Guilty Trips: Why Millennials Vacation Shame

We all had that friend in college that came back from three months of “classes” in Spain wearing a fedora and constantly reminding you of their trip so they could correct your pronunciation of BarTHelona. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, said friend was likely you.

It’s not actually about your friend taking a trip and immersing themselves in another culture. It was that they struck a nerve because they were a reminder that you had not.

For Millennials, that feeling has turned into “vacation shaming” in the workplace and seeped into our dealings with our professional peers. The difference here, mis amigas, is when translating study abroad to earned vacation days, unplugging isn’t something we can afford to skimp out on.

According to the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, 59 percent of Millennials reported feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation and 47 percent felt as though they had to justify why they were using their vacation days.

One of the best perks of getting a big girl job is the paid vacation time, so why should we be made to feel guilty for using our rightful days off?

You might be quick to blame the veteran workforce for playing the shame game, and though there is a big issue with the misperception of millennials, it is our own demographic that is doing the most shaming. Alamo also found that Millennials are more likely than older generations to shame their co-workers (42% vs. 24%) and say they were serious about it (42% vs 22%).

We all want job security and don’t want to be seen as easily replaceable. We think we have to suffer through our burnout and “do our time.” We tell ourselves that going to the tropics and sipping margaritas is not the responsible thing to do. That’s why colleagues planning vacations are met with the onslaught of snarky “must be nice” comments, followed by the sarcastic, “enjoy the beach, don’t worry we’ll be here.”

So why the guilt trip?

Americans haven’t been prioritizing vacation for some time and this comes at a time when millennials have moved past Gen Xers as the largest generation in the American workforce.

Millennials really <3 tech, ICYMI. And technological advancements have changed the office game in terms of mobility—allowing us to work away from our desks—but it’s also blurred personal and professional lines. The need for connectivity and the gratification we get from “being on top of our email” has resulted in the burned out, passive-aggressive, work martyr Millennial employee that we all know and love…to avoid.

We trick ourselves into thinking we are the new wave of work-life balance because we have our work email on our cell phones and social media on our résumés. As young twenty- and thirty-somethings, we were met with a rough start in the workforce. Leading us to correlate busy-ness with effectiveness and even when we complain about burnout it is almost borderline boastful.

Misery loves company. Colleagues who actually use their hard earned time off merely serve as a reminder to those who waive their right to wanderlust. This generational burnout needs to be addressed, people. When you’ve reached your breaking point and continue to forfeit your time, (and apparently shame others out of using theirs) it can consume your workplace.

We can’t afford to ignore vacation. But the good news here is that we are in full control of this sobering epidemic.

Start by taking your days and have an open dialogue about it.  When a coworker is planning their own vacation, offer to help out or take on a few extra tasks so they can take their time stress free. This does A LOT for your work culture: helping a coworker means when you take that time they will be more than willing to help you.

When we openly talk about our vacations, it takes a lot of pressure off other people when they want to take their time. Research also shows that vacations can be good for your career. Showing the confidence to take time off speaks volumes to your boss, too. What’s more, if you aren’t using your earned time off, you are essentially working for no pay.

So next time your co-worker mentions they might need a vacation, change your tone and change the conversation, “You’re taking a vacation? That’s great you deserve it…don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.”


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