We Americans hate waste.
Or at least, we say we do.
We hate wasting time standing in line.
We hate wasting money dropping bombs on dictators who don’t pay attention.
We hate wasting emotions on people unworthy of our emotions.
Yeah, we hate waste all right. And yet…
We don’t hesitate wasting…
Paid vacation days.
In a recent survey of 4,439 workers, in 2017 “More than half – 52% – didn’t take all the vacation time they earned, and almost a quarter of workers said they hadn’t taken a vacation in more than a year.
“In all, surveyed workers left a total of 705 million vacation days unused last year.”
Those 4,439 workers are a tiny fraction of 126 million full-time workers in the U.S. Multiply all those workers by all their unused vacation days and…
This is in a country with paid time off already pitifully small compared to other countries. According to WorldAtlas.com, we’re not even in the top 55. Austria is at #4 with 38 days; the count for Panama is 32 days; and Burkina Faso, a country I’d never heard of and sure couldn’t point to on a map, gets 37 days of paid leave.
The U.S.: 15 days.
And we waste a lot of them.
Of course I wondered why, and the survey suggested that “Employees who were concerned that vacation would make them appear dispensable or less dedicated were less likely to use all their vacation time.”
So we want to appear less dispensable and more dedicated. Fantasy time.
|Manager: Jack, it’s been brought to my attention that you were entitled to two weeks paid vacation last year, but you used only three days. To my mind that makes you less dispensable and more dedicated, so I’m promoting you to assistant manager, and bumping up your salary by $1,000 a year!|
|Jack: Wow, thanks! And I’m taking even less vacation this year!|
|Manager: Jack, you’re fired. You can pick up your last paycheck in Human Resources. Oh – and all those vacation days you didn’t use last year? You forfeited them by not using them so they won’t be part of your last paycheck.|
In case this isn’t bad enough, in a second survey of just 2,224 workers – again, such a small number compared to that 126 million – we learn that many who did use paid time off “were still in contact with the office…Twenty-nine percent were contacted by a co-worker, and one in four said their boss contacted them.”
So we actually take some of that precious time off – and we’re still at work. Sadly, there’s even a new word for it:
|Manager: Jack, I realize you’re on vacation and I hate interrupting you, but could you lead the team meeting tomorrow morning? I’ve got a last-minute thing with one of my kids or I wouldn’t dream of doing this. I’d be so grateful if you could step in for me.|
|Jack: No problem! Just send me your agenda and I’ll call in at 8:30am your time.|
|Manager: Jack, who the hell OK’d your taking vacation time? Never mind – I’ve got an important golf game tomorrow morning so I want you to lead the team meeting at 8:30am. I know that’s the middle of the night there, but too bad. Otherwise, you’re fired.|
Now, I’m a believer in donating money to worthy causes, but I can guaran-damn-tee you that most employers don’t fit that description.
But when you don’t use your paid vacation time, you’re giving hundreds of dollars back to your employer.
What are we?
Crazy, anxious, afraid, exhausted, insecure, stressed?