new hire keeps coming in late, I’m a non-designer being asked to design, and more

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

1. New hire keeps coming in late

Our work day starts at 8:30 a.m., though due to city traffic and some gradual bad habits, we have 2-3 people who sometimes come in between 8:45 and 9.

We recently hired a new person who has made it clear she’s interested in starting later than 8:30. She was late on her first day, and on her third day she asked me when staff actually arrive to work. I was honest that some people aren’t here right on the dot, but I felt uncomfortable giving her permission (not my place anyway, I’m not her boss) to plan to come late and suggested she talk to her boss. Today she was 20 minutes late (her supervisor is on vacation so I know she hasn’t requested a new schedule).

It’s not giving a great impression to staff that she’s already coming in late on her first week (from my own impressions and feedback I’ve gotten from others). But how do you tell someone they’re not allowed to do something that they can see others are doing? Does everyone on staff need to agree to come in at 8:30 to address this problem? (The people who occasionally come in later are proven performers who go the extra mile when needed.) I guess what I’m struggling with is that it’s this person’s first week of work, shouldn’t she be focused on making a good impression?

There are other concerns about her fit (both culture and skill) so maybe it would feel like less of an issue if performance wasn’t also a concern.I’m not planning on directly interjecting myself into this issue, aside from a chat with her manager when she is back in the office, but I’d love your guidance on what you think the best approach would be.

You should say something directly to her, because you may have inadvertently given her the wrong impression when she asked you about this earlier. I’d say this: “Hi Jane, I’m worried I gave you the wrong impression when you asked about time of arrival earlier. You really do need to be here at 8:30, unless you’ve specifically worked out a different arrangement with Gavin. If you’re coming in later than 8:30 without his okay, that’s going to read as ‘late’ to people here — so I wanted to make sure you understood that.”

And then you give her boss a heads-up about the conversation and let him handle it from there. And you tell him about the other concerns you have too, since it’s likely that it’s all part of the same package.

2. My boss is asking me to do graphic design work and I’m not a designer

I’m a content producer and copy writer for a small software company. We’re so small, in fact, that I’m actually pretty much the entire creative team; we outsource some graphical work when absolutely necessary, but since my boss is very budget-conscious, we almost never send any creative work out-of-house and most of it falls to me.

The problem is, I’m a word guy, not a graphic designer. My graphics skills are mediocre at best, but my boss is sending more and more work my way and expecting me to put together comparable emails and web work to our competitors, who either have a team of creatives working together or at least a dedicated graphic designer to handle those elements.

I’m torn because I don’t want to say no to my boss and risk losing faith/trust/clout within the company, but I’m worried for the day when he tells me to do something that’s simply outside of my capabilities and then getting in bigger trouble for failing. Is there a way I can gently remind my boss that he hired me for one thing and that asking me to do a half-dozen additional tasks (none of which I claimed I could ever do) isn’t really feasible? Part of me wants to just tough it out and hope that I can leverage all of that experience and responsibility when I ask for a raise on my one-year anniversary.

It’s usually to your benefit to be honest about when something it outside of your area of expertise. That doesn’t mean refusing to do it; it just means being clear about what limits you’ll be bringing to it. In this case, I’d say, “I want to be frank with you that I’m really a word guy, not a designer. Graphic skills aren’t my strength, and if graphics are going to be important here, we probably need to get a designer involved. I can take a stab at if if the needs are pretty basic, but for anything beyond that, we should be thinking about how to involve an actual designer.”

3. Asking about the requirements of the job before accepting an interview for a third role with a company

A couple of months ago, I applied to a supervisory position at another company. This would have been a move up, both in terms of title and pay. I made it through both the HR screening call and first hiring manager interview via phone without a problem, so they asked me to come down to their office for a face-to-face interview.

The onsite interview was going pretty well until the very end, when they asked about a particular technical skill, which I do not currently possess and which was not listed in the job posting. I figure honesty is the best policy so I told them that while I’m happy to learn it and I pick things up pretty quickly, I had no experience there. I did not get the job.

About a month ago, without me applying for the position, they called me back in for another face-to-face interview for a supervisory role in another department. I went in and the interview went great until they asked about the same technical skill, and once again the meeting turned sideways.

This past Friday, I received a request from another department for yet another face-to-face interview (once again, I did not apply for this spot). While this organization seems like a great place to work, I am frankly a little tired of them wasting my time and my PTO at my current job. Should I even bother with this third interview or do you think they’re just calling me in to say they interviewed X number of people for a given position?

I wouldn’t assume that they’re only interviewing you because of some quota. It’s certainly possible, but it’s far more likely that they’re interviewing you because they think you might be a strong candidate. But yes, I’d ask directly about that skill before agreeing to the interview: “When I interviewed for the X and Y positions in the past, it sounded like you were looking for experience with ___. I don’t have that experience, so before setting up this interview, I figured it would be worth checking to see if you’re looking for that with this role as well.”

4. Taking vacation for my whole notice period

If I were to give my two week notice and have two weeks worth of holidays to take, can I give my notice and then request to take my holidays as my two weeks notice period?

It depends on your employer’s policy, but most don’t allow it because the point of the notice period is for you to have time to transition your work, which requires your presence to do.

5. References who have moved on to a different employer

I’m updating my references and want to use a couple of supervisors from previous positions, who no longer work for our former employer. I’m unsure how to list their titles. Do I use their current title at their new employer, which wouldn’t connect them to my previous experience in a hiring manager’s eyes? Do I include some reference to their previous title/position at our former employer?

Yep, you need to make it clear how they related to your work. For example:

Percival Montblanc (he was the communications director at Teapots Inc. and my manager from 2010-2013; he’s since moved to Teapots United)

{ 326 comments… read them below }

  1. Carmen Sandiego*

    #2: ITA with Alison. I’ve been there, and I understand the temptation to tough it out…but don’t do it. Every time I’ve tried, it has come back to bite me and left me looking worse, not better. It sounds to me like your boss is more clueless than unreasonable – maybe he doesn’t get that graphic design is a very specialized skill you don’t just channel on the fly. Maybe you are so awesome at being a word guy that your boss assumes you are an equally awesome graphics guy. Regardless, I think you should make it clear to him that this is way outside your wheelhouse and that the company will benefit in the long run by hiring someone who can do it more effectively than you can.

    1. Fantasma*

      If the budget is tight, you could suggest to your boss that he invest in having a designer make templates for the most frequently used types of design elements and that you, the word guy, could customize as needed. That’s much cheaper and more efficient in the long term than having a designer do one-off projects.

      1. Nanc*

        Thumbs up to templates! Another idea, if you’re near a college maybe you can hire a student to do a bit of design. They would be less expensive and in return would get some great samples for their portfolio.

        1. NO*

          How about no and this idea sucks because we shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that students should undervalue their design work because it’s ultimately very harmful to actual working professionals.

          1. Voice Of Experience*

            Students don’t have experience, therefore their work should cost less. That’s not undervaluing their work. Seasoned professionals in any field cost more. Experience is worth something. It’s also a good deal for the student because it gives them experience.

    2. Dan*

      I’m actually in this almost same boat too. I have a boss who thinks that the solution to all of the world’s problems lies with a specific software package made for data visualization… except I’m not a data viz guy, and I spend some very large percentage of my time writing software that generates this data. Vizualizing it at an aggregate level makes almost no sense to me whatsoever. (I’m essentially writing software to automate certain portions of the editing process of specific types of documents.)

      What she’s having a difficult time understanding is that data viz is a skill in and of itself, and when I spend months building algorithms to do the editing, asking me to visualize the changes in a couple of hours just isn’t realistic. It had nothing to do with knowing the tool, and everything to do with knowing what to visualize!

    3. SJP*

      I was thinking, OP 2 Maybe if your boss requires it and won’t outsource then perhaps you can suggest that you go on some training courses to learn to get better?
      He evidentially see’s it as part of your role and that perhaps for you to be fully utilised by him he needs you to learn this to a higher degree?
      Obviously do as Alison says and speak to him about how you’re not that good at graphic design and that you’re ok with small tasks but don’t have the knowledge to do more complex tasks and that perhaps with some training (proper training courses) you could do the complex stuff too

      1. Simplytea*

        +1,

        If this is something that they would like you to do going forward, they should be able to pay for training (and/or you can make it a tax write off), especially since this could be something beneficial for both this and the next job!

        I would make a list of why the training would benefit the company (e.g. they don’t have to outsource the work, tasks will take less time, broaden your capabilities as an employee), and present to your boss. There’s really nothing you can lose in this situation–worst thing that happens is they say no, and you were already not getting training!

        And it shows initiative–not only are you being honest, you also are trying to take care of work that’s outside your realm of capability. Good luck!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, that’s the thing — a class can give you a few technical skills, but it’s not going to make you a designer any more than a single management class will make you a great manager.

            1. Jessa*

              Yes. Also though management techniques can be taught a lot easier than for example “paint a copy of the Mona Lisa.” Now that’s an outrageously far end thing in terms of graphics ability, but anyone who has taken an art class understands that just because you can use a colouring book does not mean you can design something on your own. Graphics design technical stuff sure, programmes, sure, but that doesn’t give you the “eye for composition.” I’d find it a heckuva lot easier to make an utter novice a manager than an artist.

        1. Stranger than Fiction*

          Yes, training = great. But, I’m worried this then becomes a secondary full-time job for the same pay for the Op, please be mindful of that.

        2. Jessa*

          All the training in the world will not make someone word oriented, picture oriented. It’s not just the technical ability to make the things, it’s the mental ability to conceive them. You could be the biggest Photoshop wiz in the world but if you have no idea WHAT to design with it, you’re stuck. Now in the short term, general usage, it’s possible to learn certain industry standards and techniques – IE basic layouts and some general colour usages and all, but that’s NOT the same as having an actual graphics type person on staff.

        3. Another Ellie*

          On top of the fact that getting actual graphic design training would take at least a couple of years of the OP’s time, you’re also misunderstanding what it means to be a graphic designer. It’s not just something extra you add to your resume (I’m an editor plus I do graphic design!), it’s actually a totally different job, with totally different competencies. Unless OP wants to do graphic design, there are really no benefits to OP for having the training.

          1. TrainerGirl*

            +1000

            This. I was able to wrangle funds to get a certificate in multimedia design from my company after I was asked to create graphics/interactive animation for training. I was interested in learning though, and that’s the key. If this is really a struggle, it’s probably not worth it to take on another responsibility on top of what you already do.

    4. Lindrine*

      Hi OP #2. I’m a graphic and web designer and I get where you are coming from. There are some options to help you out, so here are my suggestions:
      1. Like Allison said, have a talk with your boss about how the graphical stuff fits in with the overall marketing strategy. If you could agree on a consistent look and feel that aligns with messaging then you are in a better position to do the next few things instead of design by fire and free yourself up to write. The harsh reality your boss will have to face is that if it matters he will need to invest in it and you spending time designing when you are a writer does not make a lot of sense. Check out David Airey’s blog: http://www.davidairey.com/design-return-on-investment/ he has some excellent advice, and a few articles in there for business people.
      2. Knowing your look, invest in a designer to create templates that are editable in Word, PPT, or PhotoShop depending on your needs. If you have an overall design for banner ads, trade show pull ups, and special reports, presentations and data sheets then it will save you all a lot of time.
      3. If your boss doesn’t want to do that, consider a place like stocklayouts.com or http://graphicriver.net/ where you can snag some nice looking templates. Maybe even looking at these will help with number 1.
      4. Keep it simple. One or two fonts, few colors. Since you are marketing software, look at what different companies are doing. Less is more when you are on a budget.
      5. I am an in-house designer, and doing design well takes careful thought and experience. Using templates will get you started but your stuff likely won’t look the way that companies who have creative teams or agencies do. Design, like writing is a craft.

      I know a lot of what I have just said is considered evil as far as real branding or design goes, but when budgets are tight you need to start somewhere.

      1. Aknownymous*

        I’m also a graphic designer, and I second all of this. Keep in mind that you do get what you pay for, so if your budget is really tight, a good idea would be to spend a little bit more on a good designer, but be really clear upfront about what you want. A large chunk of the cost for a professional design usually stems from the client being indecisive and making lots of changes, so they rack up more hourly charges (for those who charge hourly). The more specific and thought-out your ideas are pre-design, the cheaper it gets in that case.

        1. Aknownymous*

          (sometimes when I charge hourly, what would have been a two-hour job turns in to a six-hour job because the client keeps changing their mind)

          1. Petrichor*

            So much this! I just had to provide a quote for a fairly straightforward infographic. I gave my estimated hours and they were flabbergasted because in their minds it should be an hour’s worth of work. When in reality I’ve already been in 3 hours worth of meetings about said graphic (and I haven’t even started it yet). They seem oblivious to the reality that they pay for my time… all of my time. That includes the meetings they force me to sit in on, reviews, and change rounds. So no… an hour is nowhere near accurate. They are also oblivious to how much of my time gets wasted by their indecision. I go out of my way to warn everyone up front about this, but everyone believes that they are the exception to the rule.

            Note: if I were to comp my time for meetings, I would be missing out on 5-10 hours a week regularly, which means my hourly rates would have to be much higher to compensate for that lost time anyway. I still have to pay all of my own taxes, insurance, etc.

    5. NickelandDime*

      I’m in the exact same situation as OP#2: It just isn’t as simple as “getting training.” You can learn programs, but design work is a special skill, having an eye for what looks good is something that can’t be taught. And you know, sometimes it’s okay to say, “I can do this, but this isn’t going to have the results you want or need.” I’m still battling this, and it’s one of the things that has made me look for another position. I want to work somewhere that can afford to hire the expertise needed.

      1. CH*

        I’m in this situation too. I’m an editor who learned InDesign with a little Illustrator and Photoshop so I can update a series of publications at work. But these publications were already designed by a graphic design pro; I’m just changing words and a few illustrations. As I’ve become more proficient, I am often asked to create new-from-scratch items, and while I enjoy the challenge of it sometimes, I know my limits and I’m careful to let others know them and to never overpromise.
        But it is very possible that the OP does not enjoy it at all, which isn’t clear. That is a different question, I think, and may mean this job isn’t for him/her.

      2. jag*

        I’m a word person who developed some design skills through massive amounts of reading, practice and work with design professionals. So I’m OK at it – and know my limitations.

        Far too many think they can do graphic design when they can’t, and the result is bad. In your case, it’s your boss that thinks you can. A key question is, is he a good design consumer? That is, has he paid for and used professoinal design services in the past, with good results. If he has, he might see some ability for you for simple design tasks that you are not yet aware of. In many ways, basic graphic design is not that different that good writing/content creation: keep stuff simple, clear and let the meaning shine through. You might actually be able to do it. Get a basic book like the ones by Robin Williams, and try it.

