Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers/Denied time off work


I'm 20 years old, I've been working at a restaurant for 9 months. I have only requested to have off 2 days since I started, and only called in sick once. Over a month ago, I made plans to go out of town for the weekend for a family obligation. Leaving on Saturday and coming back Sunday. Since February, they have known that I am not able to work Sundays, so I only asked off Saturday. I didn't find out until Monday that I'm scheduled to work both days. I haven't been able to find anyone to cover my shifts yet, and it's doubtful that I will. I don't know what to do. Not only is this personal trip very important to me, but according to the hotel's cancellation policy, it is too late for any kind of refund. I understand that my boss has certain obligations, including scheduling a certain number of employees, but I too have obligations which I made them aware of over four weeks ago. Talking to an older co-worker who has worked there several years, she told me there's nothing I can do except call in sick. She said it doesn't matter if they know I'm not sick, that it's their fault for scheduling me and that they can't legally ask any health questions anyway. I don't know if I want to do that though. I have a good relationship with my manager and I don't want to ruin it by lying. But at the same time, if I simply tell her I can't work because I won't be around, and she says I won't be excused, then what do I do? I can't call in sick after that. I don't feel like I'm at fault here. I gave them plenty of notice for Saturday, and the no Sundays thing has been standard for several months. I don't want to get fired, because I don't have a new job lined up yet and I live paycheck to paycheck as it is. I don't know what the chances are that they would fire me. I know they like me and my work, but there are so many young people looking for jobs, it wouldn't be hard to replace me. On the other hand, we are already short staffed. I'd like your opinion please. Thank you.

Dear Rachel -

Here is what I understand from your question:

1)  You have demonstrated a good work ethic/attendance at your job for the past 9 months, requesting only 2 days off and calling in sick once.  That is fairly respectable in a restaurant business.

2)  You have a good relationship with your manager which you want to continue and you value honesty.  Having a good relationship with your manager is an accomplishment.  Understanding the importance of that relationship and the value of honesty is immensely wise and says a great deal about your character.

3)  You gave notice to your manager - over a month ago - of your plan to go out of town for an important family obligation which would require a day off on Saturday since you usually have Sundays off any way.  This personal trip is very important to you and you also believe you will lose your hotel deposit if you cancel.

4)  You just learned Monday that you are scheduled to work both days this weekend and you cannot find anyone to cover your shifts.  

5)  You understand the needs of the restaurant but you'd like this time off and you'd like to keep your job.

You are a committed, responsible, and ethical employee for this restaurant.  While there are plenty of young people looking for jobs, you have a demonstrated track record and a good relationship with your manager.  It would be an irrational business decision to fire you for a request for a personal day off.  Restaurant managers must solve short term staffing problems as a matter of routine.  It is simply part of the job.

You made a reasonable request and gave adequate notice to your employer.  Perhaps you could have confirmed with your manager or reminded her of your plans before the schedule was released on Monday but it doesn't seem that you anticipated any problem with your request.  You had a good idea in checking with a more experienced coworker to identify possible solutions before talking with your manager.  And once again, you show incredible wisdom and integrity in questioning her advice to just call in sick.  

Your manager should be willing to work with you on this.  No one is at fault here and you should assume it is a misunderstanding or oversight.  Even if it creates some challenges for the weekend, your manager should understand and appreciate your honest and direct communication.  You have acted with integrity and wisdom up to this point and you should continue to use those strengths to navigate this situation.  

I don't know what policy - if any - exists at your work about being "excused" from a shift.  However, I have a hard time believing your manager would want to deny you a personal request for an important family obligation.  You can be honest with your manager and show respect for that relationship -- AND take the time off you have requested.  Whether you are "excused" from the shift or not, you are demonstrating to your manager that she can count on you to be honest and act with integrity even when the outcome is uncertain.

You should clearly reiterate your unavailability for this weekend because of your travel plans for the family event.  Explain that (even though you requested the time off a month ago) you have tried unsuccessfully to solve the issue by finding replacements for those shifts.  You can ask her directly for her understanding so you don't aren't left guessing.  And you might add that you want to be honest about your request for time off because you wouldn't want to insult her or jeopardize your relationship by calling in "sick."

I would be curious to hear back from you on what course of action you decide to take and what response and outcomes occur as results.  

Kind regards,

Lora Banks, PCC
Professional Certified Coach
The Coach Approach, LLC

Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers

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Lora Banks


I can answer questions about how to build better relationships with bosses, coworkers, and employees. I can also answer questions about how to create more positive and productive work environments through communication skills, team-building, leadership development, and relationship building techniques.


I am a certified professional executive coach, corporate trainer, and leadership development consultant. I specialize in helping individuals and groups deal with interpersonal "hot spots" or difficult issues. I frequently facilitate conflict resolution and often work with a partnership or team before a full blown conflict erupts to coach people to proactively create positive work cultures.

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Instructor in Coaching and Leadership - San Jose State University Certificate in Leadership - Co-Active Space Certified Professional Coach - The Coaches Training Institute and John F. Kennedy University Instructor in Business Communications - U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Business B.S. Business - U.C. Berkeley

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