Richard Maun – Leaveism

better business blog

Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation



10 December 2018

In 2013 Dr Ian Hesketh, who was a researcher at the University of Manchester, coined the term leaveism to describe how employees take leave for a variety of non-holiday related reasons.

For example, he found that police officers in the USA were taking leave instead of days off sick. The pay was better and there was no suspicion that they weren’t coping with a stressful job.

He also found examples of workers taking leave to disguise child care issues.

Then the term was broadened to include people who take leave in order to give themselves a free space…with which to catch up on their work.

And people who make sure they are seen to be working, when they are supposed to be on holiday.

Checking emails and answering messages can seem helpful, but often hides the underlying message of…

A) I’m frightened to take a holiday, in case I will lose my job, or

B) If I’m not seen to be working the whole time I may lose out on promotion, or

C) If I don’t reply to this email I’m going to be told off!

An example of the latter happened to a friend of mine, a few years ago. The company policy was that smartphones had to be switched on at all times and all messages replied to promptly. The US parent office always needed answers to questions and didn’t like to be kept waiting.

My friend arrived at work one Monday morning and was admonished by his MD. Why had his phone been off on Saturday? There had been a complaint!!

Erm…it was the weekend!

Not acceptable!

He was at a party!

Not acceptable!

But, it was a birthday party!

No, not acceptable!

But, it was his birthday party!!

No. Not acceptable. The phone must be on at all times! Wasn’t he listening??

…He was. He resigned soon after.

It’s easy to see how leaveism can be encouraged by poor culture, demanding bosses and unhealthy attitudes towards staff welfare.

If you lead a team and are reading this…when did you last make it clear to people that holiday is holiday and sickness will be treated with respect?

During a job interview once the MD told me that he regarded all foreign business trips as short holidays and that I wasn’t expected to take all 15 days of the ‘generous’ leave allowance. He was surprised when I asked for a massive salary and refused to accept a penny lower. Ugh!

This week have fun being kind to people!

Next week: Mental First Aid


Click cover to view details on Amazon


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Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish



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Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish


© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact