boss confiscates food gifts, getting people to turn in time sheets on time, and more

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

1. Boss confiscates food gifts meant for others

We have outside acquaintances that we work with, who gift us with goodies to share amongst myself and staff members. However, my boss takes the goodies and hides them from us. When we bring it to her attention as to where they are, she tell us to get our own stuff (like the coffee pods) and that we don’t need to eat the sweets (her excuse-we’ve had plenty of goodies bestowed to us around the holidays). This is by far the most ludicrous and insane issue I’ve dealt with pertaining to my boss’s behavior, but I honestly I would like your opinion upon handling this matter.

Your boss is an ass — both in regard to the hiding stuff away so no one else can have it and in regard to telling you that you don’t need the sweets.

You could tell her as a group that she’s demoralizing your whole staff by taking gifts clearly meant for all of you. But if no one is willing to do that — or if you do it and she doesn’t care — then at that point, you’d need to accept that this what she does and it’s part of the package of working with her. (If you feel strongly that must do more, there are some other suggestions in the comments on this thread about dealing with a similar situation … but really, at that point, let it go.)

2. Applying for my old job at my old company

Several years ago, I had a job at Company A in City A. I was in that job for 2.5 years, and it was a terribly toxic environment but I absolutely loved the city I was in.

I ended up leaving Company A (on good terms) for a series of higher-responsibility jobs, all in different cities, but I found I really don’t care about moving up the ladder and I still really miss City A.

It’s been eight years since I left, and I see my old position is open again. I don’t love what I do, but I would gladly do it in order to get back to City A. The staff has turned over since my time there, so as far as I’m concerned it would be like a new position at a new company. How can I convey that in my cover letter?

I would strongly, strongly recommend that you not head back to a “terribly toxic” workplace. There are other jobs in City A — apply for those.

But if you’re committed to doing this, I’d apply, note in your cover letter that you worked there in X role during Y years, and then send a note to the hiring manager (the person you’d report to if you got the job) saying something like, “I applied through your online system, but since I worked in this role from 2006-2008, I thought I’d reach out to you directly as well.”

3. Can I hold people’s paychecks until they turn in their time sheets?

I’m a business owner, and we require all exempt (salaried) employees to track time. As an ad agency, it’s essential for client billing, profitability analysis, etc. However, very few keep up with it. Can I require time sheets be turned in on certain days, and if not, withhold pay for that pay period? Not dock them or penalize them, just require that time sheets be turned in before payroll can be processed? If they miss the deadline, they need to wait until the next pay period.

In practice, we’d be lenient…a three strike policy. I need some leverage because nagging isn’t working.

Nope. Assuming you’re in the U.S., your state law requires you to pay people within a certain amount of time after the work was performed; you can’t hold people’s checks.

Getting exempt employees to turn in time sheets on time is practically a universal struggle. If it’s super important to keep up with them, your best bet is to put their managers in charge of making it happen and holding them accountable for spot-checking that they’ve been filled out and following up with people when they haven’t been (including “you have to do this today before you leave,” which mostly will work when it’s the direct manager saying it).

But also, look for ways to make the process easier on people — you want them spending their time doing the work, not tracking their time, so while time-tracking can indeed be a must-do, the more you can make the process easy and efficient, the better for everyone.

4. How should I respond to this update from an employer?

I recently had an interview and I thought it went great. They even asked for me to take a personality assessment. They contacted me about a week later, saying they got the assessment and that my personality worked great for the position. They also stated that they are leaning towards a person who has more experience in that field, but that I’m still in the running. Should I try to come up with something to say on how I think I’m the best candidate for the position or should I just take it as they are letting me down slowly?

Well, you can’t really argue that you’re the best candidate for the position since (a) you don’t know what the rest of the candidate pool looks like and (b) that’s a call that only they can make. But it would be fine to say something like, “I really appreciate your candor about where you are in the process. If you do decide it makes sense to talk further, I’d love to.”

(I doubt they’re letting you down slowly. If they were ready to reject you, they could just reject you. I’d take it as face value — they think you’re promising, but someone else may be better, and they’ll keep you posted.)

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    My first thought with #2 is that eight years is quite a long time and its possible that the company’s terrible environment has changed with the inevitable staff turnover and organizational changes. Do you know anyone who still works there who you could reach out to for a candid opinion?

    1. Bea W*

      Second this – talking to people you know who still work there or recently worked there. There could be enough change in 8 years that it’s no longer the Hell hole it used to be, but you want to know that going in. Also, if you were able to identify people working there that made it so toxic, find out if those people are still there. I left a toxic workplace that was toxic due in large part to specific people in senior management. You could not pay me any amount of money to work with those people at any company ever!

    2. neverjaunty*

      It’s also possible that the company has gotten worse, since eight years is plenty of time for all the not-terrible people to move on.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what I was thinking–I would never even consider this without talking to someone there or recently there first.

        OP, Alison is right–if City A is so great, surely there are other, better workplaces. Keep looking for one of those.

      2. Bleu*

        On the other hand, I rejoined a company I had been gone from for about the same length of time as OP has. What I learned about being in the professional world during my time away made me really appreciate what the company offered. (That’s aside from “toxic” workplaces, which on its face doesn’t sound good.)

        1. neverjaunty*

          But that’s the whole point of the letter – OP is trying to talk herself into believing a toxic workplace is OK now because she really wants to move back to that city.

  2. ArtsGirl*

    I could be letter writer #2. I left a toxic environment which actually made me sick because of stress but out of the blue, about 5-6 years later, I had the chance to return. I was definitely cautious on return but my circumstances were different this time around and separated from that environment, I could clearly see where I had gone wrong the first time around in terms of handling the personalities, conflicts etc. Plus, this has long weighed on me as a bad moment in my career and so I decided to go back as a “do over” and hopefully prove to myself that I could handle it.

    I have now been back for a few years and it has been a lot better. Some of the elements that caused me stress while there are gone and I am mentally prepared to handle the others. If you do go back to the environment, I would investigate as discretely as possibly whether anything has changed and come up with strategies to handle the rest. Even with the staff turnover, you still might find hidden landlines here and there. But I am proof that it’s possible to return to a toxic environment and survive, thrive even.

    Will also say your past experience will be a selling point in your favor as one reason my old company wanted me back was because they knew I could step into the role on day 1 and they didn’t want a break in staffing. Good luck to you!

  3. caryatid*

    re: #1

    I would probably start taking the goody baskets directly to the boss and plopping them down on her desk with a deadpan expression, and maybe make some comment about saving her the trouble of hiding it.

