my coworkers are making me look like the office slacker

A reader writes:

I work in a small office. Me, two coworkers, and our boss. My position is special because even though we all report to Boss, I am also the unofficial office manager — so I answer the phones, receive visitors, etc. This means if I’m going to be even 5 minutes late, I have to let Boss know so that someone else can cover the phones/door/etc. We have a fairly casual office and don’t get a huge volume of visitors or calls so it’s not a big deal if I’m running late — as long as I let Boss know.

Boss is frequently late in the morning without letting anyone know, so often when I email her to let her know I’m going to be 5 minutes late, I’m turning myself in for something it was unlikely she would have otherwise caught me for. Sometimes I’ll hit bad traffic and email that I “might be late” just to make sure everything is covered, but then I have good luck with parking and arrive on time anyway, but Boss comes in 45 minutes late, and doesn’t know that I was actually there on time. (We don’t keep timesheets.) I send an email that I might be late perhaps once every two weeks, and I’m actually late, by no more than 5-10 minutes, maybe once a month.

My two coworkers have developed a habit of emailing only me when they’re running late. If Boss is in the office and asks me if I know where they are, I’ll let her know about the email. So basically, they’re covering their butts by telling me they’ll be late so that in case Boss asks, they don’t get in trouble for being MIA. But when Boss is also late she never knows that the other two were late as long as they get in before she does — and she’s 30+ minutes late (sometimes hours late) 3-5 days a week, so as far as she knows they are almost never late.

My frustration comes here: Sometimes my boss will make comments about how one of my coworkers is “such a hard worker, first one in the office every morning!” when actually that’s me! I’m the first one in the office 98% of the time and most mornings I’m 10-15 minutes early!

I don’t believe in tattling. Their lateness doesn’t affect my ability to do my job. I have really good relationships with my coworkers and appreciate that we’re able to handle a lot of minor office issues amongst ourselves without needlessly involving Boss (which inevitably adds layers of complication). On the other hand, based on comments like I described above, I worry that it does impact me when Boss is evaluating my performance and determining whether to give me raises, as I look like the office “slacker” compared to my “hard-working” coworkers.

Because Boss has specifically instructed me that I have to let her know when I’m going to be late, even if only by 5 minutes, I can’t get away with just emailing my coworkers the way they can get away with just emailing me. Is there any way I can handle this situation without being a tattle-tale? (I suppose one option is to just try even harder to never ever be late, but traffic in this region is so unpredictable that I’d be waking up super early and getting to my office 30-45 minutes early most days to ensure never being late, and the “it’s OK to be a few minutes late as long as you let me know” casual culture is supposed to be a perk of working in this office–it just looks like I’m disproportionately abusing it when in reality I’m taking advantage of it much less than others.)

Well, it sounds like an office where being late isn’t that big of a deal — the boss does it and the others do it too. It’s different for you because part of your job is to cover the phones, etc., but it doesn’t sound like it’s a problem that your coworkers are sometimes late. And that’s typical of many offices where time of arrival isn’t a big deal as long as you’re getting your work done. So really, your best bet is probably to ignore this.

But you’re bothered by your boss’s occasional comments that someone else is always the earliest to arrive, when in fact that’s you. Frankly, I think you’re probably best just letting it go, but if it’s bothering you, there’s no reason you can’t correct her impression. Why not just say to her at some point, “Hey, I know this might seem minor, but I always feel self-conscious when I need to email you to let you know that I might be late, especially since a lot of those times I end up arriving on time anyway, after all. I don’t want you to have the impression that I’m regularly late; in fact, I’m almost always the first person here, and I’m generally early. I know this might not really matter, but I’ve been worried that you didn’t realize that I’m almost always here by 8:45 and so I just wanted to mention it.”  (Do not make this a meeting unto itself; that would be weird. Mention it as an aside when you’re having a normal check-in, which hopefully you do regularly. And the tone you want is “I know this might be my own neurosis, but I’ll feel better for having mentioned it.”)

