my employee keeps sneaking out of work early

A reader writes:

I’m a relatively new manager (4 months). I am coming from the position of teammate to most of the staff I manage, but they all seem to have adjusted well to my new role and respected my move from peer to manager.

However, I seem to be having an issue with one of my employees regularly sneaking out 10-15 minutes early from work. I’ve started to catch on, and when I ask, the person says that she didn’t take her 15-minute break so that she could leave early (but if that’s the case, it needs to be arranged and agreed upon with me), then proceeds to talk my ear off about the weather and everything she did that day and then rushes out the door before I can get a word in edgewise.

I feel that I should be more assertive, but I don’t know how to prove my point when this employee has basically found a loophole. I would be okay with this once in a while (and if we discussed it first), but I don’t like the sneakiness of it.

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. hayling*

    I like that there are multiple aspects to your answer. One is highlighting that the issue is not the 15 minutes, but the sneakiness. Another is that the manager needs to learn to assert authority. A third is that maybe the manager needs to reassess (for all employees) the policy on leaving early.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      Right. When I wrote up my employee, I told him that I have never said “no” to a request to leave early, come in late, work through lunch to make up time, etc. All I ask is that you ask me first so I know what’s going on. In one case the guy left 45 minutes early on a day when I was not there. That really made me mad and I let him know about it, too.

  2. Dawn*

    Ugh, I used to work with a guy who *while he was on a PIP* would continue to come into work at 9:05 or 9:10 and then be all “But I don’t understand why that’s such a big deal! It’s only 5 minutes late!” when one of the explicit line items on his PIP was that he was to be at work, at his desk, ready to go by 9am every day.

    Dude, it’s not about those exact 5 minutes, it’s what those 5 minutes represent.

    1. MK*

      If this is a dsily occurence, it might also be about the minutes too. 5 every day means that, at the end of the month, you got paid for 2 hours you didn’t work.

      1. the whole damn system is flawed*

        My workplace used to round punches on the timecard up or down to the nearest 15 minutes. It was designed so that employees wouldn’t be penalized if they came in late or left early once in a while– hey, shit happens, right?

        In reality it meant that a significant minority of employees figured out that they could slide in 7 minutes late and slide out 7 minutes early every day and still get paid for their full shift… or clock in 8 minutes early and leave 8 minutes late to get 30 minutes of overtime pay each day (if they did it every work day for a year, that means about one MONTH worth of extra pay!)

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Exactly. I used to work at a company with the same timekeeping methods. At least if someone hit the 8-minute mark, a supervisor had to swipe their card so it wasn’t a secret. But, yeah, 7 minutes was under the radar.

        2. Bee Eye LL*

          We used to do that where it rounded per punch and then changed it so that it only rounded your end of day total. I was able to prove that I had worked more than 41 hours in one week but because of rounding I was only getting credit for @ 39.

    2. Beti*

      This is one of my pet peeves. If it’s only 5 minutes, why can’t you leave your house 5 minutes earlier?! Ugh. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but when it happens frequently, it’s so frustrating, not to mention disrespectful to your co-workers. I’m in shift work and my replacements arrive at the last minute 2-3 times a week. We are supposed to be on the floor ready to go at X time, not just clocking in at X time. Then they stop and check their mailbox, talk to their co-workers, then say “I’m ready whenever you are.” No, if you were ready when *I* am ready, you’d have been here 5 minutes ago. The best part? One of them just got promoted to supervisor, so now it will never get fixed. (Yes, I’m working on an exit strategy.)

      1. Ad Astra*

        Sometimes you leave 5 minutes earlier and still arrive 5 minutes late. Stuff happens.

        It’s obviously a problem if being on time is written into someone’s PIP and they’re still showing up late, but I would struggle in a workplace that cared (or even noticed) about 5 minutes here and there, especially if I ever stay late. Does showing up 5 minutes late really affect his work or anyone else’s? In some positions, it would. In most offices, though, I’d draw the line around 20 or 30 minutes late.