    But I am a cranky a-hole sometimes.

    1. Bluesboy*

      This. Saying something like “This was a gift to the whole office, so I assume you’ll want to confiscate it?”

      Pretty much only if you’ve already given up on ever having a good relationship with your boss though…so probably not really a good idea.

      Probably the better thing to do is ask her why. “Sorry Jane, can I ask why gifts to the whole office are always placed in your office and not shared? I think a little treat every now and again makes everyone feel appreciated and really boosts office morale.” But it probably won’t work, not given the way she’s already reacting to people.

      Slightly different situation, but I did once hear of a boss who confiscats office gifts like this. Turns out she was donating them to charity and it came from a miunderstanding of the office policy on ‘Anti-Bribery and Corruption’. She really thought nobody was allowed to receive anything from suppliers. But I think if this were your case your boss would have already said something.

      1. Mookie*

        “This was a gift to the whole office, so I assume you’ll want to confiscate it?”

        Well and truly lol. I now want to find somebody who behaves this poorly just so I can say this out loud.

        1. Amadeo*

          Yes, I have a feeling I’d be the sarcastic one that would end up doing this or something similar after getting fed up with it. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t care, since I don’t need extra food anyway, but the rank misbehavior and selfishness would really get on my nerves. I sincerely don’t understand the people that treat others this way.

    2. Green*

      My office has a policy regarding accepting gifts from vendors or potential vendors that is the opposite of what boss is doing here. If you get something of value, you have to share it with the office. If you get something of value that can’t be shared with the whole office (wine), you have to return it, donate it to charity, or toss it. (This wouldn’t include personal gifts from someone who happens to work at a vendor as long as the gift was clearly personal and not based on an actual or potential business relationship.) May be worth checking your policies here.

    3. Artemesia*

      I can imagine a boss sneaking off with the goodies but the chutzpah of someone confronted with this still stinging is jaw dropping. If I were the boss’s manager she would be under increased scrutiny. If the boss owned the company, I would be looking to move on if a good opportunity presented itself. Being selfish and stingy is the tip of the iceberg generally.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I’d start hiding parts of the goodies in my personal spaces (desk drawer, especially if lockable; purse; other bags) amd encourage other people to pick out what they want and do the same before the boss could get to them.

      1. Kathleen*

        Yes. I assume boss is taking the goodies from a common or shared space. I wonder if he would take them directly off of someone’s desk. Employee being very clear, this was given to ME. And then discreetly sharing with co workers. Stop putting “shared items” in common space. Keep them in your personal space and see if he invades that. After that they stay in your car, and everyone meets in the parking lot after work. and starts looking for new jobs. Good luck, sounds like he’s a real jerk.

    5. Vicki*

      How abut the other way round. Take the basket when it come s in and walk it through the office saying “What would you like?”

  4. Seal*

    Interestingly, I’m facing the same situation as #2. Almost a decade ago, I left a job at a toxic environment to move halfway across the country for a much better job in the same industry. Now a position very similar to the one I have now but with more responsibility and better pay has opened at at my old place of employment and I’m about to apply. Truthfully, I’m a bit ambivilent about applying because of my past history with this place, but I’ve kept in touch with people there who’ve told me things have improved. Plus many if not most of the people who made my life miserable the first time around have either retired or moved on. But the biggest motivating factor in applying is that it’s in the state I grew up in and my extended family is still there. Assuming I get an interview, I intend to thoroughly vet the place and ask as many questions about the environment there as I can manage. One of the unintended consequences of having worked in a toxic environment is that I have a very sensitive BS meter; I can spot a bully at 20 paces. You better believe I’ll be on the lookout for things like that!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, I was late to the party on that thread. And then I saw question 3 and thought, “gah, if only I’d waited!” :)

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I’m just really, really surprised my old job never came up with this.

          Instead, my boss would make me go sit at someone’s desk and watch them as they completed their time sheet.

    1. hermit crab*

      Wow, that’s brilliant. We have less of a timesheet problem, maybe because we work on federal contracts where not tracking your time appropriately can have major consequences. But when someone does slack off on it, one contract manager (a really senior manager with a sky-high billing rate) threatens to spend time on that person’s projects (potentially sending their whole budget out of whack with said billing rate). It’s pretty effective!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I also work for a federal contractor, and if someone missed two timesheets by more than a day or two they’d probably be called into a meeting with their manager and their manager’s manager, and after 3 or 4 in a row they’d probably be put on a PIP or be told they’d be fired if they missed another one. We can only bill for work we have done, and if we don’t have a signed timesheet from someone, then that person didn’t do any work (as far as the contract is concerned).

    2. TootsNYC*

      If I had to have that sort of detailed timesheet from people, I’d need to create time in my day that was dedicated to getting it–and time in their day that was dedicated to creating it. I’d work on helping them create a habit for it.

      And I’d also work on ways to make tracking time much simpler and not very labor-intensive.

      1. neverjaunty*

        This. If people are not turning in their time sheets regularly, there is probably a reason. Don’t put people in the position of struggling to find time in an insane schedule, or fighting with a clunky billing system, and then punish them for not being prompt.

        1. Green*

          Eh, I hated billing in tenths of an hour. HATED IT. But it was a requirement of my job. And it was a requirement of my job to be prompt. I think emphasizing that it is a requirement and being late is unacceptable (and that repeatedly failing to turn in your billing is a fireable offense) is all that is necessary here.
          We had a few things that were intermediary steps though:
          (1) a CC to their manager each time they failed to turn in timesheets (and the partner-in-charge of the office) on the “nagging” email
          (2) halting direct deposits, so that you had to go pick up your check in person from the person in charge of billing and get a lecture
          (3) becoming bonus ineligible as a result of failing to complete timesheets in a timely manner.

          After those steps, I don’t think they ever wound up needing to fire anyone. It turns out that everyone was able to find time somewhere for billing when they were reminded that it was an essential part of their job and not just some “administrative thing”.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Giving people the tools to do their work is a very basic way to have satisfied employees. Obviously it’s not an optional task, but why not take an easy fix – such as getting rid of billing software that crashes, or creating delays because nobody’s entered a billing code?

            1. Green*

              Billing software was not the problem at my law firm. Of course, if there’s low-hanging fruit, you should definitely advocate for a fix there first, but I suspect even if you perfect the system there will still be people who turn in their timesheets/billing late.

            2. Miles*

              It sounds like someone’s nephew did some software development for your company as an after-school project, in an attempt to get out of paying software licenses.

              This isn’t a normal problem for enterprise software solutions to have.