As for your coworkers, they’re probably telling you when they’re running late because it’s responsible to tell someone, it would be silly to bother your boss with it, and you’re the one answering the phones so you’re the logical choice. You’re interpreting it as if they’re thinking, “I’ll tell Jane in order to cover myself in case the boss asks, but she probably won’t and thus she’ll never know — bwahahaha!” and rubbing their hands together gleefully … but they’re really probably not. They just need to tell someone and it makes sense for that someone to be you.

If you really don’t think that’s the case, and you think that actually the boss would want to be told directly, then the next time they do it, reply with, “Hey, would you actually email Boss directly when you’re going to be late? She’s the one who wants to be in the loop about it.” Or you could just forward their email with “FYI” to your boss, if and only if you really think she wants to know.

But the most important thing if you’re really bothered by this is to just be straightforward with your boss (in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re trying to throw anyone under the bus).

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Unmana*

    Maybe OP can just say something to the boss like “Sometimes my colleagues let me know when they’re going to be a little late coming in. Is that something you would want to be aware of? I figure you don’t want to be bothered with that stuff, but wanted to make sure.”

      1. Unmana*

        Ha! As I read, I thought, hey, Alison usually says to address the boss directly and ask for her opinion… I succeeded in channeling you! :)

    1. Zee*

      I was also going to suggest…maybe once this is done…to have the other employees CC Boss on these emails to the OP if Boss really wants to know.

  2. Anonymous*

    Can you make a point of sometimes sending boss work-related emails time-stamped before 9am? That would be a low-key way to help make your presence known. Also, on the days you say you’ll be late but then get in on time, I don’t see why you couldn’t send a quick email to say FYI – I made it in on time after all.

    1. Jamie*

      I am neurotic enough that in her position if I had to send an email saying I might be late, I’d have to send one letting the boss know I wasn’t.

      Not logical, as I’m sure the boss doesn’t care, but I would have to.

      Actually, I don’t know why the boss doesn’t just have you email the co-workers directly. They are the ones who have to watch the door/phones – not the boss. If she isn’t keeping track for other reasons, seems silly to add a layer to what should be a very simple communication.

    2. Anonymous*

      That’s what I’d do! (In fact, I *have* done that occasionally. I also send more emails when I’m working from home on the odd day I need to, so they know I actually am working.)

  3. Tiff*

    How much time is there between when you are scheduled to arrive and when your phones begin ringing? There should be at least 30 minutes between your arrival and when your phones are open to the public. If you have that kind of cushion 5 extra minutes stuck in traffic won’t be that big of a deal and your boss may not need to hear about it every single time. Maybe ask her about it and get her take.

    I prefer an arrival window rather than a set arrival time. I live in the DMV, and traffic is really bad around here. My boss knows I’ll be in somewhere between 6:45am and 7:30am and work my assigned hours from there. It helps cut down on the “you were 3 and half minutes late, never let it happen again!” drama that I’ve seen at some other offices. Because really – you could be early pretty much every day and no one says anything, but if you’re 30 seconds late you’re a slacker. That’s a huge moral-killer if your work doesn’t require that kind of exact schedule.

    1. Jamie*

      Tiff brings up a lot of good points. I like the idea of a start time before the office opens, but it might not be workable if the office is open for 8.5 hours and that’s how long the OP’s shift is. There can also be an issue with hourly personnel getting OT if they start working as soon as they walk in the door.

      The arrival window is excellent and works really well for positions which don’t have specifically timed responsibilities. You really can’t have that for phones – those types of positions need definite start and end times.