        1. fposte*

          Especially if you use public transportation, getting there five minutes earlier isn’t simply a matter of leaving five minutes earlier.

          But for jobs where you have to be there at the specific time, that’s the way it goes; you leave when you have to leave to get there on time, especially when you’re holding people’s departures up by coming late.

          1. INTP*

            Or if you have a lot of traffic on your commute. Keeping 5 minute tardies below once a week means you have to leave in time to be 15 or 20 minutes early every day. If you have a job where having your butt in the seat for a specific time frame is your key function, or if you can leave early if you’ve arrived early, that’s one thing, but the managers I’ve had that cared so much about five minutes in the morning also watched the clock and lectured if you left five minutes early in the evening. I’m not a naturally time-conscious person so just getting to work around a specific time takes a lot of energy for me – a boss that is relaxed about 10 minutes here and there versus one that expects a very exact butt in seat time every day is something I would leave one job for another over.

          2. some1*

            “Especially if you use public transportation, getting there five minutes earlier isn’t simply a matter of leaving five minutes earlier.”


        2. Dawn*

          With this guy it was more about the pattern of performance rather than the actual minutes. On the whole, no, those 5 minutes didn’t matter, but what they represented- his lack of attention to detail, his cavalier attitude to following manager instructions, his belief that he should be able to do what he please- those were the things that mattered more than the 5 minutes.

          1. Mike C.*

            Then put that on the PIP instead of the five minutes. This whole, “it’s a SYMBOL” is less useful than expectations that lead directly to the actions you want.

            1. Louise*

              This! I wish employers weren’t so hung up on time. Yeah I get they want x number of hours out of you but if I need to leave early why do I have to ask? It just feels so grade school. I’ll make up the time. I’m not trying to rip anyone off.

              1. Lionness*

                There are a significant amount of jobs where it very much matters. I would be livid if my team was leaving early or coming in late without permission or a really great reason. And the fact is, if they ask … I’ve always said yes. But I absolutely have to be able to plan for this. We have reporting functions with very specific time requirements. They can’t be early or they won’t be complete and they Can. Not. Be. Late.

                It isn’t grade school, it is work ethic.

                1. CK*

                  This. Exactly.

                  Certain fields and roles just do not have the ability to be late. Period. Those companies are usually very upfront with this in the hiring process. It’s company’s fault if they don’t address it when it happens, but it’s not always a matter of them wanting to be bossy, asserting their power, etc. My profession specifically needs to account for time, down to the minute. It’s the norm and I’m very open with new employees about it. Gotta leave early? Let me know and we’ll figure it out. I’m not worried about hours so much as I am with regulations that are not in my control (and getting paid, for every minute that my team works on a project for you!)

              2. LSP*

                Preach, Louise!!!!

                (Clearly, there are different types of work environments, but it appears you and I work in slightly more flexible jobs.)

                I’m going to echo you and say, I am not trying to rip anyone off – I do my 40 hours, sh*t!!!

          2. Vicki*

            I have to agree with Mike C. Apparently, the employee didn’t understand the implied symbolism (and he was right that 5 minutes doesn’t matter; you say it yourself).

            Shouldn’t a PIP be about improvement (and understanding) and not just a set of check boxes? (In many cases, the checkboxes reset the PIP, so if it’s only about the checkboxes, the employee can game the system.)

        3. LQ*

          Stuff happens, but if it is every single day, and especially if it means someone else’s day is impacted (like they can’t leave on time because you are always 5 minutes late) then just do your job, part of which is showing up on time?

          Sometimes part of the job is being there on-time. Shift work, retail work, phone work, lots of those jobs a big part of it is being in the physical place you need to be at the time you need to be there. If you were suddenly not spell checking any documents when you were an copy writer it would be the same thing. It is a fundamental part of some jobs.