        On the other hand, if your boss himself does not have good design sensibility, he’s making a big mistake and you have to push back.

        I also don’t agree that design can’t be taught. World-class design maybe not, but workmanlike design that looks good can surely be taught – there are basic principles that are known and skills that can be developed.

        1. MsM*

          But workmanlike design still probably isn’t going to be able to compete with an organization that has dedicated staff who do nothing but this and are good at it as opposed to simply competent. If that’s what the boss is expecting, I think it’s important for the OP to make it clear that even with training, there’s only so much he’s going to be able to do.

          1. jag*

            If the OP is in a space where competitors have superb design, and are spending on it, than that won’t work. But in many many fields that’s not the case.

            If we’re talking about 80% of typical design jobs, workmanlike will work successfully. So much “design” is far worse than that – actually bad or not designed at all.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          See, my guess is the boss doesn’t have good design sensibility — and may not care whether the finished work looks as beautiful as it would if a trained designer did it.

          I’ve been in the OP’s situation before. Although I know good design when I see it, that doesn’t mean I *do* it well. I’m a writer, not an art director! But, at very small companies where the owner may just want what she thinks is a little “pizzazz” added, she may very well be okay with the design being fairly rudimentary.

          I think OP should be very honest with the boss about what she can and can’t do. If what the boss wants is someone who can both write well and design exquisite layouts…good freakin’ luck. Based on my experience in advertising, that combo is exceedingly rare! But if what the boss wants is a writer who can throw together a bootleg layout now and then, it may be worth OP taking a class (at the company’s expense) in InDesign or whatever software she’s expected to use.

          (If OP doesn’t want to learn design as a long-term career choice, then job hunting is a good idea too.)

      3. K.*

        I’m in this situation as well. I think a lot of people assume marketing encompasses all things creative, but just like writing isn’t a skill everyone has, neither is design. I am not a designer and it’s been added to my plate recently; frankly, I hate it. I appreciate the skill it takes but I don’t enjoy doing it myself. (My boss knows this.) I was looking for a new job before and have kicked that up a notch now.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        +1 I went to a 4-year art college, one you had to apply with portfolio to enter. It’s not just a matter of getting training, you can’t just pick this up in a weekend seminar. It would require a serious time commitment on the part of the OP, a time commitment that would have to be after hours because I don’t think that Cheapskate Boss would be OK with OP taking one day a week or more (and getting paid salary) to go and study design. Frankly, there’s a big problem out there with misconceptions around how “easy” creative work is — it’s not just playing with pretty pictures or knowing the right command in Photoshop and *poof* Instant Cool Design! It’s damn hard a lot of the time, especially when you’ve got someone trying to skin a flea for its hide on projects or taking cheap projects. I get that he’s got your salary, OP2, to pay for but there’s got to be a better way than this.

        OP2, I would suggest that aside from telling your boss he’s not giving his clients the proper level of service they may require or desire because you are not a graphic/web designer that you do a quick Google search for freelancers in your area and make a list to hand over to your boss when you make your pitch. There’s bound to be someone out there, local or not (depending on whether that’s important) who would be happy to do the work without charging an arm, leg and first born child. As you say, eventually there is going to be something that a client wants that you are not capable of and it will blow up big time and be bad news for your boss. You may say that for small stuff, you don’t mind, but he’s got to believe you when you recommend getting someone else for things you do not feel you can handle and that you’ll be happy to say which projects they are because you want your boss’ clients to be happy and come back.

        1. the gold digger*

          I have set up a sharepoint site for my division. My boss keeps wanting me to make it look nicer and I keep telling him I AM NOT AN ARTIST! The site is functional and logical, but for beauty, he needs to look elsewhere.

          1. jag*

            People are using terms like “beautiful” and “artist” – some designers are good artists, and good designers know how to use art. Plus good design can be beautiful. But design is not art and the fundamental goals of design are clarity and a consistent, positive impression – not beauty.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              I’ve always defined it as art is about feelings/expressing your personal viewpoint and design is more about problem solving to achieve a specific objective. When it comes to something visual, a large part of solving that problem is how it looks, where does the eye go, is the information clear, does it catch the eye, does it suit the objectives of the client in terms of tone and style?

        2. Stranger than Fiction*

          Agreed. I’d like to add, when you speak with the boss and have all your examples ready, also tell him or her (gently) maybe what it took for competitor A and competitor B to achieve some of their ads/pieces. Have some samples and say something like “yes, this is really beautiful what competitor A did here, but they had a team of 3 in-house and contracted out the finish work”, or something to that effect.

      5. hayling*

        Yeah I agree. I personally can do some basic graphic things but I am *not* visually oriented and all the training in the world isn’t going to make me a graphic designer.

    6. Lizabeth*

      Start looking around for some freelance help (review the portfolios!) and be prepared for some sticker shock. A GOOD graphic designer isn’t cheap but you don’t want your sales material to look cheap and not thought out either. Especially the thought out part – you need to have that part DONE BEFORE you get a graphic designer involved. WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW. Don’t expect them to do that for you; they don’t mind read and the Vulcan mind-meld has not lived up to expectations in the real world. A well thought out project, as far as audience, copy etc is a graphic designer’s dream to work on. It ensures that the finished project will do it’s job – getting sales.

      Templates are a good idea.

      Disclosure: I am a graphic designer

      1. NickelandDime*

        And it shouldn’t be cheap either. People need to wrap their heads around paying people for their skill and expertise. Sheesh.

      2. C Average*

        Thank you for the Vulcan mind-meld note! Yes, all of this. I’ve seen so many crappy, vague project charters that–shocker!–led to crappy, vaguely actuated projects.

      3. Lindrine*

        Yes +1000. Not knowing what you want makes it much much harder. hiring a designer is not a magic wand to fix your messaging.

    7. C Average*

      +1 for the Writers Who Don’t Design and Don’t Wanna Design party. I, too, have had graphic design bleed into my copywriting work to a degree I really dislike, and it’s not an insignificant part of the reason I’m leaving my current job in three weeks. I have very little training and zero affinity for it. I’ve picked up some online classes (InDesign tutorials from Lynda and Skillshare and the other usual suspects), but the fact remains: I just don’t care about graphic design.

      I know it annoys my manager a lot; she sees it as me not stepping up and learning skills that would enhance my value to the company. The thing is, though, I just don’t have a good eye. When I look at our old design (which she believes is atrocious) versus our new design (which took forever and cost an arm and a leg and is supposed to be wonderful), I honestly have difficulty telling the difference. All the sites I enjoy perusing are heavy on wonderful written content and light on graphic elements. I am the girl who goes to the art museum and reads the plaques! You do NOT want me doing your graphic design.

      (Weirdly, I’m very artistic with materials like textiles and paper, but I just have no sense of the aesthetic on a screen.)

      So I guess what I’d suggest is this: Give things a try, assess your limits realistically, get some training but don’t have the business sink a fortune into it until you’ve done some of the free or cheap training available to get a true sense of whether graphic design is for you. This may be such a key part of the role that you’ll find yourself needing to adapt or move on. Or your employer may come to realize that you’re a writer, not a Swiss Army knife.

      Good luck!

      1. NickelandDime*

        I have good taste and an okay eye. This doesn’t translate into good design skills. I’m very good at what they hired me to do. Why not capitalize on that and stop trying to push a square peg into a round hole?

        1. the gold digger*

          I have good taste and an okay eye.

          This! I can watch “What Not to Wear” and know exactly what is wrong with the before outfit, but that doesn’t mean I could design my own wardrobe. Although if I did, it would consist of sheath dresses with sleeves and pockets in rich, solid fabrics, pencil skirts that do not bunch up between my waist and my butt, sweaters that fit but are not too tight in the sleeves. and blouses that fit but do not need to be ironed. And, of course, the Holy Grail: pants that do not make my butt look a mile wide.

          1. Hlyssande*

            POCKETS.

            All I want is pockets and it makes me cry that the best-fitting and most comfortable pair of work pants I own has fake pockets. SOB.

            1. C Average*

              Yes. Pockets on everything!

              In my perfect world I live in black A-line dresses with shelf bras and pockets, layering over them as needed based on weather and respectability needs.

              Side note: as indifferent as I am to design, if there were a “how not to design” show based on the “what not to wear” template, I would SO watch that.

              1. Nanc*

                Or decided that jackets and blouses need chest pockets? Really, what am I going to put it them that won’t look like I’m groping myself when I try to retrieve it?

            2. Mephyle*

              I haven’t sewn a pair of pants in more than 15 years, but I have sewn plenty of pockets into bought pants that had 1) fake pockets; 2) pockets too short to accommodate a cell phone; or 3) pockets made of whisper-thin fabric that quickly wore out.

              1. Nanc*

                Me too! I found a great basic sewing book at the library years and years ago and it had an entire chapter on how to add pockets to anything! I wonder if I could build this skill into a business . . .

          2. Jessa*

            Exactly, just because I can critique it and go “I know all the things that are wrong with this,” does NOT therefore follow that I can figure out on the fly all the things that would be right instead. Now if it were “okay the tailor needs to fit this here, and this sleeve is too long,” that’s one thing, but “throw this away and buy these instead?” Nope. Not my field.

          3. Dynamic Beige*

            “I can watch “What Not to Wear” and know exactly what is wrong with the before outfit, but that doesn’t mean I could design my own wardrobe.”

            This. So much this. I weep because I completely lack this. I would love — LOVE! I say — to be able to go into a store and just know that X, Y and Z would be perfect for me with a bit of tailoring or whatever but dammit. I just can’t do it. Clothing stores make me get all stabby. I’ve thought sometimes that if I won the lottery I’d open a store called basics and it would have… basics. You know the kind of stuff you need all the time but can’t find because this year neon pink is de rigeur and all you want is a knit top in oyster because you can’t wear white.

        1. Vancouver Reader*

          I do that too, but that’s because of my swiss cheese memory, so if someone asks me what a photo of a statue is about, I can refer back to the plaque picture.

      2. LCL*

        I have just spent the better part of 2 days adding some new checkboxes/information bullets to some forms. And I am not a designer and it is painful. No doubt someone trained in design would do this better than I can. If we had a design person on staff I would gladly give this to them.

    8. Catherine in Canada*

      Consider pointing out to your boss that this is not an efficient (that is, cost-effective) use of your time.
      What would take a skilled and trained graphics person a few minutes, might take you hours.
      So what seems expensive (let’s say $500 for a set of safety admonishment graphics), when compared to what it would cost him in terms of your time, actually isn’t.

    9. ali*

      I once found myself in the opposite situation – Graphic Designer was actually part of my title, and my boss was the Communications Manager. For some reason, she not only expected me to design the materials, but wanted me to write the copy as well. She’d just give me general messaging. It was really annoying, because I am not a writer, nor do I have any desire to be one. I drew the line when she asked me to write a press release. She wasn’t happy about it, but when I (and I was backed up by the other person in our department) said the only thing my writing it would accomplish would be to make us look unprofessional, she gave in and hired a freelancer.

      The sad thing about all of this, compared to the rest of our industry at the time, our stuff was easily the highest caliber materials out there. So at least we never looked bad.

      1. Not Here or There*

        I will never understand why people assume if you can do A, you can automatically do B, which is only tangentially related. It would be like saying, “Hey Joe, I know you’re a soccer player, but I need you to be on the hockey team starting tomorrow. They’re both sports with nets so this should be no problem for you.”

        There are huge differences even in the field of writing. I have a solid background in speech-writing, but I’ve had bosses assume this means I can do any sort of writing at the drop of a hat. People go to school to be PR professionals and journalists. I cannot take over creating a client newsletter with 5-8 AP-style articles every week without any sort of training, at least not if you want those articles to be professionally written. And no, giving me an old AP stylebook is not considered training; you might as well give me a Greek dictionary and expect me to start writing Greek poetry.

        1. Vicki*

          At FirstJob, I was a programmer. I wrote support tools for the department. I wrote data analysis tools for the head biostatistician. I answered technical questions about our operating system.

          My third manager decided he needed a database administrator. I had zero interest in learning to be one. He said “Vicki, you’re so good at what you do, why can’t you be good at that?”. It was a stunning lack of understanding of what makes people do well in certain jobs.

          I told him that I could guarantee that I would not be good at DBA, and found another job (as a tools programmer).

      2. jag*

        Asking a graphic designer to do a press release is a bit much. But there can be huge overlap between good professional writing and good graphic design, or at least the process. What’s the purpose of the piece. What is it trying to get the consumer to do? What is their current situations? What should the hierarchy of we present be?

        So much design and writing work nowadays – particularly online – has to start with the same questions and the solutions we come up with have to take the words and visual elements together.

        1. ali*

          agreed. this case was particularly annoying because writing the copy was actually her job, she was just too lazy to do it herself. Then she would come back and nitpick my writing (and my graphics for that matter). I’m not a horrible writer by any means, but it’s not something I wanted to be doing or should have been doing. The messaging between the graphics and the words definitely need to be consistent and we did brainstorm all those things as a team, which did help a lot. I was usually able to come up with something coherent that fit the branding. It just wasn’t really my job to do so.

          1. Lindrine*

            Agreed! I often collaborate very closely with the writers we have on staff, and while I have experience writing add copy and have written books on HTML, I am not by any means a trained writer. The best way to put me to sleep is to start talking about grammar.

        2. Not Here or There*

          The process and questions you mention are really more about starting any project/ project management, which is a general overlap on pretty much every project whether you’re an architect designing a new building, a journalist writing a news story or a teacher planning their school year. Obviously there are huge difference in both the answers and the execution.

          The writing and visual elements may need to work together towards a single purpose, but that doesn’t mean the skills it takes to do both tasks are the same. You might be well versed in the elements of design and what it takes to convey a message visually, but that doesn’t mean you know how to communicate that vision in words. I’ve lived with my graphic designer husband long enough to know that you can’t ask him to describe something to you, you have to ask him to show it.

          1. jag*

            Even if it’s not a “project” but just a document, the questions are the same for writing and design. And frankly, many people are not that good at either. And even people that are good at one don’t seem to realize the starting point in the other is the largely same. We can see it even in this thread: people saying they can’t make something beautiful, are not an artist, etc. When actually if they are the type of person who can chunk up writing into clear pieces (think of a newspaper, with headlines, subheadings, nut grafs, etc) they are probably further along a design process than they realize.

    10. Belle & Sam*

      I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Some design needs emerged, and I’m a writer/account manager with NO graphic design training. My leader (not my direct manager though) asked if I could take care of the design and I told them that those skills aren’t in my wheelhouse. It took several conversations for Leader to understand that 1.) it can take years to develop good design skills, 2.) that most people who are designers have a graphic design degree and 3.) I had absolutely no interest in going back to school to get a graphic design degree. I offered up several suggestions, including hiring a contractor (I know several designers who could have worked on the project). Finally, they just let it go and we made due with our internal resources.