      That does kind of bring up the concept of “late” though. You can be late for a job with a defined start time, but saying the boss is coming in “late” several days a week – that may not apply. I come in at different times most days, and I leave at a different time each day. I’m not late – because my schedule allows me to work this way. If the receptionist did this she would be late, as that job has different criteria for hours.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yeah, I am scheduled to work 9-5 and we are open 9-5. I happily always arrive at least 5 minutes early, usually 10 minutes and immediately start answering phones and doing little stuff (the other/primary receptionist usually gets here 9:00 on the dot). But I am not going to arrive 30 minutes early every day — an extra 2.5 hours a week — unless I’m getting paid for it. And I know we still get calls after we officially close. Should I be staying an extra 30 minutes after on my own dollar too?

        1. Jamie*

          Are you hourly? If so you shouldn’t work one minute on your own dime.

          Many hourly people welcome the chance to make a little OT, especially when they are at work anyway. We had a receptionist that had a set time to start – but could clock in anywhere up to 45 minutes early if she was here early. This way she could make sure she was here on time (traffic) but not being penalized for having to get here early and sit there off the clock and wait to start.

          A couple of hours of OT a week was a small price to pay to solve this problem. But had she not wanted to do that, the alternative would have been on her to time her commute more precisely.

          1. KellyK*

            That’s a fantastic idea! A little bit of OT is probably a small price to pay for both the reliability and the morale boost for her. (I would be pretty deeply unwilling to show up half an hour early every day, for free, just in case, but if you’re getting paid for the time, it’s a whole ‘nother story.)

        2. Tiff*

          Ah, well there goes that suggestion! Maybe, if there is another person covering phones who arrives at 9 on the dot, you could arrange to work from 8:30-4:30? I just find it really hard to come in to work and immediately begin answering phones – it means that I don’t have time to collect myself, set priorities, brew my coffee, etc. I need that “me” time before I start talking to people.

          1. Anonymous*

            Oh, I should probably have clarified I’m not the OP — may have come off that way, but I was just chiming in on the “come in 30 min early” part.

            That’s a good suggestion if someone’s office allows for it, and I wish mine did! (Especially because I’m considering going back to school, and when I inquired with a friend whose been here longer if the firm might let me work different hours so I could leave earlier, I was told “OMG No, don’t even ask if you know what’s good for you.”) But every office I’ve ever worked in has had 8/9-5 official hours, everyone came in right at 8/9, and they were strict about everyone being there the whole 8/9-5 unless occasional specific circumstances called for it.

          2. MaryTerry*

            This brings up another question – should getting situated and getting that first cup of coffee be on the clock, or on your own time?

            1. Jamie*

              This is a question that I’m sure has come up in many offices before.

              Personally, if I had to micromanage someone’s time to the point where I cared if they grabbed coffee before or after the clock stuck 8:00 I would be looking for another job.

              For me it’s just about what’s reasonable. I think it’s reasonable to show up on time and grab a cup of coffee and get to work. I think it’s unreasonable if you take 15 minutes crafting special snowflake coffee or one of the elaborate breakfasts people make at work.

              Those people who come in and spend the first half hour preparing and eating their morning meal…they should get in early if they want to do that. Or better yet, perhaps they should look around there home and see if, perchance, there is a room in their own house which could be used to prepare and eat their morning meal. We call ours the kitchen.

              1. Non-brekie*


                I used to get snarled at if public transport made me a few minutes late. My coworkers who came in by car were still in the kitchen, using the office milk* for their cereal, crafting a monster toast stack and special coffee etc… and got to their desks later than I did. They hadn’t even started up their PC’s before doing this breakfast debaucle!

                This office had to institute a strict “you are at your desk by..” policy in the end as the breakfast crew would spend 10-15 minutes of work time in the kitchen and start late. They’d also spend extra time after lunch to make coffee/bathroom breaks/put away their purchases etc.

                When its minor its silly to be annoyed about it but this wasn’t minor and this boss was very aware it was his profit they were eating into!

                *yes the boss cared because we often ran out for drinks during the day due to 5+ people doing cereal in the mornings!

