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Why Americans are afraid to take vacation

Are you afraid to take all your vacation days? If so, you're not alone.

Erich McLane, a corporate recruiter, is planning a cruise for his summer vacation. It will be a short cruise over a long weekend. Erich gets two-weeks paid vacation, but says he has no intention of using all his allotted time off. He says he wants his boss to think he's dedicated. Still, Erich admits he's not entirely sure his boss notices who takes all their days. 

The fear of taking vacation has Americans leaving 429 paid vacation days on the table. 

Like Erich, many of us have become obsessed with showing off how much work we do and we've convinced ourselves that taking too much time off makes us look replaceable or less committed to our jobs.

But most bosses don't really look at vacation as unproductive time. In fact, many see at as critical to re-charging and bringing more innovation to the job. One boss told me he can tell when his employees or managers need vacation by the air of fatigue they give off at work.  Stuart Chase, president and CEO of HistoryMiami, Miami’s historical museum, says he wants his employees to take vacation and come back re-energized,with new ideas.

In my Miami Herald column this week, I revealed the results of new report released this month, “The Mind of the Manager: What Your Boss Really Thinks About Vacation Time.” The report found that managers understand the need for time off, but they don't convey that well to their staff.

"It’s very important what signals a manager sends,” says John de Graaf, president of Take Back Your Time, a nonprofit trying to reduce overwork in America. “Often, because managers don’t send any signal at all, their employees tend to fear the worst.”

When an employee asks for time off, managers say their first thoughts are how that person’s responsibilities will be covered, what tasks need to be done in advance and, depending on the employee’s level, whether that person will be reachable if needed.

In some workplaces, employees say they sense hesitation, even a little judgment, when people take time off.They also say they fear the pileup of work that will await them when they get back.
Don't let that deter you. 
Get your vacation on the calendar, remind your boss, co-workers and customers that you will be away, and delegate your responsibilities. Instead of being afraid to take time off, look at it as an opportunity to show your manager you are organized enough to plan ahead. Yes, staff is lean in most workplaces. But that's even more reason you need to get away and re-energize. 
"When team members take vacations, they are more productive, happier, healthier and have an improved overall well-being," says Nizar Jabara, senior vice president, global human resources for Diamond Resorts International.
Everyone deserves a break. Is this the year you will take all your vacation days?