Last week, I was at a gathering of businesswomen when one female executive spoke about an incident at work that she found to be horrifying.
Here's what happened:
On a group conference call with about a dozen people a top boss mentioned that he just returned from a vacation. He mentioned that he had traveled abroad and truly disconnected from work. Upon his return, he said, his inbox was flooded with email. He was now faced thousands of emails with hundreds of matters to deal with, including this particular conference call.
"I will never take a vacation again," he announced to his staff with anger in his voice.
"What kind of message does that send?" this woman asked the rest of us. She feels this highly placed boss should spoken about the importance of renewal and urged others to take time off to regroup. I have to agree with her. Even more, I think he should have blocked off time either the night before or the morning he returns just to deal with email.
It could be that this manager is a bad boss — maybe he encourages his staff to copy him on everything. I read a BusinessWeek article that offers this advice to a boss going on vacation: "Have a preemptive pep talk with a stand-in to lay out what you'd like accomplished in your absence. Be sure to express confidence in his or her judgment and competence. But be clear, even if you transmit it casually, that you're leaving the operation in steady hands, not relinquishing your authority." (Basically, prepare you team well so that matters get handled without an email pile-up)
What are you thoughts? Does staff react to how the boss handles vacation? Do you think anyone would refrain from taking a vacation because of what this one manager said on the call?