my boss disapproves of our snow day policy — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work for a post-secondary institution in a location where the odd winter storm shuts operations down. Pre-pandemic, the policy was that the school was closed and all students and staff had the day off, akin to it being a holiday. During the pandemic when everyone was remote, they updated the policy so that we did NOT get a snow day off (students still had virtual class, and employees still worked virtually … but I don’t think we ever actually even had a snow day anyway). Now that in-person operations have resumed, they updated their policy again to reflect that all students and staff would get snow days off, even virtual classes are cancelled, and even fully remote employees get the day off.

My team is currently working 100% remotely. When I woke up this morning, I was so excited/giddy — it’s like being a kid again! Our HR representative sent our team (he knows we are all remote) an email letting us know we have the day off, or to let him know if we prefer to work today and take an in-lieu day another time. I messaged back thanking him and letting him know I’d like to work today given some upcoming deadlines, but that I will bank an in-lieu day. I also messaged my manager to let her know that’s what I would be doing, and she said, “Okay.”

My manager is also working today, and when we logged onto our planned meeting, I mentioned how exciting it was that it was a snow day. She immediately said something along the lines of, “The whole premise is simply ridiculous, like come on, if you’re remote, I’m sorry but you give up that privilege of getting a day off.” I gave a polite/lighthearted laugh and kind of changed the subject, but in all honesty it really upset me.

From my perspective, this is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence (we get a snow day maybe once every two years) that is a tiny unique perk of working for a school. Our salaries are much lower than similar positions in other industries, so the benefits and perks granted to us are what make working here worthwhile. So, when a small perk is criticized as if it shouldn’t exist, it makes me feel unappreciated. There is long-term value in terms of employee happiness when we know we are supported in taking advantage of a free bonus day off when it rolls around once every couple years, so it upset me to know we are not supported. I get that it may be an issue if everyone took the day off all at once, but since we are taking in-lieu days all at different times, I am uncomfortable with how the comment came across as if we basically don’t deserve it.

This comment has made me feel awkward about asking to take the in-lieu day when I eventually want it, since I need to ask my manager for her approval first before booking it with our HR rep. Any thoughts or advice here so I can take a well-deserved break via using my in-lieu day and stop feeling so guilty? I’m not concerned that it won’t be approved, I just feel weird that it will be approved despite the fact that I know secretly that she has shared with me that she does not actually approve of the idea of getting an extra day off in theory.

It actually is fairly unusual that if you end up having to work on a snow day, they’ll give you an extra day off to take at a later time. Typically if you have to work on the snow day because of the needs of your job, you just … miss out on the snow day. It sounds like your employer decided it wasn’t fair for some people to get stuck working on a day they’re canceling everything else, and that’s pretty great of them — but it’s definitely unusual, and I suspect that’s driving your boss’s reaction.

I don’t agree with her logic — there are plenty of reasons why someone remote might still need to take a snow day (like if their young kids’ school or daycare is cancelled, for example) — but I do think a lot of people would think, “Okay, we’re closed for people who can’t get to the office, but you’re remote and you’re working today anyway, so why are we giving you a whole extra day off later on?” The answer to that is “because everyone else is getting the day off and this is an easy way to avoid resentment.” It’s like saying “we’re closed for Memorial Day, but if your workload requires you to work that day anyway, bank the day for later.” It’s a simple way to be fair and boost morale. I’d like to see more employers do it.

I don’t think your manager’s comment was outrageous though — other than the fact that she said it to someone she manages and so now of course you’re in a position where you have to worry about using your extra banked day. The best way to handle that is to remind yourself that you’re following your employer’s policy and using the benefits that they have willingly given you as part of your compensation.

When you’re ready to schedule that day, you don’t need to highlight that it’s a makeup day from the snow; you can just say, “I banked an additional leave day that I need to schedule, and my plan is to take it on (date) if that works for you.”

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