my new employee started a client meeting without me, my managers wants a formal resignation before I’m ready, and more

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

1. I’m annoyed that my new employee started a client meeting without me

Due to unforeseen traffic, I was 15 minutes late for a meeting that was scheduled with one of my new employees and a long-term client at the client’s premises. When I arrived, I discovered my employee had entered the client’s building and announced she was there for the meeting and had started the meeting without me.

This employee had only been in my department for 4-1/2 months. She had transferred from another department and had no experience with leading meetings or the subject matter.

I was annoyed that she had not waited for me as planned (we had agreed to meet at the client’s premises) and felt she had not acted professionally as she had shown up/embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late. I have never experienced a situation where this was done by a colleague, let alone an employee, either by myself or others. Has business etiquette changed? Is it is now acceptable to embarrass your manager in the presence of a client?

No, it’s not okay to embarrass your manager in front of a client, but the issue here isn’t really that; it’s that you simply need to give her more guidance about how to handle this type of situation in the future. She probably thought that she was doing the right thing in starting the meeting on time so that the client wasn’t delayed — and some managers would have preferred the way she did it, rather than having her wait outside for you, while the client was left waiting. This kind of thing is your call to make, you need to let her know your preferences.

2. I’m leaving sometime soon, but my manager wants a formal resignation now

My husband was transferred to another city 4 years ago, and we have had a commuter marriage for that time. We are building a home in this city and it should be completed in 3-4 months. I have worked for my current employer for over 26 years and have always received “exceeds expectations” on my performance reviews. My boss and coworkers have known that I will be eventually moving for the past year and a half. Today my boss asked me if I could submit a written letter of resignation and give the approximate date I will leave. She said that by putting it in writing, it would give “us” the opportunity to interview the new candidate and train them in to my job before I leave. There are couple “red flags” that come to mind:

First, in previous situations where an employee resigned, the boss has not been able to “post” an opening for a job before the previous employee leaves. Also, since the first of the year, we have a new “productivity index” tool and employees have been sent home early and forced to use PTO when business is slow. I cannot see how the budget/productivity tool would allow for 2 people to do the same job for a certain period of time. There were layoffs at my company in November and there very well could be more. If I give formal written notice of resignation, am I not allowing the company to terminate me without any compensation?

Quite possibly. It’s also possible that your boss truly does need to formalize the fact that you’re leaving before the company will let her begin work to fill the upcoming vacancy, even if it hasn’t worked that way in the past. It’s also true that knowing that you’re leaving “sometime” this year puts her in a tough spot, because she has knowledge that she understandably wants to act on, to minimize the disruption to her department — and if you’re leaving in 3-4 months, this is the time she should start advertising if she wants you to help train the new person. That said, you’re certainly reasonable to be concerned. So why not just tell her your concerns? I’d say something like, “I’m hesitant to provide a formal resignation when I don’t currently know when I’ll be leaving, particularly since we’ve had layoffs recently. I’d be glad to talk with you informally about my plans, but those plans aren’t yet finalized enough to go beyond that. Would that work on your side?”

(But again, keep in mind that it’s not crazy for her to want to start moving forward on this transition, given your likely timeline. In a non-dysfunctional company, she should be able to do that without a formal resignation from you, but that may or may not be the case here.)

3. How should I tell my company that they can’t prevent us from discussing wages?

I started working my retail job as an hourly employee in October 2012. I, along with several other coworkers, was asked to remain with the company after the holiday season. This past October, my employer once again hired more people to help with the holidays. During this time, we found out that the new employees had higher wages than we did, even when including our annual merit raises.

Those of us who were making less decided to go to our department manager to discuss the possibility of getting a wage adjustment, as we were doing the exact same job, had more experience coming into it, and had results that were at least as good (if not better) than the newer employees who were making more. Our department manager said that she would go to the store managers, as she would ultimately need their approval for the pay increase.

It’s been four months, and our department manager just got back to us, saying that company policy prohibits us from discussing wages/salaries, and that attempting to get adjustments from the store managers on those grounds would cause problems for us. Thanks to your blog, I know that the policy goes against the National Labor Relations Act. I feel that going to my department manager first is the best idea, but how would you recommend pointing this information out?

I’d say something like, “You know, I think the company might not realize that employers aren’t allowed to restrict employees from discussing wages. It’s part of a federal law — the National Labor Relations Act. I don’t want the company to get into any trouble for that, and I suspect they just didn’t realized that there was a law on this.” Your tone should be friendly and collaborative, not adversarial — it should sound like you’re looking out for the company’s best interest, not making a legal threat.

That said, I’d be remiss not to tell you that this could potentially backfire if the company decides they don’t like people pointing out thing like, you know, laws. And if that happens, you’d need to decide how far you want to push the issue (which could eventually entail needing to talk to a lawyer or your state’s labor department, if your company handles this badly).

4. Interviewer missed our scheduled phone interview and then blamed me

What to do when a manager sets up a time for a second phone interview after 3:00 but calls at 2:00 instead? I missed the call because I was out without my phone. When I noticed I had a missed call, I called back and tried to get ahold of her, but the answering service picked up. I say that I’m sorry I missed her call, etc. She calls back at the scheduled time to tell me she called me 2:00 and she had to proceed with interviews. She said she was heading out of town and will call when she returns. What should I do at this point? Wait or send an email? Or nothing at all? Frustrated!

Well, there’s not a whole lot you can do. You could certainly send an email reiterating your interest in the position and saying that you’re eager to talk when she returns, but beyond that, it’s really in her (disorganized) court.

5. Company is rounding off our time worked in order to pay us less

The company where I work rounds off our hours to 8 hours each day by taking off the 5, 10 or 15 minutes you punched in early or stayed late or worked through lunch, even though there’s no chance you’ll make 40 hours that week. Is this legal?

Hell, no, that’s not legal. Time worked is time worked, and it must be paid. They can’t just lop off the chunks of time that they don’t want to pay you for.

{ 340 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #1 sounds really petty. Did you contact the employee to tell her you were running late? Exactly how long do you think she should have stood around waiting for you? You are trying to shift the blame for your mistake onto the employee, and she has done nothing wrong.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      Agreed! Fifteen minutes is a long time to keep a client waiting. This is why you leave yourself extra travel time.

      1. Editor*

        #1 — While there’s some truth to the leaving-early-to-allow-for-problems approach to travel, I’d like to point out that situations arise that thoughtful planning just can’t anticipate.

        I’ve mostly lived in small cities surrounded by or near rural areas. One of them had very few travel delays — except when a fatal accident closed the nearby interstate. This happened maybe half a dozen times in five years, but one day I was caught in such traffic. It was so unusual there’s no way to prepare. And crashes and fires happen in big cities, too, on routes that normally don’t have major delays. If the meeting place was not particularly far away, allowing an extra 15 minutes might have been excessive. The manager may really have had no reason to think leaving a half-hour early for a 10-minute drive would be necessary. Having a 10-minute drive become a 25-minute drive is more unexpected (in my experience) than having a 75-minute drive become a 90-minute drive. I think “leaving early” does depend on local conditions, but it also depends on the length of the drive overall.

        It might be more logical to say that the manager should have checked traffic reports a half hour before the scheduled leaving time. Even so, sometimes traffic news is scattered — around here, you have to know to check the radio website or broadcast during rush hour but the newspaper website other times when the radio ignores traffic.

        1. L McD*

          Agreed – I don’t think the lateness is necessarily the issue here. It’s something that’s going to happen from time to time, regardless of pre-planning, and if the OP has expectations of the employee that go beyond the average person’s best judgment (which IMHO is absolutely “get started on the meeting to the best of my ability”), that needs to be made clear. And it bears examining if it’s truly a best practice to keep a client waiting. Even if the meeting can’t really start without you, the employee could get things set up, engage in small talk, and explain the situation in neutral terms.

          Too often, people assume that their standards and practices are the default standards and practices for everyone else on the planet. If the employee was rude/unprofessional in the way they presented the situation to the client, that’s a whole different issue. But they can’t be faulted for taking initiative.

          1. KrisL*

            I agree. 15 minutes is a long time to keep a client waiting, and I think the employee going in was a reasonable thing.

        2. Bea W*

          Anything can happen at any time. the traffic report could be all clear when you leave, and then 15 minutes in, all heck breaks loose, and it’s too late to avoid it. There are definitely those odd situations where no amount of leaving earlier than usual would have prevented being late.

          That’s why I didn’t even go there, and because at the point where someone is late and you have to make a judgement call, it doesn’t matter if they left at the usual time or an extra 15 minutes early. “How not to be late” is a separate issue entirely.

          1. Vicki*

            Re: all heck breaks loose…

            I once gave myself 90 minutes to get to a location I knew was 45 minutes away (interview). I’ve been driving that stretch of highway for various jobs for 14 years. For the first time ever, there was a major backup halfway from my house to the location.

            I took an alternate route I’ve used before. It had construction. The car before me made it through before the flag man put up the stop sign.

            I managed to call from that point and still made it to the parking lot at a minute after the appointed time. But truly, you cannot predict everything.

            (And given that we’ve read over and over that if you’re late for an interview, that can be the kiss of death, I think the OP in #1 should be thanking her “new employee” for not making them both look bad in front of a client!)

          2. Anonyby*

            Definitely! There was one time I was heading in to work, had left early on a day where the highways are empty. An accident occurred after I had left the house, and I didn’t know about it until I hit traffic… At that point there was no way to deviate from my route until AFTER the accident, and I ended up late. Not Fun.

    2. Tinker*

      Yeah, I’m kind of baffled by that one. Maybe the employee was sarcastic or something? But it wasn’t stated that way in the letter.

      And I’m kind of surprised at the leading questions at the end — it seems to come from a much more “in the right” sort of place than seems to be the case. I mean, a lot of folks I’ve worked with would have pulled a junior employee aside after to thank them for stepping up to the plate for something like that, whereas I don’t know of anyone offhand who would ever deliver praise for being fifteen minutes late to a client meeting.

      1. Amy B.*

        Agree. I’m trying so hard to follow the “no piling on” rule, so I will just add this bit of advice to the OP: Make sure you are right before you get so righteous.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Or for waiting for them to get there and keeping the client waiting for 15 minutes. I’m usually the junior person at the meeting in my organization but I can’t imagine my boss pulling me aside afterwards to thank me for waiting for her, thus making both of us late and making our company look bad. I’d have gone ahead with the meeting too, and I think it’s far more likely I’d get pulled aside afterwards for NOT starting the meeting without her in that situation.

        Obviously the OP doesn’t want the employee starting meetings without her in the future, but unless the employee was really sarcastic or unprofessional in the way she let the client know the OP was running late, I think the OP needs to try to change her thinking that the employee was trying to make her look bad and just let her know that she’d prefer that she wait for the OP to arrive next time.

        1. Chinook*

          What was OP#1’s underling doing for those 15 minutes? Was she giving the presentation and acting like this was how it was planned, chatting with the client informally in a way that makes them not realize the 15 minute delay or actually pointing out that her boss was late? There are ways it could have been handled that the client didn’t notice and ways that would have put the OP on the spot. I want to hold off judgment until I hear more about what happened in the meeting.

          1. Amy B.*

            Judging from the level of outrage of the manager, the employee must have been signing contracts and running around like Oprah yelling, “You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car!”

          2. Elle D*

            Agreed. It’s one thing if the employee said “OP will be joining us shortly but let’s get started!” and proceeded with the meeting like a pro. In that scenario, she absolutely did the right thing. On the other hand, if the employee called the OP out for always being late, referred to the OP as disrespectful of the client’s time or something along those lines, then I can see the OP needing to have a conversation with the employee about what to say if this situation arrises in the future.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I wonder how the OP would even know if her subordinate did those things though unless the client told OP she did. I’d love to hear more about this, more info is definitely needed to understand the OP’s outrage.

        2. Anonsie*

          I’m so junior to the folks I work with it’s not even funny (decades of experience and education and licensing and etc) but even if they are late I always go in on time, and that’s what they expect me to do. I also can’t start a lot of meetings in earnest without them, but I can give a few details or chat or whatever and let them know that the other person/people will be there soon.

          I think it’s a lot more respectful to your client’s/collaborators/whoever’s time to go in and apologize for the delay and get something going than to do whatever it is this OP thinks is a good idea.

      3. John*

        I would hope the OP would have a cell phone and, once realizing she wouldn’t make it on time, would call the junior employee with instructions. The junior employee was left in a pickle, and used best judgment.

        1. Celeste*

          Yes, this.

          You didn’t say how the meeting went. Is it possible that all’s well that ends well? If it did go well, that is a very good reflection on you for your hiring skill.

        2. JMegan*

          Agreed. Employees should never be faulted for using their best judgement when they have limited information – and count me among the ones who would have decided to start the meeting without you in that situation.

          If you want things handled differently from now on, tell her that. But criticizing her for using initiative and problem solving skills, is only going to lead to her to NOT use initiative and problem solving skills in the future.

          1. Rebecca Z*

            My director makes a point of saying that he “always assumes positive intent.” Looking at things through this lens has been quite helpful – both at work and in my home life!

            1. Jean*

              Thanks for reminding me about this option! It’s so much easier on the gaskets to assume that people are doing their best to achieve positive results.

          2. Ruffingit*

            And it will lead to a letter in AAM about how to deal with this boss. The worst thing you can do is squelch an employee’s use of initiative and judgment because then you become a micro manager and that employee becomes someone else’s employee.

            1. Jamie*

              I have never known a top performer that would tolerate a micro manager long term.

              Just saying.

        3. some1*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking! Don’t get mad at your employee for not being able to read your mind.

        4. ella*

          Agreed. I don’t fault the OP for not having talked about this possibility in advance with their employee, or even for having been late. But I’m not sure why they didn’t call their coworker (or their client, if for some reason they didn’t have the coworker’s number; or the home office, who most certainly would have the client’s number) with an update on whatever situation is transpiring.

