asking for time off when coworkers don’t, odd bathroom restrictions, and more

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

1. Manager told me not to go to the bathroom between 8 and 8:05 a.m.

I work from 8:00 a.m. – 6 p.m., and maybe am a minute or two late at times, that’s it. I came in yesterday on time, went to my desk, put everything down (purse, coat, etc.), and went to use the bathroom. As I’m coming out of the bathroom, my manager said that I was three minutes late. I told him I was on time but I was in the bathroom. He said, “You were on time?” I said yes. Then he said, “Well, don’t go to the bathroom between 8:00 a.m. – 8:05 a.m.”

I was flabbergasted and so were others who heard him say that. Does he have a right to do that? I will adhere to this silliness as I cannot afford and refuse to be fired over something like this. I’m a very hard worker, top sales person, and well liked by all, I guess with the exception of this manager now.

He has the legal right, yes (unless you have a medical condition involving the bathroom that he’s legally required to accommodate). But he also has the legal right to insist on a full report of what you did in the bathroom or to make you take a hall pass in with you or to insist that you call him Emperor Bob the Toilet King. None of those things would be reasonable though, and all would make him an ass, and so does this one.

Well, actually, now that that’s out of my system, I’m going to backtrack a bit. If it’s really crucial that people be able to reach you at your desk at the exact start of the day — or, say, there’s a five-minute morning meeting that starts at 8 a.m. — then sure, it’s reasonable to say, “Hey, try to avoid bathroom trips during this short period if you can.” But based on the details here (including him giving you a hard time for being three minutes late), I suspect that’s not what he’s doing.

2. How can I ask for time off when few of my coworkers do?

How do I tactfully request time off without rocking the boat? I’ve worked for a very small business (only three employees) for a little over a year. I’ve since learned that my coworkers generally very rarely take time off and if they do, it’s usually only one day at a time. Since there are so few employees, there’s not really anyone to cover for me if I’m gone, except my boss (the owner). Thus, our business loses money when someone takes time off. (There’s also no benefits package whatsoever, so no paid time off.)

I’d like to ask for three days off about two months from now due to family obligations. I’m naturally very shy, so asking for time off is always difficult/awkward for me, doubly so in this sort of work environment. What is your advice for tactfully asking for a few days off without coming off as entitled?

It’s not entitled to need time off here and there — for family obligations, for sickness, for appointments, for vacation, and for just basic recharging. This is a normal part of being human, and it’s a normal part of business. Reasonably run businesses understand that, even small ones with no benefits. If the business is so small that this means that the owner needs to cover for people who are out, well, then the owner needs to cover for people who are out. That’s part of the deal in running a small business.

The best way to address it is to just be straightforward: “I’ll need (dates) off in April. What’s the best way for me to arrange that?” If you’re more comfortable giving a reason, or think that it will go over better if you do, you can add “for family obligations.”

If you get pushback, ask whether those particular dates are an issue or if it’s just time off in general. If it’s the latter, there’s something pretty odd going on there, and you’d want to think about whether you want to put up with that long-term … because again, it’s very, very normal to take time off and it’s not generally sustainable or practical to just never do it.

3. Giving a staff member development opportunities without exploiting her

In my field, there is a division (by way of a professional degree) in the organization between “teapotians” and “teapot staff.” I am a teapotian that supervises someone in a staff position, although she also has the professional degree. She’s great at her job, and we benefit by her also having that professional training/outlook.

She’s interested in pursuing teapotian positions in the future and I want to support those goals, although I would be sad to lose her. Since she hasn’t had a professional teapotian position, I’d like to give her access to activities that would strengthen her as a candidate in future searches. But I’m also aware of not wanting to exploit her. Anything she did in the professional capacity would still only be compensated within her staff salary (she’s exempt and paid well). Any advice on where to keep that line?

Talk to her! Tell her exactly what you said here — that you know she’s interested in pursuing teapotian positions in the future and that you’d like to help her by giving her work that would make her a stronger candidate for those jobs, but that you don’t have the budget to pay her more for that work and don’t want to take advantage of her, and that you’d like to hear from her what she’d most like. She’s very likely to tell you that she’d be glad to have the chance to work on those projects, but make it clear that it’s okay if she doesn’t.

4. Should I call or email my contacts when I’m looking for networking help?

I haven’t had to look for a new job in about 20 years. The company which I’ve worked for the past eight years changed ownership about six months ago, and as hard as I’ve tried, I am simply miserable with the current regime. So I am ready to look elsewhere. I have several good contacts in my field who I’d like to reach out to. It’s been a few years in most cases, but I had/have solid relationships with all. Do I reach out initially with an email or would it be okay to call straight away since I already know these people pretty well?

Ugh, I would so hate the call and would want the email … but there are other people who would strongly prefer a call and where a call might get you better results because they’re big relationship people. So I’d say to let your knowledge of each person be your guide — if you know them to be a phone person, sure, go ahead and call. But otherwise — including cases where you’re not sure — I’d default to email because it’s less of an interruption.

5. Should I bother to apply to job postings that have been up longer than a few days?

Yo Alison!

(Now I’m #14.)

Should I limit my search to job postings that have been up for just a few days? Or is there typically still a chance for a posting that’s been up longer? Putting in the proper amount of effort for an application takes so long that I don’t want to waste time if the deck’s already stacked against me.

No, you can and should still apply! There are some jobs where there are sufficient numbers of strong applicants in the first few days the job is advertised, and the employer doesn’t look at any/most of the people who come in after that. But there are many more jobs that are truly open and considering applicants for weeks after the ad goes up, if not longer (and that’s especially true the more senior or specialized something is).

Interestingly, I tend to find that the strongest candidates’ applications come in late in the process, and the weakest come in within the first day that the ad is up. I suspect this is because they’re not applying to everything they see or even looking on a regular basis; they’re being more selective and leisurely in their job search. That doesn’t mean that no great candidates apply early on, but the overall pattern shows up consistently.

All that said, once you spot the ad and want to apply, do it pretty quickly. Don’t think it over for days or procrastinate, because it could be getting filled while you’re waiting.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Lucky*

    #1, next time tell him you were in the bathroom changing your tampon. Then, when he brings up you bathroom habits again, tell him you don’t want to get blood all over your desk chair. That is, if he brings it up again. I doubt he will.

      1. Gigi*

        I agree. It’s just not something I would ever say to a man or women. They would never take me seriously and make matters worse. I just stood there in disbelief and said “I get it” because I was so shocked and thought it best not to deal with it then.

    1. Coffee or tea*

      I used that line once….to a teacher when I was in high school. It’s not something I could ever imagine using in a professional setting

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I was late for a class in high school and when the teacher asked why I was late I told them “because the lesson started before I got here.”

        They were not amused.

      2. Racheon*

        If I missed a lecture at college I’d tell them I had been ‘at the clinic’. They never asked what clinic or why, they clearly didn’t want to touch that one! But I agree, couldn’t imagine relying on making the other person uncomfortable as a strategy as an adult.

    2. Zillah*

      Bosses especially like it when you phrase it as “I was surfing the crimson wave, I had to haul ass to the ladies.” Your tardiness magically vanishes when you say that.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          This is why I cannot root for Alabama.

          Roll Tide == Crimson Wave in my book.

          And don’t get me started with a certain Detroit team.

          1. Kate Heightmeyer*

            What Detroit…oh. Red Wings. I’m never going to be able to un-think that. And they’re my favorite sports team.

    3. Minion*

      I just don’t get this response. Why would you ever do that? And, seriously, is it really a solution?

      Op: I was here, I just had to run to the restroom real quick.
      Boss: I need you in your chair at 8, so from now on, no bathroom between 8 and 8:05.
      Op: Oh really? Well, how about this; period and blood and tampons and blood running everywhere and ewww and gross.
      Boss: You’re right. I’ve seen the error of my ways. I will never again forbid your bathroom usage while you’re here.
      Op: That’s what I thought. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go to the bathroom again.

      You know, we’re finally beginning to get to a place where periods and conversations about them aren’t completely taboo. To use it as a way to gross someone out or make someone uncomfortable is juvenile. Why not have an adult conversation about why it’s a problem to use the bathroom upon arrival or about the boss’s expectations regarding start time or his perception of the OP’s work ethic? This response makes me sad.

      1. Allison*

        I’m inclined to agree. There’s a time and place for using your period to gross someone out so they don’t bother you about something (I’ve used pads to hide a flask I was smuggling into a hockey game, got that sucker past metal detectors and everything), but what’s to stop this guy from being completely unsympathetic and say “I have a wife and teenage daughters, wear a pad on the way here, and change it after 8:05.” Seriously, it’s 5 minutes, changing a pad or tampon can wait.

        As much as I’m against bathroom policing, that 5 minute window is only a big deal if you’re already bursting.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        Also periods only last for a limited time so it wouldn’t be a good reason for constant lateness (if that applies)

        1. Sadsack*

          Yes, the OP mentioned other times she was a couple of minutes late, only this time she wasn’t but left her desk immediately. It seems like the boss has an issue with her not being at her desk , not with her using the bathroom.

          1. Rachael*

            That’s what I was going to say. I think he is just irritated that she is never at her desk when she should be.

          2. baseballfan*

            I agree; I think the whole conversation came about because the OP is sometimes late. I know a couple of minutes ought not to be a big deal in most jobs, but what’s so hard about showing up on time? Clearly this is what the boss is concerned about. I highly doubt the “don’t go to the bathroom from 8-8:05 was a serious directive. It sounded like he didn’t believe s/he was actually at work on time that day and maybe he thinks the bathroom comment was just an excuse.

      3. Gigi*

        Agree. What it comes down to is that it really had nothing to do with the use of the bathroom but he made it that because he didn’t know what else to say since he was wrong at I was late. Now that I think about it I believe I said have said, does that apply to everyone? Doggone it should have thought of that at the time!

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      I know you’re kidding (I think you’re kidding) but this actually brings up a good point. If this guy had half a brain in his head, he’d know there’s “feminine” and other types (medical conditions, illness) emergencies people have. You just can’t police using the bathroom, it’s ridiculous.

      1. Sadsack*

        See, I don’t think he is trying to police the bathroom. I think he is saying that he expects OP to be at her desk first thing in the morning. Maybe he has reasons, as Alison suggested. Maybe he has observed all the times OP was not at her desk first thing and thinks its a pattern.

        1. Gigi*

          It’s not a pattern at all. The moral is so bad people are quitting left and right. I work above and beyond and am the top sales person. If I was guilty of what you’re suggesting, I would have said so. He does sit and watches staff come in. He wasn’t at his desk when I walked in that day. He only saw me coming in after I used the bathroom. So when I corrected him that I did come in prior to me going to the bathroom, he had to say something. Plus, if there was a problem prior to this it would have been more professional to meet with me in private and not out in the hall where other coworkers heard this.

          1. Sadsack*

            I wrote that perhaps he thinks there is a pattern, I did not suggest that there actually is a pattern of you being late. I completely agree that if he thinks there really is a problem, he should handle it differently.

      2. Gigi*

        As I mentioned to Alison, I have a long commute. It’s really only natural that as soon as people arrive at work they usually use the bathroom, no emergency, no medical condition, just had to go. Because he thought he had caught me coming in a few mins late, he had to save face by coming up with the foolish request of not going to the bathroom at that time. Silly.

        1. LouLouBee*

          I also have a long commute so I feel your pain.

          I think this really depends on your office and your job. I’m on the phones doing sales and if I came in right at 8 put down my stuff and went straight to the bathroom I would be marked as late. If I logged in and then went at 8:04 I would get flagged and questioned about it. If I went at 8:20 or later no one would say anything. Managements position is we should be arriving with enough time to go to the bathroom, get coffee etc before your shifts starts.

          Actually, if it had every 6months plus I doubt anyone would say anything unless as long as you didn’t have any lates. Yes, it’s big time baby sitting and really feels unfair when I have an hour or more commute

        2. reader*

          I’ll preface this by saying I’d never bring it up unless it was happening over and over again, not for a rare occurrence. That said,

          The expectation is that you will start working at starting time, not that you will “technically” be physically present in the building. In the theater they call that “hammers in the air” not unpacking your backpack, taking a smoke break, using the restroom, making breakfast for yourself, etc. (Yes, I’ve had people who habitually did all of these.) If you have to pee after a commute, arrive with enough time to do that before starting time.

          It’s unfortunate that your manager couldn’t explain it that way. And again, everyone needs an exception SOMETIMES, even me. It’s the people who don’t seem to get the concept at all that need a reminder.

    5. NarrowDoorways*

      I’ve said something similar before when I had a manager getting too nosey in how often I used the restroom.

      He was constantly asking how often I went, where was I just now, blah blah blah. Eventually I stopped saying, “Yep, was just in the restroom, but I’m back now.” I moved to “I was changing my tampon. Is that ok with you? Would you like me to call you next time to run that by you first?”

    6. Gigi*

      Hi. I’m the one who asked Alison the question. Sorry Lucky, though I appreciate your humor but I would never say something like that, it would most likely make matters worse. This situation was so upsetting and seriously bummed me out for a few days. Thanks Alison for your response. I can’t believe he has that right but some good news came out of this. They changed the starting time to 8:30 – 5:30. Some of my co-workers jokingly said to have a packet of depends on my desk. My mother said, can you imagine, you will now look at this manager and want to go to the bathroom each time you see him LOL.

    7. Gigi*

      Hi. I’m the one who asked Alison the question. Sorry Lucky, though I appreciate your humor but I would never say something like that, it would most likely make matters worse. This situation was so upsetting and seriously bummed me out for a few days. Thanks Alison for your response. I can’t believe he has that right but some good news came out of this. They changed the starting time to 8:30 – 5:30. Some of my co-workers jokingly said to have a packet of depends on my desk. My mother said, can you imagine, you will now look at this manager and want to go to the bathroom each time you see him LOL.


  2. Pokebunny*

    #5 You can’t really tell what’s going on with postings from the outside. It could be any number of reasons. Best is just apply then move on. I used to fret about what it means, but it’s 100% pointless.

    1. Sunshine*

      Exactly. I’ve had the same job postings up for MONTHS, both because I’m struggling to find the people I need and because I keep getting new vacancies in the team. I desperately wish people would keep applying!

      1. BRR*

        My husbands company has hired multiple people several months apart from the same posting. I say apply. I get that it takes effort but think of it in terms of missing a good opportunity just to save an hour or two of your time.

      2. Artemesia*

        I hired a dozen people over the years with essentially the same posting; it often went up and down, but if it was still up, we were still taking applicants. I also didn’t mind someone asking if the position was still open for applications if it had been up awhile.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        YES! I have had one entry-level posting up for nearly a year now because every time we think we can take it down, we need one more person or someone has resigned. I hired about 10 people into the position in the past 16 months from the same one.

        I had another up for about 6 months because we simply did not get good candidates initially. This one was for a more skilled position, and compromising on the skill set was not an option. We ultimately got the right person, but it took time.

        1. De Minimis*

          We do ours for two weeks, and if someone’s qualified they’ll have a shot as long as they apply before the posting closes.

          However, I think they do often try to set up interviews with the stronger candidates prior to the closing date, though that may be more to do with the schedules of interviewers.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Very true. I once applied for a posting that had been up for a while and I got a last-minute interview. The hiring manager was impressed enough with my resume to actually schedule time to talk to me. I didn’t end up getting the job, but you never know!

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, there’s way too much going on behind the scenes and it’s best not to over-analyze it. I believe last time I was looking, I applied to ads posted 30 days or less. But often, the same postings go up and down and I sometimes thought it was new, applied, only to discover it had been up a month or two prior. And of course, as others have pointed out, they may have hired someone already and now need another, they may have dropped the requisition for a short period of time, or they just plain move slow.

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 you say “maybe am a minute or two late at times”

    How much of a problem is that and has your boss spoken to you about it? The only thing I can think is they are trying to stop you using going to the bathroom as an excuse for being late.

    Still utterly ridiculous as a few minuets here and there shouldn’t matter but I can’t think why else they’d try and restrict your bathroom useage.

    1. MK*

      Hm. I think being a-couple-of-minutes-late can cause a bit of a perception disconnect, since people will rarely time themselves to the minute to get objective data. On the one hand, if you are only late for a minute or two, but it happens a lot (like 3 times a week), it can create to your boss and coworkers the general impression that you are just a tardy person. On the other hand, your own impression of how late you are (and how often you are late) can be way off; I have known people to claim, like the OP, that they are only occasionally late and only for a couple of minutes, when in reality they were more than 5 minutes late almost every other day.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Breaks of less than 20 minutes have to be paid so yep, they’d need to pay for that time. Humans use the bathroom. Employers need to deal with it. If there’s a pattern that’s causing problems, you address that pattern. That’s not the OP’s description of what happened here.

              1. Agility*

                To clarify — I was assuming the bathroom use was BEFORE the start of work, in which case they wouldn’t be paid for it -or am I missing something? (Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last). Obviously people need to be paid to use the bathroom while working. That’s a given here.

