tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How many questions are normally asked at a job interview?

How many questions are normally asked at a job interview? I recently graduated college and I’m preparing to go on my first job interview, so I would like know this in order to be fully prepared for the interview.

It really depends — on the interviewer, the candidate, the job, and the length of the interview. Some interviews are as short as half an hour (with some phone screens shorter than that). Some are an hour, and some are longer. Probably the average is about an hour, with anywhere from 15-30 questions. It just varies. And of course, a good interview will have plenty of unplanned follow-up questions, building from whatever your answer was.

2. Should I question my manager about her reminder about overtime approval?

I’m eligible for overtime in my current role. Overtime policy at this company says that hours recorded below 45 hours per week do not need management approval (where time above 40 hours would be overtime). This week, I clocked in 6 hours of overtime in a 2-week period and received a reminder from my manager to let her know if I was having issues managing my workload.

Do I concede here? Or question her on the policy? I’m concerned this will turn into a divisive issue if I say anything.

It’s more likely to be divisive if you approach it the way it sounds like you’re approaching it here (with talking of conceding and questioning her). Instead, just ask for clarification, without assuming there’s anything unfair or unreasonable going on: “Just to make sure I’m doing this correctly — my understanding is that I should check with you before working more than 5 hours of overtime in a week, but your note makes me wonder if you’d rather I check with you before that?” (And it’s certainly her prerogative to ask you to do that, regardless of what the company-wide policy is.)

3. Manager won’t let me leave four minutes early

I have been in my current job for 4 months and have recently changed teams within my department, meaning changing managers. I work on a help desk, which involes me logging onto an agent system that moniters my calls. My shift is 8:30-5 pm with an hour lunch. Last Friday, I logged off at 4:56 to get myself ready and out the door dead on 5 pm. (I had a 35-mile drive home that I was not looking forward to). I received an email the next Monday morning from my line manager saying that I am to stay logged on untill 5 pm as those are my hours. This seems like a fair statment, right?

Well, I’m not the only help desk in my office, but I am the only one made to stay on the help desk untill 5 pm exactly, which means I am covering for everyone else in office, although we all log onto a different type of help desk; if they are all logged off, then their calls will be directed to me. Not only that, but if I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 because there is no one else in the office and all other members of my team have finished for the day, there is nothing I can do to resolve the call. I am the go-to person for the “all inquiries” option, so for me to help other people I need to direct them to correct person, which is not possible if they have all left for the day. There is also the fact that when I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 that the phone call can last over 5 minutes if the caller is chatting away, meaning I am always leaving work past 5 pm!

I would be happy to stay late on the odd day if on the odd day I can leave at 4 minutes to 5! Not everyday, but maybe on a Friday when I have a 35-mile drive! Also, I am never late; in fact I am on average 15 minutes early everyday! I just feel it’s completely unfair and would like a manager’s opinion.

If you’re supposed to be on the phone until 5, then you need to stay logged in until 5. And if that means your last call keeps you longer than 5, well, that sounds like part of the job. Arguing over this because you want to leave four minutes early is going to be wasted effort. This is not a job with flexible hours (uh, flexible minutes, in this case); if they’re telling their customers that they call until 5, that means 5 — not 4:56. It sounds like your real issue is that other coworkers are leaving early, leaving you with no one to direct their calls to. That’s an issue that you could raise with your manager, to find out how she’d like that handled.

4. My friend wants to recommend me for a job that I’m not sure I want

I’m about to finish my master’s degree and am obviously engaged in a pretty intensive job search. A friend of mine works for a large international company that is far outside the field I’ve studied and hope to pursue. She loves her job and knows they are hiring, so she has asked me to send her my resume so that she can pass it along to higher-ups in her company. I am obviously appreciative of her help, but I’m not sure it’s a job I’m qualified for, and, furthermore, not sure it’s one I’d want. Though she seems firmly convinced I can do the work and is willing to vouch for me to her supervisors, is it a mistake to have her pass along my resume? I am concerned that if it is far outside the qualification range they’re looking for or if they hire me and I say no, it will reflect badly on her. While I’m not sure I don’t want to work for this company, I definitely would rather prioritize my friend’s success over a job I am so uncertain about.

Interviewing for a job doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to accept it if it’s offered to you, so I wouldn’t worry about that — unless you’re 100% sure you wouldn’t accept it, in which case there’s no point in wasting your time or theirs. The bigger issue would be that she can harm her own credibility by recommending someone who’s obviously not the right profile for the job (which may or may not be the case here; that’s something that you and she will have to judge).

5. Can a manager send performance reviews on without employees ever seeing them?

Can a supervisor legally write quarterly reviews for employees and submit them to upper management without the employees ever seeing the document? The reviews were included in a quarterly account report that allocated two pages to reviewing employee strengths, weaknesses and suggested career path.

Yes. The law doesn’t govern how your company chooses to manage, as long as they’re not discriminating against legally protected classes (i.e., making decisions based on race, religion, sex, etc.) or a few other very narrowly defined areas of law.

Why not just ask your manager if you can see your evaluation? If this is a crazy, unreasonable system (and it certainly might be, while still being perfectly legal), she might say no, but it’s a reasonable question to ask.

6. Explaining that I’m looking for another job because I’m working under the table

If I’m looking for a new job because I’m uncomfortable with being paid in cash and working under the table, could I be honest about this in an interview or should I come up with another reason? If so, what could I say in lieu of this?

Well, it will implicate you in agreeing to an illegal set-up, which isn’t great. I’d try to find another credible reason if you can. But if you can’t, then you could just say something like, “They’re paying us in cash, which I’m uncomfortable with.”

7. Should I follow up with HR while the hiring manager is out of the office?

A week and a half ago, I interviewed with the senior marketing manager for an entry-level position with this company. She said the interview went well and wanted to set me up for a second appointment with some of her colleagues, and told me that I should expect contact within the next week.

Given that a week has passed, I emailed her today following up, reiterating my interest, and asking for an updated timeline if things have changed. I got an automated reply saying that she’s out of the office until May 2nd.

I also have the contact information of the human resources manager — the one who initially contact me to set up the appointment with the marketing manager. Should I contact her to ask about my status? Or would that be uncalled for/strange, and I should just wait til Thursday?

Don’t ask about your status; that’s a semi-weird question. But it would be fine to email the HR person and say that the hiring manager mentioned that she’d like you to interview with another group of people, and ask about the timeline for setting that up. Unless the hiring manager made it clear that you’d be hearing from her — in which case, yes, wait until she’s back in the office (and don’t email a second time until at least another week or two has passed; she’ll see your first email when she returns).

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #6, the phrase “A more formal employment arrangement” might be useful. I am assuming there are no benefits (Health insurance, and such) with your current job, so if the one you are applying for has them, you could approach the question from that perspective.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      When I read #6’s question, and Alison’s answer, my heart jumped into my throat. OP, I feel that you should not say ANYTHING related to how you’re being paid. Find another, completely different reason that you would want a new job – more opportunity for career advancement, better benefits, closer to your home, etc. Because you have already accepted money under the table, you could get into trouble (this is why people at the bottom of the totem pole are thrown to the wolves when an employer is audited).

      Obviously, this is a hot button for me.

      1. Anonymous*

        How to avoid getting thrown under the bus? Simple, declare your income, regardless of whether the employer is.

        1. twentymilehike*

          This … you can still claim your income and file a tax return, but then will it be you or the employer that gets fined for not making quarterly tax payments? A friend of mine was self employed and assumed she could pay her taxes at one time at the end of the year and set money aside. Ooops.

          1. Natalie*

            I think the IRS has an 800-number for questions like this. I haven’t had to call them in a long time, but the last time I did they were pretty helpful.

        2. Anonymous*

          People in these kinds of situations can’t report because they’ll lose their jobs, and some money is better than NO money. And you can get a “rep” which means you can’t find any jobs where they know the previous employer. Lose/lose situation for the under the table employee.

  2. Jessa*

    Regarding overtime, it’s also possible that your boss just saw 6 hours and didn’t realise it was over two weeks. Either way, your boss may be under pressure to lower the department budget, company OT rules or not. There just doesn’t seem to be anything in what you said that sounds like your boss is being adversarial and it kind of seems that you have your back up about it?

    1. Lisa*

      Just cause the company says you are allowed overtime, doesn’t mean they want you to consistently use it. Your boss wants to know if that overtime is really necessary, or if you are just putting in more time to get a few more hours or event to just get ahead. Just ask if she prefers that you avoid overtime at all costs.

      1. Anonymous*

        And if it’s a good manager, they’ll want to know if their staff is constantly needing to do overtime, because ideally they’d hire more people.

      2. Camellia*

        Sounds like that is what is happening here. The OP says boss was wanting to know if she was having issues managing her work load, which is something a good manager wants to know.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. It sounds like the typical, Everyone-stuffs-off-on-a-Friday situation. Is the manager aware that the OP is the only one still in the office?

