibility in this — and it’s especially ridiculous to say that if you can’t work it out, the solution will be that none of you get to take your time off. Your approved time off, no less.

The ideal approach here would be for your manager to find some way of letting you all take the time off that she approved. If that’s not possible — and it’s true that sometimes circumstances change — then she should apologize profusely to Regina but tell her that she approved her time off by mistake, due to a calendar error, and that she needs to rescind it. The reason that’s the right call is because if her calendar had been working correctly, that would have been the answer Regina would have received originally. (Or at least I assume it would have been, since you and Carly already had PTO scheduled for that time period.) She should then work with Regina to see what she can do to minimize the impact for her — such as letting her come in early or leave late that day, or giving her a different day off.

But since she’s abdicating her responsibility to manage the situation, the question becomes what the three of you should do. Assuming that Regina doesn’t respond to the logic of the argument above, then all you can really do is go to your manager and say something like, “I’d love to be able to work this out ourselves, but we haven’t been able to. I think the most logical thing to do is to handle this the way it would have been handled if your calendar error hadn’t occurred. In that case, presumably Regina’s request would have been denied since Carly and I were already scheduled to be out. I think it’s fairest to stick with that, and I hope that’s the solution you’ll choose. I would help if I could, but I can’t afford to lose $2500 (or whatever your cruise costs), when I booked it on good faith after receiving your okay.”

How she handles this will tell you a lot about who you’re working for.

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