          OP, your employee didn’t know if you were going to be ten minutes late or an hour. She probably didn’t want to be seen hanging around, or looking like she didn’t know what to do, while clients were waiting. I’m having trouble imagining any meeting where the most important stuff happens in the first 15 minutes; they had probably just finished with the “let’s have small talk for 10 minutes to see if OP will get here so we can start” when you arrived.

          1. Loose Seal*

            There are many spots where I live that don’t have the most reliable cell service. It’s possible that either OP or the employee didn’t have service at that time.

    3. Yogi Josephina*

      Definitely agreed here. All I’m hearing from this manager is her trying to dodge/avoid responsibility for her error. To try and make it sound like the employee somehow made a mistake by being on time to a client meeting (!) just because it threw into relief that you weren’t, is absolutely ridiculous. It is not your employee’s fault you were late, and she’s not the one who screwed up. This sounds like a bruised ego by a manager who feels a bit entitled to be above criticism – “my junior employee came across as more professional than I, her manager, did, and I don’t like being shown up by someone below me, so I’m going to hold her responsible for my feeling inadequate here.” These are YOUR feelings caused by YOUR mistake. Own that. It is not your employee’s responsibility to make sure you come across professionally, especially if the only way for her to do so would’ve been to compromise her own professional image by being late herself.

      Instead of spending so much time focusing on the employee’s (imagined) mishap, you could take that energy and focus it on your own, since you’re really the only one who messed up here – not just by being late, but by not clearly communicating with those you supervise about what protocol you want followed. You’ve now learned that you need to give yourself more time when there’s an important client waiting, and to communicate better with your subordinates about a) the fact that you’ll be late due to traffic or an emergency or whatever and b) the right way to handle the situation when that happens.

      I don’t mean to seem harsh, but this letter just read as so uppity and haughty and entitled. I get the feeling she’s not the easiest person to work for.

      1. Kinrowan*

        I usually think it’s more damaging to let the client wait or think you forgot than to go ahead with the meeting. I’ve been both the late manager and the late employee at different times in my life and neither time has it been a question of embarrassment – usually you assume something happened to delay the person and that they will show up when they can. When it has been an employee, I will usually later talk to them and see why they were late but that is done after the main business of the visit is done.

      2. Cat*

        The letter reads to me too like the employer feels guilty and is trying to displace it onto her employee. That worries me because in my experience that is a disastrous quality in a manager. OP, if this describes you, think hard about this and how you can resolve it. Part of it might be not being so hard on yourself. It’s not great to be late to an important meeting, but it happens; it’s not the end of the world. You need to own it, but owning it shouldn’t be catastrophic for you – it certainly shouldn’t be something that’s so brutal that you can only handle it by displacing it onto someone else.

        1. iseeshiny*

          +1 The employee didn’t make OP look bad, the OP’s tardiness made the OP look bad. Whether that was the fault of the OP or random happenstance is debatable, but blaming the employee is incorrect.

      3. Wilton Businessman*

        100% agree. Your job as the manager is to be there. Your poor planning put your employee in a position where they had to use their best judgement. I would take one person who takes the initiative to make a decision over ten people who sit on their hands and wait for the manager to show up.

        Empower your people to do their best, you may be surprised.

    4. Katie NYC*

      Do you have blackberries? On occasion, my manager is running late, and they’ll email me “start the call without me” or “make sure you touch on this issue” so that we’re on the same page. I prefer starting with my manager, but punctuality is pretty important where I work.

      1. Laura*

        I’ve gotten stuff like that too – usually my manager will tell me they’re running late, because they can tell. It doesn’t look like the OP told them employee they were running late. If not, I think the employee made a reasonable call . Without any info to the contrary I would also assume that I shouldn’t leave a client waiting.

        1. Laura*

          If I were running late, I’d also consider letting the client know…the only time I couldn’t let people know if I was running late was when it was due to subway problems, because no cell service underground

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            My very first day at a temp job there was a major delay in the metro system. As in, hours delay. I was stuck in the tunnels, but thankfully so was most of the rest of the city so I didn’t get in trouble for it.

      2. LMW*

        Eh, if someone is behind the wheel, in heavy traffic, I’d really rather they concentrate on driving, rather than texting or emailing. If you are stopped, it’s one thing, but it sounds like the manager was actively in transit.

        1. Bea W*

          I’ve found that if the traffic is that bad, I’m probably not moving for minutes at a time. So it’s not an issue of trying to drive and call, and if someone has a phone, there is no need to text or email. Just dial the number. Do not ever try to text or email while driving. This is why I recommend exchanging cell #s, because you don’t want to have to rely on using email to contact someone while you are driving.

          I also set my phone up before leaving so that in case of a delay where I don’t even have the option to pull over to make a call, I am already set up on hands free to be able to do it if needed. Again, voice calling only, no texting, not unless you are at a dead stop and know you will be there for a good long while (people have turned off their engines or are wandering around) or have pulled off the road and parked safely.

          1. Laura*

            Unless you have a phone that can hands-free text, and a tolerant recipient. I can voice-to-text with my phone while driving, but I would never do so to a client, and I’d hesitate to do it with a coworker. My husband has gotten used to receiving things that have to be read aloud to be understood, listening to the sounds and trying to figure out what the voice-to-text was thinking. :)

            1. Ethyl*

              OMG yes — I was heading to urgent care after spraining my ankle and texted my husband to let him know to meet me there and he sent back “Do me tonight right now!” I was like “ummmmm that is highly inappropriate to the situation?” Apparently he was trying to use his voice to text app because he was trying to hold an umbrella and meant to say “Are you going right now?” So yeah. Voice to text is useful only some of the time :D

      3. Laufey*

        The first time I read this, I definitely read that as blackberries the fruit rather than blackberries the phone. I had a brief thought of “How’s that going to help? What’s she going to do; make her a smoothie?”

          1. BarefootLibrarian*

            That just goes to show how few people use them anymore compared to iPhones and Androids lol.

            Hmm…now I want a smoothie….

        1. Mallory*

          That’s what I thought, too — she could share a bowl of blackberries with the client while making small talk and waiting for boss to show up. Then I realized, “Ooooh, an iPhone, not a bowl of berries.”

        2. Mints*

          Ha! Me too
          I thought, “Is she supposed to offer them fruit for a fifteen minute snack time?”

    5. thenoiseinspace*

      Exactly! The OP is the one who was unprofessional, not the employee. If I had been the client, I would have been grateful that at least one of the people managed to keep their appointment.

    6. GMA*

      I have been in this employee’s shoes. I was traveling to Houston for a client meeting with my manager. I had asked my manager to meet in the hotel lobby 1 hour before the meeting as we had at least a 30 minute drive ahead of us and I was in an unfamiliar city. After about 15 minutes of waiting, I try to call my manager. She doesn’t answer her phone. Finally after several attempts she finally picks up 15 minutes before the meeting was supposed to start. She is just waking up! Now, I realize I have to call the client and beg forgiveness and hope they can delay the start of the meeting by at least 90 minutes. The were able to accommodate us, but conference rooms had to be rescheduled, catering needed to change, etc. I was so embarrased, but realized I couldn’t say “my boss overslept”. I had to make up an excuse about the time zone change throwing us off. 15 minutes is not a big deal. I think what your employee did was try to do the best she could without any guidance. Sometimes managers want to see how “managerial” their staff can be and would like them to take the lead and get started without them. I agree with the response, you just need to tell your employee what you’d like her to do.

    7. Vicki*

      I had the same thought. Or, to say it a bit differently:

      “She had shown up/embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late.” translated in my head to “She should have waited in the parking lot until I arrived so that we could Both be late!”

      Um… no?

      1. TFK*

        That’s exactly how I read it. Or she wanted to try and pass it off as she had to wait for new employee for being late, which is absolutely what my old manager would have tried to do for me, and that kind of blame shift is exactly why I quit and why her next assistant got out of there in 4 months.

        1. Yogi Josephina*

          I didn’t even THINK of that. I think you’re so right. She wanted to try and make it sound like her report was late instead of her. It’s okay to draw attention to your subordinate messing up, of course, but heaven forbid the supervisor get taken to task.

  2. PEBCAK*

    #2 If the boss wants you to leave before your intended end date, it really doesn’t make any difference whether you’ve put it in writing or not.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s absolutely true, but they could, for example, lay the employee off earlier than she wants to leave and use the letter as an excuse not to give her severance.

      1. PEBCAK*

        I think this is not so clear-cut. If they ask you to leave before your end date, that is an involuntary separation. If they want to argue you were planning to leave anyway, the fact that she has verbally told her boss and coworkers is going to work against her. I suppose that having it in writing makes the evidence a little stronger, but I’m pretty sure that the company would just say “ask Tom, Dick, and Harry…they all heard Jane say she was leaving.”

    2. My 2 Cents*

      We have someone leaving this summer and we have started to advertise for their replacement. Before we make an offer, we are going to require the outgoing employee to submit a letter of resignation with an effective date. That way, if the outgoing employee changes their mind, we are going to have to fire one of them, and if they resigned already then it’s easier and keeps us from having to pay unemployment. And this isn’t about skirting unemployment, it’s about not paying unemployment to someone who shouldn’t get it because they decided to resign.

      1. tesyaa*

        I agree. It’s natural for the employee to want to keep options open, but not so great for the company.

        I don’t understand why people tell their workplaces that they’re leaving in months of years, and expect no impact on their current employment. It’s nice to want to be helpful (by giving a heads up), but they should realize that it can backfire.

        1. AdjunctForNow*

          When I was leaving to go back to school, I gave about four months notice. Why? Because I trusted my manager, and because I thought it would leave a bad taste in his mouth if I gave him two weeks notice of something I’d obviously been planning for more than a year.

          That said…I did not actually say, “I’m leaving.” I said, “off the record, I think it’s important for you to know that I have been accepted to grad school for the fall,” and let him read between the (very obvious bold and underlined) lines.

          1. Dan*

            I had that situation arise in a high-enough-turnover job once. I worked midnights so rarely saw my manager, but once I decided to go back to school, I approached her and said, “you may have heard the rumors…” about four months before school started. She told me that when I had decided when my last day would be, then put it in writing. I gave her a four weeks “formal” notice and it never bit me in the ass.

          2. Dan*

            My mom, OTOH, was leaving a job “as soon as the offer from the next job is finalized” and told her current employer as much. New job dragged their feet and eventually closed the location mom would have worked at. Mom’s current job got tired of waiting (it took a few months for the process to drag out) and started interviewing for her position. She was PISSED.

            I never figured out what mom expected CurrentJob to do with the information she gave them, other than replace her.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, my mother did something similar, but the consequences ended up being different. She decided to retire in December after 20+ years on the job and told them as much with about six months notice. They had planned to bring in someone at less pay for the job since that person would lack my mother’s experience. Then mom decided in November to stay another year. They told her she could stay, but they would cut her salary and hours down. Mom was outraged and I told her “Seriously Mom what did you expect? They planned for the next year’s budget to pay your replacement a good deal less than you and now you’re going to stay, which they are nicely letting you do because they don’t have to. You can’t be outraged that they won’t pay you as much.”

            1. Rpcnurse*

              Thanks for the input. I have no problem with giving formal written notice 1 maybe 2 months in advance , but 3-4 months? Plus, I’m not convinced that they actually are going to fill my position. My boss and I are already planning for who will be taking over my projects (I work part time by the way) and I have begun to teach those who will take over. Think I’m going to simply say that it is pre-mature to resign and give a promise to stay through the critical summer months so my co-workers can get their vacation. Is a promise to stay until a certain date the same as a resignation – especially if it’s not in writing?

  3. Kara*


    I wouldn’t get too upset with the employee starting a meeting without the manager. I’ve been on the end of the situation where I’m the employee who is on time when the manager is late, and the client actually asked me to get the meeting started so we weren’t behind on the agenda. We just rearranged a few items so we covered the points that I was responsible for addressing first, and then just didn’t make a big deal about it when my manager slipped in. Luckily my manager is great and trusts me to make a good impression with our clients. I agree that giving your employee clearer direction on how to handle this situation in the future would probably help, but sometimes it’s not really in the employee’s control. I would think it would be more embarrassing to have an employee sit there and twiddle their thumbs wasting a client’s time than it would be for a manager to be a few minutes late to a meeting. What if had been more than 15 minutes? Would you have really wanted the employee to keep making small talk to hold off the start of the meeting?

    I think the embarrassment could be diffused by the way it is handled when the late manager arrives. If the employee stops the meeting to make a big production about catching the manager up on what he or she missed, it would be more embarrassing than the manager just entering the meeting and taking over from there. Traffic happens – it really shouldn’t be such a morbidly embarrassing situation that you have to waste client’s time over it.


    Definitely illegal. If they don’t want to pay you for working past the 8 hour shifts, they need to be clear that you aren’t allowed to clock in until a specific time, clock out at a specific time, and that you are not allowed to do any work off the clock. If they don’t care about you clocking in early or working through lunch, they need to let you clock out early and go home, not working past the 8 hours.

    1. A Teacher*

      #5, sadly employers can and do try to get away with this. I remember working for the Y in high school and our supervisor always said if we didn’t stay a minimum of 8 minutes past our shift, we couldn’t count it for the next 15 minutes. Four 15 minute blocks are obviously another hour of pay. So we learned to clean the deck, hang out in the hot tub and take our sweet time getting dressed so that we were there for another 15 minutes. Don’t put it past teenagers to figure out how to get more money.

      1. CanadianWriter*

        I worked at this place in high school that paid in 15 minute increments. If you punched out for lunch at 11:59, you didn’t get paid for 11:45 to noon, etc. It was pretty easy to lose an hour over the course of a day. They went out of business, which is something I’m very sad about.

      2. Payroll grunt*

        That type of rounding (in 15 minute increments) is extremely common and accepted by the DOL as long as it’s as likely to benefit the employees as it is the employer.

        1. BB*

          Yup the place I worked at did the same 8 minute thing. My bosses weren’t avid clock watchers- thankfully- so if I was going 1 minute over, you better believe I was staying til that 8 minute mark.

