requiring people to be on time, advance warning of layoffs, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Requiring people to be on time when the rest of the organization isn’t

My new (10 months on the job) executive director does not seem to care one iota if people stroll in late to work in the morning. Even our front desk receptionst staff are often dashing into the building 5 -10 minutes after we open. It is commonplace behavior and has become a disturbing part of our office culture. As a manager, I expect and require my staff to be ready to work, and at their desk at their scheduled start time. How do I respond to push back from them about “but not even the E.D. cares if we are a little late!” I feel like I have boarded the crazy train.

“In this department, being on time matters because ____.”

As long as you can fill in that blank with something that truly makes sense there, it’s perfectly reasonable to require this, even if other parts of your organization don’t.

That said, if there’s any chance that one of your people might go around you to the ED and try to get her to say it’s okay for your team to be late too, talk to her first and make sure you’ll be able to head that off.

2. Should people get advance warning about layoffs?

I manage a team that has been in dire need of restructuring, but we have not been able to implement the new plan until now. I know that in an ideal scenario, a firing shouldn’t catch an employee off-guard. But what about layoffs or restructuring? I mean, we’ve talked about the needs on the team and what we are lacking, but I think this is going to totally blindside one of my employees. Unfortunately he does not have a skillset to fit the new structure. We’ve had talks about fit, and I’ve expressed the needs of the department, but either he didn’t want to hear what I was saying or I wasn’t being clear enough.

Have I dropped the ball by not better preparing my team for the layoffs? Reasonably, I also couldn’t be very open about a potential restructure and sometimes companies can’t be for good reason. So it is understandable that layoffs take employees by surprise? I feel terrible. I may not be able to “fix” this situation, but I want to make sure I am ready if the situation ever arises again in my future.

It really depends. It’s pretty common not to give employees an advance heads-up about layoffs, substituting severance pay for notice. Is that the right way to do it? It’s easy to argue no, but it’s more nuanced than that — having laid-off employees still at work can make it harder for remaining employees to move forward, and sometimes those who are being laid off are too angry or upset about the layoffs to effectively do their jobs, and in some cases can be pretty toxic to an environment that’s already quite shaken up.

And if you just give general notice that layoffs are coming (rather than getting specific about which people/which roles), you can end up with a really tense and anxious environment because everyone is worried about who will be cut. Sometimes that means that you’ll end up losing your best people, since they’ll assume they need to be job searching and — being your best people — may find jobs quickly. (You can often head that off, though, by talking to your strongest people one-on-one and assuring them that their jobs are secure, if indeed that’s the case.)

In your particular situation, it sounds like you have had opportunities to prepare this particular person for the fact that the needs of his team have changed, and if he hasn’t gotten that message, then yeah, it’s possible that you should have been clearer, both with him and with others. It’s hard to say without knowing more. But in general, I’d say to err on the side of transparency unless there are very specific reasons not to (reasons that you’ve reality-tested with someone whose judgment you trust). But when you haven’t, it’s additional reason to do what you can to cushion the blow with however much severance as you can manage.

3. Emailing a former mentor

I have a question about contacting old mentors. A couple of years ago when I was interning at a place I got a really great reference from this older colleague that was supervising my work there. I also got a near perfect placement evaluation and we kept in touch for a few months, but ever since I moved on with my career. I’m doing reasonably well, but I haven’t contacted him because my former boss is more familiar with my work and a reference in our field, so I don’t need him as a reference. I was wondering if it’s ok to email to let this person to let them know how much it helped having that great mentorship and reference on my first year as a new graduate. I don’t want to seem like I’m just wasting someone’s time. What do you think about this?

Good lord, you will not be wasting his time! He will almost certainly be delighted to get an email like that, and will probably cherish it. I say this as someone who gets a lot of thank-you notes (which is a very nice side effect of running a blog like this); I appreciate each and every one of them, I save them, and it never stops feeling fantastic to read them. And some of them have arrived on days when they were very needed.

Pretty much no one receives this kind of message enough. Send it!

4. Does the order of names in an email matter?

This might seem like a minor question but it’s something I’ve wondered about in passing from time to time. When sending an email, does it matter the order in which you have people’s names in the “to” section? Like should it be based off order of title importance or relevancy to the topic at hand, or does that not matter at all? For example, if I’m emailing the president of my company along with my boss and then an entry-level person (all who are directly affected by my email, so wouldn’t necessarily go in the cc section), would it be strange to list my president last?

In general, it doesn’t really matter. That said, there are some companies where this kind of thing does matter and people do pay attention. In case you’re at one, I’d just pay attention to how other people at your company do it — particular your boss and other people senior to you — and if you notice that they seem to list names in order of hierarchy, it’s smart to do the same. (But know for the record that this is a weird thing for a company culture to care about.)

{ 118 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Argh!

    re: #1

    In reality, it rarely matters if people are a few minutes late, as long as they get everything done, meet their deadlines, etc. I can see making an exception for the receptionist’s desk if you have posted hours that your customers expect you to be available. Also, if you have a shift that has to wait to be relieved before they can go home, then it’s important and good manners.

    Unless you are dealing with life-and-death emergencies, you’d do best to adapt.

    1. Artemesia

      I agree with you for most professional positions, but client facing roles don’t work that way — I hate calling a company at 9:10 and getting the tape to ‘call during our office hours 9-5 . It really projects incompetence and unprofessionalism when an organization isn’t responsible during working hours.

    2. anon attorney

      I agree. Anyone doing a public facing role needs to be there on time to do it for the advertised opening time. The rest of us – if the work’s getting done, please leave us be. I wander into work anytime between 8-9 am and i get the job done. I also rarely leave on time and am prepared to stay late to finish things. The ability to be relaxed about that matters to me. If a boss started to make a fuss about this, I would seriously consider looking elsewhere – it’s not just the timing issue itself, it’s the implicit message that we can’t be trusted to self manage our time and workload and act like adults. Very grateful to have a boss who’s all about the outcomes!

      1. INTP

        Totally agree that a public-facing role should involve being there during the advertised opening times, but I think an ideal solution from a management perspective might be to schedule those employees’ start times about a half hour before they are supposed to be available to the public. It would give them a chance to get into a work mindset, deal with any slow computer start-up issues, and have a cushion in case they run into traffic or whatever (because I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to normally arrive 15 minutes early so they’ll almost never be 5 minutes late unless you’re paying them for the early time).

        1. nofelix

          Or just be very clear why they have to be there on time and let them work out the logistics. No reason someone who lives next door to the office needs to come in half an hour early, for instance.

  2. Bookworm

    OP#1 – I can’t tell from your question whether this is a recent change, or if the culture has always been lax about start times. I also can’t tell what kind of department you run, and if it’s one (like say, most client-facing roles) where it truly matters that people are on time. Of course, if it’s a role that requires someone be available (to answer phones, or whatever) during specific times…then that should be mandated.

    On the other hand, if this is a) something you feel strongly about on principle, not because of any direct need AND b) the company culture has traditionally been lax about start times…then I would be wary of passing down an edict.

    I’ve worked at companies where everyone arrived at 8am on the dot, and companies where there was a two hour (!) window during which different people would come in (and stay late or leave early, as necessary).

