Forced to forgo an optional leave? Here's how to ask for time off
Stuck at work while your family and friends are celebrating a holiday? We’ve all been there.
Being called in to work on an optional holiday isn’t unusual. An important meeting, an approaching deadline, an urgent assignment or even sparse attendance in your department when there’s lots of work to be done are among several reasons why your boss may call you in, forcing you to cancel your holiday plans. Unless you have a crucial engagement that actually justifies your absence, we wouldn’t recommend you say no to your boss’ request. Instead, you can ask for leave later on to make up for the missed holiday.
Of course, the catch here is that the rules about compensatory leave in lieu of an optional holiday differ from company to company. If your organization allows employees to take an alternate day off, here’s what to keep in mind before you ask for it:
Time your request
Never approach the boss when s/he is preoccupied, hassled or angry. Also try and be smart about choosing when you want to take off. Pick a day when there’s less work and enough people to fill in for you. Remember, your boss has a hundred things to do at work and looking into a subordinates’ work-life balance isn’t really top priority.
Give enough notice
Make sure you allow your team leader enough time to make alternative arrangements during your absence. A week’s notice is generally good enough for one day of leave, but it also depends on your role in the company and how that’s impacted if you’re not in, deadlines, team strength and attendance, etc.
Share a good reason
If you’re asking for a day off in lieu of an optional holiday you worked on, find a geniune reason for leave. Taking a family member to the doctor, attending your children’s school annual day celebrations or going to receive a relative at the airport are valid reasons for seeking a day off. If you don’t have an excuse that is plausible, however, refrain from citing it altogether.
Optional holidays are generally religion or community-specific, so making a passing reference to the fact that you worked on a day when the rest of the country was celebrating could also work in your favour. Remember, request for leave, don’t demand it. Being overly aggressive and viewing leave as an entitlement rather than a privilege is sure to upset the boss and lead to certain rejection.
Co-opt your colleagues
It’s always a good idea to co-opt a colleague into your plans, asking him/her to step in for you, and mention that to your boss when you ask for leave. You can always repay your friend by filling in for him/her later. Going to managers with a problem as well as a solution makes decision-making easy for them. The boss can always come up with alternatives in case s/he thinks otherwise but you will be appreciated for trying to help out.
There’s no getting around the fact that optional holidays are, in fact, elective. If you’re entitled to, say, two optional holidays a year from a list of 14, you are free to choose when you want to take off. However, if work beckons, you ought to reconsider, unless you have something major planned. If you’re allowed to defer the optional day off, ask confidently for an alternate day and don’t forget to thank the boss if s/he agrees!