Recommend employees take a break when they’ve completed a major effort, have visible signs of stress, or you feel they otherwise deserve a break. This play improves your leadership skills, confidence in your leadership, and your team’s work environment.
Why We Tell Employees to Take a Break
How We Tell People to Take a Break
You: Jenkins, you really stepped up on the effort to get Shiny Widget v3 shipped over the past week. When the flimflazzle issue cropped up and almost derailed us, you took ownership and worked extra time to sort things out. I really appreciate it, and I'd like to give you next Friday off as a thank-you.
Don't Reward Meeting ExpectationsOne thing worth noting is that you should not apply this action when someone is putting in extra time or effort just to meet expectations. Perhaps their skillset is behind the curve, and it's taking them much longer to do the things the rest of the team can complete in a normal workweek. Perhaps they're working extra time to make up for a mistake they previously introduced. Whatever the circumstances, make sure you are rewarding someone's exceeding expectations, not meeting them. Doing so would send the wrong message to the individual employee—not to mention the team in general—about what you value.
Bonus: Let the Employee Pick When to Take Time OffIt may not be practical for a number of reasons, but if you can give your high-achieving employee the choice of when to apply the time off, it will be even more valuable to them. They may have an upcoming vacation, or there may be a three-day weekend coming soon that they can extend. The more notice you can give the employee about when their free day is coming, the more valuable it's likely to be to them. Your employee might select a Friday several weeks from now, allowing them time to make plans to do something fun. That's better than a company-selected Wednesday happening tomorrow, which gives your employee very little opportunity to make plans other than to hang out at home or to run errands.
Damage ControlWhile most of this has been focused on reward, this action can also be useful as damage control. Perhaps someone in the management team goofed and made a commitment on the team's behalf without checking with the team first. Perhaps a particular client or project is just really a lemon. If you've got someone highly valuable to your team or organization who has had to go through a frustrating situation, giving them a day off by way of apology could go a long way to smooth things over.
Don't Ruin Intrinsic MotivationBe careful about how you apply a reward like this. If it's something you do after the fact, it can be effective. If it's something that you promise beforehand or something your employees simply expect, it may not have the desirable effect. Consider the following snippet from Daniel Pink's book Drive:
Over and over again, they discovered that extrinsic rewards—in particular, contingent, expected, "if-then" rewards—snuffed out [intrinsic motivation].The lesson here is that one should be careful promising rewards up front in an if-then format. Instead, reward your team member afterwards for a job well done.
You: Hey, Charles. How's it going?
Charles: Whew, I'm tired, but we got all the defects cleared up, and the release will go out as scheduled this evening.
You: Awesome. I know it's been a tough push, but I appreciate your efforts. I'd like to have the full team around the rest of this week in case we run into any post-release emergencies, but why don't you go ahead and plan to take a day off next week? Your vacation balance in the HR system should be updated later today.
Charles: Great, thanks!