        2. KellyK*

          Yep. Rounding to the nearest [whatever time increment] is legal and fair. If you pay in 15 minute increments, 8 rounds up, and 7 rounds down. Depending on the exact time, either the employer or the employee might lose out on that 7 minutes.

          What you *can’t* do is only round down (e.g., you have to work the whole 15 to get paid for it, so you clock in at 7:46, go to lunch at 11:58, come back at 12:48, and clock out at 5:12, and get paid for 7.75 hours when it should really be 8.25.

        3. Heather*

          I used to work at a call center where we made outbound calls for market research studies. They used the 8 rounds up, 7 rounds down to the nearest 15 minute mark policy. While it seems all fair, we were expected to continue dailing until 9:00 (or whenever our shift was over) but so many times somebody ended up taking my call just before my shift was over, and then the call finished about 5 minutes after so my time would get rounded down. There was only once or twice that the policy was beneficial to me.

          1. Betsy*

            Yeah, this was my thinking, too. I’m not on an hourly basis, but somehow I never, ever, ever end up working a few minutes LESS than my shift, because I just keep polishing things up until the “end time” I have set in my head. Then once I hit that “end time”, I wrap up what I’m doing (taking a few more minutes) and then leave. It seems like this “it averages out” assumes it is just as likely that you’ll work 14 minutes late (or leave 1 minute early) as it is that you’ll work 1 minute late, and I think that’s incredibly untrue in the real world.

        4. mel*

          I can’t see how it benefits anyone other than the employer. If I clock in early at 8:46, I still don’t get paid until 9am. If I accidentally clock out at 4:59:40, my pay gets throttled back to 4:45pm instead of 5pm. Considering this happens often because the clocks on the wall are several minutes faster than the timeclock, we’re the only ones that get screwed on this arrangement.

    2. Apple22Over7*

      Re: #1 – I think it’s worse than having an employee sat twiddling their thumbs at the client’s office. The letter reads to me like the manager wanted the employee to wait in their car, outside the client’s premises, so that the two of them would walk in together. Which to me is a lot more unprofessional, and more embarrassing for the employee who got to the meeting on time.

      1. SaraD, in Scotland*

        Absolutely! The impression I got here was that the writer would have preferred both of them to be late, which makes no sense. Far better to have the client met on time, surely?

        It might be an issue if the junior employee made decisions or promises which were above their pay grade, but I don’t have the impression that that was the case here.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          *Waves to SaraD*

          Greetings from sunny north east Scotland, fellow country-woman!

      2. My 2 Cents*

        There’s also a good chance that the employee went in because they thought the manager was already there. A new employee doesn’t always know what their boss drives, so pulling into a parking lot she wouldn’t know if the boss was there already, so she went in assuming the meeting was to start on time. From that point, it’s very likely that the client said “let’s get this started.”

        Bottom line: The manager was late, don’t be mad at the employee for that.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Very good point! If the manager had arrived first, would she have waited outside for the employee? Unless that was established as their expected meeting spot, there’s no way for the employee to distinguish between “Boss isn’t in the parking lot, she must be late” and “Boss isn’t in the parking lot, she must have gone in already.” And once she’s gone inside and confirmed that Boss isn’t here yet, what is she supposed to do that wouldn’t draw attention to the manager’s tardiness? “Oh, hi, Client. No, let’s not start just yet — Boss hasn’t shown up!”

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Yes! OP didn’t want it to be obvious that she was the one who was late. OP, your coworker didn’t embarrass you, you embarrassed yourself. This one bugged me because I am always stuck making excuses for a manager who is routinely late (or doesn’t show up at all) for meetings with external people who are much more higher level than she is. I’ve pretty much given up and now I just tell them I have no idea where she is or when she will be back (I have her boss’ blessing to do so – he likes her even less than I do).

  4. Steve G*

    #1….I don’t know your exact circumstances, and would be on your side if the employee was feigning technical or other expertise in order to lead the meeting or present information you know they aren’t prepared to discuss.

    However, I’ve also been on the opposite end of the stick many times, where more senior staff didn’t show up for meetings, including in my first month. Think about it from the employer’s perspective (and mine). You ended up being only 15 minutes late, but I have held meeting started for 5, 10, 15 minutes before to just close the door and say to myself “guess he’s not coming.”

    Also, what about this is embarrassing? Maybe they were just making small talk. Maybe the employee really is equipped to start talking about the work after 4 1/2 months (not an inconsequential amount of time). I don’t manage people but train “mini-me’s” and they tend to have enough breadth of work and enough to say that they can fill alot of time in meetings giving status updates and asking meaningful questions by week 6-7, so I wouldn’t assume your employee has nothing to contribute or to talk about with with the customer.

    And the employee is certainly not “drawing attention to your being late” by beginning a meeting at a set time! If that were true, the employee would be in a total damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t situation, because you didn’t give the new employee much guidance on what to do.

  5. De (Germany)*

    “embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late”

    Do you think your client wouldn’t have noticed you were late if your employee hadn’t started the meeting? That sounds… unlikely. Or would you have preferred for both of you to appear late?

    1. BB*

      That was what confused me the most? People are late, mistakes happen, it’s not a big deal. I’m not sure why OP is embarrassed strictly because the employee started the meeting.

      1. Candy Floss*

        I think what OP meant was that if the employee waited until OP showed up, then they would walk in late together and the client wouldn’t have known that the manager was the specific person who was tardy. (I think that’s really crazy, not saying I agree with it.)

        And I absolutely believe that if the manager was the one who was on time and the employee was 15 minutes later, 1) there isn’t a chance in hell the manager would have waited and 2) the manager would have been livid at the employee for being late to a client meeting.

    2. Joey*

      Well in her defense she’s going to expect someone on her team to try to cover for her, not amplify the fact she was late.

      1. Cat*

        Sure, if the employee went in and said “Oh my God, my boss is such an idiot. They’re late AGAIN. Fortunately, I’m WAY more responsible than them. Obviously.”

        But I feel like if that had happened, we’d have heard that. Probably what the employee said was something to the effect of “I’m sure X will be here soon, but I don’t want to keep you waiting, so I’m happy to get started.” Which may or may not have been phrased in the most artful way possible, but it is what it is. The client knew the boss was late anyway; what do you expect the employee to do?

        1. Joey*

          Hard to speculate what the employee said. It could have also been:

          Client: hi Susie. Wheres jane? I thought she was coming.
          Susie: I don’t know. She was supposed to be here by now. She’s probably running late.

          Or even mid meeting “Jane, you weren’t here when we discussed that.”

          Obviously her manager put her in a tough spot, but those types of responses aren’t ideal. Granted, if she’s fairly inexperienced dealing with this type of thing its hard to expect her to know how to respond.

          1. LBK*

            But what’s the right answer if the client asks that question? There’s no response that makes the manager not late. Whether the employee says she doesn’t know or she throws the manager under the bus or she makes up an acceptable excuse…the manager is still late.

            1. Joey*

              True, but its far better to paint your team in the best light in front of clients. Two options come to mind.

              1. Let’s get started. Jane will be here shortly.

              2. Receptionist, my colleague will be here in a few minutes. We’re scheduled to meet with Jim at 8am.

              Obviously it doesn’t change the fact that Jane is still late, but I would rather those things happen than have a colleague blindly speculate on my lateness or point it out unnecessarily.

              But who knows, maybe the employee did the above and the boss is crazy.

              1. LBK*

                Those responses don’t match your proposed scenario, though, where the client asks the employee where the manager is. How is “I’m not sure, but she should be here shortly, so let’s get started” not an appropriate response? Is it specifically the “I’m not sure” part that you don’t like?

                1. Joey*

                  I don’t know is problematic because it looks makes your team look like they don’t communicate or know how to deal.

                  The speculating is problematic because it might make a think she’s habitually late.

                2. A*

                  @Joey – I’m still not following what the correct response would be, I guess. It sounds like the manager actually DIDN’T communicate that she was running late to the meeting. The employee didn’t really know if she would be 10 minutes late, an hour late, etc. So if she said, “Let’s get started. Jane will be here shortly.” and the client then directly asked where Jane was, how could anyone answer without saying “I don’t know” or speculating, short of openly ignoring the client’s question? Do you deflect by saying, “I’m sure she will be here shortly” (even though you don’t know that and it’s another form of speculation)? Or is there another response that wouldn’t be embarrassing to the company?

                  I’m new to the workforce, so I’m not trying to be combative. Just trying to see what would actually be the right response because it sounds like I would get it wrong in this situation!

      2. anon*

        I think starting the meeting was covering. If both were late, it would have really amplified this fact.

    3. L McD*

      Agreed. Either way, OP is late to the meeting, and the client is going to notice that. Walking in with the employee doesn’t deflect because the OP is still the manager responsible for starting the meeting on time IMHO.

      If I were the client, I’d be totally understanding of unavoidable traffic delays. But getting started on time, even if it’s without the senior person running the meeting, leaves a far better impression. The worst impression would come from me finding out that the junior employee was forced to wait in my parking lot, presumably without contacting me to let me know the meeting would be starting shortly. That’s rude and unfair to both of us.

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        Yes! It blew my mind that the OP framed this question as, “Should my employee have embarrassed me by ‘drawing attention to the fact that I was the one that was late?'” If OP called their employee and she chose to go ahead with the meeting (counter to what they discussed in the call), then I can understand why OP would assume ill intentions. But otherwise I I can’t fathom why OP would automatically assume that her goal was to embarrass them.

        Especially if this is a repeat client, I would imagine they would understand that lateness is NOT a regular occurrence for OP and would be more inclined to understand that it was some kind of emergency. From the way this question is framed, though, it seems as though OP wanted the junior employee to sit in the parking lot without either of them letting the client know “they” were running late so that OP could make it look like the junior employee was the one that was late.

        I totally agree with Allison that it is the manager’s call whether or not the junior employee starts the client meeting with or without them and that this warrants a discussion in the future. But just a, “Next time, please wait for me before beginning a client meeting,” would do just fine unless the junior employee is completely unreasonable.

        1. Joey*

          Eh, plenty of people are quick to point the finger or throw someone under the bus when they’re put on the spot.

          1. KrisL*

            Throwing someone under the bus may seem like a good strategy, but in the long run, it’s going to come back to bite the throwers.

        2. Rev.*

          uh…I may have missed this, in my quick scan of the thread, but….who’s to say that the CLIENT wasn’t the one who started the meeting? They were on his turf, were they not?

          My standing rule for employees is “I will never fault you for using your judgement in the (company’s) best interests.”

    4. Lyssa*

      The jr employee should have snuck into the client’s office and stealthily reset all of the clocks back by 15 minutes. Obviously.

    5. EM*

      I have a feeling the manager wanted them to walk in late together and then blame the more junior employee for both of them being late.

      1. Joey*

        That’s doesn’t seem realistic. To me its more about being a team. If my CEO and I go to a meeting and he’s late you can bet I’m going to do everything I can to buy him time so we can present ourselves as a team. I’d probably call the receptionist from outside and let them know WE are running late, not him.

        1. EM*

          I would tend to agree with you on a general basis, but from the tone of the OP’s letter, I don’t think it’s unrealistic in this case.

  6. A Teacher*

    #1, did your employee do something to embarrass you? Like point out that you were running late or make a big deal of it when you showed up? I’ve been on the employee end where I didn’t know where my supervisor was and so I just went ahead and started with the “I’m sure Sue will be along in a few minutes.” I think if he/she didn’t make a big issue out of it, you’re blowing it out of proportion to say he/she “embarrassed you.” I’d also wonder why you didn’t trust my judgement if you were my boss and would be more apt to second guess myself in the future where interactions with you are concerned if you react so negatively to something that seems minor (from the way this is written) like this.

  7. Prickly Pear*

    #4, I’d think of it as a big ol’ bullet dodged. Thinking of working somewhere like that makes my skin crawl. I speak from experience here.

  8. Editor*

    #5 — Yet another contribution to WTF Wednesdays. Not as horrible as some we’ve heard, but still, payroll is not an elementary school exercise in estimating and rounding off. I wonder if someone just doesn’t like dealing with fractions — is this a case of Fear of Math or Scrooge-like miserliness?

    #3 — Why do companies shortchange experienced workers? Time after time Alison gets letters from people who don’t get bumps when market rates rise and who have to leave to get paid equitably. I read comments on a number of sites, and there are a couple of newspapers where commenters are adamant that the free market is flawless, unions are tax-sucking parasites, and taxing wealth is theft because CEOs are responsible for every drop of increased productivity a worker achieves (maybe those commenters should all move to Skull Island). I don’t understand where they get such unrealistic views of work. Are workers with experience somehow less valuable than seasonal workers who are essentially temps? That’s illogical.

    1. OP #3*

      The best part is that the justification for higher wages for the new workers was that said workers had relevant experience and came from jobs that paid higher wages. My problems are that: A.) For several of these workers, this is their first job, thus no experience; and B.) Another of the “older” employees (Coworker A) and I had more relevant experience and also came from jobs that paid more. Coworker A even came from the same company, just a different location!

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I got the impression from your letter that these higher-paid employees are ones being brought on temporarily for the season (and then may or may not be offered full positions afterward?)

        If that’s the case, I’d find it pretty reasonable to pay temporary people more, on the basis that it’s harder to find people to knowingly take a temporary job than hiring for a permanent job. But it doesn’t sound like they’re even using that reasoning?

        1. AVP*

          That’s what I was thinking…my temp workers often get paid more than staff for the inconvenience of being temporary. Also, sometimes seasonal workers are harder to find, so their rates go up. OP, if your manager had made that argument, would you feel better about the pay issue?

        2. OP #3*

          Sorry if I wasn’t clear. They have been added on and are now in the exact same job class as I am.