              2. KellyK*

                That’s totally reasonable. Really, I think the only reason getting a cup of coffee should happen before your start time is if your job is one that needs you *at your desk* right at that start time (receptionist, call center, etc.). Otherwise, you’re there, you’re in a “work” frame of mind, and it’s only likely to be a minute or two. Not a big deal.

                In the unlikely event that anything is so earth-shatteringly urgent that it can’t wait for you to pour your coffee, you’re not hard to find, and presumably, if it’s that big a deal, someone will be frantically looking for you. If you’re not actually in the building yet, you’re much less likely to hear the cries of “JAMIE! The server’s on FIRE!”

              3. Tiff*

                Good Lord I would wilt in that kind of environment. Brewing coffee doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Come in, start the computer, begin brewing, make to do list, check messages…it all rolls into the same 15 minutes or so. I would be beside myself if my boss began asking me to come in earlier than I already do just to brew coffee.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But that’s different — you’re working during that 15 minutes. It’s the people who spend the whole 15 minutes standing in the kitchen tending to their coffee who are at issue here.

            2. Jen in RO*

              I’m a bit scared now. The company where I work has no problem with us arriving somewhat late, making coffee, reading an online newspaper or whatever, as long as we get our jobs done on time. Working hours are 9 to 6, but I usually come in at 9.30, eat/drink/chat until 10-10.30, and leave at 6.30. Now I’m worried that a new job might mean I’ll have to be at work at 9 on the dot… brrr, horrifying thought.

              (I’m hoping it’s a cultural thing though and that strict employers only happen to Americans! :P)

              1. Non-brekie*

                I’m in the UK…. and I’ve very rarely come across an employer who doesn’t run by strict “you must be in” rules. I’ve worked for places where 3 lates get you a write up. And these have all been office jobs where it isn’t strictly customer facing and ‘necessary’ – not retail etc.

    2. Natalie*

      Some places are just not going to want to budget for that. When I was the receptionist, our office was open 8-5 (45 hours a week) and I was scheduled for 9 hour days with a 1 hour lunch. There was no way our corporate office was going to okay 2.5 hours of OT every week.

      Personally, I think we could have opened the office and phones at 9 – the only people who regularly called us before 9 were vendors and they are easier to retrain than clients – but that wasn’t my decision.

  4. fposte*

    I have nothing brilliant to add in suggestion, but I’m just pleased that the OP is sanely clear that this isn’t about anybody being a jerk–it’s just a situational consequence. Go, OP with your reasonable self!

  5. A Bug!*

    They almost certainly are telling you and not your boss because as the receptionist you are the primary point of contact. You are the one who, when someone calls asking for Jane, needs to know how to respond appropriately. You need to know whether Jane is just running late, or won’t be in until lunchtime, or won’t be in at all.

    The boss only needs to know where Jane is if the boss needs Jane for something. It’s a better use of office time for you to be the first person to know.

    I do appreciate that it’s annoying to you that it seems like you don’t get credit for something because of this arrangement, but please don’t read too much into it as being a conspiracy! (Unless you have other reasons to support such a belief, of course.)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      When I was receptionist at my last job, I would have LOVED if people told me they weren’t going to be in! Many times they didn’t, and I couldn’t see if they were at their desks, so I would transfer calls not knowing they were not in the office. Grrrr.

      1. Anonymous*

        At my current job people are required to tell myself and the other receptionist where they’ll be for the day — if they’ll be late, how late, if they’ll be out all day, etc. Then we have a list we can refer to. It’s really great for the exact reason you say. When someone calls (or when someone in the office asks if I know where they are), I know whether I can transfer them right over or instead say “Sorry, Jane’s in court this morning but will be back at 1:00.”

  6. Jamie*

    The OP did mention making an effort to not be late, and lord knows I’m sympathetic to being at the mercy of traffic, but if you are only late once a month and it’s never by more than 5-10 minutes, wouldn’ t it be worth it to leave 10 minutes earlier each day and eliminate the problem altogether?

