Pre-cation: An employer-mandated vacation taken before the start of a new job. Sometimes spelled precation.
The coinage of pre-cation has been attributed to Tom Freedman, co-founder and CEO of 42floors, a San Francisco-based commercial real-estate search engine. In a September 30, 2014, article in Slate, Will Oremus quoted Freedman, who recalled courting a new hire:
“Every other company he was talking to was asking, ‘How soon can you start?’ ” says Freedman, co-founder and CEO of 42Floors, a San Francisco-based commercial real estate search engine. Freedman wanted the guy, but he didn’t want him coming in haggard and beleaguered. So he made him a job offer with one stipulation: The candidate had to take a two-week paid vacation—before his first day. …
“We called it a pre-cation,” Freedman says. “It was only a couple of weeks, but he just came in so refreshed and energized, it was amazing.”
Not for long, though. Here’s Freedman again, one paragraph down:
“We have a guy who’s about to start next week, and he’s in Thailand right now. It’s like, ‘Yeah, have a great time! And when you get back here, work your ass off.’”
The following day, Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams sounded a note of skepticism in “The Pre-Cation Is a Trap!” (note that the URL calls it a “pre-vacation”):
It’s like a bachelor party for your career! Or having someone buy you dinner and then assume that means he’s owed sexual intercourse! Anyway, apparently telling people to take a vacation before they come to work for you is becoming a thing now. … These are not perks, then. They’re illusions.
In the November 24 issue of the New Yorker, a story by Lizzie Widdicombe about a talent agency for programmers dispensed with the hyphen in pre-cation:
In Silicon Valley, where businesses are fuelled by venture capital, the “talent wars” have reached epic proportions. [Venture capitalist Marc] Andreessen said, “The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.” The Google campus is famous for its playful amenities: nap pods, ball pits, massages, dry cleaning, all-you-can-eat buffets. Facebook recently announced that it would pay for its female employees to freeze their eggs. The “precation”—a sabbatical before starting a new job—has become commonplace.
In pre-cation, there’s a slight emphasis on pre. A different precation, dating from the mid-16th century, has a shorter vowel in the first syllable and places the stress on the second syllable. The word means “prayer” (from Latin precari; compare imprecation, a curse; and deprecation, an expression of disapproval).