    2. Manager*

      In my situation, I took over a location after the manager left. We have payroll budgets. His approach was to hire more people and pay them less. My approach was to pay more for better people and have them stay longer. I work in a college town and the kids here really don’t expect more than minimum. Discussing wages is never a good idea, there are reasons for discrepancies that employees may not understand, and our company structure does not allow for equalization outside of performance management compensation or promotions.

      1. Colette*

        Discussing wages is never a good idea

        This seems problematic. If you’re underpaying some of your employees, it’s in their best interest to know that so that they can ask for raises or, if you can’t give them a raise, find another job.

        I agree it’s not in your best interests for them to do that – but I assume that’s why you can’t restrict it.

        1. TK*

          +1 to this. It may not be “a good idea” from your company’s perspective, but disallowing it is against the law, so it’s not the company’s call here.

      2. Zahra*

        Another person against not discussing wages. Discrimination cannot be brought to light if no one talks salary. Having a public list may create tough conversations at first, but I think it would simplify salary/raise negotiations going forward.

      3. Kuangning*

        Discussing wages is a *very* good idea for the employees, as a check on employers who might resort to unfair wage practices, which is *why* it is expressly permitted by law.

    3. Jess*

      In re to #3: labor is a cost. All else being equal, companies (and individuals) want to pay the lowest possible cost for the highest value. Often employers err and end up losing people who were of great value to the company when those employees leave because they can make more elsewhere. But a free market doesn’t mean the absence of error; it means competition between employers and the option to leave for greener pastures if you’re being undervalued where you are. The rest of the political commentary is a bit of a non sequitur though.

      1. Laura*

        Except when companies and industries collude to artificially limit competition between employers for workers. See: the recent revelations about Google and Apple under Steve Jobs.

  9. OP #3*

    Thank you for answering my question! I’ve thought a bit about what course of action to take since the incident, and I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll end up doing. However, I’ll only have to work at this location for three more months at the most, and then I’ll be beginning the (absolutely necessary) schooling for the field that I want to make a career out of!

    1. BB*

      If that is the case, maybe see if you can file something with the dept of labor. I’m sure your coworkers would be happy and it won’t affect you too much in the long run.

        1. neverjaunty*

          OP did mention it to the company, which gave a useless and illegal response.

          OP #3, consider talking to an employment and labor law attorney. Usually they work on contingency (commission) so you aren’t charged for a meeting. If there is nothing to be done, you will at least have peace of mind.

            1. OP #3*

              That is correct. When I first heard, I was pretty sure that the policy is illegal. However, I’ve read a bunch of posts where somebody thought that something was illegal when it wasn’t, so I wanted to be sure that it actually was. Once I was sure, I began the process of trying to figure out what to do with that information.

      1. Mints*

        Yeah, even if OP doesn’t speak up right now, I think when they’re closer to leaving, it’d be good to point put the legal aspect, and then file a claim depending on the response.
        But again, if you don’t speak up now when you’re still relying on the paycheck, that’s understandable, just try to do it on your way out, for your coworkers

    2. Annie O*

      OP, you have my empathy. I was in a very similar situation once, and was even asked to train the new employees who were earning more than I was. The situation proceeded as yours did – we learned of the wage disparity, went to management, and then were forbidden from discussing wages. Cue mass exodus.

      1. OP #3*

        The “new” employee who brought up wages in the first place was my trainee too. It sounds like a bunch of my coworkers will be cutting back on hours or leaving the company as well.

  10. Lizzy*

    1. – I think you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes for a minute.

    For one, the client values their own time, so running late was a bit of a faux pas on your part. Don’t get me wrong, we have all been late due to unforeseeable circumstances. At the same time, 15 minutes is quite a bit of time to lose and some people are forgiving about, while others are not. Obviously you know your client better than the rest of us, but perhaps they needed to run on time or could not wait a full 15 minutes to start a meeting. Remember that they have a say in this too. I have been in your client’s shoes in this scenario and while I do try to understand that life is full of twist and turns, I don’t like my time wasted either.

    Second, I agree about Alison’s advice to implement a protocol for your employee when this happens. I have also been in your employees’s shoes before and it is embarassing for her too. When you aren’t sure what to do, you either end up not taking action and leaving a bad situation in limbo…or you take action and try to make the best of it, even if it doesn’t feel like the correct protocol. It feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. When I was once in her situation, as the junior employee, I had a potential event sponsor get irrate with me at the expense of my supervisor running late. We simply had to start the meeting without her.

    I think you also need to own up to your responsibility in this scenario and ensure this doesn’t happen often (if never).

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Even if the employee had “no experience with leading meetings or the subject matter” presumably they did have some experience of being in meetings which started late due to the participants being held up?

    And I agree it should have been sorted beforehand what course of action should be taken in these circumstances. (Start the meeting with small talk, request coffee, sit and read a brochure in silence etc.)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      (Start the meeting with small talk, request coffee, sit and read a brochure in silence etc.)

      Given my soft, warm, fuzzy reputation on AAM it will surprise you to know I have eaten vendors alive who try to do this. I do not have time for the vendor’s stall tactics.


      As a client, what I want is the hard information on when we will be ready to really start.

      Now nobody is ever late without giving a revised expected start time. Henry calls from the road, “I am sorry, I’m running 15 minutes late”. Gladys comes in and waits in the lobby for Henry, telling reception what she is doing. If I know Gladys previously and have a sec, I might pop up to reception and get her settled in a conference room….

      Point is I would please prefer that nobody takes my time with stalling.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        True, however the OP may very well be of the opinion that it is better to stall until she arrives.

        This might not be the client’s preferred course of action, but for the junior employee, they have some cover (“Boss is on her way and has asked me not to start until she gets here”).

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


          As a client, all I want to know is sorry, running late, meeting will start at 10:15 instead of 10:00.

          That can be phone, email/text, or one of the parties in the lobby conveying the info. I just don’t suggest starting the meeting and then stalling through it until the other party arrives.

          1. KarenT*

            Agreed, except in the OPs letter it sounds like the employee started the meeting having no idea when the boss was going to show up. 15 minutes isn’t a big deal when you know about it, but I could see how after 15 minutes she’d be wondering if the boss was going to be an hour late, or even show up at all.

      2. Bea W*

        Exactly this. What I have done upfront is give the client or meeting attendees the information I have and the option to move ahead and start with the things I can best assist them with first and saving other topics for later in the discussion on the assumption my co-worker will have arrived by then, wait x minutes before proceeding, or reschedule. Even if you end up rescheduling, the point is you have wasted everyone’s time as little as possible under the circumstances. Some people would really just rather reschedule than sitting around making small talk or having a half meeting dependent on the other person actually showing up.

      3. Lora*

        Note to OP1:

        When you are running late, make sure you call to let me know, so I can go do something else for a while, and show up with coffee/donuts/bagels in hand. I can forgive vendors a lot if they feed me. It’s not a huge deal to be 20 minutes late instead of 15, as long as I know when you’ll be here so I can decide if I want to attend personally or send someone else to meet with you, or go back to my desk for a bit.

        And hey, if your employee shows up and it’s her first day on the job, she can hand me some info and talk in general terms about your product, write down my questions and take them back to the relevant expert, and give me her/your contact info, LinkedIn friend me, which is generally all I ever need or want anyways.

        When I meet my clients, and my boss is late, I just say “Boss will be joining us shortly, why don’t you tell me about your project?” and then just let them talk for a while and take notes on everything they are saying, then paraphrase it back to them to be sure I’ve captured their issues accurately. That takes a while, often more than 15 minutes because people like to complain to a sympathetic ear. And doesn’t take much expertise.

  12. Sharm*

    #1: A lot of folks have already stated my thoughts, but I’m wondering if it was at all possible to call your junior employee from the road once you realized you’d be late? Obviously, safety is a concern, but if you could have easily accessed your cellphone or had Bluetooth in the car or whatever, perhaps you could have ironed out some of this beforehand.

    I’m not a fan of that “what ifs” or “shoulda dones,” so like others have said, it would be wise to come up with a plan for next time. And maybe for next time, if someone else might be late, it would be wise to have everyone’s cell phone numbers. I don’t do client on-sites or anything, but the first time my team and I had to meet at a different location for a work event, we made sure we all exchanged cell numbers and talked through a general game plan of what to do once getting there. It seems so minor, but at least you have a plan in case something goes wrong.

    1. BCW*

      That was my immediate thought. I mean, did the OP not have a cell phone to call the person? That just seems absurd. I get that in your daily life, some people choose not to have one, but for work purposes when you are having off site meetings, it seems like poor planning.

      1. Celeste*


        I guess I feel like if it is so important to both arrive at the same time, they should be traveling in the same vehicle, too.

        1. Michele*

          I agree I thought it was strange that they were not in the same car going to the same meeting. The only time I would not find it odd is if was an early morning meeting and they were coming from home. The lack of communication from the manager is not OK.

  13. Erik*

    #4 – congratulations, you dodged a bullet. Run for the hills. You don’t want to work there.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      One thing I’m wondering about #4 was how the time was communicated. If there was an email or phone call where 3:00 was agreed upon, great, 3:00, but if it was an Outlook invitation only, all kinds of hell can break loose. I’ve noticed if you’re in the (US) Eastern time zone and schedule a 4:00 meeting on your calendar for your home time zone (let’s say Central), the meeting shows up as 3:00 on your calendar when you’re back in CT. I’ve also seen it with Google. This probably wasn’t how it happened with the OP, but this has surprised me with a couple things in the past few weeks as I spent time in 4 time zones.

      1. Meg Murry*

        For some reason, when I forwarded Lotus Notes invites to Gmail, they were always 3 hours off, even though both had the timezone correct. I also had issues in the past right around daylight saving time where email servers were still set to the old daylight saving date (the dates were changed in 2007, and apparently the old dates were hard-coded into the email server and every year IT had to manually remember to fix it 4 times – on the day it was supposed to occur, and then back on the day it now occurs).
        So yes, I’d send a message and apologize and let them know that you got the message as 3 pm, thats why you missed the call.

      2. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I had a phone interview once where the caller was in a different time zone an hour ahead. He was supposed to call me at 11:30 my time when I went to lunch, but instead called at 10:30 when I was in a meeting. I assumed it was due to the time difference. We did reschedule the interview, but he never explained his early call.

  14. Rayner*

    AAM – re: #3, shouldn’t that say “Part of a federal law/act/legal word here” rather than just federal?

  15. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    1. I’m annoyed that my new employee started a client meeting without me

    At the risk of a pile on here, the person you should be annoyed at is yourself. If you were 15 minutes late and didn’t text her that you were running late and hadn’t given her instructions “if I am late, just wait for me”, she was left running on instinct. Her instinct was to make sure your company was presented on time. This is not a bad instinct.

    I take multiple vendor meetings per week, often with a team or trio that is coming from different directions. If one of the parties is late, my experience is that the other parties come inside and present themselves on time.

    Basically, I think your expectations are off here and I hope you didn’t reprimand her for being on time (absent any other instructions from you). You left her on her own and did what she thought was best.

    That said, a junior person actually starting a presentation/meeting that she isn’t equipped for isn’t the best use of a client’s time. Tell her what to do should an emergency happen again, and hopefully the situation never even arises again.

    1. Bea W*

      That said, a junior person actually starting a presentation/meeting that she isn’t equipped for isn’t the best use of a client’s time. Tell her what to do should an emergency happen again, and hopefully the situation never even arises again.

      Yes please! It is incredibly uncomfortable to be in that position. You feel totally stupid and probably look less than capable in the eyes of the client, like you are just along for the ride and not really useful. That just undermines your relationship with the client.

    1. Anon*

      Sorry, posted that from my phone. I’m asking because we are being told that and #3 at my job also.

      1. Sourire*

        Ha – do you work at my old job, which also included a segment on why we shouldn’t be talking about unions during our first day HR intro. It’s like they read the NLRA and went, hey, this looks like a great thing to not only ignore, but to actively oppose in every way.

    2. Elysian*

      It’s part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Note that rounding by itself is ok as long as its done properly – the employer can round time up/down as long as they’re not always doing it in their own favor. This fact sheet (although its a little more extensive) has some examples:

    3. BB*

      ‘Some employers track employee hours worked in 15 minute increments, and the FLSA allows an employer to round employee time to the nearest quarter hour. However, an employer may violate the FLSA minimum wage and overtime pay requirements if the employer always rounds down. Employee time from 1 to 7 minutes may be rounded down, and thus not counted as hours worked, but employee time from 8 to 14 minutes must be rounded up and counted as a quarter hour of work time.’

      that’s directly from the DOL website. As long as your employer is rounding both up and down than it’s okay. They can’t always round down.

      1. Joey*

        There is an instance where it’s okay to consistently round in the employers favor. If for example you’re allowed to clock in 30 min before you actually start working the employer can round the time you actually begin working. So even if you clock in at say 6:30 you might not start getting paid at 7 if no work is done before then. I’ve seen this in mfg where if you’re a minute late clocking in you’re in trouble so people come early, clock in, and hang out until work starts.

        1. Elysian*

          That’s true, but it means the employer has to actually track when work is done outside the clock-in/out process, which isn’t impossible but might be onerous, depending on the employer. It also seems kind of silly to me, since it seems to be using time clock for attendance and tardiness, and not for measuring the times that work was performed. They’d need some other system to measure when work was performed. I’ve seen it too, but I think its atypical and potentially problematic.

          1. Josie*

            Whenever I’ve clocked in and out, it works that way (no matter when you clock in, you get paid for starting at the time of your shift) in order to avoid rushes when several employees are signing in at once.

            1. Elysian*

              I think that is what the rounding problem is supposed to take care of, though – if there’s a long line at the time clock, you have at least 7 minutes to stand in it and clock in and still be on time, so it compensates for some of those rushes. Plus, 3-5 minutes before/after your shift because of time clock issues isn’t a big deal under the law.

              But if you’re clocking in a half-hour or more before your shift because you need to avoid the time-clock rush, that’s a problem for the employer. It’s their responsibility to figure out when you’re working, and it’s not ok to just say “clock in whenever, but we’re only going to pay you from your shift start to end.” If you’re in the building, they need to actually know whether or not you’re working.

