should I be in trouble for occasionally starting work a few minutes late?

A reader writes:

I work in a small sales office in NYC. We are strictly commission based, yet my boss imposes punishment for being even a few minutes late from the start time. Regardless of how early I leave home (within reason), a few times a week I come in a few minutes (less than 10) after our set start time, as I am commuting on two subway lines that follow no discernible timetable. I am met with my boss angrily staring at me and staring at the clock.

I am usually the top performer in the office and this is starting to affect my work, as I’ve begun having so much anxiety about being late that I am having trouble sleeping. What are your thoughts on the mentality of of “9:04 is not 9:00”? Is this something I should talk to my boss about or should I just try to set my alarm earlier and earlier?

If your job doesn’t require you being physically at your desk at a certain time (such as to greet visitors or answer phones), then your boss is being ridiculous in caring that much about someone arriving a few minutes late.

He’s also being ridiculous by just staring angrily at you rather than discussing it with you.

That said, some bosses are extremely rigid sticklers about time of arrival. It’s a bad practice when it can’t be tied to a real job requirement, but you might not be in a position to do anything about that.

I’d approach your boss and discuss this with him. Say something like this: “I want to talk to you about my time of arrival. Because I’m relying on two subways lines that are frequently a few minutes off-schedule, I’m sometimes here a few minutes past 9 a.m. It’s never later than 9:10. My thinking is that the nature of my role allows a few minutes of flexibility and my sales numbers are strong. However, I want to make sure that this is okay with you.”

If your boss pushes back, you could say something like, “To be positive that I’d never be a few minutes late, I’d need to take a significantly earlier train, which would have me here before 8:30 most days. I’d prefer to avoid that if I can, since my sales numbers aren’t being impacted. Since my work is strong, would you be willing to give me some wiggle room?”

But if your boss holds firm, then you’re working for someone who’s really rigid about start times. If that’s the case, you probably do need to start taking that earlier train (or accept that your boss will hold this against you, with whatever consequences that entails).

{ 381 comments… read them below }

  1. HigherEd Admin*

    This reminds me of my first job out of college, with an office that opened at 8am. All of us relied on the subway to get in, which meant that on occasion, we’d not get in until 8:05am. My boss’s solution was to call of us into his office (we were all women in our 20s) and instruct us to call our fathers (not our mothers) to see how they would handle employees who were occasionally 5 minutes late to work. My father laughed so hard at this, that I had to hang up the phone. I quit not long after that.

    1. E.R*

      Whoa, this is a deeply offensive way of addressing late (ish) employees.

      OP, if you are a top performing sales person, please find a new job where they treat you with the respect you deserve.

    2. steve G*

      Wow! I would gladly do it. My mom’s mouth is a mix between Roseanne and Sofia Petrillo, so she would definitely put such a nit wit boss in place

      1. Kelly O*

        I’d want to say, “why don’t we call my mom right now because I am reasonably sure everyone else is going to just LOVE her response.”

    3. BRR*

      Being in a feisty mood today I would love to respond to your boss, “My dad told me to take the rest of the day off with pay to think about that I’ve done.”

    4. Bea W*

      My mother worked for a place that was like this. There was an incident where an employee on her way to work refused to stop for a cop in a construction zone and ran him over instead. They gave the name of her employer on the news story and the first thing out of my mother’s mouth was she wasn’t surprised the woman worked for On Time Teapots because being even a minute late was such an egregious violation of whatever she could totally see someone panicing and running over a cop to avoid it.

    5. soitgoes*

      Honestly, my mom would reprimand me for being late. But then again, she’s a Monica (I’m more of a Rachel).

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I am also more of a Rachel. I frequently want to apologize for slight tardiness with “Oh honey, sorry I’m late, but I left late.”

    6. Marvin L Flores*

      I am glad you quit and gave room for SOME One more responsible. The reason he said this to you is probably you like the rest of late-unPuntual people were living at home under Dad’s care and figure he’ll teach you something…Guess not. IF MY DOUGHTER IS LATE FOR ANY LITTLE THING I WOULD FIRE HER ON THE SPOT. The world is a B$#%^. Every Job, requires You to be 1/2 earlie no matter what industry/proffesion or labor it is. Of course you quit, and your father put you on a pedastal.

      1. Sherri138*

        Personally I don’t feel it’s appropriate to be late several times per week, even of by just a few minutes. Its shows lack of regard for your coworkers and your boss….all of whom manage to get to work as scheduled despite ALSO having to commute. This mentality that it’s okay to be late just bc of the subway isn’t how an adult should act as you took the job knowing what it entailed. I think the boss is wrong for just staring angrily at you rather than addressing it and I can’t imagine working for someone like that. I would say to get the earlier bus or subway to work and just be early. It sucks but I have to do it also bc I’m due at 830 and If I take the 800 bus I don’t get there til 829 and it’s four minutes of walking I’d be there at 833 every day–i have to take the 630 bus ( bc these isn’t a 700am one…for some unknown reason) and it gets me there at 7 which is wayyyyy too early but it beats being there late and being “that employee”. Aside from being super early I’ve got to get kids on their school buses extra early which means waking up at 430 instead of 7 but get ya do what ya gotta do to keep bills paid and keep a good job.

  2. Allison*

    At my first job, the workday started strictly at 8:30. They actually expected you to come in at 8:15ish to put away your lunch, hang up your coat, and turn on your laptop, so you’d be at your desk and ready to work at 8:30. It was one of those “if you’re on time, you’re late” deals. Which was ridiculous, because our jobs weren’t actually client-facing at all! It was a control issue – the company employed young employees, and didn’t trust them; I think they were also hyper concerned with the company’s image, and wanted to compensate for the average age of the employees.

    It’s BS, if you ask me. As long as someone gets their work done, meets deadlines, and makes it to meetings, who cares what time they get in?

    1. Jen*

      I had a past job like this. The CEO was very particular about start times. He wanted you there by 9 a.m. and he was clear that this meant you were sitting at your desk with your coat off and your computer on at 9 a.m. Forget about snow or rain or anything else delaying the start time. It was silly. He was also particular about having direct-reports always there when their bosses were there. My boss broke her leg and asked if she could temporarily work from 7:30 to 3:30 to avoid the busiest traffic time on the train. He said that was fine but I would also have to work those hours because he said all employees needed to be watched by their bosses. I looked for a new job soon after that.

    2. OriginalYup*

      I worked in a similar environment. The unspoken expectation was that exempt employees should arrive at least 20 min before business officially opened for the day at 8.30am. (It was not a call center, BTW.) It was part of a larger early bird culture thing where “people who are serious about their work” were seen at their desks by 7.30am and anything else meant you were clearly a lazy slacker. I hated it.

    3. SJP*

      Unfortunately OP maybe you’re going to have to do the leave earlier thing. I have to. I start at 9.30 to help avoid traffic, although I drive a very busy highway/motorway (In the UK) and it’s always tailed back and slowed down. I used to leave at 8.45am and drive the 13 miles to work and still be in after 9.30am so it took me over 45 minutes to drive that far! It was crazy, but I had to suck it up and wake up earlier and leave by 8.30am to make sure I arrived before 9.30am when I started.
      It also relieved the stress of my commute cause I was stressed, and angry from my drive in stuck in traffic (there are no trains by the way) but now I have to leave 15 minutes earlier and usually i’m 15 minutes or so early i’d rather be early and work that time than continually being late.
      I work damn hard (im in a PA position for a phone consultancy team) and get amazing feedback but still, lateness, even just a bit affects my team cause they will have been waiting for me to arrive and there time is literally money so I sucked it up and got in early.

      Well I kinda agree with the, if you’re on time then you’re late thing. Well, not entirely but if you start 8.30am you should be in at least 5/10 minutes to just get at your desk and working. That is what they’re paying you to be (hourly salaried) so you should be working. I even work later if I need to with no over time but do it cause im committed.

      You didn’t mention if you’ve making up that little bit of time, but if you’re not then that could be what’s pissing off your boss also… nothing worst than people late in and don’t even make the time up… those extra 10 minutes a day, every week, every year add up to time they’re paying you and you’re not working…

      1. MJL*

        SJP, that’s a good response and more productive that simply saying the person who can decide the fate of OP’s current position is ridiculous.
        OP, did you agree to be on time? Did you know it was an important expectation of the position? If you did or have committed to be on time, you should do what it takes to be on time or find another job. Your manager could be just as upset about you being late as he is that you haven’t kept a commitment to be on time.
        If you never agreed to be on time, you now know that’s the expectation and you should honor it or leave.
        I think there are too many who encourage us to live life at the minimum expectation and it’s not really working out that well. Dress to the minimum standard. Show up as late as possibly acceptable. Care as little about everything as you can.
        Your manager has made it clear what he expects. He probably interprets your tardiness as poor work ethic or he’s frustrated that you can’t figure out a simple solution to arriving on time. Is getting there on time really that hard to figure out? When you are the boss, have the rules you want. Until then try to meet the expectations of your boss or find a boss that better suits you.

        1. Anna*

          MJL I think this is why our society is overrrun with anxiety disorders. And people who run over cops to get to work on time.

    4. Chinook*

      “At my first job, the workday started strictly at 8:30. They actually expected you to come in at 8:15ish to put away your lunch, hang up your coat, and turn on your laptop, so you’d be at your desk and ready to work at 8:30. It was one of those “if you’re on time, you’re late” deals.”

      Maybe it is a cultural difference, but I was taught to think like your boss by may parents, teachers and everywhere I have ever worked or volunteered- that your start time is the time you should be starting work, not when you should be arriving. If someone is walking in the door at the timework starts, then they are not able to to start work until they atleast remove their outerwear (which, come to think about, may also be a climate thing).

      That being said, if you are working on commission only, I would think you would know bestw hen you need to arrive to make the most money.

      1. Kelly L.*

        There are actually some interesting twists on this that have come up in the legal system in recent years. I know employees are supposed to be paid for, say, time spent putting on cumbersome working gear. I think computers booting, and the like, might be a gray area still? IANAL. At any rate, a lot of the employers who have this 15-minute policy say it’s so you have time to take off your coat and boot up your computer, but often those things don’t take 15 whole minutes; it’s more rooted in a belief in being 15 minutes early for anything and everything.

        1. Bea W*

          I consider waiting for my computer to come online work since the only reason I am turning it on at all is for work. I’m salaried, bit I still consider prepping work equipment to be on the clock time. There are some instances where someone may have to arrive early for their officially scheduled shift. In one place I worked that lead time was a full 30 minutes. If I had to open the store dept I worked in, that was about an hour for prep. All of that time was considered work and paid. You clocked in after when you arrived and got your coat and things put away and you started doing whatever prep you had to do. If you’re boss expects you to just sit around waiting maybe there’s a case for not calling that time worked, but that’s still time you’re required to be in the workplace rather than doing your own thing.

          Back in pre-XP days it would take 10 minutes to boot up and get logged into the network. A lot of people just didn’t shut their computers down because it was just a huge waste of time even if you were still getting paid.

          1. Jessa*

            From what I understand in the US, companies have been getting in trouble for “come in 15 mins early and be ready to start at *time*” They’ve been being told by wage and hour that’s work and they need to pay people for it. Just like some companies where you have to wear specific protective garments and they didn’t used to get paid til they had them on. The courts were not happy with this. So if you have to be there to do work related things (turn on computers, etc.) then they have to pay you. And that probably means overtime if you’re not exempt.

            1. CreationEdge*

              It usually doesn’t mean overtime.

              Employers have to pay you for work-related activity, including turning on computers/systems, opening doors, and other prep work.

              However, they’re not required to pay you by the minute. It’s perfectly allowed for them to pay you in larger increments of time, such as rounding to the nearest 5, 10, or 15 minutes. This allows them to tell you to clock-in 7 minutes before the “start” of your shift, for instance. Technically, you’re on the clock for 8.12 hours, but they get to round it down to 8.00 hours. Regulations call this “fair” because, technically, if you work for 8 minutes extra, the employer HAS to round UP to 15 minutes (8.13 hours becomes 8.25).

              In practice, it means employers get to continue making you do work-related activity before your shift, without paying you for it, because legally they are considered to be paying you, even if that pay rounds down to nothing.

          2. Sherri138*

            I worked at a psychiatric facility where we had to arrive at exactly 745am, 345pm, or 1145pm, depending on our scheduled shift, and If we weren’t there the person already on shift had to write into the log book “waiting on staff such and such to report for duty” or “staff such and such still not present”. The idea was that we needed to be fifteen minutes early to get settled, count the narcotic medications and review the medication adminstration record with the outgoing staff that was leaving their shift and exchange vital information. My coworker who was a real stickler for calling out those that didn’t arrive early (of you stent 15 minutes early the shift exchange caused the person leaving to leave late and ya also got in trouble for that) and he was mad that for 17 years he had come in early five days per week. He filed a compiant with the no labor board and got back over 23000 unpaid wages from all the years of reporting on time aka 15 minutes early. It was crazy that he was the only person in our company to contest it.

      2. Koko*

        I think this can vary a lot by industry. If I’m working in a retail store or food service where I’m really only working once I’m on the line or the floor, sure, you should be ready to be on the line or on the floor at your scheduled start time.

        But if you work in an office job where a lot of the work is mental, not being “at my computer” typing away doesn’t mean I’m not working. I was reading and replying to emails on the train on the way there, as well as thinking about ways to solve problems that have arisen overnight so that as soon as I get to my computer I can begin implementing the solutions, rather than getting into the office and only thinking about problem-solving once my computer has booted up.

        Then again, most jobs where you’re paid to think about things are probably salaried and exempt rather than hourly/non-exempt anyway, so maybe that’s the most salient difference between places where you should be at your computer right at start time and where it doesn’t really matter.

        1. Vdubs*

          Chinook, I tend to agree with you (but I come from a retail background). What bothers me now (in an office environment) is that my coworker bikes to work, clocks in, then changes out of his cycling gear, makes breakfast, gets water, etc. All before starting work- about 10-15 minutes each day. It kills me.

          1. SJP*

            stuff like that grinds my gears too, they scrape through by a minute or so, so they’re still in the office when they should be but they do stuff they should have done at home like a coffee, cereal/toast, have a loo break etc, all in that time I’ve been on the phone, taking deliveries, checking more emails for time sensitive stuff etc

            I’d Love to call out that colleague and be like “do you do your morning home routine in the office everyday?” And if they don’t catch on id continue with “in the time you’ve done all that I’d got loads done, chop chop” haha good old passive aggressive.
            I joke though, I don’t want to piss anyone off, we do have to work with these people all day everyday huh

      3. Me*

        Well I’m glad you made the comment about start time being about when the work starts. I see people who actually sit at their desk and stare at the wall until “the bell rings” if they’re early and then get up for coffee and to chat with co-workers.

        I’m honestly surprised at the number of people who think it’s no big deal to be late to work. I’m betting those same people are never late for lunch or going home in the evening.

    5. Oh anon*

      I had a job just like this! I also wasn’t allowed to move my phone from one side of the desk to the other… The one time I tried, the owner screamed and flew around the room on her broom.

    6. INTP*

      I had a boss like this and I think that the reason she cared was that she was simply inexperienced in professional work environments. She had worked her way up after starting as a temp, and other employees leaving and one dying left her in charge within 6 years. She still subscribed to the “shift work” mentality of her previous jobs in bars, restaurants, etc (despite making sure that all of her employees were exempt whether legally warranted or not) and thought proper management was to be as strict about arrival time as those work environments. She was constantly saying “Why is it so hard to be here for your entire shift?”

      The REALLY annoying thing was that not only did you get pulled into a conference room and spoken to if you were 4 minutes late too many days in a row, you were never allowed to leave a second early. We got a lecture in a team meeting about how many of us had been packing our things at 4:58. This was an area of southern CA with horrible traffic, so our morning commutes varied drastically and sprinting out the door at 5pm rather than 5:04 could easily make a 15 minute difference in how quickly we made it to the freeway. So we were supposed to plan to be 20 minutes early every day so we’d never be late, yet there was no incentive to start working early because you couldn’t even leave at 4:59 after coming in at 7:59. Once when there was a car literally hanging off of the overpass I needed to exit the freeway from, I came in 20 minutes late, and the fact that I didn’t illegally text her from my car was brought up during my performance review.

      1. Marvin L Flores*

        what are you talking about? what proffesional environment? EVERY job/labor/proffesion requires you to be 1/2 hour earlie…. and you seem to think that she has a problem lol. You ever been in a court room? Everyone is waiting on the judge and people are all already there..well the Judge is usually there going over his work and he gets in hours before everyone. You seem to think 1 minute or 2 do not matter, well add that up to a month, and your employer is losing money. You are LATE. If you cant understand this, maybe be a taxi driver where you can set your own rules.

        1. Megan*

          A minute or two doesn’t matter, if it’s not a job that requires you to be at your desk. Life happens, and jobs that accomodate it – in both their willingness to flex at the beginning of the day AND the end, to stay over if need be – increases moral.