    It would save you being late, but also from the stress of worrying about being late and having to send an email letting them know…which I certainly hope you’re pulling over to do and not emailing while driving.

    I guess I’m having trouble with the math. Why would you need to be there 30-45 minutes early each day to avoid being late, when now you’re only 5-10 minutes late once a month?

    1. twentymilehike*

      I guess I’m having trouble with the math. Why would you need to be there 30-45 minutes early each day to avoid being late, when now you’re only 5-10 minutes late once a month?

      I could have written this, it reflects so much on my office, also! I live in Southern California, and my office is really not that far away, but sometimes there’s this section of freeway that sometimes takes five minutes to drive through, and sometimes it takes 20. It is terribly unpredictable. On a good day I get to work in 25 minutes. On a bad day I get to work in 60 minutes. If I left every morning planning for the worst, half of the time I’d be 35 minutes early. I think the OP is in a really similar situation with traffic.

      1. Jamie*

        I totally get that – and my commute can vary by 45 minutes or more, leaving at the same time, just based on traffic.

        But that would make the arrival times vary by more than 5-10 minutes once per month, which is what the OP says is happening.

        What you’re talking about, similar to mine, would result in a lot more than 5-10 minutes once a month.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think if the OP leaves based on the “average” commute time, then the result would be that the OP is late 5-10 min once per month? So would that be 5-10 min past opening time? Which if they normally get there 10-15 minutes early, then being “5 min late” would translate into actually being 15-20 min late? Which is kind of a lot.

          I think what the OP was tying to say was say she leaves at 7 am, and it takes 45 mintues on average to get to work in current traffic conditions, she would get there at 7:45. However, if she left at 6:45, it would only take 20 minutes to get there in the traffic conditions present at that time, therfore arriving at 7:10, which is 50 minutes before opening time. Does that makes sense? Its like time to your work day to time from your commute. And somtimes that’s okay and sometimes it sucks.

          Now my head hurts and I think I need another cup of coffee ….

          1. twentymilehike*

            Its like *adding* time to your work day to *lose* time from your commute

            OMG I REALLY need another cup of coffee today….

          2. Jamie*

            “Does that makes sense? Its like time to your work day to time from your commute. And sometimes that’s okay and sometimes it sucks.”

            Totally – thanks. I wasn’t accounting for the differing travel times based on traffic at various times of the morning. That’s a huge factor in the equation – nice catch.

        2. Esra*

          For those of us dependent on public transit (sad trombone), you don’t always have flexibility in blocks of 5-10 minutes. Especially if you are (sadder trombone) on a bus route that only comes every 30-40 minutes.

          1. DeeDee*

            Indeed, I don’t think a lot of people realize that 5-10 minutes on public transportation can add an hour to your trip because of connections. It’s the cause of a lot of sad face sorry can’t stay late’s at my job.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yep, before I moved closer to my job I was taking the commuter train. If I could have left work just five minutes early, I would have gotten home around 6:30 instead of 7:10 (7:30 by time I actually walked through the door). It sucked.

      2. OP*

        Yes, this was exactly it. (I’m actually no longer at this position–I started a new job last week but appreciate Alison answering my question anyway!) My commute was about 20 minutes in good traffic and I had to be in the office by 9. I would leave my house around 8:00 each morning, giving me 40 minutes of buffer time for bad traffic and to allow me to find street parking and walk to my office. Most mornings, traffic wasn’t that bad, which put me into the office by 8:40 or 8:45 the majority of days. When traffic was bad, my commute might extend to 30-40 minutes, so that by the time I parked and walked to the office, I was still getting there by 8:50-9:00. About once a month traffic for no apparent reason traffic would be so bad that my commute could take 45-50 minutes, which was enough to have me coming in at 9:05-9:10. Traffic was rarely worse than that.