      2. Allison*

        You bring up an excellent point by mentioning shift work. It’s been years since I’ve had a job with set working hours, but I worked overnight security shifts in college and I *hated* when people showed up late for their morning shifts. I knew that they were usually getting coffee, and maybe they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) get it before roll call, and maybe I should’ve been more sympathetic to their plight since it was early, but at 7am after working all night, I was tired and cranky and getting home to sleep was the #1 thing on my mind. That said, I don’t think I ever told on the latecomers.

        Man, I still remember how it felt to leave those shifts . . . it was a strange feeling, having been up all night working, but a part of me kind of misses it . . . especially those cool summer mornings.

        1. De Minimis*

          I used to work nights, it was a strange feeling. You were going home when everyone else was heading to work. I did it a couple of years, but it really made me feel disconnected from everything.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too, and I had a hard time sleeping during the day. I hated it and won’t do it again. Second shift was worse, because if I woke up early, I couldn’t relax because I kept thinking, “Oh, I have to go to work later.”

          2. Allison*

            I never did it full time, it was only twice a week in college, and I only slept for a few hours between my night shift and either my afternoon class or, in the case of my final semester, my internship. Except in the summer when I got an hour of sleep before my Tuesday class, and got to sleep in on Friday, but day sleeping is hard, y’all! So I was still connected to the “normal” people in the daytime, just very often sleep deprived. Pay was worth it though.

      3. Artemesia*

        For people using public transport, it is more difficult, but then they need to clear that they can leave 5 minutes early and make up for it by arriving early or whatever. It can be that leaving at 5 means, you have to take the 5:30 bus and leaving at 4:50 means you can catch the 5 pm bus.

        1. Newhouse*

          Yes this. I have to say it always annoys me a little when whenever this topic comes up, people will say “Oh noes, but taking an earlier train means I’ll be at the office 10 minutes before I start!” when I’ve taken public transport daily for the last 15 years and in the last five, I’ve had to take the train that has me almost an hour early because otherwise I’d be 5 to 10 minutes late (the train goes hourly), more when there’s some kind of delay on the way. I deal with this by leisurely walking to my building instead of taking the bus or tube. I mean, I totally acknowledge that there are people who have duties at home that make it impossible for them to leave a full hour earlier, but then that needs to be communicated, and I’m getting kind of tired about some people whining about being close to their place of work *gasp* ten minutes early as if that were the end of the world.

        2. Kelly*

          I also take public transportation to work. My bus arrives at the closest spot 15 minutes before I have to be there to open. I usually head straight there, especially during the school year, and do the opening procedures (turning the lights on, waking up the computers, refilling the printer paper supply, etc), and to do a walk through to make sure the students that closed the night before picked up all the books left on tables. That extra ten minutes gives me enough time that I don’t feel rushed with having to open to the public 15 minutes later. To make up for that time because I can’t leave 10 minutes early to catch a less crowded bus, I’ll add 5 minutes onto my lunch and 5 minutes onto an afternoon break. I have to wait another 10 to 15 minutes before catching the bus home, which is usually at nearly full capacity during the school year and hitting nearly 80% of the stops on the route home. It’s usually running at least 5 minutes behind schedule on a good day.

          My hourly coworker on the other hand has a rather more laid back approach to being on time. He thinks he is on time if he is less than 10 minutes late. He used to take the bus but has started driving in since he now has joint custody of his kids with his ex-wife. During the summers, he routinely is a half hour to 45 minutes late getting in on his full days. It’s become enough of a pattern that our boss has finally started to notice. She gave him a verbal warning which improved his timeliness for a week or two but has slipped back into his old habits the past couple weeks. The problem is that she usually arrives around a certain time but some days comes in earlier or much later than normal. One day she arrived maybe 10 minutes after I got in and asked where he was at. I told her I didn’t know where he was, omitting that he’s never on time during the summers.

          I really don’t understand why he doesn’t make more of an effort to come in at his scheduled time during the summers when we have over an hour between the time we are expected in and when we open to the public. I find it is an hour where I am able to get tasks done without being interrupted by phone calls, students calling me up from the desk, or other interruptions. He’s usually scrambling to get his morning tasks done on time and in the manner that he is expected to do them.