            3. Kyrielle*

              Things I do no miss at all about my old job: the time-entry system. It wasn’t terrible, for the most part, but I still love being in an exempt job that doesn’t need to track my mind and so…doesn’t.

              That’s AFTER they slapped the new web front end on it. It *was* pretty terrible before that. My favorite part of its terrible-ness involved the fact that every time sheet showed up with a 0.1 hour admin charge on it to a special fake code…which you were supposed to take off, but only after you’d added your tasks and saved. Because if you deleted that code before you had something else on the time card, the time card for those dates would just disappear.

              …I am guessing there was one database table there where really, two were needed…lol.

        2. Colette*

          Sometimes the reason is that they don’t want to do it or don’t think it’s important. I mean, if everyone is having problems, it’s worth looking at the bigger picture, but if it’s one or two people, it’s probable they are the problem.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        At my old job delayed time sheets (and my showing that my boss’s solution didn’t work) actually lead to better project management software.

        When it was all part of the system the team was working in, it was so much easier for the team and the delay went away.

    3. Bea W*

      I’m kind of baffled by the withholding internet access one. Presumably the employees have access because they need it to work usually, don’t they? Otherwise, why have it for them at all except as a perk to use on break? My job requires outside internet access. So maybe I am totally missing something.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        No, I think the idea is to keep them from sending emails or doing OTHER work until they work on their timesheet, which is probably on the local network. (Or on paper, but if that’s the case I can see why people are dragging their feet.)

        I used to get mine in on time, but I hated the interruption of going back through my emails and tickets for the last two weeks to see which codes I should bill to. It actually got a LOT easier when I started doing them every day, either at the end of the day or, more often, the very first thing the next morning.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Or do them first thing in the morning, predictively, and then editing as you go. Might be a good day-planning tool.

        2. Green*

          For attorneys, if you’re trying to recreate your timesheets at the end of the week (or even at the end of the day), you can wind up being unethical (fudging tenths of an hour here or there, billing something to the wrong matter), so in addition to being easier, contemporaneous billing records are pretty important, especially if you get interrupted frequently.

          1. Elysian*

            I don’t even understand how people can do asynchronous billing with any acceptable degree of accuracy. Unless you work on only one matter a day… At my very worst, I’ll record Monday’s billing on Tuesday (or something like that) but I can’t let it go any longer than a day at all.

            The thing that holds me up is not recording the actual amount of time – its the narrative that accompanies it. So I’ll write down that I spent 1.1 hours on Client A work on Monday, and then on Friday I’ll go back and write my description of the work that was done. The time and client are always extremely accurate, but if I fall behind on my timekeeping my narrative descriptions suffer and I end up having to go through my inbox and stuff trying to figure out what I was doing for Client A for 1.1 hours. (Was it really just X? Did X take that long? There must have been more…) When my time is late its because I got too busy to deal with my narratives and now I have to spend extra time reconstructing what I did. But I’ve been getting better about it recently.

        3. hermit crab*

          We’re actually required to do them daily. There are no official consequences until you don’t turn in your signed timesheet at the end of the week, except we do periodically have random audits and you can get in trouble (or get the company in trouble, maybe, I’m not sure) if you’re not on top of things. It makes it way easier, I think; I can’t imagine trying to enter an entire week from memory/emails. And we only bill to the half-hour!

    4. Jerry Vandesic*

      My last employer had a four strikes policy. 1 – you received an email; 2 – your boss received an email; 3 – you needed to meet with the president of the company where she stressed the importance of time sheets to client billings; 4 – after that any missed time sheets meant that you lost your bonus and any merit increase during the next review cycle.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. I have been in a similar situation with opportunities coming up at a previous workplace, but one which was certainly nauseous, if not outright toxic. There has been considerable turnover (plus a merger with a competitor) since I worked there, but a contact told me the atmosphere is not good. Plus there will always be that feeling of “Going Back” and to a certain extent, I don’t think that is possible.

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      After two years I left a job I had taken as a last resort when my husband lost his. I left for a better title, more pay and more prestige. It turned out to be a bad move, as in my new position, I was forced to work with a HR director who I now realize was probably a sociopath. Watching her manipulations was a real downer. She’d hire and then fire and visibly take pleasure in the process. I ended up going back to my former employer a much wiser and more tolerant person. I stayed eight years, in part for the benefits, which included profit sharing. I have never regretted it.

  6. Elysian*

    I’m an exempt employee who has to track time, and if I’m delinquent for a certain amount of time, my job will cut off my direct deposit privileges and make me pick up a paper check instead. The idea of this – having to get a physical check and go to the bank to deposit it – is sufficiently annoying to make me remember to turn in my time.

    1. Bleu*

      That’s a good idea, and I like the one above too about cutting off Internet access.

      It’s too bad that it seems like employers feel there’s nothing they can do — I get that “it’s just a time sheet” and they don’t want to fire excellent employees over it, but, even not being a manager, why people can’t/won’t turn their timesheets in baffles and irritates me. I don’t get it. It’s not hard, the bosses are constantly prompting for them — I mean this in itself is maddening, the amount of energy that goes into bosses sending usually 2 reminders for each pay period. The needs them them filled out; why do companies feel there’s nothing they can do when employees consistently will not do it?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue is most common when it’s not your paycheck — when you’re exempt or salaried non-exempt, and the time-tracking is for project billing or something like that. That’s when it starts feeling to some people like just an annoying administrative detail that isn’t important enough to spend time on.

          1. Billy Mumphrey*

            But if the company wants to have a decent cash flow it needs to bill the client every 2 weeks or every month or whatever according to the contract. So, if time sheets aren’t in the client cannot be billed. And going back to client and saying “we have to add these billable hours to two months ago cuz our employee did not put in her time sheet” looks asinine!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, of course. I’m not arguing that it isn’t actually important; we agree that it’s quite important. But people don’t always see that when it’s not tied directly to their own pay for that period (i.e., “fill out this timesheet in order to submit your hours to payroll to get paid” vs. “fill this out so we can bill clients correctly”).

              1. Observer*

                Another factor, I think, is that it’s often surprisingly hard or time consuming to do it right, and people often conclude, even if unconsciously, that it can’t be that important if there are all these barriers to doing it right.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        It’s hard because:
        1. Often “creative” and “organized” don’t travel together in the same person. Couple that with the fact that, at many agencies, account executives (the ones who are hired in large part for their organization skills) get to bill all of their time to a single job code, whereas creatives (art directors and copywriters) have to itemize their billing to individual jobs, and you have a recipe for late timesheets.
        2. Most timesheet programs have at least some stupid technological headaches associated with them. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need more than a few minutes a day to complete a timesheet. However, technology often gets in the way.
        3. As budgets get squeezed, employees are increasingly asked to do more tasks in the same amount of time that they had before. Add this to #2, and boom! Late timesheets.

