You are, quite naturally, indispensable. You know it, your team knows it, your boss knows it, and your clients are totally convinced of it - given the choice of dealing with you or Warren Buffett they'd choose you every time. But while you spend two weeks bronzing yourself on the beaches of Mustique, your uniqueness will be put to the test. That eager subordinate will have the opportunity to inveigle his way in; perish the thought that he might actually sell something in your absence.
It wouldn't be so bad if summer holidays took place in the spring, or even at Christmas. The fact is that with bonuses paid at the end of the year, most banks use the fourth quarter for some serious pruning of the cost base. And with revenues down dramatically and profits smaller than a gnat's ovary, headcount between October to December 2008 looks sets to be hacked more vigorously than Patrick Bateman's best efforts with a chainsaw.
When choosing where to place the blade, what are the chances that Messrs Bateman will cast their minds back to those two weeks in August when everything ran impeccably in your expensive absence? High. Forget the fact that Sanctimonious Simon took a two-week paragliding excursion in April and was missed as much as a pair of Calvins in the naturist quarter: memories are short where cost savings are concerned.
It doesn't help that all the cheap, non-child encumbered staff take time off earlier in the year, outside school holidays. Nor does it help that the most financially burdened bankers, with multiple marriages and multiple pools of offspring, are obliged to take multiple excursions in July and August. The only upside is that, with luck, their boss will also be away and unable to observe how smoothly things run in their absence.
There are alternatives. The most obvious is not to go at all. But this risks threatening not only your marriage but also your appetite for another six months of gruelling slog while you hammer home your lynchpin-like status in the team; it also looks increasingly infeasible under the post-Kerviel regime of obligatory absences.
The better bet is therefore absence in body, but not in mind. Pack your Blackberry, email the office several times a day, copying in your superiors and highlighting any minor mistakes indicative of Simon's ineptitude. Call clients intermittently from the security of the bathroom to assure them you're still there and ready to drop everything if they so much as bleat.
Or you can always go for Option X: the unthinkable, un-nameable alternative. Leave the Blackberry, forget Simon, temporarily erase your clients from your memory. If you are going to get chopped in October it will happen anyway; you will at least have two idyllic weeks to look back on.