If It Doesn’t Fit, You Can’t Sit

When the Bible said, “And God created man in his image,” I never took that to mean to be just plain stupid. But, this past weekend I had reason to question our existence as intelligent beings on this planet.

I have already written about my trip back home from Syracuse to Boston. This a continuation of my most recent post. It is something I had to add, just to get it off my chest. Let me start by asking a simple question. Why do we do stupid things fully knowing that they are stupid?

Flying today has to be one of the least enjoyable methods of modern transportation. I have never had to pleasure of travelling in Europe on their trains but, from what I have read and what people had told me, it is far better than our domestic flights.

Flying domestically, has become a pure test of our endurance not to mention our willingness to subject oneself to an essential level of embarrassment often for the amusement of sadistic people who work for the TSA. You cannot convince me these people are at all interested in making sure we have an enjoyable flight. I have come to believe it is a requirement to be a borderline cretin to work at the TSA. Ok, not all TSA employees are that bad, but it is akin to Diogenes quest for an Honest Man. But enough about the TSA I think you get my point.

My rant has to do with people who fly and know that their carry on will not fit in the overhead bin, but make a Herculean effort to force it in.

On my return trip I watch a woman do everything she could to force her oversized bag into the overhead bin. The minute she placed it in the bin, it was obvious that it would not fit. It was obvious to all the people behind her it would not fit; it was obvious to the flight attendants it would not fit (why they let her try was mystifying) It was evident to everyone but her.

Finally realizing she was fighting a losing battle, she announced she needed a ticket for her bag. This meant she and her oversize bag had to squeeze past all the people she was delaying, and go to the front of the plane to have her bag checked. While watching this spectacle, I found myself asking, why was she ignoring the obvious, her duffel bag wasn’t going to fit, and she knew it.

I realize that I will never get the answer to that question, but, I realize this, God is a jokester at heart, he gave us the ability to think, but far too many of us never seem to engage our brains, thus giving him some great laughs.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved


Does Flying Have To Be So Bad?

Let me start by saying something that I’m sure most people know, flying commercial totally sucks. Now having said that I have to follow it up with this, it is because we want cheap air fairs, and more flights are the reason flying sucks.

Yesterday I was coming back from Syracuse. I had to take a Jet Blue flight from Syracuse to JFK and a connecting flight from JFK to Logan. Both flights lasted all of 45 min flight time. But it required a two-hour layover at the JFK airport. Fine, I can deal with that. After all, that is what I paid for. There are no direct flights to Syracuse from Boston.

But, when I found myself in desperate need of coffee and something to eat, this is where the height of craziness set in. Long lines to get to Dunk’n Donuts®. Yeah, I get it everyone likes their coffee. But there are no cashiers just order takers. It was the same line for those who wanted a sandwich from Boars Head Cheese. Why not separate lines, after all they are two different businesses offering different items? Then there was the checkout line. It moved along ever so slowly.

When I got close enough to see why, it was because only one person was at the cash register. But, and this is where it really makes no sense, there were five unmanned registers. The checkout line is getting longer and longer, and one young lady at the only open register. She is working as fast as she can but barely keeping up. Finally, another person comes sauntering along talking on her cell phone and opens a second register. Now, there are two registers open, but, the line is getting longer by the minute. I know there is a process in queuing theory that talks about optimization around the number of registers and the length of the queue. But theory be damned, take care of the paying customers, open all the cash registers.

JFK is one the busiest airports; it stands to reason plenty of people will want something to eat, it makes no sense for to have only one register open for what will be a constant flow of people streaming through the get the sustenance they need to tolerate the wretchedness of a domestic flight.

People are already irritable from the treatment they suffer at the hands of the airline they are flying on, why add to it will stupid dumbass management decisions to have as few lines as possible open to take money?

I guess that is what you get when all management cares about is the bottom line and not real customer satisfaction.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

The Last One.

My last entry to this blog was back in January of this year. Since then I’ve been wondering what I wanted to write about. Started a post regarding appraisals the second part of a series, but got sidetrack. I will finish it and post in the next few weeks.