    At the latter company, many people cited the flexibility to set their own schedule as big part of the appeal. If that’s the case, you’ll want to be thoughtful about any rules you make that might impede upon part of what drew people to the company in the first place.

    (Although again, this assumes that this has long been the status quo, and that it doesn’t directly impede any of the work.)

    1. Engineer Girl

      I had a boss that did issue an edict even though the company culture was to stagger times. He regulated how long lunches should be. He regulated how many birthday cakes per month (time consuming!) He regulated the timing of going away parties – stating that they had to be in the evening so lunch hours wouldn’t go too long. People started calling him “Darth”.
      Then he got behind in his schedule and wanted people to work late. Nope. When quitting time came people got up and walked out.

      1. hbc

        Yep, you will absolutely reap the rigidity you sow. If you’re watching to make sure I don’t leave 7 hours and 59 minutes after I started, I’m going to make sure I don’t stay 8 hours and 1 minute.

        1. INTP

          Yup! At the job below, I eventually just started trying to get to the office about 10 minutes early every day so that hitting too many red lights wouldn’t get me lectured, but I made sure never to do work before I was supposed to. I would browse pinterest, or drink coffee, or not even log in and just chat with my coworkers that were already on the clock, until the clock struck 8. Which was worse for the company because I was distracting people (not like on purpose, just chatting) or consuming company beverages and internet when I ordinarily wouldn’t have yet not actually working more than I would otherwise.

      2. Seal

        I took over a department from a woman who did this with her staff. They had written procedures about how birthdays, holidays, and going away parties would be organized, plus a mandatory “kitty” for cards and gifts. As the latter is illegal in the public sector (public university library), to this day I have no idea how she got away with it for so long. The kicker was the department wasn’t a public service unit, yet she mandated that at least one person be in the office at all times during regular business hours. This meant that people had to miss library-wide meetings to ensure adequate coverage. She even made her staff – college-educated adults, mind you – use bathroom passes so she knew why they weren’t at their desk! Not surprisingly, her staff turnover rate was the highest in the library by far.

        When I took over, all of that nonsense went out the window immediately, starting with the bathroom passes. Productivity quadrupled within weeks, and other department heads regularly commented on how much happier my new staff members seemed to be. Interestingly, the department has evolved into a public service unit with set hours where we are open to the public into the evening and on weekends. My only mandates are that we open and close on time, and that people schedule their work hours during our fairly lengthy open hours for security reasons. Due to the number of staff members we have now (including a number of part-time student employees), I never have trouble ensuring we have at least a couple of people in the area during our open hours while still allowing my staff a fair amount of flexibility in their work schedules. And because I am fair and reasonable about work schedules, I never have trouble getting someone to work the odd evening shift or special event. Everyone wins.

        1. INTP

          And these types of managers invariably believe that everyone they run off is just unprofessional and lazy – if you’re a conscientious professional, you will never be a minute late and won’t mind using a bathroom pass! It’s like it never registers that strong performers can be turned off by it just as easily as weaker performers, and it’s making them lose employees that are good at doing their jobs while retaining the ones that are low performers because they would RATHER be held accountable to weird rules than to productivity standards.

          1. Seal

            Exactly. While the majority of the people this woman hired rarely lasted more than a year or 2, the lone exception actually bought into all of the ridiculous policies and procedures and stuck it out for years. Ironically, the former manager hated her and could never get any real work out of her. While this woman is not my best employee and never will be, she has absolutely blossomed since I took over the department. She needs a lot more hand holding and boundaries enforced than my other employees, but she’s ultimately become a decent employee who gets her work done. While she’s still disappointed that we don’t have mandated celebrations of every single life event, however trivial, she’s noticeably happier working for me.

          2. TootsNYC

            ” It’s like it never registers that strong performers can be turned off by it just as easily as weaker performers,”

            My experience is that strong performers are MORE turned off by it!

      3. nicolefromqueens

        1. I take it he wouldn’t have fallen behind in his work if he wasn’t micromanaging everyone else.

        2. Sounds like there were a lot of going away parties. Hmmm I wonder why.

    2. Alter_ego

      Your exclamation point after two hours makes me laugh. We have people that show up between 5:30 and around 10:15. But it’s q company that rarely has meetings, all our clients have our cell phones, and we have to be out of the office all the time for site visits anyway. If you get in at 10 and work until 7, or if you get to the office at 10 because you had a survey from 8 to 10 makes no functional difference, so they don’t monitor is at all. It’s one of my favorite things about the job

      1. Tau

        I also laughed at that! The latest I’ve seen people turn up is 10:30, my own job role needs to be in by 10. In the meantime, I generally turn up sometime around 7:30-8:00 and there are always a few people already in at that point. It seems perfectly reasonable to handle it that way if there’s no business reason why you have to be working precisely 9-5, and I personally love being able to do most of my work in the mornings when I’m most productive and leave early so I still have something of the afternoon.

        1. Kyrielle

          Yep. I arrive to the office around 6 am; I have a coworker who arrives around 11-12 am; we get our work done and make sure we share info as we need to and get to meetings as we need to. It’s all good.

      2. Bookworm

        Haha, it was more emphasis for OP’s perspective, since they seemed to think that 15 minutes late was significant. Two hours after the office opens is a lot later than 15 minutes – but then, they’re not really ‘late’ are they, if they’re getting everything that needs to be done finished?

    3. Miles (is not my given name)

      The two hour window sounds like ‘flex time’ which requires them to make up the time during that same pay period.

      A few of my friends who are on flex time will take every other friday off, and work an extra hour on Mondays-Thursdays to make up for that time. (along with about 2/3 of the fortune-100 company they work at)

      1. Green

        Lots of us are in jobs where nobody told us set hours; just do what needs to get done and offer to do more things when you have time. Some days I go in at 7:45 and some days I go in at 10:30. It’s not really “flex time” (as defined by needing to make it up during a pay period) as much as it is “do your job and you can manage your own time.”

        1. ThatGirl

          Right, we are able to set our own hours (and expected to more or less stick to them) and also expected to work 8 hours most days. So 6 to 2 or 9:30 to 5:30, it’s all the same to our bosses.

    4. INTP

      Yeah, I left a job at which I was a star performer largely because of my manager’s position on punctuality (she treated a non-customer-facing desk job like I was working retail or something, you must never be 2 minutes late but you also can never leave 2 minutes early – and in California tech jobs this is just weird and rare). It made my already stressful morning commute truly nerve-wracking, because every time traffic slowed or a light turned red I was thinking “Is this going to make me run 3 minutes late and get a lecture?” Despite being a professional, responsible person, I’m not super time-aware, and I of course expend the mental energy required to be professional and courteous, but having to freak out over 3 minutes here and there is so unnatural to me that it makes a major difference in my overall life stress levels. The clock-watching was also a major reason that several other high performers left, and the employees who stayed were largely those who were low performers and preferred being held accountable to a clock than to actual productivity requirements.

      So TL;DR, make sure that punctuality is important enough to the job to be worth losing quality employees over (because counter to popular belief, not everyone that has issues with time is lazy or a low performer). If it’s just a management style or philosophy thing, it might be worth learning to be more flexible, just like you might want to learn to, say, communicate with introverts on your team rather than replacing them all with extroverts because you think it’s unreasonable that someone not communicate like an extrovert.