    3. Sonya*

      Are these employees paid for set up time (such as turning on very slow computers, loading systems, etc)? Because if they aren’t, I and my union would tell manglement to shove that PIP where the sun don’t shine (if it’s only based on the lateness, of course).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It made me think about how rarely you see older people in stock photos, unless they’re playing The Big Boss. Everyone else is in their 20s and 30s and 40s.

      1. AnonymousaurusRex*

        This is a really good point! Yay for age-diversity! (and I say that as someone who is 32–inclusion is good!)

      2. Lanya*

        Eh, work for a senior care facility and you will see plenty of older people in stock photos. :) They’re out there!

      3. Nancie*

        Huh, I interpreted it as being the big boss. He’s peeking out his C-suite door to see who’s playing on their phone. (And meanwhile, not getting his own work done!)

        1. Elysian*

          That’s what I thought, too! I came right to the comments to mention the picture, not surprised to see there was already a thread going :) Love it!

        2. INTP*

          To me he looks like a peeping tom creeping on one of his employees. Stock photo rorschach blot test?

    2. Eva G.*

      Every time I see people commenting on the stock photos or the cat photos, it makes me realize I didn’t notice the pictures at all! I then scroll back up or open the off-site link again to see them. Surely I’m not the only one with total and complete image blindness?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I’m usually blind to this stuff but Alison gets to pick the photos herself for some of her freelance gigs so it’s kind of a “thing” here to look out for them because she makes a point to find funny ones whenever possible. Whew, run-on sentence alert!

          1. Eva G.*

            No problem. :) For every commenter there’s like a hundred lurkers so it’s bound to be useful for someone else!

        1. Eva G.*

          Yes, by now I’ve read many exchanges in the comment sections about the photos, and yet it still gets me every time: “Oh right, photo! Must go back to actually look at it!” Curious to know how many others out there are completely image blind?

      2. OhNo*

        I’m totally image-blind, too. I think I’ve developed it as an online reading strategy; I don’t get distracted by ads, either, because I rarely even notice that they’re there.

        I do, however, read image captions if they’re available. Sometimes I’ll read a caption, scroll halfway down the page, and then have to scroll back up because I realize that I never even looked at the image the caption was trying to describe.

        1. Eva G.*

          I’m glad to hear I’m not alone! Never felt the need to download Adblock either.

          Since you think you’ve developed your image blindness as an online reading strategy, does that you mean you are NOT oblivious to what’s right in your line of sight in day-to-day life? Because I know I am – in the same way that people’s comments on the photos here make me aware that I didn’t notice them, I am reminded of my obliviousness to physical reality whenever people comment on the clothes someone is wearing or the car they are driving. Here’s hoping no one ever has to rely on me as their sole eyewitness for something important.

          1. Elsajeni*

            My husband teases me for being “people-blind” — he’s always pointing out people wearing something distinctive or a really cool hairstyle or something, and I’m always going “Huh? Where? Oh, I missed it…” On the other hand, I am on the ball when it comes to noticing dogs being walked.

        2. Vancouver Reader*

          I’m the same, I don’t notice stock photos, or any photos on an article unless it’s in the middle of a bunch of paragraphs because it helps to break up reading large blocks of words for me.

          I do however, notice things IRL, which makes me a great co-pilot on the road. :)

      1. Eva G.*

        I actually couldn’t see the stock photo in this particular article either (in Firefox). I had to switch to Chrome to see it.

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    My first thought was the employee was trying to beat the traffic, get to a childcare pickup or something similar and that 10 – 15 minutes makes all the difference to her day.

    But what I don’t understand why the employee couldn’t ask if it needs to be a general thing where she leaves early.