        That being said, I’ve never found it horribly onerous, partly because I handle it as another poster mentioned below and fill mine out throughout the day or at the beginning of the day (and then I adjust as necessary at the end of the week). It’s when you wait too long to do them that you forget what it is you did on what day and for how long, and the process becomes exponentially more onerous the longer you wait.

        So I’ll reiterate to OP #3 that ANYTHING you can do to make the process easier is a good thing.

      2. Clever Girl*

        I am salaried, but have to fill out a time sheet. It’s literally just when I came in and when I left. And without fail on Friday night, I’ll be one step from leaving the building when I’ll remember I didn’t fill my time sheet out and have to go back, re-boot my computer, and fill it out. I have a reminder set to do it and I still forget! It’s mostly because I don’t leave at the same time every day, so the reminder will go off while I’m working on something else, and then by the time I’m actually done, I’ve forgotten all about the reminder.

    2. AnotherFed*

      My job will put people down in vacation status if they don’t turn timesheets in. They still get paid, but if they want their PTO back, they have to submit the timesheet and the correction request form. It’s highly effective, but there’s still a couple of people who are always pushing it and turning things in a couple of hours after they are due.

    3. Green*

      My old law firm did that as one of the intermediary steps I mentioned above, and it was very effective. You still got paid on time (as long as you walked over to billing to get it), but it was a walk of shame with a comment from the finance person about timeliness and your supervisors were CC’d.

      1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

        Nobody on earth wants to log time to time sheets. It’s boring and annoying. The trick is to get people in the habit of doing it immediately, so that they are accurate. (I worked at an agency that didn’t hound people until the end of the month, so there were tons of people entering time from up to four weeks ago! So much for accurate billing.)

        At my office we basically resort to constant nagging and public shaming. There’s one guy in charge of getting timesheets in — he sends two (!) reminders Friday afternoon, and then another one Monday morning. The managers are not allowed to review timesheets until they are ALL in, so if noon rolls around on Monday the guy sends out a company-wide email indicating who hasn’t turned theirs in yet. He usually doesn’t have to repeat that one.

  7. NJ Anon*

    #3 I struggled with this as well. I’m in finance at a nonprofit and staff must track their time per grant. I have a three strike rule, if I have to hunt you down the first time, strike one, a second time gets a meeting with me, a third time we meet with the employee and their supervisor. That usually does the trick. I’ve also brought it up in staff meetings explaining that I’m busy too and it’s not fair to me that I have to take time out from my day to hunt down time sheets. My boss who is the head of the organization has my back which also helps.

  8. Nico m*

    Ask the givers to address the gifts to individuals, specific groups or “all the team”

    That or poison the cow

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    #3: I sympathize, even though I’m not on the finance side. (wanna hire me? I’m a copywriter who is anal-retentive about turning hers in on time! ;))

    Here are the most effective methods I’ve seen:

    1. Hold expense reimbursements for employees with outstanding timesheets
    2. Have IT automatically shut off Internet access for employees who are more than X days late. People hated this at my last agency, but as you can imagine, it was pretty damn effective.
    3. The best way I’ve heard it put was, “your timesheets are the most important work you do here. Not the actual work for your clients. Your timesheets are what determine whether the agency actually gets paid.”

    That being said: MAKE IT EASY for people to do their sheets. My last agency had a horribly outdated, slow program that made searching for job codes a giant pain in the behind. And I can’t tell you how often I’ve wanted to submit a timesheet, but could not do it because the account person hadn’t opened the correct job codes in time. (In fact, my end-of-month sheet is going to be late this month for just that reason!)

    1. TootsNYC*

      yes, make it easy! Allow people to create individual processes for tracking, even if they have to transfer stuff to a standard program or form afterward.

      Also make sure you’re helping people build the habit of doing their timesheet; coach them to do it at lunch and at the end of the day. Remind them as they’re establishing the habit.

      And the idea that “doing your timesheet IS your job, it’s not some extra silly thing” is so important–if they know that management truly believes that, it’ll make them more motivated to follow through.

      And if someone is having trouble getting their time sheet in weekly, make them do it daily. (and follow up, “you can’t leave today until I have today’s timesheet…”) For one thing, it’ll keep them from getting too far behind, and for another, it’s good training for that habit.

    2. Green*

      I’m actually not OK with the “holding expense reimbursements” as an ethical disincentive for late timesheets.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I think it’s reasonable, given that the company doesn’t get paid if timesheets are not submitted.

        That being said, the agency I worked at that did that, quit doing it in favor of other methods. I think part of the reason is that only middle to senior employees would be in a position to have to submit expense reports, since more junior employees are rarely asked to travel or be the one who puts down a credit card for meals if the team is staying late. (That responsibility properly belongs to the highest-ranking employee present.) So, although it was effective at making people do their timesheets, the net couldn’t catch a large number of employees, so to speak. (And I would feel less comfortable about financially punishing lower-paid employees than higher-paid ones, for sure.)

        1. Koko*

          Withholding expense reimbursement would be illegal in California (though legal in many other places).

        2. Green*

          The argument you gave (the company doesn’t get paid if timesheets don’t get submitted) is the same argument for docking or delaying pay, both of which are unethical and/or illegal. Expense reimbursements aren’t benefits — it’s money that someone has spent on the company’s behalf. Not turning your timesheets is essentially not performing well at a function of your job. If someone isn’t doing their job well, you fire them or make them bonus ineligible for discretionary bonuses or various intermediary steps, but you wouldn’t withhold their pay or reimbursements. I think the same framework should apply here.

    3. Evan Þ*

      I like the idea someone posted upthread of putting the whole pay period down as vacation if you don’t submit your timesheet…

  10. doreen*

    #3 – Does “your state law requires you to pay people within a certain amount of time after the work was performed; you can’t hold people’s checks” only apply to exempt employees? I can see it being difficult or impossible to pay non-exempt employees properly in some jobs if timesheets of some sort are not submitted – payroll and even supervisors at my employer don’t really know how many hours field employees worked in a particular week without a timesheet.

    1. fposte*

      Nope. States don’t, but I also don’t think states could limit it to exempt employees even if they wanted to; a late paycheck is a violation of FLSA. It’s up to the employers to sort out any problems with hours being submitted.

