What do you mean you can’t come to work today?
“My cat got stuck in the dash of my car.”
“I’m stuck under my bed.”
And my personal favorite – “My grandma poisoned me with her ham.”
That’s right. These are real reasons people gave their employers in the last year to explain their absence from work. According to a new report out from CareerBuilder.com, 27% of those who used Paid Time Off (PTO) last year, still felt the need to give an excuse for not being there. The above excuses are just three of their top 10.
I get it. PTO is there for a reason. If you have it, use it. It is certainly a lot better than just not showing up. In fact, our organization, while allowing an employee to cash out PTO, only allows a certain amount to be cashed out. They believe actually taking time off is important for personal well being and stand behind that with their policies. It’s a good thing. However, I think PTO could be very similar to credit cards. The problem isn’t the PTO, but rather how you use it.
Looking at the absurdity of the top ten excuses in the above report, I wanted to do a bit of my own list – ways to screw up using your PTO. So here we go.
Giving a Stupid Excuse – Use your PTO. You’ve earned it. You really don’t even have to give a reason for taking it. But should you give an excuse, don’t make it a stupid one. This is where the above excuses come into play and managing people can become a bit like babysitting. You may think you have a good excuse, but the chances are that your boss has already heard that one and will see right through it. Now, rather than just taking a day off, you may take a serious hit to your credibility in the office.
Using PTO to Escape an Event – Yup, life happens. But if life always seems to happen on that one specific day when you have a long meeting, presentation, or review, your employer is probably going to notice the pattern. There are days you get sick or the kids don’t have daycare. I’ve taken PTO for those days myself. There are also times I’ll take most of the day and ‘take one for the team’ to make a particularly crucial appointment. I’ve even had my kids sit in a side conference room while I made a 20 minute presentation (and I knew they could take care of themselves). It could even help your credibility in the office.
Pushing Your Credit Limit – Just like pushing the credit limit on your credit card, using PTO as soon as it accrues can be a dangerous game. You may want to take a day off, but what happens next week when you come down with the Otherworldly Near-Death Bacilli-coccus Flu Bug? Coming into work simply isn’t an option, but PTO isn’t an option either because you used it for a Vitamin-D day last week. You are now risking your job because you pushed the credit limit of your PTO. Build up a few days, keep them as an emergency fund, and then spend away with what builds up after that. Taking time of without having PTO can put your very employment at risk.
Just Not Calling In – “It’s ok, we’ll figure it out next week.” No, your employer wants to know where you are. Even if you are going to be able to use your PTO anyway, still call in and let them know you need to use it – BEFORE YOU MISS WORK. Again, it’s a credibility issue and some employers won’t allow the use of PTO if you don’t communicate that before you are expected to be there. Also, know the requirements if you are claiming to be sick. Some employers don’t allow sick time or a return to work without a note from your doctor. That can be a little tougher to fake than a stomach ache.
Being the Over-Achiever – Depending on how your employer has the system set up, you can actually hurt yourself by saving up too much PTO. Once you hit a certain number of hours in the bank, your PTO may quit accruing. Know the limit your employer has set. If you really don’t mind working for nothing (at least as far as PTO is concerned), go ahead and keep working. But, for the sake of personal wellness, I would recommend that you watch your limit and use some of it before you hit the point where it stops building up. It’s kind of like someone standing on the curb trying to hand you a 20-dollar bill and you just keep walking. What?!?
So there you have it – ways to screw up with your PTO and the potential consequences. It is there as a resource and by all means, use it. Just use it well.
If you have any questions about finding and keeping a job with benefits, the Center for Financial Resources can help you out. Our counselors have information and resources to help your stability in income and employment. You can call 605-330-2700 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.
Originally posted October 2015.
written by Breck Miller