        So I could have just left at 7:45 instead of 8:00 and pretty much never been late, but that would mean that instead of my typical arrival time of 8:40/8:45, my typical arrival time would have been more like 8:30. I’m not much of a morning person, but it seemed like a good value proposition to lose 15 minutes of sleep/morning time in exchange for reducing my chances of being late by 29 out of 30 days of the month. The value proposition was much less appealing to double the amount of lost sleep/morning time and just to cover myself on that 1 extra day a month, particularly when our office culture was one that didn’t see one late arrival a month as particularly troublesome.

        As others picked up on in the comments, it was less about me worried that my boss was unhappy with my performance, and more a pride/reputation thing that I felt it was unfair for me to be perceived as “the late one” when I’m usually early and my coworkers were being praised for being early despite being frequently late!

    2. Natalie*

      I had this issue on my old bus route, although I’m not totally sure the same thing is happening. It has to do with traffic volume at different times of day.

      It I took the 7:30 bus, the trip takes 25 minutes – 20 minutes on bus and 5 minutes walking, so I arrive at work at 7:55. If the bus is delayed or I miss it, I arrive at work at about 8:10.

      If I take the 7:20 bus, the trip only takes 15 minutes – 10 minutes on the bus and 5 minutes of walking – because so many fewer people take the bus at 7:20 and the roads are generally more clear. I eliminate all possibility of being late, but I nearly always arrive at work 25 minutes early instead of 5 minutes early.

  7. Anonymous*

    You could also email your boss letting them know you have arrived. This way you are showing them you are not always late and when you are it is by 5 minutes.

    1. Anonymous*

      If one of my staff did that, I would mystified and slightly annoyed at the same time.

      I think OP should do two things. Mention casually what is going on, and plan on leaving a little earlier every day if possible to prevent the problem in the future. If OP is insanely early some days, she can have some “me” time with a coffee and a book before the day starts.

      1. Anonymous*

        I don’t understand why you be mystified. If she she was running late, wouldn’t you like to know when she has arrived? After awhile you have to wonder if it is 30 minutes or 5 minutes.

        1. Anonymous*

          I would be mystified at the email saying she is on time. Did you read the comment I was responding to?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Anonymous 1 was suggesting she email to say she’s arrived only when she’s already emailed to say she’s running late. Anonymous 2 thought the suggestion was to email to say she’d arrived every day. That’s why you two are confusing each other :)

            Also, user names! They will make things easier.

      2. fposte*

        But I’d also be mystified and slightly annoyed by somebody emailing me every time she’s five minutes late, so we’ve already got a boss with policies I wouldn’t have.

  8. AnotherAlison*

    Isn’t the real issue that the boss praised the OP’s coworker for something he/she didn’t do (be first in the office), not who gets to work at what time?

    I’d be irritated, too, but if the boss had said that when just the two of us were together, I’d have probably said, “What? Are you serious? Jane is never the first one in. I’m here early almost every day & never see her before 9.” I don’t think that’s throwing her under the bus or tattling if it’s true. If all of you were there when the boss said that, the coworker should have spoken up. (Of course, I’m not worried about my coworkers liking me, either).

    Another possibility is that you’re viewed as slightly more senior & have a special duty to be their earlier. Maybe the boss meant Jane is the first one in, except for you (and you have to be there).

      1. NewReader*

        This. And works for other situations. Just resolve to have the presence of mind not to let a comment go by unchecked.

        I think to myself which bothers me more? The fact the comment was made or the fact I let it go by me. My new rule became “If it is going to bother me later, then I MUST say something now.” I learned a little bit about using humor with some comments, too.

        It’s quite possible, that Boss knows OP is always there and the unstated message included “Besides OP, who we know is always here….”

        We can’t let stuff fester/stew. Something as simple as “Where were you going with THAT?” and a quizzical look can nip these things.

