Tis the season to be jolly’, and to work now would be a folly. But what do you (and come on, your poor boss) do when everyone wants to take off the same week between Christmas and New Year? Who’ll handle the finance, and accounts, and deadlines, and whatever else there is to be handled in that corporate thingamajig? Many organizations, of course, have blanket rules about leave—some (truly fortunate) employees are given one week’s paid leave across the board by their organizations (in the software industry, for instance); their unfortunate counterparts in other industries are, across the board, barred from taking any leave.
Which is what has given rise to the second-greatest holiday tradition right after carving up the Christmas turkey: lying for leave. “One of my subordinates in my last organization took off saying he had to take care of his sick mother, but he was spotted at a world cup final by another colleague who happened to be there. Such incidents might appear to be trivial but are basically a breach of trust, and in an organization you don’t want to have the reputation of someone who can’t be trusted,” says P. Dwarkanath, director, group human capital, Max Life Insurance.
Although most seniors and HR persons (and even we) will not recommend you lie, because being caught can have serious short-term and long-term implications for your career, there are a few survivors who have lived to tell the tale.
Perhaps it’s convenient that it’s winter and being down with a cold and cough is not surprising. But the idea really should be to give a more nuanced excuse than plain ol’ sniffles. Development researcher Sriharini Nair recalls a year when she desperately needed a few days off and realized that she needed something more substantial than a cold. “I took off saying I had fibromyalgia (stiffening of muscles due to bad sitting posture); this was true, of course, but I didn’t need that many days off to recuperate,” she recollects with a laugh.
Prioritize: Is a party more important than your career?
Family member’s illness
This is almost one notch above your own illness as far as success rate goes; because while your own illness will require a lot more groundwork and also face chances of being turned down (a slightly unsympathetic boss might just give you a “so what, it’s just a cold”), rarely would leave to take care of an ailing family member be questioned. “There are certain irrefutable excuses and a family member’s illness is certainly one of them,” says lawyer Saurabh Singh, who pretended his father’s hospital stay was longer than it actually was to postpone annoying meetings.
The disappearing act
Also known as living on the edge, this one requires some skill and tremendous confidence. Sharin Singh, a media professional and self-proclaimed veteran on the subject, was able to master it in a job where she worked in a different city than her boss. Mumbai-based Singh would often take off unannounced, unknown to her boss in Delhi. Singh, however, made it a point to always be available on phone, and also worked on vacation. After a particularly close shave, Singh claims she isn’t living dangerously anymore . “I was visiting my parents in Chandigarh and my boss called and asked me to report a particular story. I had no choice but to make my poor banker husband go down to that spot and phone in all the details, which I put together and sent to my boss,” she says.
The biggest favourite, of course, is a wedding. Choose a relation who is close enough that it can’t be missed (avoid brother-in-law’s second cousin), yet distant enough that it’s safe (saying it’s your sister’s wedding, forgetting that you’ve already told your boss that you’re an only child). “Cousin’s wedding is perfect. It always works, and is perfectly understandable,” says Delhi-based marketeer Anirudh Choudhary. Another one, for those of us with the right names, would be to stress on how you need to spend Christmas with your family. Development communications professional Abraham Abhishek says he used his first name to (often) unfair advantage to get the last week of the year off. “I always told them I needed to spend Christmas with family, this being our biggest festival,” he says.