    5. techfool

      Yep, in a previous place people would often come in at 11am because time zone differences meant the night before they had to call an overseas office, from home, say at 9pm. However, even though we all knew why they were late, there was still a bit of a side eye, same as if people were working from home even though that was all approved by management. Weird, puritanical attitude.

  3. Bookworm

    OP#2 – I believe I went through a similar situation, although I was the employee in question.

    I sensed that something was wrong, and was incredibly grateful when I was told up-front (about two months in advance) that the project I was working on was being cut, and they didn’t see where I would fit in elsewhere on the team.

    This is an advantage especially because it allowed me to job search while I still had a role, which I think can make a difference both in terms of how you look to possible employers…and (at least for me) in mental state, since empty days can be daunting and depressing sometimes.

    It also just left me with a better taste in my mouth about the company. Although the whole experience was scary and stressful, I really appreciated that my bosses were straightforward with me. Ultimately, I think it was the kinder thing to do. It also allowed me to be open about my job search with other employees at the company, and many of them helped me with industry connections to get interviews and find out about jobs. In some ways, this was easier to do in person than it was over e-mail or LinkedIn. (Some people who I never would have proactively reached out to, for example, ended up chatting with me in the kitchen and offering their help.)

    As it happened, I ended up finding another role within a different department at that company…and I’m not sure that would have happened if someone hadn’t found out and passed the word along.

    If you can give advance notice, and you have no reason to believe this employee would react immaturely, then I recommend it.

    1. snuck

      I’ve instituted a national consolidation to a single location (more than a dozen groups/teams down to one centre, across all of Australia), and not had to do a single forced redundancy. This was with a highly unionised group of employees who had specific attitudes and expectations around their technical role in the company (assumed career paths, institutionalised by decades of previous employees doing the same) and their employability in outside companies (they assume they had none, because no one ever left this career path and went outside).

      We did advanced notice, we took voluntary redundancies where it made business sense, we offered training and upskilling. We talked to them early and openly about where the new centre was (and offered relocation packages, but only people from nearby areas took those up), and we also talked strongly about how their skills were transferrable elsewhere, brought in the job search people early to talk through applications and options. We treated the staff with respect, we saved a LOT of money (these people would have been up for very long tenure redundancies – in the realms of a year to eighteen month’s pay at specialist rates), retained the staff we felt we needed to, retained the technical knowledge we needed, reduced the resentment, and while we lost a few staff even from our target location – in hindsight many were the malcontents who took the opportunity to use the job search and few voluntary redundancy payouts we did offer to go and work in outside roles.

      Did it mean we had a perfect staff at the end? No. We had some real schmucks still. Did it mean that we didn’t have to recruit? Nope, still needed to recruit and train. But it was one of very few company wide transitions that didn’t trigger union complaints and was viewed in the aftermath as “a business decision that we didn’t like, but were able to live with how it was done”. Not everyone was happy, but no one was blindsided or escorted out. Which was my goal.

      As a Christian I felt it was on me to get to that kgoal – I didn’t want people suddenly lost and without a job, I wanted people to be managed respectfully and be given plenty of time to jump ship before the ship sank. I feel like I succeeded.

      My advice? Talk openly and early, explain what the new structure will look like, include all the team so they know where they fit, give your obvious non-fits plenty of notice, in the knowledge that if they are still around at the other end they will get fair severance (whatever you normally offer) and they can jump ship earlier if they want (and be generous there with leaving dates, using up their annual leave or paying it out etc). If you plan to target just one or two positions and it’s those particular people (no intention of letting people swap around so Mary takes Bob’s job, and Fred take’s Mary’s eliminated position etc) then be upfront and say “This is the two positions, I am not taking voluntary redundancies and swapping the team around because X and Y skills are being targeted”, offer training and upskilling for these people to get jobs (with the emphasis that it’s to go with them to a new company, it doesn’t need to be specific to your current job – if they want to learn payroll then teach them if you have time and opportunity, even though they are currently… mechanics?) and treat them as valued employees all the way to the end, even if they get rude or resentful.

      If you know they are likely to react awfully then consider having a) a third party manager in the room when you give them the news, b) do it mid week, mid afternoon (and have your company’s support phone number to hand over) and let them go home to think about it and come back and chat with you, c) have your emails drafted to send to the rest of the team and organisation about your restructure ready to go so you can send them promptly (do this anyway!), d) if you know this person is likely to be particularly volatile talk to HR and get their advice about whether notice is a good idea or a removal and escort (which I hate and thankfully haven’t had to do, but have considered). Other strategies include having a whole department meeting in the morning (not on a Friday!) and then one on one or small group meetings afterwards to explain individual impact, talk to all the staff, give them all chances to talk up, don’t tell people they are going to go in front of a whole group – if you are removing two positions then just don’t put them on the chart (and don’t put people’s names on the chart, just the new job titles and number of positions) and talk to those two people in private individually.

      1. OP #2

        We aren’t that big – a larger-ish nonprofit, but not a deep team for my department. Eliminating the roles isn’t an option it’s a must for us to move forward. In the conversation with one staff member, we had a direct talk about how their skills weren’t a fit and he didn’t like his role anyway, so he wasn’t surprised at the layoff. And was already looking. I had another employee who it did blindside, but in thinking about our conversations, it shouldn’t have. This employee was also mid-PIP, and we had NUMEROUS conversations about his skills not being up to par for his level of job, and I actually had recommended that he look for a different type of role altogether. He was surprised because he just never thought it would happen and he just didn’t want to leave. So he wasn’t listening (which was on his PIP, btw). We gave overly generous severance, because these situations are always hard.

        1. snuck

          It sounds to me then that you handled it reasonably well.

          There’s never a good way to do this stuff. There will always be staff who can’t smell the smoke when their on desk is on fire, or who are so determined to never move on that they declare the smoke non existant up until after the entire building has burnt to the ground. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink!

  4. Graciosa

    One company I worked at ordered names alphabetically under all circumstances, which was at least easy to do. But honestly, that is the only time I have ever seen a protocol for the order of names within the same line on an email. It is sent electronically at the same time, so no one is really getting any precedence here, and no one has cared at any other company I’ve worked at.

    The more interesting question in addressing emails is generally who is on the “To” line versus the “Cc” line. This does send a message about who is supposed to act (rather than merely be informed) and it does change your search options (within Outlook at least) if you’re trying to find the email later. Some people also set their filters to process incoming mail differently depending upon whether they were directly addressed or merely copied.

    If you get the right people in the “To” and “Cc” lines, I wouldn’t waste any thought on the order in which they appear.

    1. TootsNYC

      I agree on the “to” and “cc” lines.

      Give what the issue is, I put the most relevant person first, and sometimes I decide to put the assistant last bcs of their boss’s ego (specific boss, not general boss).

    2. Polabear

      One division of my company cares about the order very much. It has to be in order of title, biggest to smallest. But, it’s well known in the organization, so people aren’t blindsided.

      1. nofelix

        I’ve always assumed Outlook doesn’t remember what order recipients are added. Surprisingly it seems that it does!