    11. KW*

      You might want to take a look at online packages that make design easier – I’m thinking things like MailChimp, for example. It makes it very easy to create a professional-looking newsletter/email even if you’re not a design person.

  2. Kate*

    Okay, who/what is Percival Montblanc? I Googled it and only AAM links came up (and references to the pen and mountain). And I tried searching the AAM site but just got uses of it in answers to questions.

    1. MK*

      Eh, it’s made-up name that people use in examples? The same way that they use generic (Jane Smith) or GOT names. I think it’s appeal is that it comes across as so pretentious it’s funny.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I keep coming up with names I love, and then people make them their commenter names! Which is funny, but it means I can’t keep using them in questions. Soon the well will run dry and it will be back to Jane and Bob…

          1. AnnaM*

            You answered a question of mine and referred to my boss as ‘Fergus’ and it makes me smile especially as I’d changed her sex to aid anonymity.

      1. LBK*

        Some day, someone needs to write AAM fanfic about the bitter rivalry between Chocolate Teapot United, a paragon of good management run by Wakeen and Jane, and Teapots Inc., a bloodthirsty corporation run by the devious Percival Montblanc. The tipping point is when Percival steals Wakeen’s plans for their new chocolate Hannukah balls.

        1. mweis77*

          Well done! I’ll just go back to bed. There’s no way I can top this in any work I do today.

        2. C Average*

          For some reason when I try to picture the devious Percival Montblanc, all I can conjure is Victor Newman from “The Young and the Restless.”

          1. Wendy*

            For some silly reason, I am hearing in my head the “Otto Titsling vs. Philippe de Brassiere” song from the movie “Beaches”. :)

        3. Dynamic Beige*

          Maybe I get this wrong, but it seems like Jane is often the incompetent one… maybe Percival sends Jane on interviews at Teapot United to get a job there and destroy the company from within! Nothing like a spy on the inside to steal plans and add some water to the chocolate and ruin it.

          1. GOG11*

            I recently went to lunch with several work friends and the use of aliases came up. I said that on AAM, Jane is frequently used to preserve anonymity/in reference to a coworker causing issues. We then spent part of the lunch talking about how Jane is just the worst.

        4. Pontoon Pirate*

          And Fergus and Lucinda will be the young rising stars torn in their respective companies. Fergus–torn by his ethics–and Lucinda–desperate to outrun the curse the recently fired receptionist/witch cast upon her–meet cute after a convention. Will they? Or won’t they?

          1. C Average*

            Of course they will! At CitiBank. They’ll meet accidentally and start to talk when she borrows his pen.

  3. Gene*

    #3: They want you and you want to work there; is it possible to get some training or experience in this skill?

    1. West*

      It is definitely possible to get some training in this skill, but I am in a spot right now where I don’t need it in my current organization and I generally enjoy my current job. I have just been tipping my toes into the job market to see what’s out there and maybe get a pay raise with a move, since my employer pays a little lower than its peers.

      If I felt like I just had to get out of my current job, you better bet that I would be treating this as something to learn immediately instead of a stretch project.

  4. V.V.*

    LW 1 please be direct with the new hire and make it clear the time they are expected to start work.

    I understand this person isn’t a direct report, and you feel you might be over stepping, but I would feel sabotaged if I was arriving late thinking that was an acceptable start time, to then have everyone I asked, complain to the boss.

    If this person asks why others are coming in late, explain that those employees have different arrangements with management, and if having a later start time is something person is interested in pursuing, they will need wait for their manager to come back from vacation.

    1. Lee*

      I’m less sympathetic to the new employee. Sure, if there was the possibility that OP gave the wrong impression, correct it. But the new employee, in addition to being late all the first week, is being manipulative to boot. Who asks their non-superviser based on one or two other people, as though that’s really how your start time (or end time, or time you need to spend working rather than surfing the net, etc.) works.

      1. LBK*

        Can you clarify how you find the employee’s actions manipulative? That implies a level of deviousness that I just don’t see here. This really hinges on how big the department is – if it’s only the 4 of them, that means half the department is coming in at a different time, in which case it sounds pretty reasonable to me to assume that the 8:30 starting time isn’t set in stone.

        My new department is about 15 people and everyone has their own schedules – my manager comes in at 7, a few people show up at 8, some come in at 9…if there was meant to be a set start time, I’d certainly have no idea what it was by observing others.

        1. BananaPants*

          I would make sure to give the new hire a heads-up. If the new hire is seeing other coworkers appearing to openly flout the 8:30 AM start time (by arriving up to a half hour later) then I could see her thinking that it’s not a firm thing. If she keeps coming in late after being told that she’s expected to arrive by the start time, then it lends more credence to the fit/culture concern.

          And if the firm 8:30 AM start time is important, those who routinely arrive late due to “gradual bad habits” (versus making special arrangements with their manager) should be expected to shape up as well, not just the new hire. Plenty of people work in cities with abysmal commuting conditions and manage to make it into work on time.

          In my organization, exempt employees have flex time with “core hours” where we’re expected to be available for work. If an exempt employee wants to leave before they end or later than the core hours start, that’s possible with approval of one’s manager. I work in a group of 5 people (not counting our manager) – one doesn’t get in to the office until 9 or 9:30 AM because of child care arrangements, but he works until 5:30-6 PM. I try to get in at 7 or 7:30 AM so I can leave at 4 PM (if I’m lucky). Others tend to trickle in between 8-9 AM and leave between 4:30-5:30 PM. If there’s an early morning or evening meeting then we’re still expected to call in or be in the office to join, but other than that, what time I get into the office is generally quite flexible.

        2. Lee*

          It’s primarily because the worker came in late the very first day — and then sought out some way to receive affirmation for that (despite having been told the clear start time). The whole thing reads really shady to me before even getting to watching other workers come in and picking the late ones as the ones to set the example, then shifting responsibility to another person for all of these choices. But I can’t deal with people new to a job not coming in on time anyway, so maybe it’s just me. It seems so disrespectful, and I’ve worked so many places where they’d be fired. Not kidding. I really don’t get this whole blase attitude pervasive on this thread, but whatever.

          1. LBK*

            I said this below, but I don’t get where you’re seeing that she knew the start time on the first day. OP says she was late on the first day because OP assumes she knew what time to be there, but we don’t actually know if the manager told her or not.

            Also, it’s entirely possible the manager told her to come in later on the first day so the manager would have time to do some of their own work and prep training materials – again, OP is making an assumption that the new coworker was late based on the 8:30 start time, but we don’t know.

            1. Sandy*

              We typically have new hires come in a half hour late on their first day for that exact reason. We also have pretty flexible times for staff, but everyone is expected to attend meetings during core hours regardless of their usual schedule. Honestly, if she’s not in a position where having her butt in the chair during a certain time period is important, what’s the big deal?
              A good schedule can reduce stress, caffeine dependency, and improve productivity. Giving workers flexibility when it doesn’t negatively effect the business is the mark of a good office to me. If OP is jealous, she should talk to the manager about her own schedule.

            2. OP #1*

              She knew the first day start time was 8:30 and called to let us know she was running late. It was only 15 minutes or so and not a huge deal at the time.

            3. EvilQueenRegina*

              At my old job we had one new hire turn up late because the letter he was sent telling him to arrive at 9am on his first day didn’t arrive until 9:30am that same day. No idea why our manager didn’t give him the time over the phone….

      2. Naomi*

        I don’t think the new employee is being manipulative at all. How is she supposed to magically know to come in at 8:30 when some people come in later, her manager isn’t there to ask, and the only person she asked told her it was ok to come in at 8:45-9:00?
        At my current job, I asked when to come in and was told any time was fine as long as I did all my work. If I then found out I was in trouble for not coming in at 8:30 every morning, I would be confused and angry.

        1. jamlady*

          I agree. I work so many contracts so I automatically just follow the lead of my coworkers now at a new job (unless it’s anything I know is totally wrong, obviously). If I was then singled out and told that I was wrong, I’d be pretty confused with the office culture. I totally understand that you earn rights as you go (such as coming in later), but this employee doesn’t seem to have firm knowledge about a start time so she’s kind of just going with the flow. “Manipulative” is a harsh (and, in my opinion, incorrect) assessment of this situation.

        2. Lee*

          Because she came in late the very first day, despite being told the time. Then picked as the people to model her behavior on those who were late — for reasons she didn’t know — rather than the people who were on time. Yuck. Yuck. Gross. Gross. Seriously? She’d be fired already where I work.

          1. LBK*

            Where do you get that she was told the time on the first day? The OP isn’t her manager, so there’s no way to know what conversations did or didn’t take place between them. I actually suspect the manager didn’t tell her anything because then she wouldn’t be asking a coworker weeks later.

            Here’s how I read the situation: new employee isn’t told what time to come in before starting, shows up at roughly what she thinks is an acceptable time. B the time she realizes some people are consistently coming in earlier than she is, her manager is on vacation so she asks a coworker for verification, coworker says “Well technically 8:30 but people come in late”. So now new employee still doesn’t have a firm answer on when she should be in the office and is probably going to continue to show up randomly until someone actually says “You need to be here at 8:30”.

            If no firm start time has been given, how is she supposed to know that she’s modeling the behavior after people who are technically late? As far as she’s aware, it’s a flexible start time between 8:30-9.

    2. Oryx*

      “I understand this person isn’t a direct report, and you feel you might be over stepping, but I would feel sabotaged if I was arriving late thinking that was an acceptable start time, to then have everyone I asked, complain to the boss.”

      This. The direct report asked and it sounds like the OP waffled a bit, not giving a clear answer. So of course the new hire is going to continue what she’s doing because nobody has directly told her otherwise. So, yes, I too would feel sabotaged if the person I asked didn’t give me a black and white answer then went to my boss later and complained about my not following black and white rules I wasn’t told about.

      1. OP #1*

        It was a tricky moment because when she asked me I had just arrived (at about 10 minutes late) and there were two coworkers who weren’t there yet. So I couldn’t exactly say “Yes, everyone is here exactly at 8:30.” But I did tell her she would need to talk to her supervisor if she wanted to actually make a schedule change. She said she had a morning routine she wanted to keep and didn’t want to come in right at 8:30, so I think she only heard the part she wanted to hear.

        I will try to find a moment to clarify directly with her. I’ve already told her boss about the conversation I had with her and that I may have contributed to the wrong impression, so she’s aware of the issue.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Is this a case where the boss doesn’t care so much about butt in seat time as long as work gets done, but some nosy co-workers do care? And does she need to work with the nosy co-workers? If so, I’d let her know that. As in “As you know, Big Boss isn’t super strict about the 8:30 arrival time for people that have been here awhile and that he knows will stay late until they get the job done. However, there are some people here who will think you don’t work as hard if you are always arriving after 8:30, at least until you have proven your worth. So if I were you I’d either highly recommend prioritizing arriving before 8:30 every day in order to set a good impression, or negotiate an official start time of 9:00 with the boss and let everyone know that’s your start time so they don’t mentally ding you every time you are late.”

          There was a time in my life when I would have said “get to work on time! get up 15 minutes earlier, what’s the big deal?” But now I know that there can be a variety of reasons, from having drop off kids or wait for their school bus that can’t start any earlier or taking a workout class that is only offered at certain times, or bus routes where you are either 15 minutes late or 45 minutes early with no exceptions, etc where it just makes sense to allow some flexibility, especially when you are only talking about 1/2 an hour – but its better to be clear as to what your start time actually is than, even if its pushed back than to always be late.

          1. C Average*

            This seems very reasonable. And it’s a kind way to clue in a new employee to the unwritten rules of the office that it might otherwise take her a while to figure out.

        2. Oryx*

          How many people work in the office? It sounds like several people see the 8:30 start time as flexible, I’m just wondering what percentage of the office or if they are in the same department as her.

          1. OP #1*

            There are about six of us that work in the same small area, 2-3 show up about 10-15 min late (and happen to be the ones she shares office space with). We don’t have nosy coworkers who care about time so much, it was mostly me (who was asked to observe her for performance issues) and the person tasked with training her (who is not her direct boss) who were concerned about how she’s handling her schedule. The boss cares the most about everyone getting in on time but is often out of the office.

            1. Oryx*

              So, like, half the people — yourself included — are sometimes showing up late. It’s reasonable, then, for her to not understand, unless explicitly told, why that’s not okay.

              1. fposte*

                And I also think the “observe her” thing is kind of awkward and unfair. If she’s doing something undesirable, like flexing her start time, and there’s no boss there to tell her to change her behavior, it seems sucky just to “observe” something simple like this and let it get apparently worse by going on longer rather than saying something. So I’m voting strongly for saying something. If she doesn’t heed the information, then that’s on her.

              2. AdAgencyChick*

                Completely agree. I feel like this should be between the employee and her supervisor.

            2. Traveler*

              On one hand, this irritates me a lot. I am a time person. I hate people showing up late, especially if they’re new. I have argued on more than one thread here about lateness in favor of not doing it.

              On the other hand, you all are setting the example. Doing the “do as I say not as I do” doesn’t make for a very welcoming atmosphere. I get what you’re saying about those people having proven their worth, and she is new. However, being the only one in the office regularly on time is annoying. It’s one thing if that’s your choice, it’s another when it’s being asked of you and only you simply on the basis that you are “new” or a similar such parameter. It would seem to me you either work in a place where being on time matters, or it doesn’t.

        3. RoseTyler*

          If you’ve already told the boss about the conversation, I don’t think you need to do anything else. The boss should address it with her (either 1.) as a general “we didn’t have time to talk through specifics before I went on vacation, but our day generally starts at 8:30….” conversation or 2.) as direct feedback that the new hire is arriving later than the boss wants). Either way, I don’t think you need to be in the middle.

        4. SJP*

          Just to ask, do you know if the morning routine is cause of kids or something? If someone was my report and they just wanted to stick to a routine and didn’t wanna get up slightly later for example, i’d be a bit annoyed.
          If it’s something like a childs morning routine that needs sticking to then fine (or some other circumstance which is really important) then maybe, but to just want to stick to a routine they’re used to is not acceptable. You change jobs, you change your routine to fit.

          I wonder if this person is naive because everyone knows you get settled, and recognised before asking for exceptions.

          When I first started my job I had a start time of 9am and had to be in (reception cover etc) but with the motorway I have to drive it’s a nightmare and however early I left I struggled to get in for 9am. After a couple of months I had shown my ability etc and discussed the commute and how tough it is and she agreed to let me change to 9.30am and now, bam, no problems.
          But if i’d asked off the bat I think she’d have been a lot less sympathetic

          1. OP #1*

            Not a kids issue (we’re very kid friendly and flexible when parents need it), she just likes her morning walks and doesn’t want to change that for work.

