my coworkers keep pressuring me to leave early

A reader writes:

I am about two months into my temp-to-hire job as a receptionist, which I love. The end of my 90-day probationary period is coming up in December.

I am paid hourly, and my schedule is from 8:30 to 5:00. I have three salaried coworkers who have to take turns closing the building at 5:00. All three of them try to get me to leave earlier than 5:00 on a regular basis, so that they can close the building and leave early too — anywhere from five minutes to one minute early. One coworker in particular gives me the most grief; he has to close three days a week, and he makes passive-aggressive remarks about wanting to leave before 5:00. This started when my boss decided to give me the privilege of not using the time clock anymore; he knows that I am never late and that I don’t leave early (until recently…see below paragraph). My coworkers are trying to take advantage of this when they have to close.

I have tried to remind my coworkers that I am being paid to stay until 5:00—hence, I need to stay until 5:00. They do not respect this at all; the one coworker in particular said something to me today like, “We need to start packing everything up closer to 5:00. I have places to be, you know.” I will admit I have left one to two minutes early a couple of times because I felt really uncomfortable by the pressure. I know it’s not a perfect excuse– it’s partly a character flaw of mine. But I am scared that if I tell my boss about this issue, my coworkers will retaliate by sharing that I left early. If he finds out, I’m scared I won’t be hired on by the company next month.

Well, first, for the record — and just to help set norms here — in most jobs leaving one to two minutes early shouldn’t even be something people notice. But since you’re a receptionist, it probably does matter more than in most jobs; you’re expected to ensure phones are answered until 5, and the company doesn’t want callers getting no answer if they call a few minutes before then.

I’d try firmly saying something like this to your coworkers: “Bob wants me here until 5:00 on the dot to make sure the phones are answered, so I really can’t leave early, and that’s always going to have to be my answer. I’m sorry, but I can’t risk my job by doing that.”

If the pressure continues after that, you should tell your boss what’s going on. I wouldn’t worry about your coworkers retaliating by telling him you left one or two minutes early a few times because no sane boss would be alarmed by that 60 or 120 seconds — even in a receptionist job, as long as it’s not a regular thing. (And the fact that you’d be talking to him about your coworkers’ pressure reinforces that you’re a conscientious person who isn’t trying to duck out early.)

That said, I wonder about your coworker’s “we need to start packing everything up closer to 5:00” remark. If he’s not able to get out of there until, say, 5:10 because you don’t start getting ready to leave until 5 on the dot, it’s not unreasonable for him to ask you to be basically ready to go at 5 or pretty quickly thereafter, especially if he needs to catch a bus or something like that.

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Marissa*

    Is it possible that once the OP becomes permanent, she can be the one that closes up? At my office, whoever leaves last locks up. I understand every office is different, so this might not be possible; but this would certainly solve the issue for everyone involved.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I was totally thinking this.

      OP, I feel for you. You’re doing the job you were asked to do, and feeling pressure not to do it. I also feel for your coworkers, who are probably salaried and resent having to stay past the time when their own work is done for something that doesn’t relate to them.

      I would go to your boss and propose that you be the one to lock up once you’re made a permanent employee, and in the meantime Alison’s suggestions are great.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I’m a little wary of having just one person there alone in the evenings, but obviously the risk will be greater for some businesses/locations than others. If it makes sense for this OP and this office, though, I think it’s a great idea.

    3. Jady*

      I’d definitely go this route. In 30 more days it could just be a non-issue. And the co-workers would probably love it, cause then they can leave whenever they want.

  2. On My Phone*

    Feeling sarcastic right now so…
    Him: “I have places to be you know.”
    Me: “I have a job to keep you know.”

        1. Zillah*

          While I get that the OP feels like their job is being put in jeopardy, I’m not sure their read on the situation is accurate. I think that many, many people would not see leaving a minute or two early sometimes as being a dismissable offense, and it’s possible that as people who have been there for longer, they have a better read on what’s okay than the OP does.

          I do think that the OP is right to push back against it, particularly if they haven’t talked to their boss about this and been told that 4:58 (or whatever) is okay sometimes. They’re still building their reputation and getting a sense of what’s reasonable/expected in the office. However, I’m also getting a huge undercurrent of anxiety from the letter than seems stronger than is really warranted by the situation, unless there’s some background context the OP didn’t mention.

          1. Justcourt*

            It might be the reason she isn’t hired on permanently, though.

            Also, it could start out as leaving a minute or two early, and then her co-workers’ expectation could be leaving 5 minutes early.

            1. Zillah*

              Sure – and like I said, I totally agree that the OP is right to be pushing back rather than just going along with it. However, I do feel like saying the the coworker is actually putting the OP’s job in jeopardy is probably overstating it a bit.

              1. LBK*

                Agreed – that seems hyperbolic to me especially since we have no signs her manager has even noticed or cared yet, nor do we have evidence of him being irrational (ie someone who would fire an employee without warning).

        2. LBK*

          There’s other reasons, but I think most of all I try to give people the benefit of the doubt for my own sanity. I find I’m happier if I assume people have their own reasons for things rather than just thinking everyone around me is an asshole any time something mildly inconvenient happens to me.

          1. Oryx*

            Neither does taking your frustration out on the receptionist who is just trying to do her job and stay until the time she’s been told to stay until.

      1. Sorry/Not Sorry*

        No benefit of the doubt from me. A person who has a bus to catch or a daycare pickup (and who is not a self-important asshat) says, “I know I’m being a stickler here, but if I miss that (5:10 bus / 5:30 daycare pickup) (I have to wait until 6:10 for the next one / get charged $10/minute and my child screams all the way home).”

        Not “I have places to be you know.” “I have places to be you know”-guy gets no benefit of any doubts.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. What, because nobody else has anywhere to be? Gosh, Fergus, I had no idea you had places to be, since the rest of us sure don’t!

        2. Allison*

          Exactly. If something is time sensitive, say so, because someone who says “I have to pick my kid up from daycare” or “I need to catch a train” gets a lot more sympathy than someone who just says they have somewhere to be, because for all I know they’re just anxious to join their friends at a bar or get home and watch TV, which a fine thing to want to do after work but it can wait. Or they made dinner plans under the assumption they’d get to leave a little before 5 rather than a little after 5, which is poor planning on their part.

        3. Liane*

          Also, the OP states that the people who are pressuring her are all salaried. A salaried employee who needs to make the 5:10 bus/5:30 daycare probably has enough flexibility to arrange to be the person who comes in a little early and opens in exchange for not being expected to close.

          1. Terra*

            That’s not necessarily true. I’m not saying that the co-workers shouldn’t be nicer or more understanding about OPs situation but I’ve been at plenty of jobs where salaried employees were still expected to be there certain hours no matter what and they didn’t care about what other issues you had. Should it be that way? No, but it often is. Being salaried often means more responsibilities and being expected to put more time in.

        4. OhNo*

          Agreed. If they’re apologetic and explain why they’re in such a rush (even if it’s a very general explanation like, “I need to be somewhere at X o’clock” or “If I don’t leave now I’ll be stuck in traffic forever”), then it wouldn’t be so bad. But just saying “I have places to be you know” puts my hackles up. It really implies to me an attitude of “my needs/wants are more important than yours”. OP has places to be, too – and first on the list is at work.

          1. Myrin*

            Absolutely. “I have places to be, you know” is rude in its brusqueness, somewhat condescending, and speaks of a self-importance that would make me want to comply to their request even less than before. (Not that I would actually drag my heels here. But the attitude would definitely make me want to.)

        5. Serin*

          A person with a daycare issue discusses it with the boss who assigned him to close, not with the receptionist who’s just trying to do her job.

          1. Abby*

            Agreed. The passive-aggressive phrasing is really unnecessary. I can understand feeling pressed to get somewhere at a particular time (like catching a bus, as AAM suggested), but in that case, they should be transparent about it.

        6. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          $10 a minute? If you are an hour late they charge you $600? If so, that is insane. If you did that once a week you could just about hire a private nanny.