    2. Clever Girl*

      An old company I worked for would actually withhold pay if you forgot to clock in or out. It would show up on the next paycheck because you’d obviously notice it missing. The payroll processor was on a different floor and the only way she knew you’d worked would be if you clicked in and out. If you forgot, you were supposed to go tell her and she’s fix it right away, but if you also forgot to tell her, well, you were SOL until the next pay period.

      1. fposte*

        That’s been pretty common. However–and we’re getting above my knowledge and abilities here–I think that got complicated in 2014 when some federal employees won a suit about not getting paid during the government shutdown until two weeks later than usual. The court said that though the FLSA gives no requirement for timeline of payment, such a delay was nonetheless a FLSA violation. What I’m seeing recommended is paying minimum wage for the pay period and then correcting it.

        This is one of those areas where it’s hard to say “legal” or “illegal” absent a specific court decision on the matter, so employers draw inferences as to where safety would lie. I think my employer still doesn’t pay people if they don’t get a timesheet in, but then my employer is technically the state, so presumably they’ve decided it’s worth the risk. (Or have bigger things to worry about.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My read is that that’s illegal. Doesn’t mean employers don’t do it anyway, but they could get in trouble for it if reported. Here’s what SHRM says at the link fposte posted above:

        “Failure to turn in a timesheet does not warrant an exception to these laws. Employers will argue that they cannot pay the employee without the timesheet as they don’t know what hours the employee worked. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is the employer’s obligation to keep record of the hours worked by employees, and while many employers rely on employees’ assistance via a timesheet or time clock, the employer is ultimately responsible. Therefore, the employer must pay the employee for all hours worked, regardless of whether the employee recorded his or her time or turned this information in to the employer.

        So, how can the employer ensure that it pays the employee correctly? Ultimately, it may come down to contacting the employee for an accounting of his hours verbally or paying the employee for the hours he was scheduled to work. In addition, an employer should establish clear timekeeping guidelines and procedures, whether they involve a time clock, paper-and-pencil timesheets or computer-based time tracking programs, and discipline employees accordingly for failure to follow these procedures. Any discipline that is consistently applied without discrimination and does not involve withholding pay for time worked is appropriate.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I love this!

          ” it is the employer’s obligation to keep record of the hours worked by employees,”

          Remember that question from someone whose boss wanted to deduct money from people’s paychecks to cover the fees of writing paper checks (if they didn’t have direct deposit)?

          The responsibility to pay the worker is the employer’s. The worker shouldn’t have to do anything but stand there with her hand out.

          Checks and direct deposit are courtesies that workers extend to employers.

          And this syncs right in with my favorite “authority” about paying workers–it’s from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19: 13 13 “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.”

          I like the first wording I encountered: “The wages of the worker shall not stay in your pocket until the morning.”

          Pay people their wages; the moment they’re done working, it is THEIR money, not yours.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I believe that full-time non-exempt employees would need to be paid for 40 hours at their regular rate, but people who are called in for shifts without a set schedule would probably need to be paid for the average number of hours they work per week, which could be difficult to determine with some jobs. Like when I was a substitute teacher, occasionally I didn’t get any work for weeks on end, and other times I had a full-time assignment for multiple weeks.

      1. fposte*

        The safe thing to do would probably be to pay them at minimum wage for their highest hours or 40 hours and then correct it later.

  11. TootsNYC*

    For #1–the moment the goodies arrive, distribute them to everyone. On plates. And throw away the main box.
    Be cheerful and blithe.
    Don’t ever just set it out for those who want it.

    People who don’t want theirs can pass it to someone else or toss it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        But then the boss can access it too. My idea was to break it up into little tiny parts as fast as possible. And bonus if those tiny parts are hard to carry around (plates, e.g.).

    1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      In theory this seems like a good idea. In practice, there are considerations that would make this difficult to do. I can’t track which of my coworkers like what types of chocolate (and they often forget I don’t like chocolate of any type), who is cutting what from their diet this month (and who is cheating on their diet), and who is sick of sugar cookies because of a binge. Some days I might want one cookie and not three distributed to me. I’m then thinking about how to get rid of the other two. That’s why I prefer setting out stuff and let people have a choice.

  12. HungryHippo*

    My manager is the same as OP1’s… I’ll never forget the day ‘we’ won a free pizza lunch from a radio station, when the pizza never came we found out our boss arranged it to be delivered to his house for his family. When we won a similar thing for cookies (they even called to confirm staff #), he had us take a photo with the prize for the paper and he then took the tray of 60 cookies home with him. The high end cheese tray (another staff gift from client) was kept in the fridge with a note to not touch… our boss was seen loading it into his car that evening.

    I just find it disgusting to have my boss just take ALL of the staff gifts, it is meant for him and the staff… not him, his wife and his kids. It is even worse knowing how well off he is salary wise while some of us actually benefit from a free slice of pizza for lunch. There are some days where I barely have any food in the cupboards.. a cookie for my break would be very welcomed.

    If we say anything to him he’ll just speak down to us about how he has more responsibility than the rest of us, completely ignoring the fact that we are the ones making everything happen. There are some of us that secretly wish he’d get sick from something he hogged for himself.

    We’d never get any of this stuff if he revealed to them that none of the staff would be given any and he’d be taking it home.

    1. BeautifulVoid*

      Just for fun, I wonder what would happen if people had gone into the “do not touch” cheese tray anyway. What’s he going to do, take disciplinary action against them? And then I’d love to see HR’s reaction if the disciplinary actions are challenged (though I guess it depends on the culture of the workplace there, if they also believe the boss was entitled to all the stuff given to his team). The pizza delivery was nasty, and I’m sure he hid the cookies away, but if it’s something left in the break room and it was supposed to be for everyone anyway….

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would be emailing the client/radio station from an anonymous email account to let them know that the manager had confiscated it. And I would NOT have posed for a picture.

      But then, if I were working for someone like that, I’d probably get myself fired for insubordination over something else before I had a chance to see something confiscated.

      1. Sherry*

        The radio station probably wouldn’t do much. If the radio station made a fuss, they’d risk making the whole promotion look bad to the pizza restaurant that’s sponsoring the contest.

        But still, your boss is AWFUL. Most managers would be thrilled to do employee appreciation events on someone else’s dime.

