my coworker is tracking my hours

A reader writes:

There is a person in our office who likes to keep track of other employees’ schedules. I am not sure how long she has been doing this, but I was near her desk today advising her of her schedule. I noticed that she had a calendar open that on her desk top that she made herself. On one of the days in the calendar, I noticed my name and the name of our supervisor. For me it says that I left early that day, and for our supervisor it says that she was late that day. I am this person’s lead on our team, and it agitates me that she feels the need to track the schedule for our supervisor and me, and I am not sure what to do about it, or if there is anything I CAN do about it.

She was recently written up, so I am not sure if she plans on using this information against us if she ever finds it necessary. Except for my regular Mon-Fri shifts, she has no way to know whether or not I have a shift change or if I was scheduled previously to leave early that day.

What do I do in this type of situation, where a coworker feels it necessary to track my movement in the office?

The best answer here is to ignore it and let it go.

But I could also totally understand not wanting to let it go, and I’m hardly someone who would resist saying something if the opportunity presented itself. So … you could create a chance for the opportunity present itself, by being ready to say something in the moment if you see it again. If you happened to be at her desk to talk to her and happened to see it again, there’s no reason you couldn’t just say, right there in the moment, “Huh, are you tracking my hours for some reason?”

And then if she says, “Yeah, I’m tracking your hours because it’s so unfair that I’m being written up when other people leave early too” — which is what I suspect is likely here — then you could say, “Well, Jane, it’s not actually your job to track other people’s hours, so how are you going to know when someone has a shift change or was scheduled to leave early that day?”

And if you have any authority over her — which you kind of do as a team lead, even though it’s hazy, right? — you could also say, “Please manage your own work and let other people manage theirs.”

And if you don’t really have any authority over her (which is also possible, since team lead roles sometimes go that way too), then you could mention to your manager that your coworker seems to be on some sort of tear where she’s logging other people’s hours, and you thought she should know.

But then I’d move on. Let her track your hours if she wants; assuming she’s not going to uncover any kind of nefarious wrongdoing, it won’t ultimately matter.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    IME, stuff like this often happens because of managers who’d rather write up mediocre performers for trivial stuff (arriving 10 minutes late, using the internet too much for personal use, etc.)*** instead of managing. Suzie isn’t great, but isn’t bad enough to put on a PIP? Ultimately, you should be working on a transition plan for her, not writing her up for stupid stuff until she either acquires enough to be fired or gets mad enough to leave on her own.

    ***I know these things aren’t trivial in every job…let’s define trivial here as “things for which you wouldn’t write up a high performer.”

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like the OP wouldn’t have the authority to put her on a PIP, though, and wouldn’t necessarily know if the supervisor who does have that authority has enacted one. I think things like this happen because sometimes people just get wild hairs.

      1. PEBCAK*

        No, I didn’t mean the OP. I meant the coworker’s manager may have spoken to her or written her up for not working enough hours/arriving late/leaving early when the manager would have let the same thing slide for a top performer. Then the coworker thinks she is being treated unfairly, and starts tracking hours.

        1. Anonsie*

          This is my first assumption as well. The second is that she’s just a weirdo, and the third is that maybe it’s part of a project that isn’t nefarious at all that the LW just doesn’t know about.

    2. Stephanie*

      OldJob we had time cards since we had a federal contract. The official word was that those were just a requirement of the contract and the actual time didn’t matter since most of the employees were salaried exempt.

      Turns out that was only partially true. A coworker and I were working late one night and he asked if I had clocked out. I said I hadn’t and he told me to clock out ASAP. So turns out TPTB didn’t check to see if you got in at 9:10 vs 9 (although it apparently looked bad to clock out exactly after 8 or 8.5 hours), but they did look to see how many hours a day you worked. We worked on billable hours (e.g., you were assigned a project that was budgeted for 8 hours of work). If they saw you were consistently working 10-hour days (or whatever), it was taken as a sign you weren’t very efficient. It wasn’t a fireable or PIP-worthy offense, but it was something that could be counted against you if you had other issues.

      1. KellyK*

        That’s kind of crappy. I can see it as a sign of inefficiency or poor time management, but it could just as easily be a sign that you were being overloaded. (Though, considering that you were expected to *work* late but not be clocked in, that makes me wonder if everyone was properly classified as exempt.)

        1. Stephanie*

          Eh, I think we were properly classified. The real issue is that the clients wanted more for less and the sales team would kind of lowball to get the business. Having written a few of the project estimates, I knew firsthand the estimation process was pretty imprecise and what would initially be billed for 8 hours, should have been 12 hours (or whatever). It was just an issue of not-great project planning.

          1. Ethyl*

            I worked on billable hours as an environmental consultant and that has been my experience. “Oh, we’ll just send in a change order, don’t worry” was the cry of a certain kind of PM.

      2. MaryMary*

        Ha, my OldJob had billable hours targets. Let’s say your target was 1600 per year (which is just over 30 per week). But five business days a year are paid holidays, and let’s say you take 10 vacation/sick days each year, so you really need to have at least 32, 33 billable hours per week. Training, coaching and professional development don’t count as billable hours (new hires generally had lower targets, but the people training them did not). Neither did people management, resource management/planning, or financial planning (setting, monitoring, reporting revenue goals). At one point, internal projects weren’t either, but eventually there was a shift so that if it was a formal process improvement project is it counted as “internal billable”. Basically, if you weren’t working at least 50 hours a week, you weren’t going to hit your hours targets. Then again, there was plenty of client work to go around, one year I hit my target in July.

      3. Dan*

        Which is weird, because your billing rate as a fed contractor is normalized to a 40 hour workweek. Ie the company gets paid the same.

        At the same time, federal contacting rules require employees to log all hours worked, even after 40.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, I think that’s what TPTB meant when they said the hours didn’t really matter. From my understanding, the efficiency metric would only be used if there were other performance issues (as in, “Hmm, Wakeen’s not doing too well. Let’s see how many hours he works.”) It still seemed like a not-great metric.

    3. Joey*

      Whoa. High performers get flexibility. Sounds unfair, but it’s all rooted in “if you’re doing great, I’m not going to care about little stuff.” But, if you’re not doing great those things become more of an issue because they might be preventing you from doing great.”