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            I assume S/NS is being slightly hyperbolic, for effect, but $1/minute is pretty common. For that matter, I suspect that if you’re an -hour- late for a daycare pickup for anything short of Snowmaggedon/Meteor Strike/Martian Invasion it would lead to a serious talk about your continued business.

            1. Cafe Au Lait*

              Often a daycare doesn’t enforce the $1/minute rule unless you’re perpetually late. One day out of a hundred won’t be a problem; 20 days out of 21 the fine will stand.

            2. Oryx*


              Additionally, charging $600/hour (or something close to it) also probably acts as a deterrent so you aren’t frequently an hour late.

            3. Terra*

              If you’re an hour late for a daycare pickup often someone at the daycare is going to call children’s services. It’s not even a choice a lot of places, it’s a law.

          2. The Itsy Bitsy Spider*

            I used work for an educational site that included day care. If I recall it was $20 at 10 minutes, $50.00 for 15 pick up with additional financial penalties. This gets the parents attention. We would start our day with early drop off at 7:30. You know that by 6:00, we all want to go home but still have housekeeping that cannot be completed until the last child handed off. Of course emergencies and weather were accommodated but consistently late pick up was a serious problem.

      2. Jaydee*

        But if he has an issue like that, shouldn’t he at least tell OP or talk to the boss about accommodating that scheduling issue?

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Exactly this. OP has a job that requires her to be at her desk until 5:00 pm. However it is dressed up, it is good customer service and better for the company’s image if they are operating until the stated time.

      Also, OP is still on her probationary period and, however nice Boss is, she doesn’t need to give him ammunition at this stage.

  3. Allison*

    I would think that if the office is open until 5 and they have to stick around and close, they need to wait until 5 to close up. I don’t know if they accepted the job knowing those were the terms or if it was sprung on them after the fact, but that is the expectation for them, so it’s really rude of them to pressure you to cut corners so they can as well.

    That said, if my day was done at 5 and other people had to wait for me to leave before they could go, I would at least be sure to respect their time by not dilly-dallying after 5; do as much packing up as you can before 5, and for the things that have to wait until 5, try to do them efficiently.

    1. Koko*

      This reminds me so much of when I worked retail and food service. The store would close at, say, 10:00. All of the night shift employees would start putting things away around 9:50 so that at 10 we had almost nothing left to do and could just lock up and walk out. Except sometimes a customer would come in at 9:55 and you’d have to get things back out that you’d put away, or it’d be just after 10 by the time you rung them up…people HATED those customers. The employees at all of these places I worked essentially felt entitled to start closing up before closing time and leave at closing time, and resented the hell out of whoever prevented them from starting closing until it was actually closing time.

      I used to feel that way and get really annoyed with latecomers but finally just started telling myself to accept that I was paid to start closing at 10 and stop expecting to get out early as a matter of course (even if it did happen a majority of the time).

  4. Ad Astra*

    I think OP is being a little too hard on herself. Yes, it’s a good idea to work your full shift instead of closing early, but terms like “character flaw” and the fact that OP seems to feel guilty about leaving one minute early have me worried. OP, give yourself some credit: You are clearly a hard worker who truly cares about doing things the right way. Few people would care enough about this to draft a letter to Alison, so I have a feeling your dedication and work ethic show through in other ways at work. Hopefully Alison’s scripts will help OP stand up for herself .

    1. Allison*

      Can’t blame the OP, really. All it takes is one disgruntled client to complain that they called at 4:59 and no one answered even though the website says the office was open until 5, and OP could get in trouble for missing that call.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This. At Nonprofit Job, we got to leave early on Fridays, until a board member called one time after we left and got pissy because no one was in the office. After that, the entire company had to stay until five.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Oh yeah, that’s exactly why it’s good that OP wants to stay until 5. It’s just the guilty tone that seems more intense than is warranted, imo. Maybe I’m projecting.

        Side note: I called my doctor’s office at 4:15 recently and they’d already turned on the out-of-office message. I was one cranky cat.

        1. Bostonian*

          I thought the guilty tone was more intense than warranted, too.

          This seems like a know-your-office and know-your-boss situation. I’ve known places where all hell would break loose if a client’s call at 4:59 wasn’t answered, and I’ve worked at places where the boss would be annoyed at OP for being overly rigid at the expense of her relationships with her coworkers. It depends on the type of business, how many calls they get, what’s involved in closing up, etc.

          I was a little surprised at Alison’s suggested language of “Bob wants me here…” because OP doesn’t seem to have any idea how Bob actually feels, and Bob may well not care. The coworkers may be signaling to OP what the culture of the office is, not undermining her and putting her job at risk.

          I vote for talking to the boss. I like Anonsie’s wording below.

          1. Zillah*


            The guilt struck me, too. I’m wondering whether the OP was un/underemployed for awhile and is really scared of messing this up as a result?

            1. Bostonian*

              Or just comes from a different environment. If you come from, say, a retail or call center environment where everyone clocks in and out and the rules about the time clock are strict, then the more relaxed attitudes of an office where most people are exempt will be an adjustment. In many offices hourly employees sometimes get paid for a few minutes here or there when they aren’t working due to rounding on timecards and things like this with closing up, and that’s fine with everyone.

              1. LQ*

                This is absolutely what I thought about. 1 minute early or late at a call center could get a write up and could potentially get you fired if you do it more than a couple times. If this person came from that environment that level of guilt would really make sense.

              2. Anonymous Today*

                The only job I was ever fired from (retail), I was fired from because I had clocked out one minute late three times in a six month period.

                No, I’m not kidding.

              3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                Years ago, when I went from an hourly, customer-service position into an exempt, analyst position, I was given a “detox” session of behaviors that it was OK to break – like being a few minutes late occasionally, managing one’s own time, not asking permission for a restroom break. It seemed crazy at the time, but turned out to be very helpful – that kind of on the minute work can brainwash and train a person subconsciously. It was creepy to unravel.

          2. Carpe Librarium*

            If I am going to call a company and it is between 4:50 – 5:00 pm I will wait until 5:05. If the business is doesn’t close until 5:30 anyway then it’s no biggie; but if the business shuts at 5:00 I don’t want the possibility of sub-par service because the person taking my call has already mentally clocked off for the day.
            This doesn’t mean that the person taking my call would necessarily dismiss me, but they’re more likely to do the bare minimum with the intention of doing the rest “first thing tomorrow” but not getting around to it.

      3. Mike C.*

        Watches can be minutes off in either direction. Sometimes disgruntled clients need to calm down and realize that the world isn’t ending if they call at 4:59 on a Friday and they don’t receive the best service.

        /My last boss used principles of metrology to get out of a speeding ticket.

        1. Zillah*

          Seriously. I actually expect to get a voicemail after 4:45 for a business that closes at 5 – if phone are open until 5 on the dot, somebody’s going to be stuck staying late when a phone call comes in at 4:58.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Then the business should be “open until 4:45” and send employees home at 5. Otherwise, hey, why not close at 4:30 in case a call goes really long?

            1. Allison*

              Yeah, people need to understand that just because an office closes at a certain time doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when all the employees get to go home. Depending on the business, I’d say it’s reasonable to expect that if closing time is 5, you should expect to at least occasionally have to stay until 5:10 or 5:15 and plan the rest of your evening accordingly.

              1. Zillah*

                I guess it’s just a difference in perspective. For me, I see “open until 5” as meaning that the employees are generally going to have business finished by five – which in a lot of offices may mean finishing up/returning phone calls/emails, gathering packages that need to be mailed out, etc. If they say that phone lines are open until 5 or something along those lines, that’s a different story, but for me, “9-5” means that the business will generally close at five, not that it’ll stay open for me for as long as I’d like if I can just get there at 4:59:15.

                1. Zillah*

                  Also, it’s worth pointing out that if the OP is an hourly employee and they’re supposed to stop working at 5, they’re likely not be supposed to stay until 5:10 or 5:15 finishing things up.

              2. Ad Astra*

                That’s what I would expect too, though it might depend on what exactly is involved in closing and how much of it can be done before it’s time to lock the door and switch off the phones.

