His door is slightly ajar. You can almost feel the hot coffee-laden breath and steely eyes of your boss bowling you over as you tip-toe gingerly into his office. 100 thoughts flash through your mind. “Maybe I don’t need the time off. What if he fired me for asking? No, that’s crazy. He wouldn’t do that. But he might accuse me of taking too much time off after I was out sick last month. What if he throws a stapler at me?”
Does this sound like you?
Asking for time off is one of the hardest things some of us must endure at work, next to asking for a raise and/or straight up getting fired. If this is you, don’t feel bad – it’s pretty normal. The good news is that it usually isn’t a big deal to your boss to ask. Just another blip in his day. The more you tell yourself this, the easier it will be for you.
Still, I’ve presented a nice little guide below on how to ask for time off.
Give a Reason
While it is often not helpful (and sometimes even counterproductive) to go into graphic detail when you are calling in sick to work, it’s actually almost required when you are asking for time away from work. Why is this? When asking for time off you’ll be doing it in person. When you call in sick, you are nothing but a disembodied voice on the other end of the line.
This is why it’s important to come prepared with a reason. Asking for time off without a reason is like going to the golf course with a bunch of tennis balls. You aren’t shooting par today.
What Should My Reason Be?
Here are some good reasons that are likely to get your time-off request granted:
- I’m going to be on vacation in (insert cool-sounding location)
- I am having surgery on my (insert body part)
- I have a general doctor/dental appointment (Note: use this if you only need a few hours off)
- I have an all-day business seminar to attend. (Note: if you use this reason, it had better be true – there is a chance the boss could look this one up)
- My (family member) passed away and I’m attending the funeral (Note: this reason also needs to be true. You don’t want to say “my father passed away” more than once, or you’ll arouse suspicion, to say the least!)
And, here are some bad reasons that will likely get you sent back to your office with no time off and your tail between your legs:
- I’m going to be sick
- My (family pet) died
- I’m stressed and need a day off
- I have an interview with another company
- I haven’t been sleeping well
You don’t need to tell the whole truth, but you should always explain why you are planning to take time off, and you should be completely prepared to answer questions your boss might ask. He may be curious!
When to Ask for Time Off
In general you should tell your boss as soon as you know you’ll need the time off. Don’t delay too long – the closer it gets to the date(s) you’ll be absent, the less cordial he is going to be. You are probably going to get the best results if you ask on a Thursday or a Friday, mostly because the week is winding to a close and your boss will have the bulk of the week (and stress) behind him.
Also, try to ask toward the end of the day. Psychologically, if your boss has the entire day of work in front of him, he’s not going to be feeling as good about losing one of his employees for x amount of time in the not-so-distant future. However, if you catch him on a Friday evening right as he is about to walk out the door, go home, and spend time baking cookies with his family and watching reruns of Miami Vice he might give you a breezy, “sure, no problem” when you ask.
One more thing: don’t ask for time off when he is very busy. If he looks agitated or has been on the phone with angry customers all day, it’s best to wait.
So, ask for time off Friday afternoon, right before he goes home to watch Miami Vice. I hope that helps.
You Have Nothing to Fear
Don’t worry! It is extremely unlikely that you would ever get fired or reprimanded just for asking.
While this may seem like a significant event to you, asking for time off isn’t really that big a deal. In the end, all your boss will really care about is how your time off will affect his day/the company (probably in that order.) If you try see things from his point of view, and you have a good idea what his workload is looking like on the day you will be skiing in the mountains, you’ll be able to successfully negotiate for your time off without too much trouble.