top of page

How to Politely Refuse to Work on Leaves, Holidays And Vacations

By Ireoluwa Bello.

Oyemaja Executives, a division of The Oyemaja Group.

Business, Advertising, Marketing, Entrepreneurship.
Oyemaja, How to Politely Refuse to Work on Leaves, Holidays And Vacations.

Work-from-holiday nightmare

You have worked harder than anyone for your company year-round and deserve a little break. Thankfully, the Labour Act supports your desire, and your employer has no choice but to let you off work for a while. Here is the problem, you might still be expected to be on your phone and reply to a few emails here and there. Your long-awaited time off slightly turns into a work-from-holiday nightmare.

With the new emphasis on work-life -balance, many companies now focus on improving their workplace cultures by accommodating personal obligations like family time and granting holiday requests with little pushback. That said, we still have many companies that hide under the guise of corporate emergencies (their definition of every single task) to summon their employee from their vacations to do “quick tasks” that won’t take “much of your time.” In other words, you are on vacation, but your duties are not on vacation. They might even apologise beforehand depending on your company’s regard for work-life balance. Anyways, you are still replying to several “please find attached…” emails on a beach somewhere.

You may have experienced this once or twice and wished you could take a break for your mental, physical and emotional health. Since quitting is not an option because of the continuous bills attached to being a human, you accept injustice.

Good News

The good news is that the horrors can be over if you only take some measures before, during and after your break. It might sound like a lot for a break you deserve, but the other choice of accepting the status quo is leaving you miserable. Here are a few tricks that might help:

1. Don’t lie

Lying, especially when caught, will create a dent in your character. No matter how sincere, your excuses will be second-guessed from that moment onward. It might also take a lot of unnecessary sacrifices to win back their trust. Not to mention that it won’t play well during your next evaluation. Anything that starts with “I can explain” rarely ends well. In a nutshell, don’t take the easy way out by lying.

2. Go off the grid

It is not okay to lie, but some companies will completely ignore your “I'm on vacation” memo, even if it is on repeat. For these special ones, the best thing will be to switch off everything. But before you completely shut off all forms of communication, patiently draft a mail telling them your decision to switch off all devices. This mail is preferably sent to your direct boss, not the entire staff line.

In the mail, state how much you appreciate them, and then explain your decisions in the politest way possible. Give a practical reason, like you need to rejuvenate and organise your thoughts without interruptions from work or your desire to dedicate time to your family. Apologise for any inconvenience and promise to attend to all requests upon arrival. More like, “I need a real break, and I’m taking it.”

3. Plan Ahead

The mere thought of your fast-approaching vacation might make you procrastinate. You suddenly don’t have it in you to do the barest minimum and want to delay everything till you are back and fresh. It won't work. Some calls that disturb your time off could be avoided if you only prepare ahead. Go over and beyond before you leave: label all files appropriately, make all information available, connect all dots, write all reports, and see it more like stocking the freezer with enough food to last them a while. It could be stressful, but it will be worth it.

4. Create a replacement

Apart from ensuring you’ve done your due diligence, you can find a colleague willing to answer all questions during your vacations. Such a person can be introduced to your boss before you take your time off.

Ordinarily, it will be your manager’s task to assign a temporary replacement. Still, the procedure is quickly forgotten if there is a hiccup with whatever you were handling before your time off. Therefore, someone should speak up instead of a quick call that might ruin your Netflix time.

This person will not take up your tasks but will have access to your current files and provide essential information on request. That way, the likelihood of being called to ask about folder names will be reduced. You can return the favour by managing their responsibilities when it’s their turn to take time off.

This goes without saying that you must have built a good relationship before you can cash out on such a request.

5. Strike a Deal

If you are taking a delicious time off and do not want to be disturbed, give them a reason to leave you be. A nice reason might be a promise to bring new ideas for advancing your company from a more relaxed mind. Tell them you plan to take a fresh look at your current portfolio and would love to brainstorm new strategies for holistic growth, which can only be done with a step away from everyday work. You get your break, and they might get a breakthrough idea, win-win.

6. Bare out your soul and hope for some empathy

This is your last resolve, the lowest of the lows. Here, professionalism is trashed and burned. Remember those pent-up frustrations you swallowed in the name of “corporate setting”? This is the time to unleash them all. My best advice is for you to pick your forte; outbursts of anger, uncontrollable tears, or in-depth information about your actual predicament, whichever does the trick for your company.

Remember that any job requiring such an extensive show of emotions to honour your employee right may not be the best for your overall well-being. Give yourself an ultimatum to get a new job and work towards it aggressively. They don’t deserve you or anyone.

Oyemaja Executives.



bottom of page