Playing the ‘Vacation Shame’ Game

Just when you thought it was safe to take a vacation …

According to new research, vacation shaming — or the concept of being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation — has apparently become a thing to discuss and fret over in the American workplace these days, particularly among millennials.

The nonscientific survey of 1,500 U.S. adults in the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey — brought to you by the same folks who will gladly rent you a car during your next vacation! — finds more employed millennials (59 percent) reported feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation than those 35 or older (41 percent).

But before you start feeling pangs of empathy for these younger workers, it should be noted that shame is apparently a two-way street, according to the survey:

Employed millennials aren’t just more likely to feel vacation-shamed – they’re significantly more likely than older generations to say they also shame their co-workers (42 percent vs. 24 percent).

Plus, the survey finds millennials who have ever shamed their co-workers were significantly more likely than older generations to say they’re at least somewhat serious (42 percent vs. 22 percent).

While millennials were most likely to feel guilty about taking time off, Alamo’s research indicates that vacation shaming is affecting all generations. To wit, nearly half (47 percent) of all workers surveyed said they felt a sense of shame or guilt at their workplace for taking time off to go on a vacation. What’s more, two-fifths (42 percent) of those think their co-workers are seriously shaming them – not just joking.

Twenty-two percent of those employed individuals surveyed reported that feeling shame was at least somewhat likely to keep them from going on or planning a vacation.

“This year’s research indicates that vacation shaming is a real workplace issue that can, in some cases, discourage hard-working Americans from taking well-deserved time off with their families,” said Rob Connors, vice president of brand marketing for Alamo Rent A Car. “In addition, our survey shows employees continue to leave a large percentage of paid vacation days on the table.”

While the issue of vacation shaming among co-workers may actually be a minor one, HR leaders should note that 47 percent said they’ve felt the need to justify to their employer why they’re using their vacation days. So, apparently shaming isn’t just limited to co-workers, and that may just be the most shameful part of all of this.