    1. AnonymousaurusRex*

      This was my first thought too. I routinely “sneak out early” (at 3:55 rather than 4pm) because it honestly makes a 20 minute difference in traffic on my commute. But by “sneak out” I mean I get up and say “bye, everybody!” and always, always, log back into my email from home as soon as I arrive, just to double check that I didn’t miss anything. We have pretty flexible schedules where I work, but we have “core hours” from 10am-4pm. I willingly admit to bending the rules to my advantage to try to beat the traffic rush.
      If I leave at 3:55 I have a 55 minute commute. If I leave at 4pm I have a 1h 15 min commute. If I leave at 5pm, we are talking 2 hours. But I’m exempt, and usually work a little over 40 hours/week anyway.

      1. BananaPants*

        Yes, we have flexibility with core hours from 10 AM – 2 PM but when I was driving to grad school classes in a nearby city with abysmal highway access two nights a week for 2 years straight, I learned very quickly that a 5 minute difference in my departure time made a huge change. If I left at 4:30 on the nose I’d be to school before 5 PM with plenty of time to get and eat dinner before class started at 5:30. If I left at 4:35 I would wind up stuck in rush hour traffic until nearly 6 PM, missing the start of class. But I’m an exempt employee who averages 40-45 hours a week to begin with, so it was rarely an issue.

        (Now I go to grad school online – SO much better!)

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          Yep, if your commute intersects with any factory or other large shift-work facility those 5 minutes are incredibly important!

          It sounds like the letter writer would be fine if her employee needed to shift her schedule for burdensome commuting reasons. But *shifting* the schedule is different than not taking a break and leaving early. Breaks are there for a reason! So many reasons! Employee is presumably still using the bathroom, getting water/coffee, zoning-out for a minute – all the stuff that a genuine break is meant to help accommodate.

      2. Louise*

        I fail to believe that 5 minutes makes that much difference! There’s going to be a crisis at exactly 3:55 that can be solved in 5 minutes?!!

    2. Brightwanderer*

      I’m almost sure there was an update to this one actually that confirmed it was exactly that, making the bus or something.

    3. INTP*

      Yeah, I once worked somewhere that leaving at 4:57 instead of 5:02 could save you 15 or 20 minutes in getting on the freeway. My boss, of course, would literally call us into a meeting to lecture us about packing our purses up 5 minutes early if we did that, though. (It wasn’t a remotely shift work kind of position – I understand that a few minutes can matter in some jobs.)

      After the PursepackingupearlyGate meeting, I made sure not to do any work until I was officially “on the clock” again if I happened to arrive at 7:55 or get back from lunch a few minutes early.

      1. Jennifer*

        I have the same thing going on here. I used to be able to leave slightly early if I had to, but no longer. I’m actually going to have to stop taking the bus home in a few weeks because my office is moving farther away from the bus stop and there’s no way I can make it there in ten minutes once the office moves. I got told they would only do “flex time” in 30 minute intervals, so if I want to work 7:30-4:30, I can have the time to catch the bus that leaves at 5:10. FFS. They can’t budge about five damn minutes, and 7:55-4:55 is not acceptable. Hell, leaving at 4:59 isn’t acceptable.

    4. Sara*

      Mine too. I had a coworker at a previous job who would sneak out 10-15 minutes early every day for months, which was deeply annoying for the rest of us. (There were X number of tasks that needed to be done by the closing shift, so we needed X people do close. We noticed when it suddenly dropped to X-1 and things were getting missed.) When the boss finally called him out on it, the guy confessed that if he left at 5:30 as scheduled, he would miss the train and have to wait over an hour for the next one. The boss, a super reasonable guy (still one of the best managers I’ve ever had 10 years later), was like, why didn’t you just ask? He then took a couple of weeks to go over and revamp our closing procedures to identify tasks that could be done either before we closed for the day or saved for the opening shift the next day and made it work so that we could still close if this guy (or someone else) needed to leave a little bit early.

    5. Brock*

      We once lost a great team member over management clock-watching stupidity.