    1. FullOfBeans*

      It everyday not just a Friday, infact everyone leaves at 4pm on a Friday except me.
      It is hard not to notice when there is only one person left in the office, everyone will leave at around 5 to 5 or even at half 4 on a daily basis inculding the other teams manager who sits in the same office and say’s good night every time he goes! The guy who works as part of my team even points out ‘ow im shooting of early’ and goes!
      I dont ask to leave 4mins early everyday, I dont even need to but if for some reason I do I dont expect to be emailed about it!

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m guessing you’re the OP of that question? Are you the newest employee in your section of the call center by any chance? I’m not saying it’s fair, but sometimes this is the kind of of low person on the totem pole type of thing that you will eventually work your way out of. Besides, if you’re new (and 4 months in counts as pretty new imo), you should definitely be working your full hours and not taking off early, regardless of what others around you are doing.

      2. Jane Doe*

        Is it possible your coworkers have a shift that actually ends at 4 PM on Friday? It seems odd that they wouldn’t keep at least one person there who could actually deal with a problem before the weekend, but maybe your employers is thinking that nothing terrible can happen between 4 and 5 PM and they just need someone to document any problems for Monday?

        I’d say the problem here is that your coworkers are leaving early on a daily basis and there’s no one to route the calls to. However, it’s also possible that they have “earned” the right to leave early and that your boss assumes that having one person at the help desk for the last bit of the day is enough, and that as the newest person that unfortunately is your responsibility.

    2. Lillie Lane*

      I definitely feel for the OP, as it sounds like he/she is not being treated equally. However, as one who has been on the other side of the telephone, it’s frustrating not having the full customer service hours as stated. When trying to contact the state unemployment agency (the only time I could call them were from 4:20-4:30 when I got home from work, and their number was only available until 4:30), it was pretty apparent that they stopped answering phone calls before then. Four minutes can make a big difference to those that don’t have flexible calling hours.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        Do you know that the manager has not sent the same reminder message about logging off early to the other employees?
        Of course you wouldn’t, unless they told you themselves.

        Is the manager present when others are leaving 5 minutes early? Perhaps s/he doesn’t know this is happening.

        You could bring it up in your next team meeting, so that it’s covered with all.

        1. saro*

          I wouldn’t bring it up in the next team meeting. I would speak to the boss about my concerns first. What if there is a different understanding for the other employees (for whatever reason)?

  4. pidgeonpenelope*

    #4: I wouldn’t fight this with the boss. Having worked in a call center for some time, I understand both sides of the issue. On one hand, it really truly sucks to get that call 2 minutes before quitting time. On the other hand, wouldn’t you be completely ticked if you needed IT help and you called in before 5 but couldn’t get anyone? I also agree with PEBACK who said it is professional suicide to protest this. You’re only going to lose this whole thing entirely.

    1. FullOfBeans*

      Thanks for your advice. I kind of guessed this is how it would be. Its frustrating to face it everyday when everyday someone near you leaves early.

      1. Jamie*

        Different roles have different flexibility when it comes to this, though. You are working a shift, shift work typically requires strict adherence to hours. I’ve worked with a fair number of receptionists who resented the flexibility of other jobs when they have to stay until their allotted time, especially when new, but its part of the deal for certain jobs.

        Why the other help desk don’t have to stay is a separate question, that’s odd.

        But if your role is to take down and route the requests I don’t see why getting those calls just before 5:00 is a big deal. It’s not the same dread as getting the call that some horrible problem broke out as you were headed out the door and you had to turn around and stay until it was resolved.

        You’ll be better off not worrying about what the managers are doing and certainly not expecting your employer to care about your commute (I drive 35 miles each way everyday and I’m baffled how 4 minutes makes any difference there. If it was due to a bus/train schedule it would make sense, but how would that impact your drive?). Entitlement will make you miserable.

        1. Runon*

          Yeah I had a job for a while that required absolutely strict seat in chair time (though I couldn’t quite understand why but that was the policy) I tried to negotiate for arrive 15 minutes early/leave 15 minutes early to catch an earlier bus. Leaving 3 minutes earlier to get myself out the door and to the bus stop 5 minutes before the end of the day would have saved me over an hour of commute time on the way home. But when they said no, I sucked it up and knew that part of my job was to continue to sit in that chair while the bus drove by. If I focused on that it made me much more frustrated. I found if I just let it go and didn’t focus on coworkers who sometimes just got up and left early because they had …immunity to getting fired but instead focused on the work I was doing, learning new things, applying for other jobs, making sure I had lots of books loaded on my iPad for reading, whatever. It was just the job and sometimes you go hey they are just paying me fore my butt to be sitting there and my hand to be on the phone. It’s just how some jobs are.

          1. Jamie*

            This is one of those situations that if it could possibly be accommodated it should be – because of the huge difference those couple of minutes would make to a public transit commute.

            I know there are jobs where it’s not possible – but for me I would think there would have to me a damn good reason for denying a slight shift change in those instances. You had a great attitude about it though.

          2. Chinook*

            The thing to remember when you see someone leaving earlier than you is not that they have immunity from being fired but that they have different job requirements. I have been that person who was the only one in the office the afternoon before Christmas because my job required me to be present. Did it suck? Yes. Did I know that this was part of the job? Yes. Am I being paid to be there? Yes.

            You will find yourself more satisfied in this job, and life in general, if you remember not to compare what you have/do to others and, instead, learn to be satisfied with what you have (not to be confused with settiling with what you have – you can still work to improve things, but someone else will always be better off).

            1. Jamie*

              It’s a tough thing to learn and it’s easy to feel crappy if you allow yourself too much time to compare and contrast.

              And sometimes it can sneak up on you, even if you think you’ve kind of subdued the green eyed monster.

              Case in point – I’m not that materialistic and am all in all fairly content with my lot in life. Sure, always looking to improve it, but all in all I think fairly okay with myself. The other day I dropped my son off at the home of one of his friends…that’s where the limo was picking them up for prom.

              15K square foot if it was an inch – it had TWO turrets! I don’t even know what you with a turret in the suburbs, but I know if I had one I’d spend an inordinate amount of time leaning out of windows with my hair hanging down. Seriously, I’m not intimidated by much, but I felt under dressed just being in the driveway, and that was before I saw the Bentley and the Jag in the garage.

              I was shocked at my own reaction – I actually felt guilty that I couldn’t provide my kids with that kind of life. Momentarily it just seemed so unfair that my kids had to struggle through a very middle class upbringing and a couple miles away was a different life. I felt inadequate.

              Then my husband told me I was being ridiculous, that I’ve said a million times even if we won the lottery I’d hate anything that big – and that the kids haven’t being going without…with the exception of going without cars worth more than our house.

              It was brief, I got over it, but man did it suck to be envious. But at least if you’re envious about work things, you can aspire to get them some day. My kind of envious was never going to be resolved, because even if I harvested all my organs for sale on the black market that kind of life is not going to happen for us.

              My rambling point is being jealous sucks – it’s probably my least favorite emotion and it’s pointless because no matter who you are there will always be those with more and those with less…whether it’s money or workplace perks.

              1. A Bug!*

                For a moment I thought you were talking about the limo being huge with two turrets and I thought “where in blazes do you live that limos need turrets”.

            2. Runon*

              I agree with everything you said. But this actually was the case here. They simply couldn’t be fired. It was a thing, I didn’t really care. The job wasn’t different, it was just other things. Did it frustrated me a little sometimes. But once I learned about it, it was much easier to just suck it up and move on.

              And the people who did have different jobs and different responsibilities and got to leave earlier I asked them how they got those jobs and started working toward that instead.

        2. Julie*

          Every now and then, AAM has a letter from someone about a receptionist who doesn’t understand why s/he can’t leave early “like everyone else.” I’m always surprised that the person who was hired to greet visitors, answer the phone, take delivery of packages, etc. during business hours doesn’t seem to understand why s/he (or a replacement) would need to actually be at the reception desk during business hours. I think it must at least partially be related to people not understanding that legally, employers don’t need to be “fair” or treat everyone the same or have rules that make sense. I know I used to think that a lot of things employers did were probably illegal (but now I know better!).

          1. Citizen Of Metropolis*

            Julie said: “legally, employers don’t need to be “fair” or treat everyone the same or have rules that make sense.”

            I think you are right, and that you just described exactly what is wrong in the vast majority of workplaces. I know I’ll be pounded downstream in the comments for thinking that way, but so be it.

            1. Jamie*

              I am absolutely not being argumentative (disclaimer because it can be hard to tell in type) but I’m curious as to this viewpoint, since it comes up a lot.

              When you say everyone should be treated the same, would that apply to salary? Should everyone be paid the same, regardless of job? Or have the same amount of PTO regardless of seniority?

