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How to ask for vacation days

Ramit Sethi

Have you been in this situation…

The holidays are coming up. You want to take a few extra days off to spend time with your family, who you rarely get to see. You’re secretly laughing at the thought of your coworkers being trapped in their cubicles while you enjoy fresh air and sunshine.

You ask your boss for a few days off and what does he say?

“Sorry, we have too much going on. We’ll need you here.”

Today, I want to help you use your vacation days without any pushback. You’ll even get something at the end of this post that can help you get an extra week or two of paid vacation using the same techniques my students use to get $43,000 raises.

But first, let’s look at how you can get your boss to say “Yes” when you ask for time off. Starting with a word-for-word script you can use when requesting vacation time — even if it’s during a “busy time” for your company.

Subject: Vacation request (October 2nd through October 6th)

Hi Jack,

I’d like to request vacation time from Monday, October 2nd, through Friday, October 6th because I’ll be taking a family vacation over those days.

While I’m gone, I’ll be reachable by email but not phone. I’ll be making sure that we have coverage in the support queue while I’m gone, and I’ll also be distributing a playbook to my team so it’s clear who owns which issues.

Is this OK?

Thanks,

-Ramit

Now, what makes this so effective?

To answer that, let’s look at this email from your boss’s perspective.

What reasons might he have to decline your request?

  • He’s worried a project you’re working on won’t get done while you’re gone
  • He doesn’t want your workload to wind up on his desk
  • He doesn’t want to run around reassigning your tasks to other people

Now let’s see how this email overcomes these objections and gets him to say “Yes” to your request.

First, it opens with a friendly tone. Saying “I would like” is a much softer request than stating “I request” or “I’m taking this time off.”

Second, the word “because” is strategically chosen as it increases compliance. Saying “because” and giving your boss a reason for the time off (no matter what the reason is) makes it more likely he or she will say yes.

Third, remember how your boss was worried your work wouldn’t get done? Well in that last section you ease that concern by showing him you’ve already thought about that. You’ve even gone the extra mile to ensure any projects you’re working on still get finished on time.

Finally, be sure to send the email weeks — even months — in advance. It’s far easier for your boss to say “Yes” when he has plenty of time to plan around your absence.

To recap here’s how to ask for vacation days:

  • Send a vacation request email weeks in advance.
  • Be friendly.
  • Be sure to use the word “because” when explaining your reasons.
  • Ease any concerns about finishing your projects on time.

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