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August 13, 2001
Many Execs Envious of Bush Vacation
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sident Bush's month-long working vacation has raised the eyebrows of many private-sector executives, who tell the Los Angeles Times that they can't imagine taking even two weeks off.

"The longest I could take off is a week," said Chuck Davis, chief executive of Marina del Rey-based BizRate.com. "There is a limit to how many short and trite e-mails you can send to your employees, and a week just about uses all of that up."

The Times notes that Bush has slightly different circumstances than most executives. For one thing, he will have a sizable personal staff on his ranch near Crawford, Texas, and will be able to fly in aides as needed. Plus, it's a working vacation.

Still, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released last week showed that 55 percent of Americans felt that Bush was spending too much time away from Washington.

Even in this age of mobile phones, laptop computers and wireless Internet access, most executives consider personal interaction a necessary part of the job, according to the Times.

"I could [take a month off], but then I'd have to take off a lot longer because I wouldn't have a job to come back to," said Steve Jackson, chief executive of Applied Semantics Inc. in Los Angeles.

He added: "I can be anywhere and connect to the office, but most of my job is much more individualized and face to face. You can only manage clients and employees and strategy so well when you are trying to do it remotely. I have to be able to have face-to-face meetings with my teams."

The Times recalls that at least one high-profile executive who took an extended leave ended up paying the price.

Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison, a world-class sailor, took a three-month vacation on his boat Sayonara in 1997, but on his return found his sales force in chaos and his development projects well behind schedule.

Ellison's archrival, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, has taken vacations to study themes as varied as molecular biology and Internet strategies, but usually for no more than two weeks. And Gates did a far better job of delegating responsibilities, and his company did not suffer as a result.

For Bush, his own words might be responsible for some of the ire of other executives. He has often evoked the image of a White House run like a corporation, with himself as the CEO and Vice President Dick Cheney as the chief operating officer.

"This is not something that any senior executive would do," Ed Lawler, director of USC's Center for Effective Organizations, said of the month off. "It seems that the president is acting like the chairman of the board. Perhaps Cheney is the CEO."

Some people, however, think Bush is doing the right thing, as long as his need to get away from "workaholic" Washington is a sign that he also recognizes that American workers need more time off too.

"For the president to take four weeks off underscores and puts the spotlight on the importance of taking time off from the grind because the grind is longer than it's ever been," said Joe Robinson, director of the Work to Live campaign and author of a forthcoming book by the same name. "If the president can see fit to do this, then the rest of us ought to be able to escape for longer than the typical 8.7 days off that Americans get away from work."

To view the Los Angeles Times story, click here.

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