      1. Joey*

        Oh, and PIPS aren’t the answer for someone screwing around on the job. They’re for people who need personalized coaching, not just a babysitter.

      2. PEBCAK*

        But the issue is that they aren’t performing well, not that they are coming in five minutes late. THAT’S what the manager should be addressing.

        1. PEBCAK*

          And to put a finer point on it, I don’t disagree that you might talk about work habits within a larger conversation about performance. Unfortunately, I have seen many managers make it ONLY about these little things. That’s where the perception of unfairness comes from. A manager doesn’t need to say “you aren’t doing as well as Jane,” but it should be something like “You aren’t performing where you need to be, and when I see you doing things like coming in late, using the internet, etc., it gives me the impression that you aren’t putting in the effort that you need to.”

        2. Joey*

          Well no, if someone has poor attendance you don’t only give feedback on performance. You say your performance is suffering because of your poor attendance.

          1. Magda*

            Right, but I thought PEBCAK was criticizing managers who focus on the attendance issues without making it clear to the employee that their lower performance is the real heart of the issue.

            1. Colette*

              I think there can be instances where an employee comes in and does a fantastic job while they’re there, but still has excessive lateness or absenteeism. In that case, the problem truly is that they’re not there.

              1. Magda*

                Sure. It’s not that there is never a scenario where timeliness/attendance is the key issue.

                But, there are also managers who are just plain reluctant to have the performance conversation with an employee. Whether it’s because they find the conversation emotionally difficult in some way, or they don’t have a strong enough grip on the department’s work to solidly identify “bad performance” indicators, or are just lazy — they don’t even want to go down that road. So instead they fixate on the things that are really easy to measure and quantify, like, Susie came in 15 minutes late today. They’re well within rights to enforce that, of course, but sometimes it’s treated like a substitute for managing the true performance issues.

                1. Felicia*

                  I think even when it is the attendance that’s the issue, it’s still productivity. Like they could be more productive if they were there as long as everyone else, or they’re not pulling their weight on a team, because they’re not there when the team members need their input.

    4. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s wrong to write up a mediocre employee for something a high performer does. For the mediocre employee, coming in on time, staying off the internet, or whatever the issue is might be enough to improve their performance, if only because they know that their manager is aware of what they’re doing. The high performer, on the other hand, has earned the right to a little more flexibility, because they are delivering consistently high results.

      1. PEBCAK*

        I don’t think anyone has ever turned a mediocre performer into a high performer by telling them to get off the internet.

        1. Joey*

          That’s not really how the conversation typically goes. The response is usually “I’m swamped and I’m doing the best I can.” That’s when the manager says “as evidenced by your internet usage that response really doesn’t hold water.”

        2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          I don’t think anyone has ever turned a mediocre performer into a high performer by telling them to get off the internet.

          I’m definitely not going to care that the best person on my team is messing around on the internet when that person a) is awesome and b) does nearly twice the amount of work as others. I will definitely have that conversation with a low performer though, as an overall performance conversation. Because if I didn’t have that conversation, I’m then not really doing much to manage them. Its not about nit picking the low performers, but many times those “little things” are absolutely part of the bigger problem and need to be addressed. If a low performer can figure out how to be a superstar without getting off the internet, I’m all for it… but that is most likely not going to happen (and definitely not over night). I tend to think that most lower performers fall into one of two camps: people who are bad at managing their time (and can therefore benefit greatly by staying on task and off the internet) or people who are just not trying as hard (and can therefore benefit greatly by not having a distraction of the internet). The first group has a lot of promise of getting better, the second group, not so much.

        3. Maggie*

          If only that would work for me. Ha. But, I wanted to say that as a former leader, I agree with everything you have posted on this thread and have also coached new leaders to shy away from this type of nitpicking and focus on quality of work. It kind of turns into this ‘a-ha’ moment for them.

          1. PEBCAK*

            Yeah, I’ve also coached people early in their career that if they feel they are being unfairly singled out for stuff like internet usage, they might need to do a better job of reading between the lines.

        4. CH*

          Well, I’ve been around long enough to remember that we had mediocre performers before there even was an internet.

    5. Angora*

      I would tell her manager. I worked with someone like that years ago, and I told my acting manager. [side note — my acting manager was the VP]. I took the approach that “apparently so and so doesn’t have enough to do (the main contract she was working on had completed and she was between contracts) if she’s so busy watching me. They put her on another contract (one she didn’t want to be on) and worked her to death.

      If your office has a high volume and this person is not doing 80% of her work because she’s worrying about everyone else’s, it’s time to address it.

    6. AMT*

      Yeah, I wonder whether she has other problems (e.g. bad attitude, general poor performance) and the manager is looking for a more quantifiable excuse to fire her. Maybe the company has some silly termination policy, maybe the manager has the misguided idea that it’s illegal to fire someone without documented cause, or maybe s/he’s just uncomfortable telling her the real reason.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    No way in hell would I let this go! Especially if you aren’t an hourly employee. Is there any chance a higher level person asked her to track your hours?

    1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from blurting out “what’s this?” upon seeing it.

      And I swear every office has one of these people – I’d love it if they all got a job at one company so they could have a complete meltdown tracking everyone’s hours while everyone is tracking theirs.

      Eyes on your own papers, people!

      1. Clever Name*

        I know, right? My (new) officemate makes a comment every single day when I leave at 2 to go pick up my son. I work half time (although sometimes it’s more when I log in from home to work on time-sensitive project work), and leaving at 2 is my schedule. She says things like, “Oh, you’re leaving already?” or “It must be nice”. Yeah, it is nice, but sometimes it’s not (arguing with my 7-year-old about whether or not 4*5= 20 is less than awesome). I finally said, “Yep! Everyday!” in a cheerful tone when she made the leaving already remark. Mind your own beeswax, people.

        1. Magda*

          Ugh, yeah. Back when I was underemployed, stuck working part-time and desperately hoping to be made a full time employee, I used to work three days a week. Without fail, every week someone would say “Oh, you’re off tomorrow? Must be nice.” After enough times forcing myself to smile and say cheerfully, “I’ll trade my hours for your paycheck and benefits,” it finally let up.