      I was the team leader, but no real authority (real authority was a further two levels up). The best member of the team – 10+ years in the team, worked hard, very reliable, great skills, etc – wanted to leave 5 minutes early every day for a reasonable reason, and reliably came 5 minutes early (or more) every day to balance it out.

      Her shift ended at 10pm, exactly when the side exit closed for the night, and leaving at 10 sharp meant using the main entrance, which added another 5 minutes, which made her miss an hourly train home. So she left 5 minutes early to leave by the side entrance and make her train. I was happy, she was happy, the rest of the team were fine with it….but then the site overall had a crackdown because other teams were having serious timekeeping problems. Suddenly this agreed 5-minute thing was a Problem. I showed management the emails where the timing was agreed, the previous excellent appraisals including timekeeping…no dice. they put a warning letter on file about her timekeeping – first and only ‘performance issue’ in 10 years she’d EVER had, and she starting jobhunting immediately, was gone in 6 weeks. :(

  4. janice*

    I’m a former retail coffee chain manager and she sounds exactly like one of my former staff members … and sometimes it *is* about those 15 minutes … people are usually scheduled to a certain time to ensure sales floor coverage, so what if everyone decided to leave early? The one lesson I found is that letting some staff get away with the “small stuff” affects everyone negatively and is terrible for morale and your standing as a supervisor. Believe me, all your staff see this and soon they’ll all want to leave 15 minutes early. And there may be legal reasons they have to take a 15 minute break … we could not “waive” it in my coffee shop. Check that out, too, in your reply to her.

    1. Ani*

      This actually can be a problem even in offices. We had an employee who was hourly but without timecards who routinely showed up at least a half hour late and sometimes a full hour. And then left 15 minutes early. The morale absolutely plummeted when management didn’t address it — and it’s so unfair too. Honestly, she was getting close to an entire day off every week.

    2. TootsNYC*

      The one lesson I found is that letting some staff get away with the “small stuff” affects everyone negatively and is terrible for morale and your standing as a supervisor. Believe me, all your staff see this and soon they’ll all want to leave 15 minutes early.

      I sort of wish Alison had acknowledged this as one of the reasons for this “green” manager to feel comfortable insisting on this issue.

      Because it’s real!

    3. Allison*

      Yes, definitely! Sometimes those last 15 minutes can feel like the longest minutes in someone’s shift because they’re so close to being done for the day, and to see someone sneaking off early can definitely make people grumble “why does so-and-so get to leave early and I have to wait until my shift ends?” And no one likes seeing a rule breaker get away with habitually breaking the rules.

  5. Lindrine*

    There is a difference in how this tends to be handled in an office setting. I’ve worked in a setting where coverage was critical and ones that were project-based. If she offers to adjust schedules or for a temporary change, then that needs to be available for all employees who are performing well, and needs to be communicated as a benefit of job performance.

  6. Ad Astra*

    I agree that sneaking is a bigger problem than leaving early, but is the employee really being sneaky or dishonest? The OP may be perceiving sneakiness when the employee isn’t trying to hide anything. At least if the OP addresses it now, any future incidences will be about not following instructions.

  7. Bee Eye LL*

    I was in this exact same situation a year ago and here’s what I did:

    1. Give a verbal warning.
    2. Write him up the 2nd time he did it.
    3. Write him up again the 3rd time he did it, and let him know the next time he’ll be cleaning out his desk.

    And guess what? It hasn’t happened again.

    1. E*

      If the job requires that you be at your desk during a certain time period, there should be no sneaking out. I can see where some jobs have flexibility, and the last 10 minutes of the day may be useless to start a new project. But generally, I work the schedule I’m given. It’s just courtesy to the employer to follow what they expect.

    2. Bobby941*

      I have a person who does stunts like this all the time. Calls in sick mid-week over and over with every outlandish problem you could imagine. Comes in ‘feeling terrible’ as in, don’t ask me to do anything difficult. Whiny and entitled all day long. It’s never something that one can actually prove is a lie. Oh well, soon this person will be trying it in a new workplace, as their job is going bye-bye.