          I have been in a court room, and the judge made no bones about making us wait 15 minutes past the start time. His morning ran over, and he was going to take his full lunch, damnit.

    7. DBAGirl*

      It is BS. Especially so when it’s a salesperson, and a strong one as OP appears to be.
      Good salespeople work their mojo whenever they can, it’s not tied to a clock. It just is NOT.

      OP – maybe consider looking for greener pastures? If you can sell, you can sell. That’s a skill that’s not necessarily tied to what you’re selling in this job.

      Keep that in mind and don’t let this clock-watching loser make you feel bad.

    8. mlle-cassis*

      Well, a lot of work places are like that here in Switzerland even in office environments: the important thing is that you are ready to work, at your desk, at the time agreed. So yes you arrive 10mn early if you need that time to put your lunch in the refrigerator, prepare yourself a beverage and/or go to the bathroom*. And that sounds completely legit to me.

      This said, if you are 5-10mn late every now and then (say, once every other week), it is ridiculous to hold it against you I agree.

      *Oh and to avoid the “being to early and work 20mn for free” thing, my special tip is to lock myself in the bathroom (we don’t have a break room) and continue to read the book/magazine I had in the subway until it is time to show up. :)

  3. Meg Murry*

    My concern would be that arriving at 9:04 would mean that it would still take you time to boot up your computer, etc, so you wouldn’t be actually ready to work until closer to 9:15. Probably not a big deal, but if your office opens at 9 and your boss hears your phone ringing and you aren’t there to answer it I could see that getting a little bit of stink-eye. Or even more so if calls you don’t answer are routed to him.

    Some people are also just morning people, and some morning people are not kind to night owls. One suggestion for the OP is to try to time his arrival at 8:30-8:45, and switch one of his morning routine items from home (like the last cup of coffee) to at his desk. Its silly, but sometimes necessary to humor the whims of a boss if it really doesn’t take much more than re-arranging your schedule by 15 minutes earlier to stay on his good side – if you start multiple mornings with him grumpy at you, that’s just an overall bad attitude toward you that will be hard to shake.

    1. EmilyG*

      This is a silly aside but I almost never shut off my computer. Like, maybe if I were going on a two-week vacation I’d log out. Takes me less than a second to unlock it in the morning or maybe 15 seconds to log in if it logged me out for updates.

      Now, my tea-making routine…

      1. chewbecca*

        My computer takes so long to boot up that I’ve started leaving it on overnight and then restarting after I clock in. The amount of time it takes to boot up corresponds well with the amount of time it takes for me to start organizing my stuff for the day. Five minutes doesn’t seem very long, but when you’re waiting for a computer to load it feels like an eternity.

        1. Willow+Sunstar*

          I agree. Additionally, when I used to temp, we had to log on to the web site to punch in. Some of them rounded 7 minutes up or down — so if you came in at 8:06, it would put you at 8, but if you came in at 8:08, it would put you at 8:15 and then you needed to stay extra.

      2. MisterPickle*

        There is an argument to be made that leaving a computer on all the time reduces it’s total cost of ownership: most modern machines will go into some kind of power-saving mode after a certain amount of inactivity, plus it’s generally accepted that computers (and other things) tend to break when they are powered on or off – those being stress points and thus more prone to failure. (Full disclosure: there are people who don’t believe this). Another factor is that some people have occasion to access their work computer from home. This can be problematic if the work computer is turned off.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I sleep it on weeknights and shut it down all the way on weekends. I don’t remember how I got into that habit, but I’ve done it that way for ages.

          1. Bea W*

            I shut down when I leave at my current job. My employer has a green culture and having thousands of computers in sleep mode more than half a day and all day on weekends eats energy. Other jobs i would just hit reboot when i left or locked it. We had that set up back then where people could remote into their machines but only when they were logged out and left on.

            At home I shut down computers when they are not being used all day. I’ve been doing that since the 80s when there was no sleep mode and haven’t had issues. I can remember a couple of times the computer didn’t turn back on. I doubt it on would have made a difference, but there are a handful of things you won’t see an existing the problem until you shut down and try to power back up. I don’t by into the “more prone to failure” thing. I suspect back in the day when it took a really long time to bring things online and less advanced technology, it was advisable not to shut things down in the first place, and that practice has stuck around.

    2. Zillah*

      And by that logic, if she arrives at 9:00, she won’t be ready to work until 9:10. It’s still a matter of five minutes, you know?

  4. Livin' in a Box*

    Being a few minutes late a few times a week isn’t occasional; you’re late every day, OP! You need to take an earlier train.

    1. Another HR Pro*

      I completely agree. A few times a week is consistently late. If you are to start work at 9, you should be planning on being at the office no later than 8:45. I know that arrival time “shouldn’t matter” as long as you are getting your work done, but is sounds like it does for your boss and for you as this is making you anxious. The reality is, for most jobs, it can be an inconvenience if you are not there on time as it may impact other people’s schedules.

      Just get up 30 minutes earlier. If you can’t do that, you probably aren’t cut out for an office job.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        A little harsh, don’t you think? I think you could more easily argue that this boss isn’t cut out for management, since he’s alienating a top performer over a non-issue.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          Who says it is a non-issue? Just the person violating it. Who says they are a top performer? The person who is violating the office rule. Truth: most managers do not consider people who are constantly violating an established policy as a top performer.

          My advice is the same as AAM’s. This OP needs to sit down with the boss, explain the difficulty, and ask for clarification on why 9:00 sharp is a requirement.

          1. LBK*

            Don’t we usually take the OP at their word here, though? If she’s saying she’s a top performer and it’s really just a few minutes, I don’t see how we can assume the manager is being reasonable and the OP is wrong. And FWIW, I have considered someone with timing/attendance issues to be a top performer because she could rack up as much in sales in one shift as some of her coworkers would do in 2 weeks.

        2. Karowen*

          The “you probably aren’t cut out for an office job” bit may be a bit harsh, but the other points are totally valid. It can impact other people, it shouldn’t matter but it does to this boss (who very well may not be cut out for management, but the OP still has to answer to the boss) and a few times a week is consistent lateness, not a once-in-a-blue-moon type of thing. The OP can talk to the boss, but I think she needs to be prepared for the answer to be “get in by 9 because I said so.” (Again, not saying that this is something a good boss would do, but she has to deal with this boss, not necessarily a good one.)

          1. Another HR Pro*

            I didn’t mean to be harsh with the “you probably aren’t cut out for an office job” comment. I was trying to say that the OP might do better in an outside sales job where start and end times are not an issue as you aren’t going to an office environment. In re-reading my post I realize that wasn’t clear. Many sales jobs don’t require you to get to an office at a specific time, so I was trying to say that a non-office sales job may be a better match.

        3. Bea W*

          I agree. Just because this boss has a hair up his butt about minutes doesn’t mean she’s “not cut out” for an office job. At worst it probably means she’s not a good fit for that manager.

      2. hamster*

        I was consistently late by 20 to 3o minutes for the last year and a half . I just got promoted to team lead. Because 1. i made up my hours (shifting my schedule from 9 to 6 to 10 to 7( and 2. i had alarms and everything if something was wrong 3. i was the top performer and my commitment level was high. I stayed late when needed ( very very late sometime) . Worked 50/60 h weeks for months on time, etc.
        Even though i heard in the past there have been problems with punctuality, i haven’t received any complaint regarding that. Only praise. I find it offensive telling that
        “Just get up 30 minutes earlier. If you can’t do that, you probably aren’t cut out for an office job”
        Personally i would rather quit. I value time flexibility a lot.
        In one of my previous workplaces, at some point there was a Director who decreted a “mandated” 8am start time ( even though i was in R&D team) . For me this ment waking up at 6 every day. I felt less productive and the day was over by the time i got warmed up. I quit in 2 months after that memo. I didn’t feel aligned with those requirements.
        What you need to think is that now you have to options :1. come in early or 2. look for something else. On the long term , if this is what the boss requires you either give in or get out.

        1. LAI*

          Same here. I am not a morning person – in my decade of office work experience, I have never consistently made it in at my supposed start time and yet I’ve received nothing but high praise. Not once in my career has anyone suggested to me that my lateness was a problem. One office I worked in was so lax about start times that after a year, I was pretty consistently coming in over an hour late. But I also often worked through lunch and stayed late, so I was always definitely working more than 40 hours per week, and probably working more than the people who came in at 8am and left at 4:59pm. So I agree that good managers will look at output and if you’re doing your job well and you’re present when you need to be, then they should reward you with the flexibility to manage your own schedule and not nitpick over being 4 minutes late.

          1. Zillah*

            Ditto. I understand it if there are specific things that need to be done at specific times – so, if you work as a receptionist, for example, yes, it makes sense that you have to be in on time, and lateness could well be a problem if it’s important that you be at the phone at 9am on the dot. But for a lot of jobs? I just don’t see the issue with giving people a little more flexibility.

      3. Office Girl*

        What? In what world does an exempt employee need to arrive at the office 15 minutes before the start of the work day? This is unheard of to me, unless we’re talking hourly employees, and we are not. As an entry level employee I will admit that I was 4-5 minutes late a lot of times. But whenever I arrived at 8:05, I’d make sure to leave no earlier than 5:05 or 5:10. The whole 8 hour day was still getting put in. In a knowledge based profession, with a sane boss, that should not be a problem (unless there is a meeting at 8:00 sharp). As a mid level manager I have no real problem with my employee being a little late to work…as long as all of the work is being completed and is good quality. Many (most?) exempt office-based employees work extra hours here and there that would make up for being 5 minutes late in the morning anyways.

        1. Bea W*

          Yup. Many office jobs do have this flexibility, with some exceptions for public facing work like reception, security, or some support positions, and having a boss who is a stickler to the extent described by the OP.

        2. DLB*

          Had an old-school boss that would dock you 15 minutes PTO if you were even a minute late. But if you came in 10, 15, 30 min late? That was considered a GIFT to the company of your time. His son runs the company now, and doesn’t do that, but still harps on us for being a few minutes late. Even if traffic is ridiculous. For them, it’s a control issue, not a related to your job issue. I would also go as far to say, though, that both were/are terrible managers over all anyway.

      4. svb*

        My gosh, reading some of these comments makes me so thankful for the norm in my office: arrival between 7 and 10, and nobody really cares if you’re later than that either. Of course it means you’re staying past 6, but that’s normal too.

    2. Mike B.*

      THANK you.

      I think it’s ridiculous to be a stickler for punctuality to the point of demoralizing a top performer, but OP’s boss disagrees and it’s their call. And as unpredictable as NYC subways can be, just about all of them are quite capable of getting a person from Point A to Point B before 9 AM without undue padding to the travel time.

      This “problem” would be solved by the OP getting up fifteen minutes earlier and accepting that they’re going to arrive earlier than need be a fair amount of the time.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Fifteen minutes isn’t necessarily enough. Historically, my one-subway commutes on busy, reliable lines needed about 20 minutes of padding to make sure I was there on time, and more to be really safe. Relying on two trains makes everything iffier; my guess is we’re talking about having the OP leave at least 30 minutes earlier. And all bets are off if the OP takes one of the less reliable lines (G train, I’m looking at you!).

        1. K.*


          Here in DC my Metro commute was reliably 45 minutes for a couple of years, so I generally left myself an hour to do it in and would be a few minutes late to work (in a flexible environment) maybe once every 6 weeks or so. No big.

          And then train service got worse, and the trains got slower, and the connections stopped lining up, and I began having to leave a solid 90 minutes every morning for what was, for the first 18 months, a 45-minute commute. And I was *still* routinely late. And eventually we just had to agree where I could make up the time elsewhere (not a big problem, since I routinely came out over 40 hours anyway), because it was getting ridiculous that I would have to leave before 7 a.m. to make it by 9 a.m. every day. Some days that would have me at work at 7:45 — and the doors weren’t even unlocked until 8. It just wasn’t tenable.

          Transit is so great when it works but so utterly life-wrecking when it doesn’t.

          1. Noelle*

            I’m also in DC and if the trains actually ran on time and I made my connection in less than a few minutes, it would take only 10 minutes (that’s what WMATA’s website always tells me it’ll take, too). But it routinely takes 40-45 minutes.

          2. Kelly O*

            I’m in Houston, and our mass transit is just awful. I had car trouble a few weeks back and looked to see how I could manage with buses (because we don’t have trains.) I would have had to leave over two hours before my start time, because the bus I’d catch in my suburb would have to go all the way to the downtown station, where I would have to catch a bus going all the way back out to the airport where I work. What’s normally a 20 minute drive would turn into a 2 hour ordeal.

            So I basically told my husband we needed to figure out the car thing, stat, because it’s not reasonable. And I couldn’t do a daycare drop either. It’s really outrageous how bad the transit is around here.

            I can’t imagine being dependent upon public transport to get around. So far I’ve not really lived in an area that supported that well at all.

            1. Joey*

              That’s not a good example though. Houston and most other cities in Texas don’t really provide much service to the burbs outside of park and rides.

              1. Bea W*

                Other cities have much better public transit. When i was traveling for work, we were advised to rent a car in 2 places – Dallas and LA.

        2. Mike B.*

          Thirty minutes, then. It’s not a dramatic imposition regardless.

          I may be spoiled from being served by two fairly reliable lines that will both take me to the stop nearest my office, but I feel like most trains run with enough frequency at rush hour that a shorter period of padding would be sufficient. OP is presumably not relying on split-second timing as it is.

          1. HigherEd Admin*

            It depends on where you live though. I’m in NYC, far up on the 1 line. If I miss the train I anticipate catching, I’m stuck waiting 10 minutes for the next train, even at rush hour. But if I lived lower on the 1 line, even by 2 stops, somehow the trains run every 3-5 minutes.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              I have no idea why this is (and I used to take the upper end of the 1 line—hi, neighbor!). I do think it makes a difference if you can take multiple lines that serve your station. If you can take the 1/2/3, you have some options if one of them is delayed. If the 1 is the only train at your station, you are pretty much at the mercy of all delays.

              I was almost always on time when I lived in NYC, but I don’t want to understate the effort it requires. I left for things very early. Also, I learned the hard way that Google Maps always underestimates how long it will take to get somewhere by subway. Hopstop is much better.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                HigherEd Admin, I was going to try to guess which school you work at, and then I realized I can think of three universities on the northern 1 line just off the top of my head. :)

                1. HigherEd Admin*

                  And that’s assuming I don’t take the 1 train further downtown or to another borough or transfer lines ;)

                  (Hi back, neighbor!)

            2. Bea W*

              If you’re relying on any kind of commuter rail as opposed to regular subway service, you may be waiting an hour.

          2. LAI*

            I think the question of how much of an “imposition” it is depends on your values. For me, I already have a 20-25 minute commute to get to work and I’d consider an extra 30 minutes to be a very significant imposition. I would probably be looking for a new job over an extra UNNECESSARY 30 minutes per day. That’s 2.5 hours of my life every week that I am losing.

            But I think the bigger issue is not the timing itself. Personally, if I were the OP, I’d have a hard time respecting a supervisor didn’t trust me as a professional to manage my own time and get my work done at a exemplary level when I’m already demonstrating that I can.

            1. svb*

              I’m absolutely with you on this and would probably opt to completely shrug off my boss’ evil eye in exchange for just doing my job well. Can’t make everyone happy. What a silly thing for a boss to be focused on if it has no real implications for performance.

          3. Zillah*

            It would be a pretty dramatic imposition for me. As it is, shifting my schedule from 9:30-5:30 rather than 9-5 has pretty dramatically improved my life and my morning commute. Especially if you’re not a morning person, that extra half hour makes a difference… and if you don’t have a job where you can start work when you arrive early (and, hopefully, leave early), it’s doubly demoralizing.

            Because even during rush hour, there are train lines that are still a real pain. When my brother took the subway to high school, he was late a couple times a week because the train he took was 1) unreliable and 2) packed, so it was often impossible to get on. He definitely wasn’t lying – my mother often dropped him off at the train station. She eventually told his school that she wasn’t going to ask him to leave the house before 7am, especially since he was usually only a couple minutes late. (But, ensuring that he was on time every day would have meant leaving a solid 20 minutes earlier. Maybe more.)

        3. Michele*

          I use the G everyday to get into the city. In the morning during the week is the only time I think you can call it reliable. The weekends are terrible!

          1. Zillah*

            YES. I used to have to take it home after 9pm a couple days a week, and it was always a complete nightmare.

      2. Sally Forth*

        I think if you are on commission and making your numbers, the exact time of your work day start shouldn’t matter. My opinion doesn’t count, though, because I’m not the battle you are fighting. The battle is the boss. If he is staring at you as you come in, you know this is also going to be on a performance appraisal. Just come in early.

      3. ella*

        It depends. When I was living in south Brooklyn and commuting to (uptown) Manhattan, my travel time could be anywhere from 60 minutes to 2.5 hours. And when you’re stuck underground, you can’t call work to let them know you’re stuck. Sometimes during morning rush hour, you can’t even get on the first train, and have to wait for the next one (or squeeze yourself on and put up with being groped). And I was only taking two trains, like the OP. Everyone I worked with or went to school with just knew that unpredictable trains, and occasional late coworkers, are just part of life in NYC.