          1. Summer*

            Yep. A year ago, I was working two part-time jobs and still barely making ends meet. I hated when people at job #2 (a museum only open wed-sat) would make comments like that. “Oh, you’re only here 4 days a week? Must be nice!” Um, no, because I spend 2 other days at another job. Which means I work 6 days a week – likely more than the idiot making that comment. And getting paid peanuts with no benefits. Stop assuming my life is cushy!

          2. Whippers*

            Yeah, I had the same when I worked part-time. My response was always; “Yeah, but I do only get paid for 25 hours a week”. You’d swear you were getting paid full-time hours and only working part-time.

            1. Artemesia*

              Had the same experience of going part time when my youngest was in pre-school and having my boss make smartass remarks about how ‘I must have been off Christmas shopping when he tried to reach me the previous afternoon.’ I pointed out that I was now part time and had taken a huge pay cut to do so and he actually said ‘oh I thought you just dropped that project’ (grant funded) I don’t know where he thought the money was coming from to drop a project without cutting pay.

        2. JMegan*

          Yep. I have a former co-worker who left at 2:00 every day to care for her son (he is severely autistic, along with a number of other disabilities, and highly dependent.) She also had an extra-long commute to her home, and when she wasn’t commuting home to care for her son, she was commuting to another city to care for her aging mother. I expect the only thing “nice” about leaving at 2:00 every day was that she had a workplace that was flexible enough to allow it – she certainly wasn’t leaving early to have a pedicure and a facial every day, that’s for sure.

        3. Schedule Commenters*

          Ugh I know right! I have a co-worker who constantly complains about how busy he is and how he is always putting in weekend hours but, well, you know – it’s for the team! [Cheezy fake team vigor smile]. It’s amazing how he seems to complete 1/3 the work the rest of us do despite those extra hours ….

          Anyway he also goes out of his way to call out anyone he sees leaving the building. Just last week I had to run an errand during the middle of the day. I got my manager’s permission, and worked through lunch, then as I was walking away he yelled out, cheerfully of course, “Your leaving already?” and when I answered with a quick “Nope, just running an errand for the lunch break” he responded in a concerned voice “Oh. Really?” and then looked around at everyone with a face like it was the strangest and most innappropriate thing he had ever heard in his life.

          In general I find that those employees are poor performers who try and make themselves look better by implying their teammates aren’t as dedicated. It’s annoying but I don’t know what to do about it since it’s not really something I feel is worth bringing up to the supervisor.

          1. JB*

            Next time, just say “Nope!” and nothing more. That guy sounds like a jerk. Anything you say is something he’ll file away in his box of Things People Get Away With.

            1. ella*

              See, I’m the sort of person who would say, “Yep. Leaving already,” and then not explain myself when I returned half an hour later.

          2. LucyVP*

            I’ve noticed that the employees who are the most vocal about being “sooo busy” are usually on the lower end of the productivity spectrum and are usually only moderately busy at the most.
            If they were actually that busy – they wouldnt have time to complain about it all the time.

        4. B*

          My standard reply is ‘you wouldn’t be jealous when you got my paycheck’. Works pretty well! Because yeah, it’s nice leaving early, but it definitely leaves a huge dent in my finances!

      2. M. in Austin!*

        She might not be doing it in a sinister way. She may just track it to learn what is okay/not okay in the office. Some offices aren’t cut and dry about hours. When schedules are flexible, it’s hard to determine what is/ins’t okay.

        But, I wouldn’t do this as a long term thing. I did this for a few months (maybe even just 6 weeks? can’t remember!). I stopped once I understood how the office operated/felt about working from home/coming in late/leaving early/sick days and time off.

    2. CA Admin*

      I track hours at my firm, but only because the finance department told me to! We track a lot of things (not just here/not here) for benefits and tax purposes. Nobody gets dinged based on that info, but it’s necessary for that department to have.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      It’s petty, but how much time does it take to jot down when someone arrives/leaves?

      I think it is worth ignoring until she starts pointing it out to others.

      1. Stephanie*

        That’s true. Even for the minuscule amount of time, it just seems not worth the effort? It seems really petty for something that probably wouldn’t be well-received. And if she’s looking to goof off, it seems like there’d be more interesting (or even productive) ways to goof off.

        1. Adam*

          It is amazing the resourcefulness people will find when they truly commit to something, however ludicrous a task it might be.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          But use it to what end? Who is going to care about these things, other than her? If she thinks this is how to build a case with HR, her evidence is pretty much invalid.

          To me, it’s the same as my a-hole neighbor who writes down how long I leave my recycle bin at the curb after the pickup, to the hour. I’m not in violation of any HOA rules or local ordinances, but telling her to mind her own business will just introduce more hostility. It says more about her than me. Same think with OP and her coworker.

          1. Celeste*

            Even if management won’t listen or do anything, it’s social collateral. I’ve seen it happen that others will get on board when they can be convinced they’re being screwed by their fellow man.

            And yes, I’ve seen people track others to try to point out unfairness, and also to build their social capital among the disenfranchised. You have to be dysfunctional in my opinion to take it on. And no, it does not benefit the workplace in any way. I think I’d rather have the person surfing the internet than tracking his/her coworkers.

            1. fposte*

              Though I think it’s usually a failure as actual leverage, and usually people keeping stats like that are making sure their findings agree with their hypothesis–which is the real goal.

              I had to document somebody for employment reasons once, and it made me feel like the pettiest human ever; it broke me of any desire to ever keep a running count of people’s collective frailties.

      2. Diane*

        But think about how much time it takes to switch between tasks and refocus, even to make a quick note, especially to do so several times a day–not to mention all the mental energy thinking and fuming (or whatever is going on–plotting her novel for which time tracking is a crucial plot point?).

        1. Tiff*

          I agree. The task itself may only take a little time, but the thought behind it is poisonous to any productive work environment.

    2. Celeste*

      For some people, there is ALWAYS time to be hostile. Like the time management gurus always say, the thing you put first is the thing that gets done–AKA, your priority.