              Or in the current topic of schedules – if the receptionist must be there between 8:00 – 4:30 because those are the office hours, should that apply to everyone? I’m wondering how that would work – because different jobs do have different requirements. Or since the receptionist must be in the office to do her job, should no one be allowed to work remotely because s/he can’t?

              Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic – but when I hear the plea for fairness and treating everyone the same I don’t understand the logistics. It would seem like it would unnecessarily hamper management being able to make decisions based on what’s best for the company as a whole.

              And to take it to an extreme – if I get a call from second shift about a problem with the server and I come in at midnight to deal with it, should everyone have to come in? Of course not, that would be silly…but I throw that in to illustrate what it is that I don’t understand about how equality could possibly be applied.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I would also add: Should a more productive employee in Job A get treated no differently than a less productive employee who’s also in Job A? Should they get the same salary, same raises, same perks, and same treatment? If so, why would the better worker stay? Or if she stayed, why would she continue to work hard, if she can get the same rewards with much less effort?

                1. Jamie*

                  This is exactly why I could never work in a seniority based work place. I can live with rising or falling on my own merits, but to be stuck based on a start date where the quality of my work was irrelevant. I would disgruntled all the time.

              2. Citizen Of Metropolis*

                Jamie raises fair points. What I think we need to do is to make the distinction between “fair” and “equal” more clear. In this case, they do not mean the same thing. By committing to treat each employee in a fair manner, the employer fosters a culture of respect and recognizes that each employee makes a necessary contribution to a well-run organization. It means that while each employee might not get the same perks, all employees get some perks. Equal, as in rigid standards inflexibly enforced, is not always possible but the idea that each employee is worthy of respect is vital. I am probably not explaining this well; it’s a hot-button issue for me because my job is almost 100% reviewing employee complaints against employers, and I have seen some truly appalling cases of abuse.

                1. AB*

                  Because “fairness” is somewhat subjective, I like to think in terms of trade-offs.

                  If you take a job that requires set hours, you are making a trade-off (e.g., it’s better than being unemployed, or getting a different job for a lower pay, but on the other hand, you can’t have flexible hours).

                  The same idea of trade-offs would apply to what Alison said about more vs. less productive employees. Because I always dedicated lots of my free time to develop hard-to-learn skills, I tend to be more productive than other employees doing the same job (trade-off: leisure time vs. valuable skills). For that reason, I’m often the target of headhunters, and because I have choices, I can tell my employer that I won’t travel more than 20% of my time, while colleagues in the same role have to travel 50% or more of their time (trade-off: in order to keep me, my employer has to be flexible in travel time, but the same doesn’t apply to my less productive colleagues who have less leverage because they can be more easily replaced).

                  Yes, there are environments in which favoritism is the cause of special treatment, but I agree with everybody saying that one’s reference about “fair” should not be what others are doing, but what the agreement is between *you* and your employers, as the parameters for others will vary.

              3. Chinook*

                Jamie, I have seen rules set up where everyone has to be treated the same EXCEPT the receptionist (which makes sense because it was the only job that required actual face time during office hours) but the issues arose when everyone thought this meant that the receptionist either a)had the same flexibility as them and couldn’t understand why I would need someone to cover while I went to the bathroom/lunch or b) the receptionist was incomptenent/couldn’t manage their time so they HAD to be given specific hours to be there otherwise they would never be there.

                Having been there/done that/have the t-shirt, I have to admit that there is a world of difference between being treated fairly and being treated equally. Not everyone should have to have equal office hours as the receptionist but it would be more than fair to let her know that the office has closed early before a holiday, that no one is in the office and that she can go home now.

                1. Jessa*

                  Also, I know it can be a privacy issue, but sometimes a great deal of stopping the “this is not fair” language is communication. If someone came to me as a manager and was upset that Wakeen and Shuvon left early, it would not be out of line to say, if this is the case, that “Wakeen starts at 7:30 not 8,” or some other legitimate business reason for the fact that things are not as unfair as they look. Or even, we allow more flexibility after the first 6 months (or year) or whatever of employment.

                  If the answer is however, that they all have the same start time and same job tasks, a solution could be that yes we can alternate who gets to go home early. Absent being TOLD that the employee hates being the one to stay, I would have to figure that it was agreed upon between the employees.

                  For instance I had a friend who had only one car. His wife drove him in and went to work herself. Because of this he had to be there maybe 15-20 minutes AFTER his schedule to wait for her to get there. So he would not have cared if the rest of the group cleared out, since he had to be on the premises anyway. So to him working that 5-10 minutes by himself, no big deal.

                  However, had he gone to his boss and said “hey my wife is off today I have the car, make someone else stay today.” she would have. And she would have said to the grump who had to stay, if they complained, “Hey he stays a lot for you. You owe him one.”

                  Communication is key. And yes I know the world is not “fair” but seriously, a lot of bad will, stress and other unnecessary issues come up because of lack of communication. You also lose some very very good employees because they think disparate treatment is unfair, but if you dig into it, it’s not all that disparate.

                  And in the case of the receptionist, or someone belike, I hope management picks up on that. Because if the receptionist picks up that attitude and if they’re any good at the job, they’ll find another one pretty fast.

        3. Citizen Of Metropolis*

          Expecting to be treated fairly in the workplace is not entitlement. Walking out early and therefore leaving the only employee left at work unable to their job is very entitled.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Actually, expecting to be treated identically to coworkers IS unrealistic. It might or might not be entitled, depending on the specifics of the person’s thinking, but it’s at least unrealistic. The OP has no idea what arrangements the coworkers might have with their manager; they might have permission to leave early because of seniority or work quality or simply because they negotiated it. The OP needs to assume that she needs to meet the requirements of her job until/unless she reaches a different agreement with her employer.

          2. Jamie*

            My use of the word was in reference to the OP commenting above that even the other teams manager gets to leave “early.” (Which may or may not be early depending on the negotiated hours.)

            It may not be entitlement – and perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word – but that’s how it struck me that the OP feels it’s unfair that the other manager is allowed to leave. You can’t apply blanket rights and parameters to different positions any more than you can apply a blanket salary for everyone.

            I think it was the use of the word unfair that makes it feel entitled to me. I could be wrong. But while I absolutely believe everyone has a right to be treated professionally in the work place, I don’t believe we have a right to be treated ‘fairly’ as used in this construct.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          Even receptionists get to leave early now and then if there is someone to cover them. If the OP is new, however, he/she may have to put in face time until a certain period has passed before getting to do this. And this particular position may be one where this never happens.

          Or the manager could just suck, but I don’t know. I think the best thing to do is bring up the fact that there’s no one to refer the callers to after 4 pm, and ask how the manager wants the OP to handle that.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I also do not see anywhere that the OP said she is coming in 4 minutes early.

      I was taught that you get to work before your shift to get yourself ready so that you’re butt-in-chair and ready to work when your work hours start. I was also taught that you WORK until your work day ends and get ready to go home on your time. I may not always operate that way, but I think that’s the right thing to do. You should give your employer the full 8 hrs they are paying you for.

          1. Nikki*

            I still agree with you for the most part. My coworker goes on about how she’s always here so early, why can’t she leave early?
            Because no one told her to come in that early, she isn’t supposed to start working early. She is to stay until 5pm, so she should start work at 8, that’s why!

      1. Jamie*

        You should give your employer the full 8 hrs they are paying you for.

        This. And it’s important to remember that some jobs continue after people go home. Some positions have phone meetings in the evening, or maintenance that can only be done with users logged out of the system, or customer calls later in the evening. So what may look like cutting out early may just be their day in the office is ended – but work goes on.

        Just something to keep in mind for people who, like the OP, are frustrated at what can look like other people’s cush hours. I walked in at 9:00 once ages ago and someone made a snarky comment about how I come and go as I please. I pointed out that I had worked 7:30 am – 11:30 pm the night before on an emergency and I was staying again late that night. I was told I didn’t owe them an explanation, and I didn’t, but it did help them understand that just because we don’t work the same “shift” doesn’t mean I am taking it easy.

        1. Chinook*

          Jamie, it isn’t said enough but let me be one of those to thank all IT personnel who put in those odd hours to ensure not only that our computers are working but that we don’t have down time while the usual housekeeping items are being done. I know that there are a lot of us who appreciate it.

      2. Jennifer*

        If she works a phone shift, coming in 4 minutes early won’t help to make up for the part where the phones are open from 8-5 and she opens the phone line at 7:56 when the cal line isn’t open. She’s totally stuck here, I think.

      3. Emma*

        As one call-center survivor to another, please don’t let the jealousy caused by your perceptions eat you up. There are enough challenges in working the phones without the psychological burden of craving and entitlement.

        That said, there very well may be something going on behind the scenes about which you know nothing – and indeed, as the newbie on the block, I’m not sure you’re entitled to that knowledge. To give you an example, in my call center, my coworker left at 3:30pm. Sounds lovely, right? Not exactly. She left early because she came in at 7:00am and had other responsibilities to fulfill in that time until the call lines opened. Yet management decided that was an appopriate modification to make to her schedule to keep a valuable, long-time employee happy and productive.

