my new coworkers are complaining about my hours … but I’m not doing anything wrong

A reader writes:

Three weeks ago I started a new job, joining a well-established and busy team. The team are very close-knit and have worked together for a long time; they are close both in and out of work (friends on Facebook, two of them used to be housemates, etc). They have been polite but not overly friendly and welcoming. To give some background, the team work either 8-4 or 9-5 to ensure that there is always cover in the department during those hours. My role is different from theirs in that I am not required to provide cover and I frequently work out of the office, so my hours and time are negotiated directly with my manager. My role is new to the team.

The problem is that on two occasions already, a colleague has reported to my manager that I left early without permission. On the first occasion, I was in transit to a meeting at another office when the person I was meeting called my office to cancel the meeting. I do not have a work phone so they had no way of letting me know and I turned up for the meeting. The person I was meeting acknowledged that as they had tried to cancel at such short notice and as I was already there we should go ahead with the meeting anyway. The meeting finished at my normal finish time and I went home after.

The next morning my colleague, Beth, told me that she had been “extremely worried” when I hadn’t come straight back to the office. (Just to note, I’m 36 years old and have lived in this city over 10 years and am the same level of seniority as Beth so I don’t really understand this reaction.) She had phoned my manager (who was on annual leave) at home to see if I had asked for permission to leave early. She said that my manager was “not very happy.” I immediately emailed my manager to explain what had happened and to apologize profusely. My manager appeared unconcerned and said, “Don’t worry, it’s up to you to manage your own time.”

On the second occasion, a colleague and I were the only ones in the office until 5 p.m. (The colleague, Nathan, reported to Beth until recently.) At 4.50 p.m., Nathan started packing up, turning lights out and locking doors, etc. At 4.58 p.m., he said to me that I should leave and he would lock the last doors, so I did. (In this team, it’s not a big deal to leave a few minutes early.) The next morning, my manager told me that Nathan told Beth I left early and that Beth asked her again if I’d negotiated an early finish. My manager said that she was telling me because she wanted me to know that she had explained to Nathan and Beth once again that my schedule works differently than theirs and that my working hours are between me and her.

My manager does not appear to be concerned, but I am. The first occasion I was prepared to dismiss as a misunderstanding, albeit rather odd, but this second one seems a deliberate attempt to cause trouble for me. You’ve given advice before that no sane manager would be alarmed by someone leaving a couple of minutes early and that certainly is the case here, but I’m worried about the motivation behind the complaints in the first place. I would like to address it with my manager again (she mentioned it in passing and we didn’t get a chance to discuss) but I’d also like to address it with the colleagues. However, being new, I don’t want to be a trouble causer either. Do you have any advice? It’s making me feel very unsettled.

Yeah, your coworkers either truly don’t understand that your schedule works differently than theirs do and are being serious busybodies about it, or they have a problem with your schedule and are being outright jerks.

Either way, you should say something to them.

To Beth, I’d say this: “Hey, I’m getting the sense that Jane and I haven’t been clear enough about how my schedule works. I’m often not going to be working the same hours as you and Nathan. My role doesn’t involve providing coverage during certain hours, I’m often going to be out of the office meeting with clients, and Jane and I have arranged that I’ll figure out my hours directly with her. When I heard that you had called Jane to ask about my schedule, I realized that she and I might not have sufficiently explained that. Hopefully she cleared that up, but I wanted to touch base with you to make sure there’s no confusion.”

This probably won’t be telling her anything she doesn’t already know, but by addressing it matter-of-factly and head-on, you’ll be making it harder for her to complain or have fake “concern” in the future.

And to Nathan — who seems to have baited you into leaving a few minutes early and then complained that you did — I’d say this: “Hey, I’m confused about what happened the other day. My understanding was that you wanted me to leave when you did so that you could lock up, but then raised a concern about me leaving early. Where did we miscommunicate?” (It’s actually possible that he didn’t raise a concern about it — that it came from Beth — but either way this is a reasonable thing to say.)

I don’t know that you need to say anything to your manager about this at this point. It sounds like she has your back and reinforced with Nathan and Beth exactly what the situation is. But keep an eye out for further weirdness from these two and don’t be shy about pulling her in if this continues.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Leatherwings.*

    Is there a competition for worst coworkers? These people should definitely be on the list.

    1. justcourt*

      Has AMA had a comment thread on horrible coworkers yet? I think a good example of a horrible co-worker.

            1. Marisol*

              eeeeeeeew i am gagging at the thought of someone who smells like raw garlic!!!! i hate your coworker!!!! poor you!!!

                1. Marisol*

                  what a fucking wierdo. and I actually love garlic. When cooked. And served in a meal. Like normal people do.

                2. Marisol*

                  Barf barf barf. And I love garlic, when cooked. And served in a meal. Like normal people do.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            oh man I was just telling a friend about the line cook/UFC fighter who thought he could wrestle a gorilla.

      1. Shark Lady*

        Oh, have I got some stories to add. Mostly involving my 70-something coworker with the maturity of a kindergartener.

        1. Kisses*

          I worked in a kids store for years- the 2nd shift supervisor when I started would hide items at the end of the night when we were cleaning and wouldn’t let us leave until we found them. And she really went out of the way- baby socks shoved into a swing, toys hidden places..

      1. GlorifiedPlumber*

        Agreed, boss completely enables this situation.

        Coworkers all sound like jealous little backstabber busybodies… boss enables this attitude and behavoir.

      2. Jeff*

        Totally off-topic, but wouldn’t a reality show where the worst bosses were made to work for each other be fun to watch?

    2. animaniactoo*

      Oh, I definitely have one to add to it. Along with schadenfreude when all her complaining ultimately paid off in a realization (for our bosses) that the only reason she was having so many issues with me was that I was the only one in my department who was still expecting her and her department to do the support stuff they were supposed to do for us. That created a lot more problems for them…

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      I still think the coworkers who were giving OP shit about being out so many days because her baby had surgery and then OP was in a car accident take the prize for worst cw. Although it shouldn’t have been, that was quite a heated debate on here.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      I’ve had bad coworkers, but none that are even remotely bad as what we see here.

      1. The senior accountant who hounded the “where are you from” answer from me and then went on to talk for 45 minutes about how HER worst employers were from the same country/culture/religion as myself.

      2. The one who would be super nice to everyone and greet htem and be his charming self to literally everyone. But totally ignored me/treated me as if I was invisible. Still don’t know what in the world I did to get on his bad side.

      3. my report (!) who screamed at me in front of a client.

      Seriously, I love (majority) of my cw here, anytime I get annoyed or frustrated, I just remember the shitty ones.

  2. Curiouser*

    I imagine the manager must be explaining things very poorly to Beth if she felt the need to inform him a second time about her leaving early. It is probably a brush off of “Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to her.” and he is thinking that says “Never worry about it, I handle her hours”.

    Even someone trying to cause trouble wouldn’t really resort to ratting out the second time if they were told that her hours work differently than theirs.

    With Nathan I imagine he fell victim to Beth using the term ‘we’ when speaking with the manager so then it doesn’t look like she is the one ratting someone out alone.

    1. TheSockMonkey*

      I realize it’s possible Beth doesn’t understand the OP’s schedule and that’s the source of bringing it up to the manager multiple times, but really, why is it Beth’s business? Also, someone trying to cause trouble would absolutely try to do the same thing twice, even if told their hours work differently. Someone trying to cause trouble isn’t going to operate according to reasonable office norms.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        really, why is it Beth’s business?

        It isn’t. And that’s what the manager needs to communicate more clearly to Beth, because Beth isn’t taking the OP at her word and appears to need to hear it from someone higher up.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Exactly. I don’t even know why the manager is even discussing this with them in the first place. Tell them to knock it the hell off and go back to work.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If Beth has issues with the boss this might be one way she is “getting back” at the boss. OP, please consider that this might have nothing to do with you and it might actually have something to do with Beth having an agenda. I am singling out Beth because she is the common thread in all these stories. Nathan was not a problem until he spoke to Beth.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, the manager is definitely not being clear enough, and it probably is “Don’t worry about it; I’ll talk to her” instead of “Her hours are just fine, and she reports to me, not you. You worry about your own hours.”

      1. Cobol*

        I don’t think we can take that as a given. It seems to me more likely that Beth is trying to cause problems.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The manager is likely not being clear enough (otherwise, it doesn’t really do Beth any good to complain to the manager), and Beth is trying to cause problems.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t think Nathan is an innocent victim. He had to be involved, or how else would Beth know the OP left 2 minutes early? I guess it’s possible he’s being played by Jane, but I can’t imagine him pointing this out to Beth without being complicit in the complaining.

      1. Izzy*

        OP left 2 minutes early. But how early did Nathan say she left, since they were the only ones there? or did Beth totally make it up?
        We had an unofficial timekeeper in my old job (in a different division). She’d make an excuse to come into our area at 4:29:59 pm to see who was there (someone always was, just because of her!). Same issue, different hours, plus on and off campus meetings. Plus some people closed their doors to work in peace so it looked like they weren’t there when they were. Tattled to TPTB that so and so was seen leaving at 2:30 multiple times. Yeah that would be because she was an early bird and her regular hours were 6:00 am – 2:30 pm. I was the night owl, 9 – 5, so I fielded her snooping sometimes. My theory was that people who have a rigid schedule are jealous of those who don’t, and angry that they can’t get the same flexibility. Or don’t have enough work to do. Or they’re just jerks.

        1. Amy G. Golly*

          Some people just have really, really strong feelings about punctuality and work ethic, combined with a healthy dose of self-righteousness, and a wrong-headed notion of “fairness”. (i.e. That everyone must be treated exactly the same and all infractions, no matter how minor, must be met with consequences.)

          I used to work with a woman I referred to as The Hall Monitor. It would be two minutes before someone else’s shift was due to start when she would start asking, “Where’s so-and-so?” I once made a mistake with my alarm and overslept, making me almost an hour late for work. I was treated to coldness and silence for more than a month afterwards.

            1. Muggle*

              I like it when coworkers have flexible schedules. Gives me hope that I could have the same myself :)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I bet that made you want to oversleep again, right? The silence must have been wonderful.

            People who rigidly stick to rules sometimes do so because they believe without rigid adherence to the rules everything would fall apart. Other times it is because people are just vindictive. Another reason I have seen is because this is what they learned growing up and they have not UNlearned it yet.

