should I tell my boss about my slacker coworker?

A reader writes:

My coworker, Gary, started at my company five months ago in my same role. We sit 10 feet across from each other and can see each other’s every move without even trying, and I’m definitely not trying. Since his first week, he has had punctuality issues, and I’m not talking being five or 10 minutes late, I’m talking an average of 40 minutes every day on his first week at his new job. To really illustrate this, here’s how his day went today, and this is pretty typical: He arrived 45 minutes late, took an hour and 45 minute lunch (we get an hour), spent at least one hour on his cell phone, and then “stayed late” while pretending to work just so he could leave after me. (I swear I’m not crazy! We were the only two people left so it was very quiet and I could hear him not typing/clicking and could see him playing on his phone. I was still in the building when I saw him leave three minutes after me.)

In a different situation, I’d find this frustrating but still realize it’s none of my business. But what makes this an issue is that my boss, Kate, works remotely (she has probably been in the office with Gary five times max) and has been assigned to an extremely time-consuming project that’s leaving her little time for managing — a whole other issue on its own. Of course, every time she’s in the office, Gary becomes an exemplary employee, so she’s not seeing these behaviors herself. Up until Gary arrived, I thought very highly of Kate, and I think that if this other project wasn’t going on, things would be handled differently.

So what I’m trying to figure out is, should I share with our boss what I’m seeing every day or is it not my business? I’m positive she knows some of what’s going on, since she sees his work, which has been subpar at best, but I don’t think she knows all the details of what’s causing that low quality.

It might be worth noting that on Gary’s first week, Kate asked us what we thought of him as a new employee, and other coworkers and I brought some of these issues up. But of course they’ve only gotten worse as he gets more comfortable.

I should also say that, based on our office culture, I know this is not an arrangement they have where he just works different hours, and I know exactly what his workload is.

This ends up affecting all of us one way or another because he’s not finishing his work on time or correctly, so the rest of us, including Kate, have to step in to help and there’s really no way to say no to that.

Ugh, Gary.

The standard advice you usually hear about slacker co-workers is, “If it’s not affecting your work, it’s none of your business and you shouldn’t say anything.” I do think that’s true when you’re talking about something relatively mild — like someone who’s 15 minutes late every day or spends too much time watching YouTube. But when something is a bigger deal and impacts your team’s work — even if it doesn’t impact your own work specifically — and you suspect your manager has no idea, there can be an argument for having a onetime, discreet conversation with your manager.

The point of doing that isn’t to get someone in trouble (and if that’s ever your motivation, that’s a sign that you need to step back and rethink). The point is to flag for your manager that there’s something significantly impeding your team’s work that she’d probably want to know about — and, importantly, which your team would benefit from her knowing about.

In your case, the problems with Gary are affecting your work directly. You’re having to step in and finish or fix his work for him. That gives you a lot more ground to stand on if you choose to raise this. It also gives you an easy framing when you talk to your manager: Your workload has increased because Gary isn’t working full hours, and you’re wondering if that can be addressed to limit the impact on you.

In many situations where a coworker is causing problems, I’d recommend speaking to the coworker about it first. Sometimes that will solve the problem, and if it doesn’t, it’s at least fairer to give the person that opportunity before you escalate things. In this case, I’m skeptical that talking to Gary will do much good; he seems like someone who Does Not Care. But if you want to give that a shot, you could say something like, “I don’t know if you know that Kate wants us here from 9–5 every day, and generally we’re only supposed to take an hour for lunch. I’m mentioning it because sometimes I’m asked to finish your work when you don’t have time to get to it, and I thought sticking to our normal hours could help.”

Keep in mind that if you have that conversation and nothing changes and then you talk to Kate, it’s likely to be obvious to Gary that you did. That doesn’t necessarily matter — he’s not entitled to his co-workers’ silence — but you’d want to factor that in when deciding whether or not to do it.

Ultimately, though, it’s fine to speak to Kate about what you’re seeing. One way to approach it would be to primarily address the impact Gary has been having on your workload, and mention his hours only in passing as part of that larger conversation.

Or you could just lay it out directly, framing it as, “I’m not sure if this is something I should flag for you, but because I’ve been needing to finish or fix Gary’s work, I wanted to mention that I think part of the problem could be the hours he’s working.” Then explain the specifics.

You could also say, “I know there might be more to this that I don’t know, or need to know, and I don’t intend to harp on it. But in case it’s something you didn’t know about and would want to know about, I thought I should mention it.” That’s useful to say in case Gary does have, say, a medical accommodation you don’t know about — but it’s also useful to demonstrate that this isn’t the opening salvo in an anti-Gary campaign, and that you understand that Kate may have more context than you do and ultimately it’s up to her whether to do anything.

