my boss keeps offering to let me go home early, and it’s making me uncomfortable

A reader writes:

Often—in my opinion, too often—my boss will swing by my office and give me an opportunity to leave early, by sometimes as much as an hour or more. I’d estimate he does this an average of twice a week. Sometimes when my objectives for the day are done, I take advantage of the offer and leave, but most of time, even if there’s nothing pressing to do, I stay.

He’s very lax when it comes to schedules with all of his reports, but I don’t know if he routinely tells everyone else to go home early.

I don’t want to ask him outright to stop offering because I do enjoy occasionally being able to leave work early. I just don’t like that he offers so frequently. It feels odd. Am I overreacting? Is there someway I could encourage him to curb the frequency without having the privilege of leaving early revoked all together? Oh, and I’m salaried. I figured I’d mentioned that since this question is about hours.

I don’t think you’re overreacting in feeling odd about it. One one hand, you could assume that if he’s making the offer, it must be fine to take him up on it … but on the other hand, it’s reasonable to feel a little odd about being regularly urged to do something that might feel at odds with your work ethic.

I’m a big believer in just asking about it directly when you’re not sure how to interpret something. For instance: “I really appreciate it that you encourage me to leave early when things are slower, but I also feel a little weird about taking you up on it too often — like it’ll reflect on my work ethic, even though you’re offering it. I thought I should just ask you about your philosophy on it.”

Or even just: “I really appreciate you offering, but I feel like I’m not working hard enough if I take you up on it more than occasionally.”

Put it out there, have a conversation about it, and I bet you’ll feel less weird about it, regardless of how you choose to field the offers in the future.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I saw a similar query in an open thread. Also saw one about personal Christmas cards in the open thread–I don’t know if either of today’s are the same poster as the open thread one, though.

  1. fposte*

    I wonder if this is just the main thing in this guy’s “How to be a good boss” manual–it makes him feel like he’s treating his staff well. It would make me uneasy too, though–I actually would rather get my work done in a reasonable amount of time.

    Hopefully he’ll be just as flexible if his staff need to go early on a day when he hasn’t suggested it, because that would be genuinely helpful.

    1. Kai*

      Yeah, my boss does the same thing pretty often and has told me outright that it’s one of his ways to try and be a good (likeable) boss. But it’s mostly just during slow summer days or right before a holiday that he will tell everyone to feel free to head home a few hours early. If it were as frequent as the OP, I’d feel weird too.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My boss does that too–I got to go home SUPER early today. But if she did it all the time, I’d think it was strange. I’d be asking about whether she wants to cut my hours. Of course, the OP is salaried, so that’s not an issue, apparently.

  2. LBK*

    Do you work in a role that has a busy season and a slow season? If you’re in the slow season now maybe he’s trying to encourage you to enjoy having a flexible schedule before the busy season starts and you’ll probably end up working late?

  3. Alistair*

    This can get weird the other way, too. In the past, my boss had offered to let me out early, and then gotten mad when I didn’t go. He said it felt like I didn’t respect him (or something similar, this was years ago). I try to take him up on the offer these days, but he also understands that if I stay, it’s no reflection on him. So definitely go ask, you never know what your boss will say.

  4. dang*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think if he offers, he means it and doesn’t think it’s a big deal. You’re right to stay if you have something that needs to be done, but staying just to stay even after he tells you to feel free to leave seems unnecessary.

  5. mel*

    Hmmm… that is curious. I’d also probably just ask directly. “What, are ya trying to get rid of me? ha. ha. ha.”

    I’ve been getting these offers nearly every day as of late, but I’m hourly so it actually makes a lot of sense for them to ask. Been doing a lot of 2.5 hour shifts lately. It’s been wonderful (minimum wage, so it’s hardly worth going at all), but in some cases I had a lot of work to do and I’m all like “Are… are you SURE?? Okay…”

    But yeah, if your pay isn’t changed then I gotta wonder about it. Is it just a holiday thing? Does he think you’ve got a ton of other important stuff to do?

  6. LQ*

    Are there any requirements (or even just your boss might feel this way) about leaving an employee alone in the building. I know staff aren’t allowed in the building without someone at a certain level. But also when I’ve come in on weekends my director has been concerned about my safety so even ignoring the requirements there are other concerns. So HR might dictate something like this, or if you have a lot of private data there might be concerns there, or safety of your neighborhood. So your boss might be trying to leave himself but can’t until you are gone?

    1. LQ*

      (And no I’m not saying the OP is going to steal things or the boss thinks that, just sometimes policies are put in place to be cover that situation.)

  7. Betty*

    My boss does this. I take advantage when I’ve already wrapped up for the day. If I’m not ready to go home, I don’t. I think it’s nice and I don’t read too much into it.

  8. JR*

    I had a boss like this one time, but the going home early was balanced out by us working our butts off during busy times. Because our boss was so cool about letting us leave early during slow times, we had no qualms about giving our all and working long days when things were super busy.

  9. Cupcake*

    I’m guessing on the side of “boss wants to leave, but can’t/is uncomfortable about leaving while the employee is still working.”

  10. MilitantIntelligent*

    Oh my God I hate you! Haha. I have one manager who is a serial clock watcher…meaning, she will walk by my office to see that I’m still in at 5:29, not so obviously but taking a “convenient round trip to the kitchen or bathroom.” Not like I ever leave that early, anyway. I also arrive earlier than I should.

    The other manager won’t ever bend the rules. On a recent holiday, We were allowed to leave early at a certain time, and I thought it would be reasonable for him to say I should go home earlier as the office was empty with the exception of two people. Nope. sat there until the exact designated time, and not one minute sooner. Any advice? I’m used to coming and going as I please with other managers, they know I am hardworking and dedicated, and pull long hours on the regular anyway, but this feels stifling. Don’t people realize the inflexibility makes me want to make a run for it at 5:30!

  11. Lamb*

    I’m not saying this is your boss’s train of thought at all, but when I read that you’re sometimes finishing the day’s to do list an hour or more early, I wonder if there is other work for you to do? Depending on the kind of job you have, maybe this is your opportunity to take initiative and seek out extra work or suggest a new project?

  12. pajh*

    I do this when it’s appropriate—no point in having us both here if I can cover the desk and still get on with my own stuff. I expect some reciprocation too: my staff will work beyond their time if it’s busy and stuff needs doing.

    Use it as an opportunity to further your own agenda. That’s either appreciating the acknowledgement that you have a personal life, or demonstrating how indispensable you are: “thanks for the offer, but I’d like to get X task finished and make a start on Y and Z before I finish today”.

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