              1. Joey*

                Eh, 7 minutes doesn’t work when there are dozens of people that need to clock in on one clock. I know time clocks handle sometimes a few hundred people.

                Sounds easy, but even 30 seconds for each person to clock in means only 14 people can clock in in 7minutes. And that’s counting on the fact that no one will have any issues clocking in.

                1. Elysian*

                  It doesn’t take 30 seconds for each individual to punch a clock in my experience. And if it did, and you’re an employer who has one time clock for “a few hundred people,” then some employees could be waiting over an hour to punch in and out. That’s at least 2 hours extra that you’re not paying them to work, that they are required to be on premises. Maybe its not compensable under the law (which I think is debatable), but if that’s how you operate your business you definitely belong on Skull Island.

                2. Joey*

                  True, lots of times it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to clock in, but it’s highly dependent on the clock and the employer. When I worked at a hotel it might take me that long to clock in since I had to go to a few different screens and wait for the clock to process. Others I know just swipe, scan a fingerprint, stick a time card under a clock, etc. But even for those you can always count on someone holding up the line.

                3. Elysian*

                  If it’s a process that takes a long time, the employer needs more time clocks so that employees aren’t standing around a long time waiting, then. They should really be able to get by with rounding if they have enough time clocks.

                4. Joey*

                  Can they get by? Probably, but a 7 minute clock in window usually doesn’t go over well with employees.

            2. LBK*

              So how do you track the time worked if you actually do start working earlier than the start of your shift? When I was hourly, sometimes if I showed up early for a shift and there was a long line or a lot of unhelped customers or someone needed to run out early, I’d start my shift early. How does the system account for that?

              1. Joey*

                Someone has to override the system. Usually time clocks are programmed to round or not. An exception usually means someone has to go in and make manual adjustments.

                1. LBK*

                  I’m just not accustomed to a time clock system that isn’t also the system used by payroll to determine hours. It seems weird to have a time clock that doesn’t relate to the hours someone is paid for. Is it just so you know when people were in the building?

                2. Joey*

                  The rounding is done automatically. So payroll shows everyone working 8 hours (or whatever) if the clock is programmed to round regardless of their actual clock in time. A manager would have to alert payroll to change the start time if someone actually worked outside of their scheduled work hours. It becomes more for attendance and subtracting time since its not possible to work outside of the shift without authorization.

          2. Joey*

            Not hard in a lot of environments where for example you can’t do your job until someone says go.

          3. Aimee*

            I once worked in an office where we had flex time (30 minutes on either side of our start and end time), but had to work a full 8 hours each day. This resulted in people standing around the time clock for several minutes at the end of the day, waiting until they’d hit their 8 hours so they didn’t get “infractions.” 7:59 was an infraction. They weren’t actually working, so it was completely ridiculous.

          1. Joey*

            That’s the thing. They usually aren’t required to be there early. Just allowed if they want to.

        2. LuvzALaugh*

          An attendance policy that is interpreted as strict by a court, such as those enforced by manufactoring, CAN effect how you can round. If employees are volunteering to clock in early to have coffee and chat before their shift that’s one thing, but if they are clocking early becasue they will be penalized for clocking in a minute late, the company may be better off instituting a rounding policy that gives the employee a grace period. As stated earlier by other commenters, it is LEGAl to round as long as on the average the rounding benefits the employee not the employer.

      2. CAA*

        Right, I was coming here to post that Alison’s answer might be wrong, and this can actually be legal. Here’s the official regulation:

        § 785.48 Use of time clocks.
        (a) Differences between clock records and actual hours worked. Time clocks are not required. In those cases where time clocks are used, employees who voluntarily come in before their regular starting time or remain after their closing time, do not have to be paid for such periods provided, of course, that they do not engage in any work. Their early or late clock punching may be disregarded. Minor differences between the clock records and actual hours worked cannot ordinarily be avoided, but major discrepancies should be discouraged since they raise a doubt as to the accuracy of the records of the hours actually worked.
        (b) “Rounding” practices. It has been found that in some industries, particularly where time clocks are used, there has been the practice for many years of recording the employees’ starting time and stopping time to the nearest 5 minutes, or to the nearest one-tenth or quarter of an hour. Presumably, this arrangement averages out so that the employees are fully compensated for all the time they actually work. For enforcement purposes this practice of computing working time will be accepted, provided that it is used in such a manner that it will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate the employees properly for all the time they have actually worked.

      3. A Teacher*

        Its why in high school we would always make sure to stay 8 minutes :)…high school kids like money too much to not stay that extra minute. (and that was a long time ago at this point)

  16. Hugo*

    #5 – if this has been going on for quite a while, they most likely owe back pay to everyone. If they don’t take any action to do that, then it’s time to elevate the problem to the state dept. of labor.

    Remember, state pay laws are ONE of the very FEW rights you have working in the US. Companies need to be held accountable for these types of errors.

  17. Legal jobs*

    Re #3 and 5

    I have said America workers are conditioned to put up with a lot of abuse. As someone who has sat in on meetings, let me repeat that employers will ignore laws because they think they can. I am willing to bet that in both cases the employers here are aware of the law, but believe no one will enforce the law against them out of fears over job security. That’s the sad reality of too many meetings about employment law issues.

  18. eemmzz*

    #1 – I find it a little surprising how you’re dismissing the employee’s ability based on working in that department for “only 4 1/2 months” but maybe it is just me who was rubbed the wrong way by that. It feels like you do not trust your employee and trust between an employee and their manager is key.

    Also I might be wrong here but I am guessing that the client doesn’t see it as “the employee and her manager” they will see it as “two representatives of company X”. Both of you being late would have damaged your company’s reputation more, which was probably why she started the meeting without you.

    Perhaps as a part of future client meetings some pre-meeting prep could be done the day before? That will allow a contingency plan to be decided so that if these sort of events occur on the actual day everyone is ready for it and can act in sync.

    1. LBK*

      I agree re: your first paragraph. How is the employee not trusted or experienced enough after 4.5 months to at least cover the basics of a client meeting? Unless this is a more complicated product or something that you only start learning once you master the basics?

    2. A*

      Yeah, I’m personally getting the sense that the manager specifically doesn’t like this employee for reasons beyond what we’re seeing here. And maybe that’s why it reads so harshly. Because unless the manager is generally paranoid (or the employee handled the situation really, really badly and that wasn’t clearly conveyed), most people wouldn’t jump to “the employee started the meeting early in order to embarrass me” unless there was some prior ish going on in the working relationship.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I think she does not trust the employee in general, not just because of this.

  19. Not So NewReader*

    The one thing that I can say in OP 1’s favor is that in NY if you have a cell phone in your hand, it is five points on your license. (Six points is suspension.) You don’t have to be using the cell, all that has to happen is the officer sees it in your hand. It could be that OP was in heavy traffic with no opportunity to pull off the road to use her phone.

    Yes, she could plan for that and it is a foreseeable occurrence. But she didn’t and had an “oh crap, now what do I do?” moment.

    As an employee, that whole situation would have made me very nervous. As others have said, I would have just filled the time with introducing myself, and reassuring the client my manager would be right along. If the client became annoyed I would simply say that this is very uncharacteristic of my manager, she is usually prompt. And I would let the client infer that there is traffic/accident/detour whatever.
    OP, you don’t mention if the client was upset. From that I would tend to think that your subordinate said something that was supportive of you and the client was assured by her comments.

  20. KireinaHito*

    In a situation like #1 I would react exactly the same way employee did.
    I have clients from Japan, Switzerland, Germany… I honestly can’t imagine how it would be to arrive 15 minutes late with no previous explanation. Sometimes you arrive a couple of minutes earlier and the client moved already to the conference room, put your file on the table, printed the brochures and the emails, and even prepared coffee or tea :-(
    I think it would really look (a lot) better that someone is there on time. At least to apologize.

    1. Arbynka*

      Yeah, I met my German friend here because we both showed up at 5 pm for a dinner that started at 5 pm. And for 20 minutes we were the only two there. Being on time is very important when dealing with cultures that consider being late rude and unacceptable. I remembet from first grade on, school started at 8 am, you were expected to be there at 7:45 to get ready. At 7:45 they locked the door, opened it again at 8 and you got tardy mark on your record that would lead to detention. I swear, ever since I moved to US, I am always the first one ..everywhere.. :) I wish I could loosen up a bit, I do stress out about making it on time to friend gathering, know the situations people wouldn’t be upset if I was couple of minutes late..yet, I still freak out.

      1. Arbynka*

        Oh, sorry my mind is scattered .. Even in “my” culture things happen and you cannot help being late. Then the protocol is, if possible, to let the other party know and of course, apologize upon arrival. Anything half an hour or later usually gets rescheduled.

      2. Arbynka*

        Also I did not mean to imply that people in US are always late or anything…Just woke up at 4 am and did not have any coffee. In fact, I am gonna go brew some now.

        1. LBK*

          The culture varies depending on where you are in the US. Obviously this is a generalization and does not cover everyone from these areas, but the east coast has a reputation for valuing punctuality more than the west coast.

          1. Liz T*

            Which I think, partially, is a public transportation thing (at least in terms of NY vs. LA). The NY subway system gets a lot of flak, but it’s usually better than actual TRAFFIC.

          2. Parfait*

            That was definitely one of the things I had to get used to when moving from the punctual Midwest to lackadaisical Los Angeles. “Oh sorry I’m late, the 405 was horrible!”

            …yeah. It’s ALWAYS horrible. Every day. You can’t adjust for that?

  21. Bea W*

    #1 – The new employee didn’t draw attention to the fact that the OP was late, the OP did that herself by being late. I’m not sure if the OP called the new employee to alert her of the delay, but if she didn’t the new person had no way of knowing what was going on, and 15 minutes past an appointment time with a client is a long time. I absolutely agree with the new worker’s decision if she had no idea when the OP would show and/or had been given no direction as to what to do in a case like this. It would have been rude and reflected badly on the business to leave the client twisting in the wind.

    Had she waited, it would have been both of you (and the company) who would have looked bad in front of the client. Is that acceptable? IMHO, one person late is better than both people late. As your client, I would have appreciated at least one of you there to get started or even to reassure me her boss was on her way, rather than wondering where in the heck everyone was.

    I have had this happen a lot over the years, and the rule of thumb with meetings in my circles has been not to wait more than 10 minutes before either starting or making a decision to post-pone. In most cases, people dislike even waiting 5 minutes. People are busy and have work to do. When you have a meeting scheduled for an hour, 15 minutes is a lot of time to waste, and many people may have another meeting scheduled for immediately following. So extending the meeting to make up for waiting around 15 minutes is not an option.

    1. LV*

      “The new employee didn’t draw attention to the fact that the OP was late, the OP did that herself by being late.”

      Thank you, I was coming here to say that. If the employee had made the clients wait, wouldn’t that also have drawn attention to the fact that OP was late? Plus, making them wait might annoy them, which is definitely not something you want.

      1. Stargazer*

        Agreed. And I’ll admit I wondered if the OP had hoped to contact the client later and try to say the employee had been the one who was late, but by going in and starting the meeting the employee had robbed the OP of that chance.

  22. The RO-Cat*

    #1 – being annoyed that new employee started a client meeting without waiting

    This kind of events are one of the reasons I always tried to groom my subordinates to be as independent as possible, within rules and reality of course (also because being “irreplaceable” means way less promotion opportunities and also because the many tombstones marking the place of as many “irreplaceable” people).

    Also, in my lines of work (sales and corporate training) 4,5 months counts as a *good* time chunk – I’d be wary if, at 120-days mark, an employee wasn’t able to at least successfully start a client meeting (usually I’d be there for finer or stickier points only). Of course, OP may be in an industry where it takes way longer than that to get up and running, but I can’t stop wondering about the way OP is building their work relationship with their employees. More so as they mentioned “embarrassment” as a kind of volitional deed perpetrated by the employee (that said, since I have only what OP wrote, I simply presume a normal work dynamic, without anything nefarious going on).

    1. Enid*

      I was a bit surprised about the 4.5-month thing, too. It might be that this is a field where that’s really not enough experience, but in general I would expect a competent employee of that duration to be able to handle a meeting for 15 minutes, in an emergency. (And, like everyone else who has replied, I would think that’d be preferable to just standing the client up for 15 minutes.)

      1. ella*

        I had a job at a library where the director referred to our children’s librarian as “the new one who’s still learning how things work” even though she’d been there for over a year.

  23. Jake*

    I quit my first job because of two managers (neither of which I worked for, thankfully) that were very similar to OP#1. Blaming others for their own mistakes. Lack of clear communication. Far more concerned about how they are perceived than actually doing a good job. More concerned about slinging complaints than accepting responsibility. No trust in their employees.

    I hope you are a better manager than this letter makes you seem OP#1.

    1. some1*

      And needing to have an alarming amount of control – the employee wasn’t allowed to enter the client’s office without her? Seriously?

  24. Jamie*

    I’m confused by the last question. Of course time worked needs to be paid, but rounding is very common and frankly payroll would be a nightmare without it.

    In my industry rounding to the nearest 15 is common practice. So if you clock in at 7:50 your time starts at 7:45 and if you clock in at 7:54 your time starts at 8:00.

    This evens out in the long run, you get paid 3 minutes less one day, but 3 minutes more another.

    People do need to be paid for ALL time worked, so the lunch thing would make me crazy as would rounding to shift times regardless of how long you actually worked…but in the cases of rounding to the nearest 15, that’s passed the sniff test for every employment layer at every job I’ve had. Now I’m interested in looking up the law on this, will do later because I’m a curious dork about this kind of thing.

    1. Cat*

      I think that sounds fine, but I read Q5 as saying the employer was always rounding down regardless, which is a different matter.

      1. Elysian*

        That was my read, too. I read it as “My employer is always rounding in his own favor,” which isn’t ok. Rounding generally is fine as long as its the kind of rounding that probably evens out in the end, like you describe.