  3. Kevin*

    I’ll admit that I was guilty of doing this with a previous coworker and it was basically because he was able to get away with murder with my boss, while I would get chewed out and publicly shamed over the smallest things (often which weren’t even my fault). I basically did this to cover my own butt in the event that my boss tried to use me as a sacrificial lamb to cover up for my coworker.

    And these weren’t trivial “10 minutes late” kind of things. He would show up over an hour late, disappear hours early (to the point that he was getting paid for working 40 hours, while actually only being here for less than 20), refuse to answer the phones when I wasn’t in the office (I would leave for lunch and come back to multiple voicemails on the main line), among other things.

    To this day, I still believe he was let go due to pressure from higher-ups instead of having found another job (which was my boss’ official story ).

    1. tt*

      My husband is a restaurant manager, and his boss regularly shows up late – and I’m talking anywhere from an hour to two hours late, when she is the one opening the restaurant, and other staff are literally sitting outside the restaurant waiting for her to open. So not only are they sitting in the parking lot waiting for her (they don’t have keys and you’re never supposed to be in the restaurant alone), it throws off all their prep work for the day. But the company is short-staffed and the manager has worked for them for years, and basically does whatever she wants. I’d want to strangle the woman.

      1. Adam*

        Oh geez. Tardiness is in issue in most jobs but in food service it’s a condemnable sin. I guarantee you every other employee wants to strangle that person.

      2. Adonday Veeah*

        Please tell me that at least the staff is being paid from the beginning of their shift, and not from when this person shows up to let them in!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Something tells me they aren’t, because paying employees for not working is the one thing that I think would make lax owners decide to be not-so-lax.

          But I hope I am wrong.

          1. tt*

            I asked my husband that same thing recently. He said he *hoped* so, but the late boss is the one who processes the payroll!

            1. EngineerGirl*

              The DOL might be interested. If a non-exempt employee shows up at their scheduled time ready and able to work they need to be paid.

      3. sunny-dee*

        … Do you live in Dallas? My husband is also a restaurant manager, and that sounds like the manager he used to work with. She was the owner’s daughter, though, and not a lot you can do there. :-/

      4. mel*

        Ha! This happened to us so many times that management ended up just handing out keys/codes to a few kitchen workers to pass back and forth.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’ve been tempted to track others’ hours as well. One of my co-workers seems to drop the ball a lot. Since he’s in the office next to mine, I notice that he frequently arrives late and leaves early. A self-righteous part of me wants to track his hours so I can say, “See?! He’s only here 30 hours a week, while the rest of us are working 40+! No wonder he’s not pulling his weight!”

      But you know what? It’s not my job to police his hours and I have to remind myself that I don’t have all the information. Maybe my co-worker has permission to work fewer hours, maybe he’s working off-site or teleworking the rest of the time, or maybe he even has a medical condition and is on intermittent FMLA. I can talk to my manager about things that are directly affecting me (like if he doesn’t send info I need on a project), but it’s not my job to be the attendance cop. And if I found out that another co-worker was tracking others’ hours, I’d tell them the same advice.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        We have a similar situation in my office, where our office manager seems to make her own schedule–arriving an hour or two late, taking hour-plus lunches, leaving early–all without notifying anyone else, which grinds me because then we get stuck doing a lot of her duties, like answering the phone and dealing with incoming people. My boss gets after her fairly frequently about her long absences and habit of staying clocked in, but doesn’t do anything further about it–and I keep my trap shut about it even though it grinds me. Because it’s not my place to say anything. My boss knows, our office manager knows–since my boss doesn’t want to do anything about it, fine. Not my problem, and I certainly don’t keep a list anywhere about it!

        1. Red*

          Her boss doesn’t care about the timecard fraud? Dang! I wish I could get paid for hours I wasn’t in my office.

    3. Clever Name*

      Heh. I had an old boss who basically worked part time while getting paid for full time. And this was at a consulting company where we had to track chargeable hours to various projects, so I have no idea where he was putting his time when he was actually at the mall or the movies (yes, he would actually tell us what he was doing). I never bothered tracking his time because it didn’t really matter. Everyone in my office knew what he was doing, and yet he still had a job. As far as I know, he’s still there. I have no idea why companies put up with this type of behavior.

    4. Felicia*

      I had a coworker like this – who would arrive 40 minutes late every single day. She also slacked off on the projects that required 4 of us working together. Like she’d do 10% of the work, the other 3 of us on the team did 30% each. She also took super long personal phone calls when she was supposed to be available to take calls from clients. Like talking on the phone for 40 minutes with her mother, about casual things (she was loud, we could hear what she was talking about) . Having her face no consequences ruined morale for the rest of us. Also when you’re hourly but not tracked closely, and someone comes in half an hour late every day, but claims they came on time, so is getting paid for half an hour they weren’t there, it sucks.

      1. Kevin*

        Oh god, yes, the loud, long personal calls. There was that as well, all the time. And the complete lack of carrying his own workload as well. I’m totally with you on the ruined morale front. I honestly don’t believe I was being nitpicky just to be a busybody or a jerk – it was borne out of absolute frustration and morale that couldn’t get any lower.

        1. Felicia*

          If you weren’t talking about a male coworker and you weren’t probably in a different country than me, I’d think you were talking about the same person. I know in my case, she actually wasn’t being productive as the rest of us, meaning we had to put in more work than we would had she come in on time and not take the personal calls. Also the personal calls were loud and distracting. But mostly when someone is doing something so obviously wrong (there is no justification for taking 30-40 minute personal phone calls at your desk every day), or coming late when you’re hourly but claiming she came in online, and there was no consequences, then it’s just so frustrating and you start liking where you work a lot less.

      2. Red*

        Thank goodness my slacker colleague at least has the grace to keep her hours-long personal calls 1. on her own cell phone and 2. relatively quiet.

    5. Sabrina*

      Years ago a coworker and I remarked that it seemed like “Sally” never worked a full week and was always mysteriously sick right before a big project came up, or right before summer. So we decided to keep track, not that we could do anything about it, but we didn’t want to make these assumptions if they weren’t true. Well, we were right. Still nothing we could do about it, but sometimes being right counts for something. ;)

      1. KBK*

        Yup, I’ve done the same thing and oddly it made me feel better about being “right.” And then somehow I was able to move on and it stopped taking up room in my thoughts.

