I supervise a small staff. Recently one of my employees asked for a day off that I could not approve, since it was one of our busiest days of the year (a pre-departure orientation for over 100 students).
This employee did not like the decision to not approve her requested day. She served her notice to HR, telling them I had gone back on my word over this day off after originally saying yes. I had never said yes, and the pre-departure orientation had been on her calendar since the beginning of the semester. She also told HR that I was difficult to work with and this was another factor to her leaving.
Is there a different way I should have handled this situation? How should I move forward in my communications with the HR department without it turning into a "she said, she said" situation and still protecting myself?
Frustrated in the Four Corners
Dear Frustrated in the Four Corners,
This is definitely a frustrating situation; hopefully you can view it as a learning experience. Regarding the HR department, demonstrate that you are open to feedback and welcome any additional comments that might have been reported, or not. Additionally, many HR departments have learning and development programs that you may benefit from. Consider inquiring about bringing the program to your office, such as work-style assessments and how that provides insights into your work style and your team.
Consider a new system that provides clear, explicit guidelines about vacation ‘black-out’ dates. Meet with your staff and discuss office priorities together so that everyone is on the same page. Something that might seem obvious to you (not taking time off on the busiest day of the year), as an experienced professional, may not be as clear to a young individual at the start of their career. Perhaps it is worth including such messaging during the on-boarding of new staff for the future.