              2. Ineloquent*

                I thought that was only the case if it wasn’t attached to a time where the employee isn’t paid – i.e. you can’t take a 20 minute bathroom or smoking break immediately after your 30 minute unpaid lunch break or immediately before leaving for the day. So, if the employee shows up, puts down her stuff and hits the restroom before beginning any work, would her employer, in fact, have to pay for that time?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think an employer could say “please don’t clock in until you’re ready to begin work” but if the person is clocked in and a bathroom need hits a minute later, my understanding is that it would fall under the “any time under 20 minutes must be paid” rule.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yep, there’s been many a lawsuit over requiring employees to arrive five minutes before a shift, but not actually pay/clock them in until actual start time.

          2. Ilf*

            As far as I know, it’s legal to round up or down to 15 minutes, but maybe not in all states. So she would not necessarily have o get paid for the 3 minutes.
            Actually, I totally agree that the issue is regular tardiness. Poor communication from the manager, but also an employee who chooses to not see the issue, hurries to feel outraged, and quickly assumes her legal rights have been violated.
            I don’t know if we’re doing any service OP#1 if we only comment on how absurd it is for the manager to manage bathroom breaks (actually the manager just made stupid remark), and not highlight how easy it is to create a poor reputation by regularly being late “only a minute or two”. This is not the hill to die on, just be in the office on time, particularly if your manager rightly or wrongly takes notice.

            1. Honeybee*

              Conversely, I think the manager is choosing the wrong hill to die on by ‘penalizing’ an employee for showing up at 9:01 or 9:02 instead of 9:00. I can think of few circumstances in which that would actually matter at all to the quality of work or services provided.

            2. LBK*

              As far as I know, it’s legal to round up or down to 15 minutes, but maybe not in all states. So she would not necessarily have o get paid for the 3 minutes.

              Those 3 minutes need to be included in the calculation that determines whether you’re crossing the break into another 15 minute segment, though. So if the OP worked for 28 minutes (which could be rounded down to 15 mins) and took a 3-minute bathroom break, the 3 minutes would need to be counted, bumping her up to 31 total and locking her in to being paid for at least 30 minutes.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          Are you my old boss?

          His go to saying was, “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.”

          1. Chinook*

            “Are you my old boss? His go to saying was, “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.”

            Actually, that was how I learned what punctual meant. Anytime I am suppose to be at work means ready and able to start working. That doesn’t include starting the computer as that is part of the job but I better have my gloves, jacket and snow boots off and able to sit in the chair so that I can start the computer. It also means that, if someone shows up at my desk for something at 8 a.m. (or whenever my work shift starts), I should be able to help them right then instead of asking them to wait while I transition from my commute.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I get it. Believe me, I’m the person sitting in the meeting room ready when everyone comes wandering in. I like for things to start when they say they are going to start and end when they say they are going to end.

              But it has just never seemed like policing whether my employees are at the computer ready to work when the clock rolls over from 7:59 to 8:00 was the right approach. If something is so mission-critical that it must be done between 8:00 and 8:05 (or even 8:15), my team is in the office early to handle it because they care about the work.

            2. RKB*

              At my work, the start of your shift time is when you’re cashing in. You should be in the safe room at 3:45, not entering the building at 3:45. I think that’s fair. They’re not paying me to put away my coat and boots and to rummage in my bag for my water bottle.

        2. Temperance*

          I used to work at a place that wanted me at my desk and ready to work at least 10 minutes prior to clock-in time. Oh, and to unlock and set up the place. Unpaid, of course.

          1. Shannon*

            The biggest red flag at a job that turned out to be the job from hell was when I first got hired and my boss asked me to come in for a day to train. Unpaid. Luckily, I was young enough at the time that I could get away with saying things like, “I don’t work if I’m not getting paid.” I’d say the same thing today, but, in politer words.

      1. Jinx*

        The perception can also depend on what other people around you are doing. If everyone else has butts-in-seats at 8 when your boss comes in but your chair is empty, that looks worse than if everyone is coming in at different times between 8 and 8:05. I don’t know if that’s a factor in OP’s case, and it’s still annoying that the boss clock-watches, but it’s worth considering.

      2. Marketing Girl*

        THIS. I’m sure the OP knows their situation better than we do, but I work with 2 people who think if they’ve been on-time 2-3 days out of the week they’re on-time despite the fact the other days they’re more like 15 minutes late. Later, when you hear them tell the story, they’re rarely late and only late “a few minutes”. Even when called out on the tardiness they hold their stance until someone gives them their exact times….

      3. neverjaunty*

        Exactly. If this were a situation where Boss just up and out of the blue said ‘no bathroom breaks’, that would be weird – I mean, sometimes you gotta go – but in the context of an employee who is not unusually ‘a minute or two late’ and sees no problem with this, Boss is probably seeing it as yet another instance of an employee who thinks a required start time is more like a suggestion. And Boss is probably right, given that OP seems to think this is going to be an ongoing problem and that Boss’s insistence she be at her desk on time is “silliness” that OP will grudgingly tolerate as long as Boss has a ‘right’ to insist on it.

        If the job really doesn’t need a rigid start and end time and you’re exempt, OP, then you certainly could discuss flexible hours with your boss – but it’s hard to do that when it’s going to be heard as “I just don’t like showing up on time”.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m thinking Boss wants to be able to come in the room around 8:00, do a quick visual survey of any empty desks, and determine whether everybody is on time. It’s silly to clock-watch to that degree, but at least it has nothing to do with bathroom habits, which is how it’s coming across.

      1. Ekat*

        Right I think he just wants people to be at their desks at the time so he can easily tell who is on time and who is late. It’s not about using the bathroom at all.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Couldn’t he just check the timeclock records? (assuming most businesses have some sort of electronic timekeeping system). Here, even exempt people use the timeclock for that exact purpose. I guess for some bigwigs that would be a hassle though.

          1. Sadsack*

            I am not sure that most businesses have electronic time keeping records, especially not for salaried employees. Many do, but it seems that OP’s may not.

          2. Sketchee*

            I’ve only worked at 1 place with electronic time keeping of this nature. In 2000. I’ve only worked at four companies. How common is this?

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t think that this is unreasonable at all. In an office where the norm is to be in your seat and working at 8 it is reasonable to expect people to be doing that and not traipsing off to the bathroom, doing their make up, making coffee, changing their shoes or whatever and the easiest way for him to make sure the office is up and running is to walk through and see everyone is at their desk. It may or may not be important in the larger scale of things — some offices it is important clients can reach you at 8 (how many times have you called an office at 9:05 supposedly open from 9-5 and gotten the automatic message that tells you they are open from 9-5 and to call back then. I certainly have and it is annoying. In this office it may or may not be important to be working at 8 but it is certainly important to the boss.

        1. Rater Z*

          This brings up another thought — time zones. It might depend on where the OP lives. If it’s Mountain time or Pacific time zones, then it’s mid-morning already before someone out east or central time can even reach the OP. Of course, the same problem shows up on the other end of the day but those out west can at least leave a voice mail with the probability of having the answer waiting for them when they get in the next morning.

      3. INTP*

        That’s the impression I got, too. It’s silly and controlling for any position where a butt in seat during specified hours isn’t vital in my opinion, unless it’s a recurring issue with one employee who is shaving time off his day by consistently coming in 5 minutes late, packing up 5 minutes early, etc. He wants to monitor arrival time within 5 minutes and doesn’t want anyone have an excuse.

        FWIW, I left a job where I was by far the strongest performer in my position largely due to the stress of my boss being really intense about punctuality. Just knowing that with my unpredictable commute, I wasn’t going to be pulled into a room and lectured if I arrived 3 minutes late too many days in a week (despite arriving 5-10 minutes early the other days) GREATLY reduced my commute anxiety. So if you do aim for this kind of punctuality as part of your work culture, make sure the job requirements make it worth losing strong performers over. (Because despite stereotypes, not everyone who isn’t naturally punctual all the time is lazy or a weak performer.)

    3. Susie*

      I see it differently. Your work day starts at 8 – that means you’re at your desk ready to go at 8. Not walking in from the parking lot, not hanging up your coat, not getting a cup of coffee, and not in the bathroom. Not to say this never happens, but it sounds like this is the OPs standard morning, to get in at 8 and then take care of the rest of that stuff, so they are ready to go promptly at 8:10 or 8:15. Look at it from the other side: what if every day your employer took 10 or 15 minutes off your paycheck, how much of a big deal would that be to you? That’s how much of a big deal it is to your employer.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        That’s a flawed comparison, and assumes the person who is late will run out the door at the end of the day.

        For me I constantly do more hours than I’m paid for so when I come in late I’m just getting back a little bit of the time I’ve already put in.

        Last time someone complaine about me being late I was all of 10 minutes late in the morning after staying 2 hours late the night before to fix a system issue that would have caused havoc with closing the period end. It was a slap in the face and really pissed me off.

        There has to be some balance between company and employee, but to me unless there is a good reason to hold someone to a fixed start time then don’t, view their work ethic and contribution as a whole.

        1. Charity*

          I agree completely that you shouldn’t get too obsessed with a specific start time unless it’s business-related or mission-critical. I do suspect that this is a job where the exact start and end time is pretty important though, especially if she is paid hourly and the company keeps track of when she gets there and when she lives. If that does turn out to be the case, I think it’s valid to expect her to be ready to work at 8:00 AM and not at 8:15 AM. If that isn’t the case, then I totally agree that micromanaging that would be really irritating and disrespectful, especially if as the case with you she sometimes has to work past 6:00 PM on work-related activities.

          1. Paquita*

            My jobs start times are somewhat mission critical. What we do in the morning is important time-wise as files must be sent to the bank by a certain time. I am in A/R and we process the incoming checks for payment. Once that is done for the day the other processes can be done. This does not allow for a flexible schedule. None of the jobs in my department do.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            I’m not so sure. I have had a boss who was obsessed with everyone being there at 9, and it didn’t matter at all. (And hourly people routinely worked unpaid overtime, but that’s another story….) But she would step out of her office at 9:01, scan around, and give hell to anyone who wasn’t there at that moment.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m much more sure, having worked plenty of jobs where the start time was in fact important – yes, even in office jobs. One of the little things that often happens when some people are “a minute or two late” is that the work floodgates open (customers, calls, incoming tasks) when the office opens at 8, which means that the people who were on time deal with that stuff and the people who are “a minute or two late” get a breather.

              I’m also not understanding the arguments here that being late is OK as long as you don’t rush out the door at the end of the day. If the job has a fixed end time, what’s wrong with leaving promptly?

              1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                I know for me it has to do with my personal experience. The only job I had where time was watched, there was absolutely nothing happening that couldn’t wait. We worked independently, so no one had to cover if you were late. And they made a spectacularly big deal about people who were not working as the clock rolled over.

                This was also the job where my boss made me sit in the chair of a chronically late employee, so she would know that we knew when she arrived.

              2. Rachael*

                I agree. I once had a position that the phone lines opened at 8am. I had a duty that required me to be there at 7:30 so I could process the credit card payments. It used to drive me crazy when the people who came in for the 8:00am shift would be “a couple of minutes” late. That meant that not only was I trying to finish up the duty that I was doing, but I had to manage the flood of calls coming in because my coworkers were getting their morning coffees. (very small office of 3-4 people). One of the few times I had to talk to my manager about another worker’s tardiness.

        2. Mabel*

          I agree with you, and this is how I ran my team (when I had one). I would add that if you feel that a manager is being unfair, such as in the situation you described, it may be helpful to mention it when they complain that you’re late. I talked to one of my staff members about being a few minutes late fairly often, and she said that she always worked 8 hours or more every day and that sometimes she might need time in the morning to get her son to school. She asked me if we could formalize that arrangement, and given that I didn’t really NEED her to be there right at 8:30, I agreed. If she was going to be more than 10 minutes late, she would call or email me in advance. I knew she had a good work ethic, and I trusted her, so I had her keep track and make sure she worked the 8 hours/day we were billing the client for. It worked out well for everyone.

          1. Newbie*

            Being flexible and accommodating where possible is great and it definitely needs to go both ways. Not all jobs allow for the flexibility you worked out with your employee, but since that job did it’s great that you were able to work this out for the employee. Key items I see in your response are that the employee was accomplishing her work and being responsible.

        3. Koko*

          It varies a great deal by job and employer, but Susie is definitely write that there are people who take advantage of not being watched all day to take a lot of unrecorded breaks.

          I see it most common with the hourly non-exempt employees in my office, which is 95% full-time exempt workers. We have a very flexible/informal environment for most staff. People show up between 8 and 10, leave between 4 and 6, take lunch whenever they want, and basically are in charge of their own time management. Unfortunately, it can be hard to make the hourly staff understand that they can’t operate the same way they see everyone around them operating. They can’t take a 2-hour lunch and leave at 4:50, they can’t spend the first 10 minutes of their day in the kitchen toasting a bagel, even though they see people doing that every day.

          In those situations where time is actually be tracked and billed to different account, it matters if someone is basically taking an unreported break and charging their time to an account. In that case the manager should say, “You need to take care of all these things before you begin work, not at the start of your work.”

      2. Mike C.*

        This feels incredibly patronizing. This isn’t some concerted effort to steal time away from the employer, it’s nothing more than the normal course of the workday.

        1. Oryx*

          Patronizing or not, there are jobs where being at your desk at an exact time is a very big deal and your absence does not go unnoticed.

          1. Mike C.*

            And there are plenty of jobs where this doesn’t matter at all except to managers who lack the ability to manage well and instead turn this into a moral judgement of the employee.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              + 1

              The best managers I’ve had are not bothered about timekeeping where it doesn’t matter, they have more effective metrics for performance evaluation.

            2. Oryx*

              True, but we don’t actually know which is the case in this particular instance. It could be the manager is micromanaging. It could be the OP needs to be at her desk ready to work at 8 am and the manager expressed it poorly. It could be a combination.

              1. Mike C.*

                If there was a business reason that the OP was told, I would have expected to see it mentioned in the letter.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  It could just as easily go the other way, Mike – “if the exact start and end time didn’t matter to the work I would have expected to see it in the letter.”

                2. Mike C.*

                  If it’s mission critical to be on time for a job, it’s blatantly obvious because it’s key to the work being performed. I trust the OPs here enough to believe that they wouldn’t omit key, important information that ties directly to the question being asked.

            3. Sunflower*

              I agree with both Oryx and Mike- the key is you need to communicate that with your employee clearly.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Many employers feel that there is a plot to steal time and they act accordingly. Over my lifetime, I would say at least half my bosses micromanaged arrival times.

            Of course, my rebuttal to that is “here is a boss that has no real management tools in his collection”.

            One boss actually showed me I was 30 seconds late. This was very funny, because my husband was obsessed with accuracy in time pieces. (long story) And he had all of our clocks set to GMT (as it was called then). I knew I was on time and the time clock at work was off. Rather than fight that battle, I simply pointed out, “You said I work like I am three people, I think you will get your 30 seconds back some time today.” The irony was not lost on me, I still could not start my work because of this discussion about time. The discussion made me even later.

            OP, you’re pretty much stuck with this as long as you work there. If everything else is okay, I’d overlook it. Personally, when I see micromanagement like this, I start keeping an eye out for other issues. I have tried asking bosses why the strict rule and generally they have some justification that they are satisfied with and will not let go of.

            1. Mike C.*

              I used to calibrate high precision scientific equipment, so this time keeping thing is really hilarious to me.

            2. Just me*

              I had a boss who didn’t like that I came in EARLY. He wanted me to adjust my start time then.

              Other than that he was a good boss. It was just a weird thing of his I guess.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                If you were non-exempt, he may have been concerned about FLSA compliance. I have to ask my non-exempt staff to only work their scheduled hours unless specifically asked to do otherwise by a supervisor. Otherwise, I get people who are routinely putting in unrequested OT or that have to leave before close of business to avoid it.

      3. Willis*

        But it’s safe to assume that most employees are going to need to use the bathroom or get a coffee or water throughout the day. It’s no more time out of their work day to do it at 8 than at 10.

        And in exempt jobs where employees may work late or travel (which may not be the case for OP), minute minding about what time their butts are in their seats each morning is silly. Focusing on that versus other measures of performance is a good way to erode employees’ confidence in your management skills.

        1. INFJ*

          I completely agree. Especially for those who have a long commute and/or drink water/coffee/tea on the way to work, sometimes you gotta go when you get there so you can focus on work when you start.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Ok, but it’s ok to go to the bathroom and/or get a cup of coffee at 9 or 9:30 or whenever? What’s the difference?

      5. INTP*

        To me, using the bathroom is different from putting up your coat and other things that you absolutely know that you need to do every day (though I’ve always been able to do those things in the time it takes my computer to warm up, which is fair to do on-the-clock imo). Obviously don’t leave your house with a full bladder or bowel every single morning and make it part of the routine but sometimes you happen to need to use the bathroom when you arrive at work, sometimes you don’t. If you do, it’s more time efficient to go right away than wait until you’re in the middle of something. If I were ready to start work at 8AM but needed to use the bathroom, I could go while my computer is warming up anyways and get into productive mode at 8:02, or I could wait 2 minutes for my computer to warm up, kill 3 minutes not doing much because I’m about to get up anyways, use the bathroom when I’m finally allowed, and then start work at 8:07. It’s a dumb rule.