    3. Pickles

      My boss is the only person I know (in a 3000+ company) who cares about this. He’s a control freak and is convinced it matters, but never told me I had to use it, or that he thought this until two years in on the job. Maybe if he hadn’t framed it as “in order of importance” rather than relevance. As long as the to and cc lines are right, no one is accidentally forgotten, and the body’s written clearly so everyone knows what they need to do, what does it matter?

      Now I intentionally mix up the order to mess with him.

  5. Polabear

    #1 -I would back off unless there is a very good reason that people absolutely must be on time. For example, I would expect people to be on time if they are in a client facing role where clients (internal or external) need to be able to contact someone at exactly 8am. Or, if other people are waiting on them to end their shift. But for most office jobs, as long as all the written is being done and their hours are met, it really shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Personally, if someone is waiting on me, I’ll be on time and ready to start work. But otherwise, I’m not going to sweat being 5 to 15 minutes late.

  6. TootsNYC

    In most offices I’ve been in, 5 minutes late wouldn’t matter much. 15 minutes wouldn’t matter much. Beyond that it can interfere w/ other people’s ability to do their work.

      1. neverjaunty

        Yeah, except when it turns out the earlier people catch a lot of calls, extra work, putting out fires,, etc. because it just so happens that the people who roll in at noon aren’t around, or when it’s difficult to assign certain tasks or projects becaus “oh, Wakeen never gets here before 11 so I guess Jane has to cover”. And it’s also problematic when Fergus is all about how he hard he works because puts in late hours, because he didn’t show up until mid-morning while the people who left at 6 also got in at 7 am.

        Certainly the LW should think strongly about whether there’s a business necessity for people to be in at a given time (which for the receptionists is a no-brainier) and to ease up about whether people get in at 8 or 9, for the most part. But yes, there can be actual business reasons to have a schedule other than “show up whenevs and get the work done”.

        1. Colette

          That or is the other way, too – people who work late have to deal with the hot issues that come in at the end of the day. Depending on the business, that can be busier than the morning.

          1. neverjaunty

            Definitely. Flex time is great when exact start/end times aren’t necessary, but it’s way more complicated than ‘who cares when we show up as long as our work gets done’, which ignores the ways in which people have to depend on each other to make sure the work gets done.

      2. Ms. Didymus

        That may be with your company but in my industry that would never fly. We have to be able to respond quickly (within an hour) to events that occur during ‘standard industry hours’ which, in the US, are 8am-5pm EST. That means while it doesn’t matter if you show up at 8:30 or 8:45, showing up at 10 might mean that we cannot properly respond because we needed your input.

        1. Ms. Didymus

          I should say that our office hours are 8:30 – 6. We have some ability to flex around that but more than 15 minutes really does need to be discussed ahead of time.

      3. TootsNYC

        “functioning” is not my goal. “Excelling” is.

        If you’re the person who was in at 9am, and you need info or reaction from the person who comes in at 11, that’s pretty frustrating.

        I’ve also been places where a certain amount of laxness in “showing up on time” translates rapidly into a certain laxness in “accomplishing things in a timely manner.”

        So I do think being on time can matter as a part of a general sense of industry.

        But busting someone’s chops over 5 to 15 minutes is not appropriate in many, many instances.

        1. azvlr

          I work coasts apart from my teammates, So no, I’m not available to provide input to my teammates early in the morning. On the other hand, they aren’t around in the afternoons if I need something from them. I have arranged my workday so that meetings and interactions generally occur during my morning and then buckle down and am super productive in the afternoon with relatively few disturbances.

          1. Analyst

            +1. It’s just a time-management skill one learns when you have to connect with folks in other time zones to do your job. There will never be a day when everyone’s available all the time – plan accordingly to connect with them and keep projects moving forward.

    1. INTP

      I think that for most roles it just depends on the expectations being set. If you have “official” hours and you say you’ll be at work from 9:00-6:00 every day, then you often come in at 9:30, then you might be causing issues for people that plan around speaking to you in that half hour. But for most positions (barring ones where being available to coworkers on short notice or where coverage is mandatory so employees need to stagger their hours, etc), it would be perfectly sufficient to be consistently in the office from, say, 10-5 every day, giving coworkers 7 hours of availability to plan around, and vary your arrival and departure times as needed. It’s just not what is “done” in a lot of company cultures.

  7. Dan


    The more times I reread your letter, the more I get the feeling that you have no real business need driving punctuality, and that “timelines” is a personal pet peeve of yours. You use a lot of emotional statements (disturbing, crazy train, among others) and do not discuss negative impacts to the business.

    If you want to run your department that way, and if it’s not consistent with company turnover, be prepared for lower nowhere morale and higher turnover. Is that worth it to you? That’s a high cost to pay just for principle.

    1. eemmzz

      I once had a manager who demanded no one was late despite him also always wanting you to work late to show how dedicated you were to the company.

      I agree with you that I didn’t see much justification for being on time in their letter (minus the receptionist) hopefully the OP will give more info.

    2. INTP

      That’s the sense I got, too. And that’s not how it works in most office jobs where being available at very specific intervals isn’t vital to the job, so OP will lose employees who don’t like operating that way, especially high performers that can get jobs in orgs with other high performers where employees are trusted – and the fact that the rest of the company is so lax will only exacerbate the hit to morale. Make sure it’s important enough to the functioning of the team that it’s worth losing strong performers over. Otherwise it makes about as much sense as mandating that all employees listen to music while working because you like listening to music while working.

    3. snuck

      I once had a peer who decided they were going to track everyone’s hours… (We were all on flexible working time, project managers, senior staff, with unusual reporting lines – while this woman was technically a peer, she was in tightest with the two levels above manager and saw to wield her power however she could.)

      So she implemented a time book at the door to the workspace, and then I was reprimanded for not using it ‘because if there’s a fire and we have to evacuate no one will know whether to look for you” … my response was “they have to clear the floor anyway, I could be visiting another floor talking to staff elsewhere as per my role, and my work contract says “as many hours as it takes to do the job” and my last performance review made it very clear to all of us that I was exceeding expectations and carrying a substantially heavier workload than many others” …. more push back… so I acquiesed “Ok, I’ll make sure I register when I’m in for you guys mkay?” and then would just write “In” or “out” when I was. She didn’t have a leg to stand on then. If they wanted to know what hours I was working they could just get IT to pull my logins…

  8. Not me

    #1: I agree with Alison’s advice, assuming there is a reason for people to come in at a certain time. I don’t think there’s anything particularly crazy about this or that it’s really a big deal at all. You have an expectation for employees that you haven’t told them of yet (and it’s a fairly normal expectation IMO, just not at your company). When you do, reasonable people will adjust for it.

    I’m the only person in my office who is required to come in at a certain time. I’m also the only one who always leaves at the same time, and the only one who has never worked on a weekend. Flexibility can be a benefit, but predictability is, too. I’m glad my manager was explicit about that early.