        Eventually I got to hate it so much that I would walk from 80th St to 58th St, through the park at night, so I could get directly on the Q train and not have to bother with taking the 1, 2, or 3. And I don’t think I actually lost any time that way.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I agree with this. It is only a few minutes and LW tells its not impacting her work, but that is being consistantly late. I see why the LW is annoyed because from her perspective the boss is being nit picky about something that does not impact performance and is being passive aggressive about it, but still it sounds like LW is actually late more often than on time which does sound like a problem to me.

      1. steve G*

        I agree, but I also want to throw OP a little support. I take 2 trains as well in NYC, and many times I don’t even notice the trip is taking longer, and when I get to work I realize the 35-40 min commute actually took an hour. Also, the 2 subway lines I live hear always have issues. One day 2 weeks ago, the one line wasn’t running at all (the L), so I went to the J train, someone pulled the emergency cord, so they kicked us off the train, and I had to go back to the L and wait for it to start. It took 1 1/2 hrs to get in. Same time it would have taken to walk (if I had known, I would have). Every 2-3 weeks, the L train has some sort of issue that causes me to be 10-30 minutes late. I am not leaving an hour early every day to mitigate all of this, especially when I do OT at night. So, I think the OPs manager needs to lay off a bit.

        1. Livin' in a Box*

          That’s totally different. Nobody expects you to leave two hours early just in case there’s a serious problem with the train. OP is consistently arriving 5-10 minutes late, so the trains are working fine, s/he’s just leaving too late.

          1. Zillah*

            Not necessarily. Depending on the trains you take and the schedules, 5-10 minutes late doesn’t necessarily mean the problem would be solved by leaving 5-10 minutes earlier. I’ve had NYC commutes where that’s definitely been the case. And, especially when there wasn’t a way I could start when I got there early… yeah, I’d rather be 5-10 minutes late twice a week than 20 minutes early twice a week and stuck standing out in the cold, if it’s reasonable for me to just stay a little later at the end of the day or take a shorter lunch.

            1. Susan*

              Agreed. I can leave 15 minutes earlier than normal and still get to work late. Or I can leave a few minutes late and get to work 10 minutes early. I take 2 and sometimes 3 trains from Brooklyn for a trip that’s about 75 minutes door to door. I’m grateful I’m salaried.

        2. AVP*

          Ugh, I have the same thing. For me though my first line has decided to run at half speed for the last few months (something about weekend construction residue) which is throwing me off completely and getting me in 20 minutes later than I want to be – but when I leave 20 minutes earlier it does nothing. I think I’d have to leave an hour earlier to make up those 20 minutes…luckily no one seems to care and I’m always in before my manager anyway.

    4. KarenT*

      I think the boss is being ridiculous, but you raise a really good point. A few times a week is almost every day, or at least 3 out of 5 days, so it’s probably time to start taking the earlier train.

      1. fposte*

        Yes. I understand the wishful commuter math, where connection A *should* get you there on time and sometimes does get you there on time. But in practice, the current commute isn’t successful at getting her there on time.

        And in some jobs, that wouldn’t be an issue, and the boss here is rotten for not speaking up instead of glaring. But the OP also can’t assume it’s okay, either.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Oh yeah, I’ve done the public transit magical-thinking schedule. “Once, when nothing went wrong and all the planets were aligned, I got from A to B in 20 minutes. Therefore, it takes 20 minutes to get from A to B, and any day on which it takes longer is an aberration and not my fault, never mind that that means 9 out of the past 10 days have been aberrations.”

          1. ella*

            All transit apps I’ve ever used use this magical formula. I hate it. Haaaaaaaate. I live in Denver now and they always think I can make a transfer that, if the buses were on schedule, is a five minute gap. The buses are never on scheule so I wait 29 minutes (or even better, 59 minutes!) because app programmers appear to not understand that idea of allowing slush time.

    5. Another Poster*

      I was thinking this too. I also agree with Alison’s points but it may be grating on OPs boss precisely because it’s not occasional.

      I lived in NYC for about 2 years and while that doesn’t make me an expert I thought most NYC trains ran about every 7-10 minutes, especially during rush hour. It seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult to leave 15 min earlier and get to work on time.

      1. Kelly O*

        This is the only qualm I have about this whole thing. It’s not like an occasional thing, it’s happening several times a week. Maybe you could talk about shifting your start times, or consider taking the earlier train. If there is a place near your office, you could stop in and have a coffee, or read the paper, or something if you don’t want to just go on in the office. (Plus, giving yourself the cushion helps if there is a more serious delay.)

        I will say that where I work now, we can only clock in 6 minutes before our start time, and we have 6 minutes after that to clock in and still be “on time.” I used to get to work earlier, but the 6 minute rule means I need to remember to go back down to the clock and come in. It’s expected that we are arriving at our start time. That’s just how our operation is set up. It’s the first time I’ve ever encountered this, or where they’d rather you not arrive early.

    6. JC*

      I think this sucks. That said, the fact that the OP said “subway lines” and not something that suggests a commuter train that may typically have more spaced-out trains makes me wonder if the OP really couldn’t leave 15 minutes earlier and be 15 minutes early on most days. That is, I wonder if it’s really the case that it’s a choice between being wildly early some days when catching an earlier train and on time on other days, as Alison suggests in her example, or just being a little bit early some days.

      I’m coming at this from my personal point of view as a public transit commuter who takes a bus to a subway. I know that if I leave at, say, 8:00 I will be 15 minutes early most days, and on time the other days when something weird happens with one of my forms of transportation; if I leave at 8:15, I will be on time most days but late every now and then. I feel like if I had a boss who cared about these things, I’d suck it up and err on the earlier side because it’s really not that much time.

      But overall I do think it is stupid for your boss to be a bean counter if you’re a high performer. And I also appreciate that some public transit routes may be odd enough that leaving 15 minutes early may not be a solution.

      1. Anonsie*

        That’s how it is for me– my connections are timed just so improperly that I already spend a good 20 minutes in the morning standing around waiting for them. On days I have to be at work early, the shift in when I have to get going doesn’t correspond to how much earlier it actually is. A shift up of 30 minutes actually means an hour more travel time in the morning, but a shift of an hour is just an hour. A shift of an hour and a half easily becomes over two hours.

      2. ella*

        It’s all in the timing of the transfer. It’s possible that she could leave 15 minutes earlier to catch Train A, but that doesn’t mean that Train B is running on the same schedule. She might lose that 15 minutes waiting on the platform for the same Train B that she would’ve caught if she’d taken the Train A train that was 15 minutes later. It’s extremely possible that she’d have to actually leave 30-45 minutes earlier to shave 10 minutes off her commute. And if you gotta, you gotta, but I totally get why she’s searching for flexibility first.

    7. Michele*

      I agree. I am not sure what train you take everyday but clearly you are not leaving early enough if it has become common for you a few times a week to arrive late. I live in NYC and take the subway everyday so trust me I know what the subway can be like. I take the G anyone that lives in NYC knows that it can be one of the most unreliable trains right along with the dreaded crowds of the L train. I will also say you have got to stop blaming the trains for being late. It really is not OK. The subway for the most part does not have that many issues especially in the mornings.

      1. Another Poster*

        Exactly! Presumably you would know you’d ve working in NYC and what time work started and how the trains functioned at the time you accepted the job. Getting to work on time is a requirement of most peoples jobs and clearly this manager wants employees to arrive by 9. While I agree that it can be rather nit-picky of a manager to harp on being a few minutes late, even if its every day, when it doesn’t get in the way of job performance, it’s still not OK to blame the train.

        When I lived out that way I was in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and worked in the fashion district area of Manhattan. It was about an hour commute and rarely varied. I typically got to work at about 8:45 to make sure I was there by 9 when I was supposed to start work. It would have been nice to have that extra 15 minutes in the morning and the hour long trip was exhausting, but it was what I signed up for when I took the job. I also did not interact with the public at all in that job and starting at 9:05 really wouldn’t have been a problem. But I never would have taken a later train, continually shown up late, and then blamed the train. That’s a personal decision. Millions of New Yorkers manage to make it to work on time every day.

    8. LBK*

      But the real question is, does it matter? I vote no, not at all. If she’s an hour late every day, sure, that’s not within reason (assuming she’s not also staying an extra hour to make it up) because then that brings into question whether she has enough work to do. But 5-10 minutes? For an otherwise outstanding employee? Nope, not going to bother saying anything to them. Waste of time.

        1. Mike B.*

          And I’ll add that at a certain point it’s no longer about the validity of the rule and the rulebreaker’s degree of culpability, but about insubordination. If your boss is instructing you to do something that is entirely within her authority, you need to do it until she changes her mind or you find a new job.

          Honestly, OP shouldn’t have needed to be told more than a couple of times.

          1. Natalie*

            “Honestly, OP shouldn’t have needed to be told more than a couple of times.”

            Except that the boss apparently hasn’t talked to OP at all, just glared.

            1. TotesMaGoats*

              But it seems that the OP can read enough into that glare to understand that the Boss isn’t happy about OP being a few minutes late. I know not everyone is great about picking up on those cues but it sounds like OP is and should follow suit.

            2. Mike B.*

              Eh, that would probably give some plausible deniability in the event that the boss tried to institute disciplinary action. But in an ethical sense there isn’t any difference–the boss has made it plain what she thinks of OP’s punctuality habits, and OP needs to follow through and start arriving earlier.

          2. LBK*

            If your boss is instructing you to do something that is entirely within her authority, you need to do it until she changes her mind or you find a new job.

            The boss hasn’t instructed anyone to do anything, and I would only consider it insubordination if the OP actually has a conversation with the boss and is told point blank that 9AM sharp is the expectation. Right now there is no order being given to ignore.

            1. Kelly O*

              I’m unclear why this conversation has not been had already, either instigated by the boss or the OP.

              1. Megan*

                Late to the party, I know, but I’ve learned long ago not to go imagining someone’s desires or intentions behind their passive-aggressiveness. I can’t read their minds, and if they’re not willing to verbalize to me what’s going on in their head, I’m not going to try and connect the dots for them. I’ve been wrong before, I’ve been right before, but I no longer cut people out of having to communicate with me.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        You take a reasonable stance, LBK, but OP doesn’t work for you, alas. His/her boss insists on timely arrival, so IMO that’s what must happen. AAM’s suggestion to negotiate with the boss is a good one. It’s reasonable to renegotiate a start time if possible, but it’s not reasonable to ignore it, even if you think the boss is being an idiot (my words, not yours).

        1. LBK*

          Oh I completely understand that realistically the OP’s boss is not reasonable on this and therefore the OP doesn’t have much choice. I was just disagreeing with the ideology of saying “You need to take an earlier train” as a general statement to people who are a few minutes late regularly.

        2. fposte*

          Agreed, except the boss isn’t currently insisting–the boss is just glaring. Somebody needs to turn this into a discussion rather than a silent war, and as the OP has the most to gain, she should raise the topic.

    9. Rocket Scientist*

      I agree. Take an earlier train and spend time reading a book at a coffee shop if you are unbearably early. With all the things AAM says to do to please rude bosses, I think getting to work on time every day is a no-brainer.

      1. Mike C.*

        I don’t think it’s reasonable at all to have to extend one’s work day that much just because of a few minutes when it has no effect on the business at all. That’s completely unreasonable.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed. Your job essentially ends up requiring 9 hours of your day instead of 8, and for what? Just so your boss can feel good about having butts in seats at a certain time?

          1. Elysian*

            It doesn’t require 9 hours, it requires 8 but your commute takes longer. Everyone has to deal with this problem. When you’re occasionally late because of a specific traffic incident or an unusually late train, that kind of thing happens. But if the requirement is 9am, you can’t just aim for EXACTLY 9am on the nose every day and then be upset because your boss notices you’re late 2/5 or 3/5 of the time. If they start construction on my route, I can’t just come in late every day until the construction is over. Same thing for the OP – If the trains are habitually late during rush hour, OP needs to habitually leave a little earlier. That’s just how commuting works when your boss wants your butt in the seat.

            1. Sunshine*

              This is what I was looking for. The boss wants you in the building at 9, you gotta make it happen. Not being able to manage your commute is not the boss’s problem, regardless of what mode of transportation you use. If my car breaks down, I’ll get understanding and support for about a day – after that, I’m expected to figure it out.

          2. Anonsie*

            +1. Obviously the OP can’t just be late to work all the time forever here, but the boss is being silly.

            I had an assignment at work that moved my start time up slightly, come to find that moving my day up a teeny tiny bit meant my connections were even more wildly off than they normally are and it added nearly an hour to my commute every day. Each way. That’s a lot of time to sink into standing at a bus stop, time that you don’t get compensated for in any way. It’s one thing if you have to do it for some practical reason like I did– if they’d asked me to do this just so I’d have a few minutes to hang up my coat and boot up my computer, I would not have found that reasonable in the slightest.

        2. Ezri*

          It also depends on how OP is mitigating the late arrivals. I work at an office with fairly flexible start / end times, as long as you are getting your work done and are working at least eight hours. I’m not a morning person, so some days (like today) I arrive fifteen minutes after I normally do. So I’m planning to tack those fifteen minutes onto the end of the day and leave a bit later than normal to make up for it.

          So that’s what I’m wondering – OP, are you making up for these late arrivals in any way? Do you still leave at the ‘normal’ end time when you are late? I still think the boss is being immature here, but if he sees you arriving late and leaving on time I *could* see why he might be annoyed. Also, if you are making up the time you can bring that up at the meeting AAM describes: “I realize that I’m routinely coming in a few minutes late due to commute inconsistency, but I regularly make up that time by staying longer at the end of the day.”

          Maybe this is a small issue that’s turned into a big one because your boss thinks you don’t care about arriving on time (which is a reasonable perception if you haven’t communicated your situation). I agree with AAM – talk to him!

          1. Ezri*

            I should amend my answer a bit – if you do have that discussion and your boss doesn’t care about making up the time (he just wants your butt in the seat), then you’re going to have to figure that out. My perspective is coming from a place where hours worked matters more than arrival / departure.

        3. Zillah*

          Totally agree. There are a lot of things I would be willing to do to please an unreasonable boss, but leaving much earlier and reading for half an hour in a coffee shop 2-3 days a week just to be able to turn on my computer five minutes earlier would not be one of them. It would be a major blow to my morale and make me absolutely miserable. I’d be seriously job searching over it, no question.

          Building in a lot of extra time to get to an interview is one thing. For everyday work? It’s gets exhausting really quickly, and for something where it doesn’t make a difference to her overall performance… if it’s what the OP needs to do to keep her job, yeah, she doesn’t have much choice, but if that’s the case, the boss is really unreasonable.

          (And, it’s worth pointing out that even in NYC, there are not necessarily coffee shops very close by, anyway, particularly in the outer boroughs – it really depends where you are.)

    10. Wildkitten*

      YUP! You can’t assume everything will run perfectly on time, and then blame the trains when you are late. Assume the trains will all be late, adjust accordingly, and be pleased if you happen to be early instead.

      1. Zillah*

        I can’t speak for the OP, but the building I work in doesn’t generally open until shortly before I’m supposed to get there. I would not be remotely pleased if I happened to be very early instead 2-3 days a week and had the pleasure of standing outside for twenty minutes waiting. If the OP talks to the boss and he says that being there at 9 on the dot is required, then the OP needs to make it happen… but let’s not pretend that it’s not a pretty significant imposition.

    11. Allison*

      I do have to agree, if you’re late this frequently you do need to take steps to leave earlier. I’m still unconvinced that a few minutes late shouldn’t be an issue, but the reality is, it is an issue with OP’s boss, so as long OP is working there they need to try to be on time.

    12. Worker B*

      Yes, I’m surprised the first response like this is so far down. Not only is the OP late every day, but really can’t be starting on work until at least 9:15, and over the course of the week OP is shaving at least an hour off of the 40-hour work week. I know, whatever, most people in the comments section don’t seem to care, but it really can be the source of morale problems for everyone who does get there on time and puts in a full week and also hits their sales, etc. but doesn’t get an hour of free paid time every week.

      1. Colette*

        That’s not necessarily true – she’s late a lot, yes, but that doesn’t mean she can’t start work as soon as she gets in. (Not everyone boots their computer every day, and I would imagine that sales people get & make a lot of calls.)

        It also doesn’t mean she’s leaving exactly on time when she comes in. And, since she’s paid on commission, she’s not being paid to boot her computer or leave 5 minutes early.

  5. Emily*

    I feel like some bosses have the mentality that you should mirror their own work hours. For these types of bosses, even if you’re super-productive, if you come in later or leave earlier than the boss, they’ll ding you for it their mental scoreboard. I’ve found it best in these types of positions to mirror the boss’s hours as closely as possible (within reason).