            1. tesyaa*

              Why is that less important than “kid” issues? That you’d cut slack for a school bus, but not for a morning fitness/wellness routine, is one of those things that the childfree rightly complain about.

                1. SJP*

                  Yea i’m childfree to but take the exact same standpoint of the gold digger.. change your morning routine/walk to get to your job on time! Seriously, no brainer!

                2. SJP*

                  Also Tesyaa, I get up at 5.30am to get down the yard to get the horses ready for a ride until about 7.45/8am, I start work at 9.30am. If I had to start riding later which meant i’d be late for work i’d give that up to make sure I get to work on time because work is what pays for my home, riding is a hobby and a fitness thing. If I had to sacrifice it, I would

              1. A Bug*

                To me it’s more the difference between an obligation with a fixed, non-negotiable time frame, and something that can easily be adjusted half an hour one way or the other.

                And when we’re talking about something like this where you knew your start time going in and you’re not giving something up so that the folks with the obligation get to benefit (like having to work overtime so those people don’t have to, or never getting the good holidays off because of “people who have family” or whatever), I don’t really think it’s unfair to require people to be on time unless there is a fairly good reason that’s not practically in the person’s power to change.

                1. A Bug*

                  For clarity, there are plenty of obligations that aren’t child-related that I’d give leeway on. Morning classes, appointments, public transit schedules. I’d expect a person to make their best efforts to make appointments that don’t make them late for work, but “I just don’t want to get up that early” is pretty far from “best efforts.”

                2. Traveler*

                  Does there really need to be a “reason”? I think we just need to treat employees equally regardless of whether or not they have children in cases like this – either everyone needs to be on time or everyone gets a 20-30 minute window. It stops us all from having to have fights about what reason is “good enough”.

            2. jhhj*

              I really hope that this was just awkwardly worded and that you aren’t saying that your workplace is flexible for kid-related reasons and not other reasons.

              1. OP #1*

                Yes, definitely not the implication that only parents deserve flexibility! I’m child free too — just trying to make a distinction between a logistics issue (as juggling children’s schedules often is) and something as I see as more of a preference (there are lots of ways you can get your workouts in during the morning and still get to work on time).

              2. Ann Furthermore*

                I don’t think that’s what the OP is saying. But realistically, there’s a difference. I’d be pretty flexible with someone who has to get their kids on the school bus, which comes at (for example) 8:00, meaning the person may not be able to be at work by 8:30 every day. Then there are the times the bus breaks down, or is late, or maybe the school is on a delayed start due to bad weather (the most annoying of all delays). Those are all things outside the employee’s control.

                I’d be less flexible with someone who can’t get to work on time because they don’t want to get up a half hour earlier to get their morning workout in. The time you get out of bed is completely within your control. That is not to say that the morning fitness routine is not valid, or important, but there’s more latitude with that than being tied to a bus that comes at x time every morning.

                1. jhhj*

                  Well, occasional delays because a bus breaks down/is late is a different issue — that can happen for all sorts of weird reasons (power goes out overnight and resets the alarm, snow blower covered your car and it took time to get out, accident on your route to work, etc).

                  But the thing is, if you’re flexible in morning hours, I don’t see why it should matter WHY someone asks for flexibility. Either it’s possible based on their job/productivity/whatever or it isn’t.

                2. Traveler*

                  Do kids not wait at bus stops anymore? My mother always dropped me off at the stop and then made her way to work on time. Is that just not a thing anymore that mom/dad have to wait around with them?

                3. Ann Furthermore*

                  Traveler, when they’re a little older, they will. When they’re little, mom or dad usually put them on the bus. In our neighborhood, a lot of parents of older kids are taking them, because there is an assisted living facility being built in a vacant lot directly across from the bus stop, and there’s alot of traffic in the mornings, and heavy equipment being used throughout the day, with earth-movers and things like that driving into the vacant lot, backing out of it, and so on. It would be pretty easy for someone driving one of those not to see a little kid.

                  Yeah, maybe part of it is parents being more protective and hover-y than when we were kids, but part of it is that most of the younger kids aren’t quite old enough to know what to do if something out of the ordinary happens. A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that her son (in 1st grade) didn’t make it onto the bus at school one day (due to an unusual, one-off series of events that was really no one’s fault, it was just a fluke) and when her husband met the bus, her younger son (in kindergarten) got off the bus, but the other one didn’t. When he didn’t get onto the bus, he thought that meant he had to walk home, so he started walking the bus route. They found him (in my neighborhood, actually) following the bus route. He had already crossed one very busy street, and would have had to walk down the busiest street in our area for at least a mile — and then cross it — to make it home. By the time they caught up with him, he’d been unaccounted for and missing for an hour and 15 minutes.

                4. Not So NewReader*

                  @Traveler- Where I live the bus will not drop off if there is no parent or babysitter around. I believe if someone who is not the parent will be picking the child up from the bus, the parent has to send a note in.
                  As far as morning pickups, parents usually wait with the child for the bus to come. Because this is the world we have now. It’s easier with older kids and it’s easier if there is a group of kids.

                  Decades ago, I used to wait for the bus alone. It was not comfortable then. I saw stuff that I still question. It can’t be better now.

            3. Jennifer*

              Oh brother, seriously?! My eyes just rolled on out of here. It is not mandatory that you be taking a nice stroll and showing up to work late because of it.

            4. Vancouver Reader*

              I used to make my morning walk part of my getting to work routine and I still got to work half an hour before I had to actually start work. But that was my wanting to catch the earlier and therefore less crowded bus.

        5. INTP*

          I don’t think it was necessarily an intentional misunderstanding on her part. If she hasn’t been explicitly told a starting time by her manager, she might assume it’s not a huge deal and she can just continue as usual until she gets a chance to speak with the manager. Especially given that about half of the people she seems to work in proximity with have these special late arrangements and it’s a pretty inconsequential amount of time, not like she’s decided to work 10-7.

          1. SJP*

            Thing is, If you just started a new job and were told your start time was 8.30am and just cause those around you came in late, would I start coming in late. Hell no! Because i’ve been specifically told I had to be in for 8.30 regardless of who others do. She is disobeying directions just cause she wants a walk in the morning..

            1. INTP*

              But it sounds like she hasn’t been given any official instructions from her manager about her start time being 8:30 AM. I get the impression that she was given no guidance for official start time by her supervisor, asked a coworker (the OP) about how things generally work, and was told “Most people start at 8:30 but 1/2-1/3 have made special arrangements that you can talk to your supervisor about.” I think that could lead to an honest interpretation that her start time is sort of in limbo and can be formally arranged when her supervisor comes back into the office, not that she should assume a strict time of 8:30AM. Usually if start time is considered strict, your supervisor would inform you, you wouldn’t have to ask a coworker about it.

              1. OP #1*

                She was told specifically when she started it was 8:30. When she saw people late, she asked when people actually come in. I said some aren’t 8:30 on the dot and she’d need to talk to her manager if she wanted to change her start time. She began showing up around 8:50/9 (with no talk to the manager).

                1. LBK*

                  Can I ask who told her that she needed to be in at 8:30? Was it you or the manager? I’m just wondering how you were privy to this conversation.

        6. LAI*

          In my professional experience, it’s understood that people earn the right to have a flexible schedule. Once you’ve been working at a place for a while and had a chance to 1) prove yourself and 2) observe and understand the local culture, then it might be possible to start coming in late. Personally, I come in “late” almost every day – sometimes up to an hour. I also work late almost every day, and I check in with my supervisor occasionally to make sure that she’s happy with my work and that there are no issues with my working a flexible schedule. There are people who come in late, but also leave early and don’t produce as much – I would assume that the conversation goes a bit differently for them.

          1. jag*

            I worked in an amazing factory (five or six person staff) where everyone got a flexible schedule right from the start – even me who just started at the lowest rung. That was a key selling point.

        7. AMT*

          If you said, “Talk to your boss about your schedule,” and she heard, “Go ahead and come in late every day without leaving any later or changing your hours with your boss,” that’s a big red flag. I’d feel justifiably annoyed if that were the case, especially if she hasn’t actually requested to change her schedule and she has other performance issues.

          The only thing I’d fault you for is not making your expectations clearer, but I can totally see why you were caught off-guard. A sensible employee would just ask if she could change her schedule, not whether she can come in late because everyone’s doing it.

        8. rPM*

          I work in a similar environment where proven performers have more flexibility than new hires. In our office, we decided to simply be direct about this with new hires by explaining that expectations for them are a little different than for long-term employees with a strong history of performance and reliability. Since you’re not her supervisor, you might also frame the conversation as wanting to give the new hire some informal advice about expectations at your company, “in case you gave her the wrong impression initially.” Then you could explain that while she may see some proven performers showing up a little later, new hires really are expected to be on time and showing up late when you’re new to the company is likely to come across as a lack of drive to coworkers and bosses.

    3. KimPossible*

      LW1, I echo what everyone else is saying and ask you to have another chat with the new employee to make the rules clear. I was a new hire in a similar situation very recently and it wasn’t a lack of respect for rules or laziness that made me late. I was just observing the behavior of those around me.
      In my office, we are allowed to arrive anytime between 7 and 10. My start time is 8, and I take the train to work. There is one train that gets us to the office 10-15 mins early, and one that gets you there about 10 mins late. There is a shuttle bus that takes us from the station to the office so it is very clear who is on what train. My manager and I are the only employees who take the train. He takes the later train 1-2x per week. Because the traffic is so terrible and unpredictable in this area, those who drive are not hassled if they arrive 15-30 mins late, which happens multiple times per week. Also, those who drive either arrive earlier (so no one knows if they are late) or later. My manager has often said he doesn’t pay attention to the arrival times of anyone who gets there after him as his office is in the back of the building and he doesn’t see anyone enter or exit. When employees who arrive earlier tell him that they are staying late because they came in a half hour late, he tells them they should have lied and just and left at their regular time. All of the other employees, except for one, were hired at the same time as I was.
      After observing all this behavior for about six months I determined that there was some flexibility in my schedule and that it was okay to occasionally take the later train. After a couple weeks of this (taking that train 1-2x per week) my manager sent me an email reprimanding me, despite having been on the train with me on those occasions. After speaking to my coworkers who drive I’ve determined no one else was spoken to and they all continue to arrive late. I was very taken aback that I was the only one being monitored because I happened to commute with my supervisor. I was also mortified to be giving a negative impression without my being aware of it. I’ve since started driving more often which is a shame because the train is free, but driving gives me more flexibilty.

    4. INTP*

      I totally agree with this. If the nature of the work doesn’t require butt-in-chair at specific predictable times, then the concept of being “on time” (within a common sense range of general office hours) is more of a company culture convention, keeping appearances type of thing. And many companies are more relaxed about it – most of the “professional” places I have worked, people had a range of an hour or two in which they were supposed to show up and leave, and were trusted to work for at least 8 hours without being tracked – and if there was a specific start time I was informed of this before starting work. Maybe it seems like common sense to people who have only worked in less flexible environments that everyone needs to show up at the exact same time but it doesn’t work that way everywhere and it’s not unreasonable for the new hire to not just intuitively know this about the company culture.

    5. Lizzie*

      Yeah, the new employee should be trying to make a good impression by showing up on time. But, I also think that the OP did that employee a disservice by being so vague.

      I commute to work by public transit, and my morning commute takes about 60-75 minutes, depending on whether I catch one bus or have to wait for the next one. I think it’s hugely important to be on time to work…but you better believe that if someone told me I could come in a couple minutes late, I’d be taking that later bus every day and getting an extra 15 minutes of sleep.

  5. so that when they turn their back on you, you'll get the chance*

    #2: Alison’s advice to be honest and upfront rings true to me. But if it doesn’t work, you may want to hit your boss up for the tools and training necessary to do what he’s asking. Be ready with some representative prices on Adobe Creative Suite and associated classes.

    I’m just going to toss this in: have you considered trying to use these kinds of job assignments to add some design chops to your resume? Like, imagine getting paid to learn Photoshop?

    Finally: it’s entirely possible to “fake it till ya make it” in design. It’s a dirty little secret, but many designers work by stealing stuff that’s already been done, and then adding their own little twist to it. I mean, there are books with names like The 500 Best Business Card Desgns of 2012. Who buys such a book? What do they use it for?

    I don’t know you, and I’ve never seen any of your work. But despite whatever misgivings you may have, you are far from the worst designer in the biz.

    1. Lanya*

      OP should definitely consider learning some basic desktop publishing skills, but it’s important to note that just learning Photoshop does not a graphic designer make. I spent four years getting my bachelor’s degree in design and advertising and I can tell you “design chops” do not just happen overnight. Graphic design does require a certain amount of propensity for visual thinking. If the OP doesn’t really have the desire to add this skill set to his wheelhouse, he may be better off with the template solution that somebody above suggested.

      The graphic designers who “steal stuff that’s already been done” have done an incredible amount of damage to my industry. These are usually the people whose prices are low, low, low. (You get what you pay for.)

      1. the_scientist*

        I have to agree with this. Graphic design does require a certain amount of innate talent that can’t really be taught. You truly have to have an “eye” for good design as well as the artistic chops to make it happen. If the OP has talent and interest in that area, then by all means they should consider taking courses and adding some new skills to their resume. But if the OP doesn’t have the aptitude and the interest, they really should push back with their boss. I bet the boss is having some sticker shock over the cost of working with a skilled graphic designer and wants to try and avoid paying for quality work by getting it done in-house. The boss may have no understanding of how difficult design work can be and is probably thinking “whatever, OP is good with computers, so he can do just as good a job and it won’t cost me any extra money!”. It’s not the OP’s fault if the employer can’t afford to purchase necessary services and materials, and if OP doesn’t want to compromise their integrity by signing their name to a sub-par product, I don’t blame them one bit.

        Disclaimer: I’m biased because I was asked by my former boss to do some visual/creative work because of a lack of budget/ “it’s just easier to do it this way”. I am a scientist and have less than no aptitude for visual art. Anything I produced would have looked like it was designed by a chimpanzee who was also drunk at the time and I wasn’t willing to put time and energy into creating obviously inadequate, sub-par work that was outside of my job description to begin with. I have a relative who is a (very talented) graphic designer and it’s an insult to the profession to act like just anybody can do it.

        1. Mike C.*

          This is one of those things that really, really pisses me off. I spent years learning math and science and if you want me to dig around databases or analyze data that’s great. But telling me that I suddenly need to design full color posters and that they need to look professional because I know computers is incredibly ignorant.

