How comfortable are you taking vacation?

worklifeYour answer to this question may reveal something about your work ethic. But most importantly, your response is more likely an indication of the culture of your organization. The reality is that in a high performance culture, employees consistently prioritize work over their personal commitments. Why? Because they understand that in order for them to both survive and advance, they need to be available 24/7. A competitive workplace culture that promotes long hours influences our work patterns and behavior. We may, in fact, not be comfortable taking vacation time because we fear it may have a negative effect on our reputation and therefore our ambition.

It is not difficult to understand the written and unwritten rules in an organization. A 40 hour work week where you arrive at 9 am and leave at 5 pm may be the exception not the rule. Look around. The work patterns are obvious. Look at how people get ahead in your organization. Are they the first to show up at work and the last to leave? Do they take time off? Observe what type of behavior is rewarded. Working long hours is viewed favorably if not demanded in high performance cultures.

In her book, Unfinished Business, author Anne-Marie Slaughter says, “Perhaps the best way to understand calcified work patterns is to understand that white men who got to the top by working around the clock and sacrificing their own time with their loves ones inevitably believe that the people below them who behave as they did must be the best candidates for advancement. They are thus highly suspicious, if not downright disbelieving, of data that show the benefits of working less, working differently, or even taking time out and not working at all for a while.”

This is a critical factor in how the culture developed and is now perpetuated in many organizations. Despite the current talent war where companies are adding more benefits such as on-site day care and gyms and shipping breast milk to attract and retain employees, especially women, these benefits reinforce the culture of 24/7 availability.

As we head into the end of the year, it’s interesting to see how many employees take advantage of their vacation time. Some companies allow you to carry over vacation time, but many companies don’t. In that case employees sacrifice their hard earned time off by refusing to use vacation time.

A recent survey by Deloitte confirms this. Deloitte’s Workplace Pulse survey found that roughly one third of their respondents (33 percent) do not feel comfortable taking personal time off/vacation days. Moreover, nearly one-third (32 percent) say they’ve consistently placed work commitments over family/personal commitments and fewer than half (48 percent) say their organization as a whole values their life outside work.

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