  6. Julie*

    How is quitting time handled? Are you out the door the minute the clock hits your departure time or is it a job where some days you stay later to wrap things up? I tend to think that a job that expects you to stay 5 minutes late to be polite should be okay if those 5 minutes come off the front end of the day too. But since you do take public transportation, your departure time might be affected here too, I’m not sure.

    1. KellyK*

      Yes, absolutely. If those 4 minutes are important to them in the morning, then they’re important to you in the afternoon.

    2. Allison*

      I’m wondering this too. Does the workday end at a specific time? If the OP is expected to occasionally stay an extra 5 mins here and there to finish something, it shouldn’t be a big deal if they’re also occasionally 5 mins late. Is the OP ever forced to stay late to make up for tardiness? If the OP altered their commute and got there 20 mins early, would they be allowed to leave 20 mins early as well? Or maybe allowed to leave early on Friday. I could see anyone being hesitant to come in early if it means putting in extra hours unnecessarily.

  7. The Other Dawn*

    If it’s only a few minutes and it can’t be tied to your specific job responsibilities, you’re working for an asshat. Sorry, no advice other that to agree with what Alison says.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, this is really all there is to it. Some bosses just like that feeling of control they have over employees, and this is one of the ways they get to exert it.

      It’s nothing more than petty compensatory behavior.

      1. Joey*

        Cmon mike. How would you feel if you were a play by the rules kind of manager and someone who was constantly breaking the rules said you’re being ridiculous? That’s essentially what it comes down to.

        1. Mike C.*

          Well given that performance is above average and has no effect on the business other than my hypothetical annoyance, how should I feel? Should my hypothetical irrationality be taken seriously? I think not.

          1. Joey*

            So as a boss you’re not entitled to having pet peeves unless the employee agrees if affects the business? I get the op says it doesn’t, but I bet her manager won’t say it doesn’t?

            1. Mike C.*

              As the boss, you’re not entitled to everyone believing that every last demand that you make is reasonable or prudent to the running of a sound business.

              1. Tenley*

                Except, of course, showing up on time generally is a basic requirement to gainful employment so it’s not that unreasonable a boss might choose to enforce it. And of course, many people in many professions are fired for nothing else but ab inability to show up on time.

                1. LBK*

                  The point is that it’s a stupid, arbitrary reason to fire people when the responsibilities of the role don’t require it. If you’re doing shift work and part of what’s required to make your role effective is physically being in the building and ready to help a customer at any moment – yes, it totally makes sense to fire you if you don’t show up when expected. If you’re doing insular office work that’s not time-sensitive to the minute? What justification could you possibly come up with for requiring an exact arrival time other than “Because I said so”?

                  Just because it’s a common expectation doesn’t make a smart or reasonable expectation.

            2. Gina*

              The employee has a pet peeve now too, it’s adding half an hour to her commute. If we assume she’s correct about being a top performer, the boss can insist she come earlier but it’s going to sour her morale and she’ll probably look elsewhere. So he has a choice to make too: does he want a great performer who’s a few minutes late a few times a week, or an employee who’s always early but whose heart isn’t in it and is always halfway out the door.

              Whatever he decides is fine, he just can’t have everything. He can’t have her on time, a top salesperson, and content with him.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          Going by what the OP said, this boss is being ridiculous. The whole “glaring” thing is just dumb. If the boss has an issue with the lateness, he needs to use his words and talk to the employee about it.

  8. TotesMaGoats*

    While I totally agree with AAM, your boss has indicated that arriving at 9am is the expectation. Regardless of how much it actually impacts achieving your goals or office operation, which is sounds like it doesn’t, your boss wants you there at 9am. So, that’s what you need to do. It’s a hazard of public transportation that they run late. I’m usually pretty forgiving on people running late and I do have a building that must be opened on time. But at this point, I would consider this to be a chronic problem and we’d have to chat. Your boss is being a jerk face by doing the stare down and that’s not kosher in my book.

    1. Mike C.*

      What would you have a chat about exactly? How the OP can make the trains go faster? How a few extra minutes per day seems to have a positive effect on their performance?

      I’m not being snarky here, how do you say to a well adjusted, high performing employee that you’re upset that they do something that has absolutely no effect on the business in any way, shape or form? How do you even begin to justify that?

      1. Traveler*

        Well are the other employees there on time? Is it causing OP to have a negative image despite excelling because they are the only one that’s ever late? Just because there’s no effect on the bottom line, doesn’t mean there isn’t one period.

        1. Mike C.*

          Anyone who begrudges someone a few minutes in a business where the exact time does not matter is being completely unreasonable, and their opinion shouldn’t count. If employees don’t like it, give them a similar amount of leeway. If the boss doesn’t like it, s/he needs to grow up.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Well sure, but in reality he is the boss and his opinion counts more than the OP’s. I can’t imagine it going well if OP told the boss he needs to grow up. I have a boss who is a stickler for being on time and I have a similar commute – two trains and one is notoriously bad. I don’t have to be in until 9:00 and I leave at 7:20 every day for a 45 minute commute. Most days I am really early, and you know what? My boss loves me for it. He’s an annoying prick, but it’s worth the brownie points I get.

            1. Traveler*

              This is it pretty much. You can think all the negative thoughts you want about the boss, and I’d probably agree with you – but if that’s where he is drawing a line, then that’s what it takes for you to be successful there. I’ve seen top performers still get laid off when the time comes at the company, because they couldn’t be on time and it was one of things they were rated on. I don’t think anyone here is saying this is a reasonable boss, just that – those are the breaks of working for this guy.

              1. Mike C.*

                But there’s no rational reason that a few minutes is the difference between “having what it takes to be successful” and not! No rational reason at all! It’s nothing more than arbitrary policy that has no effect on the business at large.

                If you see a company dropping profitable employees because their butt isn’t in a seat the moment the minute hand hits the 12, then you’re observing a company run by a crazy person.

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  But lots of companies are run by crazy, unreasonable people. I’d like to know how you think OP should handle this.

                2. Traveler*

                  Agreed. But I also think its unwise to waste a bunch of time and energy being upset about something like this. There are lots of crazy people out there. You can not always change them, especially when the power dynamic is working against you. In the course of unfair crazy things that happen at workplaces but are still legal, telling your employees they need to be on time is pretty low on the list.

                3. Mike C.*

                  The OP should take the advice that AaM has written.

                  I’m mostly writing against the tacit approval I keep seeing that being the boss makes you right and you should agree and respect that even if it means adding another hour or more to your daily commute.

                  Stupid policies and the bosses who support them should be mocked and ridiculed for the mistaken belief that it somehow adds value to the company. It doesn’t, and it lowers morale and effectiveness of your employees. It’s petty and spiteful, like like refusing to recycle or rolling coal.

                4. Colette*

                  This is one of those things that the boss is allowed to want – if she wants to require that the OP be in on time, she can do that and the OP’s choice is to either comply or find another job.

                  Is it in the best interests of the company for the boss to insist on it? Maybe not, but it’s her call.

                  If I hire someone to mow my lawn, I can tell them I want them to mow it in a diagonal pattern, and take action (including firing them) if they don’t. It wouldn’t make a bit of difference to how short the grass is, but it would be my choice.

                  If you think of the employer as the customer of the employee (because they’re the one paying), it might help understand the logic.

                5. Mike B.*

                  There doesn’t need to be a rational reason for a policy for it to be a policy. You need to be able to abide by all policies that are conditions of your employment.

                  I don’t think much of a manager whose policies contribute more to lack of morale than to any coherent business interest, but neither do I have much sympathy for an employee who has difficulty complying but not much of an excuse other than a vague complaint about transportation. We aren’t at our jobs to serve the organization however we see fit, we’re there to serve it as our managers see fit (and they as their managers see fit, and so on).

                6. Traveler*

                  @Mike C – Because for me it does not add an hour – finishing up my morning ritual (drinking coffee and/or reading) at work vs. home doesn’t matter to me. It’s not the affront that is to you. I’m completely in support of those of you that it does bother because it forces you to wake up earlier, or readjust plans for your children, etc. making an issue of it, or deciding to leave a job for it. I get that. But for those of us who it has no real effect on it’s hard to convince us it’s on par with destroying the environment to be at work on time. As I said – there are other crazier policies that I’ve seen here and elsewhere that I’d definitely be willing to raise hell about, but this, not so much.

            2. Mike C.*

              Yes, I’m sure your boss does love the fact that you waste nearly an hour of your day, every day to ensure that your butt is in the seat at exactly 9am for no extra cost to the company. That doesn’t mean the expectation is reasonable.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                I’m not saying I think it’s reasonable. I’m saying that your comment is what we all feel but in the reality of the working world, it doesn’t matter what we think. There’s nothing OP can do that won’t make her look bad, unfortunately. Maybe there’s a way to have a fruitful discussion about it with the boss, but if he’s unreasonable in general it will probably backfire. We need to pick our battles and I’m not sure this is one worth fighting.

                1. Mike C.*

                  First off, unless I specifically say so, please don’t attribute to me or assume I am advocating a particular course of action. I’m not talking about specific action that the OP should take outside of what AaM said. What I am talking about is how stupid these policies are.

                  It does matter what we think because we become the next round of managers. We can screen for this garbage in our interviews. We can make it known that stupid policies like these aren’t “smart” and “professional” but “out-dated”, “wasteful” and “petty”. I’m sure more than a few managers are reading these comments right now, and they may reconsider their policies.

          2. Swarley*

            Exactly. If it doesn’t negatively impact the other employees’ ability to do their jobs then it isn’t any of their concern.

        2. LBK*

          How are either of those questions relevant, though? It’s silly to make the OP play image defense. That’s the manager’s job, as far as I’m concerned – if someone complains, the manager should be saying “Jane is still getting all her work done and is a top performer, so I’m not concerned with her being 10 minutes late” instead of grilling Jane about something so petty.

          1. Traveler*

            I think the relevance is self-explanatory. If the boss is using time as an indicator of success, and you are consistently failing – it could cause problems when it comes to raises, lay offs, etc. I’m merely saying there can be all sorts of cultural issues that can become problematic for an employee that have nothing to do with bottom line performance. Is that not true?

            Everyone here seems to be arguing boss is not reasonable/fair and that it would be petty – and I am not disagreeing with you. But he’s the boss, and as AAM said – you’re going to have to do what he wants or deal with potentially negative consequences.

            1. LBK*

              I think we’re describing two different things though – there’s a generally accepted definition of success and then there’s a crazy manager’s definition of success. I’m talking about the first definition and it sounds like you’re talking about the second. I could say that my measure of success for my employees is who wears purple shirts the most often, and if that’s what I want to base my layoffs on then that’s the world my employees have to live in, but that doesn’t reflect the general description of a successful employee.

              Just because there’s no effect on the bottom line, doesn’t mean there isn’t one period.

              I agree with this on some things, but pettiness over minutes of lateness isn’t one of them. I cannot fathom how this has an impact to the business as a whole. It sounds like you’re saying it can have an effect on the OP’s career, because her crazy manager could fire her – and that’s fine. But I disagree overall that things like this matter to success.

      2. TotesMaGoats*

        I’m not even sure where to chime in here. If my expectation was that you were in by X time but with some leeway for emergencies but the emergencies were cropping up on a regular basis, I would want to chat about it.

        The problem is that it seems to be happening on a regular basis. Are you taking advantage of me? I actually did have to speak with one employee about this. He was a security guard who, while technically, could be a few minutes late and not disrupt anything, started consistently being “just a few minutes late”. That’s a problem. The problem persisted into not showing up at all and getting fired but that’s not applicable to this situation.

        The boss, for whatever bizarre reason, has said that employees need to be in at 9am. The OP is not doing that on enough of a regular schedule to get the jerk face from the boss. A conversation needs to be had, in one direction or the other.

        I agree that in this particular situation it’s crappy for the boss to be requiring a specific attendance but that’s his prerogative as the boss.

        1. LBK*

          He was a security guard who, while technically, could be a few minutes late and not disrupt anything, started consistently being “just a few minutes late”. That’s a problem.

          But why? I’m not clear on this. Just because you said it was important, so it should be?

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            Actually, yes. I am the boss and I expected him to be on time to work at the time we stated he was to begin his shift. So it should be important because I said so. I’m always quick to give people the benefit of the doubt for traffic/car issues or whatever. But when it happens repeatedly, you are creating a pattern.

            1. Wren*

              “Because I said so” sounds even worse coming from your boss than it did coming from your parents.

      3. Worker B*

        Showing up for work on time is such a fundamental requirement for almost any kind of gainful employment that if the OP seriously is going to force the boss to have this conversation after already indicating multiple times the expectation, I think there’s only one way that conversation is ultimately going to go.

        1. Sunshine*

          This. I’m reading the comments and I’m very surprised at the amount of shock and disdain for this manager. Being on time for work is optional? The boss doesn’t get to make that decision for his business? Could be 100 reasons for it, or just one – because he said so. Most companies aren’t democracies, as far as I’m aware.

          1. Zillah*

            Sure, the boss gets to make that decision – but just like every other situation where the boss is nickel and diming their workers over a few minutes here, the OP gets (and we get) to think that the boss is being unreasonable. If it’s a condition of employment, that is what it is, but that doesn’t make the boss in the right.

            And yeah – for most jobs I’ve had, start times have been fairly flexible.

  9. Turanga Leela*

    This is the reality of NYC commutes: if you can’t be a few minutes late, you wind up leaving SUPER early. I used to leave 45 minutes (an hour, if I really wanted to be safe) for a commute that took 20 minutes on a good day. If this really bugs your boss, leave much earlier and plan to have your coffee and read the news at work.

    1. Allison*

      It’s the same in Boston. Anytime I take public transit anywhere, my options are 20-30 mins early, or 5 minutes late.

      1. LBK*

        Yep. I used to take a bus to work in Boston, and my commute would vary WILDLY from anywhere between 15 mins to 1.5 hours depending on traffic and stoplights since I was going through the heart of Allston.

        1. K.*

          I used to live at the intersection of the 66 bus and the B train. My eternal sympathies for that commute.

          1. LBK*

            I was on the 57, almost all the way out at the end of it – so I got to sit at every. single. intersection between Watertown and Fenway. Not a commute I would ever be eager to repeat.

            1. BostonKate*

              Ugh I lived close to the end of the B line and it was was AWFUL. God forbid there was a weekday Sox game. I live on the Red Line now and find it’s either awesome, or impossible to get on the train. No middle ground.

              1. LBK*

                I’m on the red line now, too, and find the same experience. Fortunately I’m after the lines merge, so I get trains from both Braintree and Ashmont coming by me.

              2. Allison*

                Ugh, red line is awful with all the construction. The shuttle between Park St. and Kendall is extremely frustrating.

                I live on the B line too, but in that really sweet spot by Washington Square where I can easily walk to stops on the C or D lines. D is faster, but depending on what’s going on downtown it can be full of suburbanites, or BC students, so I usually just opt for the C.

                Luckily I work out in Waltham, and driving out isn’t great but it’s not horrible either.

                1. LBK*

                  I’m lucky to be on the southern part of the red line, so I’m only impacted by the shuttles on weekends since that’s when they’re doing all the construction between Broadway and JFK.

                  I used to live pretty much exactly where you do – B line was closest since I was right off Comm, but it was only a 5-7 minute walk to the D line so I would just take that instead. Totally worth it.

                2. skyline*

                  I lived in that neighborhood ten years ago! I usually walked to the C line, because I was more likely to get a seat on the C than on the D. I commuted to Park Street and had no trouble getting to work on time 95% of the time. (I left time to get coffee between Park St and my office, and skipped the coffee if I was running late. Worked out great.)

                  Later I lived near Coolidge Corner, and was able to take the D to Brookline Village when the C was inexplicably not coming for whatever reason. Another great place to live.

              3. K.*

                One summer I temped out in the area that now has the BCEC, and lived in Allston, and on game days I walked all 6.5 miles home because it took the same amount of time as taking the train through Kenmore. And at least I got a workout out of it.

          2. Bea W*

            I felt the pain of a thousand rusty forks stabbing me in the eyes reading “the intersection of the 66 bus and the B train”.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I’m ~25 minutes early for work every day, because the alternative was ~5 minutes late. I hated to be late when I was new and hadn’t built up any cred yet, and I’ve just kept it up ever since–it gives me a nice cushion to eat if I haven’t yet, get the office Keurig heated up, and take a deep breath and settle in.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          Exactly. No matter where I’m at in my career, I’d rather be the person who was way early vs the person who is slightly late.

          Like it or not, punctuality matters to a lot of people. Some (unfairly) tie it to dependability. But part of being successful in your career is to manage people’s perception of you. If you have the knowledge that you are perceived as someone who is perpetually late, then the onus is on YOU to change your behavior, rather than tell the person who has the perception that they are wrong.

          1. Allison*

            I generally opt for being early over possibly being late all the time! At work our hours are flexible, you’re not “late” as long as you’re there in time for your first meeting; my motivation for being there at 8 is a) beating the worst of morning rush hour traffic and b) getting to park in the lot by the building, rather than across the street. But in general, I’d rather be early. Maybe it’s all those years being in plays and taking ballet class, where you were only on time if you were early, or maybe it’s just out of general consideration for other people’s time. But I can also see how some people may see being intentionally early as a waste of time.