      6. HR Dave*

        I agree with this. Although your boss didn’t communicate it in the best way, I read it as basically saying “At 8:00 you’re in your seat ready to work,” which is a pretty common request. I don’t think the statement was really about bathroom restrictions as much as actually starting your workday at 8:00. You could substitute going to the bathroom with getting a cup of coffee, hanging up your coat, or practicing your unicycle skills, and the message would be the same. In this case, the bathroom merely served as the immediate example.

    4. Doralee*

      I actually had to do this to someone, and I wasn’t happy to do it. He was between 5 and 15 minutes late every day, and then did a bathroom run, and then got coffee etc, to the point where it was 40 minutes after his starting time before he actually started working. Unfortunately, his was the one shift that required someone in the chair for the first hour ready to answer phones and deal with an overnight backlog. If he didn’t work the hour, we were behind the rest of the day. I tried discussing the problem. I set a minimum target for the first hour and consequences if it wasn’t met. We finally got the on-time thing sorted, but he couldn’t seem to get the correlation between the long bathroom/coffee break and the problems the rest of the day (I could cover the phones if necessary). I offered to move him to a different shift, where the breaks wouldn’t matter quite so much but he was adamant that he wanted this shift. Finally, I had to say if he needed the break and the coffee that he really should take care of it before his shift started, and no breaks for the first hour. It didn’t go over well and I felt pretty crummy about it, but it kept us on track.

        1. Doralee*

          I would have, but the shift was very early and part of the reason for the lateness was that he had an extremely difficult time waking up. Pushing the start time back in this case wouldn’t have helped. This was also a worker who left on the dot at quitting time.

          We had another worker who started being late frequently but who had always worked late regardless of start time. I wasn’t particularly concerned since his work was getting done, but checked in with him. It turned out he’d started taking his kids to school and was very stressed about not being on time. I told him we’d set his start time back by a half hour. He was relieved and it was an easy fix.

          1. Just me*

            “he had an extremely difficult time waking up”

            Yeah, so do I, but it’s called being an adult and just doing it. Also, if you have problems waking up, work the later shift! I can’t believe some people.

            1. Bowserkitty*

              My roommate (who became my best friend the longer we were living together) was so horrible with waking up that she’d have alarms set AND her mother would call her from the other side of the country – 2 time zones earlier – to ensure she woke up. One time her mother actually called me as I was walking home from my bagelry morning shift to make sure she was awake. We were juniors in college at that point so I was pretty peeved by the whole situation.

              She always acknowledged her difficulty with it but also said after she graduated she’d make sure not to get any morning shifts, ever. I’m not sure how she managed it but she seems to have made it happen…

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yes, in your case, that person was pretty bad. And regarding the second person, we had someone here who just had her shift switched to a half hour later start time, and guess what? Yep, she’s still 10-15 minutes late. I guess to me five minutes is no biggie but when you get into 10+ and every day, that’s a problem.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I don’t understand how this would help – how would an earlier shift “cure” an habitually late employee?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Looks like his shift required someone to be in their chair, ready to work, at X time. And he wasn’t ready until X:15 or X:40. So if you changed his shift and had him come in at X-1 hour, he’d definitely be ready to go by X.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              But his boss should be able to say, “You need to be in your chair working by X:00. Not X:15, not X:40, it has to be X:00” and he should be adult enough to figure out what he needs to do in order to meet that. He probably does need to get up earlier, but that’s his problem, not something his boss should have to manage by setting an earlier (and probably less realistic) start time.

              There is no reason to pay someone for an extra hour so they can get themselves settled in the morning. If he really wants the early shift, he needs to be responsible for having his butt in the seat ready to work at his start time, not a half-hour-plus later.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                If I gave the impression that I was recommending this tactic, that was a mistake. I was only explaining the logic of it to Lily in NYC. (And if I did ever do something like that, I wouldn’t pay him an extra hour. I’d say “your shift is 6 to 3 now instead of 7 to 4, since I need your butt in the chair ready and able to work at 7:00.”)

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Oh, no, I definitely didn’t get that impression — I think I clicked on the wrong “reply” link ! I was reading down the chain and forgot to scroll back up to reply to the initial comment. Sorry about that!

      1. the gold digger*

        I felt pretty crummy about it

        No need for that. You had a legitimate business requirement and he needed to meet it. You explained it to him and he still didn’t do it! He is the one who should have felt crummy – not you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. When I supervised, I thought about what was required of me. Those requirements flowed down hill. In order for me to have x done according to requirements, people need to do y and z that became their requirement. I think that as an employee it is easy to forget the boss has her own set of requirements that she needs to be responsible for.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Definitely. This was somebody who just liked to putter around (on the clock) before actually buckling down to work – that was why all of your very reasonable alternate solutions were rejected. You weren’t able to give him what he actually wanted, which was 40 minutes of paid doofing around time.

        3. Anna*

          A lot of managers feel crummy even when they know they have a legitimate reason to let someone go. Last week someone I work with had to fire an employee and even though she knew she was entirely justified, she still closed her office door and had a cry about it. Because it’s stressful and shitty no matter what.

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        I had this same situation, though my person started ramping up the late arrival to up to 30 minutes late every other day. Like Mickey, we had to let her go because it just wasn’t improving. When I met with her to talk about how she needed to be on time (a concept she pushed back heavily on), she asked me angrily, “So what, do you expect me to get up a half hour earlier so I can get here earlier?!?!?” It was a surreal conversation.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “So what, do you expect me to get up a half hour earlier so I can get here earlier?!?!?”

          Well. Yes, I do. Your start time is x, not x:30. What I am asking of you is what I am asking everyone. And it is asked of me also. So yes, get up a half hour earlier if that is what you need to do.

        2. RobM*

          The reply needs to be along the lines of “I can’t tell you when to get up, but I do need you here on time”.

        3. Witty Nickname*

          Wow. I just…wow.

          In a former job, all of the support staff (3 people, including me) took the train in every morning. And the way the train times worked, we could either be 30 minutes early, or we could be 7 minutes late. And we all opted for being a few minutes late. But eventually, the owner of the company told us that we needed to be on time.

          So we all grumbled and complained to each other for a few minutes…and then we started taking the earlier train because that’s what grown ups do. I killed the extra 30 mins by getting off a stop earlier and stopping at the Coffee Bean.

          Now, I’m in a job where it really only matters what time I come in/leave each day if I have meetings. I try not to schedule anything before 9/9:30 because it’s hard for me to get here earlier than 8:45 (and some days, that’s difficult) with preschool drop off and my need to stop at Starbucks (but if I must skip Starbucks, I will. If I must). Being exempt without a set schedule works best for me – I’d have a hard time going back to being hourly or having to have a set schedule, but if I had to do it, I’d figure it out.

      3. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, I see that side of it (though I don’t believe this is the case with the OP). If it’s a pattern, then the worker needs to come in EARLY to do the bathroom/coffee thing on their own time.
        I also see this in my office sometimes. People roll in and the morning water cooler conversations can go on for 15-20 minutes while people get coffee and chat. Guess it’s lucky we don’t have clock watching managers.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, I don’t think this is actually about the boss not wanting OP going to the bathroom. I suspect the boss has a very sharp eye for who is consistently in their seats at 7:59:59 and who is off on a semi-regular basis, even if it’s by five minutes or less. So if OP is a couple of minutes late, even if it’s once a week or so, she is on his radar.

      Not saying it’s a reasonable attitude (heavens! NOBODY wants to work for a boss like that in advertising, not when we stay past “end of day” so often!), but I think it’s *his* attitude.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Yup- I used to work somewhere where the higher ups were very conscious of overtime, so anyone working a lot of OT who was also skirting the edge on arrival time was a big red flag. It creates the impression that someone’s milking the day for hours.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But then you say that — “I need you in your sit at exactly 8:00 because ____, so if that means that you need to get here a little earlier to make that happen, that’s what you need to do.” You don’t say “don’t go to the bathroom during this five-minute period.”

        You address patterns, you explain reasons, and you say what you really need. You don’t make arbitrary rules.

        And again, that’s if you even need it at all. There are loads of jobs where a couple of minutes really, really doesn’t matter.

        1. Susie*

          I completely agree, and the reason I could never do your job is that you only get one side of the story. I have sat with 3 employees today already and each one has started with their complaints about their 2 different supervisors. As I gave suggestions for how to alter their behavior to resolve the situation, the stories kept changing and being altered so their responsibility for the issue diminished more and more. I know the truth is somewhere between what everyone tells me, I’m not an idiot, and I believe that’s what has happened here.

          And I have managed that chronically “on the cusp” employee who would argue she is not late as long as she is in the building at 8 but doesn’t finish her personal items and get to her desk until 30 minutes later, in a busy call center, and she too was a “top salesperson.” That hair splitting is enough to drive someone crazy, and her co-workers had a valid complaint about picking up the slack first thing in the morning.

          I, and probably others, cannot believe this is the first time this was addressed by this manager. This was probably just the stupidest time.

    6. ThatGirl*

      Letters and comments like this make me so glad nobody is watching my desk to see precisely when I come in. We have a lot of flexibility in our schedule, as long as we’re there between roughly 10 and 2 and work 8 hours, we can start at 7 or 8:15 or 9:30. I have a longish commute and traffic can be unpredictable so clock-watching would drive me crazy.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I find this really depends on the job. Someone who works in a time-bound industry is going to have a stricter need to stay on schedule. I have a relative who works in a call center, and not having enough people on shift makes for longer customer wait times (which makes the customers crankier when they actually get a rep). A number of the jobs that I supervise are more flexible on time in (but also require more flexibility on time out from the employee).

        I’m in a crappy-commute-best-wishes-on-public-transit-being-timely area, and the people who have to be ready to work at a specific time simply have to plan accordingly. A job that dinged me for being 10 minutes late would not work out for me, but my rolling in at 9:10 doesn’t throw the whole day behind or impact other employees. In fact, I take advantage of the fact that I have people who are not morning people to stretch my coverage later into the evening without pissing anyone off by asking them to work late. I know that’s not an option for some jobs/industries.

      2. Honeybee*

        I was thinking the same thing. I explicitly asked my manager the first week I started and got this response – core business hours tend to be 10 to 4 but as long as you’re here around then and you work around 8 hours per day you’re good. Most days I arrive between 9 and 10 am and leave between 5:30 and 6:30 pm (usually closer to 6:30). And we have some people on my team who work from 7 to 3. I’m glad that unless I have a meeting I don’t have to worry about traffic creating unpredictable delays.

    7. J.B.*

      My start time is always flexible and I have a job where that doesn’t really matter, and am very fortunate that my supervisor is ok with it. I get stuff done. There was a former supervisor here who would walk the halls around his staff start times (he would allow them to set their arrival and departure times but then be checking to see if so and so was here by 8, the next person by 8:30, the next person by 9.) He would give them a really hard time if they weren’t in. I always wondered how much time that wasted!

    8. RobM*

      I think this is what’s happening too. I can’t excuse the way the manager here is picking at bathroom breaks of course, who could, but I wonder if the OP has a pattern of being late and a pattern of spending time “getting ready” after arriving at the office spot on time and is therefore being perceived as a problem employee by the manager for this overall pattern rather than what, precisely, they were doing on one particular morning.

      I wouldn’t want to be petty about timekeeping myself, but equally some jobs do require people to be spot on time ready to start, and equally, it isn’t unreasonable to pick up on a small problem with timekeeping and coach an employee about how its perceived rather than letting it become a huge problem then one day hitting the employee with a formal warning for being late all the time.

      1. Elsajeni*

        This is what I was thinking, too. I used to have a friend at my retail job who was very bad about this — she would walk in the door at exactly the time her shift started, and she just could. not. understand. why management acted like she was “late” just because she spent the first 10 or 15 minutes of her shift walking back to the break room, changing into her uniform, putting her stuff in her locker, etc. And while I was good about punctuality then, now that I’m in a less time-sensitive job I know I’m vulnerable to this habit as well — I come in around 8:00, but not always by 8:00, and maybe I go to the bathroom right away, and I go get some coffee and maybe a snack, and and and… a lot of time can get away from me in the mornings before I actually start getting things done. Luckily my boss doesn’t mind that I’m more of a late-starting type, but I couldn’t really hold it against him if he decided he did mind — I accepted a job with a stated start time of 8:00, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say “Hey, ‘starting at 8:00’ means I need you to be ready to start work at 8:00, not just on the premises.”

    9. AnotherHRPro*

      I think the real request here is the manager manager expects everyone to be at their desk and working at 8am. If the OP (or others) have tended to be a few minutes late or come in at 8 and then go to the bathroom, get coffee, etc. that might be why the manager made this very stupid comment/rule. I’m not saying I agree with the logic that everyone needs to be sitting at their desk at 8am and immediately start working, but some places and some managers have weird rules and are much more clock conscious.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        For what it is worth, I find that some folks that balk at starting work exactly at a specific time (like 8am) have no problem stopping work at a specific time (like 5pm). I’m not saying this is the OP, but if people are running for the door at exactly 5pm and don’t start working on time every day I would be a frustrated manager.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, I could see this being him worried about appearances and wanting to see everyone’s but in their seats at 8 sharp, and perhaps it was just his really really lame way of saying that?

  4. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 I’m shocked that trying to take three unpaid days off is such s problem. Ask for the time off and enjoy a much needed break with you family it would be a very dysfunctional workplace for that to be held against you.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        That’s true — the one time I worked for a small business, it was truly all-hands-on-deck for a certain season of the year, and you weren’t getting out of it for anything less than hospitalization or a funeral of a close relative.

        That being said, the business should have been transparent about that when hiring OP, which I doubt it was given that she’s asking the question.

        1. pomme de terre*

          I used to work on a sports copy desk that had a few dates when absolutely no one was allowed to take time off. (Super Bowl Sunday, for example.)

          It was a fair policy, because the dates were known well in advance, although I once got one of the blackout dates off because it was my sister’s college graduation. I told my boss that I wasn’t coming in that day. He could schedule me for that day and deal with the fallout when I did not come in and he was unexpectedly short staffed, and I would deal with the professional fallout of a day of absenteeism, but I wasn’t coming in. He wasn’t happy about it, but he did not schedule me.

          And my co-workers were piiiiiiiiiiiiissed because the day I missed was the total shitshow of a newsday when Barry Bonds broke the HR record AND Barbaro broke his leg in the Preakness. Oh well! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. Ad Astra*

            I also worked a sports copy desk that had some blackout dates, primarily Fridays and Saturdays during football season. But because I was hired in February, I had to use my week of vacation between August and December, or I’d lose it. It probably sucked for the guy covering for me (we were understaffed, of course), but it wasn’t truly impossible to give me that week off.

          2. Honeybee*

            My sister used to lifeguard and Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends were always blackout dates for her. I think the Independence Day weekend might have been most hands on deck, too.

    1. Racheon*

      Agreed. It makes it seem like if you work there, that’s it. No vacations for you. This just seems nuts to me. Can’t they get a temp in to do any basic admin bits to free up the remaining staff to cover for whoever is off?

      28 paid vacation days a year is the norm here, I think, 8 of which are bank holidays. So in theory if I wanted to I could have 4 weeks off in a row.

      1. Jennifer*

        Hahahahaha, my office wouldn’t do that. Also because the job is too complicated to have temps do it.

        I am trying to figure out how I am going to schedule vacation time for (a) me having surgery, (b) my mother having surgery, and (c) moving this year, especially when two of my coworkers are going to be out at the same time and we will already be DROWNING. I probably won’t be able to do those things too well this year, really. Possibly at all.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I work for a midsize company where for the majority of the year people in my department are not allowed to take more than two days off in a row. My boss’s boss sometimes sends out emails about how we shouldn’t be calling in sick either, but it seems people ignore those so I have called in sick a couple of times (when I was, yes, actually sick). Of course, most of us have no PTO.

      The up side is that they don’t seem to care much about…well, people being slightly late, since it’s not a butt-in-seat kind of job.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        …which I just realized sounds totally contradictory, but the way my job works is that we’re supposed to process x many teapot orders per day, but it doesn’t make any real difference if we start processing them at 9 or 9:10. If I’m late, I stay late.

    3. prettypony*

      I am in a similar position as #2. I find I’m the least stressed out when I give as much advance notice as possible – last year, we were able to look at the calendar a whole year out, mark holidays, and also noted the handful of long weekends I requested off. Another staff was able to cover for me on most days, and we opted to close the office and plan a holiday around one of my other days off. The sooner you ask, the easier it will be for them to negotiate. (I’ve also justified it to myself with the knowledge that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, they couldn’t stop making teapots; someone would have to step up. Taking a few days off is not the end of the world.)

