True to my promise from last week, I am making a more concerted effort to bun down the queue of reader questions on my blog topics Trello board. Thus, today brings you another answer to a reader question (one of these days, I may get around to doing video answers). I am actually obfuscating this question somewhat, as the verbatim question could potentially be specific enough to identify the parties involved. But here’s the thrust of it.
I recently received a job offer from a company that I’d been interviewing with, and it made no mention of PTO/vacation or time off in any form. Assuming it must have been an oversight, I asked about it on the phone when discussing the offer, and they said they don’t track time off — it’s unlimited. As long as various stakeholders are happy with their work, they don’t care how much time people take. Is this a red flag for my prospects of working for this company?
My gut reaction to this, upon reading, was, “no, that’s awesome!” In a corporate world whose defining feature may be treating adults like children (I have this slated in my backlog as a future post), this seems refreshingly adult. Get your stuff done and we’re not going to bean-count how you spend your days. It reminded me of something I once said to a person reporting to me when she asked if it’d be alright to duck out an hour early if she worked an extra hour the next day: “I don’t care how many hours you work in a day if you’re doing good work, so please don’t make when you come and go from the office something I have to care about.”
My secondary reaction was to start and think, “get that language written into the offer letter; have them amend it to state explicitly that they offer a discretionary amount of time off.” That was the core of the message that I conveyed privately to the submitter, without going too far into detail. So, over and done with, I suppose.
But this got me to ruminating a bit more on the topic in general and about the strange nature of the corporate vacation concept. Does this nameless company have it right, following orgs like Netflix that famously buck the convention of tracking PTO? Is this a good way to reward awesome, trustworthy folks with appropriate trust? Or is this a trick to seem generous, or even to sneakily save money while knowing that social pressure will actually prevent employees from taking all that much time?
Before anything else, let’s get a little more precise about terminology. Unlimited vacation sounds like just the kind of thing that they’d offer at a Shangri La organization far too selective for the likes of you, thus creating a Catch-22. If you’re good enough to work somewhere that “adequate performance gets a generous severance package,” then you’re not the kind of slacker that would take advantage of unlimited vacation, anyway.