                If you work at a restaurant that closes at 5, you’ll be lucky to actually leave the premises before 6. If you work in a law firm, you can probably get out of there right at 5. With a doctor’s office, I’d expect something in between — phones open until 5, but you may get out of there at 5:00:18 if nobody calls too late in the day.

            2. Zillah*

              Otherwise, hey, why not close at 4:30 in case a call goes really long?

              For the same reason that it’s generally obnoxious to ask someone why they didn’t leave an hour and a half to get to work when the commute only takes longer than 45 minutes once every month or two. Unless there are unusual circumstances involved, it’s reasonable to ask people to plan for the probable and adjust on the rare occasions that the situation demands more than that accordingly.

              1. Canadamber*

                :P When I worked 35 minutes away this summer, I left an hour early for day shift and anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half early for afternoon shift. My commute neeever took me longer than 40 or even I think 45 minutes on one particularly bad morning, but it was mostly just so I could get a good parking spot. A lot of people who didn’t care about parking just drove up like 5 minutes before shift start, booked it across the parking lot and got changed super quickly in time.

          2. Jennifer*

            Yeah, but generally speaking, that’ll be the employee’s problem and too bad for them. We’ll always have to keep working past open hours if someone squeezes in at 3:59 (public hours close at 4), even if they are just here to argue for the next 45 minutes.

            1. Zillah*

              I think it’s highly dependent on the business – like I said, I’ve seen a lot of places that start to limit access before their actual closing time.

            2. A Manager*

              That’s how all of my jobs have been. Three retail jobs, a bank and a state government office required us to keep the doors open and accept calls until the stated closing time. If we closed at 5 and a customer called at 4:59, you answer the call and don’t rush them. If you’re on the phone another 15 min, too bad. That’s how it worked at all of them.

  5. Charityb*

    Is there any way the Designated Closer can pack everything up before 5:00 so that they (the OP and the Designated Closer) can just leave right at 5:00 PM? I don’t really why the OP staying until 5:00 should delay them that much. Presumably the OP is basically just turning off a computer, packing their stuff up into a bag and walking out, right?

    1. Paige Turner*

      Maybe- I used to work at a hair salon as the receptionist- closing meant turning off the lights, the computers, the music, and the coffeemaker as well as sweeping and vacuuming, putting towels in the wash, running the dishwasher, and setting the alarm. If OP works in an office (which I’m guessing she does since they close at 5), they probably don’t have to do all that. But if they are closing the whole office/building for the evening, it probably takes 5-10 minutes at least to close up.

    2. Oryx*

      Not necessarily. Like Paige Turner said, depending on the office, as the person in charge of closing it may be a bit more than just turning off a computer and walking out the door.

      1. Charityb*

        I agree that the Closer has to do a lot more than that, most likely; I was just wondering how long it takes the OP to leave the building after her shift is over. Is it something simple that takes less than a minute (turn off a computer and stuff things in a bag) or does it take her 5 or 10 minutes to be ready to leave the building? If it’s the former, I don’t see why the Closer can’t get started on everything on the Closing Checklist at, say, 4:45 PM and then just be ready to turn the lights off/set the alarm/whatever the last thing on the list is right as the OP is out the door.

        I’m just having trouble visualizing why this is a problem for anyone involved unless they have to wait for her to leave the building before they can do anything.

        1. doreen*

          I’m wondering, too. It seems like at every job I’ve had where someone has to lock up,( or everyone has to leave together) there’s always been one person who took 10 minutes to be ready to leave after it was time to lock up. And it was true even when there were no closing procedures other than locking the door and setting the alarm on the way out. There’s always one person who has to retrieve lunch dishes that were left to dry in the lunch room, pack up multiple bags, go use the restroom etc. starting right at the dot of five and not one second before.

    3. Blurgle*

      What concerns me is that maybe she can’t just pack up and go in a few seconds. It takes me a good five minutes to dress in my winter clothes before leaving: can she stand around the reception desk while putting on her wind pants, parka, heavy boots, toque, scarf, cowl, facehugger, and a double layer of mittens? Will the boss see that as unprofessional?

      I might be a wee bit apprehensive over the upcoming winter, though. Two winters ago the temperature didn’t make it over -22C for almost seven weeks straight.

    4. Mona Lisa*

      At my last job, the receptionist was also in charge of a small shop we had in the reception. If there were no customers, they could close out the cash register and have everything ready to go at 5:00 and be out the door shortly afterwards. However, if a customer came in at 4:52, stayed after close shopping, and paid with cash, then our receptionist would have to stay extra late counting the drawer again and preparing the financials for the following morning’s deposit.

      When we got a new temp-to-hire in the receptionist position, we had a very similar situation to the OP where salaried staff members had to stay to close out the drawer with the temp, and since there was a very limited number of people with the appropriate access, the 3 or so people who helped with close became pretty resentful after a while when they had to stay late 5-6 months of the probationary period.

  6. Alternative*

    I would just ask your boss how he wants you to handle it. He may not mind if people (and you) leave a few minutes early. Or, he wants you to stay until 5 on the dot. Either way, you’ll know what to do going forward with a clean conscience (and your coworkers less likely to resent you).

    1. Formica Dinette*

      I think this is good advice, and I think OP doesn’t need to implicate their coworkers by mentioning leaving early. OP could say something like, “Could you give me some clarification about your expectations for closing time? Right now I’m working right up to 5:00, which means the closers don’t get out of here until 5:15. Is that the way it’s supposed to be, or am I supposed to finish up a little early so that closing is finished at 5?”

      1. Zillah*

        I love this phrasing. It will allow the OP to figure out what the office norm is without anyone looking bad.

  7. Not me*

    “We need to start packing everything up closer to 5:00. I have places to be, you know.”
    “I have places to be, too, like HERE.”

    Okay, so this isn’t helpful.

    OP, if you’re not already doing this, try getting your things together whenever you have a free minute or so after 4:30. You’ll be ready to get out the door at 5 on the dot.

    A lesson learned by leaving work at X o’clock to catch a bus at X:02.

  8. Mike C.*

    I have a really hard time worrying about the last five minutes as if this were a class in middle school. There are plenty of businesses where one cannot always get full service or attention during the last five minutes of their day and nothing is going to collapse in a fire just because you walked out at 4:58 instead of 5:03.

    This doesn’t make the employees bad or unethical people who are stealing time form their employers – I’m sure they worked their tails off during the rest of the day.

    Ultimately as others have pointed out, this is a process issue. Those salaried people likely have to work during the evenings and weekends and resent having to wait until 5 on the dot because they have places to be, they’ve already put in a ton of work and they likely have to catch a bus or pick someone up or whatever.

    That’s not the OP’s problem, but blindly enforcing the rules to the letter without offering to explore any alternatives or workarounds or other ways to mitigate the problems isn’t very helpful either.

    1. JMegan*

      …blindly enforcing the rules to the letter without offering to explore any alternatives or workarounds or other ways to mitigate the problems isn’t very helpful either.

      Words to live by, in all sorts of situations!

    2. BuildMeUp*

      Are you saying the boss is blindly enforcing the rules? It doesn’t sound like the OP or any of her coworkers have talked to the boss about this, so I’m not sure that’s the case here.

        1. Dr. Pepper Addict*

          OP doesn’t have the luxury of being on salary like the other co-workers who want to leave early. For them, leaving early doesn’t change what they are paid if they leave a few minutes early every day. On the other hand if OP leaves just 5 minutes early each day, she’s only paid for 39 hours and 35 minutes and that affects her paycheck.

          1. Mike C.*

            That’s a difference of 1% if the OP never works a single minute early or during a lunch.

            Also, being salaried isn’t a luxury.

            1. Dr. Pepper Addict*

              I’ve been both and I’d take salaried over hourly 10 times out of 10. If you get stuck in traffic and you are hourly and arrive 10 minutes late, you have to make up that time somewhere by staying later. It doesn’t matter if you’re salaried as long as the work is getting done.

              And you never know about OP’s finances. 1% could be a big deal if she doesn’t get it. I’ve been there too.

              1. Mike C.*

                Or you have an employer that expects you to be answering calls and emails while you’re not at work or to stay late/work weekends with no extra pay on a frequent basis.