    2. Traveler*

      Not an NYC person, but also my commute could vary drastically. I always did exactly what you’re suggesting. I know there can be actual bars to people doing this (getting kids to school and the like) but I also found it really relaxing to not have to immediately dive in to work first thing and never having to worry about being the “late” person.

    3. bluephone*

      Hello Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system! And God help you if you had multiple modes of transportation like car-train-bus/subway/walk for each way. Then there was always a transit strike or random equipment breakdowns to liven things up a little.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        You’re giving me flashbacks. I used to have to go to Philly regularly. My first SEPTA train got to the station at 7:56, and train #2 left at :53 past every hour. I would pray for the second train to be delayed so I wouldn’t have to wait an hour.

  10. AvonLady Barksdale*

    While I completely agree with Alison’s answer– COMPLETELY– I was surprised to see it, expecting some sort of “suck it up and leave early”. Sorry, Alison!!!! Because you’re right– it’s nuts. I lived and worked in NYC for 10 years, and no matter what, trains are unpredictable. I lived in Queens for a majority of that time, then I moved to Manhattan. My commute went from 45 minutes on a good day to 12 minutes on a good day, but good days were few and far between. It never, ever mattered what time I left my house– the train would get stuck, or it would be unusually crowded because another train got stuck (and I’m severely claustrophobic), or it would be raining and everything would slow down. I was lucky that my jobs were always flexible with start times, and oddly enough, I was usually the first person to arrive in the office every morning even when I came from furthest away. It’s public transportation and stuff happens. And it happens all the time.

    During my first job out of grad school, we got a new head of sales. He insisted that all of his team members be at their desks at 9, but he was slightly reasonable– he would walk the floor at 9:30, and if you weren’t at your desk, he would leave a Post-It note on your door. He once used me and my junior-ness to catch my boss (who was nuts) coming in at 10am or later every day (I got yelled at, of course, but the head of sales was always, always very nice to me).

    Time is a strange thing. My boss at my last job used to demand that we were in by 9 and give about 15 minutes’ leeway, but then he never enforced it. My supervisor started coming in at 11am– I once asked her discreetly if she was ok, especially since she was carrying a mug from a hospital that was not near her house– and our boss never said anything to her. It used to piss me off to no end, because when she was late, I would get her phone calls and her emergency requests. From what I hear, it’s still an issue but no one says anything. I get, though, that this is extreme.

    Anyway, OP– follow Alison’s advice. Continue to try your best to be on time, but expect reasonable treatment. Oh, and if your boss gets nuts about it? The MTA offers lateness cards! Seriously– if your train breaks down or there’s a huge delay, they’ll write you an excuse.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I have never heard of MTA lateness cards. How do you get them? Does there need to be a truly catastrophic delay, or is ordinary track fire/emergency brake/bad weather enough of an excuse? I am fascinated by this.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I only found out about it last year! There’s a link on the MTA website. Doesn’t need to be a catastrophe, just a delay, though it might take a few days to process the verification.

      2. aliascelli*

        The CTA has one too! If the train is late sometimes they’ll tell us we can get some kind of late slip from the customer assistance window. I’ve never needed one so I don’t know what they look like, though.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I suspect that the boss might be sore because he is busting butt to get in by 9am – why doesn’t OP?

      I thought AAM’s advice was the best way to handle it. Although there’s no shortage of irrational bosses out there in the world.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        True, but there are so many possibilities here. It sounds crazy to people who don’t live in NYC (or cities with similar transportation issues, like Chicago and Boston), but there could be vast differences in the boss’s commute and the OP’s. At my old job (and in my current one, come to think of it), the people who got in early or always on time lived in places where they relied on commuter trains or even ferries that follow set schedules. Often, these places have a high COL and high commuting costs, so people with families and money prefer to live out there and they aren’t at the mercy of the subway. Sometimes people make enough money to live within walking distance of their offices, but in NYC, that’s hard to come by (and I would never ever ever want to live within 20 blocks of my last two offices, it’s mayhem and I would have been living in a shoebox). Mix that with the “you just don’t know” factor; if you take a bus in from New Jersey every day and the bus arrives when it’s supposed to and is trucking along as it’s supposed to and there’s no traffic and then someone breaks down in the Lincoln Tunnel right in front of you… unpredictable.

        I don’t want to make too many excuses, because I am often insanely punctual to the point of anxiety, and I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to make his or her best effort to get to work on time. Someone I knew in college complained that her internship started at 8am and her “circadian rhythms just don’t work that way!” and I gave her hell. But for a non-exempt employee in New York (and in most places) there should be some flexibility.

        I work from home, and two weeks ago, between getting caught in the rain with the dog and my boyfriend wanting a ride to campus and a strange urgency to clean my bathroom, I was 30 minutes late logging in. There is no excuse for THAT, it was just me managing my time poorly. I was not penalized for it, and in my company culture it doesn’t really matter, but if the OP were in a similar situation to mine and logged in late every day, that would be a huge problem. She’s not, so I argue for some leeway.

        1. Bea W*

          My circadian rhythm doesn’t work that way either. I physically can not sustain working a job with an 8 am start for very long. That’s legit. Please don’t give people grief over something they can’t necessarily control.

    3. Rachel*

      Metra (commuter trains) in Chicago does this too. They have notes on little slips of paper that you pick up when you get off the train and walk into the station.

  11. Alliej0516*

    Maybe in your discussion with the boss, offer to take the offending missed minutes from your lunch hour?

  12. Jen*

    We’re pretty flexible on coming/going unless there’s something planned that you need to be here at a set time for. But I still get comments from coworkers every now and then because I come in later than they do, even though I stay later than them (ie I’m not charging 8 hrs work but only being here 7). Its just easier on my commute (I travel over twice as far as most of them) to come and go later time, rather than waste it in traffic, which they know but that doesn’t stop the occasional snark. I get similar comments when I work from home – because its not like my boss would know I didn’t do any work right? or I have so little to do I can skip out ::rolls eyes::

  13. Relosa*

    Okay so at first I thought AAM was waaayy too lenient on the guy, but then I realized I misread the line about “no matter what time I leave home within reason…” (I thought it read “no matter what time I leave for home within reason…” as in, leaving for the day, i.e. staying late)

    I’ve been there! And even at my place of work, my relief is scheduled at 5pm, but they all have other day jobs so I don’t mind if they’re late – they’re driving through the hairiest parts of traffic. My general rule is as long as I hear from them I don’t mind. Is it at all possible to give your boss a heads up if the second subway is late? Like “Hey, I’m on my way, my train just arrived though, I’ll be there at 9:03”

    That being said, I also take transit and at my weekend job I have to be there at 7am. Which means I have to get up around 4:30 am to get ready to meet the bus at 5:30. Because the next one doesn’t come for another hour, meaning I wouldn’t get to my stop that’s a 15-minute walk away from work until 7:15 am, ughhhh. Very annoying.

    So I feel you about “within reason,” :)

    That being said I am otherwise a person of “early is on time and on time is late,” namely because of the work cultures I got my bearings in when I first entered the workforce. And we were a front-facing place, etc. So I get paranoid sometimes if I know I’m gonna be 5 minutes late for something that isn’t a big deal.

  14. ts*

    Two pieces of advice that have never steered me wrong, given by my Dad before my first job. They have weathered many staff cuts, layoffs etc.
    1. Don’t be late for your job.
    2. Don’t fall asleep on your job.

    I have sat in my car up to 45 min because of day care drop-offs, long commutes, bad weather, bad roads etc, but I am not late. Ever.

    I understand Allison’s answer and in some office cultures is ok to be a few minutes late or if you are salary, having flexible time. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, as your boss wants you in at a specific time.

    Top performers get special treatment, and can be late when other people have to pick up the slack? Shameful.

    1. LBK*

      Top performers get special treatment, and can be late when other people have to pick up the slack? Shameful.

      How is that at all shameful? Top performers SHOULD get special treatment. It’s part of the benefits of being a top performer.

      1. Celeste*

        The thing is, the boss gets to decide what if any special treatment a top performer gets. You can ask for something, but they can still say no even if you’re awesome. Being a top performer doesn’t let you become the decision maker. Unfortunately.

      2. Office Girl*

        +1. SERIOUSLY. In fact, in an office environment your typical top performer is probably picking up other people’s slack, not the other way around.

    2. CTO*

      The OP doesn’t imply that anyone else is picking up her slack. She’s a top performer and no one else has to cover for her when she’s not there. That’s not exactly a situation I would call “shameful.”

      1. Chinook*

        ““Top performer” means there isn’t slack to pick up.”

        I disagree. There are always little office things that need to be done that a top performer can ignore because they are a top performer but still need to be done. Case in point is answering calls or opening the office (things that should been done by an admin. assistant but not all places have one).

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I’m in B2B sales and I have never, ever, not once in my 20+ years of being a professional sales person ever had to answer someone else’s phone or open the office. My customers have been scattered across a five-state region, and I can only think of one time when any of them actually came to the office. No one, ever, not even when I shattered my ankle had to pick up any slack from my job, because it was *my* job and no one else could do it. (And if a fellow sales person stepped in, I’d beat them with my crutches because that’s *my* commission they’re trying to steal).

          So it is entirely possible to be a top performer — especially in a commission-only environment — and never share job duties with another person. So if you’re 5 minutes late or take a week off, no one else’s duties or hours change one whit.

    3. the gold digger*

      I have always been on time, if not early, and have never fallen asleep at work. And yet I was laid off. These days, if you haven’t been laid off, it’s because you are lucky (and I do not begrudge you that luck, as I would not wish being laid off on almost anyone), and not because you are doing things right.

      1. CTO*

        I, too, have been laid off despite being a conscientious and high performer. It’s great to be timely, but correlation (I’m always on time and I’ve never been laid off) does not equal causation.

    4. KellyK*

      Top performers get special treatment, and can be late when other people have to pick up the slack? Shameful.

      Sure, if there’s slack to pick up. It’s one thing if other employees are scrambling because the OP is late. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.

  15. LawBee*

    There are only five days in a work week, so you’re coming in late every week, consistently. I think you need to stop trying to get there at 9am and accept that, for this job and this boss, your workday starts at 8am. And then spend that extra time in a local coffee shop or whatever. Arguing with your boss won’t get you anywhere in this situation.

  16. Another Poster*

    The thing is that in OPs case his/her commute IS fairly predictable. OP arrives between 9:00-9:10 3 to 5 days out of the week, so the issue is not that NYC commuting is difficult. The issue is that OP is taking too late of a train on a regular basis. The day’s that OP arrives on time are the variation, not the standard. It sounds like trains are actually running pretty regularly. What happens when it does rain (which always slows down subways) or there is an actual subway delay for mechanical issues or whatever reason? Then the OP is 20, 30, 40 min late ON TOP of his/her usual 10 min late.

    1. Another HR Pro*

      EXACTLY!!! I’ve worked in NJ, NYC and LA. I’ve dealt with horrible traffic and public transportation. You have to do what you have to do to get to your job on time. There will be OCCATIONAL issues that pop up, but on a day-to-day basis you need to be at work on time. By doing this, you earn flexibility and trust for when those unavoidable issues happen.

    2. Neeta*

      Doesn’t being a top performer mean that they are NOT slacking, though?
      And I fully agree with top performers being given some slack on less important stuff. In my experience it’s one of the most important things when it comes to retaining valuable employees.

    3. Anonsie*

      Agreed there.

      I wonder if this is a new thing, though? I had to move my morning up a few months ago when my morning bus started consistently coming 15-20 minutes late so that my 10 minute buffer between connections was no longer sufficient. The bus schedule in every conceivable place (phone app, transit company website, timetables posted at stops) still had the old scheduled times, so for about a week I stuck with it thinking that surely it would be better next time? I decided not to stick it out and just moved up one bus and now get to stand at my connecting stop for a really long time. I wonder if there was just some weird shift in the service to the LW’s stops and this hasn’t really been going on as long as it sounds?

  17. Celeste*

    I bet your boss is one of those “time is money” people, and feels that he owns every minute of your workday time. Even if it doesn’t affect the bottom line with your sales, he feels you’re somehow stealing. I think moral indignation is the basis for his stare. USE YOUR WORDS, PEOPLE.

    But I have to ask if you are falling into a trap where you feel that you will not give up one minute extra of your own day towards work. Clearly commuting is uncompensated time that you are giving already. Are you resistant to even a few extra minutes in order to satisfy this boss? Or would your particular commute mean that on good travel days, you’d arrive a whole hour early?

    I think it’s worth it to take a week and try taking the earlier train just to see if it’s something you can live with, or not. It might not be, but you should know that before you think about anything else. If you do it and your boss is still a jerk to you, then that is valuable information, too. Good luck! I would love an update.

    1. Jeanne*

      It’s amazing how many managers act like toddlers. We tell little kids to Use Your Words. This boss thinks a stare is more appropriate than a conversation. Pathetic.

  18. MR*

    My guess is that if the OP were a few minutes late once or twice a month, the boss likely wouldn’t notice. But this seems to be a nearly daily thing and therefore, it’s not a surprise that the boss is irritated.

    Basically, you need to suck this up and realize that this is a condition of your employment. If you can’t handle being in the office at 9, then you need to accept whatever punishment you are receiving, or find a new employer who is ok with you strolling in a few minutes late every day.

  19. Holly*

    For me, it comes down to what time you leave. If you’re staying late each day, or almost every day, this really shouldn’t be an issue (if I was boss, which obviously I’m not.)

    1. LBK*

      I find it really silly to expect someone to stay 2 minutes late, though. What are they reasonably even getting done in that time? If you’re an hour late, I get it. But a few minutes is extremely petty.

      1. Alano*

        I really like the policy of “if you’re 5 minutes late, then you should stay 5 minutes late.” I agree, a worker probably is not going to get much work done in those extra 5 minutes. But you have to remember that as a manager, we never know with 100% certainty whether someone is late for reasons beyond their control or if they’re intentionally waiting until the very last second to leave the house, etc. If people have to stay late that same day to compensate for being a few minutes late, they have an inherent incentive to arrive on time.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        To me its more a mind set / attitude from the employee are they a clock watcher and do they run out the door as soon as it’s finishing time or do they stay a little passed the time to tidy up, clear their desk or do some filing?

      3. Holly*

        It’s not expecting/enforcing someone staying late so much as observing if they regularly stay a little late, even just 5-10 minutes, to wrap up projects, answer emails, etc.

      4. Elsajeni*

        I wouldn’t look at it as minute-for-minute makeup time, but I think it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to this — it’s a question of whether you’re treating your start and end times as flexible when needed, or whether you’re only ever flexing them in the direction that benefits you. Like, if you’re 5 minutes late a couple times a week and you often leave 5 minutes early because you’ve reached a stopping point in your work and you’re defending that on the basis that your work schedule should be flexible, you should also be able to point to the times when you stayed an extra 5 minutes to reach that stopping point, or when your commute went weirdly quickly and instead of stalling in a coffeeshop you came in and got to work 10 minutes early.

      5. Office Girl*

        OK, two minutes is petty, but if it’s more than that, it adds up. My employee is 9-10 minutes late every day. Over the course of a week, that’s about an hour. Now, this doesn’t really matter for this particular person because he is frequently at work 30-60 minutes extra on any given day wrapping things up. But given that the general expectation is for a full 8 hours to be put in when the workload is heavy, for him to arrive at 8:10 every day and be powering down at 4:59 wouldn’t look good.

    2. Another HR Pro*

      Not necessarily. If other people are at work and need to interact with you at 9 am and you are not there or if your phone is ringing and those calls go to someone else because you aren’t there it is an inconvenience to your co-workers.
      For me, being on time is about being courteous and respectful.

      1. Judy*

        I’d think in a commission only sales job, the someone else who answered the calls would be happy to take the commission.

      2. Zillah*

        I dunno – I’ve rarely had a job where being five minutes late got in the way of being courteous and respectful.

  20. FormerNYCCommuter*

    One thing I think everyone’s overlooking is the, for lack of a better term, “traffic flow” in the NYC subway system. Just because he’s consistently arriving between 9 and 9:10 now doesn’t mean that shifting his commute 15 minutes earlier will make him arrive consistently between 8:45 and 8:55. Example time: When I used to commute to NYC, I would take a commuter rail train into one of the central hubs, then two different subway lines to reach my office. I had several commuter train options – one got me to central hub at 8, the next at 8:15, and the last at 8:20ish. No matter which one I took, I invariably got to my office between 9 and 9:15. I don’t totally understand the math of it, but basically, if I got to central hub at 8 or 8:15, I was more likely to be waylaid by subways too crowded to board and missed connections caused by increased foot traffic in the connecting stations, so my subway commute took longer than it did when I got to central hub at 8:20, which seemed to be towards the back-end of the main crunch. My only other option was a commuter train that got me to central hub at 7:40, which got me to my desk by 8:05 every day absent utter catastrophe (since at 7:40, I was ahead of the main crunch and didn’t experience the same delays). I had flexible hours anyway, so I usually chose the earlier train, but I can see how, in a position where you’re being paid hourly or where you don’t have work that you can get done in that 8:05-9am window because you, say, work with customers and they’re not available at that time, it could be really frustrating to leave 30 or 45 minutes early on the daily just to stare at your cubicle wall for 55 minutes.

