Vacations Let You Stress Test Your Team

By Harris Roberts

When a team member takes a vacation it is the perfect opportunity to stress test your team. It is important to build your success around process and not individual people. While your colleague is enjoying the warm weather you have an opportunity to analyze their individual processes and teams structure.
Having a team member be gone for 5-10 days should not bring your team to a screeching halt. The reality is employees are staying at companies for shorter durations and this is a great opportunity to analyze how your team would respond to them leaving. Issues with a missing team members could come from two categories: individual performance or lack of a clear process.


Here are some common issues that may signal you need to provide better leadership and management:

  • Mavrik operations – If employees are not following the process, it can be difficult to pick up where they left off. Employees who have been making their own rules and operations often fly under the radar. While they are gone it is a good time to audit their process and make sure it aligns with your operational plan.
  • The process is built around one individual – Growing up none of the clocks in my high school worked. They were all connected on one system and after the local inventor/repair man passed away no one knew how to fix the system. Don’t let only one person control all the knowledge of a process or job function.


It is unfair to say that all the issues revolve around the individual. Often the process may need improvement to mitigate the risk of losing an employee.

  • Lost information – If knowledge is held by only one member of the team it is very hard for others to take on their role. From passwords to project status you should be having a centralized and transparent process for documenting information.
  • Misunderstanding about roles and responsibilities – When an employee is gone you may realize that some tasks or responsibilities were not being attended to. Often this is a symptom of poor communication about roles and responsibilities.
  • Checks and Balances – When an employee leaves you may realize that they had been operating with more autonomy than you originally thought. Creating checks and balances in your process will make sure that they have ownership yet still check in for guidance and review from their team.
  • Employees are too specialized – Cross training employees can make your company more agile. Though they are less specialized it helps when a team member leaves or the workload suddenly becomes greater in one area.

As a leader and manager it is your job to set the direction and coordinate that change with your team. When an employee goes on vacation you should look at that time as an opportunity to audit both the individual and your process. After they come back it is beneficial to sit down and review any items you realized in their absence. In this discussion, it is important that you take ownership for creating the organizational structure and process. You don’t want your team member to feel attacked for taking a vacation.