  8. Cajun2core*

    I also have to wonder if that person is exempt or non-exempt. If they are non-exempt they may be getting paid for hours they don’t work.

  9. Bee*

    Oh dear…I leave 15 min early too. But only because no one seems to notice if i’m there or not…

    1. Betty*

      I think it depends on your office culture whether it’s a big deal or not. People around here frequently arrive 15 minutes late or leave 15 minutes early but we’re also all-hands-on-deck when needed. I have worked in places where I absolutely had to be there and ready to work at 8:30am and was expected to stay until 5:00pm on the dot, though. I much prefer this environment.

    2. OhNo*

      I’m willing to bet that someone notices – even if your boss/supervisor doesn’t, most offices have at least one Nosy Nancy/Ned who pays attention to things like that. The real question for is, is this a problem with your office culture? Some places it would be, some it wouldn’t.

      If you feel like you have to be secretive or sneaky to do it (like the person the OP mentions), then it’s probably not a good idea. If you can be open about it and nobody cares, then it’s more likely that it doesn’t matter where you work.

      1. Bee*

        Luckily, I don’t have to be secretive about it. I think it helps that the office culture doesn’t care as long as you get the job done properly and on time.

  10. Allison*

    I understand people wanting to leave 15 minutes early, because it can make a huge difference especially if you’re taking, say, a bus or commuter rail which runs on a fixed schedule. Even now, working in an office with extremely flexible hours, I notice that 15 minutes can make a difference in traffic and I hate leaving before 4:30 if I can help it. That said, when I worked at an office where you had to stay until 5:30 unless you had permission to leave early (and someone would call you out if you started to shut down your laptop or tried to pack up your stuff before that exact time), I never even thought of trying to sneak out even five minutes early. We all had to follow the rules, and I didn’t consider myself an exception. If I had some special circumstance that required me to leave before then, I would have at least tried to ask my manager.

    1. BetsyTacy*

      Yeah, I work in that 5:30 office. It’s interesting here- as long as you’re here before 9:10 on most days, that’s totally cool. We get a little extra leeway because we rarely, if ever, get to leave on time. Because of the ‘you must work until 5:30’ culture, we usually leave the office around 5:45 or so. Most people show up intentionally between 9:05 and 9:10 in an attempt to reclaim some of those hours we always have to work at the end of the day.

      Side note: you know what’s really awesome? All the daycare centers within walking distance except for one close at 5:30. There are daycare centers within driving distance that close at 6PM, but then you have to play traffic roulette. If you have to do daycare pickup, people literally have to beg to leave at 5:25 and then physically run to the center. And they wonder why we have high turnover…

      1. Allison*

        Luckily in the office I worked in, most of us were young and didn’t have any kids, so childcare wasn’t really an issue for most people. What we had instead were people practically speed walking through the financial district and sprinting through the train station to make that 5:40 train, rather than have to wait half an hour for the next train.

      2. Tib*

        And as a previous daycare worker- I don’t get to leave until the kids get picked up. We had a pretty stiff cash penalty for late pickup.

        1. Jesse*

          Yeah, that was the best when I worked at a daycare center — the late parent had to pay cash to the worker who waited with the kid, and it was many times my hourly rate.

    2. KMS1025*

      It seems a question of personal integrity. If you have agreed to work a certain schedule for a certain amount of pay, you should work the schedule. You wouldn’t want management to arbitrarily change your rate of pay, right? You shouldn’t arbitrarily change your work schedule either.

  11. TootsNYC*

    I also love about Alison’s answer that she stressed this as a great opportunity for a newbie manager to practice being firm and dealing with the issue.

  12. SG*

    This is a little unrelated to the post, but there was an EXTREMELY loud ad for the new movie where Orlando Bloom, I think, is a secret agent? There didn’t seem to be any way to turn the sound off. I thought you might want to know.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you see it or another problematic ad, will you email me the URL it clicks through to? That’s the only way I can get them tracked down and stopped.

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