    3. Artemesia*

      I’d be figuring out a way to clue in the vendors that the gifts were going only to the boss. My husband’s firm always distributed the goodies — they were put out in the copy/coffee room and everyone would take some of the components of a gift basket home. But we also received a honey baked ham at our home address each year from a particular client that he did a lot of work for — they didn’t send it to the office as it was intended for him personally. If I were the vendor in this case I would stop sending gifts to the office or more modest gifts knowing they would be confiscated and might end run if there were particular staff who were helpful.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I would be tempted to send a passive aggressive thank you note via email.

        Desr Vendor Rep,
        Thank you for the thoughtful gift of gourmet cookies, it looked lovely. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on their taste, as boss took them home to his family, as he does with all gifts sent to the office.
        Thanks again,
        The Chocolate Teapot Team

        But honestly, I probably would say to a vendor “hey, you may as well take us off the Christmas gift list, because boss doesn’t let us keep it, so save your money”

    4. Dot Warner*

      I suggest feigning stupidity. “Gee, [Boss’ Name], I’m a little perplexed about the ‘Do Not Touch’ sign on the cheese tray. [Vendor’s Name] said they brought that for everybody. Did you find some mold on it?”

      Or failing that, tell the boss you actually did see mold on the cheese tray and maybe he won’t be so possessive of it. ;)

      1. Artemesia*

        With a boss like that I’d have been tempted to ‘touch’ the cheese tray if you know what I mean.

  13. Billy Mumphrey*

    Our time sheets relate to our billable hours that determines our bonus. I downloaded a free time tracking app and use it religiously.

  14. RKB*

    Gah. Maybe it’s because I’m a cognitive psychology graduate, but personality tests rankle the hell out of me. They’re so superfluous that I’m shocked employers but any merit in them. It’s like asking someone’s Zodiac sign!

    1. Lady Bug*

      My husband filled out one recently and we were just crying with laughter at some of the questions while we tried to figure out the “correct” answers.

      Are you sarcastic? Nooooooo, never.

      Do you ever get angry? Like at work, or when my QB throws a 4th interception, I need some background here.

      1. fposte*

        I always like the “Would you rather” questions of two horrible choices (“…set fire to your grandmother or kick thousands of puppies?”).

        1. Koko*

          The correct answer is always the one that’s not stealing. Arson vs stealing? Arson. Murder vs embezzlement? Murder.

      1. Katiedid*

        I still have flashbacks to the DISC assessment I had to take in a supervisory development course. Ignoring the part where I didn’t feel like I fit squarely in to any of the four groups, we had to group ourselves according to what the test said we were. It said I was an “S” and I was the only one. The instructor then hemmed and hawed through her next 30 minutes of the course because her lesson plan on the assessment was that an “S” can generally not be an effective manager or supervisor. Um, okay?? Thanks for the input, I guess! It was awesome to then spend the rest of the five week course (once a week, not daily) with everyone giving me the side eye every time I would give input because they had now been taught that my perspective was not conducive to good management skills. So, not much love for those things either!

      2. Dot Warner*

        +1. I’d rather watch paint dry than listen to people talk about their Meyers-Briggs alphabet soup.

    2. AnotherFed*

      Those tests are fun! What do you want me to be today?

      They’re woefully misused most of the time, but at least some of the schemes for sorting out people’s preferences can be useful, if only for getting people to recognize that not everyone thinks the same way or places the same weight on things. It’s got to be hard to be the ESFJ in a room of INTJs!

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I think those tests can provide a useful way of thinking about your own preferences and how other hypothetical people could differ, but once you’re trying to draw conclusions about other real people based on MBTI etc, you’re on shaky ground.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I went through this about 15 years ago. I was on a team and had trouble jelling; as a coincidence, we did our Myers-Briggs. I was ENFP, everyone else was ISTJ.

        So much for ever making friends. That “training” informed the others that I was an interloper and I was pretty much shunned by my team (and manager) after that.

        So why were they so shocked when I posted out the next year?

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My company uses them, both for hiring and for team development. I don’t think they’re complete and utter bs, but I do think people misuse them. I hear my colleagues talk about “knowing” people because of the buckets they fall into, which is a fallacy and a crutch. How about… getting to know people as individuals?

      1. AnotherFed*

        Now that’s just crazy talk. Don’t you know that you can just swap employees in and out like a standardized part – just make sure you don’t put a business analyst in the engineering slot and it’s all fine!

        I swear our managers think that’s really true…

    4. Panda Bandit*

      My manager once hired someone who was really into the zodiac and all the other mystical bunk. They’d have entire conversations about it and since we were all in the same room there was no escape. Listening to it was torture.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Ugh, a very senior person I used to work with once learned in a meeting that it was another colleague’s birthday. She then went around the table asking us all what our zodiac signs are. I wanted to yell “WE’RE SCIENTISTS FFS”, but didn’t – although that was the general theme of the after-meeting conversation, after Senior Person left. UGH.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          If you want to be snarky, respond with “Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer”. The constellation of Ophiuchus crosses the ecliptic slightly, along with the 12 zodiacal constellations.

          My plan for a second career is multi-wavelength astrology. Regular astrology only considers visual light – you really need to consider the effects of objects such as the galactic centre and Cass A (radio) or Sco X-1 (x-ray).

  15. AnotherFed*

    #2 Leaving aside returning to a toxic job, be prepared to also explain why you want to go back to a role you worked in 8 years ago and several career bumps down. If I were the hiring manager, that would just seem weird to me, even if you phrased it as work-life balance, I’d wonder why you wanted your old job back, specifically.

  16. Bea W*

    Back when I was a part time hourly worker in various places, if you didn’t hand in your time sheet, you didn’t get paid. I mean literally there was no check produced for you because you did not submit any hours worked for payroll processing, and it was assumed you did not work that period. If for any reason you could not submit your time sheet for a particular pay period, you asked your manager to do it for you.

    It is common in my field that you are required to break down your “billable hours” for budgeting purposes. This was required of exempt and non-exempt people, but it wasn’t really a time sheet in exchange for pay for your hours worked, it was what the finance dept used to bill clients for specific projects. In my first full time job, this accounting was tied right into the time sheets that went to payroll. So they were always completed on time, because if payroll didn’t have a time sheet for you, it wasn’t submitted for processing, and you were likely not going to get a check. Most of the work we did was federal contracts and grants. Caveat: This was the case even with salaried employees, and finance/payroll had some hinky practices that occasionally resulted in law suits.

    The next place I worked for, salaried employees only had to complete the billable hours spreadsheet once a month. Managers were constantly chasing people for these. It was really painful to complete them if you left it for the end of the month. I don’t know what happened to people who didn’t complete them on time. I didn’t experiment with that, and it did not seem to be much of an issue in my department, maybe because this is just standard practice for my field, and people just do it as part of their routine.