        1. Blinx*

          “…not to let a comment go by unchecked.”
          This is a skill that I am sorely lacking! By the time my brain registers that I should have said something…
          1) the moment’s passed and the conversation is on a different topic. OR
          2) I’m surprised by the comment and can’t think of a way to tactfully address it (esp. if the boss said it and/or there’s another party present). OR
          3) I don’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation.
          [just another reason why I prefer email conversations — so much more time to react!]

            1. NewReader*

              Yes, please do, Alison! This has been a long learning curve for me.
              I started with the recurring remarks and the recurring “offenders”. I skipped the one-off (picking my battles). I stuck with stuff that I know usually upsets me later, when I think about it.
              This does not cover everything that comes up. Additionally, I want to make sure I am within bounds by standing up for myself.

              The surprising part is where funny situations happened. I learned to say “what?” to some remarks and my-oh-my, that remark disappeared like magic.

            2. Jennifer O*

              That would be very useful. I find that, as an introvert, I often need time to think/process something before speaking up. It would be helpful to have key phrases to use gracefully.

          1. Cassie*

            I need this skill too! Oftentimes I feel like George Costana and his jerk store comment (well, I hope my “oh, wait, I should have said this” thoughts are better than jerk store).

            For me, it’s not just a comment here or there that I am slow to respond to – I don’t think I’m good at brainstorming on the spot. I’ll be in meetings where someone proposes a solution, and we all just nod in agreement. As soon as I step out of the office, I think “stupid, why did you agree to THAT?!”.

  9. Jamie*

    I guess I just find it strange that 5-10 minutes once per month in an office with only two other people would be a big deal. Especially since you don’t you have a low volume of calls/visitors.

    Unless you are physically spread out so they don’t know whether you’re there or not, I would just think a couple minutes on rare occasion would be something co-workers would just overlook.

    Now, if it were more often or late by a longer period of time, I can see it being an issue. To be honest, 5-10 minutes once per month and I doubt very much I’d even notice as a co-worker.

    It just seems like either something is missing from the information, or the boss is maybe over managing something that could be worked out between the three people in the office?

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Do you think this is a rule the boss mentioned when OP was hired, not knowing that OP is rarely late? Now that OP has a track record of mostly being on time, she could re-address this with the boss. She could ask the boss if it would be more helpful if OP emailed/texted the boss when she actually was not in the office to get the phones at starting time (perhaps helpful information in case an irate client calls boss later to complain that no one answered the phone at opening time when they called).

      Because it doesn’t seem as though anyone else is rushing into the office to get the phones when OP gives boss a heads-up that she *may* be late. So why let the boss know that? It just seems like extra, unneeded information.

    2. KayDay*

      I was thinking that too. If the organization doesn’t get a whole lot of phone or visitor traffic, it might not matter if someone calls at 9:10 and is sent to voice mail (after all, the same would happen if they called at 8:50). Or one of the co-workers could pick up the phone. Then again, it might matter, depending on the nature of the work.

      At my current office, we only use direct lines. (And one person also has to receive calls to the “public” number which is mostly telemarketers). But we have very low call volume.

    3. Jen in RO*

      I’m a bit surprised anyone cares if employees show up 5-10 minutes late *ever*! I meant, it’s 10 minutes. The office won’t burn up if you’re late. Unless you work in a call center or you’re a receptionist, what’s the problem? Am I missing something regarding exempt/non-exempt employees? (That stuff is very foreign to me, honestly, since working hourly is highly unusual here… and OT is almost never paid, even if the law says it should be. In most places I’ve worked/heard about, the point is finishing your work – if you’re 30 minutes late and you can’t finish your stuff by 6, then you need to stay until 6.30 to make up for the time.)

      1. Jamie*

        This is a point that gets brought up a lot – the matter of getting your work done.

        I always have several projects in different stages, in theory I’d never be done – it’s not like I have a daily to do list that I complete and start again in the morning.

        So when you (or others) talk about getting your work done do you mean the stuff planned for the day, or does this apply only to jobs where tasks are self contained for the day?

