When I was running one of my first corporate divisions for a Fortune 50 company, I had a very wise operations person by my side. One day he shared an important lesson with me that I will never forget. He said, “Ted, don’t plan to put any policies in writing that you are not 100% certain that you plan to enforce.” In the midst of this, I have learned through corporate America, and through running several of my own businesses, that policies can be both good and bad for the culture of an organization. One that has come under some heated debate is the notion of whether or not we need vacation policies in organizations anymore.
What’s more scary to you and the health of your organization . . . a) your employees have four weeks of vacation but they never take it (OR) b) you have an unlimited vacation policy and worry about people abusing it?
The truth is that when I climbed my way up the corporate ladder at the Fortune 50 Company, the more skittish I became about taking vacation. It was never encouraged by the executives at the top of the organization, and in fact you felt almost guilty about taking a vacation to begin with at all. While workers in the EU are guaranteed 20 days of paid vacation (or holiday as they say it) and in some countries 25 or 30 days, we are still the only industrialized nation that offers ZERO required paid vacation time by employers.
The reality is that the Pygmalion Effect can work for or against us in organizations. I love what companies like Mass Relevance are doing with the new word “Freesponsibility”. The concept of setting your vacation time and your own work hours. It creates a decidedly different impact on how the culture of the organization is developed. Isn’t it true that even if you have vacation days through a policy that you have to get them approved anyway? In a no vacation days policy, wouldn’t that approval process happen just the same?
I’m highly considering moving my company to a no vacation day policy as well. In this day and age of technology, pretty much work and personal life have become a blurred line anyway in our lives. To maximize productivity an organization, we may need to consider giving employees their own discretion to manage the Goose and the Golden Egg relationship. Only time will tell, but I wonder if we really need vacation policies anymore?