                Furthermore, the whole point about leaving early doesn’t really matter to my larger point.

                Doing things like “making sure everything is packed up to leave right at 5:00pm” would still mean the OP is there until 5pm but the person locking up isn’t made to wait longer than they have to. See the difference between that and only starting to pack up after 5pm? There are plenty of other ways, including talking to the boss about having the OP close up.

                Being “blind” means being unwilling to look for better ways of doing things.

                1. Zillah*

                  To me, though, that’s not about being salaried so much as working for a bad employer – the same employer who expects exempt employees to work 60+ hours a week is probably going to misclassify non-exempt workers, refuse to pay non-exempt workers overtime, get in the way of people taking sick time, etc. The core issue isn’t being exempt, though it’s true that being exempt means that you have less legal recourse than non-exempt workers in a similar situation.

                  Assuming I’m working for a sane employer, I’d much rather be exempt.

              2. Ad Astra*

                Really? I’d pick hourly every time, but that’s based on the jobs I’ve had in the past, where there was always at least 40 hours of work to do (and frequently more). Done correctly, being full-time non-exempt means you either work more than 40 hours and earn extra money (yay!) or you keep your work week to a strict 40 hours and get to go home at a reasonable hour (also yay!).

                If I had any concern that I wouldn’t reach 40 hours (probably more risk in retail or food service compared to, say, journalism), I’d feel the way you do. That just hasn’t been my experience.

          2. JessaB*

            OP is also a temp right now which means that for any reason or no, even moreso than an employee at will, they can be tossed out. There’s a different standard for temps than for regular employees (hourly or salaried doesn’t matter.) And they’re very often held to a far higher (or lower) standard than everyone else. Clocking off a minute early when you’re salaried, usually not a big deal. When you’re permanent probably not a big deal, when you’re a temp, very often “Do not bother to come back tomorrow.” Even if you’re a great worker and you are about to become permanent. Temps live in a general fear of the job going away tomorrow. That’s part of being a temp.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Temps live in a general fear of the job going away tomorrow. That’s part of being a temp.

              Yup. Man, I don’t miss those days. I still get anxious thinking about my previous temp jobs (both of which went permanent and then went downhill from there).

        2. BuildMeUp*

          I doubt the OP, new and still in a probationary period, has the authority to explore alternatives, though. If these coworkers really need this to change, they need to talk to their boss instead of making passive-aggressive comments in the OP’s direction.

        3. Elsajeni*

          That seems to me like a weird comment to make about a receptionist who isn’t even a permanent employee yet, though. “Blindly enforcing the rules” is not really in her power; she’s obeying the rules, as she understands them, which happens to inconvenience someone else. Yes, I’d advise her to talk to her boss about how strict the “front desk must be staffed until 5:00” rule is meant to be, and in the meantime try to be as ready to leave right at 5:00 as possible, but I really think it’s unreasonable to hold her responsible for the rule being unnecessarily strict.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s not universal. And come on, that “blind adherence to rules” is the same thing bad bosses bust out with if an hour employee points out they are working a few extra unpaid minutes every day,

          1. Mike C.*

            Did I use the word “universal” anywhere? I choose my words very carefully and I would appreciate it if you would respond to those words specifically. If I’m unclear please ask but I don’t appreciate being asked to defend statements I haven’t made.

            To your greater point no, it’s not the same because for one, you’re ignoring the obvious power imbalance. Not just between employee and employer but between something that is company policy and something that is federal labor law.

            Two, you ignored the second half of that statement – “without offering to explore any alternatives or workarounds or other ways to mitigate the problems isn’t very helpful either.” It’s all one statement, you can’t just pick out a few words you don’t like and ignore the rest as if they don’t have meaning.

            There are different ways one can follow the rules that affect coworkers in lesser or greater ways and my suggestion is to find ways to better meet the needs of coworkers while meeting the requirements of one’s own boss.

        2. Stardust*

          That’s not at all the case where I’m from. Granted, I’m not in the States so there might well be a cultural difference at play here but “being salaried”, to me, means having to do a certain kind of workload during the week and, once that’s over and done with, you get to go home/not work anymore.

          1. Charityb*

            That’s almost the exact opposite of the way it is here, honestly. While not all salaried workers are exempt, it’s relatively common for exempt employees to have workload that is less… contained. It might not be 60+ hours a week, but sometimes you might have to stay late or work weekends depending on what’s going on. “Hourly” workers are more likely to be insulated from that as far as they’re non-exempt; since every hour of work costs the employer money, the employer has to be more considerate with the hourly worker’s time, especially if they want to avoid overtime pay.

            I’m not trying to make it seem as if all salary workers are putting in crazy long hours week in and week out, but here it’s far more likely for someone who is salaried to work longer hours and be expected to work outside of a normal workday just because it’s cheaper for company for them to do it. This isn’t even a white collar/office thing; if you’re a fast food or retailer manager or assistant manager, you’re even more likely to be working more than that just to avoid using up your (relatively expensive) part-time hourly employee’s time.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Yes to all of this. It’s kind of unusual for exempt workers in the U.S. to consistently work only 40 hours a week. Like, you would never hear an exempt worker complain to their friends that they worked 43 hours this week. Anything between 41 and 45 hours a week is considered standard; after that, you’re venturing into “demanding job with long hours” territory.

              And if you finish your assignments in 35 hours, they’ll just find you more work to do. It’s not like you get to pack up and leave to enjoy the benefits of your efficiency.

        3. Zillah*

          Ehh. It’s common, but it’s by no means universal – I know a lot of exempt employees who have regular work hours and work late only very rarely (and even more who never work during the weekend). If there’s this much focus on leaving at 5 on a regular basis, it’s entirely possible that these employees aren’t working late very often.

          Regardless, though, I agree with your overarching point. Even if they’re not working late or on the weekends, people who are exempt often get a little extra flexibility (as they should if at all possible). I can understand why they’d be annoyed at having to wait until 5pm. That’s not the OP’s fault – as you said, it’s a difference in process – but I do think that it’s worth checking in with the boss about it, because the culture of the workplace may well be that 4:55 is totally fine.

        4. Oryx*

          Salaried or exempt employees? I’m salaried, but I’m also non-exempt. So, no, I’m not expected to work during evenings and weekends because I’d have to be paid OT for those hours.

        5. Sarah in Boston*

          Guess I’m super lucky. I’m exempt and almost never have to work more than 40 hours a week. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve HAD to work on a weekend in the past 15 years. I occasionally do because something it super interesting because not because it’s required.

    3. Jennifer*

      I agree, but that last five minutes of CRUCIALITY depend on the bosses. I used to leave at 4:55, then 4:58, now we are in whopping trouble if we don’t wait until the computers hit 5, period. The logic of “how much work are you getting done in the last 2 minutes,” well, they don’t care because NITPICK, dammit.

    4. A Bug!*

      I agree that there’s an obvious process issue here, and it sucks if any of the coworkers are being inconvenienced by it, but I strongly disagree that it’s the OP’s burden to address it.

      OP should be mindful of being as ready as possible to leave right at 5 out of consideration for her coworkers, so if she’s waiting until 5 to pack up her things, then she should change that. But when it comes down to it, OP shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for adhering to the schedule her employer has assigned her. She hasn’t been there long enough to know whether or not she’d get in trouble for doing otherwise, although from what she’s written in her letter, I might conclude that the available evidence points to “yes.”

      I’m looking at the timing when I say this. If the coworkers know that the boss is fine with the office closing up a few minutes early to allow everyone to get where they need to be, then why hadn’t they been asking the OP to leave early while her time was still being monitored? If the co-workers believed that the boss didn’t actually expect OP to be punctual to the minute, they could have actually explained that to the OP, who, as a temp, would have every reason to be meticulous in the absence of that information. They also could have talked to the boss themselves about the impact it was having on their ability to be leaving on time.

      They don’t appear to have done any of those things. To me, I’m not hearing, “Boss isn’t a stickler and a few minutes at the end of the day is not a big deal, because he’d rather we all be out of here at 5.” I’m hearing, “Sweet, now that Boss won’t know you’re leaving early, we don’t have to be stuck here until 5.”