But since this is my blog, and I can write about what I want I will share some of my feelings around the recent passing of two of my aunts that were both laid to rest this week.

I am home in Syracuse New York birthplace of my mother and her sisters and brothers. According to my recently deceased Aunt June, they were a family of thirteen. Conversation with several cousins we can only come up with ten. As much as I would like to ask my mother because she also says they were a family of thirteen, but, she now has dementia and I’m not sure she would remember, but when I visit her later I will attempt to get the names of the missing brothers or sisters.

It suddenly sinks in that my mother was the last child born, and now is the last one alive. She is the last of the clan known as Rohadfox. Yes, there are the kids and grandkids, not to mention great grandkids the progeny of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. So the name will live on for quite some time. But, having my mother the last surviving member of the “originals” is a bit scary.

When my aunt passed, my dad didn’t let my mom know right away, he wasn’t sure how she would handle it. It took her some time to process what he was saying to her, and she briefly broke down. So when he got the news that her sister June also passed, he opted not to tell her. So right up to the services for my Aunt Mildred, my mother had no idea she had lost two sisters. But, fate has a way of letting us know the lifespans of our loved ones have ended, and it was the innocent slip of the tongue by someone extending condolences she learned of the loss of her oldest sister, June.

So now she has to process the knowledge she is the only one left. As of now she doesn’t seem to be demonstrating any emotion around recent events. Perhaps her having dementia is a small blessing as she forgets things, but, there are those moments she’s very lucid and that is what concerns me. Will it be one of those lucid moments the events of yesterday come flooding back, and she breaks down? Or will the gods be kind to her and just let her hang on to the fond youthful memories of all her siblings?

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

HAPPY NEW YEAR – Goals not Resolutions

I remember when I was younger time seem to pass ever so slowly. Always wanting and waiting to be older than I was. Now that I am in my sixties time flies by ever so quickly and I just want things to slow down.

We are about to close out another year and start a new one, tomorrow it will be 2015 and hopefully it will be a year of good fortune for you and your family. It is my sincerest hope that the New Year will bring you joy and happiness in all your endeavors and that you accomplish the goals – not resolutions – you set for the year.

Starting the New Year out with a set of resolutions you know that you are not going to keep is just going along with a meaningless tradition. Why not change it and set one or two goals that will stretch you but are not impossible to reach. Considered a couple of factoids; 80% of U.S. families have not bought a book this year, if they have 57% of those purchased books are not completed.

Now, if you set a goal to read and complete at least one new book every month. You remove yourself from two statistics, not buying a book, and not completing it. But, here is the real stretch, writing a short book report for your own use on what you learned from the book, and how you might apply your newly gained knowledge. Think about that for just a minute. You acquire some new information and knowledge, that you can share at the office, at networking events, or when you are with friends and family. You become a more interesting person. You might even give the Dos Equios Most Interesting Man, some competition.

Resolutions, are for those who want an excuse and an easy way out for not wanting to commit to real improvement. Alan Weiss talks about improving 1% a day and in 70 days you will be twice as good. He calls it, “The 1 percent solution ™.” The basic idea behind his solution is working on improving yourself through enhancing your knowledge and skills by doing and participating in activities that increase your knowledge and establish you as an expert. Resolutions will not do that, clear goals with measurable outcomes will. In our example of reading a book a month and documenting what you learned from it, and then, implementing what you learned, is what will aid in you becoming twice as good.

One final point. As with resolutions we have the tendency to make a lot of them which is another reason why we never complete them. Setting too many goals can lead to similar outcomes. Best to limit the number to what you know you can realistically accomplish. Having a bunch of things written on a piece of paper may look good, but looking good on paper is not the objective. What you want is realistic completion. You know that level of satisfaction that comes when you have completed a difficult task. It is a feeling of accomplishment. You set out to do something and you did, it feels good. It provides the motivation to take on something even more challenging. So it is best to set a measured amount of goals for the year. Each one a bit more challenging than the last.

