Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: I’ve had a decent relationship with my manager for several years, but in recent months he has been urging me to join his multilevel marketing business. I don’t want any part of a pyramid scheme, but I’m struggling to set boundaries he respects. He can be quite persistent. What should I do?
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Wow! I’m sorry to hear you’re being bothered with get-rich-quick schemes while at work. That behavior is completely unacceptable – especially for a people manager.
The answer lies in your question: It’s about setting boundaries.
So, let’s clarify something. You said you don’t want any part in this. Have you told him that? If not, you need to clearly, but diplomatically, state that you’re not interested. For example: “I really appreciate you thinking enough of me to share the opportunity, but I have so many current demands on my time that I just can’t add another item to my crazy personal and work life.” By approaching it this way, you gently let him down without offending him.
You do not owe him an explanation beyond that. Any manager with a decent amount of discretion will understand and begin to respect your boundaries.
That conversation should do the trick. But if it doesn’t, know you’re not alone. HR can help, so go to them and share your story. Remember: It’s not about getting your boss in trouble. It’s about getting him – and your team – back on track.
I know HR can help because I cannot imagine a workplace anywhere in the world that would tolerate his behavior.
In other words, don’t worry about setting boundaries with your boss. You’re in the right – and your employer should have your back.
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Question: Can my employer fire me for wanting to use all of my vacation days? –Anonymous
Taylor: This is an interesting question with a surprising answer. Yes, your employer could fire you for using all of your vacation days, although it’s difficult to speak to your situation without knowing what event (if any) triggered your question.
Simply put, there are no federal or state laws mandating employers even offer paid vacation leave, so company policies and internal practices are the rules of the land. Employers can determine which employees are eligible for vacation, how much they receive, and when it can be taken – as long as no discrimination or bias is involved. And because a company can “giveth” it can also “taketh away” a perk or a benefit.
If you haven’t already, you should check your employer’s policies to learn how much time you’re offered and the process for taking it. If you have questions or need clarification, ask HR, and they can help the process.
Hopefully, your question is hypothetical and you’re not afraid to ask for time off –especially if you’ve earned it. After all, it is in your company’s interest: Letting people take time to refresh, relax, and recuperate is a good business practice.
If you haven’t requested time off yet, my advice is simple: Ask for it.
However, if your request was already rejected, that doesn’t necessarily mean you made a mistake. There may be a business-driven rule at play.
Many companies prevent employees from taking leave at certain times or limit the number of vacation days to be used in one stretch. That will depend, in part, on company policy. But it’s also a function of employer size, industry type, and a variety of other variables.
For example, if you work in retail, you may be unable to take a vacation during the surges of holiday shopping. If you work in accounting, it might be tough to get away from work amidst tax season.
While you asked about vacation time, I’ll add that federal and state leave laws can apply under special circumstances. For example, if you have a medical condition requiring treatment, need to care for a sick family member, or a growing family, you may have rights to unpaid time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or state law.
Yes, your employer could fire you. But assuming your work is good, and your request is reasonable, you shouldn’t fear asking for a vacation.
I hope you do soon!
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