    6. Liam*

      This. Had a co-worker who was the bosses favorite, constantly late, if anyone got to leave early it was her (often without even being offered to the others working). As Felicia mentioned, it is a massive Morale hit when one person is perceived as getting special treatment.

      And in certain fields, like customer service, you are required to have a certain number of people covering phones/reception/whatever, that constant tardiness can screw with other peoples schedules, if they can take their breaks on time, etc.

      I can see both sides of the issue, here. On one hand, my medical appointments are no ones business but mine, on the other hand, my absence may affect my coworkers ability to do their jobs, so I can see the worth of some transparency here. Alternatively, if there is a valid problem, and the immediate manager is dismissive/actively colluding because they want to shtupp the individual, then I can see the need to track this in some fashion.

    7. Anonsie*

      This was my thought as well. If she’s doing this as a comparison to her own time as opposed to doing it to try to get you in hot water, I don’t think that’s egregious.

      1. OhNo*

        I could actually see a “valid” (sort of) reason to track someone else’s hours, if you’re using it for comparison. Especially if the coworker is on a PIP or getting in hot water with the boss, it might be useful for them to see “well, OP gets X, Y, and Z done and leaves at 4pm most days – while I only get X and Y done and have to stay until 6pm to finish those”. So if they are just using it for their own knowledge, it’s fine.

        As most everyone else is saying, though, if they are going to try and use it as a weapon, that’s not cool.

            1. OhNo*

              Exactly. If you are trying to meet the expectations of your boss and you’re told “You should be performing at the same level as Coworker X”, well, then, you probably need to figure out what Coworker X is doing so you have some idea what your goals are.

              I’m not saying that’s what this coworker is doing, because I kind of doubt that’s the reason. But tracking hours need not necessarily be indicative of someone who is doing something weird or bad.

          1. Manager Anonymous*

            So here is the thing. I had a union employee who is insubordinate, who lied about completion of work, who was 20 to 40 minutes late two or three times a week, whose work is either incomplete or delivered with inaccuracies. It turns out that the one documentable, fireable offense of that entire list is “late to work” that can’t be argued with, that is “black and white” is that one.

    8. TL -*

      Somebody complained to my boss that they had trouble finding me and didn’t know if I would show up from day-to-day (when I’m the only person in my entire damn department that has a) been told I have to work regular business hours – despite confirming flexible hours as part of the deal during the interview b) communicates clearly when I’ll be missing work/be late/leaving early c) has never just “not shown up”) and, uh, my mouth literally dropped open in shock, so much so that he dropped the conversation entirely. I am pretty easy to find and everyone has my phone number, and I’m responsive to texts.

      But, yeah, between that and being the only person who has to be working regular hours – not because of performance issues, but because my project manager feels it’s best for the project, though my boss says he doesn’t care – I have to admit, I get a little bitter when I see my coworkers just not show up because they don’t feel like it, or come in 4 hours late and leave an hour early.

  4. MR*

    Don’t worry. Things like this almost always have a way of coming back to bite these people in the ass.

    If her tracking of people’s hours are not in the way of you getting your job done (i.e. she isn’t getting stuff done that you need to perform your job), then in my best Idina Menzel voice..’Let it GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’

  5. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I can see how irritating this would be, but AAM is 100% on the money.  You have to let it go.

    Think of it another way.  She has this information.  But she can’t do anything substantive with it, right?  Okay sure she could “tell” on you all for coming and going beyond the boundaries of 9 to 5, but a good manager will look at that and do a secret eye roll.  Employees aren’t prisoners, and as long as the appropriate people are okay with it (which even if they aren’t, it’s irrelevant to this woman) then nothing can happen.

    If I were a manager, and I knew that Person A had to leave for a regular therapist or OBGYN or other personal appointments and Person B had the audacity to keep track and complain about it, I’d think Person B is a nosy jerk.  Plus I’d find it insulting that Person B thinks I can’t keep track of my own employees.

    Take comfort in the fact that if this woman does try anything, it’ll surely backfire.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Don’t even worry about this. If she tries to bring a complaint against anyone she’s going to look absolutely petty and ridiculous. Most managers have very little time/patience for tattlers. We had a guy like this years ago and he ended up being pushed out because everyone was just sick of his playing hall monitor.

    I know your instinct is to say something, but don’t. It’ll make you look defensive and like you have something to hide.

    Unless, of course, you’re in a position of authority over her. In that case I’d say what Alison said above.

  7. gg*

    I’ve helped co-workers to do this. Our handbook specifies schedules as the standard, accepted in/out, as opposed to a set schedule. When my co-worker was in a very bad situation, we tracked everybody so we could demonstrate that he was using the standard, accepted schedule. We used this as bare facts only, not per person, but as as an aggregate.

      1. KellyK*

        I’m curious about this too. (My guess would be a company that’s somewhat flexible about start time, and people who see someone leave early don’t realize he got there early, or see someone coming in at 9:30 and don’t realize they’re staying til 6.)

      2. gg*

        Well, there really wasn’t. It was a very unpleasant, difficult situation, where in the end all he could do was leave. It was all the more frustrating and demoralizing for the rest of us.

        1. LBK*

          I guess that’s my point – if you’re in a situation where your management has decided to form their own version of reality, what’s the point in putting effort into coming up with hard evidence? I’ve never heard of a situation where a manager was going after someone, that person refuted their claims with evidence and then the manager accepted the evidence and everything was great after. It always ends badly, generally with the employee leaving.

          1. l*

            Part of it was to see if the staff had any legal standings, and to appeal for resolution at a higher level. Which they did. It was bad enough that we wrote AAM, but we ended up doing our own research. So while the actual situation for him did not change, in the end it was played an important part in showing the disparate treatment. I would do it the same way again.

          2. ella*

            I’ve had it work for me, though my manager hadn’t reached the point of “going after” me. She had one impression of how I was spending my days. I didn’t think her impression was correct. I spent a month or so documenting every task I performed and how long it took me. It turned out that the truth was somewhere in the middle, but when I discussed it with her, my approach was, “I know you want me to change my behavior, but for me to do that I want us to be on the same page about what my behavior is, so that we can talk about the situation using actual data rather than anecdotal observation.” I wasn’t going after her with data telling her that she was wrong.