        Really, the first six months of your job are to get good at it, OP – knowing your product, becoming fluent in your script, knowing your responsibilities and developing your problem-solving faculties to help your client with x, y or z issue.

        Within the first half-a-year, you’re still getting to know your coworkers and them you! You’re still understanding the office culture, the management style, etc. Shoot, you’re might still be trying to remember that twisty-turny short-cut between buildings on your office campus that cuts 5 minutes off your walk. Please try and adjust your focus – away from analyzing and feeling pouty over the quirks of other people’s schedules. It’s not a good look, friend, it’ll only make you unhappy and might make your manager and coworkers think you’re entitled.

  5. Sa*

    #3- I think the issue is the department does allow flexable working hours just not towards this person! If everyone else is leaving early and there helpdesk is not covered why can’t this person leave 4mins early?

    1. Colette*

      Are the other help desks supposed to be staffed until 5? If so, the OP should, as Alison said, ask their manager how to handle calls for the unstaffed help desks.

      If they truly aren’t going to be staffed, the official hours need to change. If that happens, than the OP could probably leave earlier (possibly at the expense of getting fewer hours).

    2. AP*

      It matters because if I’m your customer, and your website says you take calls until 5pm, and I call at 4:57 and everyone is gone already, your manager will be feeling my annoyance.

      Not everyone in every department, or every company, has the same working arrangement, the way way that other people have different salaries and benefit agreements. Fairness and equality have nothing to do with it. It can definitely be a little embarrassing/uncomfortable to be the last one there every day, but it’s part of the job, that’s why they hired you.

      The best way to get past this is to be awesome at your job, go above and beyond and get to know it really well, and then turn that into a promotion so that they need to hire someone new to be at the bottom of the order and you get to negotiate better hours.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        How do we know that the manager has not said something to the others about leaving early? We don’t. We only have the OP’s perception of the situation. If the others around the OP are routinely leaving early, then the manager should be alerted so this is corrected.

        Like many other “shift work” positions, the employees are hired to man a particular shift in order to fulfill the customer’s needs (or have we forgotten about them?). This means they work that shift, not make up their own hours.

        1. Colette*

          But we don’t know what hours the other employees are supposed to work. Maybe their departments shut down at 4:30, and they’re actually leaving on time.

      2. Judari*

        “It matters because if I’m your customer, and your website says you take calls until 5pm, and I call at 4:57 and everyone is gone already, your manager will be feeling my annoyance.”

        I feel like its a bit ridiculous to call at 4:57 and if your call wasnt answered to be annoyed. Give yourself a buffer if your need is that urgent. Often with call centers it takes 2-3 min just to get passed the automated system. Not to mention its 2-3 minutes, your clock could be off or their clock could be off. 3 minutes is not worth ruffling feathers.

        Also regardless if OP stayed, like they mentioned they are the “all inquires” person and they usually re-direct people, if everyone they would re-direct you to had left early then you would still be in the same position had OP just not answered the call and left 4 minutes earlier.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        The problem I see with this is that the OP said there is no one to handle the calls after everyone leaves; that her (I’m just going to pick one) job is to route the calls. So it seems at least questionable that everyone is leaving early when there is really no one to help customers even if she does stay. I think this may point to a larger problem, but one that’s out of the OP’s hands.

  6. Marmite*

    #1 – This may be different because I’m outside the US, but I found that for graduate entry level jobs the average interview length was closer to 30 mins.

    #3 – Four mins is going to seem a really petty thing to be arguing over, can you get ready to leave while still logged in so that you could log out at 5pm and then leave immediately?

    #4 – I doubt your friend would be offended if you thanked her for wanting to help you and then expressed your doubts about having the skills/qualifications/knowledge for the job. In the ensuing discussion she may realize you really aren’t right for the job, or you may realize that it’s not what you thought and you might be suited to, and want, the job.

  7. Gary*

    #3 – sorry, but its time to grow up, 4 minutes out of the day is no big deal. I can’t tell you how many times I have called IT at the end of the day bc something suddenly went down, and I am on a tight deadline, and all of IT decided it was no big deal to go home 5 minutes early. Someone needs to be there, and it has been decided you are the one.

    Suck it up, its your job to be there.

      1. Anon*

        I agree with Mike C. Can we keep it civil? Also I work in NYC and commute to NJ. 4 min can mean the difference of me immediately catching the subway and making an earlier train to NJ and getting home by 6pm whereas if I left at 5pm on the dot, I would have to wait 20 min for the next subway train (due to the unreliable schedule) and probably wouldn’t make it home until 7pm. Luckily I have an understanding boss who allowed me to change my schedule from 8:30-4:30 but sometimes 4 min can make a big difference

        1. Jamie*

          It can in public transport, to be sure, I just don’t know how 4 minutes can make a big difference if driving as the OP stated.

          1. Marmite*

            In public transport it can make a big difference time wise, and also cost wise as, here anyway, fares at peak hours are more expensive than at off-peak and it’s based on what time your train departs the station (so catching the 15:59 may be half or a third the price of catching the 16:01). I am similarly stumped as to how it makes a difference driving though, it’s not like the difference between rush hour and non-rush hour traffic is a four minute window!

            1. Jamie*

              Ha – if it was believe me when I say I’d be conducting tests of traffic patterns to find that window!

            2. Natalie*

              Not that I think the OP should push this point, but I have noticed that sometimes a few minutes does make a difference when driving, at least in my city. There seems to be some sort of ripple effect with traffic. When I drove, if I was in my car by 5:08 I would get home in 15 minutes. Any time between 5:09 and 5:50 it would take me 30-45 minutes.

              In other words, traffic can be really weird.

              1. Lanya*

                I agree that 4 minutes can make a difference in traffic. If the OP is truly that eager to start home on her 35-mile trip, he/she may want to consider relocating closer to work. It’s not the employer’s problem that he/she has a long drive. OP sounds a little burnt out from the rigidity of the situation.

              2. Nikki*

                4 mins *can* make a difference when driving but it’s beside the point when your job is to stay until 5.

                I’ve had to leave at exactly on the hour before, to get on the highway before a certain wave of traffic.

                Once my boss asked me to ride with her across campus at quarter till, I looked at her and said, “is it going to take more than 15 minutes” (not sure what possessed me to be so sassy), she did offer to drive me to my car afterwards.

                1. Natalie*

                  “4 mins *can* make a difference when driving but it’s beside the point when your job is to stay until 5.”

                  Of course, as I said I don’t think the OP should push the point. Just explaining that, depending on the time of day, a couple of minutes can make a difference when one is driving.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                OH YEAH.
                I have run into this in my city also, especially because of all the trucks on the main road I have to take to get to the highway. Unfortunately, it’s completely unpredictable. At OldJob, I could leave for work 25 minutes early one day and STILL be late–another day, I could leave at 10 til and get there in eight minutes!

      2. Anonymous*

        I didn’t read this as uncivil, or any less uncivil than other posts here. Did I miss something?

  8. OmarF*

    6. Just because you are paid cash doesn’t prevent you from reporting the income. You have a responsibility to do so no matter how you are paid. You can stay on the right side of the law while you look for other options.

  9. Anony1234*


    I sort of have the opposite situation. It’s my boss who likes to leave 5 minutes early. Working in retail, he likes to close up shop 5 minutes before the posted sign says; the only exception is when we have customers still purchasing their items (of course). But typically at night, it is slow, and after working a long day, he has this habit of leaving 5 minutes early. That might sound fine and dandy, but the employees, such as myself, have to punch in and out of our shifts. So, if I come in on time but leave 5 minutes early when he says our department is closing, punching out at that time is shorting me 5 minutes (and therefore not a full hour). I have to waste 5 minutes of my time – and if I want to see it from corporate viewpoint of wasting 5 minutes just standing around being unproductive – to stand at the punch clock so I get paid for the full hour/time I was at work. I’d rather just be back in the department for the last 5 minutes; time goes much faster doing that than staring at a clock (and corporate would be happy seeing productivity). For me, it might sound great to get out even 5 minutes early, but really, I’m still stuck until the actual time we’re supposed to close.

    1. Anonymous*

      I obviously don’t have enough exposure to retail, but I’m surprised that your company keeps such fine time increments. You’d think they’d track time in 15 minute increments or something.

      1. Jamie*

        In my experience with shift employees (manufacturing, not retail) people are paid in 15 minute increments. So the 7.5 minutes is where the software rounds you up or down. And you can’t clock in more than 15 minutes before shift without supervisor override…because we have to authorize OT.

        1. AL Lo*

          I only worked one retail job that measured in 15 minute increments. Starbucks, for instance (in multiple states/countries that I worked in), clocked time to 1/10th of a second.

