I run a mid-sized manufacturing business that has been in my family for three generations. I recently took over after the untimely death of my father who had been chairman and CEO. We employ a lot of people - especially women - from the local area. I am still learning the ropes, but I'm already worried about how I'm going to juggle everyone's holidays. Apparently it's always a mad scramble for time off over the big holidays, because a lot of the staff have young kids. I already have more leave requests than I can grant for Easter. How do I prioritise them? Should it be first come, first served, or can I use my own discretion a little, especially in the cases of single parents and so on?
A: I wonder how your father managed this perennial problem. My guess is that he exercised his own no-argument judgement and, such was his authority, his decisions were silently - if resentfully - accepted. With a change of management, it wouldn't be surprising if your people were hoping for something a little less authoritarian.
The trouble is, as you've already discovered, there's no way that everyone can get what they'd like. So I'd advise you not to involve too many other people in this decision. It can't be taken democratically and it's quite important that you should establish your own authority. With luck, you'll know your workforce well enough to do a least-worse allocation on an individual basis - balancing work requirements and domestic circumstances as best you can. Offer them the right to appeal; but be very sparing indeed in the number of concessions you make.