          1. the_scientist*

            I think some of it is the reality of working in a small program and on a grant-funded budget; money is always tight and everyone’s looking to save as much as possible. In our case, we needed things like logos, business cards, research posters, powerpoint slides and reports for program branding purposes. The big sticking point was that we also needed a new website. We had a team developing the back end of the site but it was going to be our responsibility to work within their template to design the site and manage site content; my boss really wanted me to work on that project. My boss also had very, very limited computer and internetting skills and was a sort of creative person herself, so I think she thought that anybody could do this stuff, no problem! It was a source of endless frustration for me at that job……while I admittedly appreciated getting a chance to learn some website content management skills, the reality is that web content is almost a full-time job in and of itself, it wasn’t what I was hired to do, and I have no real interest in it. As a result, our website is kind of a mess because it was run by me and two other people, none of whom had web design or content experience. For the branding stuff, we finally convinced the boss to hire a freelance graphic designer and although the designer ended up not being very good (I wish we’d looked harder for one) it was still well worth the price.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yeah, but you might as well make me the healthcare program because I was half a biology major in college. I get trying to be efficient, but there are times when you’re trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.

          2. LOLwut*

            I’m a writer who has a bit of self-taught skill with web and design programs (learned through CodeAcademy, Lynda, etc.). At my last job, since I could do a little bit of InDesign, my title was suddenly changed to Graphic Designer and I was told to basically build a new intranet site that anyone with experience would have charged six figures to build. Oh, and the boss got extremely hostile (bordering on abusive) when I told him it was beyond my capabilities. Left after seven months, took a job with less pay, and never looked back.
            “Warm body” does not equal “design expert”, despite what too many idiots in high places may think.

            1. Anon for this*

              I have experienced some of this too. Ability to write a bit of rudimentary HTML turned into “make this website as beautiful as XYZ other site, for which a professional was paid a.lot.”

              1. LOLwut*

                Oh yeah. When I turned in my first design, the head of sales and the Director of IT (yes, a man who one would assume knows better) complained about how it didn’t look like Apple’s website. That’s when I knew I was toast.

                I figured I was getting fired either way, so I kept telling them both that it was “in progress”, even though I’d done almost nothing and was working 60 hours a week on actual, important projects. Can’t imagine their reaction at what they found when I quit, and frankly I don’t care.

            2. Lanya*

              This. Too often, graphic designers are expected to double as web designers, when really, those two jobs involve very different skill sets. I am a great visual thinker and I can create web graphics, but don’t ask me to write code. My brain simply does not work that way. And I have tried so hard to learn.

          3. Bekx*

            I’m the exact opposite- at my last job I was the graphic and web designer. My boss told me to learn .NET because “that’s on the computer” and when I told her that I failed all my Comp Sci and math classes in college because I don’t THINK that way I was told to just read a book and learn it. It’s not the way my brain works, sorry. I’m sure if I spent every waking hour trying to learn I’d get some stuff, but I’m artsy, not analytical.

      2. SherryD*

        Word. I’ve taken Photoshop and InDesign classes, and can put together a newsletter, or a web graphic. But that doesn’t mean anyone will confuse my work with that of a trained graphic designer!

      3. INTP*

        Agree with this. I’m a “word person” creative, but I have awful visual skills. My brain just doesn’t work in that way. The only time I’ve ever been able to visualize something and create it was when I was on a medication that wound up making me manic! I’m good at learning software and stuff but all I can do is manipulate text and images in the files. If I were expected to create graphics on par with competitors with real graphic designers it would not go well. Expecting a word creative to also be a visual creative is a little like expecting a physicist to also be the team doctor because, hey, you’re a science person, so you can do it!

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed. I discovered this very quickly in my document design class before I left school. I really struggled with the skills, especially pattern recognition, which is something my LD affects. I can design a basic document (and I did learn some useful things in that class), but any kind of layout or graphics stuff is way beyond me. I am just not comfortable with these particular things and it’s not something I want to learn.

      1. so that when they turn their back on you, you'll get the chance*

        I think this question is directed at me?

        The strict answer is that I am a software engineer who does a lot of design work. Over the past 20 years I have had numerous job roles which have included design as a major or minor part of their focus. For instance: developing websites for law firms and legal organizations; developing web and mobile applications; developing 3D models of buildings, avatars, vehicles, and many other things. Plus large numbers of charts, presentations, icons, and othe day-to-day business minutia. I consider myself a professional, as I get paid to do this. In addition, I’ve been offered money for some of my personal artwork. My degrees are in Computer Science; I don’t have an MFA. I’ve read a lot of Tufte’s work.

        For what it’s worth, I do believe that design is a skill, in that it is something that can be taught and learned. If a person is innately talented, that is wonderful. But I do not believe talent – ie, an ineffable gift from God – is necessary to become a competent designer. I once trained four young Indian women, fresh out of college, how to design and build 3D models, and was extremely pleased with the results: two of them developed a solid competency; one of them never really “got” it; and one of them – who already had a serious interest in the arts – was flat out amazing.

        I’m not sure why you asked, but I hope that answers your question?

        1. jag*

          I totally agree with your description of design as a skill.

          Also, someone has to know their limitations – when they can do the design themselves and when they need help with from someone with more ability.

          And lastly, developing some in-house design capacity, even within oneself, is very helpful in managing external design resources. You’ll be further along in articulating problems and needs with people you hire for difficult tasks.

          One last thing – design is not software. Yes, knowing software is very very important or even essential, but back in the day people designed without it. We should be able to layout the title page of a report in Word or even Powerpoint that looks 95% as good as the same page done in InDesign.

    2. fposte*

      “But despite whatever misgivings you may have, you are far from the worst designer in the biz.”

      That might have been me, and the book cover art I once created. I think I might have done it in Word.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        Ha! I self-pubbed a couple books last year because I’m still between publisher book contracts (ugh) just to get something out for fans, and that’s EXACTLY how I did the book covers for those two. I used stock art I bought that already looked like book covers, so I think they’re pretty good for my limited skills, and they’re way better than a lot of self-designed covers I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean I would ever claim to be a good graphic designer, and I hope to be able to afford to have a designer do any I put out in the future.

        1. fposte*

          The horror was mine wasn’t even self-pubbed. Granted, it was an academic monograph, so my cover was still way above average.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        “you are far from the worst designer in the biz.”

        Uh, no, you are not a designer. That’s a guy who is being pressured by his boss to do work they have no inclination/training for or talent in. That is not a designer any more than making some Kraft Dinner makes anyone a chef.

        History fun fact! When I was in college in the 80’s, computers for graphic design hadn’t been invented yet, they hit the market hard during my 3rd year, but not at my college. People who tried to get summer jobs cutting ruby and stuff came back with horror stories of being sat down in front of a computer — in the interview — and being told “show me what you know.” Everyone was looking to hire cheap labour with computer skills ASAP, but those people were unicorns at that time. The economy was just starting to go off the cliff and literally thousands of skilled people lost their jobs to computers. Any guy with $10K and a dream could buy a MacSE and a printer and set themselves up as a “desktop publisher” — I used to rent computer time for $10/hour at such a place just to poke around on them try to figure them out. A metric shitton of truly bad design ensued as people who still needed flyers/posters/ads but didn’t have the money due to crappy economy hired those “desktop publishers.” Eventually, the economy improved a little, people saw that even though the price was cheap, they weren’t getting the results they wanted from their design work because it just looked bad and started going back to design shops. But, the damage was done and this “anyone can design!” perception still lingers to this day.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Sorry, that wasn’t meant for you, but the OP who is not a designer and admits it.

            I’ve known some amazing designers who didn’t graduate college but had industry experience. The problem with the word “designer” is that it just doesn’t apply to visual — there are instructional designers, usability designers, furniture designers, etc. I think that at it’s base, design is about problem solving. There is a specific need that must be solved, it must be in this medium for this price and convey this information (when it comes to graphics) and part of that is being attractive to the target audience. Unfortunately, it does kind of boil down to “you know it when you see it”. There are simply some people out there, like your one Indian lady who couldn’t figure out 3D modelling, who simply will never have what it takes to be a designer. There are some it comes naturally to, and there are others who can be decent/OK if they work at it (I probably fall into that last category). I can look at someone’s work and just see if they have any sort of sensitivity for placing things or fonts or colours, and reckon what I would do differently with the same problem.

            Today I went to a website that was gawdawful. It was for a local fitness place. I wanted to learn more about their services and was turned off by their presentation — I also didn’t get the information I was looking for. What was the problem that business had? To stay in business. I assume that since they are still offering classes, they must be doing OK, but how many people are leaving because their website looks like something someone’s Mom did in 2005? But, I am not a web designer. I could probably learn and apply myself and figure it out if I wanted to… but I will never be able to design a car or a line of clothes and if someone asked me to do that, I would politely decline.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      This discussion on doing design work by faking it reminds me of the similar attitude about writing. Just about everyone believes that because they took English classes in high school that they can write. And they don’t even know what good writing looks like, so don’t recognize that they really can’t write. So much business writing is done by people who don’t know they can’t write.

  6. BRR*

    #2 I feel like it might help to mention that you are willing to take on additional tasks but this is too far beyond the scope of the position when you were interviewing. You could offer to take training they pay for but that graphic design is a completey different field.

  7. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I’ll start this by saying I love a bit of flexibility towards start times in the mornings, unless there is a reason to have a fixed start time then I don’t see the problem in allowing staff to come in a bit later. But I do think its something that needs to be earned, showing up late on your first day isn’t acceptable and do decide to do it regularly shows pretty poor judgement and a stunning lack of awareness.

    One question I do have is how is the new hires timekeeping at the other end of the day, are they keen to run out the door the second they can or do they stay to make up the time and finish off some work?

    What jumped out at me was the cultural and skill issues you are having with the new hire. I think that is far more relevant and problematic than poor timekeeping and that’s what you or your boss should focus on.

    1. Dan*

      Frankly, if the role isn’t customer facing, or in some other way dependent on working a set schedule, I have a strong dislike for the concepts “on time” and “late.”

      If the newhire’s tardiness is impacting other people’s work, that’s an issue. If it’s not, then they should all MYOB.

      I recently had a small percentage of my work time get reassigned to an early bird. I’m not one. He started giving me flack about my hours, and I politely told him that if my hours are impacting the team and its productivity, I’d like to have a discussion on how we can work that out. He then said that it wasn’t really about that, he just wanted me here because it was more convenient for him. He’s not my real boss, and doesn’t have that kind of clout. So I pretty much told him where to stick it, that I’m happy to be in at 10 am for scheduled meetings, but you won’t see me in that early “just ’cause.” If that’s really going to be an issue, I will just go back to working for Perrson A full time.

      Granted, you can’t pull that your first week (or even month) on the job, but if there’s really no productivity hit, I’d let it go.

      1. Allison*

        I’m all for flexible time, but in this case the office does start work at 8:30 and that’s when everyone is expected to be there unless they have an alternate arrangement, so I would expect a new hire to follow the same rules as everyone else until they’re given permission to do otherwise.

        Besides, if I was new to an office where most people started at 8:30, I’d make every effort to be at my desk, ready to go at that time to make a good impression, and only ask for flex time if there was a reason why 8:30 wasn’t feasible.

      2. some1*

        I agree with this in general however, since it’s the coworker’s first week, I assume she is still training, presumably by shadowing other coworkers. As someone who spent last week training my new counterpart, I needed my coworker to be there when I started so I could show her tasks while it was slower.

        1. sunny-dee*

          It sounds like it may be the opposite for this new employee — the people who she is working with (the OP, at least) are coming in later than she is, so it probably doesn’t seem like a big deal if she’s there at 8:35 instead of 8:30. Especially is her manager is there.

          It really sounds like it was communicated to her that start times are flexible. If that isn’t the case, it needs to be corrected now. (And, if it really is the case, then the judgment needs to stop.)

    2. BRR*

      I so agree with this. I’m an early arriver but love to leave at 5 (if I need to id prefer a break and do work after dinner). Others have a hard time getting ready in the morning but will stay late.

      The problem is with the people in my office who are on a come in early leave early schedule who come in late, leave early, and take a long lunch.

      I also think it matters if the emploee is non exempt. But either way speaking more to how things are its a bad first impression.

    3. jhhj*

      I’m curious about the office’s feeling on the other side of the day. I really hate companies that aren’t flexible (and have no particular reason not to be — strict start times, break times, but not client-facing) but expect flexibility (late hours) from their employees.

      1. OP #1*

        Thanks for the response everyone! We’re a culture where people leave at 5 (or near 5) and it’s actually a-typical for people to stay much later (the last person has to lock the building so we’re encouraged to leave around the same time).

        I came in about 10 minutes late this morning and it’s nearly 9 and she’s still not here…

        1. jhhj*

          Okay, that’s fair to have a more strict start time if it isn’t expected — or even possible — to stay late.

        2. Windchime*

          Does she understand that she should be starting at 8:30? If she explicitly asked and you told her that people kind of come in whenever (and she also sees people floating in at all times), then how should she be expected to know that she really should be starting at 8:30? I’m wondering if she truly understands that.

        3. Mephyle*

          Exactly – it’s time to have another talk with her. Other people above had some good suggestions about saying that you may not have been clear when she asked before; i.e., starting with a sort of apology.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I’d just tell the new hire that she will see people coming in at random times. I would include myself here- “you will see me run a little late. Don’t do it until you clear it with the boss first.” If people are making up the time, explain that to her. It doesn’t sound like they are or maybe there are certain times of year where you work extra hours. My point is that it is in the new hire’s best interest to tell her not to do what she sees everyone else around her doing. If your company uses a probationary period you can point to that, also. “Just while you are in your probationary period, make sure you are checking in with Boss on stuff like this.”

          With some new hires I have gone as far as saying, “The boss wants me to give him progress reports on you. So be please be aware of that.” The amazing thing here is that some people do. not. care. It’s amazing to watch.

  8. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Being Late is something that only applies to doctor’s appointments and similar to me. Or meetings.

    Large segments of office workers have flexitime over here.

    How common is it in other parts of the world?

    1. LBK*

      I’m not sure where “over here” is, but in the US the transition to accepting flextime as the norm is slooooow. There’s still these really ingrained cultural ideals about starting early and working as many hours as you can for face time, even when it has nothing to do with productivity.

      1. Judy*

        In my experience as an engineer in the US, many places have “flextime”, but that flextime means you and your manger define the hours and post your schedule, within certain boundaries. It doesn’t mean that you can, without notifying anyone, come in 30 minutes late on this Tuesday just because you felt like it. There are usually core hours, like 10-3, that everyone’s standard hours must include.

        I certainly prefer starting early, just because I prefer leaving early, homework for the kids is waiting, and many evening meetings for church, school and scouts.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Over here would be Germany.

          Over here flexitime means: Building opens at 6 am and closes at 8 pm, do your time anywhere in that time slot, allot no more than 10h a day and be there for mandatory meetings.

          As long as you get your work done no one cares when you do it, as long as you’re inside the boundaries.

          1. Fuzzy*

            My god that sounds amazing.