    Ultimately, I think the “get there on time/early or deal with the consequences” advice is the only possible advice here regardless, but I did want to stick up for the OP on the “no matter what time I leave home within reason” point. With the NYC subway system, depending on which lines you’re using and where your connections are, it really is possible to have no option other than “maybe five minutes late” or “absurdly early” when it comes to timing out your commute.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      But if this person doesn’t take a commuter rail (which he/she doesn’t mention) then there’s really no excuse. But I do think the boss is being ridiculous even though I’m never, ever late for work.

      1. fposte*

        She does say “subway lines” toward the end, but I could see the same situation/faceoff happening over any kind of commute. To me the point isn’t that the OP doesn’t control the trains or would have to leave earlier, it’s that she and her boss need to be on the same page about when it’s okay for her to arrive.

        1. Anonsie*

          Agreed– I’ve lived several places with extreme traffic patterns that also cause this even if you drive.

      2. FormerNYCCommuter*

        The delays I was talking about happened in the NYC subway portion of my commute. So, if I started my subway commute at 8 or 8:15 or 8:20, I got to my desk at the same time (within 5 minutes) regardless of my “subway start time.” The commuter rail was actually the only part of my commute that was reasonable – the subways were murderously unreliable.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Also, let’s not forget that the subways don’t really run on a schedule. They’re designed to accommodate things like sick passengers, stalls, jackasses sticking their feet in the closing doors, etc. And it’s only gotten worse over the past few years in an antiquated system that’s suffering from severe overcrowding. The NYC subway is a beloved, special beast.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        This is a really valuable point. I loved the subway and it always got me where I needed to go, but I think people from other places expect there to be a schedule, like you can plan to take the 8:03 train. Instead, it’s more like you show up at 8 because there’s usually a train around then, and usually it comes by 8:05, but sometimes it doesn’t come until 8:15, and some days you’re running late and get there at 8:04 just as the train is leaving, and then you’re out of luck for the next 10-15 minutes… unless you’re inexplicably lucky and another train comes 30 seconds later.

    3. CTO*

      My town has a much less complex transit system than NYC, but even I can understand this. For instance, there’s a bus that goes essentially straight from my house to my office in 20 minutes. However, it only runs at very limited times. To get to/from work at any other time of day (for instance, to arrive 15 minutes earlier or stay 15 minutes later) I have to take at least two buses/trains and the trip can take 40-60 minutes.

      I still agree that if OP’s boss sees OP’s “lateness” as a problem, then it’s OP’s problem to fix no matter what time she has to leave home. But I can empathize that it might result in a drastically longer day for her.

    4. KellyK*

      Yeah, unfortunately, that’s the issue with public transportation. You can’t just leave 15 minutes early and get there 15 minutes sooner.

      I think your advice is exactly what the OP should do if he talks to his boss and it turns out the start time is not flexible at all. The one thing I would add is that if he does get there early, he should feel under absolutely no obligation to start working early. (It might benefit him if he’s exempt and starting early means not working late.)

    5. LawBee*

      My interpretation is that the OP (I have no idea what LW means, although I see it all over comments here) is trying to leave the house so she arrives at work exactly at 9am. If her commute is that unpredictable due to the NYC subways, then she needs to start trying to show up to work at 8:30, or 8:15. Basically, she hasn’t built in the apparently predictable (because it’s “a few times a week”) travel delays, so she needs to leave the house earlier.

      Yes, her boss is being a child about it, but he’s her boss and he gets to do that. She needs to get to work on time or find a new boss.

  21. Joey*

    I’m curious. What exactly can you say without looking like you’re biased? I’m a top performer so I deserve slack? It doesn’t affect work? Surely those arguable points as your boss thinks otherwise. And if you’re insisting he’s wrong you’re also telling him that you know the business better than he. Its fine to voice disagreement, but if you’re not accepting his answer that turns into being argumentative or dismissive. Both bigger problems than being a few minutes late.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      This is what bugged me too.

      However, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “due to the nature of the trains, I’m struggling with getting in at 9 sharp consistently. Can you help me understand the Impact my late arrival has?”

      Then actually listen. The boss may have a legitimate reason. They may also be a clock watcher, and if that’s the case, you have your answer on if this is OK or not loud and clear. Trying to change his mind on this is going to be a losing proposition for the OP.

      1. LBK*

        I don’t get how this can bug you when there’s been exactly zero discussion so far – the boss hasn’t even mentioned the issue in passing, just glared at the OP. We tell people to bring things up with their managers all the time, I’m not understanding the strong reactions from both of you (moreso Joey) about the OP daring to bring this up with the boss. There’s literally been nothing said about the subject between them so far.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        This works for me. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the boss actually has a good reason for wanting OP in by precisely 9am, and that OP doesn’t know this reason.

  22. ali*

    If OP’s boss really has a problem with this, rather than passive-agressively staring, maybe they should take the initiative to speak to OP about it. It doesn’t matter if the OP should leave earlier or not. This is not a good boss if they have a problem with an employee’s behavior and can’t actually TALK to them about it. It really bugs me that OP is the one that is going to have to initiate the conversation. Ridiculous.

  23. Noelle*

    I feel like managers who are sticklers for this are using it as a performance metric because they don’t have better ones. For instance, my boss doesn’t care when you come in but if you leave a minute before 6 it will be a Big. Deal. This is annoying because if you come in on time you’re punished by having to stay longer than the people who wander in over an hour late. Even worse though, is I think this is so important to my boss because he doesn’t know how else to evaluate the employees. Sometimes I think he wouldn’t notice if people were gone all day, as long as they were in their chairs at 6.

  24. Richard*

    I guess I’m in the minority on this one. I tend to feel like showing up for work on time is a basic skill – like not having misspellings on your resume. I’m willing to talk about what “on time” is, and adjust start time for people, but I don’t appreciate folks who just can’t plan.

    I commute 35 miles into DC every day, so don’t tell me I don’t get how hard that is – two hours this morning, instead of my usual 35 minutes (at 5:15am…), and I still made it in “on time”. Normally, I’m absurdly early. I either get work done in that time, or I visit with other early folks, or go for a morning run. I don’t, however, blame my company for my choice of a long and unpredictable commute.

    1. Joey*

      If you’re exempt on time means in time to get the work done. It doesn’t mean being treated like a non-exempt employee. We’re adults here. I’ll do whatever it takes to do the job and you treat me like an adult and not like a kindergarten teacher handing out tardy slips. Because if you watch the clock, guess what, I’ll start watching it too.

      1. KellyK*

        This is a really good point. I have a lot more sympathy for employers who expect strict punctuality when *time* is what they’re actually paying you for (or even if you are exempt, but you still work exactly eight hours). But a company that expects you to be flexible about when you leave should be flexible (within reason) about when you arrive.

      2. TotesMaGoats*

        Even if you are exempt, you can still be required to be at your desk at a certain start time. Exempt doesn’t mean coming in whenever as long as your work is done.

        1. fposte*

          Right, I have exempt positions where you have to be there at a certain time, and exempt positions where you don’t.

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            Exactly. I had an exempt team that I required in at 8am. We were supporting a business unit that was tied to market hours (8:30). I wanted everyone in and make sure that systems were operational prior to opening bell. I let someone go for consistently showing up at 8:20. To this day, I know he still blames me.

            Meanwhile, my current team can (and does) show up whenever they want, as long as they get their work done.

            It is the nature of their work, and not the exempt status, that drives my approach to punctuality.

        2. Joey*

          actually it does mean that you get paid for doing the job, not punching a clock. If being there at 8sharp is required to get the job done that’s still doing whatever it takes. But if the job doesn’t require it then you’re no longer being treated as an exempt employee.

        1. TNTT*

          If we’re all adults, can’t we all read a clock and get to work when we said we’d get there? Because that’s what this is. OP took this job knowing it started at nine, and she can’t keep up that commitment. Like an adult.

          1. Joey*

            If we’re all adults can’t we all understand that being nitpicky for no reason is going to piss me off and make me want to work for somebody else that recognizes that performance is what matters. and i can tell you that these little things make the difference in a high performer being happy at his job or not.

            1. LawBee*

              but the thing is, you’re not her boss. She needs to work with what her boss is requiring of her (which I agree is silly) – or she needs to find a new job where they give her more leeway.

              Lots of people commute in NYC. I bet not everyone is late to their job “a few times a week” when they know their boss doesn’t like it.

          2. Cat*

            Butmost adult professional jobs don’t require you to be in on the foot of nine unless there’s a business reason. Start time of Nino doesn’t usually mean you said you’d get there at nine. It’s just not a normal expectation.

          3. LBK*

            Arbitrary criteria for success are a great way to drive away high performers who have the option of finding another office that bases performance expectations on what you deliver, not how many seconds per day you spend in the office.

      3. Bea W*

        Exactly. I often stay late to finish things up or if the work load is heavy, except the one time an employer took the kindergarten teacher approach and I started blocking off my calendar at 5:30 because i had no desire or motivation to be more flexible with my time under those circumstances. It didn’t matter if i was on time anyway. It was being treated like a school girl that turned me off. Boss says office hours are 9-5:30, no tardies, that’s no tardies on both ends. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          This. I’m working for a slightly different clock-watching boss who requires his employees to be at their desks until 6, although he doesn’t seem to care when they show up in the morning. Until I was informed that it was Not Okay for me to leave 15-20 minutes early on days when our workload was lighter and I had finished my work for the day and needed to run an errand, I frequently came in early and stayed late, especially when the workload was heavy. (I feel compelled to mention that this happened 2 or 3 times over the course of 1.5-2 months, so it wasn’t like it was a daily occurrence.) Now? You better believe I’m out of there at 6:00 every day, no matter what the workload looks like. I’m a lot less inclined to be flexible with my time to help the company when there’s no flexibility in return. Although, I do still come in early, but that’s mainly to benefit me because I work better in the mornings, with diminishing productivity in the late afternoon/evening.

          I realize this makes me sound like a terrible employee, but I’m actually a top performer on my team. It’s unfortunate because this annoys me enough that I eventually will leave my job because of it, and my employer will be upset to lose me. I get the sense that if the choice came down to retaining me or holding firm with the butt-in-chair-until-6:00 policy, they would decide the policy isn’t really that important, but I can’t come up with a way of presenting that to my manager that doesn’t seem like whining or threatening. So I’ve resigned myself to working within the conditions they’ve set for the job with the expectation that at some point in the next year or so I’ll become irritated enough that I’ll find a different job where my productivity and the quality of my work matter more than how long I’m in the office.

  25. SH*

    Frequently showing up five minutes late (especially in a workaholic city like NYC) tends to reflect poorly on the worker. I think the OP should just catch an earlier train and read a book in a coffee shop.

  26. Suzanne*

    I’ve worked several places like this where one minute late was pretty much the same as being half a day late. I never understood the mentality unless you were working with the public who would be clamoring at your door at a certain time. If I show up 10 minutes late, I’m happy to stay 10 minutes over or take 10 minutes off my lunch time.

    It does not matter how much time you allow but stuff happens sometimes which make you late. A train wreck, a power outage putting all the traffic signals out of commission, flooded road, or who knows what else. One place I worked quit being so anal about it after a woman slid off an icy road and died trying to get to work on time in the midst of a snow storm. Why in the world should it come to that??

      1. Suzanne*

        I wasn’t working there when it happened, but I heard about it. So very sad.
        The last job I had before my current job told us that we could not be more than 3 minutes late. Why? I never did know other than that they could hold that over our heads. It was a professional position, too. It was even more ridiculous because several times, my computer malfunctioned first thing in the morning and it took them 2 hours to get it going. So, by gum, I was there on time…and did nothing for two hours.

  27. Eric*

    Your boss is a crazy person. It’s completely reasonable and understood in New York that sometimes your train shits the bed and you get there a couple minutes late.

  28. Tinker*

    Heh. I think this is almost like the case of the year-off-to-travel OP in that there are going to be some people out there for whom the subject of lateness or actual lateness itself pushes the button that activates the industrial-mode work ethic / kids these days circuit and at that point all is lost. If you’re dealing with one of those types — and it seems likely in this case — then it really doesn’t matter whether it IS reasonable or not for them to do this as it’s not likely that they’re going to stop.

    So you’ve got to decide whether to live with it, and from my perspective the sanctity of my mornings being slightly less horrible than they would be otherwise (being as I am sure as hell not a sparrow or whatever) is worth seeking out places that accommodate this — particularly given as I work in an owl-centric profession and it’s not that hard. It’s not an unreasonable choice to make, necessarily, but it is a choice.

    1. Heather*

      This! I don’t relieve anybody and there’s no set time that the work starts coming in or has to be finished, so it makes zero difference whether I get there at 8:30 or 9:45 (although I imagine my boss would pass out if she saw me there at 8:30). I *know* I suck at being on time and I take that into account when making career and employer choices. I readily admit that I’d be fired within a week if I tried to be a teacher and had to show up by 7:30 every morning…so I went for the simple solution and didn’t become a teacher.

      That said, it’s kind of disturbing to me how many people in this thread seem to think that being a few minutes late is some kind of moral failing. I’d love to know how well a person’s attitude about lateness correlates with whether they’re a night or morning person. Are the morning people assuming that it’s as easy for everyone else to “just get up a little earlier” as it is for them?

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, the moral failing thing is really bothering me, as is the sentiment that it’s flat out wrong to not punish people who are late.

        1. Tinker*

          Absolutely, yes. Granted that people work in a variety of industries and some folks may be used to an environment where arriving on the minute really is important — but there really are a lot of places out there where this is not the case and it seems kind of gratuitous to make an issue about it anyway.

  29. Gah, trains!*

    I have a similar train-based time issue with my job. I start at 8am and due to the train timetable I can either arrive at approx 8:03-8:05 (assuming I power walk from the station which is barely 10 minutes away)

    OR I can arrive at ridiculous o’clock at like 6:40am…

    Unfortunately, I can’t even make up the time at the end of the day by staying later as I have to leave fairly punctually at the end of the day to catch my train (or wait an hour and a half for the next one)

    Luckily, my boss is understanding of the train times (and a few of my coworkers use the same train).

    (though we do receive some inbound phone calls, this is not generally a job that requires me to be extremely on time).

  30. Joline*

    Has the OP spoken to their boss about maybe starting 15 minutes later? They say that the boss is very strict about start times and that they’re glared at upon late arrival. The boss might not have an issue with a later start time – just with someone being late to the scheduled start time (whenever that may be). And yes, the boss should speak to the OP about it if it’s an issue. But I also think the OP should maybe speak to the boss about the situation and see if there’s a solution. Right now it seems to be a bit of a standoff with neither side just speaking about the issue.

  31. SherryD*

    I agree with the OP. Commissioned sales people are there to generate sakes for the company, and there compensated accordingly. Is OP meeting her budget? If yes, then a good sales manager won’t nickel-and-dime her on being a couple minutes late, or taking a smoke break, or whatever. If the OP isn’t meeting sales targets, then it’s time to talk about habits impeding productivity.

    I don’t mean that “anything goes” if you’re a commissioned sales person — you still need to represent the company professionally. But staying till 5:05 because you came in at 9:05 makes no sense, since this employee isn’t paid by the hour anyway.

    I agree, though, ultimately the boss’s wishes are the bottom line. Too bad his wishes are so silly.

  32. Cloudy*

    OP, While I do agree that your boss is being too sticky about promptness, what you tell us in your letter doesn’t make sense. You say you are having so much anxiety about this issue that you’re losing sleep over it, yet you have to ask whether you should set your alarm clock earlier! Yes, go to sleep earlier, set your alarm clock earlier, and leave for work earlier, so you can get to work on time and allieviate your stress. Of all the work challenges you have and will face, this is one you can easily remedy. I offer this advice as one who commuted by public transportation in NYC for more than 25 years, starting with high school. I’m retired now after a long and mostly successful work life. One thing I learned is not to tick off the boss by being late. Advice from an old fogey which I hope you will consider in the kind spirit it is being given to you. Now get off my lawn.

    1. LBK*

      It sounds insane, but the same thing happened to be when I was being grilled for lateness. I was SO stressed out that I couldn’t get to sleep or had trouble staying asleep, so then trying to drag myself of bed and get ready in a timely manner became even harder.

      It really sounds like you’re more of a morning person, and I assure you it’s really not as easy as it sounds. On days when I force myself to get up earlier, I often end up being ready at the same time anyway because I don’t move as fast since I’m more tired.