  8. LBK*

    I agree with AAM’s answer with the caveat that you should only let it go if you have a good manager who will back you up if your coworker tries to use this against you. If you’re in a role where strict punctuality isn’t important, then this shouldn’t matter. However, I would be concerned if your manager is a pushover – if the coworker brings this to the manager’s attention and the manager is the type that feels the need to take disciplinary action based on every complaint, it could hurt you. Likewise, if this manager is someone who’s afraid to say out loud that punctuality isn’t critical or that you get leeway because you’re a high performer (even if that is actually how they manage), that could also lead to you getting in trouble for this.

    Make sure your manager has the guts to back up the way they manage if someone calls it out before you assume this is innocuous. I’ve seen it happen before where a manager was forced into action against a good employee because a loud employee believed they were being treated unfairly and the manager wasn’t willing to set them straight.

  9. Lucy*

    I’ve done this on a manager – but it was at the request of another manager. At the time I reported to two managers in a very small office, and one of them would regularly disappear for hours in the middle of the day – sometimes with a flimsy excuse and sometimes not – plus she often came in late or left early. Then over the weekend she’d claim that she was on the phone for hours resolving issues (not technically her job) and would get all kinds of makeup time off hours. This resulted in her being in the office about half the time – and having more stored paid time off then three of the rest of us put together. My other manager asked me to start a log of the time she was out of the office. When it was presented to the owners no one ever really came down on her for all the time she was gone – but they did stop giving her so many makeup hours. It was all really born out of frustration that the owners were so strict with the rest of us but that one manager got away with everything…

  10. You wear jeans!??!*

    Oh man, I had a co-worker at a previous job who was notorious for tracking everything about everybody! The first month I worked there, I came in early one day and parked in the completely open, no reserved spots at all, lot. She came in 30 minutes later fuming, demanding to know if I had parked in “her spot”. Like, telling me to go move my car this instant because THAT WAS HER SPOT!!!!! Being new, I didn’t know if there were actually assigned parking spots, so I went in to ask my boss. He laughed that she was just completely ridiculous and to park wherever I wanted. The funniest parking lot confrontation happened when the new VP of our division parked in her spot… she flipped out without realizing he was now the Big Boss of the entire department :)

    A few weeks later, I was running a photoshoot in our warehouse. The dress code during the week was business casual, with jeans on Friday. Her head nearly exploded when I arrived in jeans on a Tuesday to supervise the photoshoot in a shop with grease, engine parts, and dirt. Like, yelled out to the entire office that I was WEARING JEANS THAT DAY OMG!!!!! Again, several other co-workers popped in to laugh at her ridiculous behavior.

    And of course, icing on the cake, any time I went out of my “normal” hours, incessant questions about where I was going, what I was doing, did my boss know, did my boss approve it, and on and on and on. The thing is, the whole office had a pretty flexible schedule, just be in the office for 7-9 hours, somewhere between the hours of 6:30am and 7pm. Why she felt the need to interrogate me (and everyone else, VPs included) was so confusing.

  11. Case of the Mondays*

    Does her job involve needing to know when you are around? Certain of my coworker’s have “Case of the Monday’s in late” or “Case of the Monday’s leaving early” on their calendars as we work together and it helps to plan around each other’s schedules. Maybe you mentioned “I’ll be late tomorrow” and she added it to her calendar so she would remember for planning purposes?

    I also keep track of days my assistant is out on my calendar – not so I can reprimand her but so that when I’m asking her to find something she did for me, I know what days I did them myself so that I don’t waste both of our times having her look.

    Keeping track of schedules can be for legit purposes.

    1. Judy*

      I always copy emails with “Wakeen will be on vacation 9/19 to 9/20” as an appointment on my calendar (at 6 am – 6:01 am) for those days so I can remember when people are saying they’ll be out of town.

      But I generally don’t keep track of early/late arrivals, it’s more about knowing for my convenience.

        1. Windchime*

          We do this, too. Once PTO is approved, we just add our time off to the group calendar. We also add our Work At Home days to it, so that people can see who is working but not actually on-site.

      1. OhNo*

        My boss at one of my jobs does this, sharing her own vacation days/times with the rest of the staff. Actually, a lot of my other coworkers do it, too, but more verbally that through the Outlook calendar. It’s great for planning purposes, because then I always know in advance: if I have a question, catch so-and-so today because they’re not going to be in again until next week.

  12. Seal*

    A few jobs ago I caught a few of our part-time student workers taking bets on when certain full-time staff members – none of which they otherwise worked with – would arrive every morning. The students in question got a timely and extremely thorough lesson on the merits of minding their own business in an office setting.

      1. Artemesia*

        If they are students and working in a university then when faculty come in is totally none of their business. Most faculty do their major writing and such away from campus — if they are productive. It is not hypocritical to expect students to show up when they are assigned to work and have different schedules for other people.

        1. Ted*

          I doubt there’s a systematic review of college faculty’s productivity on campus vs. off so your claims are baseless.
          Regardless, she was referring to full-time staff. Most places have work schedules and expected arrival times.

          1. LBK*

            If you’re not doing shift work that requires coverage at certain times or holding up meetings, there’s no point in strictly enforcing a certain schedule. If I show up at 9 instead of 8:30 but I still get all my work done, why should anyone care when I come in?

  13. Anonsie*

    Any chance she has a reason for this that the letter writer might not be privy to? Is it even possible that someone requested that she do this? It just occurred to me that some of the time tracking I do now (for creating accurate estimates for the time needed for certain tasks when applying for grants, for estimating turnaround times from other departments, and for locating overall project pipeline bottlenecks) would look pretty strange if someone just noticed it over my shoulder. These were requested from the top of the food chain in my department, but it wasn’t announced as a project to everyone or anything like that.

    1. fposte*

      It did occur to me that she might have been asked to document, perhaps even to document the OP. But if she’s an employee on write-up and the OP’s the team leader, I imagine the OP would have had an inkling of that, if so.