            I would add, if a person has worked in the retail or food sector, adherence to schedules is over the top mandatory. If you report a coworker for being late or leaving early in the sectors you get rewarded for your report. Maybe Beth worked for a while in one of these types of jobs.

            1. Vicki*

              Not to mention you’re not allowed to clock in (or out) early (or late) at some of these places.

              I was at a small “low prices!” grocery store today. One checker on duty. 12 customers in line. Another employee walked in, walked over to the door to the office and… stood there.

              I walked over and asked “Can you call someone to the registers?” He said “I’ll be opening on register 4 after I clock in”. And again, he just… stood there. It took him 10 minutes to “clock in”. I have to assume his shift started at 11:30 and the store requirement to not clock in early trumps 12 customers in line.

      2. Norman*

        Beth: “Hey, Nathan. You were here with LW at the end of the day, right?”
        Nathan: “Yeah, why?”
        Beth: “When did you leave.”
        Nathan: “I locked up around 4:58.”
        Beth: [evil laugh]

        1. MashaKasha*

          Yea that’s what I think happened. It would take a special kind of evil for Nathan to deliberately force the OP to leave early just so he’d have a case against her. Few people have that level of determination. I suspect it was all Beth behind that one. (though would love to see an update, even if it proves me wrong!)

          1. KarenD*

            We did have a Nathan-Beth double-team at our office for awhile. “Nathan” was the friendly one who ingratiated himself to co-workers and either elicited small rules violations or confidences, and “Beth” was the tattletale. (They’d come over from a separate unit and had to be told a few times “We do things differently here,” which they wrongly interpreted as chastisement, so they had an us-against-the-world thing going on).

            Eventually they turned on each other, which was pretty much bound to happen. Very drama. Much entertain.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              Because of course they did! People like that never make trustworthy friends even to each other. The old saw about how a man who cheats on his former wife will cheat on you, can be applied to a “friend” who will backstab others will eventually backstab you.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I agree with your last sentence–I think maybe Beth asked him about it and he said, “Oh she left right before I did,” or something similar. The OP said the manager said the question came from Beth, not Nathan.

      Beth needs to mind her own bidness.

    5. AFRC*

      I was thinking that too, about the explaining it poorly. And kind of brushing it off is annoying for the OP, because it’s clearly not working. The boss SAYS she told the coworkers about the situation, but it’s possible that she said something very different to appease the coworkers. Alison’s advice should help the OP get to the bottom of who’s saying what to whom, and the clearing it up, so she’s not dealing with this ridiculousness any longer.

      Good luck, OP!!

    6. Sadsack*

      Nah, Beth has her own agenda. If she were really being helpful, there’s a couple of things she would have done differently. When she received the call to alert OP that the meeting was cancelled, she could have tried to call her to stop her. She didn’t. When OP didn’t come back to the office after a “worrisome” amount of time, she could have called OP to ask her if she’s coming back and said she’s just checking because she was worried. She didn’t. Instead, she called her boss to ask if OP was given time off. Even after the conversation with the boss who was “not happy,” Beth still didn’t contact OP to make sure she was not in an accident or whatever else she may claim was her worry.

      1. Sadsack*

        Thinking on this further, even if Beth didn’t have a cell or home phone number for OP, she could have called the other office after a while to see if OP ended up staying there, if she was so worried.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I totally agree with you. Beth is a pot-stirrer. Fortunately she is not good at lying.

      2. Susie Carmichael*

        Not Happy boss was probably not happy about being bothered on her vacation day, at home, for something this silly. Beth decided to report it differently tho, for self serving purposes. Beth is a busybody.

    7. Library Director*

      Perhaps, but not necessarily. I’ve managed folks like these. I would announce at a staff meeting that Wakeen would be working on a project and while it may look like personal business it wasn’t. It never failed that the two busy body, tattle-tales would come with fake concern because Wakeen was working on a personal project during work time. They would have to be told at least three times that this was a work approved project.

      This would be repeated with another employee. When this came up during evaluation time they were shocked because I didn’t appreciate how they looked out for the library. Some people just cannot stand that other people have different standards to meet.

  3. Oryx*

    OP, I think you’re maybe misinterpreting your manager’s attitude of “not being happy” as being not very happy with you when I suspect she’s probably not very happy with your co-workers for constantly tattling on you (and while I know here on AAM we always say adults don’t tattle, kids do, in this case I feel justified using that term). She even told you that she trusts you to manage your own time.

    The only one your schedule really matters to is your manager and it sounds like she has no issue with the way you are doing things so stop apologizing to her when this happens and while I’d argue that you shouldn’t have to explain to Beth and/or Nathan about your arrangement, in this case you might want to because they really don’t seem to understand.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I think Beth’s detail of OP’s boss “not being happy” was exaggerated or completely false.

      1. Oryx*

        Possibly, although Beth did call the manager at home while she was on vacation so I could see the manager not being happy — she’s just not very happy with Beth, not the OP.

        1. Lance*

          Exactly what I was thinking; I don’t think very many people would appreciate being interrupted with something work-related that they have no real context on nor power over while on their leave.

          1. CanadianKat*

            And which isn’t even that important. Even if LW did miss a couple of hours of work without authorization, this could easily have been brought up once the manager returned. It’s not like LW completely stopped showing up for work and issues were being caused by his absence.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Oh very true. The only time I went off on a teacher of one of my kids was when my youngest was in 3rd grade and his teacher called me at work (mission critical production-support environment) just to inform me that “people have been telling me that (your son) and his two friends have started a club and aren’t letting everyone in”. Lady, did you seriously just call me at work, interrupting my work and making me freak out about what horrible things may have happened to my son at school that I’m getting a call from you, to spread 3rd-grade gossip? I told her, “I think THE PEOPLE should be thinking less about my son and more about their state tests next week!”

            If someone from work called me on my vacation (causing me to have all kinds of guesses about what horrible production emergency is happening that they had to call me on my time off…) just to also, essentially, spread gossip about my (hypothetical) employees, not gonna lie, I’d bite their head off.

            1. just a teacher*

              I think I need some more information because as a teacher, this is just the kind of thing I would call a parent about. Did the kids form a group that was bullying other kids? Social/emotional development IS part of my job description. Perhaps this 3rd grade teachers was not expressing herself well. Perhaps she should have begun the conversation with “Is this a good time?” I truly have no idea what
              “mission critical production-support environment” is. Did she call during a space launch?

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                Yeah, I’d call about that, too, though I do open phone conversations with parents by saying, “Is this a good time, or would it be better if I called back this afternoon?” I’d also offer to call the other parent if there is one. But if there does seem to be a social-emotional thing going on, I won’t want to wait a week or two on it.

              2. Lora*

                Don’t know about Masha, but I can often be found in a clean room attempting to troubleshoot a reactor that, if it breaks down, will kill many people and leave a big crater in the ground. If ANYONE other than someone else working on the same reactor system calls me, there had better be fire, smoke, flashing lights, blood etc.

                There’s lots of people who really need to keep their phones available and turned on in the event of a colleague calling them or the aforementioned fire &c, but need to not be interrupted in their work. This is why we have email. Email addresses issues in a timely fashion but doesn’t disrupt people who need to focus. Police, firefighters, medical personnel, any kind of emergency responder, lots of people can’t interrupt their day for that sort of thing.

              3. AdminMeow*

                This is what email is for… Which can include scheduling a time to talk by phone or in person if you feel it is needed. Calling a parent at work should be reserved for emergencies/sick kids that need to be picked up. I can imagine at many jobs, let alone ones that involve high stress/high stakes, getting a call about a little kid’s club might upset a person. Especially because many get a call from the school and automatically assume “they would only call if it was really important”. This isn’t to say that the issue doesn’t need to be dealt with but it’s importance in relation to the parent’s job is low. I would also recommend at the beginning of the year having parents fill out a questionnaire about contact info and methods preferred, times, etc. Set expectations on both sides.

    2. Tomato Frog*

      I suspect OP just included that detail to show the contrast between how Beth was presenting the situation and how OP’s boss was actually acting — I don’t think the OP thinks their boss was actually unhappy, and once they realized that I doubt they followed through on the apologizing.

    3. Honeybee*

      And for calling her at home on annual leave! Even if Beth thought something was up, this definitely didn’t warrant disrupting your boss’s off time.

    4. Vicki*

      “PI think you’re maybe misinterpreting your manager’s attitude of “not being happy” as being not very happy with you when I suspect she’s probably not very happy with your co-workers”

      for calling her when she’s out on leave with an unnecessary and out-of-bounds complaint.

    5. OP*

      OP here!

      It was Beth who said that the manager was not happy – not me. As per my post, when I spoke to my manager she was completely unconcerned and seemed surprised that I’d been given that impression at all. I’ve never had anything but positivity from my manager which is why I think the issue lies with Beth.

      I apologised *for the confusion* the first time it happened and only because I’d been told that my manager was angry. It was my first week in the job. I didn’t apologise the second time. That time I said that it wasn’t the case and I didn’t understand why she’d been told that, but it was a very brief chat between meetings so we didn’t get to explore it properly.

    1. LA Gaucho*

      Agreed. These co-workers are a-holes.

      Also, I’ve seen this multiple times in my life (not with me, but it’s happened to people close to me). New team member joins existing, close knit team and all the existing members automatically hate (or are at least very prickly with) new team member. They don’t even give new team member a chance because existing team is soooooo afraid of the newbie messing with their dynamic or “rules” or whatever they got going on.

      My good friend joined a team that all had not-so-secret side businesses. She doesn’t have one, so when she joined they automatically thought she would rat them out (well duh, they were only working 3 hours day at most). She never said a word, but they made her life hell. Bleh. I greatly dislike people sometimes.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        It seems to me that, if you’re so afraid someone is going to rat you out, you should be extra-nice to them, not extra-mean to them. The co-workers’ anti-being-ratted-out strategy seems a little wonky to me.

      2. OP*

        You are not the first person to say this. In fact, I was in another office just this week and someone asked me how I was getting on with the ‘unusual social set up’ in my office.

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          “Unusual social set up” is such an unusual phrase, I’d want to get as much background as possible from folks in the know! It sounds like there’s a lot of context that Beth is conveniently not sharing with you. I’d imagine more information would only help you navigate this would-be soap opera.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that Beth has a long history of issues with the boss. I am not totally convinced that Nathan is a Beth version 2.0.

  4. ThatGirl*

    I would suspect the manager was “not happy” because she was bothered, on her day off, over something inconsequential. Ugh.