      1. AVP*

        Yeah, I have the same thing…I can get up easily if I have a lot of adrenaline (if I know it’s a busy day and I want to get in early, or if I have a specific meeting set up) but otherwise it just comes. so. hard. Falling asleep before midnight is impossible unless I’m dead exhausted. I have one cup of coffee a day by 10am, exercise every day, follow all the sleeping rules…it’s just really hard to train your body to be on a schedule that isn’t what it wants.

        1. KayDay*

          This is me, too. I’m absolutely okay getting to a big meeting at 7am or catching a flight at 6am, but trying to get into the office at 8.30 (when I normally start at 9) just because….can’t do it. (That said, an angry boss would definitely be enough adrenaline to get me up early for a while.) And a good number of people find it almost impossible to one day decide to go to sleep earlier than normally–changing the time you fall asleep for a lot of people requires at least a few sleepy days before your body adjusts.

          1. LBK*

            I’m like this too! I have no problem getting up at 4AM to catch an early flight, but trying to get up a half hour earlier than normal for a meeting is like trying to wake myself from a coma. It’s really weird.

          2. Heather*

            I’m so glad some night people finally showed up. I was starting to feel like the laziest person on the planet.

            I really think “night person vs. morning person” is on a par with “introvert vs. extrovert.”

            1. LBK*

              Agreed. It’s one of those things where you almost feel like you don’t have free will over your own body.

            2. Zillah*

              Yes. As a night person, I completely agree. “It’s not that hard to get up earlier” is actually pretty insulting, IMO. I wonder what those people would say to the idea of pushing their bedtime back an hour or more, regularly, for no clear benefit. That’s the best analogy I can come up with.

              Yeah, it may be a condition of employment that you have to deal with, but try to be a little more aware of other people and don’t add insult to injury. Night people already have to live in a world that generally caters to morning people. Lay off the accusations of moral shortcomings, you know?

    2. Gah, trains!*

      Due to this phrase they used, “Regardless of how early I leave home (within reason)” I would guess they’d have to do more than get up just a little bit earlier to fix this. Train times can sometimes make it more complicated than just getting up an extra 5 mins earlier.

      For example, my options for trains are either to take a 7am train (makes me about 2-5mins late which luckily, my boss is fine with) or to go for the fairly insane route of taking the 5:30am train which is the next earliest (and then be just waiting outside the locked office building for over an hour and a half once I’ve arrived – there is nowhere nearby I could go).

      I wonder if OP’s train options would require them to be unreasonable/insanely early if they went for a ‘be earlier’ option. If not, then I would tend to agree with you (eg. if it was a case of leaving about 20-30mins earlier, that would be reasonable).

      1. Anonsie*

        That’s a good point– if this is a commission sales job, I wouldn’t be surprised if the business is not even open to employees until right before opening. So showing up any earlier would mean standing outside a locked door.

      2. Harry*

        I call complete BS on the “Regardless of how early I leave home” comment. No way. It’s the New York City public transportation system, and at that time of day the trains run every few minutes. This is a person who cannot or will not make appropriate changes to their morning routine.

        1. Zillah*

          I can name three or four trains off the top of my head that either do not run every few minutes during rush hour or are often too packed to fit on at certain stops.

          If you live in NYC and have never had that experience, you are lucky. I definitely have, as have other commenters who have talked about it.

          Or are we lying/full of it, too?

          1. Harry*

            Lifetime NY’er here. Use public transportation daily.

            Get on an earlier train, make an earlier connection, arrive at work on time. Problem solved. This person is just unwilling and unable to make the necessary adjustments to get to work on time. Yes, it means getting up earlier, leaving for work earlier, and arriving earlier, potentially losing some of your free time (which is still yours, you’re just not at home).

            There are people who commute for hours in each direction every day and arrive on time. Having to extend your commute time to arrive to work on time isn’t a hardship or something that is unreasonable to expect of someone.

            1. Zillah*

              But asking for a tiny bit of flexibility with start times when it doesn’t seem to affect anyone is unreasonable?

              Sorry, but my morning time is valuable to me. An employer who thinks that me being in my chair five minutes earlier a few days a week when it doesn’t affect my workflow is worth my wasting two or three hours a week is not an employer I want to work for. Nor is it an employer I’m ever going to go above and beyond for.

              I’m going to assume that you’re a morning person. As a night person, what you’re describing would have a major impact on my morale and quality of life, and it would also make me a less effective worker.

              If that’s the job, it is what it is. But if there’s not a clear benefit? I hate it.

  33. AVP*

    ooh, OP, if you find out you do need to start getting to work earlier, here’s what I do….for reference I take the A from bed-Stuy and transfer to the J, two of the most unreliable trains, so it can either take 25 minutes or an hour with no rhyme or trackable reason. I’m also not a morning person so leaving 20 minutes later sometimes feels like a life or death decision.

    My office doesn’t really care but I have been trying to get in on time. I usually buy my coffee on the way in, on the corner of my office, which takes 5-10 minutes. So I plan that into my commute, and then skip it if I’m running late – it’s just enough time to make a difference if you build it into your schedule and then don’t have to take it. And then I can get coffee later on a break if I want to…but having that variable 10 minutes has saved my butt a few times!

  34. nicolefromqueens*

    I’ve been late plenty of times in all of my morning (hourly) jobs. At some point, your 9:05 will become someone else’s 9:05, and that will trickle to 10AM. Or your boss will have to hear about and/or accommodate someone else’s flexibility. And your boss doesn’t want that.

    It’s pretty much widely known that a subway ride that takes 35 minutes at 12PM will take at least 50 minutes at 8AM on a good day, and frequently longer. The more trains you have to take, the more buffer you need. NYC’s tracks are inter connected, so an incident on one line can cause problems on a lot of other lines.

    Yes it sucks, but it’s better to be 20 minutes early than 2 minutes late. Either wake up earlier or bring breakfast to work and wait until 9.

    1. LBK*

      At some point, your 9:05 will become someone else’s 9:05, and that will trickle to 10AM. Or your boss will have to hear about and/or accommodate someone else’s flexibility. And your boss doesn’t want that.

      This is BS that only a bad manager works around. Assuming that letting one person doing something will require you to let all other employees do it is a fallacy. Good performance gets rewarded, that’s just how the job works. You want flexibility like the top performer? Get to their level.

      1. Harry*

        No it’s not. If you allow high performer #1 to be late every day, but then want to fire bottom performer #2 due to attendance, (or anyone else for attendance when it’s well known that you do not treat everyone the same) you give bottom performer #2 recourse to contact a lawyer.

        1. SomethingClever*

          No, actually, that’s not correct, at least in the US (lawyer here). As long as an employer has a legitimate business reason to fire you, it doesn’t matter (and you have no grounds for a law suit) if other people are allowed to “get away with” something that’s contributing to why you’re being fired. Private employers get to treat people differently for whatever reason they want as long as that reason doesn’t correlate to discrimination against a protected class. “Anyone who wears a red shirt on Tuesdays gets fired” is not illegal, unless wearing a red shirt on Tuesdays has something to do with your membership in a protected class (it’s still utterly stupid and I’d hope no one hires/fires this way, but there’s no law that prevents employers from acting in ways that are arbitrary or bizarre).

          Firing a poor performer for lateness while continuing to employ a top performer who is frequently late isn’t grounds for any kind of lawsuit, unless lateness is somehow correlated with membership in a protected class and was being used as an “excuse” to conceal discrimination (which would be incredibly difficult to prove if the person being fired also happened to be a poor performer, and was focusing their claim on comparision to a top performer who was being treated differently – poor performance is pretty much the epitome of “legitimate reason to fire an employee,” no?).

  35. KayDay*

    I understand the OP’s pain, since a lot of times, with public transportation, you might only have the option of arriving at either 8.40 or 9.05, for example. If being at one’s desk isn’t necessary to do one’s job, I see no reason why getting in at 9.05 is so bad (other than the boss’s preference in this case). I actually did that one (office) job (i.e I arrived at 8.40 instead of 9.05) and all my co-workers couldn’t understand why I was always there early. But it definitely does depend on the nature of the job. In my case, I was both non-exempt, but also not in an hourly-by-nature job (i.e. I didn’t need to be ready to answer phones at exactly 9am or anything like that). So, in hind-sight, some of those “it-really-isn’t-necessary” comments may have come from my boss not wanting me to go into overtime. On the other hand, in all my retail/food service jobs, it always expected that starting at 9am meant being 100% ready to start working at 9:00 and 0 seconds. (and they would rather pay for the extra minutes than have an employee be late).

    All that said, I think MikeB is right on the money that at a certain point “it’s no longer about the validity of the rule… but about insubordination.” This might be a case in which the OP needs to suck it up an deal with crappy rule.

  36. J-nonymous*

    I had a boss who would get angry with anyone if they were even a few minutes late; she got upset with me if I was late to my desk. On the third time it happened (in months of being there), I received an email from her with no message in the body, just a subject line “arrived 8:07”. I’m fairly sure she didn’t mean to send it to me but intended to save it to her drafts folder as a tickler file.

    I was *livid* – I mean, absolutely livid. I worked anywhere from 9 to 11 hours a day and I was getting sweated for 7 minutes?

    Then I calmed down and remembered that, whatever my opinion of the way it was delivered, I was getting feedback from my boss about my performance and that feedback wasn’t positive. So I decided to make sure I left at least 20 minutes earlier so that I would always be in before 8AM.

    Do I wish I had had a director who could have articulated why she expected all her exempt employees, who routinely put in extra hours on the job, to be at their desks at the exact time she required us to post on notecards pinned to our cubicle walls? Sure. But at the same time, she probably wished she only had employees who simply KNEW that punctuality was next to cleanliness was next to godliness. And anyway, in the long run it wouldn’t have materially affected the outcome of the whole thing, which was my adjusting my schedule.

    So my advice is: take the feedback, crappy as it is, and adjust your schedule so you arrive before your start time. And maybe look for a new job if you think your boss is truly that controlling (versus reacting to what he sees as continual lateness).

    1. J-nonymous*

      By the way, the above-mentioned director was a terrible director. She didn’t know how to lead her department and her attention to punctuality stemmed from her inability to measure the performance of the people she led because she had so little understanding of what they did and what was required to do the jobs they performed.

      If that seems true about your boss, it’s definitely time to leave. If not, then there’s probably a more slow-burning/slow-building issue at play here and one that it would be good to address and resolve.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        I have had a couple dozen managers in my 30 years of working and the worst — by far — were the clock-watchers. As in, they knew to the second what time everyone in a department of 50 came in, but were oblivious how far past “closing” time anyone stayed. If my job doesn’t require me to, say, open a retail store or start answering the office phones by X time, then how much *good* managing can someone do when they spend all their energy tracking what time people arrived at the office? Good grief, I’ve had managers keep spreadsheets — over and above the time-tracking system used by payroll — so they could make pie charts of how many people were under five minutes late in any given time period. Waste. Of. Time.

        These were the same managers that could never help me with a tricky situation with a client. Could never move roadblocks out of my way to get a deal closed. Who were a liability to me if they ever spoke to my clients. In short, they could track time and make lots and lots of spreadsheets about metrics that had nothing to do with closing sales and driving revenue growth.

        1. J-nonymous*

          You described my former Director perfectly. She was also quite skilled at sharing all kinds of inappropriate personal information about everyone in the office but she had no suggestions for how to move forward with dealing with conflicting high priority projects (and couldn’t evaluate her direct reports’ suggestions adequately either), or how to handle difficult employees whose morale had tanked over the past three years. She’s since been pressured into leaving that role, so I suppose that’s a positive. I’m sure she’ll land somewhere soon and will be able to hone her time-tracking skills to perfection.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Ha! You just reminded me that one of my clock-watchers was also great at gossiping about her subordinates. And rotating through favorites. It got to be a joke in the office: If she said something pleasant to someone, everyone would say, “Wait. Are you Manager’s favorite this week? I thought it was Jon. Everybody, pull out your tracking sheets and update them.” If you were her favorite-of-the-week, you’d get pulled into an empty conference room so she could gossip about and bad-mouth last week’s favorite-of-the-week. Very, very dysfunctional.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent point here, OP. Your boss is letting you know that he does not have great management skills. He is going to save the world by making sure everyone is punctual.

        My hero. (NOT)

        I had one boss that was going to save the company by limiting the number of pens we had.
        Another fearless leader dinged me for being 30 seconds late. I wanted to ask him if he had set the clock to GMT just to ensure accuracy. But I didn’t.

        Just because someone has the title manager does not mean they know how.

  37. MisterPickle*

    Just an observation: I suspect this is one of those letters that has had a polarizing effect on people because it doesn’t include enough information. Not that I think this was done intentionally – it just happens. For instance, I’d like to know how early the OP would have to leave home in order to consistently arrive on time. And: is there anything in the nature of the job where being a few minutes late could make a difference to the boss / the company / co-workers? Does the OP stay late at the office, and if so, how late and how often? Is there any reason why flex-time simply won’t work here? Is the OP being singled out? Or is he the only person who has this lateness issue? What kind of penalty can the boss inflict? (Maybe glaring is all he is empowered to do)(or maybe the OP is worried about getting his legs broken?)

    Insofar as it’s pretty much impossible for every letter to AAM to provide *all* of the details, I suspect if we knew more here there would be more consensus amongst the AAM commentators. Although it is arguable whether or not that’s even a good thing – it’d be boring here if we all agreed about everything.

  38. ThursdaysGeek*

    After reading a lot of the comments, I had to go back and read the original letter. It sounds like the boss has not actually SPOKEN to her about being late, just “angrily staring at me and staring at the clock.” Certainly she should try to get there earlier if necessary. But sometimes looks are misinterpreted, and an angry stare is really someone concentrating and not even seeing the other person. Looking at the person and the clock does seem to be sending a message, but as people have said many times here, some people look angry when they are not. Speak up and find out what your boss is really thinking!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      With this guy, he may be thinking she should be wearing the company colors and she isn’t, AGAIN. And WHY NOT?!

  39. L*

    To me, this is where the boss runs the risk of losing a top performing employee because they are inflexible. If OP is still easily making her targets despite being 5 minutes late due to public transit being public transit, yet the boss insists on being a power lord over 5 minutes, he is running the risk of the employee thinking he is ridiculous and moving on from the job or not putting in as much effort because she is ‘done’ with him. I am surprised so many people are like ‘just take an earlier train’. In some people’s commute, that is another hour they will lose from their day. We already spend so much time at work. In my case, I’d lose another 5 hours of my week if I had to take the earlier train.

    1. Colette*

      It’s true that the boss might lose a top-performing employee over this – but if she’s willing to take that chance, it’s hers to take. Not all jobs are flexible on when you start – some because the nature of the work isn’t flexible, and others because the person signing the paycheck doesn’t consider them to be flexible. If the OP isn’t willing to leave earlier, her option is to either talk to the boss about it or find a new job, not to continue to come in late and assume there should be no negative repercussions.

  40. Manager anon*

    Yes. I need you to be on time. After reading the comments and the excuses and looking at the last 15 years of my life and trying not to be mean or snarky. It wasn’t a secret that the job starts at 9:00. Be ready to work at 9:00. How many readers are parents?How would you feel if your child’s kindergarten teacher was consistently late for work or not ready to work when the first child steps through that door at 8:30? Would you care that the F train was running late? We make choices every day. It is a choice to leave your home at a certain time that has you walking through the office door 5 minutes late. If it is a problem for your supervisor , he/she should document and discuss not “give you the stink eye”

    1. MisterPickle*

      I think that everyone would agree that there are some jobs that, as in your examples, require arriving to work on-time. But OP’s job does not appear to be one of those kinds of jobs. Why can’t he be allowed a few minutes of “flex time”? Especially if he is a top performer kind of person?

      1. hayling*

        Totally depends on the job. If you have to be at a meeting, answer phones, be on the sales floor, etc – be on time. If not, and you’re a top performer, who cares?

    2. Editor*

      Upthread many people have asked if it is necessary to be on time for that particular job. No, I wouldn’t want my child’s teacher to be late, but it does happen. When I worked at jobs where I had to be on time, I was on time. But I’ve had several jobs where it just didn’t matter if I was late or not because my deadlines weren’t daily deadlines and the job was not time-sensitive down to the minute.

      Punctuality isn’t the essence of work ethic. My children had some dreadful teachers who were punctual, followed the rules, and were so focused on whether the handwriting was neat and the papers in the right order that they didn’t notice whether their students understood their lessons.

      Manager anon, I’m sorry, but not every job has a schedule and not every schedule needs to be inflexible.

      1. Manager Anonymous*

        okay here is my yes, but…
        Who gets to decide what is reasonable in regards to punctuality?
        Your child’s teacher who was dreadful but punctual needed supervisory observations and a pip.

    3. Zillah*

      To me, this seems like the same logic as not allowing anyone to work from home bc the receptionist can’t do it. Your child’s teacher is irrelevant – it’s apples to oranges. Different jobs require different things. I don’t understand why you’re using teachers as a guideline; last time I checked, most people don’t have to start work at 730 or get summers off, either.