      2. Anony1234*

        I actually don’t know for certain how this particular company measures its time, but from what I deduce from my pay stubs, it’s measured to the minute. I get weird hour numbers on the stubs. For example, if I didn’t work an even amount of time, like exactly 17 hours that week, I might see 17.16 or 17.38, depending on how many minutes I stayed past my shift. It’s not as clear cut as 17.25 to round up to the 15 minutes.

        And like what Jamie says, in my company, if I clock out 15 minutes past my shift’s end, I need to find a manager to override me out. Or if I come in late by probably at least 30 minutes, I have to get an override. I will need an override to clock in before my shift.

    2. Jennifer*

      It’s called “manager’s privilege,” and they can do whatever the hell they want. This is why people get into management as opposed to being peons.

      I for one love hearing about how my mom’s bosses are on their cell phones all the time, but they’ll fire employees caught with their phones. But…manager’s privilege. That’s how the world works.

      1. Anony1234*

        I believe though that if his manager or corporate knew he was leaving 5 minutes earlier, they would not classify it as “manager’s privilege.” While it is retail, it’s a specialized retail that people need and might need at closing time.

  10. Penguin*

    #2: Sounds like the rule is “OT over 5 hours in one week must be approved”, which the OP interpreted as ten hours in a 2 week pay period, as they stated they had 6 hours OT (possibly in a 7 day week?). So OP missunderstood the rule. Of course, they can still ask for clarification in a non-confrontational way, like Alison suggested.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Also, it may be that usually employees doing that job can get it finished in 40 hours/week.

      I was in a position once where I could get paid overtime and I desperately needed the extra funds. However, there was no way a competent employee would need more than 40 hours to do that job. If I had tried to stretch my time out, I’m sure I would have gotten asked what I needed to change so that I could do my job more effectively.

      Not that I’m saying that the OP is trying to squeeze money out of the company. But it may be worth looking at whether your co-workers are getting their jobs done in regular time and take your manager’s comment at face value because she may be perplexed as to why you need 86 hours to do 80 hours of work (over two weeks).

      1. twentymilehike*

        take your manager’s comment at face value because she may be perplexed as to why you need 86 hours to do 80 hours of work (over two weeks).

        Yes, thinking exactly this … sometimes even when it makes sense for me to stay late to get a project finished, I’ll mention it to my boss and she’ll say she rather I just let it go unfinished than pay the overtime. Working overtime just for a few extra bucks is highly frowned upon. Overtime is really there for when there is more work than time. At this point, if you DO need the overtime to get your work done, just let your boss know what is putting you over and if she’s okay with that, or would like to re-prioritize. If it’s just because you feel like putting in a few extra hours, you may need to let her know that you were on a roll a few days that pay period or something and tell her you will be more mindful going forward.

  11. Brandy*

    #5- I’d also ask HR for a copy of your file, if your manager doesn’t want to share the review with you. I’m not sure what’s “Required” or “legal,” but whenever I leave a job, I ask for a copy of my file for my own records. It always has my performance reviews, any notes/etc. You never know what treasures you’ll find…I once left a job for something better paying/more prestigious…and when I left, I found that my HR file was filled with notes from my boss telling our CEO if they didn’t promote me soon I’d quit! (She was a great manager).

  12. Colette*

    #5 At the large companies I’ve worked for, it’s normal to not find out specifically what’s on your review until it has been discussed at a higher level. Normally, I’ve had input as far as providing information on what I’ve done, asking for feedback from coworkers, etc. – but I don’t see the review until it has been seen by a bunch of other people. This is done, in part, because it’s often related to raises, but also so that one group doesn’t have a completely different standard for what’s poor/good/excellent.

    If it’s discussed at the higher level but you never find out what it says, I’d think that was odd, though.

    1. Mark*

      Thanks for the insights. Just thought it was odd never to see the review or have a chance to respond. I just know that the review was made and sent to senior management.

    2. Julie*

      Also, if you never see it, how will you know what your goals are and how you’re doing? Do you have a conversation with your manager about the review without actually seeing the document?

  13. Beth*

    #2 – Overtime approval – I am wondering a couple things. First, is working over 40 hours a week a pattern, or was this the odd pay period? It seems perfectly reasonable to me that the manager/company would have that policy regarding manager approval of overtime, with an expectation that it would be an occasional thing. I used to work in a white collar “overtime eligible” position, but we almost never worked overtime. Our jobs were such that we could get our work done in the allotted time, or carry it over to the next week, as much of the work didn’t have a deadline. It would have been odd/a red flag for us to work overtime more than very very occasionally. It could be that the manager/company has seen a pattern which is different from what other employees are doing, and wants to see what’s up. The manager’s note may not even be meant as a negative comment – it may be that she wants to get a handle on what is a reasonable workload for each person. Or, maybe compared to the performance of others, the OP IS having trouble managing her workload. I would talk to the manager to clarify the policy and in so doing understand exactly what is behind the note.

    #3 – leaving early – To me, it’s reasonable that in a position like that, you MUST leave at 5:00. It’s a form of shift work and as a “customer” (internal or external) nothing is more frustrating than trying to contact someone between the hours of X and Y and finding that no one is ansering.. The OP even mentions that all the other help desk people leave early… meaning she is the only one left to take any calls, which only further points to why she should remain until 5:00. BUT, this needs to be enforced across the board. I agree that the OP should not be picking up the slack for all the other people who are leaving early.

    #4 – friend recommendation – is it possible that this friend, rather than just trying to be helpful, wants a referral bonus? Lots and lots of companies offer fairly big bucks if they refer someone who ends up getting hired.

    1. Jamie*

      BUT, this needs to be enforced across the board. I agree that the OP should not be picking up the slack for all the other people who are leaving early.

      The OP isn’t picking up the slack because s/he isn’t resolving their tech calls – just routing them. In which case we don’t know that the other helpdesk people don’t have more flexibility because they can work remotely.

      The helpdesk software I use shoots me an email when someone submits a request. I remote in several times a week for little minor things (we run multiple shifts and I’m the lone IT). So if the OP is taking the request and routing it in the queue it’s totally possible they are working remotely which makes it easier to leave early.

      Maybe not, but as these helpdesk employees have different responsibilities they may well have different deals with time in seat.

      1. Natalie*

        We have a similar system, which really came in handy a couple of weeks ago as the corporate office (and thus IT department) is in Boston. Some of the ITs remoted in from home during the lockdown so the field offices could still get support.

  14. Runon*

    #2 is it possible your boss is actually concerned about your work load? I would certainly follow up and it is possible that your boss actually is worried that you have too much to get done in the time you have and she could help, re-prioritize, move tasks off your plate, etc. Depends on your environment certainly but your boss may just be noticing this and wants to check in with you about what you are working on and such.

  15. Anonymous*

    3. I can see how its the job to be there til 5, but when you can’t answer the question or even route the call because everyone else is gone, it’s pretty much the same as (or worse than) not answering the phone in the first place.

    1. Beth*

      That’s a good point… another reason why everyone should be required to stay until 5:00, rather than support for the OP leaving early. Although… really… is the OP’s job ONLY to route calls? Is she just an operator? Can she really not resolve ANYONE’S questions? I doubt that.

      I reread the whole post and I have to say that the OP doesn’t seem to be on very strong footing with this complaint (beyond the fact that the employees aren’t treated equally, which is a very valid complaint.) 1.) She’s only been there for 4 months… 2.) “when I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 that the phone call can last over 5 minutes if the caller is chatting away, meaning I am always leaving work past 5 pm!” My oh my! I understand that the point may be that it’s overly picky to call someone out for leaving 4 minutes early, when some other days they have to leave 4 (or so) minutes late. But it reads as the OP being really unprofessional and childish.

      1. Jennifer*

        ” 2.) “when I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 that the phone call can last over 5 minutes if the caller is chatting away, meaning I am always leaving work past 5 pm!” My oh my! I understand that the point may be that it’s overly picky to call someone out for leaving 4 minutes early, when some other days they have to leave 4 (or so) minutes late. But it reads as the OP being really unprofessional and childish.”

        To me, it sounds like OP is not just new to this job, but new to the workforce in general, so they may not even be aware of how they are coming across. Coming from a school environment, you get very used to “fairness” and being able to strictly follow things like syllabi, class schedules, etc which may be why OP has such a strong reaction to this when most of us who have been at work for a while see it as not a big deal. I may be reading too much into it though, who knows. OP- it’s normal sometimes to have to go above and beyond exactly what it says on your job description, and unless you are being truly taken advantage of, showing initiative and not complaining about the small stuff just may help you move up the ladder quicker than your colleagues who leave early.

        That being said – if the customer is REALLY chatty that day, you should look into your company’s policy on when starts kicking in. If it’s one or two minutes past 5, you may not want to worry about it, but let’s say you end up stuck at work fielding someone’s call until 5:15 (and especially if this happens regularly), you definitely have grounds to ask for OT pay.

