Sailboat Sunset Vacation

Backwards on the Vacation Thing

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership


I beg your indulgence. I am going to get to the vacation thing, but first a few other thoughts to put this all in context.

We are told, I think correctly, that to be great leaders we need to build a safe environment for our people. What that means is that everyone is treated with dignity and respect even when mistakes are made — as they inevitably will be. We are likewise told that we cannot tolerate bullying, harassment or bigotry in the workplace. We heartless, compassion-less business folks are told that it is good for our bottom line — since “we” often demonstrate that is all we care about.

We know that trust (trust between humans means that I get that you authentically have my best interests at heart, not just your own.) is critical for teamwork, collaboration and safe environments. Trust is also critical for any significant business transaction.

Values and Purpose

We know from all the latest studies and surveys that to achieve higher levels of employee engagement — and thus a high performing organization — we need to make sure that employees have autonomy, mastery and purpose. Purpose that is greater than profitability.

Vacation - What are your intentions?I believe, and hope you see that there are generally two types of companies — an MBA company and a Relationship company. The MBA company is focused on hitting the financial metrics and generally interested in short term goals. They tolerate people as a necessary evil toward achieving the goals. The Relationship company is mostly concerned with the people in the organization and consider having to deal with making financial metrics as a necessary evil for keeping the organization healthy to support their people — who are like family. They are generally long term focused.


This brings me to the vacation thing. The MBA company has read about the studies saying that employees are more productive if they get time off to relax and “re-charge.” So they are interested in people taking vacations for purposes of the metrics — improved productivity and getting liabilities (accruing vacation benefit costs) off the balance sheet. The Relationship company is of a mind that the reason people work is to support their families and fund vacations where they can spend some extended time with their loved ones. Any benefits to the organization derived from a re-charged and relaxed employee are secondary; though of course welcome.

The sad thing is that often employees themselves forget the purpose of the vacation. They don’t really leave work and make sure they are fully present for their loved ones and themselves. They stay connected through technology and never really are away from the business. In this case, no one benefits — not the employee, family or business. The age-old question arises once again: Do you live to work, or do you work so that you can live?


Vacation - What are your intentions?It seems clear to me that when a company turns into an MBA company (where the “reason for being” is to make the numbers) the decisions, ethics and longevity of that company are in jeopardy. The vacation issue is but one of many indication that a company is focused on the wrong things.

Intention matters. In fact, it is critical. If our intention is to use people to make the numbers, then we are asking people to live to work. If we have an intention to put people first and let profits and products or services follow, then our organizations will in turn be mostly happy and healthy and sustainable.

What if we all converted our companies to B-Corps (Benefit Corporations)? What if our company’s charter had a stated goal of benefiting society in some measurable way? What if we had a purpose greater than profit for our organization?

What are your true intentions when you encourage employees to take their earned vacation? Are you walking the talk?

[Updated 9/16/2017]