      1. Heather*

        Or deal with kids every day! I don’t think you could come any closer to my definition of hell than “being a 7th grade teacher” :)

  41. Jeanne*

    I’m confused by only working for comissions. Does that mean even if you work 40 hours, if you don’t sell enough, you don’t even get minimum wage? So is this person even an employee? It seems to me to be related to the whole employee vs contractor thing. Since I’m not familiar with sales, it might not be. But it seems to me that this is something the employee could reasonably push back on.

    Yes, I understand what everyone is saying about being on time is inherently good and the boss gets what he wants. But the boss isn’t even paying him to be there.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve never worked for commission only, but I’d guess that they’re guaranteed 40 hours minimum wage.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      Yep, a commission-sales job means you only get paid if you sell something. Here’s a definition I found on “A commission-only job is just that—you get a percentage of, or a flat fee for, every sale you make. How much you take home is entirely dependent on how well you sell. If you don’t sell, you don’t make any money. The potential risk and reward are high.”

      So in the OP’s case, the boss isn’t paying for the OP’s time, he’s paying for sales results. If OP can meet or exceed her quota even though she shows up 4 minutes late, then the boss is out of line for getting upset at the tardiness.

  42. Marvel*

    Maybe I’m biased, but this actually reads as pretty reasonable to me? (Well, not the angry staring, that’s just weird.) I work in theatre, and in theatre, if call time is 9:00, 9:01 means you’re getting marked late by the stage manager. If you don’t show up until 9:01-9:05 multiple times per week, you’re in trouble. I don’t care how talented you are. You need to be on time.

    Leave as early as you need to; bring something to do if you end up 30+ minutes early. If it’s a choice between between 30 minutes early and a couple of minutes late, BE EARLY! If it’s a choice between been an hour+ early or a couple of minutes later? That’s when you talk to your boss about the issue.

    1. LBK*

      That’s not necessarily equivalent, though – if you’re late to a call, you could be delaying a pickup rehearsal or cutting into hair and makeup time or missing notes. There are other performance (no pun intended) issues at stake there that are the result of being late. In my job, it makes literally no difference if I’m there at 9 or 9:05 – nothing is impacted, assuming I don’t have an early meeting or something like that.

      No one is saying that there’s no line of work where punctuality is important, but if you aren’t in one of those where it is, it doesn’t make sense to be a stickler just because you say so.

  43. MissDisplaced*

    Why is it they stare angrily at you when you come in at 8:05 but don’t even thank you (let alone notice) when you’re still there at 7:05?

    1. L*

      Because the working world is utterly ridiculous like that. Take take take take and no give.

      Bet you anything OPs boss doesn’t care if she misses 5 minutes of her lunch break when she gets stuck on something.

      1. Harry*

        The “give”, as you put it, is the paycheck. You receive a paycheck.

        Are you also someone who can’t manage to get to work on time?

        1. Zillah*

          Can we stop with the moral judgments? Being a few minutes late is not a terrible moral failing, nor is it indicative that a person is a slacker.

          1. Harry*

            It is indicative that a person does not take responsibility for their actions. This person is blaming public transportation (It’s out of my control!) when it is not. It is a decision to be late multiple times a week. It’s not a moral failing, but it’s an attitude that the working world should conform to their needs, and no responsibility lands on them to actually follow the rules they agreed to when hired, starting with arriving on time.

            You seem to be commenting on everything I say. This comment wasn’t the same content as the others, but you felt a need to respond to me anyway. Yes, employees may sometimes feel that everything is take, take, take, and I was making the point that you receive something for all the “taking”. And that’s a paycheck. If you no longer want the paycheck, you no longer need to put yourself in a position to have anything “taken”.

  44. AnonyMouse*

    My view on this type of issue is that in a perfect world, consistently meeting/exceeding the performance expectations of your job would be all that mattered. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, though, there are lots of other things we have to do to be professional. For instance, most people aren’t magically more productive when they put on a tie, but suits and ties are required in some jobs anyway to project a professional image.

    In a lot of jobs, showing up exactly on time is one of those things. It may be that 9:05 to 5:05 or even 5:00 is basically just as good as 9 to 5 (and I would personally argue that it is), but if your manager thinks it’s unprofessional to get there after 9, then getting there at 9 is one of the requirements of the job. From what the OP’s said, it seems like her manager feels that way. Like Alison says, they should have a conversation about it to clarify expectations…but if the manager says she expects the OP there by 9, then fair or not the OP will probably have to adjust her commute schedule.

  45. Not So NewReader*

    After having worked so many jobs where there was NO acceptable reason for being late, my heart goes out to the OP. County closed due to ice? NOT A REASON. Reality is this is your job until you find something else.
    First try talking to your boss like Alison says.
    If that gets you no where then you have to move on.

    Also recognize that you need to work with fellow adults. So, when you are interviewing ask questions so that you do not get caught up in this again.

  46. De (Germany)*

    I don’t get this letter at all. Maybe I am missing something? The OP is talking about “punishment” yet the only reaction they describe is the boss looking angrily. Nowhere in the letter is anything described that comes close to being a punishment.

    Talk to your boss or deal with being looked at angrily when you are late. Which, you know, might even just happen because you are disrupting them while they are working.

  47. Harry*

    When this person walks in to work late on a regular basis, the entire team is aware. Maybe they’re all not top performers. What happens when one of them is late repeatedly, and gets fired? That person who just lost their job can point out that that the OP also has a history of being late and has not had any repercussions. I can’t fire someone for being late if I’m not holding everyone to that standard.

    But really, why is it so hard to be at work on time? Public transportation is NOT an excuse or the entire city would always be late. You’re making excuses. Leave home earlier. It’s as simple as that. If you know you’ll be late, you can plan for it and not be late. I don’t understand the attitude that being on time to work is not necessary, customer facing or not.

    1. Zillah*

      I dunno, certain subway lines are definitely associated with lateness. Just ask anyone about the L or the J. Or worse, the dreaded G.

      My personal nemesis is probably the B. I despise that train.

      Not everyone who takes those gets wherever they’re going late, but the OP is hardly alone.

  48. Harry*

    I also call BS on the OP stating that leaving earlier will not change her commute and get her to work on time.

    That’s a lie. It’s the NYC public transportation system, and while it can get crowded during rush hour, getting on an earlier train will get you to work sooner. It’s not magic.

    This is a person who either cannot or will not change their morning routine. The issue with tardiness would be solved if she would leave work earlier. Case closed. There are people who commute hours in each direction every day and get to work on time. Public transportation is not an excuse, the entire city gets to work on time, and since the OP hasn’t said otherwise, it appears everyone else at their office can. Why can’t the OP?

    1. Zillah*

      The entire city doesn’t get to work on time. Some people do, and some people don’t.

      You can call BS all you want, but since we have a policy of generally believing the OP, I’m not sure why you’re doubting her. And, as a lifelong New Yorker, I can comfortably say that leaving earlier does not always get you to work earlier, especially if you have transfers. It’s great that it’s worked that way for you, but when I used to take the L, it didn’t make a damn bit of difference if I got to the station at 7:15 or 7:40. Ditto transferring to the B (on a different commute, obviously).

      Yes, if you leave much earlier, you will get there earlier… But sometimes it’s earlier enough that it’s just not really reasonable, particularly for night people.

      1. Harry*

        Yes, believe the OP, but also realize that statements such as “leaving earlier doesn’t help” just isn’t true.

        I am also a lifelong NY’er. Get on an earlier train, arrive earlier.

        Here’s the deal – this person just does not want to arrive early. If the train the OP likes to take (and thats exactly what this is, a preference) can’t get them to work on time, you take a different, earlier train. If that means you get to work at 8:30, and lose 30 minutes of “your” time, that’s the cost of HAVING A JOB.

        So many people don’t have jobs, or are underemployed, and this person cannot find a way to get to work on time, even with a world-class public transportation system.

        Wake up earlier, leave earlier, get on an earlier train, get to work on time. I bet not having the stress of your boss scowling at you (oh no, what a terrible thing to deal with, you special snowflake!) might make you an even higher performer.

        I wonder how your coworkers feel, they’re all able to get to work on time, but you stroll in at your convenience? What example does it set if the boss doesn’t hold you accountable to the same rules everyone else is held to? Not to mention, it certainly doesn’t seem like the OP is being held accountable in any way, and there seem to be no repercussions beyond “punishment” that is not explained or detailed so we know what they are talking about. “Punishment” in most places for lateness that happens multiple times a week is getting fired.

        1. Zillah*

          The hostility toward the OP is really unwarranted. People aren’t going to want to write in if they get torn apart with personal insults in the comments. The OP didn’t kill someone. She’s a few minutes late sometimes.

          As far as I go… Well, my coworkers aren’t all on time, and they know how to mind their own business. I generally work through lunch as well as stay until 6, so the few minutes at the beginning of the day? Not really affecting my productivity.

          I’m not clear on why it’s so hard for you to believe that some places choose to be flexible about hours and let the little things go.

  49. king of punks*

    ” subway lines that follow no discernible timetable.”

    this is definitely not true, just look at the subway timetables or use an app to help you coordinate your commute better. its easy to avoid this

    1. Joe*

      While it is true that there are published timetables for the subway in NYC, the odds of a subway arriving according to that timetable are about the same as the odds of an AAM question asking “Is this legal?” being answered with “No”. That said, it’s not hard to be anywhere you want on time in NYC, you just have to give yourself a bit of extra time to account for variability in train arrivals.

      And _that_ said, I totally agree with Alison that the boss is in the wrong here. There is no indication in this letter that the duties of the job require being at one’s desk by 9AM sharp, and bosses who are sticklers for things like that are usually compensating for the fact that they don’t know how to actually manage for quality.

  50. Jazzy Red*

    This was very common when I first started working. I was with my first company for more than 20 years, and since I am always early for everything, it didn’t affect me very much. At my next company, I had a longer commute and one day I came in about 15 minutes late. I hung up my coat, and went into my boss’s office, and said I was sorry for being late, but there was a problem with the traffic. He said “You’re late? What time is it?” and actually laughed that I felt I should apologize. That was first time I was treated like a professional. At my previous company, there would have been 4-5 people in my boss’s office telling him that I was late.

  51. Nobody*

    I am surprised by Alison’s response to this one, since I am usually in complete agreement with her. I expected her to say, “Suck it up and just get to work on time like everyone else.” It sort of makes me wonder if Alison has a problem with being punctual, herself, and perhaps that’s why this one hits close to home.

    Your transportation arrangements are not your boss’s problem. Neither are your daycare arrangements or your sleep habits or anything else that makes it difficult to get to work at the time you’re supposed to be there. If arriving at work by 9:00 is a requirement of the job, find a way to meet that requirement or get a job that doesn’t require strict hours.

    A lot of comments are referencing the boss’s glaring as though it’s some kind of loophole — “Ha! He didn’t verbally tell you to be there on time, so even though he is making it obvious that your tardiness doesn’t meet expectations, he can’t hold you to it!” First of all, maybe I missed something, but I don’t see anything in the question that says that the boss has never spoken to the OP about her tardiness. I have a feeling that he has (the OP stated that the boss “imposes punishment for being even a few minutes late,” which implies greater consequences than just angry glares), possibly on numerous occasions, and is understandably displeased when the OP continues to arrive late. Secondly, I think it’s a pretty standard expectation to show up to work on time, so unless you’re specifically told that your hours are flexible, it’s safe to assume that it’s not ok to be late on a regular basis.

    Also, being a “top performer” doesn’t mean that you can just ignore the rules you don’t like. A couple of weeks ago, Alison advised a manager whose top performer is constantly playing on her cell phone to put a stop to it because it comes across as disrespectful. Well, arriving late all the time — especially when other people make the effort to be on time — is pretty disrespectful, too. Maybe it doesn’t affect the OP’s sales numbers, but it could affect others in the office. If the boss or a coworker needs to talk to her first thing in the morning, it could be really annoying to have to wait for her to show up. This prima donna attitude of, “I’m a top performer, so I can just waltz in whenever I feel like it,” could cause resentment and morale problems among her coworkers.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m actually neurotically, pathologically punctual, even when no one but me cares what time I arrive. So no, its not personal.

      There’s simply no way I can see caring if someone is at work at 9:04 versus 9:00 if their job doesn’t require physical presence at precise hours, and especially if the person is a high performer. Four minutes just doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

      1. Nobody*

        Interesting… I, too, am very punctual, and since being on time is important to me, I have a tendency to notice when other people are late. I agree that, in the great scheme of things, four minutes isn’t a big deal, but when it’s multiple times per week, it’s not just four minutes. Four minutes per day, three days per week, 50 weeks per year, is 10 hours per year. I don’t know the details of the OP’s job, but it seems that the boss thinks it’s important for her to be physically present at precise hours, and by habitually ignoring these expectations, the OP is sending a message that she doesn’t care about the boss’s needs. Just because you think a rule is stupid doesn’t mean you can feel free to ignore it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s four minutes. I absolutely spend more than four minutes thinking about work outside of work hours — as well as answering emails, finishing up work, etc., and I assume the people who work for me to do too. I’m not going to nickel and dime them on four minutes in the morning, because I don’t want them nickeling and diming me back (among other reasons).

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            I agree. It’s just four minutes. And if it’s consistently just under four minutes, it’s quite negligible — clocking out four minutes later than everybody else is really nothing. Does the boss strictly require everyone to clock out at exactly the same time, as well? I imagine not in this situation.

            Frankly, I’d be a little concerned if it’s four minutes today, thirty the next, then ten the next. That I can say is an issue that needs to be addressed, even for a top-performer.

          2. Nobody*

            Well, the OP said she is “less than 10” minutes late, so it could be as much as 9 minutes. And like I said before, it’s not just 4 minutes once, it’s up to 9 minutes a few times per week, and that adds up.

            Have you thought about why you are neurotically, pathologically punctual? I can’t stand being late, even for reasons that are completely beyond my control (e.g., one meeting runs late and makes me late for the next meeting), because I think that being late is rude and disrespectful towards people who are expecting me at a specific time, and sometimes disruptive. I almost always leave extra time to get places so I can be punctual even if I encounter delays because I feel that being punctual is an aspect of being responsible and dependable. I start work at 6:30, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have been even one minute late in nine years.

            When people are habitually tardy, it has a negative effect on my opinion of them, because tardiness implies that they don’t care about being dependable and they lack respect for those who are expecting them to be on time. Of course, that is not my only consideration for assessing people, and I normally let it go without making a big deal out of it, but I certainly consider chronic tardiness an annoying and undesirable trait. The OP may measure her own performance solely on the basis of sales numbers, but the boss may have additional criteria, like being dependable and being a team player, that are affected by the OP’s refusal to arrive on time.

  52. Willow+Sunstar*

    I’ve had temp jobs where they let people go for starting 5 minutes late, even if it was something like a car accident on the highway. This was back in the early 2000’s when some people did not own cell phones yet, so not everyone could call in from their cars.

  53. Willow+Sunstar*

    Also, as far as getting to work early, there has been a ton of road construction this summer, so I have been leaving early because of it. Getting to work an extra 15-20 minutes early means that I get to eat breakfast instead of having to wait for the morning break time. (I take a medication at home when I get up that I have to wait thirty minutes to an hour to eat after taking it.)

  54. Marvin L Flores*

    Wow I think there are in here some people as well as the Op who think Performance out weights and justifies being late. It does not, and I doubt you are a partner in that place or understand how a business is run. As a rule of thumb, like my father thought me – be 1/2 hour early, always. I hope you dont plan on getting a good reference from them, you are seriously in the wrong here. Just take an early train. Can you imagine you being the boss one day? Running multiple errands and having this “Silly” employee at 7:04am, 7:06am, 7:05am, 7:02am so inconsistent lol ? Would you not get annoyed? Be honest here.

  55. Zoe*

    All this stress on a few minutes late in morning. Americans who clock in already work too long to begin with. Productivity does not equate to time sitting at a desk. Did the research. This is pathetic. It’s a way for some employees with no life to feel superior to the people who come in a few minutes late. It’s a way for bosses to power trip and hold unattenable standards that set people up to fail. Coming in a half hour late every day is one thing, but a few minutes? Come one. Deduct the measly 20 accumulated bucks from those minutes from the paycheck, clock watchers. I swear to God no wonder work is misery on some institutions.

  56. Frank*

    Ya this is ridiculous, the job I have now I did previously for ten years. I left for a year and a half and was asked to come back with a good increase but a significant drop in pay from where I was. I came back to help out the clients who were suffering and to help out the ppl that asked me to come back. I now live forty miles from the office whereas before I was only about 5 miles away. I’ve been to work about 10 to 15 minutes late two to three times a week the last month. I rarely take my lunch break and generally at least make up my late time or work up to an hour later most days without compensation. Today I was told I had been late and we would be talking about it tomorrow. I think its time to go back n say you asked me here because the place fell apart. You can work with me on this or take a year to train someone n it still won’t be running as good as I have it n I’ve only been back two months. They’re choice… either way, I can make at least 10k more a year in my last profession. I have no patience for this type of pettiness anymore….

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