        1. Jennifer*

          Oops, left out a word. First sentence of my last paragraph should read as follows:

          That being said – if the customer is REALLY chatty that day, you should look into your company’s policy on when overtime starts kicking in.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          “Coming from a school environment, you get very used to “fairness” and being able to strictly follow things like syllabi, class schedules, etc which may be why OP has such a strong reaction to this when most of us who have been at work for a while see it as not a big deal. “

          Semi-off topic, but I did exit interviews for some graduating seniors last week, and one woman told us that it was not fair that she had six finals in five days. There was no way to prepare adequately for all those tests. (She came with that written down, and it was a big point she wanted to make to the department.)

          My co-interviewer and I had a good laugh over that one, being that everyone conducting interviews was a graduate of the program and had been through the same thing. I think I’ll go tell my boss that it’s not fair that I have to turn around his request in two hours. . .

          Some people have a much different idea than I do about when things are required to be “fair.”

          1. Cat*

            That is a ludicrously brutal schedule, though. I mean, a school has the right to schedule its exams like that, but unless you’re training people to work in combat or something (or something like medicine, maybe?), why? At that point, it’s as much an endurance test as anything.

            1. Lisa*

              In theory she has been paying attention the whole time, and none of the test items are new to her.

              1. Cat*

                Yeah, but assuming you have time pressured tests, that kind of sustained intense focus is a different thing than just knowing the material.

            2. Jennifer*

              I don’t know – it sounds pretty normal to me, at least for undergrad programs. At the schools I attended, there was usually just one finals week. So, if you took 6 classes, you had 6 finals that week (barring those that skipped finals in lieu of something like a research paper, which at least to me was way worse than a 2 hour or so test).

              1. Cat*

                Interesting – ours were always over 2 or 3 weeks; and in law school, it was spread out over 2 (and you usually only had 4 finals at most in each of those).

                1. Lisa*

                  I always found it weird when schools had reading weeks to give more time for finals prep. I had reading day. A single day between last day of classes and the start of finals. Some people that were eng majors were able to switch a final here or there if they had 4 in one day, which was possible depending on your schedule.

                2. Cat*

                  My feeling is that – except in certain fields where time pressure is enormously intense – you want to test what students know; not to what extent they can handle being “on” in an intense, adrenaline-fueled situation for hour after hour. I guess the “it’s always been that way and you should expect school to be hard” thing seems less important than whether compressing everything is really the most pedagogically sound way of having students demonstrate learning. Maybe it is but it’s never struck me that way; as someone who does do well under time pressure, the more time pressure there was the better I did regardless of how “up” I was on the subject matter. Conversely, when there was less time pressure, how well I knew the subject started to matter a lot more, I found.

                3. Daz*

                  My experience is similar – final exams are spread across about a month. We also benefit from a month off between the end of class and finals, which is kind of great.

                4. ThursdaysGeek*

                  Cat: “My feeling is that – except in certain fields where time pressure is enormously intense – you want to test what students know; not to what extent they can handle being “on” in an intense, adrenaline-fueled situation for hour after hour.”

                  Yes, but if a college or university has a finals week (very common) and offers hundreds of classes (also very common), then they generally offer the final for each class at one time, not a different time for when is best for each student in the class. It’s not meant to stress test the students, but is more just the practical logistics. The finals are the same times as your normal classes, so they’re as heavy as the course load you’re taking. If you’re taking 4 classes in a day, potentially expect 4 finals in a day on that last week. How else could you do it?

                  And, if you have finals spread out over several weeks, do you continue learning in a class after taking a final? Then the word ‘final’ is probably not the most appropriate. Or is the class just over early?

                5. Cat*

                  ThursdaysGeek, at the schools I attended the finals were in a period set aside for them over a couple of weeks, so it wasn’t that class continued after the final. This may well not be practical at all schools; I’m sure there are administrative and facilities constraints that affect how things work. And, of course, sometimes you are going to get the short end of the random-scheduling stick and have a punishing schedule. I’m just suggesting that that’s a bug not a feature most of the time and a reasonable thing for a student to comment on. (I don’t know how whiny her tone was, of course, and I recognize that makes a huge difference.)

              2. Lisa*

                Yeah, its called finals week. It is hard, but you don’t get special treatment in school or life. You have deadlines, and meet them or someone else will.

                1. Cat*

                  I really had no idea “finals week” was a thing – it was a significantly longer period at both schools I attended, which I think was beneficial.

              3. Runon*

                I agree this seems really normal. I had finals generally crushed into 3-4 days and often with moving out if you were in dorms in undergrad being the day after. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I studied along the way and then took a long test.

            3. V*

              Most schools have finals over a 1-week (5 day) period. If the student is taking 6 classes (6 finals), they asked for it and should have known there would be 6 finals overthe course of the school’s final exam period. That’s not a normal course load, especially at the grad level.

              1. Anonymous*

                I’m not so sure about “most schools”. I’ve heard of “midterms week”, but I too had no idea that “finals week” was a thing.

            4. AnotherAlison*

              Well, you only have 5 days in finals week. If you took six classes, what do you expect? It’s engineering school, so it does tend to be brutal.

              IMO, engineering finals are not *that* bad because the whole semester builds on itself. You almost always get a formula cheat sheet. I would consider finals in other coursework (medicine, biology) much worse, because memorization is involved. Obviously the finals in any subject are brutal for the people who don’t go to class and don’t do well throughout the course.

          2. Beth*

            I agree with the above ideas about the OP’s sense of fairness and also got the impression that she was really new to the work world. I also assume that if she is strictly logged in and out this is an hourly position and she will, presumably, be paid for all time worked (at least in 15 minute increments.)

            *I* had a laugh over the “6 finals in 5 days” thing, though, because at my alma mater (a top liberal arts college with a 15% acceptance rate) they HAVE policies regarding rescheduling of exams when that many are crammed together. It’s not an unreasonable expectation, in the school world. (It also doesn’t sound like an unreasonable thing for the senior to raise at an exit interview which, presumably, exists in order for the students to provide feedback about the program.)

            “Fairness” should still exist even in the work world, when it comes to a bunch of people with the same (presumably hourly) job being treated differently or the same. That is not to say that “fairness” comes into play or should come into play in other aspects of the work world. I think that if, as we assume, the OP’s other coworkers have the same job she has, they should also be required to stay til 5. The managers should adhere to the same policy. That’s “fair” (and also makes sense for good customer service.) Fairness otherwise really doesn’t come into play in the work world.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes – the fairness thing does sound like how a student would balk at being asked to stay after the bell had rung.

              I think we all probably had unrealistic expectations of how the work world worked when we were new, I sure did, it’s a definite learning process.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              The thing with this student was that she also told us she won a Fulbright scholarship.

              Don’t tell me how hard and unfair the program was, when you obviously did just fine. Yes it’s hard work. . .that’s why it’s school work, not school fun. : )

              1. Anonymous*

                Another perspective could be that she did just fine in spite of it being unfair :) Think about it – it IS true that not all schools have “finals week”, as other commenters have pointed out.

              2. Marmite*

                Just because she did fine doesn’t mean she shouldn’t point out what she views as flaws in the program. Surely that’s what you want in exit interviews?

                In a seasonal job I did in college I became quite friendly with my boss. When she asked for feedback on working as a seasonal employee for the company I pointed out a couple of things that I’d done fine with but that I’d knew many other employees had struggled with. Just because I could handle it didn’t mean it was the right way to do it.

            3. Cat*

              Yeah, I think the thing about “fairness” is that it’s a bit of a red herring. Life and work aren’t fair in that not everyone starts from the same conditions or gets the same things. But managers should set policies that are applied similarly to similarly-situated employees as far as they can. So some people have to stay till 5pm by the nature of their job, but employees with the same job who were hired by the same shifts shouldn’t be treated differently as to coverage.

          3. Rana*

            I have to admit I would have laughed, ruefully, at the “six finals in five days” thing as well. What the student fails to realize is that, after those finals are completed, each of her professor then takes up the load of grading all of those finals, and calculating course grades, and all of that typically on a pretty short schedule themselves. Not to say that having 1-2 finals a day doesn’t suck, but it’s not like professors are doing it just for the laughs.

            1. Cat*

              Well, yes – a more extended finals schedule would actually benefit everyone. The student shouldn’t blame the professor. But students also shouldn’t not raise legitimate issues because professors also have sucky parts of their jobs. And I’ve taught university classes and I know the grading is brutal; don’t get me wrong. That said, at the end of the day, I’m getting paid for it and my future livelihood doesn’t depend on the outcome of the exam, which isn’t true for the student taking it.

      2. Jessa*

        Also, it sounds like the OP may need a few lessons in call control as well. There are techniques you can use to keep that last customer from nattering on, without saying “OMG I need to leave at 5 shaddup already.”