    I am so grateful nobody gives me crap – I sometimes leave a little early and appear to work a shortened day because I don’t take a lunch break – but I also work from home two days a week (often longer hours on those days) and put in extra evening and even weekend time when it’s needed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Conveniently missing a few words from that sentence:

        “I called the boss and the boss was not happy [with me].”

        Beth sounds like a story teller. She is going to create whatever story she wants to get people stirred up. I have worked with quite a few people that leave out critical details of the story so that it sounds like something it is not.

    1. Joseph*

      I thought the exact same thing. You don’t interrupt someone’s annual (!) vacation for minor non-emergencies.
      Heck, even if the situation was different and OP was skimping on hours, I’d still be kinda pissed that Beth thought someone leaving an hour early justified interrupting my vacation. You really couldn’t have waited the couple days till I’m back in office?

    2. Ros*

      Yeah, this.

      I’d be super unhappy if someone called me on my week off with my kid to tell me that someone who is responsible for their own schedule did something which they’re entitled to do.

    3. Marisol*

      I assumed the “not happy” thing was just a total lie. Beth was the only one who talked to the boss, so she was free to make up whatever she liked. But of course it’s also very plausible that she was pissed to be disturbed while on vacation.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Would a passive aggressive answer be appropriate in that situation? “Oh Beth, I am sorry that you felt worried.”

      “Sorry that you feel this way” usually makes me raise my hackles and bare my teeth, but this seems to be a perfect occasion for it!

      1. Sassy AAE*

        That might work, but I really dislike using passive aggressive tactics, unless really necessary. I think OP should really just talk to Beth directly.

        Next time Beth says she’s “worried.” Just ask her why. Like, “Why are you worried?” and then however she answers OP can just go from there. “Okay, Beth. I have a different schedule from you, though. Manager is fine with me being in charge of my own time.”

        1. lawsuited*

          I think “You don’t need to worry, Beth, Manager and I have got it under control” might do the trick.

          1. MommaTRex*

            I don’t think so. I don’t think anything is going to work with Beth other than her Manager to cut it out or face consequences. Bluntly.

        2. Izzy*

          Someone, I think maybe a former therapist, told me that “passive-aggressive is the only language passive-aggressive people understand.” I was discussing a planned action to deal with a very passive-aggressive person in my life, and asked this person if my plan seemed passive-aggressive to her. That was her reply. Not sure if I 100% agree with her, but there may be a time and place for it.

          1. Marisol*

            That’s interesting that a therapist said that. I think I’m inclined to agree. I think sometimes the ends justify the means.

        3. 2horseygirls*

          I would go with “Hmmmm, how interesting. Are you this concerned about all the other adults in the office as well?”

          That might be a bit snarky for a new employee, though. But it was fun to type out! :)

      2. Tomato Frog*

        I vote for being over-concerned right back at her. “That seems like such an extreme response to the situation, I wonder if you’re feeling all right? Is everything okay at home? Did you have a childhood experience that maybe would lead you to react disproportionately to the situation?”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Yes! I friendship-divorced a friend who was a “concern-troll”. If I didn’t call her back right away, I would get a message stating she was so worried about me, am I ok, etc…. If I didn’t feel like hanging out she would ask me if I was depressed. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I finally got fed up and ditched her (for other reasons as well).

      1. alter_ego*

        I can’t imagine having the self-confidence it must take to assume that someone who doesn’t answer my calls or feel like hanging out with me must be doing so because of an accident or medical emergency, rather than attributing it to my own deficiencies (I understand that the reality likely has nothing to do with me).

        1. TootsNYC*

          it’s not actually self-confidence, I don’t think. It’s an extreme need for reassurance, with a manipulative “plausible deniability!” tactic to get it.

          1. copy run start*

            I had a friend exactly like this, and I think it was a constant need for attention. It was so awful that I dreaded most contact from her. She’d be desperate to hang out for a few months… Then I’d get radio silence for the next few until she remembered I existed and I’d feel smothered all over again. Now if I wanted to contact her during that cool period I’d hardly get the time of day.

            So happy that friendship is over.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I think it’s the opposite! She was not confident at all and instead of telling me the truth – that she was angry that I didn’t return her call – she turned it into passive aggressive “concern”. Exactly like what Toots wrote above (or below).

      2. Michele*

        I had a long-time college friend who decided to dump me because she said she was “trying to help” me, when the things I asked her to do for me (personal and professional) she didn’t do. Or bailed. Also, she would act like a child when she didn’t get her way.

      3. Office Plant*

        Yeah, that’s a creepy manipulative posessive thing. The underlying implication is, “If you don’t spend time with me when I want you to, there’s something wrong with you.” I tend to take that as a major red flag and run from those people.

    3. Katie F*

      “I’m so sorry that the misunderstanding about how my schedule works caused you to feel worry. Glad we’ve cleared that up so it won’t happen again.”

          1. valereee*

            I think that’s a ridiculous (and really, kind of hideous) generalization. I’m from the midwest, too, third generation, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it was an unusually common trait associated with our region. If anything I’d say it was a probably unfair stereotype more often associated with Southerners, whom I’ve often heard joke that “Well, bless your heart” usually means “I can’t believe you said that to me.” But midwesterners? The most common stereotype I’ve heard is ‘midwestern nice,’ and honestly I’ve absolutely more often seen that than passive-aggressiveness. I’m not saying there aren’t passive-aggressive people here; obviously they’re everywhere. But I absolutely do not think there are more passive-aggressive types here than I’d expect from any population, and really I think it’s quite likely if anything there are fewer. If you’re passive-aggressive, it’s you, not the rest of us.

            1. Katie F*

              My experience has been that passive-aggressiveness, a very specific kind of it that most closely resembles what you’re calling Midwestern Nice, is incredibly widespread throughout the various parts of the rural Midwest I’ve lived in. I mean, granted, nearly all of that has been spent in the more eastern parts of the Midwest – Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois, and primarily Illinois at that.

              1. valereee*

                Katie F, I have no doubt that you’ve experienced it, or that some of it has been disguised as midwestern nice. But to make a blanket statement that passive-aggressiveness is more a midwestern trait than it is for other regions is just unfair.

                1. Katie F*

                  I think it’s worth a note, valereee, that I didn’t actually say that – I said growing up in the rural Midwest meant that passive-aggressive is a language I am very, very good at, and in my second comment noted that that it was incredibly widespread throughout the various Midwestern areas I’ve lived in.

                  I never once said that other regions don’t also have passive-aggressive people. I live in the South now and the passive-aggressiveness is also a part of culture here, but it is definitely a different sort of flavor of it.

                2. SystemsLady*

                  I wonder if it’s just rural anywhere that’s like that, and the Midwest gets it slapped on them because they’re known for being rural (and the South is already known for other things).

                  Rural towns in the West seem very similar to rural towns in the Midwest, and I’ve spent some time in both.

            2. neverjaunty*

              I’m from the Midwest, and believe me, you don’t know what passive-aggressiveness is until you move to California.

              1. pony tail*

                I think passive aggressiveness in women partly stems from all the societal expectations that girls must play nice with everyone. The whole be a good girl mantra and don’t make waves. Sometimes you don’t want to be that nice little get along girl and boom – here comes passive aggressiveness.

                1. valereee*

                  I would agree that Beth’s passive-aggressiveness is likely a response to some pressure to not be aggressive-aggressive. :)

                2. TootsNYC*

                  Beth’s not being classic, textbook “passive aggressive.” She’s being “middle-school mean” (my new substitute for “mean girls”).

                  True “passive aggressive” is when you say you’ll go to the party but you just sort of take forever to get ready. Or when you do a crappy job at something so people won’t ask you to do it again.

                3. animaniactoo*

                  One of my favorite series ever explores this so in depth, it’s pretty awesome. Basically it’s two societies in conflict with each other, but needing to interact with each other to resolve major world events. Once society is very western, the other is very ancient-middle-east in a way where women have little to no authority – except over other women in specific circumstances. It’s a beautifully complex story, but one of the pieces you get is a thorough exploration of how a woman in the 2nd situation gathers and wields regional power on a greater scale – while never overtly appearing to flex it at all. Passive aggression and manipulation are two main factors in that. While appearing to be completely reasonable maneuvers in response to the society and world they live in.

                4. animaniactoo*

                  Jess, it’s The Sun Sword series by Michelle West. Fair warning, while I love it, it is a very complex multi-threaded fantasy series. The first time through, I had to take “processing” breaks to contemplate and keep track. 8•)

              2. Office Plant*

                California is a cornucopia of passive aggression. It’s like all the most passive-aggressive people from other places move there.

                1. Marisol*

                  Hmm, I grew up and currently live in So Cal and I don’t think I ever heard that about us. What I’ve heard is fake, flakey and shallow (all related concepts), narcissistic, and laid-back, which I guess could also imply lazy. Passive-aggressive is a new one on me. I guess one could attribute the flakiness of say, not showing up to a scheduled meeting or date to passive aggression, but I think the other negative traits I mention are more apt. Huh, the p.a. thing doesn’t resonate.

            3. Jubilance*

              I’ve lived in Minnesota for 10 years, and I can guarantee that passive aggressive is very much a thing. I’m also from MI and it didn’t seem to be a thing there, but I also left when I was 17. Let’s not jump on Katie F simply because she stated a behavior that many people would agree is true. If it’s not true for you, awesome, but no need to jump on her.

              1. valereee*

                I didn’t think I was jumping on her; just disagreeing very strongly with a statement I thought extremely unfair. I’m sure we all have passive-aggressive people in our lives — it’s a thing everywhere. My point is that I have seen no evidence (nor ever heard anyone say before this) that passive-aggressiveness was more common in the Midwest than it is anywhere else.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I’ve lived in Philly, New York, all over Indiana, Chicago area and Kentucky.

                  There are passive-aggressive people everywhere, but I do think people in the Midwest have a certain… affinity for it.

                  And then there’s the southern “bless your heart” mentality. I’ve described it thus: New Yorkers can tell you to go f$%k yourself and mean “have a nice day;” in the south they can say “have a nice day” and mean “go f$%k yourself.”

                2. MashaKasha*

                  I recently used “bless her heart” when talking to someone about a mutual acquaintance I didn’t care for, and the person freaked out! “IS SHE DEAD?”

                  We’re in the Midwest. I just like the expression so much, it sometimes slips into my speech.

                3. Liz T*

                  A complete stranger in Texas once correctly IDed me as being from New York because I politely asked two people at Starbucks whether or not they were in line.