      The coworkers’ inconvenience doesn’t outweigh the OP’s job security. I see plenty of indication that OP is expected to be there until 5, and it’s not reasonable or helpful to ask her to risk her job by leaving early to accommodate coworkers who won’t offer any better reason for it than “I want to leave and you probably won’t get caught.” They’re obviously not looking out for her interests; why should she be solicitous of theirs?

    5. Vera*

      …blindly enforcing the rules to the letter without offering to explore any alternatives or workarounds or other ways to mitigate the problems isn’t very helpful either.

      I agree, but the problem of leaving early is the coworker’s and not the OP’s. If the coworker is desperate to walk out the door at 5 or just before 5 due to bus, daycare, or whatever, then it’s the coworker’s responsibility to seek an alternative or workaround. The current workaround is to badger the OP, which is not acceptable.

      And sure, NOW the OP can help to offer solutions, but the OP shouldn’t have been drug into the coworker’s problem. It is the coworker’s task to lock up that is causing the rift, not that the receptionist’s task is to stay until 5. Alison’s advice is spot on.

  9. Anonsie*

    Heck, I mean, the couple minute wiggle room is so common that a lot of time card systems have a built-in window to count a 4:48pm clockout as a 5:00pm clockout anyway.

    I wondered the same thing as Alison– are you not even starting to get ready to leave until 5:00pm on the dot, meaning you’re not actually leaving until a fair bit after that? Because that would, if I were the one closing and waiting for you, really aggravate me. Especially as someone who takes the bus, that would be a solid half hour setback for me personally.

    But seriously though, just ask your boss. “Hey Bossperson, everyone wants me to pack it in a few minutes early so they can close at 5pm exactly. Is that alright? They’ve been really adamant about it recently.”

    1. misplacedmidwesterner*

      I used to be a “start packing up after 5pm” person so I would be pulling out of the parking lot by 5:10 or 5:15ish. But where I work now, the traffic increase between 5pm and 5:10pm is insane. If I can get out by 5:05, 20 minute commute, 5:15 is a 40 minute commute. So now I am (whenever possible) ready to go so at 5pm it is power down computer, grab coat, run. Because daycare pickup.

    2. Anonsie*

      Also– DOES the LW answer phones? Alison supposes that she does and the responses are all geared towards that, but receptionists don’t answer the main phone line in plenty of companies too.

  10. Melanie*

    I sure wish Alison was my boss; her advice is always so level-headed and fair.
    Are you ever irrational?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha! I saw this comment right after having a award-worthy irrational meltdown about Thanksgiving logistics, which nearly caused me to call my mother and say we weren’t coming, just to make a point, which I’m now sitting here feeling sheepish about. So, yes :)

      1. Hiding on the Internet Today*

        Holiday meltdowns are normal, right?

        I’m trying to figure out the probability of surviving the next few days at my moms or if I should ditch my phone and use cash to check into a hotel.

            1. JessaB*

              The Captain is amazing. I found the Captain via this blog. We need another round of “name the blog besides this one that you read every day and would die without.” But not here of course. It probably needs it’s own thread.

          1. JessaB*

            Why not have one, you have weekend potlatch kinda threads and open chats, so why not a Thanksgiving thing (I mean from both a family duties and an OMG I have to work and Black Friday starts 6pm Thanksgiving HELP, kinda thing.)

  11. Boudiga*

    I have been in similar situations before and the easiest thing to do is have everything packed up and ready to go by 4:58 so you and the other person are basically standing by the door and the moment it ticks 5pm you are both out of there.

    If the OP is thinking she has to sit there until 5 on the off chance the phone will ring and will only start gathering her belongings until after that I could see the other coworkers getting a bit annoyed.

    Especially since she doesn’t say that there have been any last minute calls where she’s been so happy she didn’t give in.

  12. VintageLydia USA*

    I’d definitely double check with the boss to make sure that one or two minutes aren’t an issue because in most offices, it’s not. And secondly make sure you’re ready AT 5 if you do need to stay. Your bag is packed, and your jacket or whatever is close at hand to throw on as you walk out.

  13. GeekChic*

    That’s a difficult position to be in, OP.

    If I were you, I’d go to one of the colleagues who’s saying “We need to start packing everything up closer to 5:00” some time well before closing-up time and say something like, “hey, I’m sorry I’ve been keeping you here late. I’m on my best behaviour while I’m new here, so I want to be at my desk til 5 – but are there things I can do to make sure we get out the door in good time?”

    If someone said that to me, I wouldn’t feel like they’re saying “I want out early”, I’d think they wanted to make sure everything was getting closed down efficiently in advance so all there was to do at 5 was switch off electronics and lock up. Planning ahead can really make a difference, and closing up the office is part of the job. You’re not shirking if you take 5 minutes towards the end of the day to lock all the windows and close the curtains or whatever!

  14. TotesMaGoats*

    I agree with most other comments. Most likely your boss doesn’t care at all if you are leaving at 4:58 instead of 5:00pm. That’s such a small amount of time that it wouldn’t matter and honestly if I had an employee stressing about that I’d be worried that I hadn’t properly explained company culture.

    That being said, I also agree that since you aren’t the person locking the doors and it is holding someone else up from being somewhere, that you should do what you can to speed up that process. So that at 5pm you turn off the phones and your computer and put on your coat and go.

    My front line staff at OldJob would get everything packed up and ready at 4:45 and leave one computer up for the random 4?58 phone call. That way it was two clicks and we were all walking out the door.

    1. VG*

      That’s what we did when I worked in retail – unless it was extra busy for some reason, we’d start counting out the cash drawers 30 minutes before closing and just leave one open to ring up those people who came running in at the last minute to “grab a few things.” Then when closing time came, we could count out that last drawer in a few minutes, lock the safe and be ready to go.

  15. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    I think some time clocks are structured that way, because, if I remember correctly, Non Exempt employees are paid to the quarter hour and it can be rounded up or down. (not real sure but it seems like I learned something to that effect.) My question to the OP is this: Are you just as adamant about starting at 8:30 and not one minute before? I truly do get the conscientious part of you that wants to do a great job and be seen as dependable. As an Exempt employee I would be so irritated at having to wait until 5pm on the dot to close up. But that would be MY problem and not yours. It’s something I would talk to the boss about. “Hey our new receptionist is great and very conscientious about making sure she doesn’t stop work until 5 on the dot but when it’s my night to close up I need to fly out of here to get my daughter and I find that I am not leaving until 5:05 or so.” We ALL know that five minutes can make or break it with traffic or a bus. Also, what does “closing up” entail? Is there anything you can do prior to 5pm to make the process quicker? And for what its worth you are waaaaay too stressed about 1) leaving one or two minutes early once in a blue moon and 2) what your coworkers think and the pressure they are putting on you. You sound like a great employee that any company would be lucky to have.

    1. Tara R.*

      Yep, we were “on the clock” until 5:15 at my old job (business closed at 5:00) and as long as we were out by 5:29, they paid us until 5:15. Actually, they paid us until 5:15 even on several occasions when we were there until 5:45 or 6:00, now that I think about it.

  16. irritable vowel*

    If I were the boss I would definitely want to ensure that the office was open until 5:00 if those were the stated hours, because (in my experience) once you relax on that, a certain amount of creep happens over time and by next year the office is closing at 4:50 (receptionist found out there’s a bus that leaves at 4:55 that will get her home so much earlier because rush hour isn’t at its peak yet, and what’s the big deal because you said closing a few minutes early was okay). That being said, I have also worked an evening job where we had our stuff packed up and ready to go 5 minutes before the end of our shift because we wanted to get the hell out of there the minute the clock struck 10:00 pm, so I know that side, too. I think the OP has to be firm about staying until 5:00, the boss is probably going to say the same if asked, but the OP should be packed up and ready to go by 4:59:30, if that’s what her co-workers need.

  17. John*

    I would put it back on him.

    “Frank, my understanding is I’m expected to answer the phones until 5 on the dot. Now, if Bob tells me he’s comfortable with me leaving a little early, I’ll be happy to help you out. Up to you to persuade him.”