  9. TheExchequer

    #1 – If you decide to take on this thing, I will say three things to consider.
    1. People will get annoyed very quickly if you make this your mission to end and then are not on time yourself every single time.
    2. It’s possible the reason some of your other employees are late is access. I had one short term job that kept harping about how important it was to be on time, didn’t issue keys to everyone, and the key holders weren’t always on time. So, yeah, I wasn’t exactly on time because the dang doors weren’t opening.
    3. It’s also possible the reason that some of the staff is late is a transit issue. Not sure where you are, but in my area, the time difference between catching one bus that’s 5 minutes late and the earlier bus is a full hour. I can understand the attitude of showing up to their job a full hour ahead of time just so they might not be 5 minutes late.

    1. Tau

      And transit can be unreliable. Apart from the quicker and more reliable bus that sadly only runs every two hours, we have a bus that takes longer and doesn’t drop you off as close to work but is supposed to run every ten minutes. Supposed to being the key word; I asked a coworker who sometimes uses it and he says he’s found himself waiting half an hour for one to show up before. Annoying but doable if you’ve got a range of acceptable start times; a major hassle if you’re supposed to show up at 9am exactly every day.

    2. Rebecca

      Yup. I dealt with a company like that, when I was working a warehouse job and 5-10 minutes at the start of the day wouldn’t have mattered a jot toward my efficiency. “You’ve clocked in late today!” Um, yeah, no one was here to let me in, my (ex)husband had to leave for his own job, and I froze my behind off in the parking lot for the dubious privilege of getting yelled at by you about something that wasn’t my fault. Can I go back to being productive now?

  10. Nobody

    #4 – I always order names alphabetically, for two reasons. First, it’s unlikely to offend anyone. Also, if there are a lot of names on the list, it makes it easier to see who was included (of course, this wouldn’t matter if there are only 3 people on the list, but I always do it anyway just to be consistent).

    1. AnotherFed

      Alphabetically can be so helpful in large distributions – it lets you see at a glance who was on the original list, so you know that anyone you have to coordinate with for the task either already knows or needs a forward.

    2. Artemesia

      Me too. I had one member of my department who was always looking to be slighted and could read slights into anything and not every email went to everyone in the department so there was always the danger of leaving a relevant person out i.e. no standard cut and paste list. I just made a habit of alphabetizing so he didn’t have a chance to get left out or be lower on the list and thus ‘less important.’

    3. ScarletInTheLibrary

      In our group, a lot of people order names by where people sit. Clockwise seems more popular than counterclockwise. For me at least, it’s harder to miss someone. With that being said, there are some people who obsess about the hierarchy. Luckily most of us just roll our eyes and pretend to not notice.

  11. Cambridge Comma

    #4 — where I work, people complain if you don’t organize mail adressees by seniority and then alphabetically within the grade. It is indeed a ridiculous thing for an organization to care about and a huge waste of time.

    1. Another Emily

      Sounds like a job for an excel spreadsheet. You could make one with everyone’s name, email address and level of seniority. It might take a couple hours but it would save everyone time when writing emails.
      You could call it Order of emails. xls, but in your mind it would be called Pointless Waste of Time.xls

    2. MsChandandlerBong

      Just imagine how much more productive everyone would be if they weren’t worried about hurting someone’s ego via email address order!

  12. Aussie academic

    In my department, there are no set hours. You start and finish when you want and as long as you are doing your hours (& doing them at work, not at home), then the boss doesn’t care. I personally like to start early (around 7am) so I can beat the traffic, and also leave early enough (at least theoretically) to do things after work. Others start at sometime between 6 and 10. For a while, we even had someone who worked 12 midday to 8pm, although she’s changed hours due to issues getting a park at midday.

    1. Revolver Rani

      This is how things work in my division as well. We have “core hours” of 10-4 during which people are generally expected to be available for meetings and whatnot, but folks can set their own hours around that as long as they are around 40 hours/week and getting their work done. I know some 8:00-4:30 types, while I tend to keep more like 9:30-6:30 hours, though I have one regular meeting at 9AM so there are days I make it in earlier. I am sure that if someone is regularly abusing that flexbility, the manager will take it up one-on-one. The only folks with more structured, fixed hours are in customer service divisions.

  13. newreader

    In regard to question #1, I do agree that different roles and functions can have different levels of flexibility with timeliness arriving at work and should be based on business necessity. Over the years I’ve been in both types of situations of needing to be on time and having the ability to be more flexible.

    One thing I do think is an important consideration when evaluating business necessity is not just client-facing customers, but all customers of the office/department/job/function. Internal “customers” can sometimes be as important as external clients. Internal needs of others in the company can be just as important as external clients in some cases.

    I know I’m old-fashioned, but if I’m hired with specific hours for the job or the office has posted office hours, those are the times I need to be there and be working. And I expect that I can reach someone in another area during that office’s open hours. Many jobs can allow for flexibility, but not all can.

    1. YOLO

      Oh gosh, yes! We have quite a bit of flexibility, but it can be abused – it’s very frustrating when you need somebody and they normally get in at 9:30am and then they stroll in 15-30 minutes later. Or if they set expectations that they stay until 7:00pm, and then suddenly aren’t there for a week because they didn’t feel like it. We’re a global organization, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve have to step in (because I’m very steady with my hours) because someone else has changed *their* usual start/stop times. When it has been brought up (by me or my manager, because it is impacting *my* ability to get my projects done), it’s always been dismissed because of “flexibility” and that if I wanted to come in later/leave earlier, people would cover for me.

      Well, I have a new job starting in a couple of weeks, and people are already starting to panic that I won’t be at my desk during our core hours, ready to cover for everyone. And I have to say, it’s a bit sweet to hear all of these people who had flexible schedules talk about how much they relied on me and how they don’t know what they’re going to do without me there (is showing up on time with relative regularity really that hard??).

      I’ve also learned from this – if I ever end up in a job that allows for flexibility, I’m going to purposefully arrive late/leave early to a certain extent from the very beginning, so that everyone is used to my doing so. By being so dependable, I set up a situation where I rewarded people’s inconsistent behavior – I doormatted myself. Never again. I’ll be hardworking and helpful, but I’m not going to do people’s work for them.

      1. Always late

        Yes! I feel exactly this way. I am really struggling to wrap my head around this whole new concept of ‘make everyone else cover for you with no advanced notice’. It seems inconsiderate at best and straight up disrespectful at worst. If the rule is show up when you want, leave when you want, but get XYZ done, then I feel there should be a accountability around those very specific and tangible outcomes which is not always possible based on the type of work.

      2. Newbie

        I’ve not only doormatted myself in the past, I think the words “step here” were flashing in neon from my forehead.

        I suspect that many of the commenters on this blog have jobs and functions that provide for more flexibility with hours worked, so changing or inconsistent hours spent in the office don’t impact others. But for cases like you described, where tardiness directly impacts others, managers should hold staff accountable to being on time to ensure work is accomplished.

        Good luck in your new job – and with setting appropriate boundaries so you can retire the doormat!

      3. Observer

        There is a difference between reasonable flexibility and unreliability, though. What you are describing sounds closer to the latter than the former.

        Part of “getting your work done” is generally being sufficiently available to the people who need to be able to deal with you, and that seems to have been lost in your organization.

    2. Tau

      I figure something like core hours to be a decent compromise for this. For instance, I have to be in the office 10-12 and 2-4. I mainly work independently so those four hours are generally plenty for communicating with coworkers and attending meetings and whatnot (especially since they’re generally five and a half: people don’t generally take two hour lunch breaks), and it still gives a good amount of flexibility, doesn’t fix people to rigid start and leave times, and doesn’t force people to adhere to a schedule.