                  They weren’t, and stepped out of the way. But apparently a Texan would’ve just stood there. In fact one of the first 20 minutes of my time in Dallas was standing in a very long “10 Items or Less” lane while someone rang up about 50 items, and absolutely no one said a word.

              2. Blue_eyes*

                Yeah, I lived in MN for 6 years and “Minnesota Nice” is just another way of saying passive-aggressive.

                1. valereee*

                  Well, I guess I’d have to argue that calling something “Minnesota Nice” when what you mean is “passive-aggressive” is pretty passive-aggressive. :D Where I am, the term is understood sincerely, and is most often in my experience used self-deprecatingly as a way to explain why, for instance, we gave $20 to the lady in the rest stop who we suspected wasn’t actually out of gas on her way to visit her dying mother. :)

                2. Natalie*

                  I’ve lived in MN my whole life except college, and that’s exactly right. There’s a lot of PA or just plain passivity here, and “Minnesota Nice” is just a more positive name for it.

                3. Liz T*

                  valereee, isn’t that just being nice? What’s Minnesota about that? I thought the point of qualifying the word “nice” is to indicate some level of irony.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                MO here, and I agree–Midwestern Nice often IS passive-aggressive. I think pony tail has a good point too. This part of the country has very traditional values, especially the more rural you get. Being feminine is a thing. So is living here for many years and if you are a woman, never having to change a tire yourself even once.

                1. Amadeo*

                  LOL. I live in a part of Illinois closest to KY and Missouri and I know passive-aggressive pretty well, along with ‘bless your heart’. I do, however, know how to change a tire on my own and the last time I had to stop and put the donut on my car I got increasingly annoyed with the older gentleman who stopped to help me.

                  Dude, you don’t tighten lugnuts in a circle, what’s wrong with you? Give me that iron back.

            4. Catherine*

              I’m also from the rural Midwest, and I’ve noticed that sometimes people use “passive aggressive” to describe our tendency to avoid direct language in conflict. For example, if someone sees my new haircut, raises her eyebrow very slightly, and pointedly says nothing. An unpleasant interaction (always better when someone thinks I look great!), but message received, and I don’t see an improvement in hearing someone say, “I hate your hair.” It does seem to drive some outsiders crazy, and maybe it’s just that they don’t speak the language of aggression in quiet terms and therefore feel that they have no opportunity to respond.

              But I think passive aggression is different. Passive aggression would be like knowing the OP’s meeting has been changed, but “forgetting” to tell her. Or offering to help with a project to meet a deadline but then only managing to complete 20% of what was taken on. Or, to go back to the hair example, not telling someone there’s bird poop in her hair. What Beth is doing is active aggression, just with disguised hostility, or hostility that is unrecognized by herself.

              1. SystemsLady*

                I’m a native Midwesterner and this seems like the most accurate way to put it to me.

                Nasty passive aggression is as common here as it is anywhere else.

              2. Liz T*

                I too hate the common, inaccurate usage of “passive-aggressive,” just as I hate the common, inaccurate usage of “negative reinforcement.” No one in the OP’s story is being the ACTUAL meaning of passive-aggressive; Beth is very active here. But the common usage includes what you describe about a haircut.

                I also agree with you that “passive aggressive” insults aren’t necessarily worse than outright, verbal insults, and I hate when people pretend they were. So many people pretend it’s the PACKAGING they object to, rather than the content, when they’re actually just looking for a way to feel superior.

            5. MM*

              I’m from the East Coast, went to school in the Midwest, and have friends from a variety of regions–including a Southwesterner who’s married to a Midwesterner–and I can tell you that “passive-aggressive” is probably the single most common stereotype about Midwesterners. To be clear, the notion of passive-aggressiveness is mixed in with the “Midwestern nice” thing you’re talking about (which can mean being actually nice/friendly as often as it can mean passive-aggressive), such that the stereotype is kind of de-weaponized: it’s as affectionate as it is negative, mixed together pretty much equally.

              The Southern “bless your heart” thing, while yes, technically passive-aggressive, is in my experience basically treated by outsiders as so cutting that it’s past passive-aggressive into just aggressive. It’s the difference between jokes about Canadians apologizing all the time (similar to Midwesterners who won’t just say what they mean because they feel the need to be “nice” or overly polite) and the mean girl in a teen movie (technically she’s masking her intentions with kind or polite words, but everyone knows exactly what is going on).

              Obviously neither of these generalizations describes everyone in either region, and neither is totally accurate in its description. But “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it was an unusually common trait associated with our region” is just completely untrue in my experience.

            6. spinetingler*

              “Well, bless your heart” usually means ‘I can’t believe you said that to me.’ ”

              That’s not what “Bless your heart” means. It’s about six words shorter than that. . .


          2. 2horseygirls*

            Katie F, clearly you’ve met my mother (who never ventures beyond Cook County if she can possibly avoid it). ;)

    4. Joseph*

      The most ridiculous part of this justification? If there actually WAS something worth worrying about, the Manager-on-annual-leave would STILL not be the right person to call first about an OP-related emergency.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. If she was so worried and thought you were in so much trouble, she should have called the police.

    5. Marisol*

      I don’t think it was passive-aggressive but I do think it was manipulative. Lily in NYC writes below that she once knew a “concern troll” and I think trolling may be the right concept–she was trolling to get some sort of reaction from the OP in order to get her on an emotional hook, and have some sort of control over her. I think you could also see it as “grooming” her to get her used to relating in an unhealthy way, if for no other reason than misery loves company.

    6. OP*

      That’s what I thought. I would have handled it a little more assertively in hindsight, but it was my first week in a new job and I was still trying to find my feet in their weirdly close social set up!

  5. AnonEMoose*

    Beth sounds a lot like a coworker I had at a previous job. My “Beth” was the receptionist, so she did have something of a need to understand everyone’s schedules. But with her, it was more like she had this weird obsession with whatever the newest person in the office was doing.

    So, when I was the newest person, she was constantly asking a different co-worker “Well, what is AnonEMoose doing back there? I don’t understand what she’s doing…” And then, when someone else was hired, and did have somewhat different hours, “Beth” switched to asking me about “Dee’s” schedule. At least several times a week. “I don’t understand Dee’s schedule. What is Dee doing?”

    It got to the point where Dee and I went to our mutual boss to say, essentially “This is really weird and uncomfortable, can we get this to stop?” To the boss’s credit, she did talk to “Beth,” and did tell us “I really can’t keep this anonymous,” which was fine with us – we just wanted Beth to stop interrogating us.

    Of course, that job had worse dysfunctions, but that was one of the weirder ones. It was just…odd.

    1. OriginalYup*

      I had a very similar coworker, and she was always sneakily trying to act like it bothered everyone and she was just the spokesperson for an aggrieved group of invisible serfs. Once time, she was tasked with making a list of work-life-balance policy recommendations for the management team, and was interviewing people internally to get input. After a bunch of normal questions, she straight up asked me, “Does it bother you when you see coworkers arriving late and leaving early while you’re working long hours?” I was like, don’t even start with that transparent bullsh*t. I said just breezily, “I don’t really track other people’s coming and goings. It’s really none of my business. I doubt I’d even notice, but if I saw someone arriving late or leaving early, I’d assume it was something they’d already worked out with their boss. So no, it doesn’t bother me at all!” She was *not* pleased.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        +100 for “aggrieved group of invisible serfs.” I have met their representative many times!

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I had a coworker who wrote down three other coworkers times of coming in and going out, including mine, on his phone calendar. It was weird.

      1. the gold digger*

        I found out that my boss’s admin at a previous job was really annoyed that I would go to the gym at lunch. I guess she didn’t care that I had 6:30 a.m. conference calls with the Dubai office or didn’t get paid OT when I traveled to Dubai the day after Thanksgiving. (Yes. Still. Bitter.)

        So she would schedule meetings with me and my boss over the calendar block I had for the gym just because she didn’t think I should be able to go. I wasn’t going to tell my boss that I couldn’t meet with him at that time because I had BodyPump.

        The whole time, I thought those were the best times for him, but after I left the company and, I might add, after she asked if she could use me as a reference for her new job, I learned she had been behind the meeting times.

        We are no longer friends.

        1. Aurion*

          Oh man, did she outright admit to you (in the same breath as the request for reference?!) that she deliberately scheduled over your gym time? How did that conversation turn out?? Inquiring minds want to know!

      2. Michelle*

        I currently work in office where the assistant manager has a hardback notebook that they write notes in, including arrival & departure times for almost everyone employee, including people who are not part of her department and that she has no supervisory authority over. I accidentally found it one day while working in the stockroom. Yes, I read it. I almost walked it out to her so I could say “you left something in the stockroom” but instead, I just randomly tore out pages that had info written down.

        I know it was hers because I had seen it in her with it many times, including going in & out of the stockroom, and because I recognized her handwriting. She does this weird thing with capital cursive W’s that make them look like the number 3. We had a Wendy, Wanda and Willow that worked in our office at the time and all their names had that weird W. She never said a word so I don’t know if she noticed or not, but she does still have it. She must have moved her hiding place.

        1. Katie F*

          I would love to know if she had even a moment’s guilt when she realized it had been found.

        2. Office_Witch*

          Ugh – The office busy body (the HR person) at my old office had a journal where she kept track of people’s coming and goings, break times etc. Once they moved her office outside of the open office plan she revealed to me that she also tracked people’s bathroom breaks and asked if I could start doing it since she no longer see everyone. I have never said no so fast in my life.

          1. 2horseygirls*

            Before I was terminated last year, one of the things that my previous boss mentioned was that I was frequently seen going to the bathroom with a makeup bag.

            Yes, cccasionally I would put on my makeup (all 5 minutes’ worth) during a “regularly scheduled” bathroom break.* Not sure why it warranted a spy and a comment, but that was just the tip of the iceberg with that one . . . .

            And it could have been a variety of medically-related things that were really none of her business.

            * And I’ve been compared to a camel on more than one occasion, unlike her assistant who retired, who was in there every 30 minutes. (We sat in a glass atrium directly across from the restrooms.)

      3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        Ugh…I had a coworker who used to track our in/out times on her desk calendar.

  6. EJ*

    Question — If OP left the office with Nathan, didn’t Nathan technically leave early too? Why doesn’t Beth raise that concern with the boss?