        I think the law on this derives from the “de minimis” exception to payment for time worked. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone who knows, but I don’t think there’s a specific regulation on rounding.

      2. Lisa*

        That is what they are doing. Any time you have for the day over 8 hours is struck off – not rounded off. Does anyone know where we would report this problem? I tried our state dept. of labor and they said we would have to file a claim for unpaid time for each pay period. I want to know if we can report them somewhere and just have them stop doing it if it’s illegal.

    2. Kate*

      Rounding is normal and allowed by the DOL but they have to round up or down and that balances out. Sounds like this company is always rounding down at the end of the shift and up at the start of the shift. That is illegal.

    3. Manager*

      I am a dork about this stuff too. I started noticing that my associates timecards were all over the board on clocking in. If sales are not there for the week, I have to compensate by sending people home. By taking a closer look at my payroll spend I realized that certain associates were clocking in early to their advantage skewing the payroll budget. When I did the math on this the yearly spend on this was unbelievable. Hardly fair to the people who were clocking in and out when they should or having to be sent home because the payroll for the week was over budget.

      1. IndieGir*

        That sounds reasonable, as long as you explain to your employees what’s happening. “Suzie, you have to stop clocking in 15 minutes before your shift, because it puts us over budget and I had to send Jane home early to make up for it,which isn’t fair.”

        And as long as you are rounding to the nearest if you have to round.

    4. HM in Atlanta*

      It’s always been allowed as long as you round both up and down (to the nearest 15 minutes). It’s when the employer always rounds down that they have a problem.

  25. Sadsack*

    #1. Looking at it from the employee’s perspective, if I was waiting outside for more than a couple of minutes without having heard from my manager that she was late, I would start to panic that maybe my manager was already inside and that she and the clients were waiting on me. I’d probably go inside at that point, too.

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    OP #1-Everyone has said most of what I was thinking. You are way off base in your reaction. Unless you had already given your employee instructions on what to do in this type of situation, I think she handled it quite well.

    You should talk about a back up plan for future situations, knowing you can’t anticipate everything. When you do talk don’t:

    -even remotely sound like you are mad at your employee for being on time
    -talk about stepping over your authority (unless you’ve had that convo before)
    -give her any kind of grief for her thought process or what she did or didn’t do. 4.5 months is a good chunk of time, she wasn’t exactly wet behind the ears unless you kept her that way.

    If the meeting went well, I hope you were or will be appropriately thankful to the employee for not ticking off the clients. Think about this, if she had waited for you it could have really damaged relations with that client.

    1. the_scientist*

      “4.5 months is a good chunk of time; she wasn’t exactly wet behind the ears unless you kept her that way”.

      THIS THIS THIS THIS. I’m sure this is industry-dependent, but OP, why is your employee of 4.5 months not capable of handling 15 minutes worth of a client meeting? Are you withholding training, knowledge and experience from your junior employees and doing all the “hard” stuff yourself? This isn’t usually efficient or reasonable, isn’t a good use of employees’ time and is guaranteed to have competent employees heading for the exits as fast as their legs can carry them.

      1. Laura*

        Exactly. And why is the employee at the meeting if they’re so incapable? If you’re the two representatives of your company, you should both come to the meeting with things to say/parts to cover. Sounds like the OP wasnt going to let their employee speak in the meeting at all, which I think would make the company look bad. If there was a plan for the employee to cover some things at the meeting, there is no reason they can’t start the meeting with the parts they’re confident on.

        And because OP’s of the over reaction , and the fact that by 4.5 months most people can handle leading a meeting for 15 minutes, I’m not sure I trust the OPs evaluation of their employee’s competence.

          1. KireinaHito*

            And the OP said the employee was new in the department, not in the company. Someone who has been in the position for more than 4 months, with a knowledge about the company and who was invited to the meeting (I guess for a reason), I think can handle a conversation of 15 minutes reasonably well.

        1. ella*

          Letter #1 is one of those letters where I would really love for Alison to get a letter from the other person in the situation. “Dear Ask A Manager, I’ve been in my new position for a little over four months. After two months I felt like I knew how the office worked, and was keeping up well with my job and, indeed, would like to do more, but my manager hands down new responsibilities very slowly. Recently it was decided that I could start attending client meetings, with the eventual goal of leading them myself. Earlier this week…”

        2. Elsajeni*

          To be fair, sometimes it’s useful to invite a new employee to a meeting even if they won’t have anything to contribute yet. I’ve been in my position for… about 4.5 months, actually (I swear I haven’t started any client meetings without my boss!), and I’ve attended several meetings where I didn’t even really know what was going on yet, for reasons like, “We only meet with this committee twice a year, so even though you won’t have much to say, I want you to come meet them and start getting familiar with how these meetings go.”

          1. Laura*

            I totally agree with that, it just seemed to me, at least the way the letter was written, that the OP and the employee were the only two representing their company at this meeting. So if there are only two people representing a company at a meeting, I’d personally find it weird if one of them didn’t say anything. I’ve been to meetings where I also didn’t know what was going on, but those were internal meetings where it wasn’t as weird if I wasn’t participating

      2. Stargazer*

        And what’s with saying “4.5 months” instead of “5 months” or even “a few months”? It’s like the OP wanted to make the employee look as new as possible.

      3. De (Germany)*

        “THIS THIS THIS THIS. I’m sure this is industry-dependent, but OP, why is your employee of 4.5 months not capable of handling 15 minutes worth of a client meeting?”

        Um, maybe because holding such meetings is only a small part of their job? After 8 months at my current job, of course there are still parts where I need help – the ones that only occur every few weeks or months, for example.

  27. LQ*

    In my world 15 minutes late means pretty much you’ve forfeited your right to my time. I’m moving on to the next task. If your employee hadn’t walked in before that I would have made you reschedule.
    It’s not really fair to either party at that point, you have less time to say whatever you wanted to say, I have less time to ask questions, and if you’re at my office chances are I have something scheduled right away after because I have a lot of things on my calendar. So instead of 60 minutes you only have 45, you’re better off coming back later. Or if you only have 45 minutes of things to say stop scheduling an hour.
    In the future I’d probably ask to work with the person who was respectful of my time, not the person who can’t be bothered to show up.
    Your employee may have saved you a long term client by going in there and starting the meeting. (And at nearly 5 months I’d hope they’d be capable of doing a reasonably good job of leading something unless meeting is code for open hear surgery.)

    1. Mike C.*

      This is really a bit much. No amount of planning can take into account every situation one encounters in life.

      1. Mike C.*

        One more thing – you complain about people who aren’t respectful of your time, and say nothing about all out wage theft?

          1. Mike C.*

            It idea here is respect for one’s time. Keeping someone late is one thing, not paying them for it is much, much worse.

            1. Colette*

              But this particular issue has nothing to do with pay – it’s about the manager whose employee started the meeting without her. I assume everyone in the meeting was paid for their time.

            2. LQ*

              Actually it doesn’t read at all to me like they are being forced to stay late (or work through lunch or show up early). The first thing I’d suggest to the OP is stop doing it.
              The OP could potentially get fired for showing up early and working through lunch. For precisely what you are talking about. They are getting the company into trouble by working (assuming this employee is hourly) during time they aren’t getting paid for. The 5 minutes at the end of the shift is something the law addresses (which someone else commented on very well).

              But in #1 the person who is being disrespectful is the person who wrote in.
              In #5 the company won’t read my comment. And you aren’t going to like me saying, stop working when you aren’t getting paid to work, because that puts the onus on the letter writer instead of the company.

        1. IndieGir*

          Wage theft — which would have what relationship to the discussion at hand? You’re talking about a customer and a salesperson in this example, not an employer and employee.

          It looks to me like you set your soapbox up in the wrong location. Did you think LQ was talking about letter #5? Because it’s pretty obvious to me from the whole context that LQ is talking about letter #1. I think you got hold of the wrong end of the stick . . .

          1. Mike C.*

            No, I thought that if LQ was concerned about respect for one’s time, #5 was a much more egregious example of disrespect.

            1. IndieGir*

              That’s a total non-sequitur. The respect for time you expect as a customer greeting a salesperson is very different from that which you expect in an employer/employee relationship. The two questions aren’t related at all, and Colette is right, why should a comment have to address all the issues?

              You haven’t convinced me at all. I still think you mis-read the post and just don’t want to admit it (which is silly, there’s no harm in admitting that, we’ve all done it!)

            2. Ethyl*

              This is ridiculous and makes the comments space here extremely unwelcoming and hostile. There is NO RULE that each commenter must respond to each question in a short answer post.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s no expectation that people have to address every egregious thing in a post with multiple questions. People will address the ones that most speak to them — or may feel that what they wanted to say on another has already been addressed — and I don’t think it’s fair to draw assumptions about them based on which they talk about and which they don’t.

      2. LQ*

        No, but if something serious occurs and they call and say, hey can’t be there for 20 minutes, I’ll tell them to reschedule. No not every situation can be taken into account. But some people have an excuse for everything. If someone ended up in the hospital that’s fine, but they aren’t going to show up 15 minutes late. If someone got hung up in traffic and calls me I can work with that. But just showing up 15 minutes late? That’s disrespectful.

        And I can respond to this one calmly and with experience of what I’d do. I didn’t realize I was required to comment on things that were illegal and despicable first and only after that comment on other things. I double checked the commenting policy and, nope, nothing that says if you don’t loudly exclaim the horribleness of clearly horrible things you are banned from commenting on other things.

      3. Colette*

        I would also expect someone to reschedule if they were 15 minutes late. Not calling & just showing up late would be negatively affect my opinion of their professionalism and would definitely influence whether I wanted to work with them at all.

  28. Barnaby Sunshine*

    #1 I think it’s a little self centered to be late for a meeting and then blame the person who did their best to get it started on time. I think the employee was showing respect to the customer by doing what could be done given the situation. Of course it all depends on what was said, and hopefully she put a positive spin on it. If you are a confident person and your customers respect you, they will be understanding of traffic mishaps on occasion. But being late to a customer meeting is your shortcoming. To expect the whole world to stop for you is extremely arrogant.

    1. Annie O*

      Yes. Something about the attitude in the letter worries me that this isn’t the first time the OP has imagined slights or shifted blame to their subordinates. Sounds like an insecure boss, which can be hell for the employees on that team.

  29. MT*

    For OP #5, it depends on the state you are in. I’ve worked in different facilities around the US and each state varries. One state allowed for employees to clock in up to 8 minutes before the begining of shift, but since they are not required to clock in early and not required to start working( we wouldnt allow them to start working till shift start) we could legally round their start time to the actual start time.

  30. Ethyl*

    “I discovered my employee had entered the client’s building and announced she was there for the meeting …”

    Well…..yeah, of course she announced she was there for the meeting. What should she have done? Passed a note to the receptionist? Stood around until someone asked?

    What I’m saying is, this phrasing just strikes me as petty and mean, OP1. I think, as AAM and others have pointed out, that your reaction is way out of proportion to what happened and I wonder if maybe you have an essential dislike for this person overall. If that is the case, you are going to need to get that under control to maintain a good working relationship and not constantly find fault and criticize someone for imaginary “problems.”

    1. Us, Too*

      I’m actually SHOCKED by the reaction OP had. Travel delays happen and when they’ve happened to me, I’ve always been grateful that someone on the ground has gotten us kicked off without me and managed to think fast on their feet to try to salvage the client relationship. When I arrive I make a special point of trying to sneak in quietly without disrupting the proceedings, then pick up at the next slide or change of topic by saying “I’m so sorry I was late and couldn’t let you know personally. My plan was stuck in a holding pattern circling the airport for an extra 45 minutes and I wasn’t permitted to phone from the air. Thank you for your patience and I’d like to thank Apollo for getting us started and covering for me. Before I continue to the next few topics, were there any questions that I can answer from the topics you’ve already discussed?”

      Being mad at my employee simply wouldn’t occur to me – this was obviously 100% my fault.

    2. some1*

      Yeah, it seems weird to be hung up on this detail and not explain exactly how the employee embarassed you — did she go, “Look who’s FINALLY here!! Somebody obviously needs to buy a new watch!” when you showed up or what?

  31. Us, Too*

    #1 – I’m with everyone else on this. This really is a terrible position to put your employee in because it sounds like she had no way of knowing if you were even going to show up at all. Next time you go on a client trip, you should make sure you have a mobile phone – that simple mitigation could have prevented all this mess because you could have called your staff member and made arrangements so she handled this as you wished. Or, better yet, CALL THE CLIENT and tell them you’re late and what to expectd.

    Anyway, if I were the employee and weren’t grossly ignorant, I’d forge ahead without you. I’d just say something like “Bob’s usually a chronically early type, but he’s running a few minutes late today. I can cover most of the preliminary materials without him and we can parking lot any questions we have that he must answer until his arrival.” Then I would wing it from there. If it very long meeting (e.g. more than 4 hours), I’d ask for an hour delay in start time to give you the time to get there, crossing my crossables that you showed up in that hour. If you didn’t, I’d fall back on the soldiering on without you approach.

    But, UGH, I feel terrible for the staff member. Been there, done that, and it was AWFUL. But… at least I had the benefit of knowing that BossExpert was delayed approximately when they’d show up. Stuff happens, clients get that, they just want a representative of the company to help them. Period.

    1. ella*

      “Bob’s usually a chronically early type, but he’s running a few minutes late today.”

      I first misread this as “Bob’s usually a chronically late type, but for some reason he’s only a few minutes late today,” and thought ACK NO WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT.

      And then i read it correctly. :)

  32. Mena*

    #1: you left your employee to make a judgement call and she did. I doubt very much that her goal was to embarrass you.

    Any why didn’t you call her and let her know is looked like you would be late and tell her to wait in her car until you arrived?

  33. Persephone Mulberry*

    #1 reminds me of an incident I had with my boss a few months back. We had half a dozen executives from other companies coming to our office for a meeting with my boss, the CEO. They arrived a little early, while my boss was wrapping up another meeting. The front desk notified me, the EA, and I did what seemed the obvious thing: greeted them and escorted them to the conference room, invited them to help themselves to the water, etc. that had been set out and told them that the boss would be in momentarily.