    1. Bea W*

      Ugh that was meant to be a reply to something else. I am really bad at hitting the “Reply” in the wrong place.

  17. Billy Mumphrey*

    Why are people wasting one iota of energy about some food gift? So useless! If you want candy, buy yourself a Hershey bar. This is so alien to me.

    1. Colette*

      If the client gave out cash gifts, would it be ok for people to be upset that the boss was taking it?

      Food gifts can brighten peoples’ day – that’s why people give them. And it’s extremely self-centered to take all of a gift intended for a group. I’m sure the OP would have liked some of the food – but even if she didn’t, it would be reasonable to be upset about the boss’s behavior.

      (And not everyone has the spare cash to buy a treat when they want.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Of course people can buy their own candy, but this is about the message the boss is sending by doing this. And of course, you could ask why the boss doesn’t buy her own candy rather than do something so anti-social and rude to her team.

    3. Sarah*

      I don’t have to want a gift to recognize the injustice of having it confiscated from the recipient against the gift-giver’s wishes.

  18. KeepingUp*

    In one position I held (exempt lawyer, salaried) the policy was our pay would be docked by a certain amount if we did not submit hours on time.

    1. Green*

      If I had to guess, I’d say that law firms are probably the number one violators of employment/disability law/gender discrimination and sexual harassment laws. :)

      1. KeepingUp*

        I am not an employment lawyer but my guess is it’s ok because they reserve the right to change the salary at any time as there is no contract.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope. Not legal. You can’t change someone’s pay retroactively, only going forward (and in some states you must give a certain amount of written notice), and you can’t do deductions like this for exempt employees’ pay at all (and the labor department isn’t going to buy that it’s “changing their overall salary” when it’s clearly a deduction).

          1. fposte*

            I wonder if it would be legally workable to classify it as an incentive–you get a billables filing bonus if you report your hours on time.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Ah! So you’d set the rate of pay lower from the beginning, with a regular bonus each pay period for an on-time time sheet? I bet you could (Green, do you know differently?), but it would probably feel infantilizing to exempt workers.

              1. Green*

                You could do that unless there’s a state law I don’t know about. But it would be a nightmare for your billing/accounting folks, and law firms have better carrots/sticks for this situation. (I.e., people who missed time sheets regularly were not bonus eligible for big end-of-year bonus, they stopped direct-deposit of paychecks and you had to pick it up with billing manager, CC’d key partners, etc.).

              2. fposte*

                Yeah, a lot of consequences that are technically workable are going to have some serious downsides on the morale or complexity front. I was just thinking about the legality aspect.

                And this thread is reminding me I should probably fill out my hours stuff. But for us it’s not even billable hours; it’s just…because.

                1. Me too!*

                  This thread made me realize I hadn’t done my time for yesterday or today and prodded me to get on that. I got one of those emails cc’ing the big boss a couple of times. Not a good feeling.

        2. Green*

          Eeps. Yeah, no, they can’t do that. Law firms just violate the law because nobody ever does anything about it.

    2. Cat*

      I know of a firm that has a $15 ding for associates if they don’t do their time sheet on time and like a $35 one for partners. It’s clearly legal for partners (if they’re equity partners). I don’t know about for associates–maybe they’ve structured it in a way that’s legal. Obviously they should follow the law, but if they’ve done that, it doesn’t feel egregious to me. (It’s a firm that, to my knowledge, compensates its associates well and generally treats them fine).

      1. Green*

        I think most large firms require you to sign something where they can take money out of your paycheck based on expenses you’ve incurred (i.e., charitable donations and sign up fees for things the firm doesn’t cover or only partially covers), and I frankly don’t really remember what I signed since it was years ago, but I’m not aware of any of the major “biglaw” firms that do the financial ding for timesheets.

    3. sam*

      You shouldn’t base anything on what lawyers/law firms do. Lawyers are an entirely exempt category from the FLSA.

      I believe the *intention* was to allow things like alternative billing arrangements (contingency fee payments, pro bono work, etc.), but it’s become a loophole that has swallowed the rule in a lot of sectors of the legal industry.

      1. Elysian*

        Lawyers aren’t in a special category of exemption – they’re usually exempt “professionals,” which is a category that applies in a lot of industries. No one needs to worry about contingency fee agreements because the folks who collect the money on those aren’t “employees.” If I’m a first year associate I don’t care about the contingency fee, I’m on a set salary. The equity partner cares about the contingency fee, and she’s not an “employee” so it doesn’t matter. And pro bono work is just volunteering but with legal services, and everyone can volunteer. There’s not a special rule that exempts lawyers – just the same kind of rules that exempt everyone else.

  19. bopper*

    #3: Can you default their time to vacation if they don’t do a time sheet?

    Also sending out emails that have lists of names who have not done their time sheets can be effective.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That last one can have the opposite of the effect intended, by demonstrating to people that it’s a common problem and making them think it’s no big deal because of lots of others are on the list too.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, my workplace sends an email to your boss instead. I found this out when I forgot once and just took care of it the next morning.

        It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to mess with pay.

    2. fposte*

      You probably could in some states, though not in others; it’s a pretty savage approach, though.

      The second didn’t work at all around my place–I noted everybody else on the list ranked considerably higher than I did :-).

    3. AnotherFed*

      Defaulting the time to vacation is what my workplace does. The person still gets paid on time, and if they file a correction, they can get their PTO back (but must go, hat in hand, to the right person and admit that the only reason the correction is necessary is because they were an idiot). It’s extremely effective.

      We’re federal, so if it isn’t generally legal, they’ve almost certainly exempted feds from the relevant labor laws.

  20. Meg Murry*

    For #3, I’ve also seen a section on annual reviews added for things like timesheets (and for hourly staff that punched a time clock, attendance/clocking in and out on time), and given a weighting of 5%-10% of the annual review.

    It usually had its own rating scale, like:
    5= all monthly timesheets submitted by last day of month
    4.5= all submitted by deadline
    4 = only 1 past deadline and no more than x days late

    This was a company where raises were based on a multiplier x your review average, so turning in late timesheets would hit your bottom line in the end, an turning in all timesheets on time could give your review a tiny but useful boost – kind of like extra credit points on an exam.

    Of course, that requires the software used for time tracking to have this kind of reporting feature to make it easy on the manager writing the review.

    There was also a policy that said more than X timesheets not turned in by the deadline was an automatic PIP offense, enforced by HR, and part of the PIP was a 4:45 appointment on Friday afternoons where someone sat and watched you enter your time for the week.