    1. Sassy AAE*

      Not to get too deep into the CSI-ness of this, but Beth told OP that her manager was “not very happy,” which was BS. Beth’s an unreliable narrator. She probably goaded Nathan into “admitting” he and OP left at 4:58 (the scandal of it all!). I think Nathan is just a poor patsy in Beth’s passive aggressive play.

      1. Nea*

        I’m not entirely sure we have enough evidence that Nathan even mentioned a time. It could have been as innocent as “I locked up after OP left” being interpreted through Beth’s filters as “OP skated hours before lockup” as opposed to mentally adding “…at closing time.”

        1. OP*

          I think this is what happened. He’s been one of the friendlier ones so I was really surprised at his involvement.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Yes, I wondered that too. Plus it sounded like if it was early, it was only by a few minutes. (The office closes at 5pm, and OP was packing up at 4:58? Or maybe I read too quickly there.)

    3. Michelle*

      I think Nathan encouraged OP to leave at 4:58 and he “locked up”, which might have taken 2 minutes??

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        Yeah, it sounds like Nathan wanted to get out right at 5 & didn’t want to have to wait for OP.

      2. Mona Lisa*

        That’s how I read it, too. He stayed behind to grab lights, set the security system, etc. after encouraging the OP to leave so he could do the final closing procedures. Depending on how much was left, I could easily see that as taking 2-5 minutes.

  7. Excel Slayer*

    Beth phoned your manager at home(!) during annual leave(!) to check if you had ‘permission’ to leave early?(!!!)
    I really don’t know what to say to this one. At least your manager has your back, I guess?

    1. OhNo*

      I don’t get it either. Is Beth somehow under the impression that she is meant to manage you? Is she in charge of scheduling coverage and somehow think you’re part of that? This is just a weird reaction overall.

      It might end up being a case of a busybody (Beth) who is fostering a clique (this ‘very close-knit’ team) and picking on anyone outside it (the OP). But it’s possible that there’s some misunderstanding, so that’s definitely the best avenue to pursue first. It might be a Hanlon’s razor situation, after all.

      1. Excel Slayer*

        Even if she is in charge of scheduling coverage, I can’t see how it’s important enough to phone the manager at home. Unless she thought the manager would phone OP and demand she return to the office?

        But disregarding that weirdness, that isn’t a bad thought. Perhaps she is in charge of ensuring coverage, or has taken it upon herself to track people’s coverage?

        1. Liane*

          OhNo & Excel Slayer–even if Beth WAS “under the impression that she is meant to manage [OP]” &/or ” in charge of ensuring coverage” Boss has now told her TWICE “Beth isn’t meant to manage OP” and that “coverage doesn’t mean ‘coverage by OP.'”

          Which means it shouldn’t happen a third time.

          1. Excel Slayer*

            It shouldn’t…

            I personally wouldn’t be willing to bet on it though. I think she’s more likely to be a self-appointed time monitor than it actually being her responsibility, or I think OP would have mentioned it.

    2. Phoebe*

      Yeah, I think the manager being “not very happy” had nothing to do with OP leaving early, but rather she was annoyed at “Beth” for calling her on her day off for such a minor thing.

    3. AD*

      I think the manager has some element of blame here. He/she *really* should have conveyed to Beth unambiguously that this is none of her business.

  8. Rebecca*

    I feel like I need to print this out and hang it on the bulletin board here.

    One of my coworkers is out of the office today and tomorrow. We are understaffed, so whenever anyone is out of the office, taking their earned vacation time, it creates issues for us. That’s on management, not us. But, in following the whole “pot calling the kettle black” scenario, meddling coworkers started complaining about the person who is off today and tomorrow. Our manager approved it! The ones complaining are constantly calling off for one reason or another, one of them has managed to take off almost every Friday this summer, and to top it off, one of the complainers actually left 45 minutes after she got here to go to the doctor, and hasn’t returned. She has quite the reputation for taking vacation days, coming back for 1 day, then calling off sick for the next 1 or 2 days, then coming back to work, only to repeat the cycle the next time she takes time off. Really, all of them should just keep their thoughts to themselves.

    Bottom line: meddling coworkers need to talk to our manager, not whine about someone who is not here due to approved time off. As they say, not my circus, not my monkeys.

    (I feel very grumpy today, and like I want to tell people to get off my lawn, so I closed my office door and am trying hard to keep my social filter in place)

    1. hbc*

      The people who complain are always the worst offenders. The guy who used to make comments about me leaving at 3:30 when I got in around 6am? Came in barely by 9:00 and was somehow never around any time I stayed past 4:00. I’ve got a direct report now who was recently whining about the smokers’ breaks who actually said, “It seems like they’re out there every time I pull into the parking lot.” I said, “Wait, are you complaining that you see them on their break when you’re on break?!”

      People who will abuse any flexibility they get just assume that others are doing the same.

  9. Amy*

    There are people who really aren’t going to get what flexible schedules are; they’re pretty rigid thinkers who pride themselves on rule-following, not slacking, etc., and they see it as part of their mission in life to root out slack. Unless the co-worker sees, with her own eyes, that this person really is working fulltime, in some way that she can recognize and understand, she will go on believing that the OP is getting away with something.

    The only way to handle this is for the boss to call her in and dress her down, make it very clear that the meddling is messing with her, the boss’s, business. That the busybody is being a Bad Employee. And that she doesn’t have to understand it if she just can’t wrap her mind around it, but she will and must knock it off and stop messing with the boss’s program. Because even if she doesn’t understand flex schedules, she’ll understand authority, and also understand the area marked “Not Your Bailiwick.”

    If it’s an ongoing problem with that group of coworkers, the OP may need to be moved physically to another area of the office and have a more formal relationship with them, so that it’s clear to them that the OP isn’t “one of them” and can’t be expected to live by the same rules.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, these are the sorts of folks who turn into managers that refuse to allow work from home and whatnot without a business case.

      1. Carly*

        The CEO of my company tried working from home once and found it distracting and now refuses to allow anyone to work from anywhere but the office.

        1. OriginalYup*

          Bonus points if he has a private office at work but everyone else has an open-plan like space.

    2. Joseph*

      “There are people who really aren’t going to get what flexible schedules are; they’re pretty rigid thinkers who pride themselves on rule-following, not slacking, etc., and they see it as part of their mission in life to root out slack.”
      Ironically, the people who are like this can often be the worst employees to manage *because* they’re so focused on rooting out slackers.
      >They spend so much time on rule-following, watching co-workers’ activities and so on that they’re actually wasting plenty of time themselves.
      >They consider any amount of rule-breaking or slacking a problem, without considering the actual relevance. If you’re spending six hours on ESPN every day, that’s an issue, yeah, that’s an issue. If you’re spending five minutes on ESPN reading an article about tonight’s game, I honestly don’t care as long as your workload is getting finished.
      >Worst of all, they tend to really struggle with the concept of “This is not your problem” even if it’s explained to them. So now you’re wasting MY time as well by continuing to tell me about these things.

      1. Temperance*

        At my last job, our receptionist was so rigid that she actually wrote down what time we delivered the mail/packages at, because she was Very Concerned that our clients couldn’t expect us to be reliable. Except, couriers and the USPS didn’t arrive on time every day, making this ridiculous demand of hers impossible. Also, no one complained.

        She also requested that we let her know when we were going to and coming back from lunch, and she would regularly call us to come up to answer questions that someone had, even though she should have been able to do so. I don’t miss her.

      2. Nanani*

        Reminds of face-time centric offices I have worked in, where coming in before the boss was Very Important, but no one cared if you spent the entire morning reading the newspaper, as long as your butt was in your seat when you did it :/

    3. OP*

      They are doing a desk move soon as we have two new people starting. One of them is doing the same role as me, so there will be two of us on alternative schedules. I hope this will help!

  10. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    OP, Beth sounds petty and jealous. I would firmly address it with her and then any time she asks about it again respond “My hours are between me and Manager” and then ignore any further questions.

  11. Ayla K*

    Reading the first half of this message I kept thinking “are you me???” I also just started a new job where I’m the only one in the department who doesn’t have to provide coverage at specific times and am relatively free to come and go at my manager’s discretion as long as I’m getting my stuff done. Another manager in the department talked to her about my “leaving early” one day (I left 15 minutes before my usual time, and only because I had come in half an hour earlier than usual to set up for a meeting).

    I totally get the concern – you’re new, and you want to make sure everyone is getting the best possible first impression of you. But it sounds like these people are going out of their way to be snarky. Rely on the fact that your manager is totally backing you up here (as they should!) and I agree with Allison and others who say if it happens again you should respond with genuine confusion because really, WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE???

  12. Elle*

    “Extremely worried” my arse. Nathan and Beth sound like idiots. I love Alison’s advice – straightforward/direct…would love an update on this one!

    1. Ayla K*

      Agreed! I hope these two get shut down gloriously but I’d be pretty satisfied with a “manager told them to cut it out and I haven’t heard anything since” update too.

    2. Mazzy*

      I have a coworker who is like this. He is “concerned” about things. Which means he put 3 minutes of effort into finding a flaw in something that has many man hours into it. Yes, you will always find one exception in thousands of transactions. When he says “concerned” I translate in my head to “let me get some instant brownie points with boss.”

  13. Edith*

    Ugh been there done that. In my case the coworker was prone to mistakes and was concern trolling my hours as a way of grooming her boss, the VP and CFO, into thinking me unreliable so that whenever coworker made mistakes she could blame it on me. And it worked. My manager was and is completely on my side and knows I’ve done nothing wrong, but that didn’t help my reputation with the VP. Once when my manager was explaining to the VP that I hadn’t in fact been responsible for a late payment like coworker claimed, VP told my manager that I should have more compassion.

    My point, OP, is that you may never get Nathan and Beth to chill, but concentrate on the fact that your boss has your back and try not to let your morale take the hit your coworkers clearly want it to.

    1. Katie F*

      “I’d have more compassion if Coworker wasn’t lying about me in an attempt to cover up their own shoddy work, thanks.”

  14. Katie F*

    This kind of sounds to me like the coworkers resent the flexibility of your schedule and are trying to cause trouble about it in an attempt to either get more flexibility for themselves or for you to lose it. With the first complaint, you’re right – that could just be an odd overreaction to a legitimate misunderstanding. With the second example, Nate was very obviously and very clearly obfuscating the truth, if not outright lying, in an attempt to either get you in trouble or get teh manager to reconsider how flexible your schedule is.

    You noted that no one else has this flexibility as well, which is part of the reason I wonder if jealousy may be an issue.