    2. Mints*

      Yeah, I’m supposed to track attendance for our corporate HQ (even though everyone is salaried). At first I was marking “most of the day” as a normal day, but my manager told me to mark a couple hours late/early as a half day, so I started doing that. He then got angry when I marked him as late. Apparently accuracy is only for the peons. Even though, again, corporate HQ asked me to do this for everyone.
      I understand it doesn’t affect salary, and as long as he’s doing work, etc. But there can be valid reasons why, and it can be frustrating to get flak for it

      Okay I got ranty. This is probably not the case since a substandard employee probably isn’t doing it, but I thought it’s worth bringing up

  14. WorkingMom*

    I wholeheartedly agree with AAM’s response. Having been on the other side of this nearly exact complaint, when an employee says, “It’s not fair that Sue comes in late and Jane leaves early.” The response from my side is never, “Oh really? I need to look into that.” The response is always, “it’s not your business what hours Sue and Jane keep. Worry about yourself.” So to the OP, don’t worry about this coworker every “using” this against you… remember that what Sue says about Jane says more about Sue than it does about Jane.

  15. Leah*

    I think AAM is right and it sucks. I feel you on it. A former colleague complained to our boss about the hours I kept, which were well within the norms of the office but not my coworker’s. This was because my coworker would spend some of her time during the day doing things like mini yoga sessions, impromptu dance parties, meditation, and philosophical talks with other people about stuff unrelated to our work. Our work was stressful sometimes and everybody had individual workloads, so as long as you got it done, she could do what she needed to destress. Apparently, this also meant keeping tabs on colleagues and complaining that it was somehow unfair that some of us kept shorter hours because we were more focused during the day. We found out because our boss had quick talks with us saying, “I don’t think this is a problem and your supervisor says you’re on top of your work, but wanted to let you know that this had happened.” I’m not sure telling us was necessary but I guess it was good to know.

    This person also decided to tell me and my colleague that she could cure our insomnia by telling us we ought to go to bed earlier on multiple occasions. We tried explaining how insomnia is different from not going to bed at a reasonable hour, but she’d shake her head and say, “No, all you have to do is go to bed earlier.” like a frustrated parent. FWIW, she was a few years younger than us.

  16. JB*

    I have a coworker like that. She knows when everyone gets there and leaves. She’ll circle around in the parking garage to see if anyone’s car is still there when she leaves (we have assigned spots). She’s called people before out of “worry” when their car was still there but they weren’t in the office. She always seems to know the reason why you’re out of the office. She once claimed that she knew the department head’s secretary had taken a more than an hour lunch because for more than an hour, her chair was in the exact same spot. Like, not “it looks like it hasn’t moved,” but “it is in the exact same spot.” She used to keep lists on some personal information about coworkers, and for all I know she still does. It’s creepy.

    But the person it hurts is her, because every single one of us think she’s totally creepy. If she wanted to leave to work somewhere else, she will have to hope that the prospective employers only contact her current boss. If they talk to any of the rest of us, we would have some things to say about what kind of employee she makes. She once told me she was convinced that our offices are bugged. Ironically, I would totally buy it that SHE has bugged our offices.

  17. ZoomaZoomZoom*

    I see why this would bother you (it would bother me too), but since she didn’t deliberately show you the calendar, it strikes me as her private document even if it happened to be up on the screen. Any response is like responding to a conversation that you eavesdropped on and thus makes you into the nosy one, even though it’s her nosiness that you’re being nosy about.

    Barring circumstances we don’t know about, sure, other people’s hours are not her business; but since what’s on her computer is almost certainly not yours, I think you have to act as if you never saw this.

  18. Waiting+Patiently*

    Keeping track on other people time in and out the office is ridiculous. It would only matter to me if the golden rule apply: is it affecting my work?
    In one place I tracked my own work. When I’m being held responsible especially anything dealing with money or the like and I’m not getting proper feedback –then I track my work and the response or lack thereof.

  19. krisl*

    LW, keep track of your own time and record it somewhere so that if this person tries to say something about you leaving early, you can look up your record and explain it.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. It is a bit obsessive but not out of line to just keep a running calendar of your time in the office. Lots of people do this sort of thing. If you do it every day then you are prepared if she creates problems. And with weak management, you never know when someone like this WILL create problems.

  20. Karen*

    One of my reports does this. She looks at the vacation calendar i have posted and complains to me if one of the other bosses lets their people work from home to take care of personal matters on given week. She takes her liberties as well when it suites her – what’s good for the goose one would think would be good for the gander but no. She comes in at 9 while i come in at 6:15 and even though/if i leave as early as 4 i log back on and work until 9pm. as soon as she gets in at 9 here comes the IMs, her bitching and complaining about someone or something. What a miserable person and what a miserable job to try to manage such a person. It’s too much effort to try to smooth her feathers and she takes over in meetings. Sometimes i just wish she’d get miserable to look for another job!!

    1. Manager Anonymous*

      Oh Karen, I feel for you. I actually had a report complain that it made her anxious that I was at my desk at 7:00 am and expected her to report to work at 8:30 am (on time) When she had trouble meeting this expectation, she complained that “everyone else came in when they felt like it” The other clerical help in the department were at their desks at their scheduled hours. I finally realized she was comparing her hourly schedule to other department managers many of whom had out of building responsibilities. I wished I had said we are talking about you not them.

  21. Katie C.*

    Just as a note, I’d like to add that it could be the case that the employee was asked by a supervisor to track time. I’ve been asked to do this in the past by our office manager because people were taking personal days but not filling out a request form (which is how we track how many vacation days/personal days salaried employees use). Luckily, none of my coworkers ever saw my notes, but that could also be the case here.

  22. Cassie*

    I’ve done this before – mostly because some coworkers take over an hour lunch, or go on break for 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to do anything with the data, it was just a data point that I was curious about. I found it hypocritical that the manager was upset when other staff didn’t get back from their break/lunch right on time, but it was a-ok when the subordinate was their friend and the two (manager & subordinate) were going off together.

    About 90% of the time, I’d forget I was tracking them and not notice when they got back (although they were gone longer than they should have been). I just tend to notice these things. And this is how I figured that one of my coworkers most likely had accepted a job elsewhere because she went on a 2.5 hour lunch one day. The next day, she gave her notice.

