Manager and employees looking at a clipboard together

Summertime and year-end holiday season are often peak times for vacation requests. If you’re one of those managers who has leave requests piling up in your inbox, you might find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to decline a few. So let’s brush up on some managerial etiquette on how to diplomatically decline leave requests.

  1. Look at the Team Requests as a Whole
    If you have multiple team members who are able to ‘cover’ the responsibilities of each other, it may be beneficial to discuss the requested time off altogether as a team and see if there are some obvious adjustments that can be made to ensure coverage. Some staff may be flexible to move their requested days off slightly so as to not overlap with each other, or to take them later in the year.
  2. Establish the Business Grounds for Declining the Request
    First, make sure you’re refusing the request based on business grounds and not showing favouritism. There are many circumstances in which a manager is unable to accept a leave request based on reasonable business grounds, such as:

    • Inability to cover work with existing staff
    • Inability to hire additional staff
    • Negative effect on ability to meet customer demand
    • Negative impact on company performance
  3. Decline the Request in Person
    After you’ve investigated alternatives and concluded that you can’t possibly grant the leave, it’s time to have a private conversation. When declining a request, it’s best to do it in person if possible. Explain to the employee why the business cannot accommodate the request based on the business grounds you identified. Then mutually discuss when might be an alternative time to take the leave. The aim should be to reach a compromise with mutual respect kept intact.

When it comes to managing your employees’ annual leave, it’s important to keep a firm eye on the bigger picture. Some managers can be too accommodating and allow for too many employees to take leave at the same time. This can add an unfair amount of workload on those employees who are still working, with detrimental effects on business performance for the period.

Lastly, ensure you proactively communicate expectations and vacation policies so your team can plan their time off accordingly. You don’t want everyone scrambling to take vacation all at the same time in December because they have unused days that will not roll over.

To accommodate as much leave as possible and ensure your staff are taking the vacation time that they are entitled to each year, you may need to consider hiring temporary staff to ease the pressure and help your business continue operating smoothly.

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