    1. Mike C.*

      You should be happy to help out your coworkers regardless without having to ask your boss. If nothing else, that means having your stuff ready to walk out the door at 5pm.

      1. brighidg*

        It’s not her job to decide what the hours are anymore than it is the job of her co-workers . She’s in a customer-facing position and that has different expectations.

        What if an irate customer calls at 4:59? Does she hang up at 5? Or does she keep talking to him for however long it takes to resolve the issue even if that’s until 5:30? A lot of bosses expect the latter and her co-workers should help her out by understanding that and – if it’s a real problem – offering to work with her and their boss to resolve this.

        1. Mike C.*

          This is like the second or third time it’s happened in this post, and I find it disrespectful.

          I never said anything about deciding hours, I said help her coworkers. I’ve written extensively on what this can mean with or without leaving early.

          If I’m being unclear, ask. Otherwise please respond to what I wrote, not what you think I wrote.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            To be honest, I think people are probably responding more to tone and your assumptions that, for example, the OP could easily solve this if only she were “happy to help” her coworkers, as well as the assumption that it would be easy to find a solution when we don’t know her job duties or why she might not be able to pack up before 5pm.

            It may be that the OP can find an easy solution to this issue, but to me the tone you’re using is fairly adversarial. It seems like you’re assuming she intends to make things difficult on her coworkers when, to me, it reads like she’s new and unsure what to do in this situation.

          2. KH*

            If it’s the 2nd or 3rd time it’s happened in the post, you might consider that it’s YOU and not the people responding to you. Honestly Mike C. I often find your responses come across as condescending and “I know what’s REALLY going on here and the rest of you don’t, so all heed me.”

            Chill a bit.

        2. Terra*

          If she’s hourly and has not been previously authorized to work overtime then yes, even if an irate customer calls at 4:59 she has to hang up and leave at 5pm. Legally any time over 40 hours per week, even if it’s just a few minutes, must be paid at 1.5x the employees standard salary which costs the company money. I’ve worked at places where working overtime without authorization was a fire-able offense because of this.

        3. Ethyl*

          “What if an irate customer calls at 4:59? Does she hang up at 5?”

          Sometimes, yeah, that can happen, but YMMV. I used to work for a place that got really, really, seriously mentally ill people calling often (we couldn’t help them but they thought we could), and they would ramble and become abusive if I tried to calmly explain that we weren’t the ones who provided the service they were looking for. Once, after I stayed until 5:20 trying to be polite to someone who was angrily ranting and yelling about Satan and angels and whatever, my boss told me it was ok to just hang up. I realize this is non-standard, what with all the demonic possession and whatnot, but it can happen.

      2. Charityb*

        That’s definitely good advice and part of my confusion with this question. How long *does* it take the OP to leave the building after her shift? If all they have to do is pack up their stuff in a bag and turn off a computer, it shouldn’t take more than a minute at the most, and it shouldn’t interfere with the closing procedures. Even if she waits until 5:00 PM sharp to even start packing up, that can’t take very long, can it?

        I’m still having a hard time visualizing the conflict. How much later past 5:00 PM does it take them to finish everything? Is there any reason why the they need to do to close the building before 5:00 PM and then just lock the door or set the alarm or whatever right as the OP walks out?

        If their frustration is because they can’t even start closing until the OP is gone, I can be sympathetic to both sides. If their frustration is that they have to leave work at 5:03 PM instead of 5:00 PM sharp, then they just sound petty.

        1. Zillah*

          If their frustration is that they have to leave work at 5:03 PM instead of 5:00 PM sharp, then they just sound petty.

          Ehhh. It’s not something they’re dealing with well, certainly, but I wouldn’t jump to calling it petty. When people are that fixated on a few minutes, it’s generally not because they want to get home by 5:40 as opposed to 5:43 – it’s because a few minutes is the difference between getting home at 5:35 and getting home at 6:00. When I was in grad school, three minutes was the difference between catching the 8:25 bus and being home just after 9 and having to wait for the 8:45 bus, which often had me getting home around 10.

          1. Myrin*

            I’m in the same situation so I absolutely understand the difference 3 minutes can make (it’s a full-hour difference for me, too, depending on which train I catch), however, I really think you first sentence here is key (about not dealing well with the problem). If public transport is the problem, the coworker could apologetically tell the OP about it. Or better yet, actually go to the boss with that problem and inquire if different arrangements can be made.

            (IDK, I can totally imagine the most pushy coworker actually being the type “wanting to get home by 5.40 as opposed to 5:43” – if only because I almost can’t imagine someone being under pressure because of catching a bus not mentioning it, especially if he regularly pesters the OP about this topic; surely it would come up at some point? Pure speculation based on the very little information we have on the coworker, of course.)

            1. Zillah*

              Yeah, it’s difficult to say. The only thing that’s clear is that the coworker is acting very poorly.

    2. Vera*

      Agreed. This is not the OP’s responsibility to solve. The task the receptionist has been assigned is to stay until 5. The task the co-worker has been assigned is to lock up. I don’t see why it’s the OP’s responsibility to find a solution for him.

      Like the response John wrote, I’d simply say that it’s not my call, and that I’m willing to find a compromise but we have to do it with Bob’s approval. What do you propose that compromise is? And then go to Bob with your proposed compromise and see what happens. I’d doubt that Bob would accept “leave every day at 4:50pm”.

      Anyway, I agree with others that you can go ahead and begin packing up so that at 5:00 you click off your monitor (or turn the phones to out of office mode) and walk out the door. That doesn’t require Bob’s approval.

  18. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    How about this OP, they let you lock up? That way these guys can leave at whatever time they wish. I think it makes more sense for the receptionist to do so anyway since she’s the one who has to stay until the close of business each day. Perhaps you can suggest this to your boss.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      That could be a good solution. At OldJob you weren’t allowed to lock up while you were still on probation, so OP might have to wait until December if her workplace has a similar rule.

  19. Donna*

    It is only a few minutes, but I’m wondering why the co-workers haven’t asked the boss if OP could leave a few minutes early. It’s obviously an important issue for them. I’m guessing they haven’t asked because they know what the answer will be.

    I like Alison’s response to them.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m guessing they haven’t asked because they’re salaried and adults and can otherwise come and go as they need.

      Why do you assume that they’re trying to get away with something they shouldn’t be? Not every business is run like a middle school after all.

      1. neverjaunty*

        “Middle school” would be telling the boss “I know I wasn’t supposed to leave a few minutes early, but Wakeen and Fergus told me to!”

      2. OfficePrincess*

        But part of being salaried and adults is understanding that the business closes at 5, so on days they have to close they have to stay until at least 5. Right now, they’re not doing that. They’re pressuring OP to leave before 5.

    2. Zillah*

      That seems like a leap to me. They could be trying to get away with something sneaky, but I think it’s just as if not more likely that either the office culture is generally that a few minutes aren’t a big deal (which is the case in many offices) or that a few minutes aren’t a problem for them and they’re not really processing that it’s different for the OP.

  20. Jackie*

    This reminds me of a job I had where they cared about the letter of the rules rather than the spirit. I had to take mail to the late pick up box before 5pm (when my day ended) It was 90% of the way to my subway stop. So, I had started packing my stuff up at 4:50, doing a last call around the office (law office) for letters, letting another low level person know so she would answer the phone, and walking out at ~4:55. That meant that I would get to the mail box at exactly 5:00, drop off the mail and then continue on home. (This was in the winter when it was well below freezing and I had to bundle up for this walk.)

    One of the people didn’t like that I was leaving before 5… So it was decreed that at 4:40 I did the last call, went the the mail box and back and then waited for 5 minutes until 5pm to walk out the door. So I was away from the phone for twice the time and often was handed a piece of mail on my 2nd time out the door with a request to walk super fast to hopefully get back to the box before themail was collected.

    OP – make sure everything you can do is done and packed up so that you can walk out the door at 5. I’m not sure what is so hard about that request.

