I am unable to take leave
Words by Francis Kahihu
Peter has been working at a blue chip company for the last five years. He was recently voted as the most hardworking staff during the last annual staff party and this has motivated him to put in extra hours into the office work, at least to maintain the reputation. The other day, he received a call from his upcountry family requesting him to take a week leave to attend to certain matters. As he pondered through the excuses he would give for his inability to attend to the family request, he decided to confide in a close friend at work. During their tea time chat, the friend made Peter appreciate the fact that over the past two years, he had not taken leave from work and was hence necessary for him to take a break to attend to personal matters.
It’s at this point that Peter realized how married he had become to his workplace. He rarely had time for his friends, had little time for his wife and children. Upon deeper reflections, he actually realized that even when he physically had his family around him, he was mentally engaged on the next project and the potential clients he should have been cultivating for his portfolio. He was indeed married to his job. The desire to provide for his family had gripped him so much that he abandoned them to seek material wealth to make their life comfortable. The only challenge was that he went out and was unable to get back home. He only sent cash and gifts to his family to represent him in his absence.
Taking leave is one of the opportunities that many people take for granted. There has been a perception that taking leave is wasting precious time that could have been spent making more contacts for business or serving a few more clients. We get tempted to postpone our leave till an emergency forces us out of the office.
In ideal human resources management, all staff should be advised to develop and implement leave schedules. The provision for leave days was not meant to punish staff by having them away from their work stations. It is with the realization that staff require time to refuel and rejuvenate that the leave provision was introduced. It is also an opportunity to take stock of the achievements in life as opposed to gains at work only. For staff to be productive at work, they need to consider the growth in other aspects of their lives, including finding time to utilize their skills in certain hobbies.
HR managers should be vigilant to ensure that their staff team appreciates the importance of taking leave. Part of the performance management system should seek to award employees who take their leave as planned. Taking time to pause and reenergize oneself serves to improve one’s performance and hence should be the concern of every supervisor. The challenge however is for supervisors who fail to go on leave for fear that their juniors could outshine them in their absence. This is a common fear among many supervisors. It is a reflection of the level of discomfort some people have. The feeling of insecurity makes the staff fear that the work place can stall without them. In these cases however, the main fear could be that certain issues might be exposed in their absence. In some cases, there could be some deals that people fear could be laid bare in their absence hence the grip they hold on their offices.