    I agree that the sooner you make it clear you are aware of what’s happening and going on, the better. Make sure they know that you are well-aware of what they’re doing without being a jerk about it. Allison’s talking points are good. They may just drop it when they realize that A. nothing’s going to change for oyu and B. it’s just making them look less professional in the eyes of their boss. They may not. But if it continues to come up you’ll be able to say with clear conscience that you’ve made the effort to clear up misunderstandings.

    1. OP*

      Thank you. There is a new person starting next month who is doing the same job as me with the same flexible schedule, so that should help. My manager mentioned that the new person might not be able to start until 8.30am some days. They are used to everyone starting at 8 or 9am here so I’m prepared for their minds to be blown all over again! ;-)

  15. Important Moi*

    I would just add, while it would be nice if Nathan and Jane were your friends, it is possible you may never be included in their club. That’s OK. Be a professional and courteous co-worker.

    1. Marisol*

      As they say in reality television competitions, “I’m here to make money, not friends.”

  16. Seal*

    This type of petty behavior from colleagues drives me nuts. I’ve also been targeted in previous jobs for having a different work schedule and/or responsibilities than my colleagues. In the end, it was never about me; it always came down to their insecurities about their own competence and/or status within the organization. These were people who quite frankly were at best competent but never outstanding at their jobs, and were always looking for ways to bring others down so they wouldn’t be targeted themselves (in other words, bullies). They were convinced that anyone who worked a different schedule that they did or got what they perceived to be better assignments was getting special treatment or favors from the management. Even when they were told point blank by their managers that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, they didn’t stop harassing me; they simply found other ways to harasse me.

    My guess I that this Beth is feeling threatened by and jealous of the OP and trying in vain to get them in trouble. Good to hear their manager isn’t falling for it. I agree with Alison – keep an eye on her, because once she realizes she can’t get the OP on her schedule she’ll look for something else to complain about.

  17. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    I’ve been in a similar situation. My colleagues were not quite so annoying, but they were definitely “taking note” of the fact that I had different hours than they did.

    The first thing I did was go to my manager and ask him to please let them know that my schedule worked differently than theirs. I thought that it would help, coming from him. I don’t think he followed up, though — perhaps he did not want to open the floodgates of “well why can’t MY schedule be like that?” — I really feel like a good manager would have stepped up here, though.

    The next thing I did was just say outright to my colleagues: “I don’t know if you were explicitly told this when I was hired, but the schedule manager and I agreed up on for me is for 35 hours a week, and my salary reflects this schedule. This means I leave at 4:00 every day. Let me know if that creates any scheduling conflicts for you.”

    Now, I didn’t have to include the line about the salary — but I did because I felt like that made them think I was getting paid less than they were because of my shorter hours. (To the contrary! I made more money at that job than I ever did in my life, even at only 35 hours! ) I figured let them think whatever they want… they left me alone after that.

  18. Temperance*

    I’ve had this complaint about me, too, when I was new at my job and no one knew what I did. For some reason, someone spread a rumor that I was a secretary who only had half a job, basically. (As background, the secretaries at my firm often assist 4 or 5 people, and I was working with just one person on half of the work she does. ) So everyone was weirdly nasty to me for the first 6 months or so of my job. I set a few people straight, and they apparently explained my situation. I still don’t know why anyone cared, but then I realized that they were all subject to clocking in at certain times and their hours were scrutinized, and it looked like I had a ton of special privileges. That illusion went out the window when I ran into someone at 6:30 a.m., lol.

    Beth sounds toxic and like she’s looking for trouble. Take Alison’s advice.

    1. Edith*

      A secretary who only has half a job. Because companies are super inclined to hire full time staff for half a job. Uh huh.

      I swear, the things people up and decide about other people’s lives…

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        A secretary who only has half a job. Because companies are super inclined to hire full time staff for half a job. Uh huh.

        Well, it’s OBVIOUSLY because she’s sleeping with somebody. Duh.

  19. Anonymous Educator*

    OP, you say your position is new. Any chance your two co-workers applied for your position and didn’t get it? I’m wondering if this passive-aggressive immature behavior is coming from envy and resentment at you getting the job that has more flexibility when one of them didn’t get it.

    1. Cobol*

      I’m glad I read all the way to the bottom before posting this point! OP made it sound like she and Beth had the same years experience. My guess is Beth applied and OP’s manager went a different direction.

    2. JustTeaForMeThanks*

      I hadn’t tought of that! That could be a very good explanation! Either way, OP: your co-workers are not very nice. Alison’s advice is perfect and good to know your boss backs you up.

    3. Someone Else*

      This was my thought too. It could also be possible that they (or just Beth) had been angling for some of the tasks that are now part of your role as a way to get more flexibility in their own roles/move out from needing to provide coverage and the creation of this new role has scuppered that possibility.

  20. OG OM*

    I think this is a clear case of your coworkers not understanding that you have a different job. Either literally, or in the sense that they have not fully processed it. Perhaps it is because your manager is very strict about Beth and Nathan’s arrival/leave time to the point that Beth/Nathan think it is the #1 priority and the only thing the manager cares about? I personally have had managers who could give a flying squirrel about work product or relations or reality as long as he saw butts in seats at exactly 9:00AM. Perhaps the issue is that Beth and Nathan don’t really understand that the need for coverage isn’t a preference or a rule, but a specific requirement of their job (which is not the same job as you)?

  21. Purest Green*

    Let me state first that I don’t think you should have to do this at all, OP, because you shouldn’t have to defend yourself in any way.

    If you want to help manage Beth’s perception of you, you could put your schedule in a shared email calendar or on an big obvious physical calendar, if your work space allows it, showing blocked off working hours and when your meetings are and what not.

    1. ArtK*

      I disagree with this advice. Unless there are specific interactions between the OP and Beth/Nathan, her calendar is not any of their business. Putting the information out there just implies that they have some right to know/monitor it.

      Not to mention that it wouldn’t have had any effect in the first example that the OP gave. Beth complained because the OP didn’t return from a supposedly-cancelled meeting fast enough for Beth’s happiness. The calendar would have shown the meeting and Beth still would have been unhappy because she knew that it was “cancelled” and therefore the OP should have been back immediately.

      Beth is not the boss of the OP and she needs to be told, clearly, that her job doesn’t include monitoring the OP in any way, shape or form. Putting stuff on the calendar would just give her more information to continue to harass the OP.

    2. Natalie (OG)*

      Eh, if Beth is actually trying to meddle, giving her more information won’t help with that – she’s just start meddling about when or where meetings are, how quickly LW returns from them, etc. If she isn’t trying to meddle and is genuinely confused, it can get cleared up quickly by LW just addressing it directly as advised.

      1. Katie F*

        Yeah, then we’d get “Last week if took you fifteen minutes to return from a meeting – this week you took nearly half an hour. I was ~so worried~!”

        Don’t give her that power over you, OP. There’s no reason for it and it just gives her more lances to tilt at windmills.

      2. Purest Green*

        Hmm, good point. I was thinking an obvious indication of “my job is different than yours” would help, but you’re right; a calendar isn’t the answer.

        1. Natalie*

          I think it’s a natural impulse – we assume we’re dealing with reasonable people most of the time, and take it at face value that if we could just get them to understand they would back off. But with pushy or manipulative people, that rarely happens so there’s no reason to even try.

    3. Anon Always*

      I don’t think a calendar is necessary, but I do think saying “On my way to a meeting” is helpful. It provides information that the LW is leaving for a meeting, but doesn’t provide them with details. They don’t need to know the specifics, but it might help curb some of the complaining.

      Although I suspect in this case, Beth will find something else. Like that the LW is going to too many meetings.

      1. addlady*

        Don’t cater to her “concern.” Her perception is probably shaped largely by her own envy, and there’s not much you can do about that.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I’d go with Alison’s advice, OP. Face-to-face, each time anything like this happens.

      Do not give Beth more information so that she has even more ways to monitor what you are doing. She’s not your boss.

    5. OP*

      We all have shared Outlook calendars and an excel spreadsheet of what hours we’ve worked. (This is because due to the nature of our work we often build up hours which we can take back as leave.)

      It wouldn’t have helped in either of the situations I’ve described though.

  22. JacqOfAllTrades*

    I remember starting a new job and being seated right by the entrance, so I knew when everyone came and left. We had one employee who would regularly come in 20-30 minutes late and leave 20-30 minutes late. It bothered me until I realized it really wasn’t my business – she wasn’t even in my department. Probably 4 months later I realized that she was tasked with stopping by another facility on her way to and from work. I was *so* glad I didn’t make a peep about her different start/end times to anyone – not only was it not my business, but I would have looked quite foolish. Now whenever I see another coworker doing something like this, I remind myself that I might not have all the information and if it isn’t effecting ME, than it’s none of my beeswax. Luckily, I learned that lesson the easy way.

    1. Anon Always*

      I’m not sure I completely agree with this.

      I had a co-worker (Oscar) that I expressed frustration about a few months ago who was coming and going early. There were some key differences though. One Oscar rarely showed up before 9:30 a.m., and shared that he came in later to make sure that he didn’t have to fight the crowds at the gym. He also typically left around 3 p.m., because he was tired of working (which he advertised). And then he would frequently inform myself and my co-workers that he was working from home. He was not leaving for meetings. He was not leaving for a work related reason. He was coming and going at all will because that is what he felt like doing. And I didn’t share my frustration with my boss until this had been a pattern for over a year.

      So while a lot of times I say it’s not my business, sometimes it is worth saying something. Oscar? He’s working normal business hours now.

      1. Kate M*

        But was it impacting your work directly? If it was, then that’s the sort of thing that you bring up to your boss – “Oscar’s constant leaving early is causing me to have to pick up slack on A/B/C” or “means we don’t have the coverage we need.” That’s all you need to address.

        If Oscar was getting all his work done and doing it well, and wasn’t in a position to provide coverage, then I’m still not sure what the problem was. If his boss was happy with his work, then his boss might not care about flexible/less hours. If Oscar can get done in 35 hours per week what others get done in 40, should he have to just sit around for 5 hours per week?

        That’s the thing – you never know who has made other arrangements, or might have legitimate reasons for leaving early. If I were leaving early regularly for a doctor’s appointment or psychiatrist appointment, I wouldn’t tell my colleagues. So they might think that I’m leaving early for “no legitimate reason.” That’s the thing – you never know.

        In this case, maybe Oscar was slacking off and the boss finally came down on him. But that should be a result of work product – not hours.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          IME, the “Oscar’s” of the world don’t get their work done in 5 fewer hours per week. Instead, they somehow manage to get away with doing less work.