        But if the hours are flexible and the OP has put in their “okay I’m the new person, I get stuck with the junk,” time, then there’s no reason they can’t say okay look “How about Wakeen gets Monday, Shuvon gets Tuesday, Sam gets Wednesday etc. and we can switch up next week. And last one out on Friday is on a rota dammit. But nobody gets to leave every Friday.

    2. Jennifer*

      I’ve made that argument at my work–that having a phone answered by me, who knows nothing AND is answering a phone during lunch when there are no managers to ask–is worse than having to leave a voice mail. Work does not agree with me on this. As long as a human answers, it’s like they’re pretending to be able to answer your question, and that’s enough! Or so I have been told.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        As a customer, I agree. I’d rather talk to a real person who can’t answer my question than to a machine that can’t answer my question. As least with the real person, I know there is someone there and my question has been heard.

        1. Jamie*

          I have heard this from tons of customers – it’s why businesses still have reception rather than the far more efficient (but hated) voice mail only.

          I think it’s also the psychology behind people dropping my the IT office to lodge a request in person, even when they know they will be instructed to send an email so it goes into the queue. They want to know someone heard them.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not as efficient, but it’s just the way a lot of humans work.

            1. Rana*

              In my case, honestly, much of the time dealing with the automated system is not “as efficient” as talking to a person. I’m fairly adroit at trouble-shooting, and fact-finding, so for basic stuff – the kind typically handled by an automated system – I’m generally better off just looking it up online (if possible). The only time I call is when I’ve run into a problem that cannot be resolved by any of the other options – like the time my husband’s name was misentered in the sub-sub-directory of an affiliated service associated with our health insurance. There is no “press 5” for that problem, and even with the actual humans, the great majority of them were unhelpful, as it was something outside their scripts.

              Basically, if you have a “long tail” problem, as opposed to a FAQ, automated systems suck, and suck hard.

              1. Rana*

                Though I grant that expecting the typical user to be able to kow ahead of time whether their question is an “easy” or a “hard” one may be unreasonable.

          2. Lynn*

            If anyone ever returned a voice mail, I would prefer it. But no business ever does. I’m not even sure it’s actually recorded anywhere, so poor is the track record.

            1. A Bug!*

              I would not be surprised at all, especially if you’re calling some place with high turnover or low responsibility like foodservice or retail, that nobody on duty knows the code for the voice-mail.

    3. AP*

      It’s actually not the same (or worse) though – if the website says you can call til 5pm, it makes a big difference whether someone is there to pick up the phone, whether you can answer the question or not.

      I agree that either way the question doesn’t get answered until the next day, but it’s much more annoying to have an MIA support dept than an unhelpful one.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*

        But if I called at 4:57 pm and no one answered, I’d just assume my clock was slow. Then I’d call back the next day, no harm done.

        But if I called at 4:57 pm and the person who answered told me that there was no one left that could answer my question and I’d have to leave a message, I’d be pissed that they left before their stated hours ended.

        So I actually lean toward it being better to let the phone go unanswered if no one can actually help the customer. Not that my opinion on the matter does OP any good. Your manager says you will answer phones until 5pm, so as long as you work in that position, answer them you shall.

          1. Your Mileage May Vary*

            Well, I only know the time my local cell tower says it is. Which may not be the exact time that a company runs on. I’d give them the benefit of a few minutes if they didn’t answer.

            Funny story about time, though: When I was in graduate school, our first class started at 8:57 am. Not 9am. And the teacher locked the door right at 8:57. Of course, as people started missing the class because of the locked door, they complained that their watch was just a minute or so off his (ignoring the fact that they were cutting it pretty close, anyway, if that was their argument). So he started synchronizing his watch to CNN every morning and suggested the students do the same as he was not taking any more complaints about watches.

            1. -X-*

              Cell phone time is accurate to less than a minute ; the internal timing in cell phone systems is accurate to fractions of a second.

              If a company runs on some other time, their time. It’s not that your phone/watch is slow.

              Time, at least in information technology, is a standard.

      2. Four Border Collies*

        As a manager, if my website says my clients can call until 5pm, I make sure we have staff on the phones until 5:30.

        My other take on this is continuing sadness at how my generation has raised their children. To our credit, we stressed equality and fair play, but we raised children that expect adult life to be fair. It isn’t.

          1. Four Border Collies*

            Well pretty much everyone’s younger than me, it’s a safe bet unless OP is over 65.

            1. Natalie*

              In that case, I hope you’d remember that your generation was derided as entitled and spoiled by their elders, as has each subsequent generation. The 70s kids even got a nice name – the “Me Generation”.

              “Kids these days” aren’t fundamentally different than kids of any other day.

              1. Chinook*

                If Four Border Collies is over 65, that would make her a Boomer or even earlier. The “Me” Generation comes a little later than that.

                I don’t want to dismiss what she says as “the same old same old,” though. There has beena cultural shift to having things be more fair, and that is good. That is why civil rights and equal rights and all those other things we have now are here. But she is right that we often forget, now, that the world is not fair. Ask someone who grew up before the 50’s and I could almost guarantee that they knew life wasn’t fair because they saw inequity all the time. Instead, they sucked it up and then tried to do something about it.

                1. Cat*

                  Yeah, those kids today. As Socrates said ““Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

        1. -X-*

          I worked for a monopoly (a unique business on an island) and we frankly had too much business – we couldn’t handle it. So I recall the phone ringing five or ten minutes after closing and when one of us went to answer it the owner started yelling “Don’t touch that – we’re closed!”

  16. Yup*

    #5 Is it truly a performance review, or just a management staffing update? I realize this is partly semantics, but it’s not unusual for managers to be asked by *their* management to evaluate teams as to who are the top performers, who’s next in line for a promotion, who’s missing the bar, etc. This is part of managing an organization, and is slightly different than working with employees directly on their performance. I’ve worked in a couple of places where management standardly wrote up a 2-3 page summary of staffing issues 3x per year for review by the board. It covered new hires & departures, promotions, training & new responsibilities, performance warnings and so on. A company shouldn’t be operating one stream without the other — meaning that management shouldn’t be evaluating staff without actually sharing feedback with them directly and discussing the *employee’s* opinions about strengths/weaknesses/career path — but it’s not unusual to have a separate stream of “management only” assessments. The quarterly nature of it makes me wonder if that’s what this is.

    1. Mark*

      I guess more of a staffing update. Just thought it was odd that employees never saw or could respond to it.

      1. Yup*

        Is there any other form of performance appraisal going on, or no? Because in my mind, it’s not unusual that my boss is evaluating my performance with *his* boss or top management or the board without my input. That’s part and parcel of their role — to evaluate staff overall, create retention strategies, do succession planning, etc. I wouldn’t really expect to see that kind of information come back to me, as long as (here’s the caveat) what they’re discussing isn’t contradictory to what they’re telling to me directly. If I’m not getting any feedback on my work but they’re doing all this stuff in the background, that’s totally odd.

        If you’re getting feedback otherwise, I’d say that it doesn’t sound odd at all. But if you’re not getting evaluations or feedback, then I’d definitely ask for some in a formal framework like an annual review. You still might not see the reports they’re currently preparing (if those are intended for a different purpose), but it’s reasonable to expect some formal written evaluation of your work on a regular time cycle.

  17. the gold digger*

    Can a supervisor legally write quarterly reviews for employees and submit them to upper management without the employees ever seeing the document?

    Wait. You have a boss who actually writes your reviews? I have never had that! Indeed, last weekend at my house was full of moaning and groaning as my husband wrote his annual review, complaining how unfair it was to have to spend one weekend on taxes and then the next one on his review.

    1. Beth*

      Are you sure the manager isn’t also writing part of the review? In most of my positions, the manager writes something, I write something, we sit down and discuss (assuming it’s an actual performance review) and everything gets combined and signed off on. My portions of the reviews have been significant, but so have my manager’s portions. (Surely management is not just sending along whatever you or your husband believes to be the truth about your/his performance.)

    2. JW*

      I’m just floored by the fact that the reviews are done quarterly. I just had my annual review last week…from 2012!

  18. Sara*

    I’ve had interviews that were less than 10 minutes long, with the prior interview (for the same position) running over an hour. Is that a bad sign?

    1. Sydney*

      That probably means the interviewer wasn’t that impressed with you. It also could mean that you answered all questions quickly and the last person took forever (less likely though).

      I’ve been interviewing for entry-level CSR positions for about 8 months and I’m round one. I meet and greet, get a feel for the candidate and decide who makes it to round two, which is the boss of our small company.

      I schedule interviews in 30 minute blocks and typically spend 15-20 minutes with each person. I have been known to run through all my 15 questions in less than 10 minutes because the interviewee used very short responses. Typically, it means they don’t move on because they didn’t show me anything. However, there have been a few people I’ve spent 10 minutes with and KNOW they are a good candidate.