    3. SystemsLady

      To play devil’s advocate, being consistent and vocal about when you come in and making scheduled meetings in all cases is probably more important than hitting The Standard Hours, in terms of internal needs where you have the potential for large hour differences.

      15 minutes late arriving/leaving? Eh, fits in the standard transit delay bubble, and not that much of a nuisance to wait for if you have a need right at Open o’ Clock (except of course if there’s a scheduled meeting).

      But yes, I agree punctuality could be more important for a very highly team-based job (and client-facing during business hours demands punctuality, of course).

      1. Cassie

        This. I don’t care what hours you work as long as I know so I don’t stand there outside your office for half an hour thinking you’ll be right back vs you’ve gone to an early lunch. Consistency and clear expectations (this coworker’s office hours are from this time to that time) are more important to me than anything.

    4. Observer

      And I expect that I can reach someone in another area during that office’s open hours.

      Even if someone is in the office and working, that’s still not a really realistic expectation, though. There are so many normal reasons why someone might not be able to pick up your call each and every time.

      I’m not saying that the OP can’t mandate being on time, pretty much to the minute. But, he doesn’t make a case why this is necessary to the company culture, nor why it’s actually necessary for his division.

      On the other hand, if there is a business case for it, then a clear statement “we need to have everyone ready to work at x:00 because ” is the way to go. Stick to the business case.

  14. Colette

    #2 I’ve been through a lot of rounds of layoffs. Sometimes I was laid off, sometimes I wasn’t. Here are my thoughts.

    1) if you don’t know who will be laid off (or how many people), it’s better for it to be a surprise. Knowing it’s coming but not knowing when or who is really draining, and the number 1 question people will have is “will I be laid off?”, which you can’t answer.
    2) if you know who will be laid off (e.g. a project is ending/department is closing) and you believe people will be able to continue working effectively, let them know in advance. You can also make severance over the legal minimum contingent on meeting reasonable goals to keep people motivated. Knowing in advance gives them time to plan and avoid committing to major purchases.
    3) be honest while avoiding uncertainly as much as possible. Don’t say “oh, we will never have layoffs” as you walk out of a meeting about layoffs – but at the same time, don’t say “all of us could be unemployed by next week”. Something like “we are looking into what the business needs going forward but nothing is final” doesn’t promise no layoffs but doesn’t incite panic either.

    1. Not Today Satan

      Back in 2008-2009, my company was laying people off every 1-2 months. Honestly, by the time it was my turn, it was a relief. Constantly worrying about being laid off was so stressful.

    2. Elizabeth West

      This. I’ve been laid off three times. The first one, I knew it was coming because the boss announced that the department was closing. I was grateful for that, since it was a part-time job with no benefits and I was able to get my ducks in a row before I lost my income.

      The second time, someone else got laid off and then I did, both with no notice. It was a bit rough, but the economy wasn’t too bad and I found temp work pretty regularly. That one was more like being fired, and it sucked. The third time, I was laid off completely without notice, after coming back from lunch. But they mitigated it with six weeks’ severance (my position was completely eliminated).

      I can’t say notice is better because it depends on the job, really. But if there is no notice, severance is a good thing.

    3. Clewgarnet

      I’ve been through three rounds of redundancies.

      The first, the company went into administration in the morning. At lunchtime, about half the staff were called into a room, the CEO said, “You all know why you’re here,” and walked out, and then security escorted us off the premises. That was not ideal. (We didn’t know why we were there. We didn’t know if we were the ones going or the ones staying.)

      The second, we were given plenty of notice that redundancies were coming, for the first time in the company’s 50-year history. We were all asked to stay at home on the day the redundancies were announced, and everyone received a phone call by 9.30 telling us whether a) we were unaffected and should come into work, or b) we were being made redundant, and were welcome to stay home, fully paid, that day. I actually liked that way of doing it – it gave people a day to absorb the news before having to face their coworkers. The company was also very generous with its severance pay.

      The third was rumoured on the grapevine for weeks before we were actually told. We were assured it was just a paperwork shuffle and nobody from my department would actually be made redundant. Then it turned out that our manager either couldn’t count or didn’t know how many people worked for him, and two people were laid off. That was also not ideal.

  15. K.

    I was laid off last year as a result of a restructuring – the second in less than a year. They cut my whole team. We were blindsided (particularly the one who was on maternity leave, getting a call that there was no role for her to return to). In retrospect, I probably should have seen it coming – the first restructuring wasn’t working. But I really would have appreciated some advanced warning so I could prepare – even stirrings that the business needs had changed. Going into what you think is a regular one on one meeting and seeing the HR lady there is never fun. If there’s any way you can give notice, I would.

  16. Suzanne

    As to #1–I worked at several places that were very strict about start times for no reason other than they could. None of them were customer or client facing and the employees were willing to put in their time from 8-5 or 8:15 -5:15 or whatever. But no. Not allowed. Being 3 minutes late gave you a black mark on your record. Too many black marks and you were gone. Guess what? People bailed out of both places the second they could find something else, leaving the managers scratching their heads as to why they had a worker retention problem.

    So other than the receptionist in question 1, what difference does it make? And if the top people don’t care, I’m not sure why the OP should.

  17. Anon Because You Never Know

    My new manager’s obsession with clock watching is one of the reasons I’m currently job searching. I could probably negotiate being moved from hourly to salaried to gain more schedule freedom, but I’m pretty sure that would just be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    1. Always late

      Clock watching does suck. You should evaluate the freedom you are searching for and find a way to work with your manager on that. Do you need a later start time? A longer lunch on certain days? The freedom to be a little late sometimes then make it up? For me personally, communication is key. I love it when employees come to me and say, ‘hey, I’ve got such and such happening. As such can I flex my schedule and for the next 3 days shorten my lunch and then take a longer lunch period at the end of the week?’ That way, I can plan for his absence and make sure the job is covered.

  18. Miles

    #4 If I recall correctly, in Academia the names on research publications are based on the seniority or rank of each person. (Which loosely implies reverse order of who did the actual work if you ask the graduate students at the end of the list)

    And that’s the only setting where I’ve heard of that sort of thing mattering.

    1. EE Lady

      In my research group at a large state university, whoever did the most research and wrote the first draft of the paper gets top billing. Then if they closely collaborated with anyone, their names are next. Our advisor (tenured faculty) always goes on the list somewhere near the middle since he helps with the drafts. At the end are usually people who helped a tiny bit. If my advisor decided to write his own paper based on our research then his name would come first, but it’s not common.

      I also worked in a government research lab for a few years, and they were always encouraging me to publish as first author while putting the higher-ups further down the list. Maybe I’ve had a unique experience with generous supervisors though.

    2. Sutemi

      That is incorrect for every field I have worked in or read papers from.
      The order of names in an academic paper is supposed to be based on the amount of work you did towards this particular paper, in descending order. The PI of the group is listed last, generally. First authorship is a really big deal. Occasionally some papers annotate that two authors did the same amount of work and are both first authors.