          There are a lot of reasons it can matter even if you don’t have a strictly butt-in-seat 9-5 job, too. Oscar is never there to do that thing that comes in at 3:00 and needs done right away. Some of us at my job do twice the work of what others do, but there is a wide range of experience, difficulty of projects, etc. Most jobs aren’t widget production based anymore, so it’s tough to measure exactly what an Oscar got done compared to an Anon Always. My boss is hardcore and doesn’t tolerate slackers, but I’ve had some who don’t really don’t manage, and they get away with it just by strategically mentioning their successes and “how busssyyy” they are (when they really aren’t).

          1. AnotherAlison*

            (It probably sounds like I am measuring my coworkers’ hours worked and productivity, and I really don’t, but we have monthly meetings where my manager goes through a sheet with my project manager coworker’s $ and hours under their management and we all sit close by so I know who is here, who’s out for business, and who maximizes their PTO. I have never said a word about any coworker’s schedule or output to my boss, unless it was solicited when she’s building a performance case for someone or they were working for me.)

          2. Kate M*

            Right, but then the “doing less work” part is the part you focus on, not the monitoring people’s hours. If a coworker isn’t getting their work done and it’s impacting you, then that’s what you talk about. It doesn’t matter if they’re there 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week if they get all their work done well. It’s these two things people conflate that confuse the issue. If you crack down on Oscar not being there strictly from 9-5, then that means that everyone else will probably get stricter treatment as well, plus the fact that it doesn’t guarantee a better work product. If you focus solely on the work product, then you get what you need and people have the flexibility to do the work they need and still be able to arrive a little late/leave early if they need.

        2. Anon Always*

          Because unequal treatment matters to me.

          I didn’t care so much that Oscar was doing those things, but if all of a sudden we had extreme flex hours the ability to work from home, etc., then I wanted it made available to me and others. Some positions get more privileges due to the nature of their work and/or seniority and I have no issues with that. I do take issue with someone who is exercising the perks of the CEO when they are mid-level, while everyone else gets a talking to for being 15 minutes late, To me it creates a serious morale problem.

          As for his work, I work with him on a few long-term projects that should have been completed in half the time that they have been. So I do think his productivity was impacted by the fact that he basically worked 20-25 hours a week versus 40 hours.

          1. Katie F*

            I get the whole “he’s not working forty hours” thing, but I do believe in salaried jobs, you should be paid for the work you do, not the time you spend doing it. If Oscar was still getting his work accomplished, then I’d raise an eyebrow at a coworker who really cared all that much if he was in the office before 9 AM. If he’s getting his job done, he’s doing the work he’s being paid to do. Hours shouldn’t really matter in that case (although if I were management and noticed it, I’d probably take a guy only working 25 hours a week as a sign that he needs to take on some new projects and talk to him about it).

            In your case, though, Oscar does sound like your traditional slacker. Once his methods start to negatively impact your ability to do your job, bring ign it up (I would hope privately to him first, and only then to management if nothing changes) is definitely the right choice.

          2. Kate M*

            But if his work product was negatively impacted, then that’s the thing you should focus on. That’s the part that impacts you and your work.

            In general, if someone is leaving early or has irregular hours, like everyone else has said, you don’t know if that’s something they’ve worked out with their manager, or if they’re leaving early for a private doctor’s appointment, or if they’re putting hours in from home. And it’s really nobody else’s business. The only thing that’s a coworker’s business is if their work is being impacted – that’s totally fair to bring up.

      2. JacqOfAllTrades*

        In my most recent job, I am HR. We’re a small company, <25 employees. Everybody knows what everybody else is doing.

        We have an employee who works 36 hours instead of 40, and doesn't work the normal Mon-Fri 8-5 like everyone else. Weird, right?

        She has an accommodation for medical reasons. Which no one knows – or is entitled to know – except her supervisor and me. I don't know if any of her coworkers ever question her, and if so how she responds. Maybe she says she's too tired, or she wants to go to the gym when it's less crowded. The point is, it's no one else's business except the employee and their manager. Period. Full stop. Even if it is causing work issues for you, that is the manager's responsibility to work that out, not your coworker's.

    2. Office Plant*

      Yeah, and I think it’s also a “choose your battles” type of thing. You want to save your complaining for when you have something serious to complain about.

  23. Anon Always*

    It sounds like Beth doesn’t understand that she’s not the LW’s supervisor. That it isn’t her job to monitor the LW’s comings and goings. I would recommend to the LW to be sure to communicate to Beth and the others, each time she leaves the office for a meeting that’s going to a meeting at XYZ. Some employees don’t understand the roles that others play. So when they see you leave the office for a meeting they think you are leaving early. So just letting them know you have a meeting, I suspect will probably help them adjust.

    I can see from a co-workers point of view, that if it’s been impressed upon them that you have to put in certain hours and that you can’t come and go at will, that they could assume that you were breaking the “rules”. And I could see this as being highly frustrating, especially if your boss hasn’t indicated that you have different rules because of the nature of your position. Not that it excuses the petty nature of Beth’s behavior, but I do understand the potential frustration.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Oh, I’m pretty sure Beth knows she’s not the OP’s supervisor. That’s why she’s tattling to the actual supervisor, instead of addressing her issues with Beth. Or were you being facetious?

      And yes, I can see why Beth (and others) would be frustrated if they’d requested a more flexible schedule and had been denied. But once you’re told “Jane’s job is different, so her butt-in-seat requirements are different,” it’s time to shut up.

      1. Anon Always*

        I know Beth knows logically she’s not the LW’s supervisor. But, I bet she feels as though she is, or feels as if she should be. I see that kind of behavior happen more often than not with longer term employees when a new person is added to the staff. They get in their head that they are “senior” and feel like senior means that they get to police others and tell them what to do.

        I think this is something that the LW’s manager needs to nip in the bud..

        1. OP*

          I think you are spot on. Both my manager and Beth have worked here for eight plus years and Beth is kind of seen as my managers ‘right hand man’ if that makes sense. They have never had a role quite like mine based here, whereas Beth and my manager work on very similar things. Beth has never really had anyone else in the team on the same level of seniority as her.

    2. Izzy*

      Some people think they’re everybody’s supervisor. They’re just bossy. They will never change.

    3. Marisol*

      I think advising Beth of her comings and goings would exacerbate the problem ultimately, although it might get her off her back in the short term. Plus it’s demeaning if she doesn’t report to Beth.

  24. One of the Sarahs*

    Ooof, OP, I feel for you, and I hope things get sorted out – and you come back to update us!

  25. Gaia*

    OP, if I were your manager I would also be not very happy. I’d be not very happy about Beth calling me on my day off to tell me about your hours the first time and I’d be not very happy that it continued after that.

    But none of that would reflect on you.

  26. Rusty Shackelford*

    If your manager won’t put a stop to this, you could always have some fun with Beth…

    “Hey Beth, I know you worry about me, so I just wanted to let you know I’m in the office right now. I guess I got here before you did today.”

    “Hey Beth, I know you worry about me, so I just wanted to let you know I’m going to a meeting at X and I won’t be back in the office afterward. I’ll call you when I get home so you know I’m okay.”

    “Hey Beth, I know it’s midnight, but I just realized I forgot to tell you I have an off-site meeting tomorrow morning, so I won’t be in the office until 11:00 or so. I hate to bother you but I know how you worry about me.”

    “Hey Beth, I know it’s 5:00 am, but I just wanted to remind you that I’m coming in early this morning, just so you don’t see my car in the parking lot and worry that I was murdered in the office after you left last night.”

    1. Isabel C.*

      Ha! I would endorse this.

      Not a co-worker, so I don’t know if OP could get away with it, but my response to “worried” roommates/friends/etc used to be a flat look and a casual, “They make pills for that, you know.”

  27. Rachel*

    They sound like petty and jealous coworkers. Whenever someone has made a comment to me or in passing about work hours, I directly come back at them with a matte-of-fact response and that throws them off. They need to mind their own business and until you say something to them, it probably will continue.

  28. Jubilance*

    I’d be having a chat with Beth right now, telling her that my schedule is none of her concern.

    This busybody, I have to tattle on you to the boss attitude has no place in a professional environment.

  29. nonegiven*

    Frankly, I’d back Beth up and tell her my schedule and job duties are not her concern, so she can take her busy body attitude and stay out of my way. But then I have an unfortunate tendency to say what I think.

  30. Rose*

    I would also use common advice here, to seem deeply confused when Beth talks to you. Depending on the vibe, you could start laughing like Beth was joking or play super dumb….’but why did you call?’ ‘I’m confused…’ And keep doing it until it is slightly uncomfortable.

  31. alex*

    Wow, I totally sympathize with the coworkers in this case. If somebody on my level came in and out haphazardly, I’d be resentful and scornful. The boss should explain what’s going on. I understand that different jobs have different requirements, but this writer just comes off like like s/he’s just flaunting privileges for employees who have none (though it’s probably the boss’s job to inform everyone of the plans).

    1. ArtK*

      First, I don’t agree that the OP is flaunting anything. She’s doing her job as assigned. I can’t imagine how she could be more discreet about it.

      Second, even if that were the case, Beth is handling this very unprofessionally. Whether the OP is bragging and saying “ha, ha, I get to leave when you don’t, so nanner, nanner, nanner” or simply going about her job, Beth is complaining about something that isn’t any of her business. She’s doing so in a particularly petty way. Complaining that the OP didn’t return fast enough for Beth’s internal time clock?

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      “Flaunting privileges” would be the OP saying to Beth and Nathan, “Oh, hey, I’m leaving early! I’m so sorry you guys don’t get to leave early, but I’m outta here, bye!”

      No. Different roles– different people– have different rules or standards. It’s not about fairness, it’s about the requirements of the job or the team. If the OP does not share the same responsibilities, she does not have to adhere to the same schedule. But even if she did, why do they have the right to police her? She doesn’t report to them. Going to the boss over something like this is silly and childish.

      I had a co-worker who left early every damn day. It bothered me a bit, sure, but it didn’t affect me– until he left early without completing something I needed from him. That’s when I spoke up. Otherwise? Not my problem.

    3. Katie F*

      Can I ask why you’d be resentful, if you knew that employee’s job duties involved being routinely off-site or working from home? I mean, why would you resent the employee and not management in that case?

