Once upon a time, I walked into my boss’s office and asked for his permission for my summer vacation. It was six months before I planned on going on holiday.
“Depends. Where’re you going?” he asked me.
“Does it matter?” I asked.
“Well, I can’t have you going far away. If I need you, I’ll have to pay for your return flight from our budget, so I’ll only okay it if you’re staying close.”
I was momentarily speechless. In the privacy of his office he had said aloud what both of us knew: I did a lot of his job for him and he depended on me to make things run smoothly. This was a tiny victory for me and about as much recognition as I was going to get since he sure as shit wasn’t going to use that budget to pay me more.
I recovered pretty quickly from my momentary elation to address the next issue, namely that he had no right to deny me and I knew it, even if he didn’t.
“I haven’t planned it yet,” I lied. “Besides, according to the employee handbook, it’s against company policy to deny a vacation request if it’s made within a reasonable time period to find a replacement. Half a year should be long enough to line someone up, I think.” I let that sit there. Watched as he slowly started to realize that I had that handbook almost memorized.
“Well, try to stay close anyway,” he mumbled as he signed the form.
My best friend and I went to Europe for just over two weeks and I didn’t even leave him hotel contact information, despite his repeated “casual” and “humorous” mentions that I do so.
This story prompted for your reading pleasure by the news that some French labor unions are moving to prevent some workers from being required to answer email after work hours.
There was a ton of misinformation online about this, apparently started by those French-hating bastards over at The Guardian* but cooler heads prevailed at places like the NYT. FastCompany went crazy with the specious headline but NPR actually did some of their own reporting, coming up with a better researched post.
* The bastards I’m referring to are les rosbifs, generally speaking. I actually like The Guardian and read a lot of their entertainment coverage which is quite good.
The funny (sad?) thing is that many of the English-language stories cited the same data point about how American productivity levels are 400% higher than those in France. Even if this is true, so what? No mention is made of how low American health, happiness or well-being levels are, nor how high the stress, obesity and heart disease rates are. Joe Walsh sang it best: There are two sides to every story.