Handling A Situation 

Tuesday,  November 6, 2001


This is a sequel to the entry, Reins, dated November 2, 2001.  I put myself in the successor designate's shoes and this is how I would have handled the situation:

Instead of breaking the news in the reception area in front of two other co-workers, I would have requested a  private conversation with me in my office.

Instead of announcing, "We are taking the week between Christmas and New Year's off, " this is what I would have said:

"I know you and your husband have only two weeks during the school year to vacation together at Christmas break and spring break. It's been the established routine for the six years that I've been here. 

I know we're supposed to stagger our vacations to be sure our clients' services and overhead are covered and staff hours are not cut. 

I also realize that it is not any other week. It is one of the busiest weeks of the year, especially because our student clients are home, calling in for last minute appointments. You yourself did not take that week off to go home to Hawai`i, until your father got sick,  six years ago.

I accept responsibility for not making it clear to our families what our  work obligations and time commitments are,  especially because we are just now finishing out our second year as associates. I have been here four years longer than my wife, and I know the routine better.

For these reasons, please know that I am aware that I am putting you in an awkward position when I must ask you for a huge favor.

My parents-in-law surprised us with tickets home for that week and they are not refundable.   

May we have that week off?  

Before you answer, please know that I  realize that this is akin to an airline staffer or retail salesperson taking off time during the holidays, their busiest time of the year as well.  Or a tax preparer asking for time off the week before April 15th.

I know how my sister and I depended on your office being open when we were home for our breaks. I know my parents themselves depended on your office being open, when they'd come in for their services to clear out their flex spending accounts before the end of the year. 

I also realize I am not asking for just one of us, but for both us, which doubly burdens the office. In spite of the liabilities of us taking vacations at the same time, you still hired us as a couple.  And now we zing you by taking time off together during one of the two weeks in the year, when you can take time off during the school year to coincide with your husband's time off.

Knowing that our absences will affect client services, office and each co-workers' production and bonuses, as well as the  profit-sharing /retirement fund, we have arranged to minimize the effects and compensate for the potential losses.

Would you hear me out on this? 

1.  We did not want you to sacrifice your week with your husband. We remember that you had already substituted for us during your usual time off, when we were gone for our wedding and honeymoon.  

We've already arranged for So-and- so and So-and-so to cover our days, so we will not be abandoning our client's care.   We'll be sure to brief them on  our clients before we leave. 

2.  I've already apologized to our co-workers and now I apologize to you and your husband.  We'd like to do this for you and them as an apology and compensation:  fill in the blank

3.  We will ... fill in the blank

You have my assurance that we will unambiguously outline our work obligations with our families.  We'll let them know that October / November / January / February  are traditionally our office's slowest months and the best times for us to take our vacations.

I hope you know how badly I feel about this.  I've let you and my co-workers down, and I'd like to personally apologize to you and your husband. This will not happen again.  

 I would have responded:

"This is surprising news. But, I see that you are well aware of the effects that your absences will have on the office.  I appreciate that you are doing your best to be considerate with our feelings. I can hear the concern you have over how I might be receiving this news. 

As long as our clients' care is not compromised and office coverage and production is unaffected -- that you have already covered those days with So-and-so and So-and-so -- and  you have already personally apologized to our co-workers, taking responsibility for how this affects them, my biggest concerns are mitigated.  

I understand that this is a sticky situation for you. You've taken care of things ahead of time, and I appreciate that you did that.

I would not want you to disappoint your parents-in-law, especially since they are now fully expecting you and your wife back now for the holidays.  I know how happy it must make them to give these trips to you as their Christmas gift.  

You may not know this, but we were so happy to give you the equivalent amount for two round-trips to Hawai`i for your wedding gift, and we experienced a pride and joy when you went home together last year. 

My father was delighted six years ago, when all of his kids were home. He was the happiest man on Earth that holiday. 

Hopefully, within two years, you will have met your career goal, as we'd outlined -- 28 units over 4 days, with a two week lead -- all else, being equal, and this will be moot.  One of the perks of ownership is taking off when you want to take off. It took me a while to get there, but it was worth it.

Until that time, I accept your assurance that you will clearly communicate your work commitments to your families. 

I accept your apology.  I believe it is sincere. I know it was not easy for you to come to me with this dilemma. 


And he would have responded:

"One day, when we own the business and become successful, I'll remember this talk. If my future successors should get themselves in the situation I'm in, I'll remember how we handled it in a win-win fashion.   

And I'll be sure they know how we slogged through X years of working that holiday week before we ever got it off. (laugh)

At first, I was afraid that you'd say no and I almost did what you described.  Just blurt it out.  But our relationship is important to me, and I'm glad you were open to how I decided to handle this situation.

Thanks for understanding. 


"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself  with words, in response to this journal entry,  you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
September Morn 2001