  5. Lew*

    #1 Such specific bathroom policing is ridiculous, so I think it’s plausible that your manager meant: “I need you to be at your desk and ready to work at 8:00, not arriving at 8 with things to do, like going to the bathroom,” but that he expressed it poorly.

    1. Lydia*

      This. If you have a position where you start work at 8:00 you start work at 8:00. You don’t get there at 8:00 then spend 5-10 minutes getting coffee, chatting to coworkers, using the washroom, etc. You should do all this before 8:00 and actually start working at 8:00.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But what if you arrive at work and have to use the bathroom? People use the bathroom during the day. Sometimes the need might strike when they first arrive at work.

        If it’s a chronic issue, then sure, say something if the job is one where the time of arrival truly matters down to the exact minute. But then you say something about the chronic issue (“I’ve noticed that you’re often not sitting down to work on time, even though you’re in the office”), not create a bathroom ban during that time.

        1. newreader*

          There are many jobs were being on time is important to both customers and co-workers. I’ve always felt that being a responsible employee means being at your desk/station, etc. and ready to work at your scheduled start time, not walking in the door at that time. That means planning to arrive a few minutes early to stow my coat, get coffee, use the restroom, etc.

          It’s frustrating to have co-workers chronically hit the parking lot or walk through the door “on time” and then have a myriad of personal things to attend to for the first 10-20 minutes. So I appreciate supervisors that address it when it impacts others. But I do agree this boss handled it wrong and should have addressed being ready to work on time, not restricting restroom use.

          1. Becca*

            Exactly this. I cannot understand people who show up at work at 9 am, when they are actually supposed to start working at 9 am. You are also supposed to stay at your desk and work until 5 pm, not vanish through the office door with your coat on. Might be an unwritten rule, but it should be common sense.

            1. Nicole J.*

              One thing I’ve noticed in my workplace is that if one person is consistently even a tiny bit late, then others in the team think they can be as well. So you end up with several people late, which in my workplace really can build up and delay the day’s proceedings.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Yep. It cascades. And if you try to say anything, it’s “why aren’t you talking to so-and-so when she’s late every day?” Eventually the people who are on time either quit being on time, or become resentful that they’re being played for suckers.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Or they don’t sit there and watch a clock and realize that everyone is getting their jobs done and it doesn’t really matter to begin with.

                2. Anna*

                  I don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen. It sounds like the kind of faulty logic parents use with their kids. “If Becky is late, are you going to be late, too?” Most people who think it’s any of their business just bitch about it for no good reason and use it as a jumping off point to complain. The rest of us just get on with our day.

            2. Macedon*

              Okay, but only if I am not expected or tacitly required to work unpaid overtime, or if I can take exactly my full allotted time for my lunch break every single day. I will also not be taking work-related calls, e-mails or MORSE code messages tapped gently on my window pane, once I’m done with my official hours. All good?

              In a world of very heavily blurred lines between employees’ personal and private lives, a sensible employer needs to prioritise performance over clock ticks. If you’re in a position that requires your availability for clients, sure. Be there at the strike of dawns. But otherwise, a ‘bums on seats’ approach is just going to encourage me to check out the competition’s chairs.

              1. Jadelyn*

                “a ‘bums on seats’ approach is just going to encourage me to check out the competition’s chairs”

                What a beautiful way of putting that.

                Honestly I’ve had opportunities to move on to better pay and higher titles, but I’ve stayed where I am and one of the big reasons is the flexibility. I’m hourly, but as long as I total 40/week nobody really cares when I do it. Treat your employees like adults who can manage their own time and they’ll be a lot more loyal to you as an employer.

              2. Honeybee*

                THIS. The flexibility of hours at my job motivates me to do more work, not less. I’m far more willing to stay late to finish up a report or test out a build when I don’t have to since I know coming in at 9:07 isn’t a problem for my job. If they were clock-watchers then yeah, I’d be sailing out the door at 5:02 every day.

            3. Anna*

              This reminds me of an HR person telling me and a group of people that if their shift starts at 8am, they should account for things like public transportation and traffic. Okay, that’s reasonable. Except she was saying essentially that it doesn’t matter if you take the bus that gets you there five minutes early if you’re late. You should make sure you leave early enough so that traffic accidents and so on don’t interfere with you being at work on time. It wasn’t clear how early that was. What if I take the bus that gets me there half an hour early but there’s a bridge lift. Should I have taken the earlier bus? What if there’s an accident? How early is early enough?

              In other words, you can’t account for everything and if you are that worried about it, you might be crappy manager.

              1. Alienor*

                I remember once at my college job, I had to call and tell my supervisor that I was going to be late because I was trapped by a fire truck. I lived in a duplex with parking at the back that could only be accessed by a single narrow alleyway running down one side, and when I walked out my front door ready drive to work for my afternoon shift, there was a fire truck parked in the alley, completely blocking it, with the engine turned off and no driver or crew anywhere in sight. I couldn’t get my car out until someone finally came back and moved the truck. If there was a way to plan ahead for that, I’d like to have known what it was!

              2. LouLouBee*

                I think my old office manager was there

                Due to a train schedule my co-commuter and I were 20 minutes early almost every day. One day there wAs a messy ice and snow storm in the forcast so my buddy took the day off. About half way though the trip one of the drawbridges got frozen stuck. It was opened to let a boat through and froze before they could get it lowered.

                So I’m on a train, over freezing water, no working heat on the train. And another train had come in that wanting to go our way, blocking the path back to get my train totally off the bridge tracks so It could looked at better…I guess

                Anyway cut the. …..I ended up 1hr 10 minutes late they ended up bussing us to another stop further down the line to finish the trip there on the super full standing room only actual rush hour commutes

                Normal manager answer should have been. Glad you made it in, are you alright? (It was super cold low teens F). Let me know if you need anything. Then offer personal time if employee doesn’t want to be marked late or stick to the “nothing you could have done to prevent this” and mark it as excused late

                Office manager because it was over 1hr it was a “major tardy” term seemingly made up on the spot because he wasn’t able to provide me with the policy, and I would get a tardy, a major tardy for the 15minutes, and have my pay docked. Our pay isn’t docked for tardy just disapline up to suspensions and I guess termination

                There’s way more to that story (and there’s way more of it…) but point is even with planning on being 1/2 early everyday. My coworker and I both had zero lates until this 10yrs and 12yrs in the company. So even with extra time and a pretty reliable method Crap happens and you too can end up super late.

          2. Temperance*

            I’m frequently late for my scheduled shift – more specifically, I’m either 40 minutes early or 7 minutes late, depending on my train schedule. I’m on a two-person team, though, and my boss doesn’t care if I arrive late whatsoever. It doesn’t impact anyone but her, and my willingness to arrive early when I need to and stay late when I need to means that I get this flexibility.

            My arrival routine might take an additional 3 or 4 minutes (office is near the coffee and restroom and I have my own coat hanger/setup), but I honestly don’t move until coffee round two, at 10:45 a.m.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, and again, if it’s important in that job and it’s a chronic issue, the manager should address that. But if it’s not, the manager needs to back off.

            Also, there are many jobs where it’s not a big deal to be a couple of minutes late, and where people routinely put in work time that extends into lunch, the evening, the weekend, etc.

          4. INTP*

            But what if you arrive and are ready to work at 8AM, but on that particular day, happen to have a full bladder at 8AM? Is it really better to kill a few minutes for appearances, use the bathroom, and start your day at 8:06 than go right away and start at 8:02?

            Obviously, if it’s a consistent issue and the bathroom is always the excuse that’s different, but I don’t understand why arriving at work occasionally with a full bladder and emptying it in the most efficient manner is unprofessional.

        2. hbc*

          To me, it does feel a different when your need is right next to a break. Right after work starts, right before it ends, before or after lunch. It feels like you were deliberately waiting to get on the clock so it was the company’s time you were using.

          In theory, this only should rankle with non-exempt employees, but there are places where people are non-exempt but essentially run a standard 40 hour work week. In that case, if someone is rigid about not starting work until 8:00, leaving exactly at 4:30, and taking every second of their 30 minute lunch break, it’s awfully convenient that they have to use the bathroom at 8:01 and 12:31 and 4:25 every day as well. You don’t need to be acting like a school monitor to eventually notice the pattern.

          1. doreen*

            And some people really are that rigid – I’ve known people who will sit in their car for ten minutes or even longer to avoid getting in the office even one minute early.

            1. jhhj*

              I was that rigid when I was at a company that policed my breaks and leaving time. If you will have a fit if I take a 61 minute lunch, I will not give you a minute in the morning.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Agreed, some companies inspire that behavior in people. Annndd if there is a union involved then you have two groups of people watching your start time, the managers and the union. If the managers do not get you, the union will.

              2. hbc*

                It’s definitely a chicken versus egg problem. But the solution to having a company that monitors your time so closely is not to give them a big middle finger and leave your desk after you’ve punched in. You can’t be both the person who puts her time in to the minute *and* wastes company time in a very noticeable way. Just go to the bathroom at 7:55 or 8:30 whenever possible.

                1. jhhj*

                  I didn’t typically go to the bathroom one second after arriving, no. I was talking about the people who sat in the car until the moment work started.

                  That said, as a non-smoker who didn’t take smoke breaks, I didn’t feel guilty taking slightly longer than normal bathroom breaks.

                  I didn’t waste company time, but I refuse to play the “flexible only when it helps them” game.

            2. Meg Murry*

              I am sometimes one of the people who sits in my car for a few extra minutes in the morning often – but it’s not because I’m being nit picky about the clock. It’s usually either that I want to hear the end of the story currently on NPR, finish the chapter in the audiobook I’m listening to, or take a minute to answer the texts or emails from my sister or parents that came in while I was driving, etc. Or to read what Allison wrote here. Or just take a minute to decompress from my road rage from my commute before I walk into work. Or when I was super freaking exhausted when I was pregnant or had tiny infants, sometimes to just close my eyes for 10 minutes in peace and quiet.

              Basically, I know that once I hit the office door I will often be in work mode for no less than the next 4 hours (and often 6-8 or more), so I want to get that last few minutes of freedom in my car before I hit work mode with the phones ringing and my email inbox overflowing.

              Don’t always attribute to malice what can be explained by a driveway moment or sheer exhaustion :-)

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Funny, I was thinking about how I usually see a few people napping in their cars when I pull in (usually before 7am). They are the ones with the hour+ commutes, and if they waited until 9am to come in it would probably take them about 2 hours each way.

                But I was thinking that the OP just needs to aim to come in a little early, plenty of people do it. Or work for 30-40 minutes first, sorting her inbox, or planning out the day. That’s what I wind up doing just out of habit, I sometimes don’t go make my coffee for about 30-45 minutes after I get in if I’m caught up in something.

              2. Doreen*

                I’m not. I’m thinking of one person in particular (I’ve known others) at a workplace that did not micromanage time. He was the manager at that location, so there was no one there to micromanage his time. His stated reason for sitting in his car was that he did not want to have any work related conversations with his staff one minute before 8:30 and he was crossing the threshold exactly at 4:30. Which reminds me- most things go in both directions. Sometimes a person gets rigid because they get in trouble for coming back one minute late from lunch and other times they get in trouble for coming back one minute late from lunch because they are already rigid about starting and ending times.

            3. INTP*

              I’ve done that but only on principle when I had a boss who would lecture us over being 3 minutes late or packing up our bags to leave at 4:57. Or I’d arrive but get coffee and chat and not start my computer until work time. I’m all for flexibility of 5 minutes or so in either direction, it makes everyone’s life easier imo, but if I’m not given flexibility to arrive a minute late or leave a minute early I’m not putting in extra time either.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’d hate to think my manager was making a moral judgement on my character simply because my lunch didn’t agree with me.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This is the problem here, we don’t know if OP is doing this everyday or if there is another person who is chronically late or any other number of possibilities. I have seen bosses behave this way when there are layoffs on the horizon or even a danger of the branch shutting down which means everyone would be unemployed.

              But there are plenty of bosses out there who will make sweeping judgments based on one thing. Not saying it’s right, just saying it happens. I think we should give them dunce caps to wear so we can identify them early and easily.

              1. neverjaunty*

                We do know that the OP has a pattern of being “a minute or two” late on a not-infrequent basis. That’s probably what’s going on here – the boss is seeing this, fairly or not, as an employee who doesn’t see the required start time as ‘when you start work’. A

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I agree! But there seems to be a perception that the boss is just making a no bathroom rule out of nowhere, when instead it really seems like a misguided approach to a real issue.

            2. hbc*

              Like I said, it should only be noticed if it’s chronic. I would never do what that manager is doing, but there’s having lunch disagree with you once or twice a month, and there’s never going to the bathroom during your lunch break on principle. Someone is eventually going to notice the pattern, even if they aren’t standing by the canteen doors with a stopwatch.

              1. Minion*

                I have to admit, this makes me really want to stand outside the bathroom with a stopwatch. And maybe a clipboard. When people go in, I’ll smile politely and make a big deal out of starting the timer. Then as they come out, I’ll frown and shake my head while jotting down something on the clipboard, after conspicuously checking the stopwatch, of course.
                The key, though, is to never mention it to anyone. No one gets in trouble, or spoken to about their bathroom time. Nothing. Just the timing and the jotting.
                Gotta go. I need to find that clipboard and get cracking.

                1. LouLouBee*

                  Some incoming sales offices were doing something like that. Seeing when an employee getting the timer and the walking into the bathroom if employee hadn’t come out within 2? Or 3? Minutes asking “what are you doing in here?”…..the number of expected answers here are very slim.

                  Thankfully those managers are long gone and no one seems to care about the bathroom use much

          3. A Teacher*

            And I have a boss that once made the comment about how “teachers shouldn’t need to use the restroom every passing period.” I’m one of the teachers that uses it every passing period or almost every passing period. When I told her I was willing to get a note from my doctor, she backed down. Policing my bathroom needs is really not where she wants to go.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              Oh, this really makes me angry. My very first teaching job, I had five classes and one study hall that met every day, so I actually had to plan my bathroom breaks (one during morning “break”—a slightly longer passing period—and one at lunch). I don’t think most office workers realize that even simple things like going to the bathroom are not luxuries teachers can afford. Not that I work an office job, I appreciate it so much (really, at any moment of the day, I can get up and go to the bathroom).

              1. Chinook*

                “I despise how teachers’ bathroom breaks are policed.”

                Mine were never policed per say (but I did often have only 5 minutes between classes and a line of students who wanted to see me), but I policed myself because I was legally responsible for whatever happened in my room even if I wasn’t there. The argument “I hadn’t had a chance to pee in 6 hours” is quite feeble when asked why Student A started hitting Student B when I wasn’t in the room. In some ways, it is like being a mother with a rambunctious toddler (or, in junior high, 25 rambunctious toddlers) – you just learn to evolve to being able to run to the bathroom with one ear open and pray nothing bad happens in that 30 seconds.

            2. Mike C.*

              “But teachers get summer vacation! They can go to the bathroom then!” said the obnoxious person who introduced themselves as a parent and/or taxpayer.

          4. Ad Astra*

            I will admit to being a little annoyed when I find myself using the restroom during my lunch break instead of on the clock — especially back when I had a higher-pressure position and that 2-minute bathroom break was the only pause I got.

        3. Bleu*

          It’s your consistent position that it’s unreasonable for most types of employers to get upset when good employees are late by a few minutes. I respect your view and understand your reasoning. I will say I worry it will get readers fired, though, because my experience is that most employers are not nearly as casual about chronic lateness as the column suggests they should be.

          1. MK*

            I don’t know about getting fired, but I think the general perception your boss has of you matters, and that perception might not be absolutely objective. I also think that a reasonable boss should definitely not get upset if a great employee is occasionaly late by a few minutes; but the employee should keep in mind that this lateness becomes, perhaps unconsciously, part of the overall impression their boss has of them. They are not the “absolutely great worker, always reliable and on time, very friendly” employee, but the “absolutely great worker and very friendly, sure, she’s late sometimes but nothing disruptive” one. The difference is sublte, but it can matter down the line.

            1. LQ*

              This brings to my mind another point. If you aren’t an absolutely great worker then it can be more important to do some of these things that might not be so important for an absolutely great worker. If you’re constantly struggling to get your work done, if your teapot handles end up in the irregular pile just above what is the minimum to keep your job? Maybe make sure you are in 5 minutes early, especially if getting in just on time flusters you, or if you end up spending 10-40 minutes getting ready to start working. Ideally your boss should be talking to you about this, but this is something people can do proactively too. Especially if you aren’t doing anything -wrong- exactly, but you’re sub-stellar.

          2. Zillah*

            Saying that it’s ridiculous is not the same thing as advocating that people ignore direct orders from their bosses. The OP has already indicated that they’re going to comply with the request and just wanted to know if their boss had the right to do so; Alison told them that the answer is yes. I’m very unclear on how any part of that exchange is likely to end in Alison “getting readers fired.”

            1. Sunshine*

              I agree with you, but I see Bleu’s point. The default position on here seems to skew toward “the boss is ridiculous” if they are sticklers about time. In some cases, that’s absolutely true. But even if it is true, it’s the boss’s prerogative, and the employee has to meet the expectation.

              1. Zillah*

                Sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone suggest otherwise, and there are always caveats bc there are some jobs where it really does matter. It can be useful to have a guide for what’s reasonable, even if you can’t actually use it at the moment.

              2. Meg Murry*

                I can too. I believe Alison has mentioned before that she is a night owl, and a strong believer in the idea that what time you start is not as important as what you get accomplished, and her advice is generally that it is silly to worry about butt-in-seat time for jobs that don’t have a rigid start and end time. But the problem comes when you have an old school boss that does believe in butt-in-seat time, even if you think it isn’t necessary – it is worth getting to work 10 minutes earlier in that case in order to keep the boss happy in that case.

                For my direct reports, I have the following policy: if you prioritize getting out the door at X:00 on the dot, I expect you to be at work and working (which can be drinking coffee while checking your email) by a regular start time. If you aren’t a morning person or have other commitments like kids to take to school or an iffy commute, I understand if your start time flexes up to an hour, and that you may need a few minutes to get settled in once you get to work, but then you need to be flexible with your end time, staying until you get done what needs to be done.

                So basically, you can either be a strict 7:30 to 4:00 person with a half hour lunch, or you can be a 8-ish to 4:30+ person – but you can’t wander in late every day, take a long lunch and then hit the door running at exactly X’oclock. And if you have a meeting scheduled at Y o’clock, it is your responsibility to be at work and ready to go for that meeting, or you need to push back and ask for a reschedule to Y:30 – not accept the Outlook meeting for Y:00 , than stroll into the building at Y:10 and into the meeting at Y:20 without preparing for it.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  But for some jobs, butt-in-seat time is important. I just called my daughter’s pediatrician, for the third time in 10 minutes, because no one was answering the phones at their stated opening time. If a business says they’re open at 8 am, I expect them to start answering the phones at 8 am. And if the person who’s supposed to answer the phone is in the bathroom, or getting coffee, or hanging up her coat, it really doesn’t help me that she’s actually in the office, does it?

                  And yes, of course, I know this doesn’t apply to all jobs. But it might possibly apply to the OP’s job. And if so, her manager’s response should have been “I need you at your desk, ready to work, at 8 am, so please arrive early enough for that to happen.”

                2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  THIS ^^^

                  We left a pediatrician that we really liked because we would show up for a 9am appointment, the first of the day, and we would not be seen until 9:45. And no, there were no emergency walk-ins, no one was there but us and the staff. They also made an ordeal out of making appointments, getting copies of paperwork, and everything else. The doctor was great, and we told her why we were leaving, but she didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Now we use a practice with pediatricians who are all great (or at least great-to-pretty-good), and they have a very well-run office, too.

                3. Meg Murry*

                  Yes, sorry Rusty Shackelford and The Cosmic Avenger – I didn’t make clear enough that there are jobs where butt-in-seat time matters, especially if it’s an office with appointments and official hours – in that case, yes, the employee’s start time should be 15-30 minutes before the office is actually scheduled to open so that they have time to boot up their computer, pull files, etc and be ready for the first appointment of the day when the phone starts ringing.

                  I also advise people to stay away from my former OB-GYN unless they were willing to do later in the day appointments and had lots of flexibility in the appointments running long, because as much as he was a good doctor, his office was a disaster in the mornings. He often didn’t arrive in the office until 9 am when I had an 8 am appointment, and more often than I liked I would pull up to the office at 7:55 and find myself the only car in the parking lot. I get that he was delivering babies until 2 am, but then he just shouldn’t allow his staff to schedule 8:00 appointments. I remember more than one time when the nurse would question why my blood pressure was so high, and I snapped at her “because I made a point of scheduling my appointments 2 months out so I could get an early morning appointment but I have been sitting in your waiting room frustrated for the last hour and a half, and I’m dipping into the PTO I was hoping to save for maternity leave for these appointments when they run hours late! I’m pretty sure my blood pressure was fine at 8 am!”

                4. Ad Astra*

                  As an aside to the comments about doctor’s office phones not being answered: I so wish that businesses that open at 8 would schedule their staff to start at 7:30. If you’re expecting to open for business at the exact second your earliest employee is set to start working, you’re not setting yourself up for success.

                5. Judy*

                  @Meg Murray

                  That’s one thing I loved about my OBGYN. If she had been called to the hospital for a birth or whatever, they would call me at least a half hour before the appointment and tell me they were running 45 minutes late or whatever. Any time she was running late, they called and I could adjust when I was leaving work for the appointment. It was rare through both of my pregnancies to be in the waiting room for more than 10 minutes, or the exam room more than 5 minutes without seeing her. I did have one time she was called out to deliver a baby while in talking to me. But I think I did the same to someone a month later.

                6. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Y’all would have loved the time I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office – you know, the one where the phones aren’t answered until 20 minutes after the stated opening time – listening to one of the staffers complain that the cable company wasn’t answering their phones yet!

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I think that because the comments are running “the boss is a jerk”, some casual readers, not OP, might think that we are right and they can do what they wish. Noooo, you have to do what the boss says even if she is ridiculous.

              This blog is gated mostly toward office environments, many other environments run on a strict time clock. Whether employees agree with that or not, is moot. You have to do as the Romans are doing, or get a new job.

              1. Allison*

                Right, our comments are validating the OP by saying their boss is being ridiculous, but I think most of us would agree that nothing good comes of deliberately rebelling against what your boss wants.

          3. neverjaunty*

            This blog (both AAM and commentariat) tends to skew towards white-collar skilled jobs where rigid start times are not really a business necessity.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve been consistent in saying that there are jobs where arriving on time to the minute matters and jobs where it doesn’t. There’s also a difference between “your boss is being silly” and “you should refuse to do what your boss says.” I think I’ve been clear that managers do have the right to require strict times of arrival, regardless of the type of job. But that doesn’t mean we have to pretend that it’s reasonable in every case, because it’s not. I trust readers to understand that “legal but silly” doesn’t mean “just refuse to do it.”

        4. pomme de terre*

          What I suspect is happening is that the boss is checking the floor to see who’s there between 8 and 8:05, and doesn’t want to penalize someone who IS at work but just not at her desk. It doesn’t sound like the boss has a problem with an 8:10 bathroom break, but roll call is happening in that particular window so you want to be where he can see you.

          I don’t know if the boss is monitoring the punctuality of just the OP or of the whole office, and it sounds dumb to me. But it’s happening so I’d just hold it until 8:06.

      2. Bookworm*

        Eh, I think this is a situation where he really concedes any higher ground by what he’s choosing to focus on. There’s no way you can tell an adult when not to use the restroom without sounding nitpicky and kind of absurd.

        If someone was routinely not ready for work at the start of the day, that’s a problem, of course. But you don’t address it by giving them explicit rules about when to use the restroom.

        1. JessaB*

          I have a feeling though that the boss was “don’t use the bathroom” because that’s what they saw. If they’d walked up to the OP hanging up their coat or something that’s probably what would have come out. It’s bad “bossing” and I think the actual message got lost in the delivery of it. I think the OP needs to take away not “don’t go to the bathroom” but if you’re on the way IN to work and not leaving, use the bathroom before it’s time to start work.

        2. CMT*

          That doesn’t change the fact that OP’s boss may still consider her tardiness an issue. Regardless of who has the moral high ground, the boss is the boss.

          1. Bookworm*

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that point. We’re just discussing the reasonableness of the request. OP has made it clear that she plans to do as her boss asks, the question was more one of does he have a right to do that? And the answer is, yes, technically, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s absurd and reflects poorly on him.

      3. Random Lurker*

        This is exactly what I think every time I read a letter where someone talks about only being a minute or two late. By the time you take off your coat, settle in, get your coffee, boot up your workstation, and whatever else is part of your morning routine, you are probably not really beginning to work for 10-15 minutes after your arrival. It’s too bad that the OP’s manager didn’t explain it like that – assuming that was his thinking and he isn’t just being an ass to be an ass.

        I am very sensitive to these issues as I once managed a team that had a very hard start time (market opening bell driven). I wrote someone up once for not being able to perform her duties due to frequent and consistent tardiness. To this day, she thinks she was written up for being 5 minutes late. Employees who had a lax view of punctuality were some of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my career.

        1. Lydia*

          To be clear, I agree that OPs manager handled this very poorly, and I was assuming it was a chronic issue, not just an occasionally occurance (which would be totally understandable). Similar to Random Lurker I’ve just managed or worked with many people who can’t seem to grasp that work starts at X o’clock, not 15 minutes later after coffee, etc. so I’m probably over sensitive to this issue!

          1. Bookworm*

            Why would you assume that? I feel like this platform of question and answer works best if we take OP at their word and not add in additional details…and there’s no reason to extrapolate that she’s routinely late to work.

        2. Little Teapot*

          Why didn’t you explain that to her? You say ‘to this day she thinks she was in trouble for being 5 minutes late’. This suggests to me that you didn’t explain your stance clearly enough – surely she would appreciate that?

          1. newreader*

            To be fair, there are some employees that need to blame others for their failings. I once had to fire someone for constant errors in their work. It was several months of conversations, meetings, re-training and going over her work with her in detail before she was terminated. It was explained to her multiple times what the serious implications were of the various errors. Even at the very end, she stated that everyone makes mistakes and she didn’t understand why she was being let go for a couple of errors.

            1. Afiendishthingy*

              Yes, this. I am pretty sure RL did explain the problem, but people hear what they want to hear.

          2. Sunshine*

            There is no “surely” when it comes to managing people, unfortunately. Some people just have to blame others when they’re “in trouble”. Even if that takes more energy than it would to just fix the problem.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, I know lots of people who could be told “You need to be at your station at 8 am on the dot because that’s when the market opens and certain things need to happen immediately, and when you come in at 8:05 we lose X amount of money,” and their response would be “OMG, I got in trouble for being 5 minutes late.”

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Actually, the real actual person who first came to mind is female, so I’ll thank you to refer to her as a straw woman.

              2. neverjaunty*

                No, it really isn’t. A straw man is constructing a different version of someone’s argument and then attacking that because it’s easier. For example, if you, Mike C., said that in many cases a boss shouldn’t be rigid about start times, and I replied “Oh, I get it, you think it’s perfectly fine for employees to wander in and out whenever they darn well feel like it”, then I’d be strawmanning your argument. What Rusty Shackelford was doing was pointing out that he in fact personally knows people who engage in the behavior complained of upthread (i.e. not actually listening to the manager’s specific points, but seizing on one of the minor points and pretending the manager was All About That).

        3. Bleu*

          Really, in the vast majority of workplaces, one baseline fundamental job expectation is to be on time. It is just about as basic to being seen as a professional as you can get, even in places that do not formally enforce it.

          1. Zillah*

            Do you really have enough experience to make such a blanket claim? It’s fine to say that it’s your experience, but it isn’t everyone’s, and when this has come up in the past, IIRC there were significant differences based on the field and the nature of the work.

            This is purely anecdotal, of course, and I’m still pretty new to the workforce, but neither of the jobs I’ve held since finishing my MLS have functioned in the way you describe. My hours have been flexible and my work has been pretty independent, and I monitor my own time. If I get in at 835, I work until 435. It’s not that big a deal.

            There are absolutely professions and workplaces where it is, but vast majority seems like an overstatement to me.

            1. Allison*

              Right. My first job had a set time, so anyone who came in later than that time (or before that time, but too close to be able to start at that time) was considered late. Since that job, I’ve worked for companies where it’s expected you’ll start in the morning and end sometime in the late afternoon or evening most days, and you’ll be on time for meetings, but beyond that people come in when they come in. I’m in at 7:45 or 8, but if I came in at 8:30 for some reason the only consequence I might face is trouble finding a parking spot.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Same, I aim to get to the office at 7:30 because of traffic, but if I showed up at 8:30 instead nobody would bat an eye (although they might want to know if I was changing my normal schedule)

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              My current job is pretty flexible, our official start time is 8:00, but as long as you are in by 8:30, you are fine.

              My last couple have jobs have been like this, no one policing to see if you are at your desk and ready to work as soon as the bell dings. I know I appreciate the flexibility and so does my team. As someone said earlier in the comments, it also makes those days when I have to stay (really, really) late easier to handle.

              I’ve told the story in the comments before about the one employee who really, really abused this and was averaging a 9:45 start time. But honestly, it was part of a larger performance issue I had to correct.

            3. neverjaunty*

              But if your hours are flexible, then you’re still arriving within the appropriate time, right? You’re not wandering in at 2 in the afternoon. By ‘flexible’ you mean that your employer is OK with your arriving within a certain range – say 8:30-9 instead of on the dot at 8.

              Being on time absolutely is a baseline, fundamental job expectation. In a lot of professional jobs that require an advanced degree, “on time” is less rigid because it’s not paid work. But it’s really not the workplace norm for employees to show up and leave whenever they want.

              1. Zillah*

                My boss is fine with me starting anywhere from 8 to 10 – she just asked that I choose a time and remain generally consistent. I chose 830, but if I walked in at 915 one day, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just have to stay until 515 or make up the hours the next day, since I’m not exempt. A few minutes after 10 wouldn’t be an issue, either, I don’t think, though I haven’t tested it.

                I don’t think anyone is this thread is arguing that it’s okay to show up three hours late, so I’m not sure where you’re getting that. It seems like this conversation has been about clock watching and being perfectly on time, which is not always a requirement.

              2. Al Lo*

                My job is “flexible” the way you describe. Most days, I arrive somewhere between 11 and 1. Today, I was in at 2:30. Last Friday, I didn’t come in at all. Some days, I’m checking email from home by 9, and then coming in later than that. Most days, I’m in the office for close to 8 hours. Some days, I’m here for 4. Others, I’m here for 11. Many days, I don’t leave for lunch — but some days, I’ll take 2 hours in the middle of the afternoon to go visit Santa with my nephew.

                My (professional) job truly is flexible in the sense of “be at all your meetings and appointments, and get everything done on time”.

            4. Sunflower*

              Yes Yes Yes. I’ve worked in both places- where being 5 mins late will get you written up on the spot and being 45 mins late won’t be noticed at all. I work in an office as non-exempt and usually get into the office within 15 mins of my start time. Our company is pretty hands off- no clocking in, my boss isn’t even in the same office as me. She trusts that I’ll put in the full day of work by either staying late or cutting my lunch short.

              It’s definitely a know your workplace/boss. I came in everyday on time or earlier the first few weeks of my job obviously. Once I realized it was okay to be a few minutes late, I stopped freaking out about getting in on the dot.

          2. Apollo Warbucks*

            I’ve had more freedom to set my schedule since working in professional environments than I ever did working fast food or retail.

            1. fposte*

              That’s where I think the big difference lies; you could also throw in call center work and maybe even other restaurant work, and a lot of receptionist positions. The higher you go, the fewer jobs will care about starting at 8:05, but in your early career, you’re a lot likelier to be in jobs where it matters. So our sampling at AAM is likely to be somewhat skewed because we’re more office workers, at least now. (No idea where the OP fits on this–just talking about startup times.)

              1. Oryx*

                This is very much field dependent, though, as is much of the advice found here.

                I’m a librarian. I have my MLIS. I’ve been working professionally as a librarian for almost 10 years, so I’m not early in my career, and I’ve managed multiple small libraries. In those cases where I am the only person scheduled to be at desk, yes, it is important I am there ready to go the minute the door opens because there will be patrons waiting. Heck, there are patrons waiting outside before we even open.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  This. My boss pretty much lets me determine my hours. Since I work with the public, they expect me to be there at the time it says on my office door. There are many reasons why a person could have a job requirement of being on time, every day.

                  I have a friend that runs his own biz. If he gets up in the morning and “feels” like having a late start, he can’t understand why his customer is angry about the late start. Clearly, it’s his biz and he can do as he wishes, the problem comes in so will the customers. If they wish to, they will go find someone else to do their work.

                2. fposte*

                  But I didn’t say “You will never have to do it again.” I said “the fewer jobs will care.” I didn’t even say “it’s rare.” Of course there are still fields where the start time is the start time; it’s just that it’s less common at higher levels.

                  And it’s funny because I thought of librarians when Zillah said after getting her MLIS she hadn’t had jobs that required her to be there on time; so many librarians do have that requirement.

                3. Zillah*

                  @ fposte – Yeah, I’m trying to avoid working in a public facing librarian role for this exact reason (among others)! I’ve been working in archiving.

            2. Kelly L.*

              Yup. This, so much. And it was amazing to discover that no one really cared when I went to the restroom, and didn’t want or need me to ask permission.

        4. Mike C.*

          Most of those activities are c0nsidered work activities. It’s not the employee’s fault it takes time to boot up a computer or that such time is perceived as “unproductive” by management.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And why is it that so many of the companies that don’t want you to boot up on the clock, are the same companies that have antiquated systems that take twenty minutes to boot up?

            1. Ms. Anne Thrope*

              I solved this problem for myself by leaving the blasted thing on all the time. I reboot once a week. It’s a shame to have to waste energy but there it is. I get aggravated at how long it takes to start up so I don’t start up.

          2. Bookworm*

            Don’t companies have to pay for the time that it takes to boot up the computer, etc? Not that it’s the hill I want to die on, but I have a vague recollection that it was established a boss cannot require that people come in 15 minutes early, unpaid, just to make sure their computer is all booted up by the time the clock hits 8. It was considered one of the costs of doing business.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think so, yeah. Same with super complicated suits of protective gear (not necessarily a “normal” uniform, but if you have something that takes forever to get in and out of). But people still sometimes take advantage of employees not knowing.

        5. Chinook*

          ” Employees who had a lax view of punctuality were some of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my career.”

          Can I just say that, in my experience, employees who have a lax view of punctuality at work often have it for other things as well. I am beginning to think that those who see no problem being on time for work but spending the next 15 minutes getting coffee, taking off their jacket, doing a bathroom run, etc. also think nothing of showing up right on time at a movie theatre but then spend 10 minutes buying snacks and then interrupt those who arrived on time by crawling over them to get to their choice of seats and then turn on their phone to text they arrived, etc. Or showing up at a performance time and expect the usher to open the doors for them to let them in. Or show up at church after the priest starts, interrupting his train of thought as they make noise as they get their kids settled. From what I see, those who this happens by accident are often embarrassed and try their best not to impose the results of their lateness on others. Those for whom this is a habit seem to have no regard about how this impacts others.

          And this is why I am a firm believer that early is on-time and on-time late. Once I explained it as the cultural expectation here to friends from a culture that wasn’t as focused on punctuality, they were suddenly able to show up with time to spare for emergencies and settling in.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              It depends on how it affects others. If you can be non-punctual without being inconsiderate, good on you.

              1. Bookworm*

                Well, really, almost no issue at work should be treated as an issue of moral character. You discuss how it impacts results, not what it says about an employee as a person.

                1. Anonymous Educator*

                  It depends where you work. I’ve generally worked at schools, and, yes, moral character matters when it comes to working with high schooler or young children.

                2. LouLouBee*

                  Hmm, I’d like to hear more of your thinking here. I feel like quite a bit of issues a work can show moral character. Now I wonder if I’m seeing more into it than there is

      4. Allison*

        Basically. My first job had a firm start time of 8:30, so they told everyone up front that that meant they wanted us coming in around 8:15 or so, so we’d have time to get settled, boot up our laptops, and actually start working at 8:30. Of course, after about 15-30 minutes people would be going to the bathroom, getting coffee, going on bagel runs, etc. And I wondered why it was okay to do all that stuff at 8:50 but you had to have your butt in your seat at 8:30. What was the difference? It wasn’t a call center or any kind of customer service job, it made sense that we needed to work during “normal work” hours and I know some people interfaced with clients (*some* of us, not all or even most of us), but I doubted that anyone was going to call at 8:30 and be mad that the phone wasn’t answered.

        IMO, a business needs a reason to require people’s presence at a specific time each day, and “we want a sense of structure and discipline” isn’t a good reason because your employees aren’t school children.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can see in general why structure and discipline would seem like kindergarten all over again. But if you look at it more closely, much of life runs on structure and disciple. For example, diet, exercise, health care, budgeting finances, maintenance of household items, etc.
          In the opposite extreme if everyone is running about, willy-nilly, the business can become in danger of failing. A regular weekly/ monthly paycheck is chained to regular weekly/ monthly tasks to maintain a biz that is providing that paycheck.

          While I am totally and vehemently against micromanaging people, I think that there has to be a basic framework in place and everyone stays within that framework. It’s necessary for the business to sustain itself and for people to have regular and predictable paychecks.

          1. Allison*

            Right, the difference is that when you’re adult, you structure your own life. You generally know what rules need to be in place for you to get things done. In the absence of a set start time, most people know whether they work best if they start first thing or if they work better when they sleep in and work into the evening, and everyone knows they need to be on time for their meetings. We also have a sense of what guidelines we need to follow in order to stay on top of dishes, laundry, house cleaning, etc. We don’t need other people constantly telling us exactly when things need to be done in order to ensure they get done.

            It’s fine for a workplace to have some rules in place to ensure that people aren’t wasting company resources or distracting each other, and deadlines exist for a reason, but telling people they have to start work at 8:30 just to make sure they actually come into the office in the morning and get their work done, despite the fact that is actually makes no difference what time they start working, isn’t reasonable when you’re working with adults.

      5. Paquita*

        This again. My department will be moving into our new building (annex) in March. We have already had a meeting about the coffee! Now there is a coffee machine on each floor. In the annex there will be none. People will have to walk to the break room in the old building to get coffee. It is not far, the two buildings are connected by a breezeway but it will take longer. They are already anticipating problems with this.

    2. blackcat*

      I think this is likely, too.

      It’s just like when I taught high school. If class started at 8:15am, I expected students to have their work out, be settled, and ready to get to work. As a general rule, we didn’t let kids use the bathroom in the first half of first period. The reasoning was, they should get to school early enough to use the bathroom before then.

      It being school, I was 100% explicit and clear about these expectations. I viewed them as one of the many parts of school that was training them for the workforce. “Class starts at 8:15” means “you’re ready to work at 8:15” not “you walk in the door at 8:15.”

        1. Chinook*

          “I think that’s really different, though – high school and a workplace.”

          I don’t unless your work is independently run and doesn’t directly impact others. High school classes are a lot like entry level jobs in that you don’t get to set your schedule and that is one of the reasons punctuality is taught as being important in schools. If a student waltzes in 15 minutes after I started teaching, the student not only interrupts whatever we are doing but either misses out on what was already covered, requiring me to repeat the entire lesson to her at a later point because I would presume what I am doing is relevant to what will be done later (wasting my time) or requires me to repeat myself during the class (wasting the time of everyone who was on time). Their actions directly impact others in the same way retail staff, receptionists, those who work in a factory and a whole host of other jobs impact how others can do their job.

          Never mind the fact that the concept of being “fashionably late” is all about making sure you are the centre of attention. this may not be the intention of late arrivers at work but it can enter the minds of those who see them doing this repeatedly.

          1. Heather*

            But nobody has said that flexible start times should apply to any of the jobs you mentioned, and Alison always carves out an exception for rigid-start kinds of jobs when she answers questions like OP’s.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This was a huge problem where my family member taught. She looked closer to find out why it was happening and found that kids did not have breakfast, they had no winter coats, etc. As she went further along, kids told her stories of pushing a rat off the breakfast table each morning. The kids inability to settle into class could be traced back to some pretty awful stories.

        1. Chinook*

          “She looked closer to find out why it was happening and found that kids did not have breakfast, they had no winter coats, etc.”

          So lateness actually pointed to a larger problem that could/should be solved instead of just blindly accepting it as acceptable? Schools who do supply breakfasts often have them set up so that they are finished eating before classes so that the children don’t become the centre of attention.

          1. A Teacher*

            Unless the bus is running late or there’s an issue with getting to school outside their control. I typically let kids eat breakfast in my room if they clean up their mess–if they leave a mess, they go on a 2 week food ban in my room. It works every time.

        2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          All of this lateness discussion reminds me of my fourth grade year. For various childcare reasons, my mother had to drop us off at 7 at a private daycare that would in theory take us to school by 8. Hereinafter called “the stupid bus place” (because that’s what we all called it). They were run horribly (and several of the other children were nightmares and would constantly throw fits about getting on the bus) so we were routinely late to school. Never mind that I’d been up and dressed since 6 am. Always late. My fourth grade teacher was old-school and constantly complained about how late I was every time. They’d call my mom, they’d try to give me “detention”… As if I had any control about how I as a 9 year old made it to school 7 miles from my house. To this day my mom doesn’t know who she’s more angry with, the school for fussing or the stupid bus place for routinely failing to do their job.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Most of the teachers I had in high school were a bit more forgiving about walking in right at 8 (when the first bell rang) because mornings are hectic for a lot of people and policing minor tardiness made it far more disruptive than just ignoring it. They were a lot less forgiving when you strolled into, say, third period three minutes late.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          My middle school was large enough and crowded enough to make it hard to get from one end of the school to another in the allotted time, especially for smaller, slower, or less assertive (or aggressive) kids. I’m not a fan of strict clock-watching even with kids. (Especially since the same school that was a stickler for punctuality often turned a blind eye to bullying and violence.)

    3. Winter is Coming*

      I must admit my envy of everyone writing in to say they have flexible start times. I’ve been in the professional work force for 22 years (3 positions in all), and I’ve never had this flexibility, it sounds wonderful!! For me, it’s been butt in chair, ready to work, at 8am. Anyone walking in anytime after that gets the side eye. We are in a service field though, so although it’s not a call center, we do have customers who begin calling right at 8am to place orders or with general inquiries. So, if you’re not at your desk, someone else has to take your call for you. This is certainly fine occasionally, but wouldn’t work out well on a regular basis. Promptness is definitely important here; but I see in many cases it’s not always necessary. Interesting to read the different scenarios at different workplaces, and to see that what works for one company or department, won’t work for another.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, most of the people I know with flexible start times work in the tech industry (and sometimes get to work from home).

        Every job I’ve had, whether exempt or non-exempt, has had a fairly strict start time.

        When I was a classroom teacher, I had to be there when school started, obviously, and for my own sanity I would often arrive early, just to do some prep in my classroom (writing stuff on the chalkboard—yes, I taught that long ago—or just having some peace and quiet before the students arrived).

        One exempt office job I had involved a boss who was a stickler for start and end times (exactly arrive at 8:00, exactly leave at 4:30, and boy did people leave exactly at 4:29:59!).

        Another job I had I was the receptionist for an office, and I had to be there exactly when our office opened. And by “be there” I mean ready to answer phones or greet in-person visitors, not in the bathroom.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. I tend to apply as soon as a job advert is posted. By soon, I mean within 48 hours, allowing for time to tailor my CV, write the cover letter and not rush.

    1. Revolver Rani*

      That’s great if you happen to see it. I think the letter-writer was asking about a situation in which one day during her job search, she came across a job ad that was (say) a month old.

      I agree with Alison: Apply. The job I have now was open for a year before I got it. I am now hiring for my team and the job’s been open for a month; I’ve done exactly one phone interview, and we’re not anywhere close to hiring someone. Maybe not all jobs are looking for a particularly hard-to-find set of skills and career goals (and I suppose we are); but still, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.

  7. Aswin Kini MK*

    Hi Allison,

    I have been a regular reader of your blog and found most of your advice pretty useful.

    Btw, just wanted to post this comment to say that your response to OP no 5 in this post (that began with Yo Alison!) was pretty hilarious!
    I am not referring to the advice, but rather you hyperlinking it to a earlier post on email etiquette :) You simply rock!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The letter-writer gets credit for doing that! (Make sure you let the page that it links to load completely — it actually goes to a comment deep in the comment section on that page on the number of people who have opened their emails to me in various ways. I had mentioned that 13 people opened with “yo Alison.”)

        1. PontoonPirate*

          If I write a letter, I shall begin with, “Oh, hi, Alison,” and hope she knows the wonders of Tommy Wiseau.

          1. Allison*

            Any time I e-mail someone named Mark I want to greet them like that! But without knowing the context, it might sound funny to them.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        In all the times I have corresponded with you, I have never once started with “yo”. I just looked back and found:

        1) Hi
        2) Hey
        3) Most often, absolutely no salutation at all.

        I am deeply ashamed.

        Philly Girl

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            S’up Bryn Mawr?

            And you know I’m Philly if I called someone from Bryn Mawr, “Bryn Mawr”! :p

            (I worked in Bryn Mawr for 5 years back in the day. At an insurance place named for a dude with a really large signature. Bryn Mawr is great. )

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            I got no problem. Youse guys are the ones with a problem.

            Ha ha. I love this place.

        1. LBK*

          Maybe this is just me, but I have a special place in my heart for the colleagues with whom I’m comfortable exchanging a “hey” salutation. I have one in particular who can be a very tough person to read and who has extremely high standards for the work that’s produced for him, so when I graduated to getting a “hey” from him instead of a “hi” (or, worst of all, just my name with no greeting) it felt like it came with an implicit level of trust, like he could afford to be casual with me without worrying that it would muddy the seriousness of his message or my vigilance in addressing it.

          (I pray I am not the only dork here who reads this much into email greetings.)

  8. Ellie H.*

    I’m very into free bathroom access, but it seemed to me that what the boss meant is to be “present and accounted for” between 8 and 8:05 so that it is really clear you aren’t late, and it was just expressed really poorly and confusingly in terms of bathroom access. Like it could easily have been “don’t be away in the coffee machine room making coffee at that time” instead?

  9. Merry and Bright*

    #1 I actually had a manager at OldHorribleWorkplace who made this same restriction. The thinking was that you should be at your desk at ExactStartTime so management could see who was actually on time, and not saying “Oh, I was on time but was in the bathroom”.

    His deputy also said you should make sure you went to the bathroom before you left home so then you (apparently) wouldn’t need to use the staff loos on arrival at work. Happy days…

    1. Kathlynn*

      I actually do this. Probably something left over from high school, where teachers wouldn’t let us go to the washroom in the first or last 15 minutes of the class. It still feels wrong to go to the washroom at the beginning of my shift.

    2. Vulcan social worker*

      So no one at that workplace had an hour commute? Must be nice. I’ve worked six subway stops from my apartment and an hour-plus in the car. Using the toilet before leaving home, especially for those who drink coffee or tea on their commute, does not mean one won’t need it again soon after arrival at work. Maybe if you live six subway stops away. I miss that.

      I had one admin job where I answered the phones. Even there it wasn’t strict butt-in-seat at 8:30. No one covered them during my lunch. It was the kind of office where if someone heard the main number ringing and they could get to it (when I wasn’t there or was on another call), they would pick it up, but if it went to voicemail, it wasn’t a big deal and the appropriate person would return the call. I only had one job that was strict with time. I found that stressful. I always felt like someone would think I was slacking if they saw me reading during my 30 minute unpaid lunch and I felt like the manager was probably timing everyone’s arrival, lunch, and departure. Everywhere else, I’ve been exempt and no one cared if I chose to make my start time 8:30 or 9:00 or if I spent the first 15 minutes getting coffee because I worked more than 40 hours anyway and I managed to show up on time or early and prepared for meetings.

      1. Allison*

        “Must be nice.”

        This phrase makes me cringe. CRINGE!

        I do agree that many people do need to use the bathroom after getting to work. I drink my energy shot after I get to the office so I don’t get the urge to poo while I’m driving, but I usually have to make a bathroom run pretty early on. That said, if I was working a shift job with a strict butt-in-seat time, I’d try to build in that bathroom time before my shift or just try to delay my caffeine fix for half an hour or so.

        And I agree that unnecessarily strict time policies cause unnecessary stress. It’s part of why I’m against them, unless there’s a real business need for it.

        1. Winter is Coming*

          Your first two sentences make me think of a frequent conversation I’ve had with my sister. Every time I mention a book that I’ve read, she always replies, “must be nice to have time to read.” I always have to remind her that her 5k/half ironman training and various other physical fitness pursuits take a LOT of time, and that we both have the same 24 hours in a day! It’s kind of become a joke in our family at this point…”must be nice.”

          1. Allison*

            I know it’s sometimes said innocently, like “it must be nice to have your son home for Christmas” but 90% of the time it’s a snarky, unnecessarily rude remark that’s usually meant to imply someone is doing something they shouldn’t, or they’re slacking off, or they have something nice that they don’t deserve. It almost always sounds bitter and hostile.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Lol. It does seem every time someone says “must be nice” that they are overlooking a choice they made that prevents them from doing that thing that “must be nice” for YOU to do.

            Your sister should look into audiobooks. I prefer to read, but when I was training 10 hrs/week, I had to do a few audiobooks before I went nuts with the same old podcasts or music.

            1. Winter is Coming*

              That is a GREAT idea! I will pass this along to her. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this! I think part of her issue is that she just doesn’t really like to read, but doesn’t want to come out and say that. Not my place to point this out though… :) Personally, I read while I work out on the stationary bike or the treadmill, so I’m accomplishing two great things at once!

            2. Vulcan social worker*

              Oh, I wasn’t serious. I was imagining the world that manager must live in where everyone can afford to live near work, or doesn’t need to live in between a spouse/partner’s job or near kids’ schools, or didn’t buy a home in a different area of the city before taking the job, and has no medical condition requiring frequent bathroom trips. I only have to take my own household needs into account and can choose whether to spend more money to live closer to work or less for more space and a longer commute, and I own my choices. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said “must be nice” out loud to anyone, and probably never online in a comment before this either.

    3. Squeegee Beckenheim*

      Even if you use the bathroom before leaving for work, there’s still the possibility that the need for a #2 will arise. I know my body likes to do these things at the most inconvenient time possible, and if you told me I couldn’t use the bathroom in a short window, that’s exactly when it would want to.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s like when we get an email saying the bathroom is temporarily unavailable. As soon as I read that, I need to pee.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          I’ll get to the bathroom door and see the “CLOSED” sign for cleaning, and suddenly I have to sprint to another wing or floor. Something about the yellow sign?

    4. Temperance*

      My train ride is 45 minutes. It’s wholly likely that I might have to pee again by the time I get to work, and I’m not using the gross train station bathrooms to placate some douche.

  10. Spinnerlynne*

    Re #5:

    I’m just a year into actually applying for jobs/having a job so maybe I’ve just been lucky (it does feel like a fairytale), but last year I sent in an application for a summer job the evening before the closing date. I got the job.* After the summer I also got part-time work there during term-time while I was finishing up my degree (which is ongoing — I graduate in June). My first day at work after Christmas, a few colleagues pointed out that the org was hiring for permanent positions and the deadline was in three days. I sent in my application on the day of the deadline. That was four weeks ago yesterday, when I accepted their offer of a full-time, permanent position starting a week after I graduate!

    So if it’s a job you’re excited about (I guess if you would have applied to it if you had seen it sooner after the ad was posted) it’s still worth applying.

    * Of course there were other applications that didn’t yield even an interview. I can’t remember how early or late any of those applications were though.

  11. Fish Microwaver*

    OP3, please talk to your staffer, just as Alison suggests. If she is already well paid, the opportunity to gain necessary teapotian experience will be more valuable than a small salary bump. I find it interesting and refreshing that you don’t want to exploit her. I wish I worked with you.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      Yes! OP, this is what is called being a good manager. You are offering to help your staff member better themselves and develop new marketable skills. Don’t worry about exploiting her unless your designs are to exploit and keep her in the job forever more doing teapotian work.

  12. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    This sounds like an inside sales job, which, is what we do so I’m in somewhat familiar territory. I have a mite of compassion for the boss.

    First off, I could never keep a high performing inside sales staff if I treated them that way. People in my area have too many options to want to stay with, or work well for, somebody who bitched at them about bathroom time.

    That said, you have to think about the customers calling in, who need to taken care of, and the co-workers who get irritated with High Performing Jane who seems to get away with a lot more than the next person. As cray cray as what he said sounds, there may be background to make it less crazy like, the guy wants to look up at 8am and see that however many seats he needs filled at that time are filled and then move onto the next thing on his to do, knowing he’s full and there’s not outstanding “I’m sick” “my car didn’t start” “my dog threw up in my shoe and I’m running 2 hours late” calls about to come in where he has to deal with being short.

    In that light, it’s not a ton to ask to just be where you are supposed to be on time and then hit the bathroom 15 minutes later.

    We don’t, and can’t, do that. What we do is have hyper punctual people start our day off, and then the rollers in roll in and, we’ve all been together long enough, we all know who the rollers in are and nobody gets excited when Chronic Roller In #3 rolls in at 9:20 instead of 9am. We’ve actually planned for that, including the co-workers.

    But I have some compassion for boss dude in the OP.

    1. TowerofJoy*

      I don’t get annoyed at Chronic Roller In #3 anymore, because I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that’s just how they are for whatever reason. I do sometimes get annoyed though that our morning meeting has to be at 10 when I’m just hitting my morning working stride because CRI #3 doesn’t get in til 9:20, and by the time they put their stuff away, get their coffee, settle in, check their mail and get ready its 10. I know CRI #3 doesn’t know or care, and its not worth saying anything to the boss but its annoying that I have to conform my work schedule to their life habits. That’s life though, I suppose.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yep and I know for a fact that my hyper punctual folks, who do otherwise like CR #3, are sometimes annoyed similarly. Because it does impact them. (We don’t schedule any meetings before 10! :) )

        What’s a manager to do? Just the best you can to make everybody’s job as easy/high functioning as possible.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m a roller to avoid rush hour traffic (through an industrial area, full of trucks) because it often makes me late anyway and aggravates me to the point where I arrive at work all crabby. There isn’t anything pressing usually at 8 am–so I come in at 8:30 and leave at 4:30. But if I had a meeting earlier one day, I’d just come in earlier. If someone called a meeting for 4-5 unexpectedly, I’d stay late.

        I think if you are allowed to roll, then you need to adjust to the rest of the office, not them to you. But my schedule adjustments are on me, not the people I meet with. If someone said, “Hey, we need to do X at 8 on Thursday,” I’d just have to figure it out, not insist that X take place later.

  13. Felicia*

    For #5 I’ve actually noticed the same pattern of when the posting is up for let’s say a month, the stronger candidates tend to apply within the last 3 days or so. Though the person we ended up hiring the last time applied like 5 days after it was posted, and she’s working out great, so it’s not a hard and fast rule or anything, just a trend

  14. Dangerfield5*

    #5, I tend to apply for jobs on the posting’s closing date or just before because I just don’t job search that frequently and I’m busy! It’s never been a problem.

  15. Moral panic*

    I’m one of those employees who rush in on the minute or a minute late – I take off my coat and get straight to work. The entire reason that I rush is because (prior to walking to work) I take care of all my business. By 9:05 I have always accomplished something, sometimes more than coworkers who were early! If I immediately ducked into the bathroom, I wouldn’t expect my boss to tolerate this…

  16. The Cosmic Avenger*

    My first thought with question #2 was that some places (Oregon?) mandate 2 weeks of sick leave, and 2 weeks of vacation is generally the minimum for most exempt office jobs in my experience…but then I realized my experience isn’t typical.

    What about the rest of you? I feel like since this company isn’t offering any paid leave, the OP shouldn’t feel like it’s an imposition at all on the employer. I know it might inconvenience them, but by not offering paid leave they’re erecting a significant barrier to taking any leave whatsoever anyway, so to me that more than counterbalances the inconvenience to them. If they offered paid leave, I’d say sure, try to plan it around their busy times, but if they don’t pay it out, use it before you lose it.

    1. Chinook*

      ” I feel like since this company isn’t offering any paid leave, the OP shouldn’t feel like it’s an imposition at all on the employer.”

      Up here in Canada, where paid leave is required, it is possible for there technically not to have paid time off. Instead, you get an extra 7% (or whatever the equivalent of 2 weeks vacation is pro-rated) on your pay cheque with the understanding that you are suppose to manage this extra money to cover any time off you may take. My mother runs a store with only 3 employees and does this but also allows them to take time off when they request it. It is possible that a new employee may never see the other two take time off for over a year but that is because the others are saving up to take a month off the following year (and my mother knows and will be arranging schedules accordingly, including upping her hours on the sales floor).

      What it boils down to, #2, is you don’t know why the other employees aren’t taking time off and it may be their choice. The only way you will know for sure is if you ask your boss.

    2. Retail HR Guy*

      In Oregon it’s actually only 40 hours of sick time (so five sick days for full timers). Also, for an office as small as OP #2 indicates it would actually be unpaid leave (smaller employers are required to comply with the time off component but not the pay component).

      And this is considered a “progressive” law in the US.

  17. Future Teapotian*

    Hmmm, sounds like a library. ;) I have to say, #3, you sound like a dream and I can only hope to have a supervisor like yourself some day. Thanks for making me hopeful.

    1. Seal*

      I was thinking the same thing. About a decade ago I successfully made the transition from library staff member to librarian after attending library school through distance education while working full time. While I was in library school and while I was job hunting I was ALWAYS looking for professional development opportunities and projects to further my skills so I would have a leg up on other graduates. While my boss at the time was otherwise a nightmare, one of the few good things he did for me was encourage me to pursue such opportunities and find projects for me to do that were beyond what people in my job class usually did. It ultimately made a huge difference when I went out on interviews and helped me get the job I have today. Although my boss and I ultimately had a huge falling out before I left and I’ve not spoken to him since, I do own him a debt of gratitude for helping me move up. As a librarian and department head, I feel obligated to pay it forward and push my staff members with aspirations of librarian position to pursue the same types of opportunities I had. That’s the whole point of being a professional. Good on OP #3 for wanting to do the same for their staff member.

      1. Teapotian OP*

        OP here – you guessed it, I was talking about a library environment. I think I’m sensitive to the issue because it’s not uncommon for library staff to also have the professional degree (for a variety of reasons) and it can start to feel exploitative if organizations are hiring professionals in staff positions and routinely getting but not paying for professional work. And then there’s the potential for role confusion within the library (when do we expect different work to be done by different types of employees?) and from our users (students who think that everyone working in a library is a librarian – when is that distinction important?).

        But Alison’s and readers’ comments are helping me realize that I can still stay sensitive to the issues but find ways to offer productive opportunities. Related to another comment below, it’s right to consider how projects for this person shouldn’t negatively impact others (creating more work for them). We can do that!

        1. Aggie*

          Just scrolling down to comment that this sounds like a library!

          OP, I would ask: does your organization provide a pathway for the degreed paraprofessional staff to move into professional positions? Do you have a lot of degreed librarians in your paraprofessional positions? Are they consistently doing professional-level work? These are the questions that can really help you evaluate whether your question, which is reasonable and an excellent opportunity in many contexts, can be unhelpful in an inherently exploitative context.

          1. Teapotian OP*

            We don’t have a lot and I think our boundaries are good.

            It wouldn’t be a direct pathway within my organization because all searches are public. But it could make her more competitive for future positions we might have or for other positions in library land.

        2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Not a librarian but a technologist who apprenticed vs. having a degree, and this is an excellent approach to offer. It’s how I got my start in my career. The trade off of less pay for more exciting work and responsibility can be a fair trade in itself.

          Please make sure that advancement options are clear, if this is not a definite path to promotion, and spell out how the new skills will help. Additionally, point out the reasons why you are giving that challenge and what skills will translate. Giving a firm root of confidence based on evidence helps, at least for me. Like Alison says, present to her and see what her interest is.

  18. Allison*

    #5, you have nothing to lose by trying! Well, okay, you spend half an hour or so tailoring your resume, but it’s worth it if it’s a job you want! It’s true that for a job that doesn’t require a niche skillset, in an industry with a ton of job seekers, they may get the candidates they want in the first couple of days and may not bother with the resumes that come in after, but in my line of work, our jobs are sometimes open for months before we find the candidate we want. So if you want the job, go ahead and apply!

  19. Ms. Didymus*

    I just want to take a moment to remind folks that there are jobs where it really isn’t ok to be a few minutes late.

    For example, I would be pretty livid if my team was “a few minutes” late “every now and then.” Why? Because if they aren’t at their desk and logged in, no one is answer the phones. No one. And the calls are going to a message saying we aren’t open. And then those customers get angry and email. Me.

    In many contact center jobs, they staff based on call volume and being “a few minutes” late can snowball into long wait times in queue. When I worked in a contact center with over 700 people, you could tell when one or two people were late because suddenly the queue would spike.

    1. Mike C.*

      We’re all aware of this. It’s just that the boss didn’t make a business case for being so unreasonably demanding.

      1. Allison*


        We get that there are jobs where punctuality is important. I’ve had those jobs! I’ve had jobs where I’ve had to stay 5-15 minutes past the end of my shift because whoever had the next shift was late. But most of us know that there are jobs where it’s important to be on time and jobs where it isn’t, and demanding that people start work at a specific time on the dot are unnecessarily strict.

      2. neverjaunty*

        We don’t know what the “business case” is, and OP also didn’t say that her workplace is one where start times are irrelevant.

  20. Dasha*

    #2 Like Alison said you need time off. I feel like this is a recipe for burn out and it can’t be maintained long term (over several years).

  21. Roscoe*

    #1 Its pretty ridiculous out of context, however in some ways I suppose I could see it. Our office lines officially open at 8, and there are certain times of the year when the phone is ringing exactly at that time. If OP is the first one in an responsible for handling those calls, I could see the need for something like that. It was phrased poorly, but do get wanting there to be someone covering the phones when the lines are open. So if the next person doesn’t come in until say 8:30, I don’t think its wrong to ASK them to try to make sure they are at their desk between 8-8:30 until someone is in.

    1. S.I. Newhouse*

      If that’s a concern — and I have a feeling that’s what the problem actually is at OP #1’s workplace — her workplace should do what mine does: Have the official start time be 8:45 a.m. (and paid as such) so that everyone is all set for the opening of business at 9 a.m. Not ordering her not to use the bathroom between 9 and 9:05, which is just… a lousy thing to do.

  22. Temperance*

    Re: LW#1

    I would just accept this as a quirk of your manager and move on. I personally don’t do well with places that expect butts in seats at a certain time. Treat me like a professional adult, and I will do my job in whatever time it takes me. If you want me in to work at 6:45 a.m. for a special event, I’ll be there. Just don’t get mad if I’m 5 minutes late on occasion.

    I do think it’s a bit ridiculous that your boss is not willing to grant the top salesperson some perks. I ran into an issue with some of the secretaries at my current job when I first started, because they didn’t know what I do and thought that I was a secretary with a lighter workload than they had. I worked to correct that assumption, but my boss didn’t ban me from certain activities and perks because of appearance. Then again, I don’t share a boss with the secretaries, so they had no clue.

    1. Triangle Pose*

      Temperance, are you a pro bono lawyer/pro bono coordinator at your firm? I thought that was your current job from some of your previous posts, but I can’t imagine the pro bono person at a firm being confused with “a secretary with a lighter work load” by the other secretaries. It’s funny, at my firm, the secretaries are concerned about their own arrival and exit time, but the attorneys themselves are 9ish-6ish on regular days, but there is plenty of flexibility.

      1. Temperance*

        That is my job! I’m younger than the secretaries, by a lot in some cases, and prior to my firm really developing their program, my supervisor had a part-time secretary to help her with some administrative issues. So the secretarial team thought that I was that woman’s replacement, with a full-time schedule.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          Ah, that makes sense! That’s an awesome position, congrats! I do sometimes forget that we have a ton of former practicing lawyers who work in administration, management (but not partner level, so like deputy?) and professional development. (I always remember pro bono!) It does make sense that some of the secretaries had that misconception. It’s funny, where I am, the secretaries are in their 50’s+ and are lifers, whereas a lot of firms in NYC and DC (where a lot of my law school friends are) have secretaries and paralegals who are just out of college/future law school candidates. It makes for a totally different staff/office culture.

  23. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, don’t think of it as exploitation when it’s a mutually beneficial “transaction” (and you are *offering* it to her, she can say no).

    She gets the opportunity to try higher-level work in a low-risk environment — you’ll be there to answer questions and do some hand-holding, which would likely not be offered to her if she were just trying to apply for “entry-level teapotian,” if that makes sense. And, in fact, many employers wouldn’t even consider hiring a “teapotian” who doesn’t already have some level of teapotian experience, so you are also giving her an opportunity she wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Your company gets some teapotian-level work out of her now while paying a teapot staff-level salary, and potentially a well-trained person who’s ready to assume full teapotian duties in the future, at which point yes, she should be offered a teapotian-level salary.

    I’m in this situation sometimes — not so much for promotion from one level to the next, but sometimes an employee wants to broaden her skill set beyond what I can immediately offer on my team. In that case, I will try to identify opportunities for her to work on one-off projects for other teams, and if possible I will shift workload among members of my own team to free up some time for that employee to do so. But if I can’t do so in a way that’s fair to my other direct reports, I will tell that employee that getting this experience is going to require putting in extra hours, and is she okay with that? If the answer is no, then I don’t hold it against her; if the answer is yes, I don’t consider that exploitation, because again, the employee is getting experience she wants and maybe couldn’t get otherwise.

    1. Chinook*

      “#3, don’t think of it as exploitation when it’s a mutually beneficial “transaction” (and you are *offering* it to her, she can say no).”

      I agree. It is also possible that she is in the lower level work with a higher degree because she couldn’t find anything else. I would kill for the opportunity to be a teacher’s aide but am not allowed to by the teacher’s union because I am a licensed teacher (even though there are a hundred teachers applying for one position) because they don’t want us to be exploited. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded not having the legal responsibilities and parental interactions that go with the lower paying job if it meant having a job in the field. Exploit me all you want, I say!

      Plus, the flip side of asking her is you may find out that, after taking the training, she realized she didn’t like being a teapotian and preferred being a skilled teapot worker. I have friends who got their teaching degree and, during their practicums, discovered they hated teaching. But, they weren’t going to throw away three years of university, so they finished their last year, earned their B.Ed. and treated it like a B.A. when it came to applying for jobs. Sometimes the higher responsibilities take you away from what you enjoy about the industry and you are more than willing to “settle” for doing what you enjoy even if others see you as overqualified for the position and it doesn’t earn you the same money.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I wondered if there were situations like you describe, where regulations could stop the OP from giving the teapot staffer the teapotian work (although the teaching situation is flipped, where you can’t do the lower-level job with the higher qualifications).

        Most of the cases I can think of that apply to the lower-to-higher job class direction would be like a journeyman tradesperson not doing the master job, but usually they can do the work as long as it’s “under” the master’s direction.

  24. Not So NewReader*

    OP, this is silly and probably not applicable. I have worked places where people were discouraged from using the bathrooms at certain times, the reason was because if everyone flushed at once the system could not handle it. I don’t think this is your situation and you would know if this was a problem. But sometimes stupid stuff drives company expectations.

      1. Meg Murry*

        That’s what I was wondering – if OP arrived with time to spare but the bathroom wasn’t available until 8 am because gym guy was in there getting ready!

        This is an example for that OP as to how someone monopolizing the bathroom can get other people in trouble :-)

  25. Ad Astra*

    When I got my current job, the HR person I’d been dealing with said “People usually show up at the office between 8 and 8:30,” and she meant it. Since then, my mornings have been far less stressful than when I was expected to be at work by 8 on the dot. I would go crazy at a place (or in a position) where someone noticed that I was 3 minutes late.

    1. Heather*


      Whenever there’s a question like #1, the comments make me want to force all potential employers to fill out a policy position questionnaire like they do to political candidates. Except instead of “should the government take action against climate change?” and “in what circumstances should abortion be legal?”, it would say “do you believe that being 10 minutes late is a sign of disrespect?” and “should reasonable personal internet usage be permitted as long as their work performance is good?” And then I would vote for my jobs based on the answers :)

      1. LQ*

        I would want it to include things like firing people who are nice but crappy at their jobs too. Because frankly? I’m fine being to work on time. I do not like places that refuse to fire someone because it’s “hard” or the person is nice or has a family.

      2. Temperance*

        I like this. If I couldn’t occasionally read AAM/ or shop on Amazon, I’d be a far worse employee.

      3. Vulcan social worker*

        That would be great, but I’ll bet instead of seeing employers telling prospective employees their thoughts, we’ll instead start seeing employers make candidates fill these out and make hiring decisions based on them. And then we’ll all have to pretend we will never be late or use the internet for anything but work, as if we don’t all know what the right answers are supposed to be. Unless it’s a trick from a more relaxed employer to find cultural fit! Oh no! What to do?

        1. Heather*

          If I ran the world, the questionnaires would be anonymous and there would be an algorithm to match up employees and companies according to their preferences :)

  26. Rae*

    While things happen, I’ve never had a job that it’s ok to be “more or less on time” when I was expected to be there. As a work study I had to be on time because I was responsible to run reports. As a short order in the college cafeteria I had to do prep (which took a half hour) before the dinner shift began. As a manager of a bookstore we had to have the computers running (45 mins) before we opened. And now, I work an a college where we have phone lines. Our phones must be ready to go by 8am or it creates work for others.

    There are coffee runs, bathroom breaks, etc but once everyone’s here we can visually check coverage. Perhaps the manager should of been more tactful, but I believe that when you are supposed to work at 8, that means 8 and not 8:05 unless it’s a rare emergency.

      1. Rae*

        I do, but growing up in a military town and having it embedded in my roots, I also don’t understand the general lack of punctuality from the civilian population. Lateness was not something ever considered appropriate unless a real emergency.

        1. Bookworm*

          As someone who has pretty much only exclusively worked at jobs where you can roll in (in fact, people would show up between 7am and 10am, depending on the department) – in this case, I wouldn’t call it lack of punctuality. It’s more people setting and adjusting their own schedule. For example, if I have a call with London at 8am, I won’t miss that. I’ll be in my seat at 8. Maybe tomorrow, when I don’t have that call, I’ll stop for a bagel and arrive at 9. These weren’t necessarily roles that required that people be in the office at the same time every day.

          Of course punctuality is still important, it’s just not necessarily measured by the time you’re sitting in your desk (are your reports on time? are you on time to meetings? do you promptly respond to important calls?).

          And for all the talk I’ve seen on this thread about how punctuality reflects character, I would say that the company I worked at didn’t have an issue with people not showing up when they were needed. (At least, not that I noticed.)

        2. Vulcan social worker*

          It’s called cultural fit, and in this case, it’s the culture of a particular workplace or industry, rather than the culture of a country or region, as A Bug! is describing. One of the places I’ve worked was a research organization (social, no lab needed) where we didn’t work with a large network of outside people. The general public could order publications, but they mostly did that online. So it was fine to come in any time in the morning, because as long as you did your research/writing/whatever, it didn’t really matter what time of day you were doing it and anyone who needed to reach you had your cell number. It was just the culture of the workplace, set by the executive director. That’s definitely the loosest place I’ve ever worked. Every place has had a different level of caring about face time and punctuality. I find that I prefer places that are not so rigid. I leave myself enough time to get places for meetings and such, but if I’m just in the office, I really don’t like to feel like someone is tracking when I come and go. I think neverjaunty hit it with the idea that many of us chose fields where we had more flexibility with our schedules (and I recognize what a privilege that is and that so many people do not have a lot of choice about that).

        3. Observer*

          So? I get it – in the military things run to the minute. But, the key point still stands. Not everything runs that way. Some things do, but others don’t. And when they don’t a manager who makes an issue of it, is – AT BEST – not a good manager.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, but there are many, many, many jobs that do. It’s just that this blog tends to skew towards the viewpoint of skilled white-collar workers whose jobs are time-flexible and task-focused, and in many cases, who chose their field at least in part so they could have those jobs.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure, I don’t disagree. The problem I see is that many people who are used to jobs that require rigid schedules sound like they’re assuming that’s universal, when it’s far from it.

        2. Rae*

          Still two of my examples were not skilled white collar. Short order in a college caf is about as far from white collar as you can get. I was still expected to be on time, every time.

          1. LBK*

            I think you read that backwards – white collar jobs are typically the ones where you’re allowed flexibility, whereas blue collar/shift work typically has punctuality requirements. In all the examples you gave, you had to be there at a specific time because there were specific time-sensitive tasks that had to be done. That doesn’t apply in every job, or at least not always in a consistent manner.

            As for your comment about lack of punctuality in the civilian world, punctuality only applies when there’s an actual required deadline. There’s no such thing as “being late” for me because there’s no time I’m expected to be at work. I guess if I came in at 11:30 that would probably be pushing it, but in general I start work anywhere between 7:30 and 9:30, as does most of my department. Some of that depends on whether I have things I have to do earlier in the morning and some of it is just how early I wake up that day.

            I will say that there are definitely different levels of “punctuality” even when no official deadline is given, especially for social events. My boyfriend and I conflict on this a lot; he’s the type where if he wants to be somewhere by 8, it is unacceptably late to be there at 8:05, even if we’re not meeting people. I’m the type where if we don’t have a firm commitment like a reservation and it’s not a one-on-one thing where the other person will be left hanging until I arrive, any social timeline has an acceptable +/- 30 minute range. The bar will still be there even if I take an extra 10 minutes to get ready. Our friends will not die of separation anxiety if we have to wait for the next train to meet them at the club they’ve already been at all night.

    1. Karina Jameson*

      And what I see are people getting to work maybe 5 minutes late and then staying over an hour later, working weekends and nights, and generally putting in way more time than 40 hours. So a company wants you there on time, but you better not leave at 5:00 on the dot lest you be seen as a slacker! The hypocrisy is ridiculous.

      1. Rae*

        Please stick to the topic I presented if you wish to be a part of this thread. Schedule creep is not what I am speaking to. Being respectful and punctual is.

        1. fposte*

          Rae, it’s a discussion; people say all kinds of stuff, and they get to do that, as long as it’s not in breach of the commenting guidelines. It’s okay for people to go off on a tangent in a subthread.

        2. A Bug!*

          I don’t think that respectful and punctual are a “both or neither” pair. I get that you come from a background where punctuality is always important, and I give you credit for recognizing that “civilians” seem to value punctuality less than you’ve been taught to. But that’s not because civilians are disrespectful; it’s because they’re following the more relaxed and discretionary courtesy standards of civilian life. Whether or not tardiness is disrespectful in a civilian context depends on the circumstances.

          Where I live, it’s considered disrespectful not to take your shoes off when visiting someone else’s house, unless your host invites you to leave them on. But I’ve learned that in other places, it’s perfectly acceptable to assume it’s fine to leave them on and only take them off if they’re particularly dirty. It would be tacky of me to suggest that people living in those regions are being disrespectful by not following the local customs of my own region.

          I can’t imagine you hold civilians to military courtesy standards in other respects? If you don’t, why take the hard line on this subject?

  27. Karina Jameson*

    Why is someone working 8-6? Gosh, those are long hours. Whatever happened to “9-5?” It trickled to 8-5 and now is 8-6? When will this insanity of long hours and no rights stop?! I can hardly stand to read here seeing time and time again that a horrible boss has every legal right to be horrible.

    1. Rae*

      Chill your jets. It’s a 10 hour work day, but the OP never said it was 5 days a week. Or that she didn’t get an hour for lunch, or that there isn’t some sort of other reason. The 8-6 workday, for whatever reason, was the agreed upon parameters of the job. The OP should abide by the rules, jerk boss or not, because those are the terms of her employment. If you want to get into an argument about unpaid “overtime” do it someplace else. Something being wrong in one sector doesn’t give an employees rights to bend rules they’ve agreed to.

      1. Heather*

        Wow, that was kind of a rude response to a legitimate observation.

        Karina, I am with you on the slow expansion of the workday.

      2. Karina Jameson*

        Chill your own damn jets. It’s an observation that I’ve noticed ongoing, not this one incident. All you have to do is be a regular reader here (of which I am) to see that people work in an insane amount of time, often for jerks, and have little to no recourse if things get ridiculous and they are not treated well. So NO, I will NOT “chill my jets” when I see this problem.

        1. Rae*

          I am a long term reader. But bad behavior on the side of a business once an employee agrees is the employee’s problem. Not one they can shove off on a manager by being 5 minutes late.

          1. Karina Jameson*

            Oh look! It’s like you didn’t read my post – surprise, surprise! My vent was an observation that this schedule creep is happening all over the place. This is not just about this one person. And the hypocrisy of employers wanting someone there on the dot but they would have a real problem if the employee LEFT at the end of the day on the dot. Which I also hear about a lot. You can swing this the way you’d like all you want, but my point still stands.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      This! Schedule creep is real. I have coworkers who are on a 80% work schedule which is suppose to mean that they have Friday or Monday off, but in the world of email and laptop and constant accessibility, schedule creep is so real so essentially they get paid 80% and are only slightly less available to clients/employer on that one day a week. It’s a raw deal.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My coworkers who work part-time are automatically hourly, even if the F/T version of the job would be salaried. So, they get paid when they’re working that extra 20%, but it’s still a raw deal since they don’t get paid time off or subsidized benefits. I’m not sure what happens if they hit 40 hrs regularly. They may not be allowed to.

        1. Jennifer*

          How is part-time defined at your company? Where I worked last, it was at 32 hours, which can very easily spill into 40-hour territory.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Honestly, I’m not sure. I looked in our manual, and it tells you all the things P/T folks aren’t eligible for, but it didn’t say what constituted P/T. We don’t have very many part-timers in general. The current person works 30 hrs per week, but since she doesn’t have benefits, I can see how she would be cranky if that was pushed up to 40 regularly.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is one thing I love about being non-exempt. It can suck sometimes, like if I don’t work a full week I don’t get paid for it, or if I’m ill, I have to use PTO to cover hours (I hate using PTO for being sick!). There’s no flat rate of pay and no consistency unless I clock in and out at exactly the same time each day. But no one bothers me when I’m off the clock because they would have to pay me overtime. And I rarely have to stay late. :)

    4. Ad Astra*

      Every full-time job I’ve ever had was set up with a 9-hour workday, with an hour for lunch. I always wonder if people who are scheduled 9-5 actually work 7 hours, or if they get paid to eat lunch.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Here’s how it worked when I had a job that had an 8 hr schedule. The night shift had an 8 hr shift with no lunch, while the day shift had a 8.5 hr shift with a 30 minute clocked-out lunch and 2 – 15 minute breaks. On my shift, we took our 2-15 minute breaks or took them as a 30-minute lunch, but never had to clock out and still got paid for 8 hrs. This worked fine for that job because you had to clock in and out, and you were on the production floor when you were working. It would be harder for office work, I think, because people’s breaks would be difficult to limit to 30 minutes when they’re eating at their desks and browsing the internet. (Of course, rear in chair time shouldn’t be what we measure anyway.)

      2. doreen*

        It depends. I’ve never worked an regular 8 hour day. On this job, I work a 7.5 hour day with a half-hour unpaid lunch.The job before this it was a 7 hour day with a hourlong unpaid lunch and in one job before that , it was a strange arrangement. We normally worked a 7 hour day, but were paid for 8. Lunch was technically unpaid and if we worked an extra hour every day, there was no extra pay as we were already being paid for 40 hours.

  28. Rusty Shackelford*

    All of this talk about being on time reminds me of something I read long ago from a manager who had an employee who was supposed to be at work at 8:00, but always arrived at 8:15. He finally talked to her about it and she said look, this is the earliest I can possibly get here. Because of my kid’s bus schedule, and my carpool, and whatever, I don’t remember, it is logistically impossible for me to get here any earlier than 8:15. So the manager said, okay, fine. From now on, your official start time is 8:15.

    Every day after that, she showed up at 8:30.

    And this is why I don’t ever want to be a manager.

    1. Rat Racer*

      Or rather, a manager in a job where you have to play duck-duck-goose and count heads to see who is at their desk on time. (but with that said, any management job has moments where you have to teach things that seem obvious.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Some people are exhausting and there is no need. Unfortunately, a manager has to keep following up on that one. What this woman does not understand is that many people will not have her response to the manager’s request. Lots of people, would say “thank you” and be at work at 8:15 predictably. And sometimes this type of response causes the boss to look closer at other issues also.

  29. Triangle Pose*

    This! Schedule creep is real. I have coworkers who are on a 80% work schedule which is suppose to mean that they have Friday or Monday off, but in the world of email and laptop and constant accessibility, schedule creep is so real so essentially they get paid 80% and are only slightly less available to clients/employer on that one day a week. It’s a raw deal.

  30. squids*

    #3 – We’ve got a similar situation going on here. It’s complicated by the fact that we’re in a unionized environment (though both teapotician and teapot staff positions are non-union) with very strict job descriptions.

    You’re thinking about how to help this employee, but would changing her workload affect other teapot staff? Leave them with more work to do, or change the expectations for their work, or create a divide between them and your teapotician graduate? Will it affect other teapoticians, either in workload or in relationships? Will it affect how you hire for the next teapot staffer?

    Your answer might be “nope, none of those things is a concern” but I’d make sure to at least think them through.

    1. Teapotian OP*

      Good things to keep in mind about impact on others. I think we can do without creating those (negative) outcomes….

  31. amanda2*

    #5 Earlier this year I got a great job that had been posted for over 6 months. They had 3 positions to fill, so they hired me, then 3 months later the next person and just recently the third person. The original job posting would now be almost a year old (although they recently refreshed it with a more current date, same posting though).

  32. TheBeetsMotel*

    #1 sounds a little like my boss; any degree of late, even one minute, is frowned upon and coming in “late” and then going to the bathroom first thing is even more so. We’re encouraged to go to the bathroom, put coats away, get a cup of coffee etc prior to 8am, because 8am is butt-in-seat-and-ready-to-work time.

    Unless clients are going to be blowing up your phone at 8:02, it seems rather arbitrary and micro-managy, but if not going to the bathroom for a short period, or arriving slightly earlier to get it done pre-8am is the price of peace, it’s a small price to pay.

  33. Middle Name Jane*

    To LW #1:

    Wow. I wouldn’t know how to respond to a manager questioning my time in the restroom. While it would be tempting to be flippant, I don’t think I could do that. Once I got out of school, I never had to justify/explain any restroom trips.

    Two former co-workers got into this situation. Co-worker A went to the ladies’ room and was, apparently, gone a while. I don’t know because I’m not in the habit of timing these things. When she got back, co-worker B (who was not her manager or senior to her or anything) questioned her and kind of chided her about it. Co-worker A said something like “Do you want me to tell you what I was doing in there?” We work in a professional, office environment. The three of us did not interact with the public, so it wasn’t a matter of “Oh, you were gone from your desk and I had to assist the Teapot Customers who came in.”

  34. Anna Banana*

    I once worked for a company who would only allow you to urinate in the upstairs bathroom. If you wanted to poop (I hate the word defecate) you had to go downstairs to use the other bathroom. I’ve no idea how they planned on policing this and I left soon after.

    1. Temperance*

      That’s horrible – so anyone would know what you were up to if you used the downstairs bathroom. Yuck.

  35. Milton Waddams*

    #5: It’s interesting how the old-fashioned advice of “The early bird gets the worm!” has morphed into something more along the lines of “If the early bird was any good at being a bird, it wouldn’t have to get up so early.”

  36. SunnyLibrarian*

    #1 I think he got caught accusing you of being late and said that to save face in front of everyone.

    #3 My supervisor did this before I was a Librarian and was working as a paraprofessional in a library. It worked out very well, as I got professional experience and got to help the Reference staff. I knew that this would not result in a raise, but it worked out well for everyone.

Comments are closed.