    1. Blight*

      I do happen to agree with you. Unless you are working directly with clients (and even then) it is just not that hard to have your crap together to leave at your scheduled time, especially if you know that you are holding someone else up by leaving late. That may mean to stop working 10 minutes early and start getting things organized for the next day, there may be the odd busy time where this is not possible but it shouldn’t be so often that the coworkers are getting frustrated with it.

      If the OP is busy dealing with people just before 5:00 then she needs to learn how to explain that the business is closing and she’ll need to handle the matter in the morning – most customers and businesses fully understand.

    2. Vera*

      Wow, that is irrational of your past job. You were still working up until 5pm. Does time outside the office not count? I definitely would have complained about the second round of letters… yeesh.

  21. E*

    That person is an ass. My bus leaving work departs at 5:12 and 5:50, so I can relate to not wanting to wait for her to pack up and potentially make me miss that first bus. That said, the appropriate request is: “I’m so sorry, I have to catch a bus at 5:12, so I really need to be locking the building up by 5:05 to get there on time. Can I keep an eye on the phones while you gather your things?”

    I’d think that any reasonable person with a tight schedule would be upfront that they had an appointment or daycare to get to and not just say “I have places to be.”

    1. Mike C.*

      Unless the appointment is something complicated, private or just none of the OP’s business.

      “Yeah OP I need to see my shrink and then my gyno and finally my couple’s therapist.” can easily become “I have places to be”.

      1. bridget*

        “Sorry to rush you, but I need to make an appointment” would satisfy me, and doesn’t come off as brusque or rude as “I have places to be.” It conveys the same information, but more sympathetically. I hope the OP can reasonably find a work around (like packing up her stuff between calls from 4:30-5) so that she can both be at the phones until 5, and be ready to walk out the door 30 seconds later. If her co-workers truly have commitments that they will miss if they leave at 5:01 instead of 4:58, when they have a job that involves locking up a business that’s open until 5, that’s unfortunate, but means they are scheduling their commitments too tightly.

      2. neverjaunty*

        This isn’t about prying into business; this is about giving the OP information to help solve the problem. “I have to be out the door at 5 to make an important appointment” is fine, and doesn’t require getting into the specifics of what parts of your body the doctor will be checking. But “I have places to be, you know” is entitled BS.

  22. coffee powerrd*

    I’m with Alison on the “maybe he has to catch a bus” comment. This is pretty common for people who are scheduled to stay til 5:00 leave a few minutes early and are often seen running across the street to catch the early lightrail home. It’s amazing what the delay waiting for the next ride can be from missing a transit by just a minute or two, and this may be what’s happening. I would try and work with this coworker to be ready to walk out the door at 5:00. Prior planning prevents…poor performance.

    Plus, you said you are paid hourly so any time you stay past 5:00 you are still technically working so that might put you into overtime, which I believe is not in most companies’ interest especially since you are just closing down for the day.

    The company could get in trouble if you are regularly staying until 10+ minutes after and not being paid for time worked.

  23. IrishGirl*

    This post just highlighted to me the different approaches different places take regarding punctuality, to me the idea that one minute is early/late is slightly baffling.

  24. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    I’ve been a receptionist. I had to be on time because the phones turned on at 8:00 and that’s when they started ringing. And then they turned off at 5:00, so that’s when I could leave. For most positions, being a few minutes late or leaving a few minutes early was not a big deal. In my experience for receptionist positions– it is a big deal, and unless the boss tells her it’s not, she needs to have her butt in the seat ready to answer the phone until 5:00. It’s just the way it is. What her coworkers want has no bearing on the expectations of her job.

    Now, my current position? Coming a bit late or leaving a bit early is not an issue, as long as I work my expected 8 hours.

  25. Chriama*

    If you’re supposed to be answering phones until exactly 5 then shouldn’t you be paid until 5:15 or 5:30 or so? Unless you can turn off your computer and leave right at 5 then I don’t understand how they can pay you just until the office is closed. It would be like working retail and being paid until the store closes but expected to count the register and stuff afterwards. So I would definitely look into starting later/extending your lunch break/whatever to make sure you’re not regularly staying past 5 to close up or whatever.

    However, assuming you really can leave right as the office closes, what needs to be done to lock up? Can you add some of those activities to the last half hour of your shift so you’re ready to go right at 5 and the employees can lock up then? If they’re pressuring you to leave just 1 or 2 minutes early then I think there isn’t much to be done that couldn’t be done sometime during the last hour of your day. I would start a routine of closing activities around 4-4:30 so you’re ready to go right at 5.

    1. Charityb*

      It’s possible that the OP, as an hourly worker, would be paid if she did have a call that ran over until 5:15 PM and 5:30 PM. If these people are hassling her to hang up on a customer at 5:00 PM sharp that would be pretty over the top. I think the conflict comes when she doesn’t have a call but she is just sitting there because she is being paid to be there until 5:00 PM; she doesn’t want to leave early in case a call does come in but when they see her just sitting there they think that she is slowing them down.

      1. Chriama*

        Fair enough. Others have mentioned a kind of undercurrent of extreme anxiety in the OP’s letter and I’ve noticed it myself up rereading. I’m imagining the OP sitting there until exactly 5pm and then packing up their bag/putting away files/turning off the computer because they don’t want to do that stuff ‘on the clock’. If I had to lock up that would aggravate me too. I stand by my earlier statement of taking care of closing activities well before the last few minutes of your day so you can be right out the door at 5. If you’re hourly and being paid until 5 then the *only* thing that even the most conscientious employee should be leaving until they’re ‘off the clock’ is packing their bag and putting on their coat. Stuff like shutting down the computer or putting away files should happen while still on the clock, because wrapping up work is still a work activity.

    2. MBA*

      When I worked as a receptionist the phones were open from 8-5 and I was paid for 8 hours (1 hour lunch). I was expected to open the office and turn on a couple computers before 8 and was expected to start the dishwasher and lock doors after 5. I usually worked 7:55-5:05 and while it was little, you can bet I resented those unpaid 10 minutes every single day. (That’s 43 hours a year that I worked unpaid.)

      Unfortunately, when you work a low-paying job you often can’t put up a fuss over the little things.

  26. Manager George Knox*

    Formica Dinette’s wording above is a great way to handle this. Talk to your boss and don’t mention your coworkers at all.

    Also, if your boss did decide to speak to your coworkers, it would be incredibly hypocritical for them to complain that you left two minutes early that one time, and also sound petty.

    I did work at a place where we were expected to stay until 5:00 and one of the staff members came unglued when she thought a student worker was leaving two minutes early every day. (Turns out, the time clock was off and said “16.95” when you clocked out at 5:00. We all had known that for years, but apparently this person did not.)

  27. Sunny With a Chance of Showers*

    I’m kind of surprised overall with a trend to racing out the door at 5:00 on the dot every. single. night. It may not be an accurate assumption, but I get the feeling that the same person who does that will be brusque with someone who walks in at 4:45 or calls at 4:55, or will ignore a ringing phone at 4:59 — which smacks of “no f@cks to give.”

    1. Mike C.*

      Or it smacks of “I have a bus to catch”.

      Also, there’s nothing morally wrong with having a hard end to the day.

      1. Marissa*

        I agree, Mike. Before I got my car, I had to use public transit. Catching the 5:15 bus was infinitely more hellish than catching the 5:05 bus; so I did everything in my power to run out of the office at exactly 4:57. I had to cross twice at a busy intersection that had a really, really long light; and it was agony watching the bus pass by when I was still stuck across the street. In the winter or in heavy traffic, the 5:05 bus was sometimes my only ride home because the next buses would get so packed (think sardine can), they could not legally let on any more passengers. I once contemplated sleeping in the office overnight because the buses couldn’t stop for more passengers and all the taxi companies weren’t taking anymore calls.

        Missing a bus can be a HUGE deal; and if this is the possible reason the coworker was snippy, I think he could be forgive.

        Ps. Questions to the general audience: Why is going home to watch TV/Netflix not a valid reason to leave right at 5:00? That is when the work day ends, so you should be able to leave regardless of why. As I mentioned at the top of the thread, if the OP can have closing privileges when she becomes a permanent employee, I think this will solve everyone’s issues.

