Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m in a strange position at work. My boss wanted to promote me to a
higher posting but I am tired of sixty-hour weeks and didn’t want to
sign up for eighty-hour ones. I agreed to apply for the posting so there
would be enough highly placed candidates. But negotiations broke
down with the first choice and now they want me to play the interim
role for a year while they start a new search. I had planned to take
three full months off as unpaid leave to do a walking tour in Italy with
my brother to our ancestral homelands. I know I will never be in
better negotiating position but I am also concerned that if they think I
will disappear for too long they may build replacing me into the long
term planning. Really what I want is a four-day workweek, good
colleagues, and no greater responsibility than I have now. More money
is fine too.


Dear Planning:

I agree that a year out is too soon to tell anyone about a three-month
sabbatical. The only folks in our culture who are deemed entitled to
that amount of time off are K-12 teachers. Typical employers have to
cope with losing people for major illnesses and National Guard call-
ups. But the idea of a voluntary time-out will likely scare the pants of a
highly driven, Type-A boss who expects sixty-hour weeks as baseline.


Tell the boss you are willing to do the interim job now for up to six-
nine months and want to participate in the search process. Be clear
about what you do want as your long-term position, and sign the
loyalty oath frequently while you do so. Say your goal is to help build
the right long-run team and to be part of it. But also say that you are
planning a major vacation next year and would like to come back to a
four-day workweek after the trip. Say you will commit yourself whole-
heartedly to recruiting, installing, and training the permanent
jobholder. But that in exchange for what you’re doing for her you
would like a temporary salary increase until that person is hired and in
place, and a written commitment to work with you afterwards on your
vacation and career planning.


If she presses for details explain this is a big (40 th /50 th ?) trip for family
reasons and is still in the planning stages. Right now she’ll probably agree
to almost anything reasonable as long as she gets her way. But be cautioned
that she can change her mind later and might not even be your new boss’s boss
when everything shakes out. Save some of the raise to fund your trip, or
your life after it in case things go a different direction later.