Ok, my annual rant about New Year’s resolutions. The most important thing about moving forward in a New Year is this, Stay safe and Happy New Year!

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Is This The Start Or End Of Your Christmas Spirit?

Well, it is that time of year again. People are rushing about to find the perfect present for family, friends and someone they do not know. Why, because of some sense of obligation that they have to give gifts this time of year. Before you call me Scrooge, allow me to present my case.

This particular time of year is where people feel the need to buy and spend money on family, friends, and strangers in their attempt to spread good will and cheer. It is easy to ask why this time, but it is obvious the answer is because it is Christmas. Yet, when Jesus walked the earth it did not seem he required a special day to do his form of spreading “glad tidings and good cheer.” According to all the written accounts of his time on earth, he used every day to demonstrate, his love for mankind. So, why do we need a special day at the end of the year to do what he did on a regular basis?

How is it that during World War 1 on Christmas Eve, the Germans and British could stop on their own, lay down their arms and sing Christmas Carols and exchange gifts then a day later proceed with untold carnage toward each other? Why do we wait until the month of December to think about “peace on earth and good will toward all men,” and not before that?

Look, I know the history of Christmas. I understand this holiday is an amalgamation of various holidays, festivals, celebrations, traditions borrowed from the Romans, Germans, and Scandinavian cultures. I also understand the Grant recognized the 25th of December as a national holiday. Do we require a special day to give gifts and be kind to our fellow humans? Or is should we do this on a regular basis without a special day?

For those who are thinking, ‘you are writing this’ because you do not celebrate Christmas. You would be wrong. Acts of kindness, showing concern for others and giving someone a gift are actions we can (and should) do at any time. I recognize many could ask, ‘well Tim, do you practice what you preach?’ My response, I try but I am not always successful. Not celebrating Christmas does not mean I do not have an obligation to my fellow human being. However, being kind also does not require any special day, and as I stated, I certainly can do a lot better. So that leaves the giving of gifts. I suppose this part depends on one’s definition of a gift. Does it require a physical article, like a toy, appliance, or article of clothing? Or is possible it could consist of advice, a listening ear, or a shoulder for someone to lean on in a time of need? I would like to believe so.

Is it at all conceivable if we were to do these things as often as possible it feel like Christmas every day?Just wondering.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

The Performance Review Discussion

What follows is a fictional dialogue between a manager and one of his star employees regarding the employee’s upcoming Performance Appraisal. The manager wants to have a discussion in ten minutes and get the employee (Joe) just sign off on the PA so he can drop it off at HR. The employee is taking back thinking a more meaningful discussion would take place with him providing information. He is surprised because they discussed him providing documentation for his manager’s consideration in preparing the PA.

As the meeting progress, the manager, is caught off guard. Joe is showing a high degree of skepticism. Especially when he questions his manager’s ability to get him an additional 2% added to the 3% he’s schedule to get as a raise. A statement he makes just to appease Joe. Joe surprises him with information (he should have known) about a drop off in sales, budget reduction, possible salary freeze and layoffs. However, all people rated 2 and above will be considered for raises if there is significant justification. Meaning managers have to present very strong cases supporting rating their employees 2 or higher.

Manager: “Hey Joe, meet me in the conference room in ten minutes, it’s time for you performance appraisal. I need to get this up to HR this afternoon.”

Joe: “What?”

Manager: “Your PA, you know that thing we have to do twice a year? I figure it should take fifteen minutes or so, just need to check off a few things.”

Joe: “I well aware of what it is but I haven’t prepared anything yet, I mean after our last discussion I thought we would spend a bit more time going over things.”

Manager: “What’s to go over, you’re doing okay. Besides I’m rating you a 2, this is just to keep the folks up in HR happy, and they don’t read them anyhow. I’m happy with what you’re doing all you need to do is keep it up. Besides the 2 rating puts you in a good spot.”

Joe: “Oh Okay, see you in ten.”

Ten minutes later Joe and his manager are in the conference room as we peek in and listen.

Manager: “Yeah that was a good time we had at the game. Well, here sign on the bottom line and I can pop up to HR and drop this off.”

