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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

The Changing Face of the Workplace

To stay or not to stay!

Published: Monday, July 6, 2009 - 13:00

As I listened to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford struggle through tears and sobs as he described his sordid, illicit affair with a woman from Argentina, I concluded that he must have been listening to the new Kenny Chesney song “Out Last Night” with these opening words:

We went out last night
Like we swore we wouldn't do
Drank too much beer last night
A lot more than we wanted to

There were girls from Argentina and Arkansas
Maine, Alabama, and Panama
All mixed together and having a ball.

Sanford obviously forgot that the title First Lady had been assigned to his wife Jenny Sanford and not to his paramour in Argentina. His apologies to his family, staff, and constituents were hollow as far as I am concerned. Sanford is sorry it came to light and nothing more. The only ingredient missing from his press conference announcement were the strains of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in the background. His supposed hiking trip in the Appalachians really never took place. If he is the best the Republicans are offering for the presidential run in 2012, maybe it’s time for all the other would-be candidates to go hiking and camping in the Appalachians until a real candidate emerges.

One of the things that occurred to me as I read about his trip into moral turpitude was his ability to take time off from work. Many employees these days don’t have the same luxury for a couple of reasons: What with the economy, the cost of fuel, and the cost of travel, many have opted for what is referred to as the "staycation" wherein one just abandons all dreams of wanderlust and remains at home; and then of course there is the fear that if one takes an extended vacation, the boss will discover that the vacationer’s position is expendable. As such, the two-week vacation has become a dream of the past, unless one is a government employee.

For whatever reason, government employees have not been adversely impacted by the economy. Many still receive equal deposits to their 401.k from their employer and many still live the American dream by taking multiple week vacations. In fact the legislature here in Michigan is now on a two-week vacation.

Many of us will recall that the badge of honor while working was informing fellow co-workers that we were entitled to five weeks off for vacation. As I recall, even those with multiple weeks purchased an additional week or two. For most, those days are over.

Working at a bank many years ago meant two-week mandatory vacations. This was done as an audit function so that any swindles or scams being perpetrated by an employee would surface doing the employee’s absence. As a former bank auditor myself, we verified attendance records to ascertain that each employee complied with this rule. Funny thing—we never discovered that senior management deviated from taking all their vacation—it was just those in the lower ranks who cancelled vacation often at the whim of senior management demanding that the workflow not be interrupted.

From what I hear among friends still in banking, the two-week mandatory vacation can be waived and in many cases is waived since staff are reluctant to be away from the office for extended periods. Even during vacation time, though, one always seems to be chained to the office with cell phones and laptops while senior management is always out of touch with the office. If you need proof of that, send an e-mail to someone in senior management. Often a message will come back stating: “I am out of the office for the next three weeks and will have very limited access to e-mail. Contact will resume when I return.” Try that message if you are one of the lower echelon employees. My guess is that someone will take exception to it. Go figure.

So enjoy the summer if you feel confidant enough to be away from your job. And if you are a government employee take as much time as you want. No one will miss you anyway. Just tell everyone that you are hiking in the Appalachian Mountains with the governor of South Carolina.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


use of term 'government employees'

Most articles that I read which refer to "government employees" fail to distinguish between federal , state and local government employees. This can be misleading, and the lack of distinction does readers a disservice because there are vast differences in pay rates and perks between federal , state and local "government employees".