    But no, when my boss got out of his first meeting and I told him his visitors had arrived and that I had put them in the conference room, I got chewed out. He seriously wanted these VPs to kick their heels in his reception area during the highest-traffic part of our day rather than wait for him in the comfort and privacy of the executive conference room. I’m still not entirely clear on whether he thought I made him look bad that he wasn’t immediately available when the arrived (early, I remind you – it’s not like he was even running behind) or if he was intending it as some kind of power play. Either way, lesson learned: the boss likes to greet his visitors himself.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That’s so obnoxious of the boss. Unless you’ve been given clear guidance to the contrary, that sounds like the right way to handle it.

  34. Anonymous Educator*

    There are a lot of details missing from OP #1’s letter.

    She had transferred from another department and had no experience with leading meetings or the subject matter.

    While I think it’s up to the client whether a meeting starts or not, the OP did say this employee had no experience with… the subject matter.

    Of course, someone else did bring up a good point of why? Why, after 4 1/2 months, has this employee not been trained on the subject matter? Why even bring her to the client meeting if she has no experience? Doesn’t that do your client a disservice?

    Of course someone there longer would know more, but to bring someone who has no experience seems to be absolutely horrible for the client.

    I was annoyed that she had not waited for me as planned (we had agreed to meet at the client’s premises) and felt she had not acted professionally as she had shown up/embarrassed me by drawing attention to the fact that it was I who was late.

    Again, we’re a little scant on the details here. What does “as planned” mean? Did the OP, in fact, say “Meet me beforehand no matter what, even if I’m running late”? We don’t know.

    Of course, from the client’s perspective, the employee was acting perfectly professionally—showed up on time, didn’t waste the client’s time.

    We’re also missing a lot of other pieces that some commenters have speculated on, and I’m wondering the same thing. Does the OP not have a cell phone? If the traffic is just slow and not gridlocked, pull over and call the client or text your co-worker? If the traffic is gridlocked, just call or text from the car while you’re in traffic?

    Too many questions unanswered to know the real story, but it definitely does seem as if the OP is far more concerned with how she’s appeared than as to whether the client’s time was wasted or not.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        But if it’s in the past, and this employee now has experience (are gained it in the past 4 1/2 months), why bring up that she had no experience in the past?

    1. FiveNine*

      I read the letter to mean the employee had no experience *leading meetings on the subject matter,* but of course the employee had to have had experience in the subject matter itself.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I guess in some sense it doesn’t matter.

        If the employee knew the subject matter but didn’t have experience leading meetings, there’s nothing wrong with her starting when the manager was late.

        If the employee knew nothing about the subject matter, it’s really the manager’s fault for 1) bringing someone who knows nothing to a meeting with a client and 2) having someone in the department for 4 1/2 months and keeping her from knowing what she should know.

        1. Joey*

          What?! This doesn’t make sense to me. Bringing someone new along to watch is frequently how people learn.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            What?! This employee has been there for 4 1/2 months. She shouldn’t know nothing at all. If she knows nothing at all, don’t bring her to the meeting.

            If she knows a little but not enough to lead the meeting, bring her along and forgive her if you are late and she starts the meeting with the client for fifteen minutes.

            How does that not make sense?

            1. Joey*

              For all we know its a complex job and this may have been the first opportunity to expose her to a particular piece of it. Or maybe they service different types of clients and she’s just there to see how to present to a client in general. We just don’t know so you can’t assume she should know.

              1. LBK*

                If the first time information on a subject is presented to someone learning it is in front of a client, that’s a pretty horrible training technique. I get that there’s on-the-job training (I’ve done a position that required it) but the idea that she wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to talk about anything related to the subject of the meeting and was asked to attend is bizarre. How are you even going to understand what’s going on in the meeting if you have literally zero knowledge of the topic?

          2. the_scientist*

            But 4.5 months is hardly “new” when a key function of the job is attending client meetings. It depends- if this was the first meeting the “new” employee has ever been to, then okay, fine. But really, if a major job duty is handling client meetings, you should be well capable of doing that at nearly 5 months into a role.

  35. Ali*

    I had something similar happen in #4 a couple months ago. I had applied at a company that I really wanted to work at, but in between the time I applied and the company got back to me, my phone broke and I had to get a new phone and, thus, a new number. (I needed a new phone urgently and had to get a pre-paid one with another number. No big deal to me, though.)

    I mentioned when the employer reached out by e-mail that I could be contacted at my new number and that I could no longer use the original phone number from my resume. Employer called the old number anyway even after I provided the new one, then e-mailed me when I asked about the missed call saying he had called. I left him a voice mail with an apology and clarifying the new number, but he never called back again.

    Guess everything isn’t what it appears to be on the outside!

  36. Katie the Fed*

    I’m confused by #1 – I’d be thanking the employee for showing initiative and not keeping the client waiting. You were late and you didn’t get in touch with your employee to let her know how you wanted to handle it. Sounds to me like she made the right call in that situation, and you were the one who messed up.

    1. Joey*

      Highly dependent on what she actually did. Initiative is good, but not if she was out of her league. I can think of plenty of situations where being late is the better alternative.

      1. Lizzy*

        Even if she was out of her league, the OP should also be held accountable in this situation, especially for not communicating a protocol ahead of time. Until the OP stops by to clarify and further elaborate what the junior employee actually did, the OP’s letter indicates thar he/she harbors most of the blame. If the junior employee really had no business conducting the meeting or allowing it to start without the OP present, she shouldn’t have been invited to begin with.

        1. Joey*

          Yes and no. Obviously the onus is on the manager to set expectations and she should be accountable for doing that. But bringing someone to a client presentation that can’t take over is common. Bringing an assistant, intern, or someone who needs to learn is commonly acceptable.

          1. Ethyl*

            Yeah but I still feel like in that case, going inside and getting settled into the conference room and making small talk with the client is still a better option than just waiting outside (weird) and then walking in 15 minutes late with what sounds like no warning to the client, although that is far from clear (rude).

          2. Lizzy*

            From my experience, if you are bringing someone who isn’t in a position to be conducting a meeting without a supervisor or senior employee present, you travel together. This also gives the supervisor time to to over details with the junior employee. Granted, sometimes that isn’t always possible.

            But even if the junior employee had no right to start the meeting, we are also forgetting that the client has a say in this. I mentioned in another comment above that I had a supervisor run late to a meeting and I had to contend with a cranky sponsor who basically said we do the meeting now (while my supervisor was in transit) or they walk. Starting the meeting without a supervisor present seems like the lesser of two evils here.

            1. Joey*

              Arrive together definitely. That sounds like what the boss probably intended.

              Whether or not starting the meeting was the best outcome under the circumstances we don’t know. Maybe the new employee made it worse? Maybe not? We don’t have enough info to say either way.

  37. Betsy*

    #1, I hope I’m wrong about this, but where you say the employee embarrassed you by making it obvious you were late, it reads to me as if you think she should have let you say that you were on time and waiting for her. That is one of the best ways to lose talented and motivated employees: making them take the blame for issues outside their control in order to prevent the boss from looking bad.

    1. the_scientist*

      Oh, this is actually a good point- maybe the manager wanted the employee to wait outside so the client wouldn’t know who was late, and the manager expects the junior employee to pretend they were at fault? that’s BS and one episode of that would have me looking for a new job ASAP. No thank you.

    2. Observer*

      I was actually going to comment on this. LW#1, were you really expecting the other person to take the blame for the late start?

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        I was also wondering this, given the phrasing of, “She drew attention to the fact that it was I who was late.” …Well, it WAS you that was late!

    3. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      I was thinking the same thing… but didn’t want to say it. I have had my fair share of “taking the fall for my manager” moments and it never feels good. Hopefully this wasn’t what the manager was trying to do. If this was the case… what if the client found out about the lie (maybe someone saw the employee sitting in their car or waiting in the lobby)? They may wonder what else the OP is lying about and it might hurt their business relationship.

  38. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    #1) I think that you are being a little too hard on the employee. It just sounds like you need to let her know how to handle these things in the future. If I were in her shoes, I would be a little nervous that the customer may be irritated or may no longer have the time for the meeting. She probably thought that she was helping the situation. I think that if you simply let her know how you would like those things handled if they happen again, that should be enough. Also, I understand that showing up late to a client meeting is embarrassing, but most people understand that sometimes things happen to our schedules that are out of our control; traffic, flat tire, etc… and if you briefly explain what happened to the customer and apologize, I don’t think that it would be a big issue.

  39. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    #4) Could this have been a time zone issue? That happens to me sometimes because I work with candidates throughout the US. I try to be very specific and give them the time in their own time zone rather than my own to try and make things easy, but sometimes there is still miscommunication. Sometimes event though I say Central time they will see that I am in Pacific time and assume that I mean Pacific time and so we miss each other and one time I accidentally scheduled a call in Outlook for Central America time instead of Central time! This may not be the case, but I was just curious. In this case all you can really do is send the manager a quick e-mail letting her know that you are still interested. If you flat out point out her mistake it will come across as rude so you will want to be very polite and just say something like “I am so sorry that I missed your call at 2pm today, I was (away from my phone, in a client meeting, in an appointment, etc..). Would it be possible to reschedule our call?” – Good luck :)

    1. Colette*

      I’d add “I had thought that we were meeting at 3” to that suggestion – not to blame the manager, but to explain why you weren’t available at the time she expected you to be available.

    2. fposte*

      I wondered about time zones too. I’m doing a lot of phone stuff at the moment, and I try to always give the time in my zone and theirs to minimize confusion.

      1. Dan*

        I work in aviation, and GMT is used precisely for this purpose :) I have yet to start scheduling meetings this way, but at least there would be no confusion… ;)

        1. fposte*

          I can definitely see the advantage–I forgot one correspondent was two time zones away, and fortunately she reminded me!

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I mentioned something similar above. I’ve been burned scheduling a meeting while on a trip in another timezone. The calendar software puts it on the calendar at X time in the timezone I’m currently in, and then it changes to Y time when I get home. Urgh.

    4. LPBB*

      Thanks to this blog I’ve started confirming the time zone as well as the time to be on the safe side. It was one of those things that would never have occurred to me without reading comments like this!

    5. Mallory*

      My first thought was that it must be a time zone issue. I got a call at 10:30 this morning from someone who was expecting an 11:30 phone appointment with my boss; we very quickly figured out that he is in an earlier time zone than we are, which we hadn’t accounted for yesterday when scheduling the appointment.

  40. Bea W*

    Here are some general suggestions related to #1, for when people have off-site meetings.

    1. Exchange contact information, even if this means using your personal cell #, so you have a way to contact each other in case of delays or last minute changes.

    2. Consider meeting at the office or some other location and then commuting to the meeting together, even if it is personally more convenient to go separately. This avoids the awkward “Where is my co-worker” moment and if for some reason you will be late, there is someone in the passenger seat who can call ahead to the client and alert them.

    3. If you are traveling separately, be aware of how and where your co-worker is commuting. If you hear a report on the news of an incident that affects your co-worker’s commute, it’s a heads up for you to not panic if they are late and something to explain to your client if she’s MIA. “Jane is delayed. There is a terrible backup in the tunnel this morning, and I’m not sure when she will be able to get here. Would you like to go ahead and start the meeting without her?”

    Even if I have no idea why someone is MIA, I like to give the option to proceed anyhow. Even if there are things on the agenda that are not my area of expertise, I can start with the things that are, and come back to the others later.

    1. Laura2*

      #2 is a good point. If it’s important that neither of you start without the other, go together. If I arrived at a client location on time (i.e. with some time to get through any security and find the right elevator) and had not received an email/call/text from my boss, and didn’t see my boss, I’d assume the boss was already inside waiting for me, in which case it would be silly to stand around waiting.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      These are great suggestions.

      As a random side note, if you do find yourself needing to give a cell phone number to clients/customers/vendors, you may want to get a Google Voice number that rings your real cell number, and give the Google Voice number out instead.

      This gives you a little more control over separating your personal and professional lives (for example, if you’re on vacation and don’t want anyone bothering you, you can have Google Voice not forward to your cell at that time).

      1. Bea W*

        Another reason Google Voice is awesome. I had a vendor who asked for my cell, and since I don’t have a company issued cell, I just gave them my Google Voice number.

  41. Elizabeth*

    At the risk of piling on, I’d agree with the rest of the commenters re: #1: OP, based on what I’m reading here, it seems like you’re the one who’s out of line.

    If you hadn’t given the employee clear instructions, don’t blame her for not knowing how to proceed. For instance, what does “We had agreed to meet at the client’s premises” mean? Did you specifically say, “Wait outside until I arrive and we’ll go in together”? Because had one of my bosses said “We’ll meet at Company X,” I would have at least entered and informed the receptionist. How was she to know you weren’t already there and hadn’t been taken to a conference room?

    Most of my sentiments have already been expressed in various posts upthread, but this sounds to me like you aren’t communicating clearly–by apparently not calling/texting your employee and/or client to inform them of the situation, and not giving your employee information a) needed to be an active contributor to the meeting and b) how to proceed in the event that you can’t make it or are delayed.

    1. some1*

      Ntm, if the weather is bad the employee may not want to wait outside or in her car. Or she might need to use the restroom.

  42. Lizzy*

    I had a feeling no. 1 would get a lot of people talking. I would love if the OP for no. 1 could jump into this thread and clarify:

    1.) What exactly did the junior employee do to embarrass you? Was it just starting the meeting without you? Or did the employee actually say something to throw you under the bus and potentially damage your reputation with your client?

    2.) Was there communication set up between your employee and your client to alert everyone of your tardiness?

    3.) You mention the employee’s lack of experience, so why was she invited to begin with? Was she there merely there to shadow you or assist you with a presentation? What is it about her lack of experience that disqualifies her from saving the situation by starting the meeting on time and without your presence?