Joe: “I thought we were going to discuss this. We spent the entire time talking about bar hopping on our business trips. I mean it was good and all, but what about my performance?”

Manager: “What about it, I told you earlier, just keep doing what you’re doing and things will be fine. After you’re getting a 2 rating and that puts you in with the rest of the 2′s. It makes you safe.”

Joe: “Yeah I get that, but what about my chances of advancement or the opportunity to take on new assignments? I thought these things were an opportunity to discuss goals, my goals. Along with areas that I would like to grow my skills in. Isn’t that part of this process, at least that’s what you said on our last PA discussion?”

Manager: “Listen Joe, you’re taking this PA thing too seriously. You know how things work around here. If we did what you were asking then I would have to set up measurements, and discuss them with you and all that kind of stuff. That’s not important. What’s important is you do what I ask. Get it done when I ask. Besides, no one really reads what we write in these PA’s. So take the 2 rating and I’ll see if I can get you another 2% added to the 3% you’re getting with this review. You know a 5% hit is a good raise considering how tight budgets are. You know how tough it can be to get more than the planned increased, but, I think I can get that additional 2%.”

Joe: “Really? With budgets the way they are, and the top brass calling for more cuts, you’re telling me you can get me another 2? Is that the same 2% you were going to get me the last PA cycle?”

Manager: “Aw Joe, come on, you know we had a 10% cut to all salary plans at the last-minute. Nothing we could do about that. But it’s different this year, so it should be a lock.”

Joe: “You haven’t heard. Sales for this quarter are off by 10%. The top brass is calling for a major budget reduction including all salary plans. There is even talk about layoffs.”

Manager: “What are talking about, I didn’t hear about that. Where are you getting your information from?”

Joe: “I have my sources. So if I had to guess not only won’t I be getting a 5% raise. It looks like with the cuts top brass are talking about there will be an overall salary freeze meaning no raises except for those who are in line to receive a 2 rating. So, since you’re going to give me a 2 rating it would seem that I should be in the running. But there is a catch, all 2 ratings require a lot more documentation than what you have, and the reviews have to be in at the close of business today. So what are you going to do, you know I’m one of your key performers, but this PA isn’t going to cut upstairs in HR. Trust me on this my sources are sound.”

Manager: Stunned silence, sprinkled with looks of utter disbelief and confusion.


The Performance Review Must Die Part 1

Professor Culbert author of Get Rid of The Performance Review, wrote; “It is time to finally put the performance review out of its misery.” I could not agree more.

What we call a performance review or performance appraisal (note, I will use both of these terms interchangeably) is quickly becoming a relic. The performance review a procedure no longer useful in the assessment of team or individual performance. However, like the bureaucracy that gave it birth, it manages to hang on to life despite numerous attempts to eliminate it, or replace it with something that is more representative of actual individual and team accomplishments.

You are probably thinking I am bitter due to receiving less than stellar performance reviews. I always received outstanding reviews but, I also knew much of the time they were not always an accurate representation of what I had – or didn’t – accomplish for the timeframe of the review. Like any employee, I wanted due recognition for my contribution and accomplishments. However, I also knew they did not cover everything not to mention the time when I discovered verbiage describing a project I worked on a year prior that hand nothing to do with the current review cycle. It was the start of my realizing this process was a useless and formulaic process just to satisfy HR requirements. My confirmation came when I noticed an increase in my weekly salary.

There is an unwritten rule never let the money precede the review. To do so meant you violated the Wizard of Oz principle around giving out raises. Employees are supposed to think their annual performance review is necessary for them to receive an increase in pay. It is leverage over their employees. It is the smoke and mirrors trick that a good appraisal equals good raise. Maybe in a small company of less than 100 employees. However, once you get into the corporate arena, it is not about performance as one is lead to believe. It became apparent to me when my last manager broke this rule. Here is what happened.