    I don’t care what hours my coworkers keep, as long as they are responsive to my requests and process them within a reasonable amount of time.

  23. Kala*

    I had an interesting experience with a close friend/coworker who was received several warnings for absenteeism. He had an average attendance record, and I helped him prepare several rebuttals to them, which he took to HR. He successfully refuted all of them. We never needed to track other employees sick days on an individual basis because we had access to some department metrics, but I could see that being helpful if there was no other record of what represented average. Eventually they gave up and just gave him a warning for his communication style at work, which was what it was all about in the first place. They wanted to manage him out, and absenteeism was easier to write up.

    Maybe this employee thinks she’s going to be fired, and is gathering ammunition to push for receiving unemployment. Maybe she is being treated unfairly and wants to demonstrate it. Maybe her notes will prove to her that her tardiness was actually worse than average.

    Either way, if you ask her, and she gives an honest answer, it’s going to be details about her write-up(s). Is that information that you want to know?

  24. anon55*

    We did this at a former job to document how our boss selectively enforced rules and gave out PIPs to certain demographics and not others. Our boss would ignore the massive absenteeism, tardiness, lying, property damage and terrible output of any white male while dropping the hammer on females, especially non-white females. When your job/promotion/raise is on the line for being 10 minutes late in a blizzard and your poor performer of a coworker just called in ‘sick’ for the 20th time in their first year of employment (so no FMLA coverage as a potential excuse) you will start tracking this stuff because you never know when you’ll need to show that rules are being enforced based on demographics and not individual incidents.

    Selective enforcement of rules is very, very common in discrimination, harassment, whistleblower and retaliation cases as a way of forcing someone out and your coworker may be in the middle of this. However, the fact it’s being recorded on a company computer and calendar is just stupid. We did our tracking in Google Docs that we logged into at home or with a personal cell, so no one could accidentally see it or IT wouldn’t find it if they were working on our computers. They might be tracking it on their work computer as a big FU to the company or as a veiled threat of a lawsuit or EEOC investigation if things continue.

    Personally I’d ignore it unless you’re actually breaking some attendance rules. If you are it might be worthwhile to minimize this, as sometimes when an employee can show selective enforcement HR or the in-house counsel might suggest writing up those who weren’t previously punished for this behavior or even cleaning house as a peace offering to show they’re serious about correcting the illegal activity aka avoiding a lawsuit or settlement payout. People engaging in shady behavior will go to extremes to avoid it being exposed and you don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb.

  25. M. in Austin!*

    I did this for a few months at my new job. We have a flexible arrival/departure times, work from home options, and overall, a fairly relaxed environment when it comes to time in the office. It was sooooo weird to me! So I started noting when people worked from home, when they left early, ect. I just wanted to know what was okay for me to do.

    Maybe that is what your coworker is doing? It really could be as innocent as trying to learn the office’s culture/norms.

  26. Wilton Businessman*

    There are only two people who need to know you are going to be late or leave early; your supervisor and you. If your company’s protocol is that the supervisor advises up and down, then so be it. Conscientious leaders let their team leads know their schedule, but it’s certainly not a requirement.

    If she is gathering information for a “but Suzy left 10 minutes early on Tuesday” defense, then as a manager I would tell her that we’re not talking about Suzy, we’re talking about you.

    Personally, I’d just let it go.

  27. Kelly O*

    I have to share my perspective as someone who was accused of “TRACKING MY TIME WHICH IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!!!” in the past.

    I was the admin and front desk person. I keep a notebook with me all the time. It’s an admin thing. And because I was the receptionist, I would make a note “Jane 2” or whatever to remind me that Jane went out at 2, so if anyone called, I would know. I’d make a quick note when Jane came back, because inevitably her boss would call and say “Kelly did Jane come back? Did you notice what time?”

    So Jane comes to my desk, and starts looking at everything I have out, as she was wont to do, and goes into this tirade about how I am TRACKING HER TIME WHICH IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS. I say that in all caps to demonstrate the severity of my crime.

    Turns out Jane was taking umpteen smoke breaks, and her boss was checking in with me to find out when she was really gone, versus what Jane was telling her, because she never returned a call. Ever.

    I don’t think that’s what is going on here, obviously, but I always cringe a little when I see someone going on about tracking other people’s time. The only reason I did it was initially to know who was in and out, and then noting the times when I was consistently asked “oh, what time?” by an executive-level person.

  28. Jill*

    If OP is confident that her time away from the office is on the level and if this co-worker has no ability to use her tracksheet against OP, then I’d say ignore it.

    Some people just need to feel powerful and tracking stuff like this lets them delude themselves into believing that they are. And if I was a manager and someone brought in a tracksheet like this to somehow excuse their own misuse of time off, I’d be more inclined to think negatively of the tracker than of the employees they were tracking.

  29. Nobody*

    I once had a coworker who tracked my arrival and departure times, but for the opposite reason — to keep track of when I arrived early or stayed late. Then he accused me of “working off the clock” (I was an hourly, non-exempt employee), and presented his tracking spreadsheet to management as evidence. Despite the fact that he did not have access to my time sheets, nor did he know when I got permission from my supervisor to stay late, I was suspended for two weeks while HR investigated the accusations. I was eventually cleared of these accusations and paid back for the suspension, but I am still angry that this guy put me through all that, and for what? How did it hurt him if I got to the office 20 minutes before my shift started?

    On the other hand, I have another coworker who is chronically tardy. She might arrive on time once a week, but she is almost always at least 15-20 minutes late. I work at a job where we have shifts and I can’t leave until my relief arrives, so her tardiness does affect other people. I can understand, in a situation like this, where somebody might want to keep track, but otherwise, if the boss cares, the boss will notice on his or her own and it’s not anybody else’s job to be the time police.

  30. Josh Slay*

    I need to know if I, the employee has the right to know what my hours I have worked are on a daily or weekly bases? I have a coworker harassing me about me keeping track of my own hours so I would like to know if I have right??

    1. Josh Slay*

      I need to know if I, the employee has the right to know what my hours I have worked are on a daily or weekly bases? I have a coworker harassing me about me keeping track of my own hours so I would like to know if I have right??

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