            On an average day my work time takes me about 5-6 of my 8 hour work day. I wish I could spend that extra time better!

              1. Carrie in Scotland*

                Eh, as ever, depends on the company.

                Last job I had was a “flexi working” places. However, it was much more lenient on other employees and less so on the admin staff. Other employees worked 140 hours a month, and because of the nature of the job they could work weekends, nights, evenings, early mornings. Admin were in the office, 9-5. Due to the managers, it was definitely a “bum on seats” issue – over Christmas only 3 were allowed off at any one time when there was little work to do (other employees often took the 2 weeks break). In the handbook it stated that any employee incl admins could come in at 10 am without giving prior notice. Not the case when I once turned up at 9.30….

      2. Jennifer*

        In my experience, only managers really get “flex time” and can come in late–very few managers here show up at 8 a.m. when the peons do. A very few people have been allowed the privilege of working 7 a.m. -4 p.m., but my jobs have been pretty rigid about “must be here between 8 and 5, period, unless we need you to work a weekend too.”

        They are theoretically talking about having more flexible arrival times at my work, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen because we have regular meetings at 8 a.m. at least 1-2 times a week.

      3. Alternative*

        Huh, my experience has been completely different. I have never worked anywhere that didn’t have flexible schedules, and I’ve worked in a wide variety of industries and geographic locations.

  9. Nobody*

    Ah, another great punctuality debate… People are generally divided into two categories when it comes to punctuality: those who look at schedules as being rigid and those who think of time as flexible. Neither group can understand the other side, because it is sort of a fundamental difference in attitude about time.

    There was a letter a few months ago that sparked this type of debate — whether the boss has a right to care whether an employee arrives by the designated start time — and a lot of people thought that the boss should be more flexible, especially with a self-described high performer. I tend to disagree that high performers should be allowed to break rules that the rest of the employees are expected to follow, because it sends a message that those rules aren’t to be taken seriously. That may be what’s happening here.

    Still, I agree with the OP’s point that it’s awfully presumptuous for a new employee to start coming in late without asking the boss if the schedule is flexible. The way the OP describes the conversation, it almost sounds like the new employee was asking, “Can I get away with showing up late?” which is a bad attitude, especially if it’s how she approaches the rest of her job. On the other hand, if she starts showing up on time once it’s made clear that this is the expectation, the misunderstanding shouldn’t be held against her.

    1. LBK*

      I tend to disagree that high performers should be allowed to break rules that the rest of the employees are expected to follow, because it sends a message that those rules aren’t to be taken seriously.

      I think it depends what the rule is, but in general I disagree. If it’s something like strict starting times, I’m hesitant to believe that’s even a worthwhile rule, but nothing will drive a good performer out the door faster than being a stickler for hours when their productivity is what really matters. If you insist that I’m here at 8:30 on the dot every day and give me shit for being even a minute late, you can bet I’m clock out at 5 on the dot every day, presumably to go find a job that doesn’t treat me like I’m in elementary school. I also think it’s the job of a good manager to be comfortable telling a bad performer that they’re being held to a higher bar until their work quality improves to the point that they can be trusted to work independently and earn the freedom to make their own rules (to the extent that such applies).

      I also don’t see how the new employee’s question is that bad. She’s seen that the 8:30 start time doesn’t seem to be hard and fast so she asked for clarification. The fact that the OP didn’t really give a straight answer probably didn’t help either – it just reinforced the idea that it’s an approximate start time, not exact.

      1. OP #1*

        I do think there is a difference between showing up 10 minutes late (which happens) and a full 30 minutes late every day. I guess that’s what is concerning me. I’m all for flexible schedules — I’m no morning person and 8:30 is a challenge for me as well. There are no clock watchers around here, in fact upper management is also off site quite a bit, which is part of my concern — it’s so easy for someone to take advantage since the boss might not be around to see that it’s a problem.

        1. fposte*

          But you’ve told her it’s not late. I get that this is somebody who really wants it to be not late and started out by being late on the first day, which is worth a sideeye, but now that she’s been informed that people don’t have to be in at 8:30 she’s not late anymore, she’s just not coming in at 8:30–and she’s probably retroactively decided with relief that her first day time was okay.

          I’m a punctuality person and I think you are too. And I think you might be getting stuck on “she should have known, despite what I told her, because everybody knows about the importance of punctuality.” But not everybody thinks punctuality is that important, and even your office seems to think it’s okay for some people to come in closer to nine. Clarify what you’ve told her, absolutely, and also let up on her for believing what you said instead of what you meant. Maybe she isn’t a great employee and it won’t work out, but it’s not because she’s coming at a time that she’s been told is okay here.

          1. OP #1*

            I don’t think I’d describe myself as a punctuality person, but I do think there’s a difference between 10-15 minute flexibility (which is what our office has) and showing up a full 30 minutes after the start time every day (without talking to your boss about it, which I told her to do). People around here don’t do that. Even the late people are here before 9.

            But you’re overall point is right — there are other performance questions that matter more than fixating on the arrival time (which I wouldn’t do as much if I hadn’t been specifically asked by her boss to keep an eye on her). I don’t want to start playing clock police with my coworkers.

            1. INTP*

              But have you explicitly told her “This office has only 10 minutes flexibility”? Because company cultures vary vastly on this matter and it’s a bit unreasonable to expect someone to intuit your personal range of acceptable punctuality based on your company culture.

              I worked one place where when I asked about hours, I was told “People generally show up between 7 and 10, leave between 4 and 6, and take around an hour for lunch.” I worked another where our jobs were not time dependent but you’d get pulled into a conference room and lectured for being 5 minutes late. You really need to be explicit about time expectations. Tell the new hire “You really need to be here at 8:30 am. You can speak to your supervisor about changing that when they are back in town but for the time being please consider that your start time.”

              1. fposte*

                Agreed on the statement about flexibility, and also make it reflect the office reality–the original post said 2-3 people “sometimes come in between 8:45 and 9,” and that’s more than 10 minutes past 8:30, so there’s more than 10 minutes of flexibility. That’s the problem with these de facto policies–usually when you start looking, there’s a difference between what people would say the rule is and what people actually do.

                Look, maybe she can’t do punctuality and that’s going to be her downfall. But she’s not been given a clear message on the start time. It’s not fair to glower about her instead of just telling her that you gave her the wrong impression, and that she’s supposed to be in at 8:30 and it’s going to hurt her if she isn’t.

                1. LBK*

                  And not just between what people would say the rule is and what they do, but what they say the rule is and what they actually enforce, intentionally or not – sometimes people purposely don’t hold fast to the rule and other times it may just fall by the wayside because there are no practical impacts so it never comes up.

            2. WhoSaidWhat*

              Here’s my question from your letter, it’s only been 1 week and you guys already noticed performance issues? Are you sure your inherent bias towards her being late isn’t rubbing off? It’s only been 1 week, and she’s still adjusting. I would give her the benefit of the doubt because it seems like there’s a lot of confusion. Compounded with the fact that you’re not her boss.

              1. OP #1*

                I think it’s the other way around — I’m getting feedback from the person training her that she’s not performing well (basic computer use, time management) and now I’m focusing on the arrival time as being another symptom of what could play out to be a bigger problem down the road.

        2. Alternative*

          I can see why it comes off badly for someone new to seemingly flaunt the rules, but if there are no clock watchers, why do people in your office have to be there at 8:30? Is there an actual work reason for people to be there at that exact time?

      2. Just Another Techie*

        If it’s something like strict starting times, I’m hesitant to believe that’s even a worthwhile rule, but nothing will drive a good performer out the door faster than being a stickler for hours when their productivity is what really matters.

        Agreed. I’ve never had a fixed starting time in a professional office setting, nor a fixed ending time, except for the three months I was supporting a satellite launch and absolutely had to be at a 7:30am all-departments, both-shifts hand-off meeting every day. That sucked, but it really was vital that the morning crew get in that early so that the night crew could brief us on where things stood so they could go home.

        1. INTP*

          Agree with this too. This is something that could actually influence me keeping or leaving a job, tbh. Not that it’s insanely burdensome to have a set start and end time but it adds a lot of flexibility in life to have an hour or two of leeway day to day – being able to come in at 9am after a morning yoga class one day, then work 7-4 the next to take care of a business-hours errand, etc, without having to get approval from by boss every time. I understand that sometimes there’s a business need for it not to be the case, it’s just a huge perk in a job for me if there’s day-to-day flexibility.

      3. Nobody*

        I think there’s a big difference between offering a flexible schedule as a benefit to high performers — with the boss providing explicit permission and boundaries on work hours — and simply turning a blind eye when certain people are tardy while holding others to a strict start time. Either way, though, there’s a huge potential for it to be perceived as favoritism and ultimately harm morale. If it’s offered to high performers, it should be equally available for every employee to earn (e.g., after 1 year of satisfactory performance, or for employees who meet a certain sales quota, or up for discussion at each performance review, etc.). Then again, if it’s the type of job where specific hours don’t matter, why not just offer a flexible schedule to everyone from the beginning, and only take away the privilege from those who demonstrate an inability to self-regulate their hours?

        I also think that some people don’t accurately judge the importance of having their butts in chairs at specific times. It may be true that you get just as much work done if you’re there from 9:00 to 5:30 as when you’re there from 8:30 to 5:00, but maybe your schedule affects other people. Maybe a coworker needs your input on something before starting a project. Maybe the boss needs a status update from your project so she can prepare for a 9:00 meeting with her boss. Maybe clients are told the office is open from 8:30 to 5:00 and complain because they can never reach you before 9:00. You may be blissfully unaware that people who expect you to be there at 8:30 are left wondering when you’ll bother to show up. The bottom line is that it’s up to the boss to decide whether it’s important to be there at 8:30 on the dot.

    2. Dot Warner*

      To be fair, some of us have a reason for being rigid about punctuality. At a place that provides 24 hour services, the day shift can’t go home until the night shift arrives (and vice versa), so showing up on time is an important performance issue. (I know this doesn’t apply to the OP’s situation, just saying that’s why some people turn into sticklers.)

      I agree with everything else you said, though. The first week on the job is definitely not the time to ask what you can get away with!

      1. Snoskred*

        Exactly – I worked an afternoon shift for a while which handed off to the night shift, of which there were only 2 people who stayed at work overnight. There were 4 people who took turns being the overnighters, and one of those people – lets call her TimeChallenged – had a severe being on time problem.

        The overnighters would cover for TimeChallenged – logging her into the computer so it seemed like she arrived on time. I was not a great fan of this concept and I never did that myself but she always had someone around to cover her rear.

        Many times, I had to stay late – and please note, it was always staying for free because the overnighters were covering for her by logging in, so I could not stay logged into the computer or even mention that I had to stay behind or get paid for doing so – so that the overnighter would not be left alone in the building. I was never comfortable leaving someone there totally on their own, so I always stayed, some of the other staff would leave.

        Regularly, and by that I mean at least once every two weeks, TimeChallenged would call in sick, and if none of the other overnighters could cover and I were the person on afternoon shift, I would have to stay overnight to cover her. Which would mean a 12 hour shift for me, in a place where 6 hour shifts were the done thing.

        One day the covering her rear came back to bite everyone – TimeChallenged called in to say she was on her way, so the overnight person logged her in, then 40 minutes later called in sick. The fit hit the shan, it all came out, about people staying late to cover for her and people logging her in when she was not there, and from then on nobody could cover for her.

        At least then I got paid for having to stay, but then the workplace suddenly was awake to her lateness, and she was moved from that shift not long after to a shift where it didn’t matter if she was late or didn’t arrive at all. Things went a whole lot better without her on that shift.

        I’m really terrible at mornings but when given a start time I’ll be there 10 minutes before it. When start time rolls around I am ready to start work. That is just how I roll. I hate being late, and I think I would probably not cope well with flextime, because I really need that line drawn in the sand for a start time. :)

  10. Swedish Tekanna*

    I take the point about time flexibility when your time-keeping or exact working hours don’t have a direct. But when you are just starting a new job this is the time when you normally want to create a good impression. Like it or not, you are under particular scrutiny just then. It is when you are established that you could ask about flexibility. However, being ten minutes late doesn’t sound like a flexibility request; it sounds more like bad planning in the morning. I live in a busy city with heavy traffic and public transport delays but I deal with it by leaving earlier. On the plus side, it means that most mornings I don’t have a rush and can get a coffee and settle in for when my clock starts. I am currently paid hourly so I admit I have an interest in being on time, but I’ve always hated being late for work anyway. It gets the day off to a bad start for one thing.

    So early on, you really don’t want to be giving a new employer ammunition against you. It is just not worth it for 10-15 minutes. Besides, many employers do have set working hours and if that is a deciding factor for you that is a slightly different question.

    1. Allison*

      Agreed! When you’re new, you should be there when most people get in, and say until most people leave.

      If someone can’t establish good habits to be on time now, that’s not a good start. Bad habits have a tendency to get worse over time.

    2. Xarcady*

      I agree about first impressions. It just doesn’t send a good message when you are late on your first day of work. When I was training all our new hires, I found that the majority of them showed up 15-30 minutes early on their first day, because they were determined not to be late. Which was a hassle for me, because I tried to get in early those days to do some of my regular work, but the new people would show up before I could get anything done. But I would never complain about someone being early.

      Being late, especially when you are new and don’t have the trust of those you work with yet, draws attention in a way most people wouldn’t like. It’s one tiny thing, but people notice. And then they start watching you for other signs that you might not be fitting in.

      OP#1–I think you can safely say something to the new hire, even though you aren’t her supervisor. I’ve done this lots of times, in a “I’m letting you know about bits of company culture that aren’t obvious, but you really need to know,” sort of way. Just a heads up that at your company, people notice who arrives on time and who doesn’t, and life will be easier if she shows up to work on time.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Exactly. Never in a million years would I dream of not being exactly on time or early for work in my first few weeks or months on a new job. When I started my position with my company 10 years ago, in my first couple of weeks I needed a root canal, and felt awkward about having to take a half day of sick time and working from home for the rest of the afternoon (because I didn’t want to be drooling on myself at the office). Thankfully, no one cared, but I felt like I hadn’t yet earned the right to flex my hours because I was still establishing myself.

      My husband runs a small machine shop, and has been there for over 20 years. He started out on the bottom rung of the company, and over the years has worked his way up to being the shop foreman. Their work day starts at 7, but sometimes he comes in 10-15 minutes late. He does not need to be on the shop floor running machines, and most of the time he’s not. His younger brother works for him and is in charge of getting things started for the day and telling people what to work on. After 20+ years, he feels he has earned the right to come in a little late once in awhile.

