Business Etiquette: How to Ask for Time Off from Work

We all need a vacation every once in a while or need to take time off to attend a special event. Regardless of the reason, there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for a day or a week off.

How to Ask for Time Off from Work:

Put it in black and white. Make sure to formally request your time off in writing. Never assume that because you mentioned it in passing to your boss several weeks back at a lunch meeting that your boss agreed or will remember.  And whatever you do, don’t delay. Check out the best deals on airfare but BEFORE making a nonrefundable airline reservation, get the official go ahead.

Politely and professionally “ask” for time off rather than make the request into a “demand”–When asking for a few days of leave,  give specific dates on completion of pending projects and who will take your clients during your absence.  Showing preparedness will likely result in a quick and comfortable “yes.”

No need to offer too many details. If you are requesting time off on very short notice for an emergency, then of course you will want to share a bit more about the nature of your request with your boss. However, if you are planning a vacation to do a little cosmetic surgery, it’s not required information unless you will look obviously different when you return. (Note to boss and colleagues: don’t say anything unless they offer the information first!)

Sick days are for sick people. By all means, stay home if you are contagious. But, be very careful not to abuse your sick leave and even more cautious about posting anything on your social media site when you are thought to be on bed rest, recovering from the flu. Sick people generally don’t like to recover, drinking a margarita, floating around in a pool.

Choose  your days off wisely. You will have a better shot of employment goodwill if you schedule your vacation (or doctor’s visit) at a time of day or time of year that is not in the middle of the busy work day or season. Just like an accountant wouldn’t schedule her wedding during the middle of tax season, you would probably make brownie points with your boss and colleagues if you don’t take off when the entire office is on a time crunch.

Enjoy your time off and safe travels,


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Michele McCombe says

    How do I handle in a nice manner that when I do ask for Vacation time off ( which I have plenty on the books) My boss always ask me to either work on my day off or weekend leading up to the Time off? I find it very frustrating.

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