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When People Go On Vacation But Forget To Actually Leave

June 28, 2021

It was an interview question I hadn’t heard before.

How do you handle people who go on vacation?

Um. . .

Project members who don’t deliver on time.

It’s an excellent question. And one I may use next time I’m interviewing someone for a project manager position. The answer really depends on what you want the outcome to be. Of course, you want the project to complete on time. That’s absolutely true.

But, what about your relationship with the person on vacation? If you want to continue to work with them, you use the carrot approach. If you don’t care about the relationship then you can use the tank driver approach.

The carrot approach means that you have to figure out how to work with him. Maybe he needs constant reminders. Maybe he needs shorter deadlines. In other words, always build in a couple day buffer around his deadlines. Maybe he needs smaller pieces. In other words, you have to figure out how to work with him.

But, if you cannot afford to use the carrot approach, you have to go with the tank driver approach. The idea is that if you are in a tank, you generally don’t care about the people around you. You get to pick your destination and head for it, overriding anyone who gets in your way. The good thing about being a tank driver, is that you don’t have to worry about the people around you. You’re only objective is to get to your destination. Tank driving leaves a a lot of collateral damage.

So, why do it?

Because sometimes you have to.

I had a project where my team needed to work with a Microsoft team to configure our system. We had to schedule the appointment two months out. My team scheduled our database team to build a database. The day of the configuration arrived. It was supposed to be a three day engagement. On the first day my team member came to me,

The database isn’t ready.

You requested it, right?

Yeah, two months ago. Do you want me to reschedule with Microsoft?

It would be another two months, right?



Tell you what, push configuration back a day. Focus on training today and I’ll have your database by the end of the day.

I got into my tank. I went to the DB admin. He told me that I couldn’t have my database. It didn’t fit policy or something. I didn’t waste time arguing with him. I didn’t have the time to waste. I pulled his boss out of a meeting,

Steve, I need a favor. I need you to approve a database for my team right now. I’ll explain everything later, but I really need a database today.

You’ll take care of paperwork?


Okay. I’m trusting you on this.

I went back to the DB Admin. He still didn’t want to make my database. I showed him the email from his boss that said to make a database for me right now. Later, Steve went back through the requests and realized we had filled out all the proper paperwork two months prior.

The DB Admin left the company not too long later. I’m not sure how much I had to do with it. But, he was not happy to work with me in the future. Tank drivers are rarely popular.

How do YOU handle team members who go on vacation?

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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