It was that time of year when was do for my annual performance review. When I picked up my pay stub and opened it, I noticed an increase. I did the calculation it amounted to a 5% pay increase. I quickly realized what happened. I received my raise without the formal review and discussion. As I proceeded to his office to discuss it with him, he saw me and notice I had my pay stub, and he waved me into his office and explained what happened.

You see he missed his deadline to get all his reviews into HR. So in favor of getting my increase into the current cycle, and feeling the review could come later. He pushed through the increase without the review promising HR he would meet with me before it showed up in my pay. His intent was to get my pay stub before I did and met with me to and let me know I was getting a raise, and we would meet later to discuss the review.

We had an awkward discussion, but it did not matter. You see the appraisal was not that significant, as we both knew what my accomplishments were, and I understood the folly of the review process having managed people before. We hand an understanding as long as kept him up to speed on what I was doing, with no surprises he would leave me to my own devices. Besides we met regularly to discuss progress, so we both knew what I was and wasn’t doing. The review was just the formal paperwork process HR needed to justify a salary increase. Culbert described it best when he said: “It is a pretentious, bogus practice that produces nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.” I agree with his statement that the review process is a bogus practice producing nothing. Let me explain.

The employee being reviewed comes to the session thinking he is there to discuss achievements for the evaluation period. They come to the meeting with a detailed list of what they did during the review cycle with a preconceived notion of receiving a rating of outstanding. They also believe part of the discussion will focus on their development so they have prepared several items they would like to go over in this area. The employee believes this meeting is about him and his contributions to the team and success to company bottom line, so, there is an expectation of receiving an increase for all his hard work.

The manager responsible for conducting the evaluation session comes not to praise the employee but to exert and ensure his dominance over the employee. He does not intend to discuss the employee’s accomplishments. Any discussion on the part of the employee about accomplishments is short-circuited with, “here is how I think you did. Followed by “here is how you need to fix it, and this is what I want you to do next.” This does not lead to any meaningful rapport between manager and subordinate around accomplishments. It quickly degenerates into a process of the manager controlling the conversation and conveying the message he is the determinant factor of the employee’s rating and any increase they might receive. So that carefully crafted list of accomplishments; it falls by the wayside. Also and hope of discussing developmental needs is tossed aside because the manager told you what you to correct and how to do it, so why would you need any development?

Recall what Culbert called it, “a pretentious, bogus practice” an accurate description of the process. He also stated it produces nothing. That is not entirely right. It creates angry and disillusion employees. It generates managers who are inefficient and detrimental to the company. Disillusion employees incompetent managers will result in poor customer service, crappy products, and completely no accountability all because of the company’s inadequate performance appraisal process.

The bogus practice around the appraisal process is that management has not incentive to improve the process. They are very comfortable with the way their ill-equip manager are handling the entire process. If they were not, then they would handle it in an entirely different way. I am not saying all companies are blind to the failed process of providing meaningful employee reviews. Many have adopted a 360-degree process believing this will provide a more accurate rendering of a person performance because the information is coming from multiple sources. Unfortunately, this process also is corrupted. It, usually, happens when any of the following occurs as pointed out in a Forbes article entitled: The 7 Reasons Why 360-Degree Programs Fail

  1. The boss does not get involve discounting the program
  2. The 360 questions are too vague
  3. Personal comment or vague comments are made rather than constructive comments
  4. No plan set for receiving the feedback
  5. No follow-up post 360 plan if one does happen it only happens once
  6. Lack of confidentially
  7. Focusing on the weaknesses and forgetting about the strengths

The interesting thing about this list it is everything that is wrong with non-360-degree review processes. So replacing one system with another that suffers from the same problems as the system already in place is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results that is the definition of insanity. For those who say they have a 360-degree review system that is working fine, go back and check better yet read the following article by Harriet Edleson: Do 360 evaluations work?

It is past time to get rid of the performance review. However, it is not that easy especially in large companies. There is a workaround, but that comes in part two.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Tim’s Rant – Who Says You Have The Right To Recline Your Seat?

Traveling today is a real pain especially if you have to fly.