      1. Triceratops

        Yeah, I’m going to have to second this. I’ve never actually published, but I had to write a journal-style draft for a research program I was in. The order was: Me (who did the work of this study), Random Grad Student I Never Actually Met (who built the computer program I used), My Research Supervisor (who hand-held me through the whole thing), Guy In Charge Of The Lab (who provided funding but didn’t have any hands-on involvement in this study).

        Question though–if the PI of the lab is heavily involved in a study, where does her name go in that case?

        1. Lady Kelvin

          Typically after the students and before the other tenured professors/researchers. The thinking is that once you are tenured you don’t need first author papers anymore because they are already established and their students need the first author papers more to establish themselves. Of course there are some professors insist on being first author no matter what, but that causes most of their colleagues to have a less than positive opinion of them.

      2. Tau

        This varies based on field. In maths – at least the area I did my PhD in – authors are listed alphabetically by surname.

    3. Marcela

      No, not a all. The order of authors shows who did more work, in descending order. Even bad PIs I’ve met, in the sense of appearing in every single paper their lab makes, without actually collaborating with anything, do not break this rule. Usually the big boss appears last. Although of course there is abuse, being first author is such a big deal that seniority or rank are not allowed to mess with it.

      1. Koko

        I recently read an interesting piece that apparently in economics, authors are listed alphabetically! I come from sociology where first author is the lead researcher and then they are listed in declining order of contributions, like you’re saying.

        The paper was talking about how when men and women co-author papers in economics, women receive less professional benefit/credit for their contributions. But when women co-author with other women they don’t face this problem. Then the paper said that there isn’t much evidence of this credit bias in sociology, and speculates that it’s either because sociology is a more liberal/progressive field, or perhaps it’s because the author listing conventions eliminate the ambiguity.

        I remember being shocked to learn that there was any field that didn’t list authors in order of contribution!

    4. Cath in Canada

      Very field-dependent. In mine (life sciences), the first and last author are the most important. The first author (could be a grad student, postdoc, junior prof, or sometimes a technician) generally did most of the work, and the last author is the head of the lab that did most of the work. The last (“senior”) author is usually a professor. They’re generally responsible for obtaining the funding that paid for the research, and often for coming up with the general research themes of the lab and the specific direction of the published project. The first part of the list of middle authors contains the people who did the work (in descending order of effort); the second part of the list contains any other professors whose labs were involved (in ascending order of effort).

      But other fields have the senior author first, some go alphabetically, and others have different rules.

  19. Always late

    Hey All, it’s me from the always late question. Thank you so much for taking the time to post follow up ideas. In answer to some of the questions. Yes, we are a client facing org so we have set business hours and our phones start ringing as soon as the office is open. Anyone who is not a manager has nothing to do after 5, because we lock the doors and the phones turn off.

    In general, the office culture is pretty laid back about how you work. Take lunch when you need to, just ensure coverage. If you need a brain break go get a coffee, is the office space cramping your style? Move your phone and laptop to the lounge or even outside. We work hard to ensure that once you are at work, you are comfortable. (You can even use the bathroom whenever you want! Lol!) I really appreciate the commenter who stated;
    “One thing I do think is an important consideration when evaluating business necessity is not just client-facing customers, but all customers of the office/department/job/function. Internal “customers” can sometimes be as important as external clients. Internal needs of others in the company can be just as important as external clients in some cases.”
    When others arrive late, we feel the impact of that. I suppose however, based on the answers that I will have to adjust. :)

    1. Bleu

      If it’s a customer-facing job, you actually have reason as a manager or supervisor to be clear that coverage is needed at the time you are open — and ultimately you will be and are the one responsible when no one’s answering the phones and taking care of business. The work conditions you describe already are far more lenient than most call-center type positions, which do monitor down to the literal second how much time and when a person uses the restroom, for example.

      This board is famously borderline flippant about offices that have set start times, and there’s a whole set of employers or even fields where that is the case. But generally, getting to work on time is a fundamental job requirement that is so basic many places — especially customer-facing ones — can, will, and do fire people for failing this one simple thing.

      1. Bookworm

        > This board is famously borderline flippant about offices that have set start times, and there’s a whole set of employers or even fields where that is the case.

        Yes. Many of us speak from the perspective of non-client facing roles, where as long as we meet the needs of our internal clients, we’re able to set our own schedules. In that case, rules for the sake of rules can feel a bit micromanaging.

        If it’s a client facing position, or a role where a late start adds to other people’s workloads, that’s a totally different scenario.

        It’s about getting things done. If timeliness impacts that, then it’s fine (encouraged) to have standards around that! Please don’t interpret our comments as implying that all departments should be lax on that issue.

      1. Ms. Didymus

        Well….yes and no. I’ve been at the mercy of public transit when in a customer facing job and I did what it took to make sure that never meant a customer was waiting on me. That often meant showing up to work 30 minutes before I was scheduled to start. I’d get out my book, grab a drink and spend 30 minutes relaxing before work. On days the train or bus was delayed, I’d have maybe 5 minutes instead.

        There are true one-off situations that cannot be prevented but not planning for transit delays is not something I would be ok with especially if it is known instability in running times.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, no, wait, I think that’s a misreading of the comments here. People above were talking about situations where it truly didn’t matter. In your case, it does — so explain that to your staff. In other words, go back to my answer in the post — “In this department, being on time matters because ____.”

      In your case, it would be “In this department, being on time matters because our phones start ringing at 9 on the dot and clients expect us to be available.” That’s perfectly reasonable.

    3. TootsNYC

      “When others arrive late, we feel the impact of that. I suppose however, based on the answers that I will have to adjust. :)”

      I actually disagree that you will have to adjust.

      If you’re feeling the impact, then that’s a business reason to raise the issue. Make that impact visible; be vocal about it. Be accurate, not dramatic, but make it clear.

      Maybe the solution isn’t that everybody is in on time, but the ones whose presence matters to you.

    4. Observer

      I wrote my other replies upthread before seeing this.

      I would say, loop the ED in and then stick to a simple script. The phones start ringing the moment we are officially open for business. We need to be here to answer those phones.

      That’s utterly reasonable, and not open to much negotiating.

  20. KLR

    Re #4: ordering by seniority is pretty common in law firms and was drilled into me as a junior associate, so now I do it easily without thinking about it. I think it’s silly, but not too bad as far as office quirks go. Some people, however, care very deeply and will be offended if you don’t put them in the proper order.

    1. techfool

      Yeah, law firms. I worked in a law firm where partners were officially able to jump the queue in the canteen.

      1. neverjaunty


        Let me guess, this was one of those firms where senior management was always complaining about associates’ attitudes and could never understand why those ungrateful whippersnappers jumped ship first chance they got.

    2. CM

      +1; they didn’t bother to train me on all sorts of other things, but I definitely learned about ordering email addressed by seniority within my first few months as a first-year associate at a law firm.

  21. Noah

    Unless there really and truly is a solid business reason for requiring employees to be there at a certain time, I would encourage you to back off. Flex time is a great benefit for many people and will help you acquire and maintain top employees. I would quit my job and immediately find another one if my manager demanded I be in the office from 8am-5pm everyday.

    That said, there are certain positions where being on time matters. Like the receptionist you mentioned, it is probably important that they arrive on time to cover the phones. Call center employees would be similar. When I worked as a flight attendant, it was obviously important to arrive to work on time so flights could depart on schedule.