        1. Vera*

          Re: watching TV, I for one agree that circumstances should not justify favoritism. Whether you are picking up your child, going to an appointment, meeting friends for beers, or going home to sit on your couch, everyone should get the same treatment.

      2. Ethyl*

        Agreed. There really isn’t anything morally wrong with leaving your place of business when you are done working. It’s ok to let the voicemail pick up at 5:01, even if you do hear the phone ringing. It’s ok. Just go home. Everything will be fine.

        This, to me, also seems like a very, very US-ian idea, that you actually don’t ever get to leave work, and it’s one I wish we could push back on more effectively.

          1. Anonsie*


            If the phone isn’t ringing and there aren’t people to help at 5 and you leave right then, that’s hardly a poor work ethic worth scrutinizing. For goodness sake.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              But I think OPs point is you don’t know if there’s someone to help at 5 until 5. Leaving at 4:55 or 4;57 means that the person who calls at 4:58 doesn’t get helped. I generally try to avoid calling/going into places right before closing, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Please believe if I bust my ass to be somewhere before 5 to pick up/ drop something off and they closed early I will be anywhere from annoyed to pissed depending on how crucial it is.

              1. Anonsie*

                Sure, but the thread here is that once it DOES hit your closing time, it’s ok to cut it there if there isn’t anyone. Sunny is supposing that it’s a bad sign if someone leaves at their scheduled time to leave, *not* earlier. I disagree.

        1. CMT*

          Or even to ignore the ringing phone at 4:59 if you know it’s not an emergency (due to the nature of the business, or caller ID, or whatever).

  28. Terra*

    I’d ask your boss OP, whether or not you mention the others is entirely up to you. Although you may keep in mind that whatever you say might get back to them. Beyond that, it’s not unreasonable to try and be as ready to leave as possible before 5pm so you can leave as close to 5 as possible (partially as a courtesy to your co-workers and partially so there’s no question of overtime pay). Also, you said these people are salaried but do you know if they’re exempt or not? If they’re non-exempt it may be a situation where technically they are working overtime but not being paid for it if you stay even a few minutes late. They should still try and be considerate about it but there may be reasons.

  29. Kadee*

    It’s not a big deal to discuss it with the boss and it doesn’t even have to be confrontational in nature. It’s simply about saying, “Hey, the others are sometimes in a hurry to get out of here as quickly as possible since they have other obligations to tend to after work and I want to know what your expectations are…” and you then have a discussion about what time your boss wants you to leave and his expectations for what point you can start “shutting things down” for the day since depending on your job, the shut down process could be lengthy or as simple as just standing up and walking out.

    Once you know what your boss wants these conversations get a lot easier. “Hey, I talked to the boss because I wanted to make sure I knew what his expectations were for me and he said . I feel for you being so under the gun, but you’re going to have to talk to him about what alternatives you might have in light the requirements he stated he has for me.”

    It’s possible the OP is taking 5pm way too literally or maybe OP is doing what the boss wants but the best way to know is to follow Alison’s advice and just ask.

  30. Llauren*

    This is each company’s choice, of course, but the community college at which I work (in the adult education division so not the main campus nor young credit students) has hours from 8:00 am-7:45 pm Monday through Thursday and from 8:00 am-4:15 pm on Fridays. Front office staff come in at 7:30 am and stay as late as 8:00. But those thirty minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening are the “closing down” times. Doors are locked automatically and staff closes curtains, balances the system and so on. Anyone who calls gets voice mail. Anyone who comes to the door is ignored. That way, the college makes sure everyone gets out on time.

  31. LBK*

    Frankly, I’d be annoyed if I were in a “just get the work done” role but got trapped in a certain schedule by a reliance on someone in a “butt in a seat” role. Even if I don’t have any particular commitment after work, I don’t think it’s wrong of me to want to go home rather than sitting around waiting for the clock to strike. I know it’s only a few minutes, but on principle it bugs me when work time eats into life time any more than necessary.

    I think I’d loop the manager in here and ask for some kind of compromise – the OP starts locking up on her own, the phones go off at 4:45 so she can be ready at 5, whatever it may be. I don’t think just informing the coworkers that she doesn’t have a choice is going to make them any less resentful because it doesn’t change the situation at all for them.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      Eh, I don’t know that being resentful is really appropriate here. I’m personally in an exempt role where I can flex my schedule as long as certain things get done. But there are a couple days most weeks where I am closing up the building at the end of the day. Those days I know that I won’t be leaving early because others need to get their hours in and do their jobs. So I pull out the list of odds and ends to fill the time between when I’m “done enough” and when it’s actually time to go. It’s part of the job.

  32. nicolefromqueens*

    “he makes passive-aggressive remarks about wanting to leave before 5:00. This started when my boss decided to give me the privilege of not using the time clock anymore”

    Sounds to me like her boss says she is supposed to stay until 5:00:00.

  33. Former Retail Manager*

    I would be interested to know if customers/clients actually come into this business or merely call primarily? If customers physically come in, I could see insisting remaining there until 5:00. However, most businesses I interact with regularly seem to start sending calls to voicemail within 10-15 minutes of closing, unless once again, they have an office where clients can actually walk in, and even then many do it anyway. If it’s strictly a call situation, I’d bring up the issue to the boss, using vague generalities (not throwing your co-workers under the bus) and see if calls can perhaps go to voicemail the last 5 or 10 minutes to enable everyone to get out on time.

    While I don’t personally know what its like to be a temp and walk on eggshells virtually all the time, I have known many friends and family members who have been temps and it’s nerve-racking, without a doubt. However, you may want to consider whether your current stance with the co-workers has become contentious. I can’t really tell from the letter if these people are mildly annoyed with this one issue or really sick of the time stickler schtick. If the boss with hiring ability consults with these people on how you’re “working out” and their responses aren’t positive, you may end up not being hired regardless of your adherence to the rules. I have known many people who worked as temps that later found out that input was being fed to the boss by co-workers that they didn’t necessarily get along with. And even if you are hired, you won’t want to continue working with people who now don’t care for you because of this one small issue. Even if hired permanently, their opinion, assuming it’s negative, isn’t going to magically change because you went permanent and they realize you were only trying to secure your employment. You’ll have gotten off on the wrong foot with people you presumably will be working with for years to come.

  34. Meg*

    If the OP is an hourly employee whose hours are until 5pm on the dot, then that means she should be clocking out at 5pm on the dot, which means she should not being doing anymore work after 5pm, including if the business is not open.

    If the office is open until 5pm, and she’s expected to clock out at 5pm, then she should be expected to have things wrapped up and ready go to so that at 5pm, she can turn off the computer, flip a light switch, and lock the door and be out of the office no later than 5:01, since as an hourly employee, she must be paid for all time worked. If closing up tasks is part of her tasks, she needs to be able to get it done within the hours scheduled.

    Otherwise, the OP should be scheduled until 5:15 to perform closing duties and be paid for them.

  35. Roxy*

    Years ago at my first office job, the office hours were nine to 5:30. The main receptionist who usually stayed until 5:30 later negotiated to work until five so that she could go home to be with her cancer stricken husband for a few weeks. I was a student working for the summer and when asked if I could take the phones until 5:30 (for the extra pay), I said yes. At first, I would leave my desk and show up at hers just before five. Then after a while, at 4:55 she would come to my desk and get on my case to get to her desk. Then one day she showed up at 4:50 and said, “C’mon, let’s go, I have to leave.” And I said, not now, I would be there for five. She turned around and complained to our manager, who came to see me to ask me why I was refusing. I said, she’s ten minutes early (no reason given) and clarified that I was not refusing but that I would be there at five – her leaving a half hour early was starting to creep into 40 minutes early – and that adds up in work productivity. I was old enough to recognize that if someone is trying to leave earlier and earlier, they are also mentally shutting down and packing up earlier and earlier and you are paying staff who are not doing work but who are packing up. I hope OP talks to her manager about it and it gets sorted out. I do know that for whatever reason, a phone that is quiet all Friday afternoon will suddenly ring frequently during the last half hour of the day.

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