Too Much Unused PTO Tells the Rest of the Story…

I once read the book “Die Broke” which is a very interesting read on making sure you live life to the fullest, spending every dime you have saved to make sure in the END you leave nothing behind. Interesting concept. While I don’t totally embrace all of the concepts in the book, it does make me stop to pause about living life to the fullest, finding out what is really important to us as individuals and how critical it is to find a balance in your work and personal life. It matters. Or I certainly hope it does.

I’ve interviewed candidates (plenty of them) from all walks of life. You can always spot the ones who seem to be out of balance. It’s usually during the offer phase when we discuss the financial impact of leaving their current job and having the new employer (my client) push out their start date. I’m always a little worried (OK floored) when they say “No problem, with the delayed start date. I rarely take vacation days and the company owes me for 6 weeks of accrued PTO.” WOW! WHAT?! HUH?

You must be a ton of fun…

Another question that also raises my eyebrows early in the process (and causes some concern) is when you ask a candidate what they do for fun when they are not at work and they reply “I just like to work”. Oh no. Unimpressed. OR, ” I work 60-70 hours a week. Sorry. Still not impressed. All work – no play. Sad. Talk about having a shallow definition of life. C’mon. Go have some fun! I guess some choose to work more because they just don’t know how to relax, don’t want to relax and embrace this false sense of security they have by working more than their peers. Their belief system is they will scale the rungs on the corporate ladder faster than their counter-parts. Me though? Sorry. I don’t get that.

Taking time off to re-charge and re-energize yourself is critical to maintain a healthy perspective on work and life. I applaud companies that force employees to take time off and use their PTO. “Use it or lose it” PTO policies are a great way to push employees out the door and force them to take time off, take a vacation or to just chill out for a few days. I encourage managers/executives to get calendars each quarter from their employees to ensure they have a plan to take time off. While it helps to make sure you have enough staff on site during certain weeks or for company deadlines, it also tells the story as to who has good work-life-balance and, well…you get my point.

Find a hobby, travel to places that you’ve never been to, start taking long weekends, volunteer your time at a local charity, enroll in cooking classes. Just do something you enjoy besides working. In case you don’t get it, NOBODY CARES that all you do is work. In fact, it could raise a big red flag to some potential employers who might decide to “pass” on candidates who don’t have the right work-life balance.

Burn-out is a real dilemma for employees and for their company. So, start having fun – today.

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Tim Tolan is a partner at Sanford Rose Associates and specializes in Executive Search in Healthcare IT. He's a closer, and you really don't want to call him unless you're ready to bring out the bazooka to bag some big game. When I started Fistful, I checked four references on Tim - his wife, his kids, his pastor and a client. The references were great, even if it sounded like they were reading from a sheet of paper. I just chalked that up to them being "detail oriented" in their feedback....


  1. Chris Walker says:

    There are times when not taking PTO says more about a company and its culture than the individual. The company may actually dicourage vacations, or employees fear what will go on when they are gone. Maybe you’re interviewing them because they want to escape a toxic environment.

  2. Tim Tolan says:

    Agreed. But there are also plenty of proud workaholics that refuse to take time off. That was the focal point of this blog – but you raise a very good point. Thanks for your post.

  3. Nita says:

    Tim, love your post. I so agree that you need a balance between all of your hobbies/work… Take it from someone who can get caught up in working too much. After all, you need a life.

  4. Tim Tolan says:

    Truer words were never spoken Nita. Too much of anything will eventually get old.

  5. Great post. I wonder if any current job seekers learned anything about work/life balance during the last round of downsizing. Sometimes putting in long hours doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day. The best employees often are the people who get out there in the community and network. All work and no play should be a big red flag to hiring managers. Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. Tim Tolan says:

    I actually think many of us have learned from the recent economic changes. For those that did not, they never will. I don’t get it. This was a wake-up call on a number of fronts including making sure we all have the right balance in our lives. Too much of anything is usually not good and that includes working! Thanks Cindy.

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