    Where I work now we have core hours that make it easier to schedule meetings. We are also required to put our out of office times into Outlook so they are visible.

  22. TC (#3 OP)

    AAM thank you for answering! It’s good to know people appreciate the thank you emails, instead of looking at it like another thing to delete. Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

  23. TootsNYC

    re: #2 — advance warning for layoffs

    I’ve been through something like 7 layoffs in my career–maybe more. In almost every one of those situations, I had some inkling that layoffs in general were coming; in two of them, I knew the restructuring-out-of-existence of my job was simply the next logical step. I don’t recall ever being completely blindsided.

    Sometimes you can’t give advance warning, for stock-price reasons and similar. And sometimes the manager just doesn’t know what the final decision is or will be.

    And I think employees have a responsibility to develop their skills in reading the tea leaves.

    Some of the best responses I’ve seen in situations where this applied was managers who said, to their team as a whole, “I have no specific information, but we should all be light on our feet.” Or similar, “Clearly this is a time when the future is subject to change, so act accordingly.”

    Once, a friend called me to say, “Tomorrow I have to take a few of my employees, one at a time, to meet with the VP who is going to lay them off. I’ve been specifically directed and instructed that I am not to tell them what the subject of that conversation will be. I feel horrible that they will be blindsided, I wish I could warn them! You’ve been laid off; how can I follow those directions and still be fair to them?”

    My answer to her was this:
    -they know consultants have been looking at the company and that layoffs might result, yes? (yes)
    -you will be saying, “Please come with me to meet with the VP that you normally never, ever talk to,” yes? (yes)
    -the mere fact that you are walking them down the hall will be an advance warning; his words won’t be a shock
    -it’s important that the company’s words to them be under the company’s control, so they can be sure that no other messages (this is unfair; it’s because of age; it’s because you’re bad at your job; etc.) get accidentally sent
    -you are being kept out of the notification loop specifically so that you CAN be an ally for them afterward, so that you won’t get blamed in their anger and hurt, and you can then be their reference, be helpful to them as they pack, etc.; your “deniability” leaves you “on their side,” which is part of the mindful intent here.
    -you can’t change whether they get laid off; you have NO influence on this; therefore, focus your energies on helping them cope with the inevitable, by being lightly sympathetic, helpful, and refocusing them always on moving forward–by helping them pack, by talking about job hunting, by offering to be a reference, by thinking of job openings, etc. That will help them AND the company.

    1. everything you & AAM said; plus one more

      I, too, have been through numerous layoffs. There is one more item that I would like to add. Sometimes, companies will allow some folks to “volunteer” to be laid off. I know that has happened at a couple of my layoffs; so folks who were originally on the “list” ended up keeping their jobs because there were enough “volunteers” that they didn’t need to lay off everyone who was originally scheduled for downsizing.

      And I do agree with your statement, TootsNYC, the employee has to take the responsibility to read the tea leaves. Lord knows, I’ve been through enough layoffs I think that I’ve gotten good at reading the tea leaves (or maybe it is now just paranoia on my part as I expect almost every job to end with a layoff?)

      1. TootsNYC

        Oh, I meant to say:

        ” in two of them, I knew the restructuring-out-of-existence of my job was simply the next logical step. I don’t recall ever being completely blindsided.”

        In neither of these did anybody say anything to me directly about it. I just knew.

        I could tell that my salary and some redundancy in duties made me a logical target, or I knew that my unit was low-performing.

  24. stevenz

    Is anybody other than you “disturbed” by this coming in late behaviour? I would see it as a tolerant, flexible work culture, and I would enjoy it while it lasts and wouldn’t appreciate someone like you “ruining it” for the others. If someone absolutely needs to be there at 8:30, then fine. If 8:40 is just as good, why make an issue of it? After all, one definition of punctuality is being 10 minutes late every day.

    It’s always easy to write and enforce new rules. It’s a lot harder to relax rules once they have become ingrained. Don’t have any more rules than are absolutely necessary.

  25. Ruthie

    I’m in a similar situation to #1, except people routinely arrive up to an hour+ late and/or leave an hour+ early. There is just about no accountability in my office, with the head of the organization being one of the worst offenders. Given that culture, I decided it was unfair to expect a different standard from my report, even though I unusually one of the first to arrive and the last to leave. Ultimately, I explained to her that she has a 30 min. grace period at the beginning and end of the day, and if she expects to not be here in that time, she needs to send me a quick note so I’m not expecting her. I also told her that I would pay attention to if her work got done on time or not, and decided that was a more important performance measure than attendance.

    My colleague interpreted this as her hours as 9:30 to 5:30, so I may do things a bit differently next time (her last day is this week), but she is also an unusually unmotivated employee.

    Also, #4 shouldn’t matter, but it really, really does to some people. In my first full-time job, I had a colleague who paid very close attention to the order the names were in and who was in the “to” line and who was in the “cc” line. I was always very careful to send emails in my colleagues order of hiring, which made her happy since she was always second after our boss. This was immature, but one time I intentionally included her as a cc on a very innocuous email to see if she would notice. And yes, she did notice and she did bring it up. It was a massive relief when I started at my current organization because no one seems to care. But I’m still a little paranoid, so I default to listing people in the order their offices happen to be located around the office.

  26. Long Time Reader First Time poster

    I’ve been laid off a lot. In order of preference:

    The best one was when we were told in advance that the entire department was being shut down in x number of days. It gave everybody a chance to get their ducks in a row and start looking for work. Company was super upfront about everything.

    Second best was when I was able to read the writing on the wall and correctly predict my own layoff (we’d been part of a merger and my team was superfluous). This was helped immensely by my manager, who was quite upfront about the possibility of a layoff. I was completely unsurprised when our team got the news we were being let go.

    Third was when I heard thru the grapevine about my layoff. My colleagues and I were tipped off by a coworker that had heard we were being laid off. I wasn’t overly shocked when it happened, but it was tougher to swallow because it wasn’t a sure thing and it felt a bit arbitrary.

    Worst was the time I was utterly blindsided. I didn’t see it coming at all. That was a very, very difficult experience.

  27. FJ

    #4 – Where I work, I know one person who doesn’t respond to e-mail unless he is first on the TO line. It’s just an easy way for him to filter if it’s a problem he needs to address, or let other people handle it.

  28. Cath in Canada

    Heh, literally as I was reading the words “Pretty much no one receives this kind of message enough”, my boss’s boss handed me a thank you note for working on a special project at very late notice :D

  29. 05girl

    Whatever happened to the notion that it is professional, responsible and most of all respectful to be on time to things?

    This is frustrating in personal life, where you make plans with a friend and end up waiting 30-45 minutes.

    If working hours are 9-5, isn’t it reasonable to treat those times with respect and be present at those times? And this is coming from a millennial!

    Coming in repeatedly at 9:30a/9:45a for a job that operates 9-5 means I have to be extra hesitant to plan a 9:30a meeting. And yes, I have seen people who habitually arrive late also arrive late on days they have 9:30 meetings.

  30. tygerlilygem

    I work at a consulting firm and we also send emails, especially to external clients, in order of seniority.


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