        Oh, and the OP was responsible for phones and visitors, which is why being late is a big deal.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I’m a tech writer and the goal is to have each document ready by the due date, and also finish my other (admin-type or maintenance) tasks. As long as I finish my projects on time, my boss doesn’t care when I get to work and when I leave – within reasonable limits of course. (I also don’t have a problem staying late when needed, if something needs to get done now… well, I’ll stay here until 8 PM and finish. I think it’s only fair.) So far it’s worked out fine – we appreciate being able to come in late, so we never leave at 6 PM on the dot, and the boss doesn’t ask us to put in overtime unless it’s “life and death” (i.e. the release is tomorrow and the online help must be published before midnight). It’s also partly because my boss is in the US (7 hours timezone difference) and very busy, so he’s taught us to be pretty self sufficient and manage ourselves.

          Hours only became an issue in the team when a coworker of mine came in late, left early and *complained* that she had too much work to do. We pointed out that actually *being* at work for the required 8 hours a day might help with the workload.

        2. KellyK*

          I think “done” means finishing the things that had to be done that day and making enough progress on everything else that deadlines can be met (without having to scramble and with some slack for possible emergencies).

          “How do you know when you’ve done a full day’s work?” could probably be its own huge discussion.

          1. Jamie*

            ““How do you know when you’ve done a full day’s work?” could probably be its own huge discussion.”

            I think this is the crux of it, and this is why so many workplaces opt to track time – it’s infinitely easier to measure.

            How many hours I was in the office is a fact, as is whether I walked in at 9:00 or 9:05. But my effort, my results, tracking progress is a much harder thing to measure and different positions need different criteria.

            If I’m working on a development project the bulk of the work in the beginning will show very little results at the end of the day. It’s not like you can run 70% of a report when it’s 70% complete. But at the end all the work before falls into place and you go from 0 to complete in what seems like moments.

            I’m not justifying the workplaces that track every minute – but I do think the simplest explanation of why they do it is likely true much of the time. It’s the easiest metric to measure.

        3. Anonymous*

          “I always have several projects in different stages, in theory I’d never be done – it’s not like I have a daily to do list that I complete and start again in the morning.”

          Me, too. The only way I’d ever be done is if they laid me off.

          Some companies’ obsession about being “on-time” (depending on the duties, of course) truly baffles me. I once worked for a small company (around 500 employees) where they practically held a stop watch on us about showing up in the morning and leaving/returning for lunch. My position? I was essentially working alone QA’ing applications.

          I had come from a company with flexible hours and a “this is going to be deployed by YY-MM-DD so testing has to be complete by YY-MM-DD” mentality, so I felt like I was in a straightjacket the whole time I was at the new company.

          The really weird thing was that at 5:00, it was like a whistle went off. The rest of the testers (who had only worked at that company for their entire careers) got up and headed for the door no matter what. Me? I finished up whatever I was working on since, depending on what I was testing, it was much more work to stop and retrace my steps to get back to where I was if I left than it was to stay over a bit and get to a good stopping point. I could churn out far more work than they could and yet I was the one who stayed in trouble because I was at my desk at 8:01am instead of 8:00am and came back from lunch 5 minutes late. Total weirdness. I lasted 5 months before I escaped back into a Fortune 50 with a far more relaxed attitude towards seat time and far more concentration on results. And doubled my salary.

  10. Ryan*

    Maybe I’m parsing this too much but….

    “You’re interpreting it as if they’re thinking, “I’ll tell Jane in order to cover myself in case the boss asks, but she probably won’t and thus she’ll never know – bwahahaha!” and rubbing their hands together gleefully … but they’re really probably not.”

    I didn’t get the feeling that the OP felt this way at all. I DID, however, read that the co-workers have “developed” a habit of emailing JUST the OP when they’re going to be late. My question would consequently be…”Was there an alternative procedure in place for them to notify the office about being late?”

    Otherwise I’d agree with the advice…just mention it to your boss the next time she makes a comment.

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