      About a year ago my husband hired a new guy who did pretty good work, and was doing pretty well. But he was routinely 3-5 minutes late each day, which is my husband’s biggest pet peeve with a new person. You’re being watched closely, and all your work is being scrutinized, and you should be focused on your job and making a good impression. My husband’s brother pulled the new guy aside and said, “Dude, you’re a good machinist and you’re doing a pretty good job. But you have GOT to be here to punch in at 7. It’s [husband’s] biggest pet peeve and it really pisses him off. It doesn’t matter how good your work is, if you can’t be here on time, you’re not going to last.” The guy straightened up, and I think is still working there.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah if anything she should be coming in early and studying/training/on her computer til everyone else gets there

  11. Not an IT Guy*

    #4 – As much as you want to take off those two weeks, Allison is right. You want to make yourself available during the transition. Plus depending on your employer’s policy and/or state laws, you may end up getting paid out for those two weeks on your final paycheck. Who wouldn’t want 4 weeks of pay for 2 weeks of work?

    1. Rat Racer*

      We once had a staff member give 2 weeks and then take 9 days of PTO, returning on her last day to clean our her cube. My team had to take over her work – with no transition help – and it was a nightmare. The individual in question was very bitter when she left, so I imagine this was a final “eff you” to the department. But man did it suck for my team, and we weren’t the people she truly wanted to punish.

      1. Judy*

        At least two places I’ve worked would let people go if they said “Here’s my notice, I’m taking two weeks of vacation”. Both places were states that did not require payouts of vacation days.

        1. LCL*

          This happened to me. I gave two weeks during our busiest time of year. Boss said, if you feel that way, why don’t you leave now. So I did. But this was for an entry level position, for a large multinational company. And they paid my vacation because they had to-Yay Unions and good labor agreements.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Where I work, you would not be welcome back it you took your notice period as vacation. We had someone here who did it because he was mad at the president and thought he would “stick it” to him, but it affected us Normals instead. I got stuck cleaning out his office and other people had to scramble to figure out the status of his projects. He tried to get his job back after a month and our boss laughed in his face.

      1. Windchime*

        We had someone just give notice. This person officially gave 2 weeks, but 6 working days of that will be vacation time. So the real notice is 4 days. Yeah, cool. They didn’t do much anyway so I guess there isn’t much to transition, but still….I’m not sure how this is really “two weeks’ notice”.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I guess this is one of those areas where it differs between the US and UK (maybe Europe).

      In the UK, our normal notice period is 4 weeks. In the past I have either – taken some of my notice period off as annual leave or worked the whole notice period and had my remaining leave paid out to me.

      The last 2 admins in my department gave their 4 weeks and worked 2 and took 2 off as annual leave, however it’s my understanding that (& I’ve done it myself) they both left their work tidy and with clear instructions on what was done/handed over/not done etc.

      1. w*

        Clearly this isn’t a good situation, but I’ve had co-workers give notice two weeks plus the vacation time – so they work two last weeks, and then their technical last day would be whenever it took to run out the vacation time. Same thing as it being paid off, but helps with a few other things.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I get the impression this Op wanted some time off before she starts the new job but they wanted her to start in two weeks

  12. Sebastian Spode*

    Small world! Percival Mountblanc and I played lacrosse together at Porcelin Prep! I always knew he’d be a great success in the teapot world :)

  13. HR Generalist*

    #5 – Allison gave a great suggestion but I like to make mine bullet points. For example, if my reference Courtney was a former supervisor of mine at Teapots Ltd and is now CEO at Teapots Inc, I would write it like this:

    Courtney Shmourtney, CEO of Teapots Inc
    Former Supervisor at Teapots Ltd
    555-555-5555
    shmourtney@teapotsinc.ca

    They would be able to tell from my resume that I worked at Teapots Ltd, I don’t bother to give dates or timeframes (i.e. maybe Courtney was my supervisor for my entire time there, or maybe just for 6 months, but they can ask her about that). It’s really common in my area for people to leave their career for the military, in that case it would look like this:

    Cpl. Courtney Shmourtney
    Former Supervisor at Teapots Ltd
    555-555-5555

    1. Meg Murry*

      And if you have to cram it into a tiny line on a crummily written official application, I’ve had luck with putting (frmr Supervisor@Teapots Ltd) in the spot for title. I’ve also put the new title and company in that spot and an asterisk after it, then put below the references section
      *former Supervisor at Teapots Ltd

      I’ve had to fill out a few too many badly designed pdf or paper applications recently which are used for everyone from the person applying to be the dockworker to the CEO, so sometimes you have to be creative to get the info you need into the tiny lines available to you. And it doesn’t help that all my references from the company I was at the longest left, 3 of them to the same place I did, so it looks like all my references are from one company at first glance.

    1. fposte*

      Posts that go to moderation now aren’t giving the “moderation” message but are just disappearing behind the curtain for a bit, so it’ll probably turn up later.

        1. fposte*

          I think as long as people know it’s not that big of a deal. (Firefox 36.0.1, in case it’s helpful, since it happened to me yesterday.)

  14. Simplytea*

    #5, Maybe ask if they would pay out your paid leave? I had two weeks of leave when I left my previous job, and got a nice check for my trouble.

    Now, sick leave is a whole other ball game… which is why I actually like it when companies lump the two together!

    1. bridget*

      Depending on the state laws where the OP lives, they may be required to pay out earned but unused vacation. So they could require her to work the last two weeks of the notice period, but she’d get a check on her way out the door for the cash value of the unused days.

      Although since the OP used the word “holiday” instead of “vacation,” she may not be in the US, and I know nothing about non-US employment laws.

  15. TotesMaGoats*

    Taking your notice period as a vacation time can’t be done where I work. At the very least you have to be present on your last day. And most supervisors would retain the right to say no to using leave like that. If you could do it you’d be burning bridges in a major way where I work. I’d have to assume it would be severely frowned upon in most places.

    1. some1*

      My former employer didn’t allow anyone to take any paid vacation time after someone gave notice. Maybe preventing this was the reason.

    2. Macedon*

      I wouldn’t say it’s severely frowned upon in most places – the majority of my employers (across several countries) allowed that for negotiation with a direct supervisor. It tends to be a company policy announced in your contract.

      A few employers actually prefer that you take your PTO, if they feel the transition can be managed expediently and they’d rather not pay the extra days out of the pocket. I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them how they’d rather you handle your additional PTO once you’ve given your notice, so that they don’t later begrudge you for not utilising it and costing them an unwarranted expense.

  16. Allison*

    Generally speaking, I’m all for flex time, and I think more offices need to adopt it unless there’s a really good reason why they can’t. However, I think it should be an all-or-nothing situation: either everyone gets to drift in and out as they please, provided they’re getting work done, working 40 hours a week, and getting to their meetings on time; OR everyone has to be in by a certain time, one set time for most, and altered start times for a few people who need it and have earned it.

    I would not give someone alternate arrangements upon starting, unless they were a bullseye candidate for a role we had a tough time filling, and letting them come in 15 mins later than most people was the only way to get them to accept the job.

    1. nona*

      I’m not sure if I’d agree with that. I’m the only person who has to be here from X time to Y time. It works best for my job, and I like the schedule and routine. My coworkers have the flexible schedule that works for them. But you’re completely right if you mean that people who are doing the same job should have the same flexibility.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, that’s how my office is. We have some jobs where the time means absolutely the time and some where there’s flexibility save for specific key events, and it’s pretty clear which are which.

      2. jamlady*

        Yes I agree. My commute is SO much longer than everyone else’s so it’s way easier for me to miss traffic and arrive early so I can get home early and others live very close and prefer to come in later and miss the traffic that way (and still get home at the same time that I would with their short commute). As long as we’re hitting deadlines, making meetings, getting in our hours, etc. I see no issue with flex time.

    2. LQ*

      Some jobs require you to be in your seat from a specific time to another specific time. Does this mean everyone in the office (including brand new people) should not be allowed to have any flex time?
      If you have a receptionist then no one in the company is allowed flex time? If you have a phone line that needs answering then no one can flex time?
      I’m really surprised by this, can you give me some insight into why?

      1. Allison*

        I guess it should be more of a role-dependent thing, or by department, rather than a blanket rule for the whole company. It does make sense that the front desk person be in during specific times, whereas engineers don’t need to follow a schedule. But even then, if it is the rule for every employee regardless of position or department, then it’s expected that people should follow that rule and assume it applies to them unless management says otherwise.

        Also, this sort of thing should be outlined in the handbook. It’s always frustrating, especially for new employees, when the handbook spells out a company-wide rule when it’s obviously not enforced for everyone. Even if it’s just a small addendum like “exceptions may be made at the discretion of management, employees wishing to adjust their start time must get approval.”

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Well, there’s certain roles like customer service and inside sales where your clients like to know your hiurs and the reps need to be there. You can’t very well tell a new account “well, I get here between 7 and 8:30…) just doesn’t sound professional

  17. John*

    Sorry, but your behavior in your early days on the job says a lot about you as an employee. This isn’t about whether the employer should be more flexible.

    This is a bias, but if someone can’t get themselves in on time for the first couple weeks, I don’t have high hope for their performance.

    1. nona*

      Yeah. If the new employee hadn’t been late on the first day, I’d think they had simply misunderstood something about their schedule’s difference from their coworkers’. But being late on the first day?

      1. Leah*

        Precisely. I would probably give it at least a week of showing up right on time before I even asked about the office culture of coming in later. You need to follow the rules before bending them.

    2. Belle & Sam*

      I agree – right or wrong, but your first impression in a role is crucial to getting a good start in a workplace. A lot of it is about knowing the culture of a workplace, and that can take a long time to get a handle on it. Also, a lot of people will give the side eye to a new hire who seems to drift in and out how they please.

      In my first job (ad agency), I was told that our work day started at 8:30 and lasted until 5. The company president (who came from a military background) would walk around every morning around 8:45 and see who was in their seat. I worked in account management, so it was pretty crucial that I keep these standard hours.

      I had a friend who worked in the creative department of the agency who was chronically late – she would show up between 9-9:30 every day. She would argue that since she stayed later than 5 and worked on weekends that it was okay. (Part of the reason she stayed late was because she often wasted time during the regular work hours.) Her boss finally had to have a conversation with her and be firm about the work hours.

      One thing I’ve noticed (at least in my work places) is that the people who come to work early or at least on time are viewed as more reliable. People don’t seem to talk about people who come to work early or on time, but they sure seem to have something to say about people who show up late every day.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Funny, you reminded me just now that we have a director here that’s been with the company many mamy years and has a flex schedule and can even work from home and this person is actually the topic of a lot of chatter and certain depts are constantly going by her office looking for her and making frustrated sounding remarks when she’s not there

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Lw1> I’m curious what you mean by her not fitting in with the office culture. I’d be very careful about that term as it has become code for anyone who isn’t male and/or white.

    If she does her job well, then a culture fit is irrelevant, no?

    1. fposte*

      No :-). I’m with you on the problem of using that for code, but it can also mean she wants to party and socialize in an office that’s quiet and task-focused, or she’s terse and unsmiling in an office that really values collegiality. Or she’s flexible on time in an office that really values punctuality.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I bristle at the term because it has been used against me for not smiling enough or not being warm and friendly and other gendered feedback that had no relevance in the workplace.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, they can certainly get used that way. On the other hand, in my workplace that would be true across the board, and if you weren’t smiling or being warm and friendly you would indeed be a bad cultural fit no matter your gender.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            Misposted this below.

            When it’s used to target women who don’t act stereotypically feminine.

            Also, my definition of good attitude means I show up, do my work to the best of my abilities, be thorough, and look for new opportunities for my employer to look good and grow.

            None if that had anything to do with my facial expressions or being maternal and warm.

            1. fposte*

              Sure, but this description is going too far the other way, because it doesn’t talk about getting along with your colleagues. And while you may not be interested in prioritizing that, it’s not targeting women to consider that important in a workplace. That workplace may indeed not be a good fit for you, but what you’re describing as “good attitude” really isn’t enough for men or women at some workplaces.

          2. INTP*

            Because the standards for “good attitude” tend to be stricter for women than for men. A bad attitude is bad in anyone but make sure that you aren’t accusing anyone of having a bad attitude just for not being as smiley and happy and friendly as a woman is expected to be when a man would have to be outright snarky to get the same feedback.

          3. Just Another Techie*

            Because for women “good attitude” often doesn’t mean “good attitude” but is code for “smiles; flirts, but not too much; flatters (male) coworkers; doesn’t speak up or ever disagree with anyone for any reason at all; is willing to take the blame when someone else’s bad decision tanks a projects; gives the men around her pants!feelings.” Especially for women who work in traditionally male dominated fields, that phrase is a screaming red flag to get out, get out now, do not look back.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s absolutely true that “culture fit” is sometimes used to target people who aren’t male or white, but it’s also a term that’s used in perfectly legitimate and reasonable ways. Others here have given good examples of legitimate culture fit issues.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            Fair point but I would add that culture fit is meaningless without context. You might as well call her nice or mean or abrasive. Even without its litigious nature, the term is so vague that it ends up meaning whatever the labeler wants it to instead of something empirical.

            I would like to be known for what I contribute not whether I “fit in” somewhere.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but in blog comments like our context here, it can be useful shorthand, just like “tyrannical boss” or “micromanager” or “annoying coworker.” Those things all require more details to be able to discuss them in meaningful ways, but they’re also useful shorthand when you just need to get a point across quickly.

    2. IT Kat*

      No, actually it isn’t irrelevant.

      I can be the best teapot builder on the planet, but if I drift in jeans and a t-shirt when everyone else wears business casual, if I consider meetings optional unless I have been explicitly asked to be there (which yes, was an actual culture quirk of a previous workplace) when everyone else is promptly on time to them, if I refer to everyone as “Mr. Taltos” and “Ms. Yendi” when the culture is to call everyone by first name – then I’m going to come off as too casual, too tonedeaf, too formal, etc. and I am not going to succeed at the company.

      Also, I’ve never heard that term as code for someone who isn’t male and/or white. It could have been used as an excuse by some people, but I highly doubt it’s commonly used in that manner.

      1. IT Kat*

        Also, a severe culture mismatch also means unhappiness for the employee who doesn’t fit. I’ve been there, and felt stifled and severely unhappy, even though I rocked the work itself.

        1. jamlady*

          +1

          A previous coworker and I worked on a team of 5 – we were both chatty while the other 3 were very quiet. We all got along and no one cared if/when people were talking (not distracting) and I know the more quiet ones liked to listen and would speak up every so often, but it became very difficult for him when I left. He had no one to talk to and I think he felt like he was starting to bother/distract the others during work. They’ve had some more changes so I don’t have a recent update, but last I checked, he had become very unhappy in the serious work culture.

      2. fposte*

        Actual numbers will obviously be hard to get, but it’s certainly been discussed and reported on as a significant problem.

      3. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Check out the gender lawsuits in silicon valley, specifically Ellen Pao. The term is used all over the place to justify the wage gap and glass ceiling.