I’m old enough to remember when flying was a real treat. No problems with leg room, food was ok, service was excellent and on long flights the inflight movie was there for your enjoyment. Not today. The way airlines pack people on flights now, they can give sardine packers lessons. So it’s no wonder that air range has broken out on flights over reclining one’s seat.

Three flights were diverted because people were getting into shall we say, “Rigorous negotiations” over their inability to recline their seats because of something called The Knee Defender. A product when place in the seat tray prevents the seat in front of you from reclining. Around since 2003 and even though banned by most airlines it hasn’t stopped people from using it. You would think if this product has been in use since 2003 we would have had more than the three recent reports.

Why are people are becoming so enraged they feel it’s permissible to deprive someone of their right to recline their seat, or that throwing a glass of soda as claim by James Beach who was the center of the first situation, is acceptable behavior on an airplane. As I said at the outset traveling today by air is a real pain.

Those who regularly fly for business have more savory words for it. All I can say is those of you who fly regularly for your company you have to figure out a way to fly first class it’s the only way you’ll beat this and be at your best in front of the client.

I suppose I would say this to you managers who expect your people to fly on a regular basis for you, if you want them to be on top of their game and present the best image possible of the company isn’t it worth a few dollars more to pay for a first class ticket? Think about it you spend more on toner and paper for your copiers.

If not, then expect them to be late to appointments because what recently happen is the tip of the iceberg. We will soon see more flights diverted because of this pending pent up frustration. People who feel they have to work will want to protect their knees and prevent damage to their laptops by those inconsiderate passengers who mistakenly believe their paid for ticket gives them the right to recline their seat and relax during the flight.

Just remember Ms. / Mr. Manager, the cost of a diverted flight may be in your future.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

Market Basket – One for the Books For Sure!

How many of would risk your job for the CEO of your company? Would you join a picket line for six weeks with no pay demanding the reinstatement of the CEO of your company? Let’s say you’re a long-term customer of the company would you support the employees in their protest? What would be your motivation to support the employees of this company if you can find what you need elsewhere?

Under normal circumstances most employees and customers pay little attention to the firing of a company CEO. From an employee standpoint many see it as part of their company’s business cycle, CEO’s come and go so to speak. Customers have a similar view, unless they have stock in the company then they wonder how it will affect the stock price with the firing of the CEO. Neither will worry about the CEO welfare as they both believe he’ll be fine financially. So the concept of both employee and customer joining forces and protesting the firing of a CEO by walking off the job and boycotting, well, it’s unheard of until now. Enter Arthur T. Demoulas recently fired by his board of directors, and now six weeks later, the reinstated CEO and now majority owner of Market Basket. A position he regained with the help of both loyal employees and customers. A level of loyalty and support CEO’s can only dream about that is if the do dream.

Adam Vaccaro of the Boston.com provides a good account of what took place. However, that’s not the focus of this post. My focus is on the embodiment of what we consultants often talk about when it comes to leadership and customer loyalty. Let’s start with discussing Artie T (as he’s called by his loyal employees) leadership style.


Warren Bennis said “managers do things right leaders do the right thing.” Artie T realized the right thing to do was take care of his people and everything else would follow. He did this by developing a culture that allowed employees to be successful and rewarded them accordingly. He understood that profit came not because of him, but from the hard work of his employees. As the company and profits grew he paid well and provided good benefits. He followed threw on items he said he would. He established a foundation of trust among the employees. It resulted in employees truly believing they “were the most valuable asset” something often said by management but not necessarily believed by those who say it and those who hear it.

At Market Basket both the employees and the customers are important. In an interview Artie T told the reporter that they were in the people business first and the food business second. Now that’s someone who has his eye on what is important.

If your employees feel they are just the proverbial cog in the wheel, it will reflect on how they interact with your customers. Think Comcast and the now famous viral recording of a customer trying to disconnect his service.

Focus and Employee Development Leads to Customer Loyalty :

Ralph C. Stayer CEO of Johnsonville foods in his book Flight of the Buffalo, asked this question, “is every person in your company focused on delivering great performance for his/her customers? Focused and motivated employees will delight their customers. For six weeks Market Basket customers boycotted the stores in their areas. They refuse to shop at their favorite store until the reinstatement of Artie T as CEO. That’s customer loyalty.