And ideally you’d really mean that. Kate might not take action — she might disagree that it’s causing the problems with Gary’s work, or she might need to keep her attention elsewhere right now. There are all sorts of possibilities and, ultimately, that’s her call to make. Once you’ve brought it to her attention, you’ve got to leave it in her court to handle (or not handle).

But certainly if Gary continues to create extra work for you, that’s something you can press with Kate. That’s very much your business, and you wouldn’t be overstepping by raising that as a work problem you need help solving.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I did – couldn’t find it. I suspect it’s a typo but I have 2 teenagers so I need to stay up on this sort of thing.

        1. AKchic*

          All answers would be a variation of “this does not affect me or my chin scritches, but if you insist…” and then the advice, punctuated by “and don’t forget to sit on his keyboard to show dominance” and “knock his coffee mug off the table and take over that corner of the desk to assert your authority”. Once in a while, advice like “don’t forget to buy comfy chairs for napping” as a self-care tip.

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            As per Captain Awkward’s recent tweets, any advice delivered by a cat is duty bound to include the tip: “Make sure you show them your butthole up close on a regular basis”

            1. AKchic*

              Nothing is more versatile than a cat butt. It truly is an all-purpose fashion and conversation piece.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          “Dear Wallace; our owner has been home from work a lot more these past few months but is glued to her tablet and hasn’t gotten the memo that we should be her priorities. We’ve tried barfing more, barfing less, chewing on her hair, attacking her feet, and knocking stuff over. Where do we go from here?

          Thank you for your help,
          Pickel and Rhoda”

            1. Luke*

              “Why Not Just Work From Home Forever?” by Dog
              “It’s High Time You Humans Returned to the Office Office” by Cat

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        The fog isn’t the only thing that comes on little cat feet, new entries to Urban Dictionary do, too!

      2. OwlEditor*

        Hee hee! I love it! My cat, Leon, does that because he wants my chair and I am in my chair.

  1. Threeve*

    If I realized that Gary was staying late just to look like he left after me, I would absolutely play “staying late chicken” with him at least once. Grab a snack, pull up an eBook on my computer and settle in. But I’m the petty type.

    1. Ashley*

      Even if I did have to stay late and he didn’t appear to be working I would be tempted to say something like did you need me? I hate working late and the fewer people around the faster I can usually finish. It would be tempting to play chicken but honestly I value my non-work time to much.

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I’ll see your petty and raise you one.
      I’d be standing off to the side of the front door on a phone call when he walks out three minutes after me, just to say good night.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Or head back into the office on the pretext of having fogotten something, and meet him heading out behind you.

    3. lemon*

      Oh man, I used to play “staying late chicken” all the time with this one insecure dude I worked with. I ran into him in the kitchen one day at 5:30 at he was like, “you always stay so late, what are you… playing badminton in your office?” So I started making sure to always leave after him… I was usually just reading articles, touching up my makeup, or doing homework. It was so satisfying and had the added benefit of getting to take a less crowded bus home.

  2. Lola*

    Why be a snitch? Just talk to the guy and let him know your concerns if it effects you. If not, mind your business. Humble opinion of one.

    1. BRR*

      Usually I’d agree but does your answer change if the LW is having to do more work because Gary isn’t finishing his work?

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        I would personally worry about the reputation of him being a slacker spreading to the whole department. I’ve seen happen before, one person takes liberties, and then suddenly everyone see that entire department as having a problem.

    2. Lynn*

      From the last sentence, it sounds like it affects LW: “This ends up affecting all of us one way or another because he’s not finishing his work on time or correctly, so the rest of us, including Kate, have to step in to help and there’s really no way to say no to that.”

      Kate should know that the rest of the office is having to help, not because the workload on Gary is unreasonable, or he needs additional training, but because he’s lazy.

      1. Just Sayin'*

        Maybe a week or two (or three) where everybody but Kate was “unavailable” to finish Gary’s work would highlight to Kate how much work Gary was causing for other people. Or if Kate had to struggle each time to find someone complete his work – if you could arrange it so that it was the same person for one week, each time they told Kate how much extra time they spent at work finishing the task, and then at the end of the week they said “I’ve spent 5 hours extra this week finishing and fixing the XYZ work, will I be able to get overtime for that?”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yep, I’m not usually a fan of time-tracking, but this would be a perfect case for doing that for a while.

          OldJob got rid of a contract with a dysfunctional 3rd-party contractor company with this once. We were told to track every hour, mark what we were working on, and if our work entailed any rework, reviewing, any other maintenance and support work caused by Contractor, then to mark that specifically. I did not have a lot of extra work coming from Contractor, but apparently a lot of my teammates did, because a few months later, the contract was terminated.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      I am not one of those people who say there’s no such thing as a snitch in a professional setting, because there totally is. But telling your boss about something that literally affects one’s own work is not “being a snitch.”

