My Boss Takes Days Off But Doesn’t Record Them

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about cheating:

I work in a smaller company in the HR department. Two of us are in HR and we report to the CEO. My boss is the Director of HR. We have a system of requesting vacations days off through some software, however my boss continues to take vacation days without listing them. His “out of office” notice says he is on vacation and can’t respond to phone or emails, yet he is not populating his days off in the company software.

I am responsible for maintaining this database of vacation hours. So far he has taken a total of two weeks (10 days) of vacation without listing it. Yes, he does list other vacation days. I don’t know what to do since the only person I could possibly bring it up with is the CEO. The CEO and he are on very good terms with each other. If it is brought to his attention he will know only one person could have brought it up…me. I would rather speak to him directly, but then, of course, I don’t want to “challenge him”. I am thinking of calling our EAP to see if they have any ideas also.

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

I don’t think you should get EAP involved in this since that is not their role and they can’t do anything about it except go to the CEO (what you don’t want) or worry about it (which does no good.) It also is likely to get way out of control if you involve someone who doesn’t have knowledge of how the actual business works. You can handle this on your own and will feel better about it that way.

First, do a bit of thinking about the totality of the situation. Is it like your boss to be unethical or to lie? If you know him to be dishonest and to hide situations such as this from the CEO, his boss, he is likely providing himself with some extra vacation time by not reporting it. If you have never or rarely known him to fudge on time or anything else, it would seem unlikely he would do so in such an obvious way. He knows you have access to the database. He also knows that you are aware when his email or voice mail says he is on vacation. He is likely aware that you know he isn’t entering the time.

If you and he have a decent working relationship he probably figures you would ask him if you had a question and he may have an explanation to give you if you ask.Also consider the friendship between him and the CEO. It could be that the CEO is aware of the situation. He may have told your boss he could take time off to make up for extra work. Or, your boss may be at least doing some nominal work from home and the CEO figures that is good enough to allow your boss to not count it as time off.I am aware of a work place where that is routine for managers. If they do one or two things during the day at home (or wherever they are) they count it as a work day. Nevertheless, their email and voice mail says they are not available to respond to calls–exactly like the situation you describe.If you think the CEO would consider this to be a very serious matter and would take serious action against your boss and against you for not reporting it, that should make your decision for you.

But, I get the impression you aren’t sure the CEO would react strongly to it anyway.What your boss seems to be doing isn’t criminal, it’s organizational. He’s not taking money from the safe, he is taking time off. Even so, the work is apparently getting done and the CEO seems to have no complaints.

On the other hand, if you do ask and are told everything is OK, you’ve done all you are required to do. You’re not allowing something criminal to continue and you’re not encouraging or facilitating unethical behavior. If I were you, at that point I’d send an email to myself, stating what I was told, then I’d just move on with my own work and let the boss deal with potential consequences if it turns out he was being untruthful. This might just be one of those times when higher levels have or take privileges that seem unfair but that can be lived with.

Now, let’s consider how you can talk to your boss about this. You say you are responsible for maintaining the database of vacation hours. What would you do if you thought an employee in some other section was gone from work, but when you checked you saw he hadn’t requested vacation time? Would you assume there was something inappropriate or nefarious happening or would you investigate by asking about it, to correct any mistakes or misunderstandings?

I think you would just ask. That is what you can do in this situation as well. Don’t bring up all of the former apparent use of vacation time, just wait until the next time and ask him about THAT time. Make the next time the first time. That is advice I give repeatedly to supervisors who have waited a long time to deal with a problem.For example, your boss is away from work next week but you realize he has not recorded it. You could ask, “Stan, I’m trying to keep the vacation days and days off record up to date. Are you going to put yesterday in as a vacation day or should I just close the record for the week the way it is?” (Or whatever jargon you would use to fit the situation.)

Use a tone that is honestly questioning not accusatory or sly as though you think he is trying to hide something. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is wait for his answer. If he says he forgot and he’ll take care of it, at least he now knows you will mention it. He may have an explanation: “I was working from home.”If he says he isn’t taking the days out of his vacation time but gives you no explanation, you could follow up briefly: “What should I do about approving the record, if it doesn’t reconcile? How do you want me to handle your time off so it doesn’t look like we did it wrong?”

Take the approach that you are assuming he did nothing wrong but you want to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing. Once you have asked and clarified to that extent, you’ve fulfilled your obligation and you can focus on your own work and let your boss deal with issues if they arise. When something like this seems to point to a problem, more often than not there is an explanation or at least an acceptable excuse. If something is being done wrongly the person involved often corrects things when he realizes he’s been noticed. Most often, it turns out to not be something that is scandalous or terribly wrong anyway.So, go ahead and ask about it and get the worry out of your mind. Once you’ve done that the situation may resolve itself. Best wishes to you about this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe