coworker is taking too much time off, employer wants me to commit for two years but I don’t want to, and more

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

1. My coworker is taking too much time off

I have a coworker who takes A LOT of time off and it’s noticeable to most everybody at the office. At the beginning of the year, kind of just for curiosity, I started a spreadsheet just to see exactly how much time she took off. Some of my coworkers are aware of this, and what started out as kind of a joke seems like I might need to tell our boss eventually with how much she’s taken off this year already.

I don’t want to get someone fired, but it’s obvious she takes off way more time than she’s allotted. Plus, the other week she straight-up told another coworker that she fudges her time cards sometimes because “they always mess up the vacation and holiday hours at HR,” a statement I’ve never found to be true in my time here.

What do I do with this information? I almost feel guilty having started tracking, but it’s become ridiculous how much she cheats the system here that we all adhere to.

First, stop tracking her time. That is really not your job, and most managers would be pretty annoyed to find out that you were spending your time that way. You’re also making it much more annoying to yourself by focusing so much on it.

Plus, you have no idea if she has made arrangements with your company to allow her to do this. She could be out of the office for medical reasons that your company is accommodating. She could have taken a cut in pay in exchange for working fewer hours. You don’t know — and you shouldn’t be judging someone, let alone monitoring them, when you’re not in a position to know things like that.

The time card statement certainly sounds bad, but you heard it secondhand and may not know the full context, so it’s not yours to deal with.

If your coworker’s schedule is impacting your own work, talk to your boss about that element of it. But otherwise, let this go. It’s just not yours to handle.

2. My manager wants me to commit for two years but I don’t want to

I’ve been at my organization for five years. Last year, I went to part-time to complete my degree. Now I am going back to full-time, and the manager is asking me for a two-year or more commitment. The thing is, I haven’t been treated well there (like, at all), and I may decide to leave for another opportunity that’s on the horizon in a few months (in fact, this is fairly likely). I know that in an at-will employment state, my commitment isn’t legally binding, but I still feel bad ethically about “committing” when, frankly, I’m not committed to the company at all. I’m also rolling my eyes a bit because I’ve been there already for five years… isn’t that something of a commitment? Also, I have some suspicions that the manager is asking for this commitment so that he can avoid having to retain me the right way (treating me well, paying me competitively, etc.), so there’s that. Is there any way to avoid making the commitment?

Ooof. On one hand, I don’t think that you should enter into an employment agreement when you know that you don’t want to do what they’re asking you for. And if this were a brand-new job, I’d tell you not to do it, because it’s reasonable of them to want a new hire to plan on staying for a couple of years since they’re going to invest time in training. But this isn’t a brand-new job; you’ve been there five years and you’re just increasing your hours. Given that, I think the calculus is different.

It’s also pretty silly and unfair of them to ask you to make this kind of commitment unless they’re willing to make the same commitment to you. Throw in the fact that they haven’t treated you well, and I think you’re ethically in the clear to say something like, “Obviously I can’t predict the future and nothing’s written in stone, but if everything goes well on both sides, I’d hope to stay a long time.”

3. Employee gets upset if I reassign tasks when her workload is high

I have an employee who consistently gets upset when I take work from her. She’s a great employee and a very hard worker but will never tell me when she is getting overwhelmed. As a consequence, I have to take time on a regular basis to review her reports to see where she is with them. When I see that she is getting behind, I will reassign some of her work to another team member. She takes this very personally and becomes emotional. Our office does a high volume of legal work, and I need my team members to all be caught up on their work. Reassigning job tasks based upon output is essential to the success of our organization.

How can I better manage the emotional side effects this is having on my team member?

Name it for her! As in, get the issue out on the table by clearly articulating what you see happening: “Jane, reassigning work based on fluctuating workloads is a really normal thing here because our workloads are often so high. I regularly move projects around based on who’s swamped and who has more time, and I do this with everyone, not just you. It’s the only way for us to get everything done when we’re dealing with such a high volume. I’ve noticed that you seem concerned when I move work off your plate. I think you’re worried it’s a reflection on you, and that if you were doing your job successfully it wouldn’t need to happen — but that’s not the case. It’s just a normal part of how we work here.”

Then, ask directly for what you want. For example: “It would really help me if I could rely on you to tell me when your plate is overflowing, so that I don’t need to spend time reviewing your workload and watching for it. Is that something you can try to do?”

4. Did I make a big mistake at work that no one has talked to me about?

After returning to school and changing career paths, I’ve started my first entry-level job as a teapot maker. I love it, and so far I’ve received positive feedback from my immediate supervisor and her boss. I’ve consistently met performance metrics and have exceeded expectations for productivity. I really want to do well and to help out as much as I can, and it seems like everything is going well… Or was.

There’s something going on at the company for which I work. No one has addressed me directly, but I think something happened. I’ve overheard phone conversations (we have an open factory floor plan, and I don’t think people realize how phenomenal the acoustics are) about a teapot maker who screwed up, and who is going to be fired, mixed in with other details about the teapot maker in question that lead me to suspect they’re talking about me.

Though all of my 1-to-1s have been positive and I’ve generally been doing really well, I did have a rough two weeks this month (stress due to family illness) where I was probably not performing up to my usual standards. To make matters worse, another worker at the factory who has always been on friendly terms with me, respected my work, and even come to me for favors, recently implicated my work in a negative outcome with one of our teapot supply stores in a meeting with his boss. I’m terrified that I let something BIG slip on a bad day – and worse, that everyone knows but me.

I’m so sad and scared. I worked so hard to get where I am, and I’m really afraid that I’m in some kind of trouble. I know my workplace has a progressive discipline policy – so why hasn’t anyone talked to me? Is there a way to ask my supervisor if something is happening without seeming crazy? Please help! I’d love your advice – whether it’s to chill the heck out, or get the heck out of dodge.

Yes, talk to your manager! All this worry might be for nothing, and even if it’s not, it’s better to get it out in the open. (Also, keep in mind that if you’re otherwise doing well, it’s pretty unlikely that a single mistake is going to get you fired.)

I’d say this: “I’ve had a rough two weeks due to stress about a health crisis in my family, and I wanted to let you know in case you’ve noticed any impact on my work. I really care about doing well here, and if I was less on top of things the last couple of weeks, I didn’t want you wondering about the cause.”

Alternately, you could ask more directly, by saying something like this: “I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I’m wondering if you can tell me if you have any big concerns about my work. I’ll just be blunt about why I’m asking — I’ve heard talk about a teapot maker who messed something up, and I’m worried it might be me. I’ve been dealing with a family health issue the last few weeks and it’s thrown me off my game a bit — so I’m worried that it’s impacted my work, and I would really want to know if so.”

5. My boss wants me to post a job listing in a private Facebook group I belong to

I am a recruiting coordinator, and my boss is asking me to post a job listing on a mommy’s group on Facebook that I am a part of. I don’t really want to. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, and I don’t want to be affiliated with this title forever. Also I like being a part of this group and don’t want to be kicked off due to this post.

Am I being too uptight about my privacy? Do all recruiters do this and I’m just new to the industry and I should just suck it up and post?

No, it’s totally reasonable not to want to inject business into your personal life, and especially when you know it’s likely to annoy people.

I’d either tell him it’s against the rules of the group or that it’s frowned upon and will do more harm than good.

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl

    #4 – I like AAMs second approach. Just lay it out on the table. That makes it so very easy for your manager to address issues if there are any. It makes it easy for a heart to heart that your manager may be dreading. Believe me, you want to make it easy for your manager to address things. Then you can fix it.
    I would warn you on what you overheard. Beware the gossip chain! It’s possible that your coworker did throw you under the bus with his manager. The gossip could be related to that. But that doesn’t make it the truth. If you have a good manager then she will investigate and find out the truth.
    I can’t tell you the number of times I heard that so and so was in trouble when they weren’t. It was just wishful thinking of spiteful people. That’s why it’s best to walk away from stuff like that.

    1. Jeanne

      I agree. If you approach your manager, at least you’ll kmow the answer. If you didn’t mess up, then great. If you did, you can apologize and ask what to do next to help fix things.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Great advice, this is absolutely true. At one job, I heard through the grapevine that I was in trouble for this or that. The next thing that happened was either nothing at all OR I was able to explain my actions in a logical, acceptable manner. This became a pattern at my job, where people threw each other under the bus almost daily.

      If you can, OP, look for reference points. Have you seen this happen to anyone else? Does your boss routinely blindside you? Has your boss had to correct your work before? If yes, how did that play out in real life?

      My guess would be, OP, that either you may have misunderstood what you overheard or the boss is looking into what happened and collecting facts before she says anything to you. It could be that the facts of the matter show you did your part correctly and the boss is trying to figure out where the wheels fell off. Figuring these things out can take a while. It’s a long shot, but may you just have a nasty coworker who knew you would overhear and the coworker wanted to find a way to rattle your cage.

      EG, is totally correct. Open the conversation yourself by going to your boss and inquiring. I had a situation at work that Just. Did. Not. Feel. Right. I went to my department head and reported myself. The department head said “no worries”. The next day, I went in early and reported myself to my supervisor. She said, “no worries”. The next thing I know I am being investigated and in danger of losing my job. It was weeks of drama that boiled down to, “If NSNR was doing deliberately doing X wrong, then why-oh-why did she go to her department head and her supervisor and talk about it?” People who are sabotaging a job are not likely to report on themselves nor are they likely to be concerned about their work.

      While I totally understand not wanting to initiate a convo with your boss, it could be the very thing that salvages the situation for you, if you do indeed have a problem. And yes, it is a relief to our bosses if we start these conversations, very definitely.

    3. Meg Murry

      Yes, I might phrase Alison’s 2nd message more as “So, the way the factory is laid out, sometimes I can’t help but overhear phone conversations – and one [or several, if that’s the case] of the conversations seem to be around a teapot maker who made a big mistake and may be fired. While I certainly hope that they aren’t referring to me, because I don’t know of any major mistakes I’ve made, it makes me paranoid either that I made a mistake that no one has told me about or that there is some kind of easily made mistake that I don’t know exists so I don’t know to watch for. Is there any chance this is my mistake? And if so, could you let me know what it was? Or if it wasn’t my mistake, but it was a firing-worthy mistake, will there be any additional training or procedures put in place so that we can all avoid it happening again? I haven’t said anything because I don’t want to spread unfounded rumors or gossip, but it’s really been bothering me.”

      OP, are you still doing the same work you’ve always been doing? If someone made such a big mistake that they were going to be fired and it happened a couple of weeks ago, I highly doubt the company would let them just keep on working – chances are there would either be an additional check put in on all the work that person was doing, or the person would be taken off that type of assignment altogether – not left in the exact same situation where the exact same mistake could be repeated. The only time I’ve ever seen someone left to (potentially) screw something up again was when it was straight-up fraud that was suspected, and the company was building a case against the fraudulent person – and even then, there was a secondary check put into place so that either the mistakes were fixed behind the scenes before the customer was actually impacted, or there was a ton of documentation so it was clear exactly who made the mistake (or in this case, not a mistake but deliberate fraudulent behavior like putting a low quality teapot in high quality boxes and charging the high quality price for the low quality item) to build the case that it wasn’t a one-off actual mistake but rather a pattern of fraud.

      As long as your company isn’t highly dysfunctional you are probably fine OP. But talking to your boss should relieve some of your anxiety as to your current actual performance and if there are any true concerns. And if, by chance, s/he does bring up any items to be concerned about, feel free to ask if these are major concerns, or more of a “this is the kind of mistake that is common for entry-level teapot makers to make, I’m just bringing it to your attention so you are aware of it and can correct it going forward.”

    4. Elizabeth West

      Throwing you under the bus was my first thought when I read this sentence:

      To make matters worse, another worker at the factory who has always been on friendly terms with me, respected my work, and even come to me for favors, recently implicated my work in a negative outcome with one of our teapot supply stores in a meeting with his boss.

  2. Karyn

    Yeah, #1 is something I hear a lot at my office and I know it’s been said about me as well. I have intermittent FMLA for debilitating migraines and I don’t talk about it with people because the response to migraines tends to be, “Just take an Excedrin and deal.” Unfortunately for me, that’s not how mine work: I either end up in the hospital on a morphine drip (for cluster headaches in particular) or taking a medication that makes me sleep. So when I know coworkers (and other managers) say things about my time off, it upsets me – particularly because I have my work done when I get back.

    My advice is similar to Alison’s, and I would add that if you say that you’ve been tracking your coworker’s time, your manager is likely to wonder why you have time to worry about what others are doing. At least, that’s what I would wonder if I were a manager. Focus on doing an awesome job at your own work, and if she is in fact doing something wrong, she will eventually be found out.

    1. Jeanne

      Tracking is one thing. But I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with the info. I don’t see any good from going to your manager and saying Jane left early 14 days last month. What is your manager supposed to say? If there is real time card fudging, Jane will probably get caught eventually. And people do crazy things. What if Jane takes time here and there for FMLA but says she is fudging her time card?

      It is ok for you to keep this as part of your decision making process. If certain people get away with murder while they are strict with you, you may or may not want to work elsewhere. But it takes time to see what really happens with Jane.

      1. Stephanie

        If it’s a big enough company with decent auditing practices…they’ll find the time card fraud eventually. I agree with Jeanne that if it’s frustrating that others supposedly get away with murder, that that could be an argument for looking for work elsewhere.

      2. Collingwood21

        I think a lot of us will have worked with people who seem to get away with things, doing less or leaving early without consequence and it is understandable that you get frustrated about it if you are a conscientious worker. Try to let it go; whenever I see a co-worker seeming to leave early etc for no reason while I’m staying late to finish something important, I just smile to myself. Ultimately, who is going to have the better reputation?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          It depends; some people get really far on likeability alone, while some people, even though they’re more conscientious, just don’t have the same cachet, for whatever reason.

          1. Random Lurker

            Agree – but I have been fortunate enough to see the person who gets away with stuff because they are well liked have it crash down on them. Does it make me a bad person that I take delight in karmic retribution? Probably. In any case, I use this as motivation to ignore the people who get away with stuff. As a rules girl, I find it hard not to focus on how someone isn’t following the rules while I am. Instead, I focus on how sweet it’ll be when they get their due.

          2. Miss Jane Heiress

            1000xTHIS! Often accompanied by sub-par work, two hour lunches, in late, early out but “We like you so gosh-dern much, we’ll ignore all that as long as you continue to kiss our collective you-know-what!” It stinks for all of us who don’t possess the likeability factor.

            1. LBK

              I agree, but I can also see how it could make you feel like one – on the surface, working hard and staying focused when you could get away with not doing that and still be getting paid the same can kind of make you feel like you’re getting played. But I think for people who aren’t naturally inclined to slack off when they have the opportunity, doing your work will always feel better than not doing your work because ultimately it’s a matter of pride.

          1. neverjaunty

            Nope. But making a spreadsheet of other people’s hours is not the way to deal with that.

              1. Petronella

                Honestly, I can see myself quietly doing this if the slacking coworker had truly become my BEC and I was feeling unfairly treated by management. But I would certainly know better than to bring my spreadsheet to my manager’s attention as I know it would make me look like the time-waster, and a bit crazy to boot. The spreadsheet would just be my own personal project and source of secret schadenfreude.

          2. anncakes

            Seriously, it’s so demoralizing when slacker coworkers get a pass or are even praised and you really do feel like a sucker. At my workplace, the biggest culprit out of several is the person who spends half the time on her phone (explicitly not allowed per policy that’s never enforced because management is never around or paying attention) and leaves precisely on time every shift, leaving things undone for everyone else, even though company policy is that a certain list of tasks must be completed before anyone can leave. Guess who stays late every time to help finish things up and who has even missed classes after being tied up with a complicated task last minute thanks to her? This idiot sucker right here. And they want slacker to train a new person, now. Great, you can show the new person how to do as little as possible and get away with it. Good luck with that, guys.

        2. NK

          I agree. I know there are people who get away with stuff forever, but I honestly believe these people are the small minority (though their stories probably stand out more, so you notice them more). My husband had a coworker who was a ridiculously irresponsible employee. There was no excuse for it; even the boss admitted his frustration but felt like he couldn’t control him (obviously not a great manager). My husband always grumbled about it to me: why should I even bother showing up on time, being a diligent worker, etc. Well, one day, irresponsible coworker was fired with no warning. The company wasn’t doing great and needed to cut costs, and this guy was an easy casualty. Because of his poor work behavior, it was firing for cause rather than a layoff. And I reminded my husband that THAT was why you make sure you’re a good employee. Most people do get what’s coming to them eventually. Maybe not in such a dramatic fashion, but in one way or another.

        3. myswtghst

          I also try to remember that from the outside (which is where I am, if I’m not their boss) it’s really hard to know the full story. There have been situations in my office where there were extenuating circumstances and previously arranged alternate schedules which an outsider wouldn’t know about, and situations where a manager was absolutely aware of the coming in late / leaving early and there was discipline happening that wasn’t visible to the rest of the team.

      3. LBK

        Yeah, this was my question reading the letter: what does the OP expect to come out of telling the boss? Unless she’s completely oblivious or doesn’t work with the coworker often enough to notice (eg it’s shift work and they work opposite shifts), I can’t imagine the boss doesn’t realize how much this person is out.

        If an employee came to me and said “Jane is out of the office a lot” with no follow up as to why that’s a bad thing, my response would be “…okay? And?” If your only concern is that she’s taking more leave than you think she’s accrued, that’s heavily stepping on your manager’s toes, especially since I doubt you have visibility to actually see how much PTO your coworker has accrued, nor do you know if she’s taking this time as PTO, unpaid, FMLA, etc. I’d actually be kind of affronted if an employee came to me and basically told me I was managing someone else’s time off inappropriately – not even remotely your business or your place to say that when you can’t possibly have all the info to make that call.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Yeah, exactly. something similar happened here. Two of my coworkers were keeping track how often a third coworker was late or out. And they were also watching her number of customer calls, which got lower and lower plus she was late (10-15min) nearly every day. This went on for about a year but neither of them said anytbing to boss. They were starting to drive me nuts with all their gossip and negativity so I just began deflecting and saying talk to boss or told them boss may be working on something for all you know she’s on a pip. She was eventually let go for performance and attendance and that’s when boss let a couple of us know she’d been giving her several chances to get help with an addiction and to improve, that’s why it took a year. It never felt so good to say to my two coworkers told ya!

        2. Elizabeth West

          And as Alison points out here and has pointed out before, it’s not anything the OP needs to worry about unless it’s impacting her own work. In that case, all she should say is, “When Jane is out, I can’t get the TPS reports and that makes the circular files late. How do you want me to handle that?”

      4. TrainerGirl

        I used to work for a Fortune 500 company, and I found an employee to be committing timecard fraud. I was the only person who caught it. I brought it to the managers of the team, and they covered it up, because it turned out the person had been doing it for several years prior to me being in my position, and no one noticed. It was hushed up because no one wanted to admit that they’d missed it. It should have been an instant termination, but the employee was instead just talked to and warned not to do it anymore. It was my job to notice this, but if it isn’t, OP, leave it alone. Even if the person is absolutely wrong, it isn’t your job to point it out.

    2. princess sparkles

      Seriously. I think tracking anyone else’s time makes you look like an insane person. Or a middle school hall monitor. Or like Dwight Schrute.

      1. Bowserkitty

        Or like Dwight Schrute.

        It could be worse, OP1 could be tracking menstrual cycles.

  3. Purple Dragon

    OP # 1
    I had a co-worker do this to me years ago. It did not turn out well – for him. The person he reported me to knew exactly where I was and what I was doing and frankly it was none of his business.
    My co-worker lost all credibility with the higher-ups. You may see it as just a joke but I’m confident your boss will not. Please take Alison’s advice to heart because a reputation for this type of thing will follow you.

    1. Not So NewReader

      It’s a good way of telling the boss that you think the boss is not vigilant, not doing his job, OP.

      Plus all it does is get you more upset. It’s not a good road to start down.

      If it’s one of many problems then you may need to move on with your career. If that this the only major problem right now, then under the heading of self-preservation, learn to ignore it.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      We had a receptionist in an old job a few years ago who contributed to her own downfall, in large part, by tracking other people’s hours and complaining to higher-ups about it. She didn’t ask for any context surrounding why some people came in late or worked from home or took time off. Not that the details were any of her business, but since she was too inexperienced to realize that some people were non-exempt or worked flexible hours or had negotiated alternative schedules to accommodate events they wanted to attend during work hours (and worked through lunch once or twice a week to make up for it), asking would have gone a long way toward allaying her hyper-vigilant tendencies. Instead she just assumed that other people were taking unfair advantage of the system, and that made her unhappy that, in her role as receptionist, she was held to a different standard. She became unsalvageably disgruntled because she wouldn’t just keep her eyes on her own paper.

    3. ann perkins

      Yes OP#1 if I were your manager I would be seriously concerned that you were doing this. This is not your job, joke or not, and you have no idea why this person is taking PTO. You are not doing yourself any favors. Please take Alison’s advice.

    4. The Butcher of Luverne

      Seriously, OP1. File all this under “None of Your Business” and concentrate on your own work.

    5. SystemsLady

      I have a feeling that if any of the couple co-workers who made passive aggressive comments about how much time I’ve been getting off these past couple of months had actually gone to my manager, they’d have gotten an uncharacteristic mouthful from him.

      I was working a project with 12 hour shifts for months upon months (about a half day’s drive from home, sometimes 7-12 days with 2-3 day breaks, etc.), and we’re exempt. He often pushed me to take more time off than I’d ask for due to the burnout risk, and coverage wise we were totally fine.

      That being said, the snark did tend to sheepishly stop once I told them what exactly the long work bars on my schedule in between time off bars consisted of.

  4. daisy

    Re #3: At my work, our team meets on a regular basis to do really quick check-ins about where everyone is in their work. (In lean/agile/whatever, the check-in is called a daily stand-up.) The main goal is to provide an opportunity to pipe up when someone’s overwhelmed or twiddling their thumbs, and then people are able to shuffle around tasks right there. I know the coworker might not actually speak up, but maybe that sort of regular strategy of everyone sharing the workload in a visible way could help? If one person’s feeling overwhelmed to the point of silently panicking, I bet there are other people who are stressed out too, even if they’re dealing with it more gracefully.

    Speaking as someone who has severe anxiety around academic proficiency that bled over into workplace proficiency, Alison’s framing would help a ton in making the reassignments less personal-feeling. But the team routine has also helped us, and it might help you too.

    1. RG

      A daily scrum for legal work? Haha, that would certainly be interesting. Unfortunately that would take far longer than 15 minutes for a good law firm.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Yes, especially if the group is competitive and output eventually has an effect on moving up or bonuses or something. Ops worker may have come from an environment like that if there isn’t one there. Either way, definitely worth setting her straight.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian

          We had people do that in a customer-service order-taking job I was in. Not legal, so nothing as important career-wise, but we still had people who would get competitive and hoard work so that they could say they’d done the most. Our manager noticed that some people had work hoarded up while others were looking for work, so she made a rule that we could only have the current file and the one we were going to work on next on our desks. Before that, people would have seven or eight files on their desks and the common pool of work would be empty so that no one else could find any work.

          1. TootsNYC

            she made a rule that we could only have the current file and the one we were going to work on next on our desks.

            I have someone on my team for whom I have to police this a bit. She hates when stuff is in the In Box instead of in someone’s hands, so she’ll pick stuff up and pass it out to teh team. I have to go and take it back.

            I actually flat-out told her I wanted her to no do this even if she was the person in charge of the department for the evening, because if she gave something to someone whose current file ran long, the next file would still be sitting on her desk but no one would know it was available to be worked on. I flat-out told her, “This is not a failure to delegate on my part–it is a very deliberate and well-thought-out strategy.
            “The In Box is our department’s to-do list. When you take something out of it, it’s the same as crossing it off the list. But it’s not done! So no one, especially not you, should ever have more than one file on their desk.

      1. Marty Gentillon

        Out of curiosity, why? It seems to me that if you ban discussion (which is a good rule for a daily scrum) you should be able to have everyone list the things they are working on and give a brief update pretty quickly. They should also be able to list any major issues similarly quickly.

        The key to remember about daily scrum type meetings is that it doesn’t exist to make decisions, but instead just to surface problems (for later discussion) and keep people in sync.

      2. Koko

        Are you telling me Ally McBeal isn’t an accurate representation of what it’s like to work in a law firm?

  5. Stephanie

    #1: Nooooo, don’t be that coworker. It’s not really a good use of time (oh, the irony) and no one likes the coworker who notes when you get in at 9:02 instead of 9 (if it’s an exempt job–if there are coverage issues, I could understand more). I work with a time tracker and everyone resents the guy for it.

    If there’s an issue, just assume the boss is addressing it (or just bring up the ways it affects you directly).

  6. Stephanie

    #4: Hmm, everywhere I’ve worked, if you’ve made a Big Mistake, someone will let you know (possibly multiple someones). I’d agree if you’re worried, to go talk with your manager. If you did make a Big Mistake and frame it as “Here’s what led to make Big Mistake and how I’ll work in the future to avoid making Big Mistake again”, that could be seen as a proactive positive.

    1. Moral panic

      Sadly not everywhere does… I worked in a toxic workplace where no one was up front with issues. You’d get called in the office and torn apart over something you’ve been doing forever but no one mentioned to you.

      I even seen my personnel file and was shocked. There were multiple notes over a two year period about problems they had with me and pure speculation about the causes. My supervisor even said ‘she did X right in front of me even though I scoffed at her last time I caught her’ for something she actually encouraged me to do!

      There was even a ‘big’ issue where my supervisor found a past due invoice on my desk… she never said a word and went out of her way to secretly call in the payment and file the invoice away with a passive aggressive note on it, I know this affected her view of me going forward but the fact was that we had only received the invoice that day and I had been in contact with our supplier to pay it the next week after I got approval. I could’ve been fired for ‘hiding’ an overdue invoice just because no one spoke with me.

      1. aebhel

        I’ve worked at a lot of these workplaces. Seems to happen with bosses that can’t stand confrontation, so they bottle it all up until they’re too mad to deal with it appropriately, and suddenly it’s all your fault for not reading their mind.

  7. De (Germany)

    #1: Surely, someone in your office is *actually* in charge of tracking vacation and sick time? If HR can “mess something up”, according to her, they are probably in charge of that, right? Also likely, her boss has to approve paid time off? I find it curious that you make no mention of what your office’s leave policy or what a lot of time off actually means – some comments here in the past have led to me to get to know that in some offices, actually taking the lave you get counts as taking a lot of time off. Maybe maybe she’s even taking unpaid time off. All in all, not your circus, not your monkey.

    1. MK

      Exaclty. The OP says ” it’s obvious she takes off way more time than she’s allotted”, but in my experience, when people say something is obvious, they are frequently only relying on a general impression on their part, which often is not backed up by the facts (like a post a few weeks ago, when a bi-monthly salon appointment had become “always running off to do her hair”). The OP also says she “might need to tell our boss eventually with how much she’s taken off this year already”, which to me suggests pretty strongly that the coworker hasn’t actually exceeded her alloted time off and the OP is waiting for that to go to her boss.

      By the way, if it’s so obvious, why hasn’t the boss noticed it too?

      1. Natalie

        How on earth would you even know your coworkers vacation accrual anyway? I have a ton of banked vacation because I worked here before an accrual policy change, so even if you correctly guessed how much I accrue each year you wouldn’t know my total bank.

        1. Chocolate lover

          Professional level staff in my organization accrue vacation time based on their level of position, not length of service. And since position level is public knowledge, we all know each other’s annual bank. And it’s use it or lose it, so no extra accumulation.

          1. Anna

            Yes, but that’s not common across the board. I’d also point out that you don’t actually know what sort of reserve someone has because you don’t know when they take time off, what kind of time they’ve taken off, etc. The point is OP 1 has no frame of reference for knowing if the coworker is taking off more than they’re allotment and it’s none of their business.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Exactly. That’s what people call their knee-jerk emotional reactions to limited information that they think fully explains everything they see before them, right!?

      2. TrainerGirl

        Trust me….some bosses do NOT notice. I worked for one. The employee worked several days/week remotely and I found out just how unobservant the managers were when I was approving leave time and couldn’t figure out how the employee was requesting 6 weeks leave when they were only allotted 4. But it took a lot of research and pulling work history to figure it out. I would have never tried to do that just by observation. The employee had started small, taking a day or two, and when no one noticed, got bolder. Because management approved the timecards for several years (where the employee took time off but didn’t claim it on their timecard), they didn’t want to admit that they’d approved fraudulent work time. It got swept under the rug.

    2. Tau

      I’m always surprised by these “my coworker is taking so much time off and my boss hasn’t noticed!” questions. Like… if I started taking off more than my allotted time or leaving early all the time when I hadn’t built up the hours for it, I am pretty sure it would *not* take my coworkers going “Tau is gone all the time! It isn’t fair!” for my bosses to notice and do something about it. Is it really the case that bosses just don’t keep track of whether someone is or isn’t in the office? For a position involving timesheets?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        If the manager works from a different location or even area of the building, or if the people aren’t particularly junior, I think it’s feasible. I’d definitely notice it with junior people who have less flexibility to manage their own schedules, but with people who work with a higher degree of independence, I can imagine not spotting it as soon as coworkers who work more closely with the person might.

        And then there are also very hands-off managers, of course.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Take my manager, for example. His office is right behind mine, but he’s only ever in there if he has a specific appointment on his calendar with someone. His appointment as department chair is 40% research, 10% teaching, and 50% administrative, so he frequently marks out Monday and Friday on his calendar as research days, and he isn’t even here. I’m supposed to come in at 8:00 am, but he never arrives until at least 9am on the days that he is here, so I could ostensibly come in at 8:45 every day and he’d never notice. Same with the end of the day; when he finishes his last meeting of the day, he doesn’t hang around here; he packs his briefcase and gets the heck out, usually by 3:00 – 4:00. I’m supposed to work until 5:00 pm, but I could probably leave at 4:30 every day without him noticing. He trusts me to manage my own time (and I do), but if I were slacking on that, he would probably have to hear about it from a concerned coworker or faculty member, because he isn’t around enough to notice it for himself.

          1. Elizabeth West

            My old manager trusted me also, but she couldn’t have given two hoots what time I came in as long as I was available regularly and finished my work. Which I am and I do. New manager hasn’t said one word about it, but I might proactively bring it up at my evaluation just so we’re all on the same page.

            The only thing we’ve spoken about in that regard is overtime, of which I do not get any. Fine by me; that means I get to leave at the end of the day and fuggeddaboudit.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean

        There’s always been a huge attendance problem where I work. I’ve been there for over a decade and have had four different managers and it’s never changed. It’s not that they don’t notice. It’s that they don’t care. Seriously, only one ever had any meetings at all with a few staff members about their number of callouts. That manager has been gone for a year and the new one hasn’t done a thing about attendance.

  8. Chaordic One

    Re #3: If there is someone who is sitting around twiddling their thumbs, it’s great if you can reassign some of the work to that person. Just make sure that the person “helping” is actually doing the job correctly. At my previous job the work was complex and over time many variations developed that required extra work and attention. An awful lot of the work that was reassigned was done incorrectly and ended up adding to the workload down the road when it was discovered and had to be redone.

    If your employee is getting overwhelmed on a regular basis, please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Hey, I had someone do some filing for an hour to help her 2 weeks ago, why is my employee overwhelmed again?” which is how my previous employer acted.

    If there is no one sitting around twiddling their thumbs, think about bringing in a temp for a while or maybe even hiring another employee.

    1. Althea

      But the solution to an employee subbing in who does the work incorrectly is not to continue to have one employee do it all; it’s to make sure the subs can do the work correctly. The overworked employee should raise that as an issue and the reason for why she tries to hold on to the work, if that’s the case.

  9. neverjaunty

    OP #3, while AAM has the right approach, your employee is (currently) not all that great if you have to manage her workload FOR her, and if she becomes emotional when you do. As part of your discussion you need to make it crystal clear to her that part of her job is knowing when to hand off work to others, and that she needs to do so in a professional manner.

    You might also look into how she’s getting overwhelmed in the first place; it could be that your company’s methods of assigning and tracking workflow are contributing to this.

    But in the legal field, there is absolutely no room for “whoops, we missed a deadline because Jane got overwhelmed and nobody wanted to upset her by taking some of her work.”

    1. Fish Microwaer

      It can be this way in my office. There is work that has come in by fax or email and needs processing and then there is work that comes in via the phones. We have a number of remote workers.
      The team leader and senior admin will allocate the work in the in box , then they tend to want us to work on the jobs which we have taken by phone.

      The problem is that the junior admins tend to put all the referral calls through to me because I am in the office and pleasant. Then the team leader loads me up with problematic cases because I get the job done and never complain. Sadly I end up with all the crap to deal with but still having really basic things that any junior could handle and I get in trouble if I don’t get them done as well as the high priority stuff and sorting out the messes.
      I’m thinking of moving on.

      1. Artemesia

        Have you sat down with the boss and laid it out as clearly as you have here? It would make sense for the workload to be adjusted e.g. perhaps you get less of the routine work because you are fielding the complicated phone assigned problems.

        With data in hand, you might suggest changes in the way work is assigned or adjustments in the way in box work is assigned since you take on more phone work or even require phone work to be evenly assigned rather than assigned to you.

        The boss probably doesn’t notice the ins and outs here. If after a discussion with data in hand doesn’t result in changes then it is time to move on.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          This. And the junior admins need to be trained that they have to allocate the referral calls on some other basis than that it makes their jobs easier to pass them to you because you’re pleasant. Their taking the path of least resistance is causing inefficiency in the work, and they someone needs to hold them accountable to using a different metric for assigning those calls.

      2. animaniactoo

        I don’t think you can really blame this on the company. You said you never complain. If you never complain, they have no way of knowing this is an issue for you.

        A complaint doesn’t have to be some unpleasant thing either. It can be as simple as kicking something back by asking the team lead what the priority is because you have these 4 referrals that came in by phone, now they’re handing you 2 problem issues, and it’s unlikely that you can get all of them done by EOD (or whatever the deadline for handling is). Or a simple request “I think these 3 things can be handled by a junior, can you sort that out so that I can focus on this new request you’ve just handed me?”

        Do this consistently enough, and the problem starts to solve itself – it becomes *their* problem to solve, not yours to suffer. And honestly, you have to be comfortable doing this, because otherwise, you can show them all the data in hand you want and people are still going to take the path of least resistance. Unless *you* make it harder to take the path to you, this is a problem that will occur anywhere you go.

        1. Fish Microwaver

          The problem is the team lead is quite new in the role and tends to be aggressively defensive when questioned. She sees it as “disrespect” when it is simply something that is business expedient. I get through the work and clean up the messes because I am that good, but I don’t get any recognition or perks for it. I requested a slight title bump but was knocked back because I’m too valuable in the trenches.

          Then just today I notice that a new starter who isn’t even finished training is getting all the plum shifts that attract as slight loading (adds up to about $600 a month) so I’m definitely thinking of moving on.

    2. Chaordic One

      #3 One more thing, set aside for for your employee to train the other team members who are reassigned to help her out. If she has to spend too much time explaining how to do the work to the other team members, neither she or they are getting anything done. You really kind of need to have at least one person and probably several people fully trained to step in to help her when she gets overwhelmed.

      Also, your employee probably needs (what seems like) an unusually large amount of reassurance that her being overwhelmed is not a reflection on her or her ability to get the job done and that she is not going to be fired because she is overwhelmed.

  10. Caroline

    OP #1, Alison is right. Frustrating though it might seem, the only reason that you should raise this is if it’s having an impact on your work (you have to pick up her work while she’s not there, or cover her phone etc.) And even then, it should be from the point of view of “I’m struggling to handle my increased workload when’s Jane’s out of the office, is there a way we can prioritize or reduce it on those days?” not “Jane’s taking too much time off and I don’t like it”.

    If her being out of the office a lot doesn’t have any impact on your work, it just seems unfair to you, then you have to let it go. As others have said, there may be many good reasons (that your bosses are aware of) as to why she’s taking more time off. Forcing your boss to disclose that by telling them that you’ve been tracking Jane’s time and don’t approve of her schedule is only going to make you look like a busy body who thinks your boss is incompetent and isn’t managing their employees properly (definitely not the impression that you want to give them!)

    And even if you are right, and she’s scamming the system, it still doesn’t look great for you. Because you’re still sending that same message to your boss (that you think they can’t manage their employees) and no one likes to have that shoved in their face, no matter how right it is. They might sort out the Jane issue, but they’ll almost certainly resent you for stepping in.

    In short, there’s no way that taking that spreadsheet to your bosses is going to reflect well on you. Try to focus on your own work and only raise the issue if it’s impacting on that.

  11. Mando Diao

    OP1: I wouldn’t take the coworkers statements at face value. When someone says, “Eh, they don’t keep track,” they’re usually talking about an extra five minutes here and there. Let’s be honest: when a company bothers with time cards for adults, it’s because they’re paying a lot of attention, probably more than they should. How about tomorrow you go to the bathroom and text for five minutes on the clock? Call it even.

    1. Susan C

      Regarding the ‘time cards for adults’, if time cards are ‘fudgeable’, I’m assuming they’re self reported rather than literal clocking in and out, which in my experience is very, very normal (and necessary) if you need to track project hours, or hours billable to different clients. (Otherwise I agree with the sentiment)

      1. hermit crab

        Right — the company I work for is not paying more attention than they should, they are paying exactly the amount of attention that is required by law and by their contracts. Keeping track of other people’s time is a bad idea for all the reasons being discussed here, but if I “fudge” my timesheet, that’s actually fraud. The fact that I have to track my time doesn’t mean I’m not being treated as an adult.

        1. Not So NewReader

          In some jobs you do have to track your hours to provide transparency for the stakeholders, who could be stockholders or taxpayers. I do think that informing employees of the reasons why they must write down their hours does help to ease tensions. Because yes, it can feel like kindergarten all over again depending on how it is handled.

          1. hermit crab

            Oh, absolutely. It would be awful not to tell your employees why. And I want to reiterate that just because there’s a good business reason for tracking your time, it doesn’t mean that coworkers should be tracking each others’ time with secret spreadsheets!! Like Stephanie says above, if it’s important, someone (whose actual job it is to do so) will be auditing leave and timesheets anyway.

          2. hermit crab

            Also, I think our timesheet system actually doesn’t let you use more leave than you’ve accrued. So there’s that, too.

        2. Observer

          I agree with you. But the bottom line is that if a company is requiring timesheets or other specific time tracking, it’s reasonable to assume that they are paying attention. And, if it’s for reasons of billing, then you can be sure they are paying attention – you can’t bill if your timesheets are not accurate.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I work in an environment that is a mix of part-time employees, exempt, and non-exempt employees. For the sake of our HR/payroll team (and our auditors) we all enter our hours into ADP. For those of us who are exempt, we simply but in 8 hours across the board (there is even a neat little auto-fill button), unless we are using vacation/sick leave.

        But for the salaried non-exempt people, it’s a way to track the flexibility in their schedule.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Where I live, non-exempt employees are required to track their time, whether it’s on an old school style card or a time clock on the computer.

  12. Sue Wilson

    #3
    I can’t tell whether you’re having a conversation with this team member before you reassign work or not, but a) unless she is saying she’s overwhelmed don’t assume she is, and b) make sure she is actually behind.

    I’m saying this because it’s possible you and she have different ideas of where “behind” is, and so you getting annoyed that she’s not saying anything and reassigning work may seem to her like you have completely interrupted her flow. For instance I have certain dates where I check in on myself, where I know I have enough time to manage something. If my manager believed that that date was too late and therefore I must be overwhelmed or behind and reassigned my work, I would not be pleased that she didn’t ask me about this beforehand.

    If “behind” means that it’s not reasonable to believe she can get something done in time, especially if there are external factors like needing data or approval from other people, tell her she’s not where you expect her to be in her work, and work with her on how to fix it and fire her if she can’t manage her workload effectively. Her being emotional is an issue, but I’m not sure it’s the most pressing one.

    1. Jwal

      This is exactly what I was thinking.

      I think a big-picture conversation would be good, and would maybe bring up things that are contribution to the individual getting behind, which could maybe also then be tackled.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Good points. I would like to add why is this happening over and over? Can workflows be permanently changed so the work is more evenly distributed? Why does work routinely collect around this one person?

      1. Graciosa

        I would not assume that’s a process or distribution issue – it really could be a personnel issue.

        Our work is primarily assigned by internal clients, but it honestly does ebb and flow. There are times when Client X is hugely busy and Client Y is on vacation (or waiting for responses from the other side in every open matter).

        It is absolutely part of our normal process that *everyone* flexes when necessary.

        If you’re about to ask why we don’t assign work other than by client, it’s for the simple reason that clients don’t like it any other way. They want to have a designated person who is “their” support person (who “understands” them) rather than working with someone different every time – and this is a perfectly reasonable expectation. When work is reassigned, the designated support person always knows who has it and what the status is so that they sound knowledgeable if asked.

        Employees generally like the flexing and are happy to participate because it evens out the work load, making it more likely that they can predict when time they get to leave work on a consistent basis. They don’t have to swing from bored to frantic repeatedly depending on what happened with their client that day.

        Having someone who got territorial about their clients – or overly invested in proving that they can handle anything without help – to the point of not wanting to let anyone else touch their work would be a serious problem. I have had minor problems with this tendency in one employee in the past – as a manager, I corrected it quickly and directly – so I understand the human factors at play, but the system doesn’t work if you allow this kind of behavior.

        As a result, I can absolutely believe that the problem is not with the process, but rather with the person who refuses to follow the process.

    3. neverjaunty

      But then presumably you’d go to your manager and explain that not only were you perfectly whelmed, but you have a system for managing workload. Then she’d know you had it under control. Getting emotional every time it happened would not be the correct response.

  13. Nighthawk

    For #2, what sort of consideration is the employer offering for your commitment? If the boss *really* wants you there for two years, there are various financial incentives they can use. Perhaps some sort of cash bonus with a two-year vesting period, or stock options granted over a similar period.

    Employment is a two way street, so don’t feel a need to let this person walk all over you.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yep. I was thinking that if I were the OP, I might reply the manager “Well, of course I’d have to review the specifics of the employment contract to determine if it was worth it, but I’m happy to read one over and give it serious consideration once you have one drawn up for me!” It is calling their bluff, but of course if they do come up with one there are always terms to negotiate. (That’s the crucial fact that this manager seems to forget — that the contract should have some kind of benefit for both parties, otherwise why else on earth would they both agree to it?)

      1. Nighthawk

        Probably because this manager is the type of person who thinks their employees should kiss the ground the walk upon. I mean, he is allowing them to work there, isn’t he?

      2. Kyrielle

        If this is in the US, I wouldn’t go there. Even implying there’d be an actual contract around it is going to make you sound really tone-deaf and out of touch.

        (And judging from what OP said, they’re not expecting a contract – it’s a verbal agreement, and one they could break, though that might not be perceived well.)

        I think Alison’s wording is spot-on here.

    2. OP #2

      Definitely just a verbal commitment. No reciprocal commitment to me has been verbalized, although perhaps it is implied.

      1. Anon Moose

        Don’t assume its implied! If they want you to stay, they should definitely have started with incentives. My only other thought was this is seen as “paying them back” for keeping you on PT while going to school. BUT it does not sound like there were any other education benefits except for flexible scheduling (for example companies that contribute to employees’ education often have time commitments to get the benefit but you would have know that up front already.) If its just about a flexible schedule and nothing was negotiated up front when you started school, well, that’s tough for them and you don’t really owe them anything. They let you go pt, you did work and they paid you for it. They can’t retroactively try to use the “loyalty” card to try to make you stay, especially because now you’ve got your degree you are presumably more high value and might want to negotiate a pay raise anyway.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Well, TBH, if they haven’t treated you well in the past, what would make you think they would in the future? I’d take that implied commitment with an entire salt mine.

      3. Slippy

        Do not assume anything is implied. One easy case of amnesia and you will have nothing in return to show for your commitment. “What’s in it for me?” is a perfectly valid question although couch it in more palatable language. Since they are interested in you sticking around for a couple years now would be the time to ask for training you might not otherwise get.

      4. neverjaunty

        Interesting, don’t you think, that your employer wants you to make an explicit commitment on your end, but at best is only willing to let you infer a commitment on theirs?

        OP, I get the sense that you are hoping a bad employer will, finally, appreciate and reward you for your dedication. That kind of hope is usually misplaced and is never a solid foundation for a career.

      5. KTB

        One of my friends and former coworkers just went through this at my ExJob. She returned to the company with a verbal commitment to stay for one year. About 10 months in, she finally got tired of the insane hours, general BS and occasional verbal abuse from the ED and decided to give her notice. The ED reacted about as professionally as she expected (read: not very), but otherwise it was a totally normal resignation. People leave all the time for various reasons, and Alison’s language is perfectly vague. You don’t owe them anything, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving when you get a better offer.

  14. One of the Sarahs

    OP #1, what really worries me isn’t that you’re tracking your colleagues hours (although I agree with Alison and everyone else about that) but that you said that some of your coworkers are aware of your spreadsheet, and you’re making jokes about it.

    Please do stop and think about how you would feel if you knew colleagues were doing this sort of thing about something you do that annoys them – and how your manager and HR department would see it, especially if there’s a reason behind your colleague’s absences you don’t know about.

    As Alison says, you need to stop tracking her hours, for your own peace of mind – but even moreseo, you need to do your bit to stop the culture there seems to be of feeding team-mates’ resentments and annoyances. It’s so easy to get into spirals of focusing on the negatives, but it means you notice it all the time, and makes the work day harder. Accept it’s not your job to monitor colleagues, change the subject if people come to you to bitch about the co-worker onto something more positive, and you’ll feel much better.

    1. Caroline

      Oh gosh yes! OP, I’m not saying that you are bullying her, but it could certainly be interpreted that way if this all came out. Stopping to consider how she, your bosses and HR would view it in that light is very important.

      1. rando

        Indeed. Imagine if management/HR knows that the coworker is taking FMLA to go to an elderly parent’s chemo sessions for example. OP, you would look absolutely terrible if your boss found out you were tracking the coworker’s time off and making jokes about it with other people!

        If you kept this to yourself, you would be able to just stop. Other people knowing makes this harder to move on…

        1. Katie F

          Or even if there are personal health problems that she prefers to keep secret – which is everyone’s right, to be frank. Or if her child or children are having personal health problems and she doesn’t feel like she should share them with the office, especially if it’s an office that seems to be radiating this kind of tension and hostility towards her.

          Honestly, as a manager, if I was shown that spreadsheet, my reaction would be to ask the OP why they felt they needed to go to such lengths because of someone else’s worktime.

          1. neverjaunty

            All excellent points. OP, you risk being the office equivalent of the paranoid conspiracy guy with all the strings tacked to his wall.

            1. Katie F

              I think there’s a good way to bring it up – to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that So-and-So is out of the office quite often lately, and it’s beginning to affect our workload/projects. Is there something we can do to fix this without stressing everyone else?” This is, of course, assuming the issue is actually -affecting- the OP’s workplace/worktime.

              If it’s not… OP, let it go. Sometimes people get to pull stuff like this and others don’t. Just… let it go.

              1. neverjaunty

                Absolutely, but the key there is “it’s beginning to affect our workload/projects”.

    2. Caledonia

      I was coming here to say exactly that – it’s even worse if other people know you’re tracking this co-workers time. TBH, it sounds as if you have a dysfunctional workplace and this comes across not well, to put it mildly.

  15. Cafe au Lait

    #3: Talk to your employee! This year I went to my boss because a new process for a major task took too much of my time and I was behind on my day-to-day tasks. Her answer was to have my colleagues do my work. I felt so demoralized. I wasn’t having problems prior to the Big Change and I felt like she didn’t trust me.

    Now, I feel like I can’t go to my boss with task-related issues. It feels too much like a wild card. Whereas before I just wanted help prioritizing.

      1. Jen RO

        Delaying the Major Task, or having coworkers help with Major Task, maybe? I know that I would feel the same in Cafe’s place – hey, we’re talking away the work you like so you can focus more on Crappy Process!

    1. hbc

      I don’t see where a lack of trust comes in. You said you had too much to do, she trusted you so she shifted some work around. You say you wanted prioritization, but she may have thought that they all needed to get done so prioritization is moot.

      I suppose she could have given you a couple of options or explained why this was the only way, but it sounds like she trusted that you were working hard and efficiently and therefore the only possibility was to spread out the load a little bit. It doesn’t seem like a bad thing from this angle.

    2. neverjaunty

      Did you clearly tell your boss what you wanted? If you went to her and said “I’m behind on my day to day work”, she may have just assigned work out because she thought that’s what you were asking her for. Or it may be that she needed the work done and so dealt with it as she thought would be the best use of your time, rather than sitting down and helping you prioritize.

      It’s one thing if you have a boss who tells you everything’s an emergency, but unless you were clear with her about your preferred solution, it seems a little odd to be upset at her.

    3. TootsNYC

      I think it’s important for a manager to be clear about the idea that asking for help is not a negative and won’t affect your opinion of her.

      But of course it does suck when the Fun Major Project gets taken away because the boss places a higher priority on your everyday tasks, and doesn’t want to reassign those to other people. Bummer. But it’s appropriate.
      Still, that can be done in a way that doesn’t make it seem like Boss thinks you’re incompetent.

  16. I Did A Spreadsheet Too

    Hey OP #1, are you me? I have a co-worker who is constantly arriving late and leaving early, but always seems to have a ton of vacation time. Their lack of presence (and lack of reliability) in the office started impacted the kinds of projects my team was being assigned and also increased my workload. One slow day I got fed up and made a spreadsheet of all of their late arrivals/early leaves that showed that they were out of the office the equivalent of two business weeks. I was ready to show my boss this spreadsheet, but then took a moment realizing that this level of obsessiveness over someone’s appearing lack of good work ethic would make me look really, really bad. So, I didn’t pass it on.

    But, what I did do was bring up my concerns with my boss during my annual review about how the co-worker’s lack of presence affected the types of projects that were assigned my team, my increased workload picking up this co-worker’s slack, and how the appearance of nothing being done negatively affected the morale of our department. And my boss said they were aware and something was being done. That conversation took place almost a year ago and the co-worker is still here, but at least I know that something is being done. Albeit a little slowly in my mind.

    #tldr don’t make a spreadsheet, if everyone is aware, then the boss is too.

    1. Roscoe

      One thing that you brought up that I kind of hate in general is saying “the appearance of nothing being done is negativeley affecting morale”. Why do people feel they need to know how someone is being punished, or even that they are. Some of my co-workers aren’t all that responsible, and I really don’t care if I see things happening. I can’t see myself ever thinking that I must know that people are being punished.

      Everything else you wrote, I agree with, but I know some people have this opinion that showing that someone is being punished is a right or something, but why? Does it make you happier seeing that?

      1. MJH

        Yes. If you show up all day every day and do your work, but your coworker comes in at 10, leaves at 3, takes a work-day trip to go see 50 Shades of Gray (happened!) and makes the same amount of $$$ and doesn’t even seem to be punished for this, well, it is bad for my personal morale. I have other things I’d like to do during the work day, too, but I don’t because it’s wrong. I would at least like someone to tell the slacker that s/he needs to stop.

        1. Roscoe

          I guess my point though is that a good manager will handle it behind the scenes and not make it public. Maybe the manager knows this and lets it happen for a reason. Maybe their raises aren’t the same. Maybe they are on a PIP and you don’t know. But honestly, its not really your business.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            True, but ideally a good manager will also keep communication open, which might help keep people from feeling overwhelmed, and if they are overworked and one person has reasons for working reduced hours, they might find some way to address it without revealing personal information. For example, “I know you need some backup, and Cersei being out more than usual is making it harder for you to get that support, but unfortunately it’s necessary (right now/for the next week/month/etc). Would (comp time/overtime/different person) help?”

            1. Roscoe

              Sure. Acknowledging how it affects others is one thing. Making their punishment public, which people seem to be advocating for, is very different.

              1. Observer

                Nope. People didn’t say they want someone to be punished. They said that they want to know that the PTB are aware of the problem and trying to fix it.

                1. LBK

                  I don’t think there’s any way to let an employee know that a problem is being dealt with that doesn’t inherently provide information about how someone else’s performance is being managed, which shouldn’t really be your business.

                2. Observer

                  @LBK I don’t think that that is true. What most people want is “We realize this is a problem and we are dealing with it.” vs “problem? What problem.” or “Sorry, but there is nothing we can do about it.”

                3. LBK

                  And I’m arguing that that’s not information that you’re entitled to. I don’t think it’s bad management to respond to feedback with a purposely opaque “Thanks for letting me know.” It’s not your business if someone else is going through performance management behind the scenes.

                4. Observer

                  I’d argue that you are wrong, for a number of reasons.

                  As a practical matter, manager who do that are more likely to get themselves, or their companies sued.

                  Susie gets called on the carpet because she takes too much time off. She says that Sam does the same thing. All she gets is “Thanks for letting me know.” What do you think happens next? And Susie has a valid complaint. Why is it not ok for her to take off but it’s ok for Sam?

              2. neverjaunty

                Nobody but you has used the word “punishment”. People are talking about how it affects their own morale – why should I bust my butt when the boss seems perfectly happy to let Fergus work half the hours for the same pay?

                1. LBK

                  But that’s the point – you’re not privy to what management may or may not be doing to deal with Fergus, so you can’t accurately judge if they’re “perfectly happy” to do that. And I’d argue that it’s not your business. If your management seems generally competent, assume they’re dealing with it. If they don’t, well, you shouldn’t be surprised if they’re failing in this regard too.

                2. Roscoe

                  Fine, maybe no one else said punishment. But essentially people think they have a right to know that something is going on. You don’t have that right. If something is going on between the manager and another employee, that’s not your business.

      2. LavaLamp

        I think it’s because as children punishments are visible to a certain degree. Bob trips Marjorie on purpose? 5 minutes in time out. Everyone sees it and I think it’s hard for some people to transition to the ‘not your business’ stage of being a grown up.

      3. I Did A Spreadsheet Too

        I wrote “the appearance of nothing being done is negatively affecting morale” because I didn’t know how to better write that the others in the department would openly talk about how dismayed they felt as our boss was seemingly doing nothing to address co-worker’s attendance issues as coworkers attendance hasn’t changed in the two years they’ve worked here. Some of them brought up how it made them feel like the boss didn’t care about the team. I think that’s mostly what’s the core issue here.

        I agree that it’s none of our business to know about people being punished, but I think that some kind of show that something is being done (like improved attendance from coworker) so that way the team doesn’t feel like they have a bad manager who doesn’t care.

        If that makes any sense?

        1. Jen RO

          It makes sense to me, because I was in a similar situation. My manager had been addressing the performance of a coworker for almost a year, but the morale in the team was extremely low because we though the manager didn’t notice or didn’t care. Once we found out that the coworker had been put on a PIP, the morale was much, much better. I am all for transparency – admitting that you are aware of the issue and are working on it, without giving further details.

          1. Jinx

            On my team we have flexible schedules as long as we stick to “core hours”, but there’s been a noticeable slide lately in people showing up later and not staying later. I work 8 – 4 w/o a lunch break (by choice, because I like to get home earlier). I’d been kind of frustrated for a while because I was the first one in the office in the morning, but almost everyone would be gone when I left eight hours later.

            During a one-on-one recently, my manager let me know that he noticed my reliability and that I “always work a full day”, and that he was going to have conversations about start and end times in the near future. He didn’t mention names or anything, but it still made me feel better to know he noticed that I was working my schedule.

        2. Jubilance

          But improved attendance is only going to happen if your coworker cares enough when your manager comes to them with the issue. The lack of improvement in your coworker is in no way a signal if your manager “did” anything or not. A good manager would have that conversation in private, and from there it’s up to your coworker to make a change or not.

          Just because you can’t “see” it or weren’t privy to every conversation, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening.

          1. Roscoe

            Thats exactly my point. Hell, maybe the person is on a PIP and is fine with losing the job at the end. Doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know it.

          2. LBK

            Yeah, exactly. You can’t assume that because nothing changed, management didn’t do anything.

            Now, I will say that if nothing changes for that long and management is doing something about it, then eventually the employee should probably get fired. But firing can be absurdly bureaucratic at some companies, so they may actually be trying to fire the employee and HR won’t let them. Alternately, management may just be weak and won’t ever get rid of the person, at which point there still isn’t anything you can do about it. You either have to resign yourself to your manager being bad or you have to quit.

        3. BananaPants

          Having been in a similar position, it makes a lot of sense to me. In our case, the coworker routinely left early to go to his kids’ sporting events, came in late, and then spent large chunks of his time in the office openly doing work for his job as an adjunct professor (grading, preparing lecture materials, etc.). The rest of the time we’d go by his desk and he was doing fantasy sports stuff. Frankly, the optics sucked.

          Worse, we’d be relying on Bob to deliver for our projects, and then he never did. The rest of the group eventually learned not to count on Bob and ended up doing the work ourselves so that it actually got done. That just gave Bob more time to play on the company dime. When he actually had a deadline he’d steal others’ work from the network drive and present it as his own work. We’d bring up the issue to our manager, he said he’d deal with it, and nothing ever changed. On the very rare occasion he had to produce something it would be riddled with errors that were unexpected from someone so senior. He fudged data and glossed over issues. When he left the group I discovered that years’ worth of his tasks were simply never done – or at least, there’s no record of it. This went on for around 7 years.

          When there’s a team of 4-5 younger engineers busting their asses just to get ANY merit increase (much less a promotion) and one senior guy making twice our salaries is basically skating through the day openly doing NOTHING for years on end – yeah, it causes major morale issues. We lost confidence in our managers’ management skills because Bob was allowed to play this little game for so long with no apparent repercussions (there were three different managers involved over that time period). Any of the rest of us would have been on a PIP for doing what he did. It bred a lot of resentment and frustration with Bob and with our boss.

      4. Colette

        The issue is that dealing with the issue behind the scenes looks exactly the same as doing nothing – particularly when it drags on for a year. That doesn’t mean management should publicize what they’re doing, but it does mean that, in general, they should expect quick results.

      5. Stranger than fiction

        Unfortunately, yeah, usually when someone gets written up or put on probation, the manager isn’t going to tell the rest of the team. Also, sometimes these things do take a year plus to iron out. A friend of mine has a coworker with performance problem and that same coworker has lodged harassment complaints against a couple of people…so this could be ongoing who knows how long before anyone is let go.

  17. Oryx

    For #1, I had a co-worker like this at the prison and it was my first professional job and I wasn’t reading AAM and I admit I tracked her hours (don’t ask me what I planned on doing with them). Our manager was well aware that she was doing this, he just was so completely ineffective and intimidated by her that he let her get away with it rather than actually manage her. Once, she left early on a Friday and we all knew she left early with the understanding she’d come in on Saturday, which is a day I was the only one who worked. Of course she didn’t come in, something came up I needed help with and nobody from my department was there so I had to make a decision. I then wrote up a memo to my manager to let him know what happened and in the memo mentioned that since she wasn’t there, I had to do what I did.

    Come to find out, as his assistant, she would go through his mailbox and she saw that memo on Monday morning and threw it out because she knew it would get her in trouble. So then I went to my manager and told him what had happened — both the not coming in, the getting rid of the memo — and he did absolutely nothing about it whatsoever. I was so focused on the co-worker, I totally missed that what I had was a manager problem.

    At my current job, I have a co-worker doing this, too, leaving early, coming in late, and it is frustrating everyone except me. I learned from that experience at the prison that paying attention to anyone’s time card other than my own is 1) a waste of energy and 2) none of my damn business. Maybe your coworker is taking advantage, maybe she’s not. I’ve had my own PTO screwed up, it does happen. It’s possible there is more going on than you are privy to and I’m a little mortified I tracked my co-workers hours 10 years ago because it really wasn’t any of my business, regardless of whether or not she was cheating the system.

    I’ve been working from home this past week due to a broken ankle — we normally only get two days a month, but I’ve made arrangements with HR and my manager due to doctor’s orders. Are there co-workers back at my office throwing me shade because of this? Possibly. But I’m just grateful that HR and my manager were willing to be accommodating and work with me to allow me to still work and I’d hope my co-workers remember that if they ever get in a similar situation.

    1. Small town reporter

      Your last point is especially important. I know I had co-workers who would obsess over what time other people came in, left, etc. But when I was working with some flexibility, it was with my boss’ approval. And I can imagine that someday, they might need some flexibility. It should be a good thing that a boss is flexible (so long as the work load allows it — ours did).

    2. ThursdaysGeek

      I was so focused on the co-worker, I totally missed that what I had was a manager problem.

      And that’s an issue. If you see a co-worker apparently gaming the system, there are many valid reasons as well as some invalid ones. If your manager doesn’t appear to know, or care, it can hurt morale even if their work doesn’t impact yours. All they need to do is let people know that Wakeen is going to be working some irregular hours for the next x months. Or that they are looking at individual productivity. Somehow let us know that their eyes are open. Otherwise, they don’t really care about morale of the rest of the team either.

      Yes, it’s not our business if Wakeen is coming in late in leaving early and it doesn’t impact us. It’s certainly not appropriate to track that in any way. But a manager has to know that people see that (if the manager is aware at all).

      If there is no communication at all, exactly how are we supposed to tell the difference between a manager that isn’t letting us know things that are none of our business and a manager that isn’t managing? And it very much IS our business to know whether we are working for a good manager or not — that DOES affect us.

      If you have someone on a PIP, and the firing process takes a year, and there is no communication to the rest of the team — you may lose some of your good workers in that year. Because all of that looks just like a bad manager who is doing nothing.

      If you’re an awesome manager in all other ways, we’ll suspect you’re dealing with that appropriately too. Otherwise, we’re using that as a data point on whether we want to continue to work for you.

  18. Jessie

    AAM, it’s really interesting when you get two-letter writers that are essentially opposite sides of the same coin “Coworker is tracking my PTO”/”I’m tracking my coworker’s PTO”.

  19. Allison

    #1: One thing I remember learning from childhood is that unless a person’s behavior is dangerous or destructive, reporting them to authority figures is basically tattling. If your coworker’s absences are impacting you, then by all means bring it up with the boss, but if it just seems like they’re getting away with rules you’re being held to, and it seems unfair, you need to let it go. Don’t report her, stop keeping track, and stop gossiping about it with your other colleagues.

    #3: How much are you currently communicating regarding this issue? If you feel someone is in over their head, and you need to reassign their tasks in order to make sure stuff gets done, you should tell them “it seems you have too much on your plate, and I’m concerned the work isn’t going to get done unless I reassign some of it.” I do agree with others, that it’s not a good thing for your employee to either not recognize or not acknowledge when they’re drowning in work, but some people are convinced that unless they put in 150% at all times, and do far more than the average person’s workload, they’ll always be overlooked for promotions – or worse, on the chopping block when the company needs to unload some people. This person could be a martyr, but they could also be feeling very competitive.

  20. Seuuze

    Time/Management horror story. I used to work in a city department wholly funded with federal funds. Our division manager lived with her long time boyfriend, our co-worker. He was total effe-off do nothing and VERY vocally proud of it. His mantra was “The standards are so low. I can sit here and do nothing and my paycheck still shows up every two weeks.” The rest of us picked up the slack. This was demoralizing enough but she would routinely sign him out for mythical FEDERAL seminars so he could take time off without taking vacation and/or sick leave. This was because the city rules allowed for employees to build a certain amount of sick time that would then turn into vacation time. If you retired, you could leave your job with a large cash payout of vacation time. So the incentive was there for her to let him build up as much time as they could since they would both be retiring from the city. Which they did.

    Because of her treatment of him, I also figured he got the highest performance reviews because that too would greatly increase the amount of money you would receive when you retired.

    I realized that this was falsification of documents with his timesheet where the salary was paid for with federal funds. In retrospect, this was probably a whistleblower issue, but people weren’t doing much of that at that time. And it seemed to be common knowledge with everyone that this was the deal. It was so, so bad for staff morale, but no one cared. We even had a huge bunch of training to improve the staff morale, after so many complaints from so many people, but absolutely nothing ever changed, ever, ever, ever. So it goes.

    “Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

    1. Artemesia

      As a grad student I worked for a ‘VIP’ who got enormous foundation and government grants and who did so far as I could see (and I worked very closely for years with this guy) absolutely nothing important. We once all flew to O’Hare from all over the country for a meeting at a meeting room at the airport where 20 people sat around a table and never discussed anything focussed and had no agenda and left with no action items (even such things as producing a report of the decisions or findings made.) My favorite was when he had me convene a bunch of professors for an important meeting. He talked my major professor into attending and then when the meeting began, he said “Herbert, I think this is your meeting.” and the hapless Herbert who had nothing to do with calling the meeting fumbled around for an hour.

      This guy was amiable and pleasant and brought in the grant money (which was paying my stipend and tuition) but I never as a student and then over decades as a colleague in the field ever saw him do any actual work.

      When I was a newly employed researcher elsehwere, another VIP spent his time braying on the phone to his friends about what fools the University had been to hire him and how these people just sat around doing nothing all day. I had the office next door and was busy working away — he did produce a fair number of screeds (he didn’t do actual research) but other than that, it was mostly the braying. A fair number of people in the world manage to get into high places without being at all productive; it is a mystery. It is also very much a part of the old boys network in the same way CEOs set each other’s salaries.

      1. the gold digger

        This guy was amiable and pleasant and brought in the grant money… but I never as a student and then over decades as a colleague in the field ever saw him do any actual work.

        Except bringing in grant money is working! The ability to bring in new money in the private sector (those sales guys who don’t do anything but take people out to lunch!) or to win grants in the public sector is really important to a business. No revenues, no jobs.

        1. Meg Murry

          Yup! As long as he brought in enough grant money that the business was ahead after they covered his salary and those of people doing work only related to him – that’s worth keeping around. Now, if he brought in huge grants but then spent 2x that money, that would be a problem – but technically bringing in the grant money is good enough to earn his keep, even if it is annoying that he didn’t seem to do anything else.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yeah, it seems that usually faculty like this get an assistant or associate assigned to them, whose job it is to do the pragmatic, everyday work while the grant-obtaining faculty member has a whole lot of leeway to work as s/he sees fit.

  21. Semi-nonymous

    For OP#1, I agree with everyone else that you need to let this spreadsheet thing go. If you weren’t already there, it is firmly pushing you into b*tch eating crackers mode every time you update it. If it is actively effecting you (Jane isn’t there from 9-10 am, so you have to cover the front desk or answer her calls during that time, or for safety reasons there are supposed to always be 2 people in the building but you are frequently left alone), that is worthy of tracking and going to the boss about – but not just tracking what time she comes in and out of the door.

    However, one thing no one else seems to have mentioned – if anyone else comes to you again and says “Jane says she’s not putting the true times in her timecard” – tell that person to go talk to the manager [preferably in a timely manner – talking to the manager now about a comment made around the holidays is a bit late]. You can’t be the one to talk to the manager, because that’s second hand information, but you can talk to the manager about Jane’s absences *that directly impact your ability to do your job* and your co-workers can tell the manager about what Jane said about timesheets, and then it is out of your hands and for the manager to deal with. Besides, maybe the person misconstrued what Jane said, and in fact Jane had the manager’s permission to mark down a day she was out as a day she was working, because HR had in fact incorrectly charged her a PTO day around the holidays that couldn’t be corrected since the fiscal year is closed. But you don’t know that, and you shouldn’t worry about it.

    Also, how much time are you and your co-workers wasting griping about Jane’s comings and goings? In a past job, I had a co-worker who was obsessed with gossiping about who was coming in late, taking long lunches or leaving early. It drove me crazy, because as I pointed out to her – she wasted almost as much of her time griping about it to me, plus wasting my time, plus she probably devoted even more mental energy to it than the time spent griping. It made her look really petty, and it reached the point where it effected her productivity as much or more than if she had just left early herself.

    Let it go, OP. Just say to yourself “None of my business” and let it go.

  22. Anonymous in the South

    Part of my job is to track time for exempt workers and I can tell you that they are 3 people who regularly abuse the flexibility of exempt status. I did a tracking sheet on those 3 for 1 month and they regularly came in late, left early and took extremely long lunches (2+hours). On average, they worked 4.5 to 5 hours per day. I know that they were not on FMLA or had any accommodations in place because I would have been notified by HR that they were tracking employee X’s time and would be notified when I should resume tracking that employee.

    OP1, I say if you can, just let it be unless it directly affects your job. Some employers honestly don’t care if they have employees who cheat the system. Sometimes it would be easier if they just stayed home and we mailed them a check. :(

    1. Not Karen

      Did they get all their work done? Did they impact coverage or others’ ability to get their work done? If yes and no, then no, they did not “abuse” their exempt status. The point of being exempt is that it doesn’t matter how many hours you work so long as you get your work done.

    2. MK

      And some people can do more work in 5 hours than others in 8, so it makes total sense for their employer to let them.

      Also, I don’t understand your comment. If they are exempt, how is their working their own schedule “cheating the system”? If the employer knows and accepts this, it’s called “having negotiated a different schedule”. But if it’s your job to track time, surely they do care? Why did they assign someone to track time otherwise?

    3. Oryx

      That flexibility is exactly what exempt status means. As long as they are getting all their work done and aren’t impacting their co-workers workflow in a negative way, they aren’t abusing anything. Some people only require 5 hours to do what takes others 8.

      1. Jinx

        I guess I don’t understand this. I’m exempt and a fast worker, but if I finish all my work in five hours I am expected to ask for more to fill the remaining three. If that wasn’t the case I’d be able to leave early every day. :P We are required to have a minimum of forty hours per timesheet – it only goes up, not down. So here, someone leaving after five hours every day would certainly be considered “abuse”. But maybe that’s a case of not every exempt workplace being created equal.

        1. Roscoe

          I guess it really depends on your job. Every job doesn’t just have more work that you can be doing. My job wouldn’t let me leave after 5 hours everyday, but I just end up sitting around doing nothing at times aas well.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I’ve had days like that, where I wish I was exempt so I could leave early when I’m twiddling my thumbs and stay late when I’m slammed. But I still like being hourly, because I rarely have to stay late.

            1. ThursdaysGeek

              I’ve pretty much always been exempt and I’ve never had a job where leaving early was a reasonable action. There’s always more work to do, and other than the occasional appointment, being exempt means you work at least 40 hours a week (often much more) and get paid for 40 hours a week. Working 5 hours and leaving early? I don’t even dream of something crazy like that.

        2. LBK

          I think it’s about the amount of time and the consistency. If you have a couple days every month where you’re done in 5-6 hours, I would expect that an exempt person could leave work early. Likewise, if you’re done with work in 7.5 hours instead of 8 hours every day, I’d say it’s fine to leave then too. If you’re done with your work in 5-6 hours every day, then maybe the workload distribution needs to be examined; it sounds like you might need to pick up some permanent new responsibilities.

          Seasonality also factors into this; I tend to work fewer hours in the second half of the month because in the first half I’m regularly working more hours, so it balances out over the course of the month.

        3. Ultraviolet

          I’m a little confused too. Does this really mean that when I leave school I could realistically hope to find a nominally full-time job where I actually average 5 hours/day? Can I ask for one? It sounds pretty appealing–except it’s hard not to think of it as demonstrating a mismanagement of resources on the company’s part. And for a grant-funded position it feels ethically dubious.

          1. Stephanie

            Nah, you don’t want that. My first two jobs were in high-pressure, heavy-deadline environments and I thought it would be so nice to have a job where I didn’t have enough to do. I have that now. It’s bad (in a different way) to have to figure out how to occupy the entire shift and not goof off.

            1. Ultraviolet

              It’s definitely possible I’d feel that way in that kind of position. But the job I’m hypothetically asking for, based on the above comments about exempt schedules, is one where I would leave when I was done with my work rather than figuring out how to fill the rest of the day with other stuff.

              1. Murphy

                As a junior employee you’ll almost definitely not be given that kind of freedom. Those schedules are often earned through years of proving yourself. Plus they’re almost never like that 100% of the time. You may get a week or two where youth can take off early, but they’re balanced by times when you’re in at 7 and not leaving until 11 at night

              2. One of the Sarahs

                Look for jobs with flex-time – I loved my flextime jobs, and it made me feel good about staying late at the super-busy times, knowing I could take quiet afternoons off later in the year.

                (We don’t have exempt/non-exempt in the UK, so I’ve always wondered if flextime = exempt? But from the conversations here, it always seems like exempt is more about working more than 40 hours etc, so it’s good to see there are positives too)

                1. Ultraviolet

                  I seem to recall a conversation here recently where several US people were using “flextime” to mean different things too! But you’re right that flextime and exempt are not equivalent. Exempt workers are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, so in general employers are less likely to track exempt workers’ hours carefully. (That’s usually seen as one of the positives.) But they still could track the exempt employees’ time and require a strict schedule if they wanted. A non-exempt worker does have to be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week (and state law can provide more protection), which is probably why exempt = more than 40hrs seems to be a thing.

        4. Anonymous in the South

          They way the consider exempt/salaried around here is very weird. If they work more than 40 hours, say 45 hours, they are expected to take 5 hours off the next week, and only 5 hours. No, they did not get all their work done. They would “delegate” it to others. As in people who were not in their department because their department was already covering them. But management did not care so that’s why I did not bring it up.

          Most of our exempt employees are great, go by the policy & procedures that we have for exempt workers. I absolutely think exempt workers should take the time they are entitled to, it’s just those 3 that really milk the system.

          1. SystemsLady

            I’m all for recognizing exempt employees for quality overtime as the schedule and budget allows (and benefit from that myself), but a hard and fast rule like that is a bit ridiculous/easy to abuse!

      2. BananaPants

        I’m exempt and my employer expects that exempt employees will be working a minimum of 40 hours a week on average. If I finish my work in 5 hours, I can’t just bail. So while I can flextime within reason, if I only work 6 hours today I’m supposed to work 10 hours later in the week to compensate.

        I’m currently loaded to around 160% of FTE, so NOT having something to do is pretty much unheard-of. There is always something for me to do.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian

      But if they’re exempt, and their work is done, is it really cheating if they can get it all done in less than 40 hours? I’m really asking, not just trying to play devil’s advocate. I thought the point of exempt status is that you’re being paid to do a job, not to work certain hours, so the job can take more or less than 40 hours a week and the pay is the same. Is there a line to be drawn somewhere if people consistently get all their work done but work only 30 – 35 hours a week? Maybe they work in the late evenings when nobody sees them.

      1. Random Citizen

        I have a coworker who seems to work around six hours a day in our slower time of the year. He never leaves for lunch, but occasionally comes in for a few hours on his day off. Obviously, I don’t know when he’s using PTO versus just leaving early, but it’s six hours pretty consistently for a while, and then in our busy season it’s 8-10 for months, and 10-12 or 14 hours a day for the couple peak weeks. So I’d imagine it balances out more or less, and I think the flexibility is one of the selling points, since he has more out-of-work seasonal activities during our slow season.

      2. Anonymous in the South

        They can’t work late in the evening because our building is locked at 6:45pm sharp everyday. I commented earlier that they way the consider exempt/salaried employees here is weird. That’s why I didn’t say anything or show the sheet I did to anyone. I had other exempt workers coming to me to ask questions about why employee X did not work a full day for more than 3 weeks yet claimed they had flex time take on a day we had 1500 people in the building and really needed them. They sent an email at 6:30am to my work account knowing it would be at least 8 before I saw it. Then they either ignored all calls, texts and emails for the entire day (a Friday) or turned off their electronic communication devices. That’s what prompted me to do a little extra tracking on them. Again, I said nothing and did not show the sheet to anyone so everything continues on the same.

  23. IT Kat

    To #1… I think you’re looking at this wrong.

    “they always mess up the vacation and holiday hours at HR,” a statement I’ve never found to be true in my time here

    How do you know how much vacation she gets? I’m guessing you don’t, and are going off what’s in the handbook or what you get. It is possible she negotiated more, and that’s why she has more time off, and why HR might mess it up occasionally if the system isn’t built for it, or if they fall into the trap of being used to “everyone gets X PTO and Y Sick” and she gets X+5 PTO.

    All this including the possibility of some other special arrangement, and/or FMLA, adds up to don’t make assumptions and don’t try to manage other people unless you ARE their manager. Let her manager do their job, and you do yours.

    1. IT Kat

      The only caveat is of course as others have mentioned – if her not being there IS actually affecting your job, like having to do her work, then yes go talk to your manager – but not as “Look at how much she’s off!” but “She’s been out on X day for 2 hours and I had to cover her work, which means Y and Z didn’t get done. How would you like me to handle this in the future? I was thinking ____” (and fill in with whatever makes sense, having someone else pitch in, putting off work until she returns, sliding deadlines on things, etc.)

  24. mdv

    #1 – The only reason I ever look at anyone else’s vacation time is to check to see if other people are off when I want to take off. The only problem that has ever been worth taking to my director was that the other person I *had* to coordinate with ALWAYS put time off on the calendar so far in advance that I could never take off at “good” times of year, and so I had to fight for the ability to take off at “not good” times of year.

    (That backfired, though — when I took the time off anyway (for a rescheduled vacation) last year, combined with a death in the family, I was not back to “caught up” on work projects until almost a year later… last week.)

    1. Elizabeth West

      Yes, this–if 90% of my team is traveling or on PTO, it’s safe to assume I’m not going to get a load of emails and can take that day off. We share our calendars for the express purpose of knowing where the hey everybody is in case you need something– “Oh, Anya is at that demon convention with Hallie in Florida this week; I’d better email Buffy instead.”

  25. LQ

    #1
    I have two coworkers in a similar situation, hopefully this example will help. Sally is the team lead (a not a lot of power spot, mostly project management) she is really frustrated with Suzie’s work. The thing she has chosen to focus on is that Suzie is very frequently 1-5 minutes late. She keeps a spreadsheet.
    The problem is our boss doesn’t care AT ALL if someone is late, in fact boss is often late. Sally has other complaints (Suzie doesn’t get her work done in a timely way, Suzie makes a lot of mistakes, Suzie is not trusted by leadership which means she can’t lead projects) but because Sally is so focused on the showing up on time thing she doesn’t talk about the stuff that actually matters and actually needs to be dealt with.

    Solution? Stalemate. Sally focuses on the lateness as the problem because for her it feels “solid” like she can say LOOK! I have a spreadsheet that shows she was late, this is a demonstrable problem. She ignores the Leadership doesn’t want her to be lead on this project and has requested that another member of the team be in all meetings, which is a very serious issue, because she doesn’t know how to express this well and it doesn’t feel as solid to her.

    Sally is frustrated and overworked and appears petty. Suzie is struggling because she doesn’t know what the real problems are and isn’t getting coached (or moved, she can’t do the work imo, she does other stuff well, jut not making teapots) and feels picked on.

    Keeping a spreadsheet is not the solution.

  26. Planner4Evah

    #3 – it’s also possible that she doesn’t feel like she’s overwhelmed at the times you take the tasks away, and so is upset that you’re removing work when she doesn’t feel she’s struggling. Maybe check with her to see what kind of signals she IS sending you about being overwhelmed and in what areas. And, if she really isn’t telling you that she’s got too much on her plate, you might want to think about why that is.

    I recently had a project taken from me which was fairly upsetting, because it was one of the few things in my job I really enjoy. My supervisor said it was because she had ‘noticed’ I was overwhelmed. Well, I had been – three months ago, in the peak of our busy season! I had asked for assistance then and got brushed off. So having the project taken away when things are calmer and I feel I am well on top of my reports was rather upsetting.

    1. LQ

      I had something like this happen. Supervisor was holding back a project and I went in to say, “What’s up with Cool Project, I thought it was coming down the line to me?” He had held it back because I had a lot on my place and seemed frustrated. I was very frustrated with one project that was …frustrating, and everything else I was working on was excruciatingly boring. I’d been looking forward to Cool Project. We talked about it and turns out Frustrating Project? Was super low priority and we just dropped it. (He thought I’d like it and had given it to me because he thought I would enjoy it. ACK! No! Wanted Cool Project not Frustrating Project. Though admittedly this would all be easier if projects were just named Cool Project or Ishy Project or Frustrating Project to make it nice and clear.)

      So make sure that there is good communication about what is overwhelming.

      1. Sarianna

        Man, I need another cup of coffee. I totally read ‘Cool Project’ as ‘Cod Project.’ (Which then made me think ‘Ishy Project’ should be ‘Fishy Project,’ but that’s another story…)

  27. Here Today, Anon Tomorrow

    OP#1- The only way I think you could take action on this issue is if your company has a confidential ethics hotline/reporting tool. My husband was stuck in a similar situation at his company with a coworker who frequently padded expense reports. He kept a log (despite me telling him that it was sure to backfire). After he felt that he had exhausted his options internally (casual mentions to their supervisor–who told him to drop it) he reported it to the ethics hotline. The ethics investigator asked my husband to provide some documentation, that he happened to have & the list came in handy. This was a rare outcome, though. If not for the ethics hotline, this would have gone nowhere and my husband would have just appeared petty if he kept it up with his team. Good luck!

  28. IT_Guy

    OP #1 – You may not be seeing the whole picture. I leave early quite often, but that more than balances out when I get called at 3 am to fix a server problem, or I have to give up part of my Saturday to fix a full hard drive. Since I’m salaried exempt, I don’t think it matters how many hours I work as long as the job gets done.

  29. Temperance

    LW #1: I had a similar issue with a coworker, and I didn’t regret reporting him. He and I were peers with the same title, but he was close with a manager in another office, and that manager would frequently ask my peer to come to his office and help with various tasks, leaving me to cover the workload of two people. My coworker wouldn’t work a full day on those days, though – he would come in late and/or leave early, every time. It was a “perk”. We were hourly employees, and I knew from friends who worked in that office that my coworker was mostly sitting around and shooting the breeze with the man who ran that office.

    I said nothing up until our GM reprimanded me for not being able to meet all the tasks she wanted me to do in a day. She expected me to be able to do billable admin work for our clients, marketing for her, IT and phone support, and all the meeting room cleaning, kitchen duty, mail delivery, and reception coverage required to run our center. I couldn’t put in any OT, and it was not possible to get everything done with just one person. After I complained, my coworker was only sent to the other center for parts of a day, and only when they really needed him. Before this happened, I was also reamed out by same GM because I left 10 minutes early while covering another center, so I was especially angry that my coworker, who wasn’t capable of doing everything that I could, was able to skate by and slack while I had to do his work.

    1. Observer

      There is a key difference here between what you are describing and what the OP described. YOU were being directly affected by the other person’s actions. You didn’t need any spreadsheets, and you weren’t acting as the unofficial supervisor who was bringing information to your co-worker’s boss.

      In your case, it might have made sense to go to the GM much earlier – certainly at the time when your GM reamed you out – and explain that you are having a hard time accomplishing all of the tasks, because although they were supposed to be shared between two people, your coworker is spending a huge amount of time out of the office or apparently goofing off – certainly not on the shared tasks. Had the OP described a similar situation, I think everyone would agree that she needs to go to her boss. But, outside of that, why on earth does she “need” to bring her spreadsheet to her boss?

      I suggest you give a look again at what the OP wrote. There is simply no indication whatsoever that she is being affected, or that she needs / wants anything to change about her working conditions. It’s totally about getting her coworker punished. Frankly, my response to that is “Ew.”

  30. Mae

    #1: Are you the office martyr or something? You’re acting like a busy-body when you really need to be minding your own business. Go ahead and present that spreadsheet to your manager; I guarantee you it won’t earn you any points. Let the annoyance roll off your shoulders and worry about your own vacation time, which everyone is entitled to. Now, if it’s impacting your work directly, that’s a different story. And if that’s the case, the way you’re currently going about it is passive aggressive and underhanded.

    1. Oh Fed

      I think your reply here is needlessly harsh toward OP #1. While it may be your opinion, I don’t see how it was in anyway helpful. I think it is important to remember that AAM letter writers are asking for help not a verbal lashing.

      1. Mae

        Fair. I suppose I could have been more tactful. I’m very “to the point.” What hit a nerve with me was the OP’s sense of entitlement when she/he has no clue of said “slacker’s” individual situation. Professionally and personally, if everyone just stayed in their business unless absolutely necessary to intervene, things would be a lot more seamless.

        1. Oh Fed

          It can be so easy to read “entitlement” or some other intangible from a short letter (or email or text for that matter) when such a position isn’t there at all. I like to take the perspective that for the sake of brevity, the letter writer didn’t include all of the details when writing. The problem as asked is: a co-worker who appears to be dishonestly using time off, LW has been tracking the coworkers time though this is not part of her job responsibility and asks if this info should be taken to her manager. A secondary issue is also that the LW is participating in the office gossip about the situation. Just from the comments alone, this isn’t a unique situation and neither is the LWs response.

        2. TootsNYC

          There’s “to the point” and there’s name-calling. You can be very direct without calling people names or scolding them.

    2. TootsNYC

      yeah, there are nicer ways to say the same thing; this starts out with essentially name-calling.

      Interestingly, the nicer, non-name-calling ways to give advice are also often more effective.

  31. animaniactoo

    LW1 – at best, you can say to your manager “Just a head’s up – I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Leda seems to be out a lot lately.”

    And then leave it to your manager to handle. They can create their own spreadsheet or delegate a person they want to track it. Or maybe note that they have to make it clearer to others in general that Leda has adjusted hours, or is doing some WFH and that’s why she’s only clocking some hours in the office, etc. Your concern starts and ends at letting manager know in a very general way that there seems to be an issue over there. And then trusting them to do their job about it (managing her).

  32. LCL

    Re OP#1- there is something I don’t understand. Just last week, I argued that it is better not to go to HR for dissatisfactions with other employees, most of the time. Almost everyone disagreed with me. But I think workers should kick things upstairs if they are clear violations. Time card fraud is clearly theft. This is one of the few procedural things that I would be asking management about. OP#1 should stop with the spreadsheet, but it is reasonable to ask their management “what gives with the special treatment for other employee?”

    Is this different because no managers are involved? Or maybe another blue collar/white collar divide?

    1. Roscoe

      I don’t know if its good to ask that. I’m all for just worrying about what affects you. If it doesn’t affect OPs ability to do their job, then I don’t think you need to bring it up.

      The timecard fraud is 2nd hand information, so OP doesn’t even know what was actually said. Bringing that to management is basically just unsubstantiated gossip.

    2. One of the Sarahs

      To me, it’s because OP doesn’t know there’s time card fraud – she heard this second hand from a different colleague. She can encourage colleague to go too HR, but what can she say to HR herself? Any conversation that starts “Sansa told me that Arya told her that…” is never going to go well, especially as there’s no evidence. If Felix doesn’t want to go to HR, he’s not going to be pleased if HR come to him with the “Catlin told us you told her that Arya told you…” story either!

      1. SystemsLady

        Could even be something other than time card fraud too even if OP heard correctly. Every single employee I work with who’s negotiated a larger vacation package has said something like that about HR (and if our timecard system were integrated, they’d almost certainly have to report vacation as non-billable training sometimes).

        Most others on the standard vacation path wouldn’t have problems with that.

        If she’s reporting billable hours that’s definitely a problem either way, but OP doesn’t know that.

        1. Katie F

          Even if OP heard correctly, it’s still essentially second-hand information that the OP can’t actually know if it is true or not. Gossip has a way of taking simple comments and turning them into huge admissions of guilt.

  33. Mr. Tea

    Re: OP#1 Our admin assistant disappears for long hours. She leaves to go to the gym, takes extended lunches, leaves early–and everyone knows it, including the Big Boss. He just doesn’t give a rodent’s rump. Her behavior is a running joke around here. It won’t be so funny when BB retires and she has to actually be here doing her job.

  34. Heather

    OP1: Allison is right, stop tracking your coworker’s time. I had this happen to me at a past job. I found out during my annual review that my coworker’s thought I was taking extra long lunches all the time. But the truth was, I was running around town picking up items from vendors that THEY requested. It made me resentful and not want to work as hard.

  35. HR Pro

    #5
    I’m going to slightly disagree with AAM’s answer and say “it depends.” If the Facebook frowns upon people posting job ads there, then definitely use AAM’s answer. If the job is something that you don’t think many or any of the members of the group would be interested in, then use AAM’s answer.

    But I think it’s very common for recruiters to join groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and post job ads in those groups. This happens all the time. (Again, be sure to be aware of whether the group has any rules against posting ads – some groups don’t allow that.)

    As for how long you’ll be with the company, think about it in terms of how long it might take to fill that job. Let’s say it will probably take 3 months. Do you still plan to be with the company in 3 months? Then that isn’t a reason to decline to post the job. If you plan to submit your resignation in exactly 3.5 or 4 months, then maybe I wouldn’t post the ad. (But really, after the ad has been posted in the group for a week or two, it will usually fall behind other posts and people won’t be noticing it anymore.)

    Also, if the job is something that several member of the group might be interested in, then that’s even more reason to post the job in the group. I think good recruiters look for synergies like that, so that they’re posting ads in places where likely candidates are likely to be reading the posts.

    1. HR Pro

      Oops, I meant to write “If the Facebook GROUP frowns upon people…”

      Also, in the final paragraph “Also, if the job is something that several memberS of…”

      Yeesh!

    2. Kelly L.

      It’s a private group, and OP is worried she’ll get kicked out for posting it, which gives me the impression that it’s against the group rules. There are all kinds of FB groups with very specific rules, and you can get banned if you break them. I’d get banned if I posted a work ad in my clothing resale groups, for example, and so would any other recruiter who came along and tried that. (I’ve seen it happen.) And if I posted it in my personal kvetching group, I’d just get a “o.O, were you hacked?”

    3. animaniactoo

      I think this is very different in that it is a group that the OP has a personal connection to and membership in. It’s not a random group they’ve joined in order to be able to network and push this stuff. This is their personal life. They’re allowed not to have their business lives intersect with their personal lives just because it seems like a good opportunity to the company.

      To me, that’s more than a little bit like your employer forcing you to host a party and invite all your friends so they can tell all your friends and family (with your apparent compliance) all about this great chance they have to _______. Despite the fact that none of your friends is particularly looking to _______ right now. Or asking your family members to come in and help do X for the company as a favor to you, personally. It is not okay to pressure your employees to mine their personal connections on your behalf.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Yes, many private interest groups that are not on LinkedIn or some other format that implicitly invites business solicitations frown HARD upon selling/proselytizing/recruiting messages. Those groups are not there to entertain other people’s or business’s self-interest in promoting themselves; they are there for the private, stated reason of the group (support, fun, etc.) and they have the right to keep the content of their private, personal Facebook groups on topic and in the spirit intended by the founding members. I belong to several such groups, and posting anything like that in any of them would not be effective; it would just aggravate people, and the post would get taken down, and if I continued to post again, I’d get kicked out of the group. People just can’t solicit in places where solicitation is not welcome.

    4. TootsNYC

      I’m not sure why your length of time at the company has any bearing. You’re not hiring, you wouldn’t be fielding the calls–wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, there’s a job at my company if someone’s interested; call Susan in HR at 555-5555”?

      If your Facebook group doesn’t frown on that sort of informal job lead, maybe that’s what your boss is thinking, along with: “This is a good job for someone who’s an at-home mom. They might actually be glad to hear about it.”

      You still shouldn’t feel obligated to do it. But I might not think of it as quite such a violation.

      I’m a member of a Facebook group of former employees of my old job. People put up, “We’re hiring, let me know if you’re interested” posts all the time. The window on “let me know” is pretty short–and the OP could even just say, “contact the employer.” In that group, it would totally be fine.
      Maybe that’s what the boss is thinking this is.

      (It might, to him, seem to be about the same as, “there’s a new exhibit at the children’s museum.”)

  36. Noah

    “I know that in an at-will employment state, my commitment isn’t legally binding”

    If you enter into a contract for employment for a set term, that contract is definitely binding in an “at will” state. That a state is an “at will” state only means that the default rule is that employment is at will. That can be altered by contract.

  37. TootsNYC

    #3:

    Then, ask directly for what you want. For example: “It would really help me if I could rely on you to tell me when your plate is overflowing, so that I don’t need to spend time reviewing your workload and watching for it. Is that something you can try to do?”

    This is a little too soft for me. I would say, in an informative, instructional way instead of a punitive one: “It’s actually your job to tell me when your workload is out of balance. When you come to me and say, ‘I have too much to do,’ I consider that a point in your column. That’s a win for you—it’s not a loss. It means you’re being realistic, and you’re helping me to manage the tasks so that they all get done. It’s actually as important a thing on your to-do list as anything else.
    “I require it of you, actually.”

    And then I’d be alert to whether I’m sending some other messages without realizing it. And I’d provide plenty of positive feedback when she did come to say, “this isn’t going to get done. (I might even suggest that if it makes her feel better, she should use the passive voice here, instead of saying, “I’m not going to get this done.” That it might help her focus on the goal, which is “the stuff getting done,” not “me doing stuff.”)

    I might also point out that I need to balance the money I’m spending w/ the productivity, and that having one person swamped and not getting things done while someone else is a little idle actually means I’m wasting money, and our department as a whole isn’t doing well. And that providing me this accurate information is what I’m counting on.

    And w/ the emotional reaction, I’ve been known to say, “Acting as though you’re being scolded is not the right framework here—and it’s actually making me worry that you aren’t recognizing the true goals of our department, that you aren’t thinking like a team member, but are focusing only on your desk and your work.”

  38. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

    #3 I find some of these responses unnecessarily aggressive. I would encourage the OP to consider the task that’s being taken away, the response given by the employee and then ask why this response is happening. Granted, the employee should work to manage their emotions, however we should also consider that we work with humans and not robots. (Side note: I’d like to know what the OP means by “emotional response”. Are we talking yelling and crying or a flustered appearance?) Also, what is stopping this manager from simply approaching the employee and talking about it with them? Why automatically assume that the employee is overwhelmed just from checking a few reports? The employee should be trusted to manage their own work. And let’s be clear, the OP never stated that the employee was causing a delay with their heavy workload. All I’m saying is, is that it’s possible that this employee really isn’t so overwhelmed. Maybe this employee was looking forward to performing the task and having it taken away was demoralizing. I would worry about pushing a good worker away by treating them like a child that can’t manage their own workload. This is a trust issue, pure and simple.

    1. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

      In additon, if this employee is truly overwhelmed and really is in need of an off load of tasks, why aren’t they comfortable with coming to the manager? Does the manager also display an emotional reaction that would make the employee hesitant about bringing the issue up?

  39. AnonMommyGrouper

    To #5: I’m part of a sadly large number of FB mom groups. Almost every single one has a stated rule against things like this and I would be uncomfortable just like you if my boss asked me something like this. It would be more acceptable in smaller, local groups than some of the larger groups with a nation wide or international reach. I would check the rules in place for the local groups and if there aren’t defined rules maybe message the group admin and ask (if they directly tell you no, as many of my admins would, then you can tell your boss that you have been told no specifically by the group admin which might help if he is asking repeatedly). These groups will sometimes have Business Post Saturday or something similar which might be the place to do it. And if you do eventually post, I would definitely bunched a comment that states that you are just posting not necessarily endorsing the job if you don’t want to be associated with the company/job after you leave.

  40. Scott

    #1: The advice here is 100% dead on and you should follow it. At my last job, I worked a 32 hour week by mutual agreement with my manager and was considerably taken aback when someone said “You know, I just wanted to point out that a lot of people are noticing that you always take Fridays off” in a friendly/passive aggressive tone. I simply said “thanks for pointing that out!” and continued with my 32-hour per week schedule.

  41. ValleyGal

    #1 I just went through this with a coworker. She was obviously working fewer than 6 hours a day, but our manager was signing off on her time sheet as if she were working her mandated 7.75. . Another coworker kept track of the hours and took the “evidence” to our manager under the guise of “you are signing off on incorrect hours.” Our manager was NOT pleased with the waste of the tracker’s time! Fortunately, the slacker found another job, so the issue is moot.
    I work flexible hours, but usually 8 – 4. If I come in at 8:15, I will then leave at 4:15. I’ve noticed that the person who tracked the slacker’s hours is now making strange little phone calls to see if I am “still here” and suspect she is now tracking my hours!

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