          1. Mike C.*

            What do you mean she isn’t interested in my dirty jokes?! Obviously she’s a poor culture fit!

      4. OP #1*

        We’re a small little friendly office with multiple people sharing rooms. When you interview you see the place and are told this is the situation. On her first day she was shutting doors and complaining about people’s voices. That’s what I was referring to when I mentioned “culture fit.” I just thought including that would derail the conversation about start times and how I should backtrack on that conversation.

        1. tesyaa*

          I don’t think you can say that’s a “culture fit” issue after just a few days on the job. She’s probably worked in different environments and needs to acclimate herself to the noise level.

      5. Judy*

        About culture fit as being code for someone who isn’t male and/or white, there are certainly many people who use culture fit to mean “not like everyone else.” This anecdotally seems to come from the more traditional male environments and there’s certainly been plenty of news about it around some of the tech sector recently.

      6. Liz in a Library*

        I have heard it as code for minority employees. I’ve also heard it used legitimately for situations where an employee does not follow office norms. I think both are prevalent enough that it is good to be aware of the more insidious use.

        1. tesyaa*

          But it takes more than a few days for new people to learn office norms, let alone follow them perfectly, so it’s premature for the OP to be jumping on “culture fit” issues.

        2. K.*

          I am a woman of color who is actively job-searching because of what I call “poor cultural fit,” and while I do think my race and gender have something to do with it (this place is very, very white) at the core it’s that I simply don’t belong here. I am not the type of person who thrives here. When I say “cultural fit,” that’s what I mean.

        3. INTP*

          I’ve heard it for both of those but maybe most frequently in a more grey area sense – people that don’t fit in for reasons that might not be gendered or racial but are still irrelevant to business purposes and it basically amounts to them not being one of the “cool kids”. I.E. someone is introverted and totally friendly at work but it bugs people that they don’t want to eat lunch with the group or go to happy hour every single week, or they dress professionally but not as stylishly as people think they should, or people just think they’re weird or annoying (but don’t indicate feeling uncomfortable or threatened). In those cases it might not be illegal but it’s still unproductive, potentially unfair, and it would be better for the existing employees to learn tolerance than be as rabid about “cultural fit” as a high school popular clique.

      7. IT Kat*

        Huh. I guess I’ve just been lucky then – while I have experienced some gender discrimination (being a female in the tech field, it’s impossible to avoid to some extent) I’ve never heard it referred to as “culture fit”.

        I did read a bit about Ellen Pao’s case, just now… Obviously I haven’t had time to read a great deal, but between 3-4 news sites and Wikipedia, I notice the only ones using the term culture fit to mean sexism… are the journalists. The quotes I’ve seen from the Kleiner personnel, although very damming, don’t actually use the term. Makes me wonder if it’s the media (once again) latching onto a buzzword and drowning it in negativity. :(

      8. L Veen*

        “if I consider meetings optional unless I have been explicitly asked to be there”

        Wait, why should employees be expected to attend meetings they haven’t been ASKED to attend?

        1. Judy*

          My guess is that the employees get invited using calendar invitations on the computer, but unless someone personally talked to them and asked if they were coming, they wouldn’t attend.

          I’ve known some people who work that way, they’ll ignore calendar invitations until someone pushes.

          1. IT Kat*

            That’s exactly what it was, actually. Essentially, everyone in the division got invited to nearly everything via calendaring software, and accepted everything, but only went to the meetings they were verbally or via email requested to attend.

            It was a way to keep everyone up to date on what was going on… a BAD way, as it would be far better to have a shared department calendar, but I got pushback when suggesting it because “we’ve always done things this way”.

            Honestly, it drove me nuts. And from what I understand, the entire company was like that not just our division… and this was a VERY large, VERY prominent in the field company.

            1. IT Kat*

              And forgot to say, if that had been, say, my first job out of college, I might have thought that was the way that professional companies did business and would have doubtlessly been pinged on that at later jobs, because I was used to that culture. Fortunately, I’d been in the workforce long enough to know that was crazy. :)

        2. Allison*

          They shouldn’t, not necessarily, but in some environments there are people who have to be at the meetings and people who could be there but don’t need to be, and IT Kat may be referring to the unspoken expectations that people attend meetings when they’re non-essential to be a part of the process. Some offices but a lot of emphasis on enthusiasm and willingness to go above and beyond.

  19. Sunflower*

    There are a lot of things that are okay to do once you’ve been at a company a while that you can’t do when you’re new on the job. This is one of those things. I think we all like to work in offices where although there is a set-time, its nice to be able to not stress about being a few minutes late. It sounds like she wants to have a completely different start time. These are not at all the same things. I like Allison’s advice to clarify what you said but stress her schedule is something she needs to discuss with her boss

  20. brightstar*

    For OP #1, the biggest concern I see is that it’s common knowledge (I assume) that during your first days at a new job you do everything possible to make a good impression. If she lacks judgment in not knowing she’s still a wildcard, what else does she lack judgment in?

  21. John R*

    #1 and #2: I could have written either of those.

    #2: I know what you mean about having to be a one man creative team. My old boss didn’t really understand that there’s a difference between web PROGRAMMING and web DESIGN. Try as I might, I wasn’t a designer by any stretch of the imagination and always hated when my work was compared visually to other sites, especially since I made it clear that design isn’t my wheelhouse.

    #1: While new people should work the set hours, I wanted to point out that things aren’t always what they seem. I took a job once where I told my boss I could come in early–super early when needed–but couldn’t work past 4. Most days I’d come in around 7, but when it was busy I’d come in as early as 4 or 5 a.m.–but always left at four. Imagine my surprise when I heard some co-workers talking behind my back about me always “bailing out early” when I was working as many or more hours as they were. Fortunately, my boss knew the story and that’s all that matters.

    1. Allison*

      Unfortunately, if you come in before most people, those people won’t know how long you’ve been there, they only see when you leave. Conversely, if you stay long after most people leave, no one will notice, they’ll only notice you coming in after them and label you as “late.”

    2. ali*

      YES. I hate that if you’re a web programmer that people think you can design as well. And vice versa. But now people get even more confused about front-end/back-end. I’m definitely a front-end developer, but again *developer* not *designer*. Two completely different things. I’ve just been really lucky in my career that I did grow up wanting to be an artist and have a little bit of design skill and a lot of technical design talent that I can put into play in these situations. But when my job has been to do both, I have made sure to make if very clear that my job title is “Web Developer / Graphic Designer” rather than just one or the other.

  22. Merry and Bright*

    OP#1
    If you start a new job and want a variation on your working hours, e.g. because you have a morning schedule that can’t really be altered, then this can sometimes be negotiated at some point during the hiring process, often towards the end. Sometimes the organization just checks that you are OK with the hours. If this doesn’t happen you can’t really just change your hours at will.

    Also, you need to see it from the employer’s point of view. If there isn’t much scope to be flexible at the end of the day then the employer is losing more than a day’s work over the month once all the “lost” 15 minutes or half hours are added up.

  23. CrazyCatLady*

    #1: I can’t even imagine doing that, even if I did genuinely want to have a later start time. That’s something she needs to discuss (either at the time of negotiating her position, or with her manager at some point) and not just start doing. I’m always so focused on making a good impression my first few months. I think it might say quite a bit about her character and work ethic if this is how she’s behaving in her first week.

    #2: I deal with this kind of situation a lot (I’ve almost always worked for small companies). I think it’s definitely important to know your boss’ expectations. Do they realize you’re not skilled in that area, but believe you are THE MOST skilled in that area compared to everyone else in the company? Unfortunately, in that case, that type of work will routinely get passed on to you. (At my job, it’s IT stuff – I have NO IT background but because I’m good at figuring out software, Excel, and know that restarting my computer fixes a lot of things, anything computer hardware, software or network related gets passed on to me. I will usually just say something to the effect of “Honestly, I really don’t know – this is not an area I’m familiar with and I think we should consult with someone who has a strong background in this.”)

  24. RVA Cat*

    #2 – I wonder if it might help to compare the design work with something your boss would recognize as a specialized skill – say comparing the basic stuff to changing a tire (which you can do) vs. the professional design work is more like rebuilding an engine (which you leave to amateurs at your peril).

  25. Cass*

    Is it OK to post additional questions in the comments? This isn’t something I think that warrants a reply from Alison, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.

    Here’s the long story: I’m looking for a full-time job at a large university. I currently work part-time in the news division (NPR affiliate.) I previously (more than a year ago) interviewed for a part-time job with the alumni association and it went great! Really hit it off with the managers, so I was very surprised when I got a phone call from her saying they weren’t able to offer me the job. The call seemed unusual, since the hiring manager seemed genuinely upset about it. I thanked her profusely for the opportunity, but since I was a little flustered since I honestly expected to be offered the position. So I sent a handwritten card reiterating my positive experience learning more about the Association. (Completely unrelated, I met a higher up at the Association months later and when I mentioned I interviewed for that position, he confirmed it was a nepotism-type situation. Someone’s nephew was chosen instead. I was actually relieved, I thought I was imagining the great fit!)

    Now there is a full-time position that (I think) works out even better for me! I applied and sent the manager an email touching base and letting her know I applied and what I’ve been doing since we last met. A few days later, she sent me back an email saying something like “Of course I remember you! So glad you are still with the University. We are still in the process and will be in contact with you.” That was 3.5 weeks ago. I know from experience with other interviews the process can sometimes move terribly slow. Anyone have any thoughts/recommendations for following up? I don’t want to be a pain, but I really am so incredibly interested in this opportunity especially because I feel like it’s a good fit with the staff. Thanks to anyone who read through this whole post! Hope it wasn’t too long winded.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re welcome to send this to me directly or post it in Friday’s open thread, but I do keep the comments here on topic since otherwise the comment sections become unwieldy. Thank you!

  26. Christian Troy*

    #3 — I’ve run into this a couple of times and it’s been really frustrating. In my situation, I think the recruiter hangs onto my resume because I’m not a bad applicant but also not the best if that makes sense, like there’s potential enough to get an interview but probably not enough to an offer. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to explain why as much as you’d love to come in, you have some reservations because of x experiences and still are missing x skill but would love to learn. I know it sucks feeling like you’re missing out on a job opportunity, but I think in a situation like what you describe, it makes sense to start being proactive about protecting your own time. You can’t keep taking off days for work just to satisfy a hiring manager’s half hearted curiosity about you.

    1. HR Recruiter*

      I agree it is reasonable to ask about the skill before you waste your time and theirs. Also, have you asked why you haven’t gotten the job? its possible its another reason altogether why you didn’t get the first two jobs. For example we interviewed a person several times because we really, really wanted them in our organization but then an internal person ended up applying and it just makes more sense to hire the internal person. so we recommend that external candidate to other departments until we found the right fit for them.

  27. Leah*

    OP#3 – Job interviews with same company.

    Don’t these people talk to each other? Assuming they do, since they seem to be passing your name around, so it’s odd that this keeps happening.
    Agreed that you should ask about the skill before taking more PTO. And if it’s so important, why wasn’t it on the original job descriptions?? It’s a waste of the manager’s time as well as the interviewee.

    1. AW*

      “Assuming they do, since they seem to be passing your name around”

      Maybe they use an electronic system for looking up job candidates. That could explain how employees there keep finding the OP’s info but don’t know they don’t have that skill.

      “And if it’s so important, why wasn’t it on the original job descriptions?”

      I agree this is weird, especially since it’s needed for multiple roles. Even if there’s some template they have to follow for job postings, can’t they just update it? Anything that’s a deal-breaker should be in the job posting.

      I’m also baffled the OP wasn’t asked about it during the phone interview. Why do they keep waiting until the in-person stage to bring this up?

  28. Anonymous Seahorse*

    #1 sounds like the situation in my office! Generally, things are flexible there – a lot of people come as much as half an hour late; some have special arrangements, and others just have bad habits. I’m one of the bad habit people…now.

    However, when I was first hired a few months ago, I made the effort to be on time, and was apologetic when I wasn’t. I felt my coming in late was bad enough to be something I addressed in my performance review with a plan for how I was changing my habit. My supervisor told me it wasn’t actually a big deal, and I should stop worrying about it; my other performance benchmarks were spot on and she felt she could give me the same flexibility to manage my own time the way my colleagues do. So I’ve relaxed about it (although I do still try to be on time!).

    There was another person hired around the same time as me who was habitually late from his first day, and consistently failed to meet the other expectations of the workplace as well. He was let go at the time of his performance review, and is still complaining about how it must have been because he was late (which he couldn’t help! He had a kid! And traffic was bad!) That’s the problem with timeliness. It often can show that there are other problems.

  29. AtrociousPink*

    #5 – OMG, I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this! It would give the reference checker needed background on whom she’s calling, and it would keep the reference from having to explain what our relationship was. Duh, and thanks!

    1. jamlady*

      I do it when I can, but sometimes companies have had me fill out their own forms and there’s legitimately NO ROOM on there to say they were my such-and-such at Burrito Industries. If I can, I will include it in the e-mail with the attached form along with their availability for the next 1- 2 work weeks. Still, I have definitely had times where I couldn’t actually give the info and I was bummed haha.

  30. Mabel*

    I managed someone who gave two weeks’ notice and then later that day said she was planning to take vacation time for the entire two weeks. I don’t think she gave any thought to the fact that she was actually giving me a half day’s notice. There were other issues (related to attendance, so I guess her lack of notice period shouldn’t have been surprising), but her skills were good, and I would have given her a reference in that regard, and I would have not had negative feelings about her if she had worked out the notice period. She really burned a bridge with me and with our company.

  31. Bio-Pharma*

    #4 – I’m late to this post, but at a previous job, the “last day” of employment had to be the last day physically in the office. Therefore, you could technically take 9 days vacation, then come in on the last Friday.

  32. Cassie*

    #1 – for office jobs like mine, I like the flexibility of arriving a little late from time to time. I take the bus/train to work and sometimes I get there up to 10 minutes early and sometimes I get there 15 minutes late. I don’t need to be in my seat at 8am – my bosses (faculty) show up after 9am, and students are never there that early.

    I hate being late (in general) and I’ve tried to leave home earlier but that doesn’t always work. At least I’m (mostly) contrite about it. I had a coworker who came in late everyday (ranging from 10 minutes to half an hour), and she didn’t notify her boss unless it was more than an hour. She drives to work, so it’s not like she’s dependent on public transportation, but at the same time – her boss never said anything about it so she never changed her habits. (It bothers her boss, but the boss just doesn’t tell her).

  33. brownblack*

    #2 reminded me of a previous job – I was also hired to be the “words guy” but we were a budget-conscious nonprofit, so I ended up teaching myself a lot about graphic design, and after about a year I was doing a lot of our less-important design work. I know that’s not a solution for everyone, but this could be an opportunity to build your skills.

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