  21. Employment Lawyer*

    3. Can I hold people’s paychecks until they turn in their time sheets?

    But you can fire them for not doing it. And frankly, you should.

    I find it’s best to be blunt:
    “Mary, turning in your time sheet is a requirement for me to bill your time. In other words, that is how the company makes money.
    When you don’t turn it a time sheet, then I have to pay you, but I don’t get paid myself. Do you think that is acceptable? You don’t? I’m glad you agree.
    I am happy to provide you additional support if needed. Is there anything else which would make your life easier–a time program, an outlook feature, a smartphone app, or anything else?
    Well, then. I expect this to be done. If we have this conversation again, I’m going to have to let you go.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice I think it tends not to be realistic. If you have someone who’s a top performer, letting them go over this isn’t going to make sense. There are lots of other ways to get compliance (as discussed in this thread), but sometimes putting up with the annoyance of having to hunt time sheets down is worth it for the top performance someone brings.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        Sometimes, sure. I suppose it’s a question of how you measure “top performance.”

        Late time sheets have a very specific and definable cost:

        1) interest on debt/outlays which the business has to carry
        2) reduced accuracy for later time entries, which studies show is often the cause of lower billing;
        3) later payments by clients (billing someone sooner to job performance tends to promote faster payment relative to bill date) and
        4) increased risk of client default.

        You can certainly have someone who is making you so much money that they’re still worth keeping even with those costs. But most business don’t track (or think about tracking) those costs.

        Also, having a blunt financial discussion can be pretty worth it. Your top performer presumably makes a lot of money for your business. Does she know that late slips are costing you $x/year? If not, she should: you could split the added profit with her and both come out ahead.

  22. pieces of flair*

    My workplace (a university) recently instituted a policy that individual departments/projects are charged $100 for each of their employees’ timesheets that aren’t submitted by the deadline. I am baffled that this is such a problem since our timesheet submission process is super easy and payroll sends us reminder emails constantly.

  23. eplawyer*

    #3, have you tried explaining to people why you need the time sheets? Rather than nagging “I need your timesheets,” “You haven’t turned in your time sheets.” “where is your time sheet,” why not explain why the timesheets are necessary and give a deadline every week/month or whatever period they are due.

    The adult employees will do them when they know WHY they are needed and are not just busywork. The toxic employees you can quickly figure out and then have consequences for them. Although I hate the cut off the internet access one. As noted, that’s like the parenting tip to get kids to do their chores. You are your employees’ boss, not their parent. Don’t nag. Don’t put them in time out. Explain your position, give them a reasonable deadline, and then have consequences.

    Speaking of not the parent, I so would have said that to #1 when she said “You don’t need the treats.” Yeah, I’m over 18, I get to decide if I need to eat something or not.

  24. Anna*

    Dear Employers, PLEASE stop giving personality tests to employees and applicants. It is probably one of the worst ways to determine if an applicant is good for the position and most personality tests, despite their rabid supporters, are no more than pop psychology hocus-pocus. STOP DOING IT! Sincerely, Me.

  25. 2 Cents*

    Our agency has issues with timesheets as well (and the popular industry time-tracking software we use is just horrible — as are most of the alternatives). Management instituted this:
    –Before PTO can be approved and taken, time sheets must be up to date (within a day). So, if I request a day off, my time sheet must be up to date at the time of request. If not, PTO is not approved. My understanding is the problem has gotten a lot better since then.

  26. Betty (the other Betty)*

    Time sheets. There are a ton of time tracking software and online options available. There must be a good software solution that allows staff to track most of their time as they go that will work for your industry, instead of having to go back and remember what they did all day, or all week.

    I use one. Once I got in the habit of clicking start and stop for tasks, they add very little time to my day. My partner uses the same one. We use one that allows us to set the time increment, assign categories and notes to different time events, and allows one person to import other people’s data to run reports showing all the time spent on a project or client.

  27. LW #2*

    Hi all,

    I wrote in with the question about reapplying for my old job. Thanks for all of the input! The staff there is small, so I know for a fact all of the people who contributed to its previous toxicity are gone. That’s no guarantee it’s a great place now, but I feel like that could be said of many workplaces. Unfortunately I work in a specialized field where opportunities are few and far between, and there is literally only one organization in City A– the org I might reapply to– where my skill set would be be a good fit. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to reapply or not (mostly I just want out of my field, but I miss City A sooo much that’d it could be really nice to get back there, make some local contacts and then try to segue out…). So, we’ll see! Thanks again for the advice.

    1. VivaL*

      Is the position a lower-level position though? I’d be very careful about taking on something lower than your current level – it can take years to make up for any gap (promotion, skills and pay wise), and since this is the only company that does this work in City A, you might never recover from the professional hit. Also, keep in mind that just because the people are gone, doesn’t mean that the practices, rules and environment has changed all that much. Inertia in the workplace is a real thing. If company A is the only one that does this, if you hate it, or simply want to do something else, your job prospects are severely limited in this case.

      If you just want out of your field and not back into this other field specifically, is there a different industry or company, that, even if your skills aren’t directly aligned there, could be transferrable? Or, if you are willing to take a demotion, taking it by going to a lower-level position another field (much more easily explainable and recoverable).

      Can you research what industries are big in City A, and maybe try to work your way into one of those? Best of luck, OP!

  28. Name changed to protect the innocent*

    I am doing some freelance writing for a university, and their time cards go from Monday through Sunday. But they ask us to turn them in by the Thursday of the second week – and I am not sure how much time I will be spending on the following three days. I ended up putting three hours from Saturday on Monday of the next time card. Is this weird to anyone?

    (In my regular job, they make all the salaried people fill out time cards with 8-8-8-8-8. Don’t get me started on that one.)

    1. Ruffingit*

      Same thing happened in my old job with the five 8s for the week thing. We also had to clock in on a computerized clock downstairs, write the time we arrived on a sheet upstairs, write the time we left for lunch on the sheet AND clock out downstairs at the computerized clock, do the same thing coming back and when we left for the day. And yet…we were salaried. It was ridiculous and I’m REALLY glad I don’t work there anymore.

  29. Ruth*

    Regarding no. 2: I think leaving a bad/toxic workplace is a bit like leaving a bad relationship. After a while you sort of miss the relationship and focus on the good things, and consider going back as often it’s an easy fix to something e.g. you’re single and feel lonely.

    I agree with Alison’s advice to not go back. Don’t use it as a quick fix just because you want to be back in a particular city. The toxicness might have changed but you don’t know for certain, and that’s a big risk to take.

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