      It could go either way, especially for an interview that was designed to be quick like mine, but it is more likely that it just wasn’t the right fit and the interviewer didn’t want to waste your time.

  19. Malissa*

    #6–You’re not getting paid under the table. You are a contractor. Which is the way you need to frame this job.
    Also you should be paying self-employment taxes. (Official Account speaking here.)

    1. Forrest*

      Unless she’s not a contractor.

      I don’t think people should claim to be contractors if they’re not.

      1. Malissa*

        If the employer is not taking out payroll taxes, then by default the person receiving money for work is a contractor.
        Besides what sounds better, “I was being paid under the table” or “This was a contract position?”

        1. Jamie*

          Right – someone is paying the taxes on that money (or should be.) If it’s the employer, then they are an employee…if you are doing it, then you’re a contractor.

          That’s why contractors charge so much more than what you’d pay an employee hourly – they need to cover the overhead.

        2. Forrest*

          Of course saying it’s a contract position is better. But will her employer say its a contract position if her references are checked?

          There are other options than besides the two you listed. I would personally go with “I need a job with benefits.”

    2. anon in tejas*


      You could also say that you are seeking employment where you are not treated as a contract employee (i.e. you don’t have to withhold your own taxes) and that is a primary reason that you are seeking other employment.

  20. Ann O'Nemity*

    #3 – The OP noted that they logged off 4 minutes early so that they could leave at 5 sharp. Is that 4 minutes spend gathering your personal belongings or doing actual work for the company?

    The reason I ask is because I used to work a call center job that required us to stay logged on 8 hours and we weren’t allowed any overtime. Usually, there was 3-5 minutes of work to be done before and after every shift (paperwork, work emails, headset cleanup, computer turn on/off). Essentially, we weren’t being paid for this extra work – every single day. And that’s actually illegal.

    1. Anon*

      Ditto. It really ticked me off that I had to spend 5 – 10 minutes of unpaid time booting up my computer and logging into my systems so that at 8am on the dot, I would be ready to take a call. And yes I was reprimanded if I logged in or out even 2 minutes early or late. And at the end of the day, I was not to log out until 5 on the dot, and if I got stuck on a call for an extra 20 minutes, I got reprimanded. It sucked but I assume is the life of a call center. Don’t even get me started in rolling lunch schedules where we had to wait for the person before to get back – when you’re 8th in line, your lunch is always at least an hour behind. It’s just the reality of it.

      1. Jamie*

        IMO the 5-10 minutes spent logging into your computer should be classified as indirect time (time not directly related to a specific ticket) and should happen after you’ve already clocked in.

        In my industry (at least my little corner of it) no one works, at all, until they are clocked in and then there is an amount of time for setting up one’s station (I’m speaking of operators who are non-exempt) which is rightly seen as a cost of doing business.

        It may sound petty to some – but splitting the difference between 5-10 is 7.5 minutes a day. That’s 37.5 minutes a week for which you should be paid, but are not. If you’re required to remain clocked in for a full 8 – those 37.5 minutes are OT.

        The more I hear about call centers the more I’d love someone to go in there and clean up that industry. I’m sure there are good ones, but it seems there is a disproportionate amount of shady management coming out of that corner.

        1. E*

          I do not work at a call center but my workplace does use electronic timesheet software — so I have to turn my computer on and get the internet up, onto the timesheet page, and logged in before I can clock in. I’ve generally just ignored it because what can you do — have my supervisor adjust every clock in and clock out time?

      2. Maggie*

        I think we worked at the same place! One of my coworkers would have her kids call her direct line about 25 minutes before the end of the day so the rest of us on the team fielded the client calls and she always clocked out right on time.

        1. Chinook*

          I understand why your coworker would have her kidss call her so that she wouldn’t get stuck on an overtime call, but to me it sounds like time theft as she is essentially taking herself away from work 25 minutes early in the same way a smoker does if they go for extra smoke breaks.

    2. Joey*

      Not necessarily illegal. Employers can round time as long as its rounded in both directions. For example, if you work 5 min late past 5 they can take away the 5 min by rounding to the quarter hour so long as when you work till 5:08 they pay you through 5:15.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Rounding is one thing. Refusing to pay employees for what Jamie aptly called “indirect work” is another thing!

        At that particularly call center, logging out of call system was the same thing as clocking out. Any work that needed to be done outside of the call system (computer booting, opening applications, reading emails, receiving performance reviews (!), downloading new service scripts, etc) was not paid.

        And I’m sure that my experience wasn’t an isolated case; an internet search for “call center labor laws” will show you just how widespread this problem is. Or, look for previous lawsuits against companies like Sprint, AT&T, Chase, Citi, and Dell – just to name a few.

        1. Jamie*

          Maybe because I spent too much time crafting a beautiful (IMO) system and series of report for collecting and tracking indirect time this infuriates me.

          So you weren’t getting paid to meet with a manager? Or check work email? Or any of the other things…seriously no wonder people sued. It is so wrong to force people to basically donate their time illegally to your business.

          Manufacturing may not be a basket of kittens on a sunny spring day all the time – but IME the fastest way to get fired would be to have an employee working off the clock.

    3. Zahra*

      Yeah, we had that at a call center I worked in. Until a good number of us didn’t start our computers, etc. until start of shift on the dot. If our computers weren’t ready, we’d tell the customer it was start of day and that the computer hadn’t had its coffee yet. It wasn’t long until management settled on a system where we could clock in a reasonable time before shift to allow us to prepare for the day so we would be ready to roll when the lines opened.

  21. Liz T*

    #1: Don’t think in terms of “number of questions.” If you’re approaching this as, “She will ask me 15 questions, and I will give her 15 answers,” you’ve got it all wrong! It’s a conversation–she’ll have specific questions, yes, but your conversation will answer some before she’s asked them, and create new ones. If it were just question-answer-question-answer, she could email you a list instead of actually talking to you.

    1. Four Border Collies*

      Exactly, it’s a conversation. Ask some questions yourself, some of your interviewers questions might make you think of something to ask. Do ask a sincere question, show curiosity and interest. It might get you the job.

  22. mel*

    I would be pretty annoyed if all of my coworkers left whenever the heck they wanted but I didn’t get that choice. It wouldn’t be leverage in an argument about 4 minutes though. I wonder if it doesn’t have anything to do with getting home 4 minutes earlier at all, and rather just feeling like that last hour is just a waste of time. If everyone was present and you were busy right up until 5pm, would those four minutes still be an issue?

    My workplace sort of punishes those who aren’t perfect in their clock ins. If I’m 10 minutes early, tough, it clocks me in exactly at my shift start. If I clock out at 4:59:55, it still docks me 15 minutes of pay. It’s kind of annoying.

  23. Oso*

    #1: I interviewed with a large large company and had about 6 questions. They were ALL related to management/employee situations. NOT one about my experience or skills. I felt this was an archaic and limited interview. I totally felt this was a “how you would fit in” and “how much they liked you” interview. By the caliber of the company, I was totally surprised this is their interview process.

  24. Penny*

    #2- Just do what your manager says. It’s not that difficult of a process to get approval and you won’t make your manager happy by pointing out that you don’t need her approval because of company policy.

    #3- Can you gather your belongings while still logged in as long as you’re not on a call? And if you do take a call in those last 5 minutes, you can take a message for the person who handles it. Or tell your manager that no one else is in the office by that time and ask what he wants you to do with incoming calls that you can’t answer. If the call goes beyond 5 o’clock, then don’t log out until you’re done and ask to be compensated for the OT. But you can’t complain that you want to log out early for your commute (and does 4 min make that much of a difference?) because you accepted the job knowing you had to make that commute and if you get special treatment, everyone will want it.

  25. Anonymous*

    #3 Use Windows Task Scheduler to run this command every day at 5:00

    shutdown /l /f

    …or just stay the extra 4 minutes.

  26. OolonColuphid*

    #3 Schedule this command to run every day at 5:00

    SHUTDOWN /l /f

    …or just stay for the extra 4 minutes ;-)

  27. Cassie*

    #3: My mom used to work for the county registrar’s office which handles voter registration (among other things) – you were instructed to log out of the call system at 5 minutes before your lunch hour because management did not want someone to have to work into their lunch hour (lunch hours were staggered so there was phone coverage).

    I know how frustrating it is to call a company or office and not being able to reach someone during their posted call hours. That said, in an ideal world, the boss would build in some buffer – like have certain employees start work at 7:45am to catch the 8am calls, and other employees start a little later and stay until 5:15pm to answer the 4:59pm calls. Isn’t that what businesses like banks or stores do?

    If some of the calls need to be transferred to coworkers, who have already left and thus the OP can’t do her job properly, that definitely should be brought up to the boss (as in a “how should I handle this?” way). Other than that, there’s not much the OP can do – except stay logged in to the system while packing up her stuff beforehand. What happens if the OP has to step away, like to use the restroom or something? Who answers the phones then?

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