    4. animaniactoo*

      These are not different privileges. They are different requirements. Doing your job according to the requirements of it is not flaunting it even if some people are jealous of the perceived benefits of it.

      Note that the 2 incidents that have been complained about are 2 minutes that even the in-office employee was fine with taking, and a misunderstanding over time that the LW was actually working.

      They are not just coming and going at will and shirking their job or time.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Exactly. The OP could be just as jealous that Beth gets to stay in one place all day instead of running around to other locations.

      2. JessaB*

        And in neither of those cases was it followed up with “and that caused Nathan and I to be late with the Smith report on teapot spouts because she wasn’t here to give us access to the framistat numbers.” If it’s actually screwing up Beth’s job then she needs to say so. But it’s obviously not the case here, because the jobs are totally different.

    5. Marisol*

      People who are experienced in the workplace and who know how to act professionally also know how to mind their own business. It’s one thing to FEEL resentful, but having the expectation that a coworker’s schedule be explained, unless the schedule directly impacts your own work, is out of bounds.

    6. Temperance*

      I really disagree. OP needs to travel to do her freaking job, and has flexibility as a result. Also, nothing in the OP indicates that she’s on their level. Working your needed schedule isn’t exactly a privilege.

    7. Sadsack*

      No, it really doesn’t seem like OP is doing anything that you described, unless merely walking out the door is flaunting. She is doing her job.

      1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

        Exactly. It’s a very zero-sum way of looking at things. If coworker is getting something, then I’m losing.

      2. Dweali*

        Well obviously OP is supposed to either sneak out the window and scale down the side of the building or get some full body suits that are painted to look exactly like the walls/carpet so you NEVER know if she’s there…quick behind you it’s OP!!

      1. OP*

        I’m the OP and I’m confused too. I left one time to attend a meeting and one time at 4.58pm with my colleague right behind me. Eh?

  32. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

    “She had phoned my manager (who was on annual leave) at home to see if I had asked for permission to leave early. She said that my manager was ‘not very happy.'”

    Are you KIDDING ME? Yeah, manager probably wasn’t happy with HER. I can’t even imagine someone doing that. I’m flabbergasted.

    It sounds like your manager has your back, so that’s good. But these people are insane. Insane in the membrane.

  33. Seriously Now*

    Wow. My worst coworker stories are so much worse than this that these two (Nathan and Beth) didn’t even register as bad coworkers.
    – There was Play Warcraft All Day guy.
    – There was Sleep At His Desk guy.
    – There was Supervisor Who Is In The Fetish Scene And Brings It To Work. (i.e. Lifestyle Domme who used that as an excuse to be a jerk to everyone in the office)
    – There were Department Heads Who Were All Married To Each Other (so much fun when HR Head’s husband was the worst of the lot)
    – And finally, there were four guys who claimed 8 hours a day but were only in the office for half an hour or less…if they showed up. They’d show up at 11, do their time sheet, make a couple of phone calls, go for a long lunch together, and jet at 2. On the days they didn’t show up at all, they still claimed 8 hours. Took the company over a year to fire them and those of us who are left are still dealing with the backlash.

    1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      It’s not a competition though, and by one-upping (or in this case 5-upping) this OP, you’re dismissing her concerns.

      1. Seriously Now*

        Just following on from comments above.

        And you, in turn appear to be concern-trolling. Stop that.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

          Without it being embedded in a comment stream (which I now see), it seemed oddly out of place and dismissive. As in: boy, you think that’s bad? I’ve had it worse. All of which is a strange thing to say to someone who was bothered enough to write in for advice.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

          Nor did I. I said it was NOT one.

          And that comment, dropped in with no context, struck me as weirdly competitive. Given the follow-up, it appears to have been misplaced and intended to be part of the thread above about a competition for worst coworkers. But since it was misplaced and didn’t have that context as a reply to Leatherwings, it appeared as a comment to the OP. And as a comment to the OP, it read like “your problems are nothing compared to how bad I’ve had it.”

    2. Sadsack*

      I can see why Katie read it the way she did. I think you and Unegen should consider dialing it back a bit.

      1. Not So NewReader*


        “My worst coworker stories are so much worse than this that these two (Nathan and Beth) didn’t even register as bad coworkers.”

        I am sure for most letters there is someone reading who is worse off than the LW. The problem with “my setting is worse than yours” is that it does not tell the OP how to work with her setting and improve it. It would be more to the point to talk about how you handled these difficult people and talk about what you did to help improve the situation. Honestly, probably leaving is the answer in your setting. However, OP does not want to leave and really should not have to leave over something like this.

        OP, in my opinion, you are handling this perfectly. The rule I use is if I see something once I let it go. I see the same thing a second time, I tell myself “heads up, eyes wide open”. The third time I see the same thing, I have a pattern. When I have a pattern, I must take action.
        Over time I realized that there are some things where I can take action the second time I see it. And here, OP, you have an ideal example of one of those times. You saw something twice, identified it correctly as something to address and you wrote Alison. Excellent. VERY GOOD call.

        See, some people test us. They try to find out what we are made out of. So in this case you want Beth to know that you do not tolerate BS. And this is BS. Alison’s advice is spot on as usual, talk directly to Beth. I would not email her or call her. I would go face-to-face. Let her squirm. It’s either that or she is going to find more ways to make you squirm. So let the conversation flow. If she knows that you will come talk to her every time she does one of her creative stories, she will think twice. I would talk to Nathan, too. Let him know how the rest of that story played out, so he can be aware of how his words are being twisted.

    3. Preux*

      I don’t see anywhere where OP said ‘these are literally the worst coworkers ever’, why is the comparison necessary?

  34. Marisol*

    TWO MINUTES early? Unless you’re performing surgery or something, I can’t possibly see how that would matter. Plus, doesn’t it take a minute to walk to the door and leave the building? If we wanted to get technical, we could debate when the workday actually starts and ends–once you’re at your desk, or once you’ve entered the office? But still. Two minutes. That is absolutely ridiculous.

  35. stevenz*

    Oh god, snitches in the office. Is there a lower life form? I understand the need for coverage, but if that’s not your job, it’s none of their business. And, Nathan shouldn’t be closing 1o minutes early if the office requires coverage til 5. He’s a snake.

    1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      right? I really can’t imagine as a manager what I would do if someone emailed me on vacation to report that a coworker left early. It would take a long time for them to redeem themselves.

  36. JKP*

    I have a friend who deals with this all the time. The company he works for hires him out to other companies for temporary contracts. Part of how they do business is that they bill clients for any commute time to customer sites. So if he has a 1-hour commute each way, that’s 2 hours of paid time before he’s even at his desk. If the customer only has the budget to pay him 8 hours/day, then they only get 6 hours of work, plus 2 hour commute each day. Every assignment to a new company, he has to deal with the tattletales complaining to his boss that he gets there an hour late and leaves an hour early every day! It’s even reflected in his performance reviews that clients weren’t happy with his attendance. And when he’s tried to fudge his commute by not billing it to the client, then his employer also isn’t happy (because the client is getting “free” work), and makes him start billing his commute to the client as required. They basically set him up in a no-win situation where he’s somehow responsible for both making sure the customer is billed for his commute and is also happy about it!

  37. OP*

    OP here! Thank you for all your comments, most of you are thinking what I’m thinking!

    In a rather non-exciting update, nothing has happened since! I think that whatever my manager said to them did the trick and Beth has backed off on this issue.

    To give a little more background and repeat what I’ve said upthread, Beth and my manager have both worked here for eight plus years and Beth is kind of seen as my manager’s second in command. (Although not official.) Beth has never had anyone else in the team at her level and she is used to being top dog when my manager is out of the office. My manager had assigned Beth to be my ‘buddy’ in my first few weeks as she herself went on leave for a week shortly after I started. The idea was that Beth was someone I could direct questions to, but I now see that Beth took it upon herself to try act as my manager. I definitely think that she felt threatened and that part of it was to show me who is boss. (Not her!)

    The Beth issue is complicated. In the time since I wrote the letter I’ve realised that she’s going to be a difficult colleague and this is probably not the last issue I’ll have with her. She is good at the technical aspects of her role and is seen as somewhat of an expert, but has poor social skills, is frequently rude and obnoxious, speaks horribly about colleagues behind their backs etc. The main reason that she gets away with this is partly because she’s been here so long and because the team are so close knit that there’s an attitude of, ‘oh that’s just Beth, she doesn’t mean it!’ I am being pleasant and polite but where possible having as little to do with her as I can.

    It’s generally a weird team situation. There is a small group who are very entwined in each others lives and I feel like there is a lack of separation between the professional and the personal which is why ‘bad’ behaviour goes unchecked. My manager is a nice lady and very supportive, but as a people manager seems very hands off. I’ve had a couple of comments from people in a different office which suggest that I’m not the only person who has noticed this.

    I have a new colleague starting next month in the same role as me, so I’m hoping that will shake things up a bit!

    1. Sarah*

      Thanks for the update! It sounds like Beth is a unique individual who will be challenging to work with. At least now you know that it’s not personal and that this is typical behavior for her. Hopefully she will stop focusing on you so much once your new colleague in your position starts. Good luck!!

  38. Anon13*

    I had a co-worker who sat next to me for a few years. During the time I sat next to her, I got a promotion and, with the promotion, was given a lot more flexibility regarding making my own hours. I still had to be there during the bulk of “normal business hours,” but I could, for example, come in at 10:00 and work until 6:30 instead of coming in at 9:00 and working until 5:30. My manager and I discussed this and she was not only fine with it, she was the one who mentioned that, as long as I was there roughly between 10:30 and 4:00, I was free to make my own hours as long as I worked at least the usual 37.5 hours a week and completed all of my work(that was the norm for this workplace, not 40). This coworker, without fail, would say she thought I wasn’t coming in when I arrived at the office anytime after 9:05. Eventually, the office gods smiled upon me and a desk in a more private area opened up (I shared an office with one other person instead of several), so I was able to move away from that desk. It seriously irked me, though. She never said anything to any higher-ups, but her constant comments on it annoyed me so much! (I realize this is not a helpful comment, but I wanted to commiserate.)

  39. JustAGirlTryingToMakeIt*

    In high school I worked for the local daycare that was run by family friends. Well, my last summer before going to college this girl was hired and completely ruined the reputation of me and my other co-worker because the kids adored us and not her. She told the owner and directors that we called them names, didn’t get along with the kids, etc. It was awful. To this day whenever I see the daycare higher -ups I worry they still believe those things that were said about us. Alas, people stink sometimes.

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