    4.) Do you hold yourself accountable for any part of this situation? This is an honest question and not mention to be taken as condescension towards you.

    1. fposte*

      Good questions. I can certainly imagine a version of the narrative where an already annoyingly overambitious junior employee didn’t even try to wait for a minute, just plunged right in with the client. I could certainly see being annoyed with that.

      Where I get stuck is that if an employee really is too junior to be talking directly to the client without the OP, she’s too junior to know what to do in the situation without being told, and I think if the OP had explicitly told the employee in advance what she should do instead, that would have been mentioned in the letter.

  43. TotesMaGoats*

    Allison, just a quick thought. I know tech limits us to some of the flagging and threading that we’d want to do to more easily search the comments. However, I think most of us really want to know when the OP chimes in. When an OP comments, could you put a note at the top of the post like “OP #3 has commented.” Then we could look for that before commenting. Might cut down on some of the repetitive questions after an OP has already responded. And you wouldn’t have to keep scrolling through all the comments to see if an OP has chimed in.

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      I like this idea a lot. Most of the time I’m scrolling through all of the repetitive comments (sorry but many of them are repetitive) just to see if the OP has commented.

    2. Parfait*

      That would be really nice. Even nicer would be to have it link directly to the OP’s reply. FML does this.

    3. S.K.*

      This x1000! – especially when the more popular threads get into hundreds of comments, it becomes almost impossible to sift through them all (and some OPs comment without titling themselves as “OP #3”, which makes it even more confusing).

  44. Agile Phalanges*

    #3 – Discussing Wages

    While it might be the law that your employer has to let you DISCUSS wages, there’s nothing that can make them listen to you rationalizing an increase by quoting other people’s wages, so it might not be worth the fight anyway, if your desired end result is an increase.

    1. Joey*

      Sure there is. If wage inequities are based on illegal criteria you can bet they’ll listen when you come with EEOC.

      1. Gilby*

        What does the OP want to ultimately accomplish? The right to discuss wages and/or getting higher pay? You can discuss your pay all you want with your co-workers. Go for it.

        But are you just going to go up to your bosses and say… ” I am allowed to discuss my wage with another employee because legally I can” and then go back to work?

        Or are you wanting to say ” As I was legally discussing wages with my co-workers we have found out some of us are making less money….”. And then expect a wage increase or discussion about it?

        I think that looking at this as some sort of EEOC violation is going a little far. The OP was discussing salary and found out they were making less. They just want more money.

        Seriously OP? What is your ultimate goal here?

        1. OP #3*

          It would be awesome if I could get the wage increase, but I’ve already given up on that since I hadn’t heard anything for almost four months. Since I’ll be leaving this job in a few months, there’s not really much in it for me, but I would like for my coworkers to be able to discuss their wages amongst themselves and even come together to discuss it with management if necessary.

  45. KM*

    #1 (of course) — I agree with what everyone else has said. I’ll add that, from a certain perspective, the employee actually WAS trying to cover for the OP’s lateness by behaving as though the OP’s lateness wasn’t disruptive to the proceedings and mitigating its impact on anyone else. If the OP had randomly hung around outside for 15 minutes, it would have drawn more attention to the delay, not less.

    (Unless, as others have suggested, the OP was expecting the employee to take responsibility for being late, in which case ????)

    1. AB Normal*

      Another point that I haven’t seen being discussed:

      How would the OP #1 avoid embarrassment if the subordinate had waited outside for 15 minutes for her to show up?

      If she is the manager, and the subordinate was late, wouldn’t she just go into the building and proceed with the meeting without the subordinate? To me, as the client, it would look even worse to imagine that the manager was on time, and instead of going in to start the meeting at the right time, she waited 15 minutes for an inexperienced subordinate to get there, so the two could walk in together (!!!).

  46. AMT*

    I can imagine being the employee in #1.

    Minute 1: “Oh, God. When is my manager going to get here?”
    Minute 5: “OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP I’m going to have to do this alone.”
    Minute 12: “Am I going to get yelled at for starting the meeting? Am I going to get yelled at for NOT starting the meeting?”
    Minute 14: “Screw it, I’m going in.”
    Minute 15: “Crap oh crap oh crap s/he’s here.”

    1. TFK*

      +1 I think OP should try and think of this from the employees perspective, without thinking that the employees thought was malicious as seems to be implied in the letter

  47. S.K.*

    A thought experiment for everyone. Would these discussions be more productive if Alison re-worded the letters to state the question, but taking out the personality and idiosyncracies of the specific question?

    I ask because the majority of the comments on #1 seem overly influenced by the fact that the OP is coming across as histrionic and, pardon the term, a bit of a pill. I see at least 20-25 comments which are drawing conclusions which are not only out of left field, but sometimes directly in contrast to what the letter itself says. To wit:

    1. OP is slightly more qualified than anyone commenting here to decide whether or not Junior was qualified to run the meeting solo. You have no idea what industry they are in or what OP or Junior’s expertise and role are. For all you know OP is in charge of marketing and Junior is a programmer.
    2. Whether or not Junior’s actions are understandable is completely separate from whether the situation was handled correctly. Just because she couldn’t have known better does not necessarily mean that she did the right thing. Two separate issues.
    3. Given the tone of the note, it certainly seems to me that OP *felt* that the situation played out in a way that made her look unusually bad. Just because her letter was written in an overly dramatic tone doesn’t necessarily mean she’s reading the client’s reaction wrong. I’m not saying she did or didn’t, but why ASSUME?

    Just to be clear, I agree with Alison’s advice 100%. And that is usually the case. But the comments are getting increasingly unreadable for me, trying to find thoughtful comments among all the “MY BOSS DID SOMETHING VAGUELY LIKE THIS TO ME ONCE AND HE WAS WRONG SO THIS BOSS IS WRONG TOO”

    1. Betsy*

      The issue with that in this case is that the OP’s question in 1 wasn’t “how do I deal with an employee who started a meeting she was unqualified for?” The question was “Is it is now acceptable to embarrass your manager in the presence of a client?” That is therefore the question most people are answering.

      I’d be really interested to see how you would rephrase the letter in question 1 so that it included the relevant information, asked the actual question as written in the letter, and didn’t provoke the kinds of responses we got today.

      1. S.K.*

        Right, I totally agree that the question was asked in a rather ridiculous fashion, and I agree that if Junior had no prior instructions about what to do she was in a lose-lose situation and made the best of it. What I’m saying is – we aren’t equipped to evaluate whether Junior actually did the right thing, and that is what the majority of commenters are saying. (Generalizing wildly).

        I’m sorry if this came across as me seriously suggesting that Alison do this, maybe people aren’t as familiar with the term “thought experiment” as I thought.

        1. Ethyl*

          “maybe people aren’t as familiar with the term “thought experiment” as I thought.”

          Why would you go and get rude about it? Just because people are disagreeing with you doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

          I thought AAM had asked us to be more genial and friendly in comments recently. The comments to this post sure make it feel like it’s not “taking.”

          1. S.K.*

            I apologize if this came across as rude, it was not meant sarcastically. The replies to my original comment did not seem (to me) to be treating it as a thought experiment, but rather as an actual suggestion.

    2. The IT Manager*

      While I agree with some commenter’s seem to read alot into a letter, in this case the LW’s placing of all the blame for embaressment on the subordinate doesn’t seem appropriate.

      I do not want Alison to edit the letters to eliminate the crazy (personality and idiosyncracies).

    3. LPBB*

      People are always going to read things through the filter of their own experience, it’s unavoidable.

      Plus, I don’t see how Alison could edit these letters like you suggest and still present an accurate situation *as the OP sees it.* This OP is clearly concerned that her employee *embarrassed her* rather than the possibility that the employee overstepped or took on a role that she was not prepared for. That’s the question she’s asking and that’s the question people are responding to.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I disagree strongly. If the OP wants us to understand why she’s frustrated with the employee, she has to explain exactly what’s frustrating about it. Given the details in the letter, it appears there’s no good reason apart from the OP looking bad for being late (which she actually was).

      What you’re saying makes sense if the letter had said “I explicitly told this new employee that she’d be strictly an observer and must absolutely not start the meeting with me” or if the letter had said “There was no problem with her starting without me, but when I walked in the room, she then blurted out ‘Look who finally decided to show up!’ loudly in front of the client.”

      Nothing like that.

    5. fposte*

      Another drawback is that there are occasions where Alison initially misreads a letter too, and in such a case the question would reflect the misreading.

      I also think it’s kind of sucky to get rewritten anyway–somebody just ended up on That Bad Advice for a letter that was apparently completely rewritten (other posters on the original site note rewriting as a regular occurrence, so it’s not just this poster covering herself).

      1. S.K.*

        To be clear, I am not seriously suggesting that this change be made. Dumb letter-writers are half the fun :)

        1. fposte*

          I can see what you mean as a thought experiment–I read a couple of forums with big tilts, one which tilts strongly toward supporting the OPs’ positions and another that tilts strongly toward interrogating them, and it’s interesting how the same basic facts can receive a very different response depending on who’s who in the story.

    6. Colette*

      I think the comments would be a lot less helpful if Alison did that, particularly in cases where the OP is actually out of the norm (as I would argue that one is). In some cases, the way the OP is viewing the issue is a big contributing factor, and removing the voice would mean they’d never know that.

    7. Rev.*

      But isn’t the letter a reflection of OP’s state of mind? Especially since the letter was written after the event took place, giving her some time to reflect?

      I’m the Poster Boy For Cutting Somebody Slack, but in this case, words speak louder than words…

    8. Observer*

      Sure, some of the comments make too many assumptions. But most of them actually address some real issues that the letter highlights, which is legitimate, often useful to other readers, and might even be useful for the original LW.

      1. It’s true that the LW is more qualified than anyone here to assume that the subordinate is qualified to start a meeting. But the question of why this should be an issue is a very legitimate one. Even in your example, there is no reason to believe that a programmer who is not a sales person is necessarily unqualified to actually start a meeting. This question is legitimate on its own, and speaks to the issue of whether the LW is over-reacting.

      2. The LW does not only ask if the situation was handled optimally, but whether the subordinate was out of line, and whether it’s ok to humiliate your boss. While it’s possible that Junior did not handle things optimally, the fact that this was a perfectly normal, reasonable thing to do in most cases means that you can’t say that Junior was out of line. And it’s certainly not reasonable to act as though the employee was trying to embarrass the boss.

      3. No one is denying that the LW felt embarrassed, nor that it’s quite possible that the client reacted negatively. There are two possible issues that people are having. One is the idea that if Junior had not started the meeting, the client would have been less likely to notice that the LW was late. This is a wildly improbable assertion that unreasonably shifts the blame to Junior. The alternative implication of how the LW writes is that the LW expected Junior to act in a way that allows the blame to be directed to her (or him). That’s even more wildly inappropriate.

      Either way, it speaks directly to the LW’s question. No, it’s not OK for a subordinate to embarrass you. But, it also not reasonable to expect a subordinate to shoulder the blame for your problem or to think that acting like a proverbial ostrich is going to cover your mistakes.

      1. S.K.*

        I guess I don’t see the purpose of this blog to be “LW asks a question, Alison answers it.” If that was the case, she would reply directly to the person and there wouldn’t be a blog. I see the purpose of the blog being interesting discussions on the issues raised, and I feel that often “unreasonable OP syndrome” gets in the way of a discussion about interesting issues, because the question is asked in a dumb way (or, in this case, because the OP asks the wrong question entirely).

        Obviously I made the point poorly.

    9. Jamie*

      I don’t think it would be helpful, because an inordinate amount of work issues are because of communication, tone, and the attitudes of those involved so stripping the letters of that would allow us to muse about these situations in a purist kind of social issue way – but not helpful as nothing in real life plays out in a vacuum.

  48. Decimus*

    Re: # 1 – I can see why the manager might not, in some circumstances, be able to notify their employee they were running late. I used to work in NYC and there were a few times I’d be meeting my manager at a client location, with each of us coming from different locations. If the subways had a delay, one could get stuck in a tunnel and not be able to call or text. No signal, after all.

    But that does mean cutting the employee a break. Unless they violated clear “wait for me no matter what” instructions, just tell them how you’d prefer them to handle things in the future and let it go.

    1. fposte*

      And I hope these people suggesting she should text are thinking of her as being on public transportation, not driving.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        My phone has talk-to-text, which I can activate from the Bluetooth controls on my steering wheel. Obviously not everyone has this — but if you do, it can be easy to forget that it isn’t an option for everyone.

      2. Jamie*

        Yes! My boss responded to one of my emails after leaving last night and my immediate response was “why are you emailing me, aren’t you driving?” Which was stupid because if they were driving I didn’t want them reading my email.

        The reply “I haven’t left yet, but nice to know you’re concerned about the company cars.”

        Yeah – I am not silent when someone I think is driving texts or emails me. At least I’m one person they won’t be texting to if they crash.

    2. Observer*

      What you say is true. And, it’s worth noting, for those who are not familiar with the system but are of a certain age, that there generally are no pay phones at the subway stations either. (I’ve seen one or two, but mostly they have been gone for years.)

      But the LW talks about “traffic” which is not how most people describe subway delays. More importantly, s/he does not address the issue of why s/he didn’t inform the subordinate, so it sounds like that was never even a consideration, and it really should have been.

  49. Lauren*

    #3- Just some past experience, I told a former employer the same thing after Facebook post (really unprofessional business) told all the employees that we needed to keep our wages to ourselves and that anyone who had a problem with that could speak to ______. Though I thought I said it in nicest/friendliest/nonthreatening way possible, I was fired the next day. They didn’t bother to give any reason as to why, but I could tell it had a big thing to do with them not wanting informed employees. Because they hire mostly college students, they count on them being uninformed and easy to take advantage of.

  50. lindsay j*

    For #5, they do have to pay you for all hours worked.

    However, they are perfectly within their rights to make a rule that you may only work during your scheduled times, and that anyone clocking in early, clocking out late, or working through lunch will face disciplinary action.

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