It came about because he made sure his employees were focused on delighting their customers. He did this by asking this question, “is the person becoming more capable?” meaning is the employee receiving the training and development they that will allow them to grow? Having a promote from within philosophy with emphasis on continuous learning doesn’t hurt either.

All this leads to retention of top talent, a loyal customer base.Things he clearly understood, and so did his employees and Market Basket customers. That’s why both employees and customers took the action they did and it paid off.

We appreciate being treated respectfully when we’re about to spend our hard earn money. As customers we have numerous choices and we won’t patronize businesses who don’t understand this. The employees of Market Basket understood this, that’s why they greet every customer in a sincere and friendly way. As a friend told me shopping at a Market Basket reminded him of the local neighborhood grocery store before they all became chains. He also said he noticed it was like a local meeting place when people and employees engaged in friendly conversation because they knew each other.

So when the employees went out on strike to get their leader back so did their customers. Which is something unheard of and will make for some very interesting business case studies. Yes this clearly one for the business books.


The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

The wife and I just came back from a vacation in Newport Rhode Island the weather was great and for me it was relaxing. Normally this time of year we have our granddaughter but as I wrote in an earlier post she is recovering from a horrific car accident and it will be some time before she will be able to come and visit us. However, writing this post isn’t about our granddaughter its focus is on an interesting article I read in the Huffington Post on Americans not taking their vacation time.

The article cited a study that pointed out 4 in 10 employees will leave personal time off (PTO) on the table. It also pointed out that employees suffer from a martyr complex believing no one else can do their job. Others feel they need the face time with their boss even though the “reach out and touch someone” has become a reality with Skype, GoTo Meeting, Twitter, and constant emails. And there is that lingering effect of still being in a tough economy.

But what really got my attention was the stat that said that 67% of American employees receive mixed messages from their companies about taking time off, and that’s why they leave so much vacation time on the table. This is something I find much more plausible as to reasons why folks won’t take their PTO.

If you’re receiving unclear messages from your boss around you taking vacation time it becomes a bit confusing when they come and complain about the fact you have too much vacation time on the books. It makes you wonder what you’re supposed to do when you pick up the subtle message that sure you can take time off, but if you do it could affect you negatively. Depending where you are on your career path you might wrongly feel only the week need vacation time. If you do you’re completely wrong my friend.

People who believe their indispensable need to stick their hand in a bucket of water, pull it out, and measure the size of the hole, that’s how indispensable you are. I’m not saying what you do isn’t important, what I am saying is that your health is important and you need to recharge your batteries if you expect to perform at a high level. I’m also saying that managers shouldn’t engage in a mixed message campaign around taking vacation time. It should be clear and definitive. The same study found that having their employees take their time off resulted in them being more productive and the clearer they were about it people took the time coming to them. So a use it or lose policy is clear message about taking vacation time.

I know some of you have managers who insist that all their employees make themselves available even when on vacation. Let me share a story with you.

I was starting a new job and one of the legends told in the group was about our group manager and is insistence that all managers be reachable at all times and if they were on vacation they were to leave a contact number. One of the managers was resistant to the idea and voiced it strongly the to the group manager. He related and posted his contact number on the board. As expected something came up and group manager asked where he was he had forgotten he was on vacation. The group manager asked if he left his contact information his secretary told him it was on the whiteboard as he requested. He asked her to call it and put it on speaker, she did. When she finished dialing he increased the volume on the phone so everyone could hear because he was going to berate the manager because the manager told him nothing of major importance would happen that required him to call in or couldn’t be handle by his people. When the call went through the group manager was tripping all over himself to disconnect the phone. The reason, the manager who went on vacation left the number for dial a prayer.

I don’t know if the dial a prayer service is still available, but if it is maybe that should be your contact number for your boss when you go on vacation and he feels the need to interrupt during your time off.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved

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