      “Gary left 10 minutes early yesterday” – that’s being a snitch. “Gary took a long lunch on Tuesday” – that’s being a snitch. “Gary leaves a lot of his work undone and the rest of us have to make up for it” is not being a snitch.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Usually a snitch is someone who goes looking for things to report on. Usually you can pick them out because they slow down and peer at your computer as you walk by to see what you’re working on. I used to sit with my back right up to a window and this one guy would come up to the window and check what I was working on from outside. Scared the wits out of me once when I turned around and there was just a face right there.

    4. Artemesia*

      ‘snitch’ is not an appropriate concept in a situation where an employee is not doing work and dumping it on peers. This is not pre-school. Of course a major problem is Kate’s terrible management of a new employee, but she needs to know what is happening.

      And the OP needs to not pick up the slack but dump it back on Gary. I realize that if Kate has not clearly assigned the work then this may be difficult. But at least do no extended hours to get it done.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      It’s not snitching if there are legitimate work impacts. The manager’s job is to prevent one employee from affecting the others, whether it’s due to bad attitude, bullying, or ditching work and forcing others to pick up the slack. The manager should be made aware this is happening because it’s not up to coworkers to have to tell someone to do their work.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Agreed. Especially legitimate work impacts that directly affect the supposed snitch’s work. This isn’t about calling someone out because they don’t meet one’s ideals for a good worker in a more general sense, it’s because their actions prevent you from getting your work done as expected.

      2. Amaranth*

        Wouldn’t the manager almost have to know, since she’s apparently having to get coverage for unfinished work? It definitely doesn’t sound as though OP is accepting tasks from Gary.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      Giving a manager relevant information about a situation that is effecting the entire team while she is unavailable to properly observe isn’t snitching. I do agree that OP should talk to Gary about the impact to her work, but when that fails, Kate needs to know. Not “Gary is always late and takes long lunches” but “Gary hasn’t completed his work on Project X so other coworker and I can’t complete our pieces” or “the last 3 projects Gary worked on had to be revised multiple times due to significant errors – we talked to him about the issues but in the end had to do it ourselves to get it completed on time. We also had to do that with Project S and T and it resulted in Z hours of overtime.”

    7. Esmeralda*

      Ugh, I really dislike characterizing this as “being a snitch.” Gary is not doing something little that doesn’t need to be reported. Nor is he doing something noble but against the rules (it’s not like he’s Miep Gies).

      Gary’s behavior is causing extra work for the OP, and letting the boss know is NOT snitching. What, OP should continue to do Gary’s job for him? I don’t think so.

      1. Cat With and Without Claws*

        I don’t think its snitching either, nor do I think that telling your boss that someone is abusing the rules–even if they don’t affect you or your work directly–is necessarily a bad thing. Even if there’s no direct work impact, it can really impede morale if everyone is expected to work certain hours and take certain breaks, and someone is abusing the system without impact. I would still frame it as ‘I understand I may not know the context here or if special permissions are given, but it hurts my morale when I see this behavior’ is fine in my eyes. I really dislike the use of the word ‘snitch’ in a work context. It implies you owe something to your coworkers, like a secret code between you, and that’s just not the case.

        1. JessaB*

          I also think that right now it’s an important thing to realise that stuff you might expect the manager to know and deal with on their own, is partly invisible to them because they’re not in the same space as the team. I’d be more likely to raise issues like this early with a manager working in another location. They can’t know what they can’t see. I kind of think there’s a lower bar for what and when to tell them than when business is normal.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Right, I agree, JessaB. It would be different if the manager was in the same location, and actually had the capability to monitor Gary’s hours. But because she is not in the same location, it would seem like someone senior on the team that co-located with Gary wouldn’t necessarily supervise him, but it would be reasonable if they saw him abusing the fact that the manager wasn’t on site.

    8. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’ve worked with a Gary before. Letting him know my ‘concerns’ did nothing; if anything, one Gary became more of a Gary. Gary’s boss needs to know how the team is managing their work and also Gary’s…because, you know, getting work done is everyone’s business.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Why cover for a lazy incompetent jackhole you don’t even like?

      If Gary was cool, maybe I’d be chill picking up the slacking. [I’m only being mildly sarcastic about this.]

    10. Alex*

      Dead weight coworkers always affect the team, even if not directly, definitely in terms of morale, and even, as is the case with something going on in my own department, the managers’ ability to assess the business needs of the department. This isn’t kindergarten.

      1. Marie*

        This! At my first job out of college, my coworker counterpart had a really low work ethic (arrived late, left exactly at 5PM, disappeared for hours at a time, did not accomplish work) and it really affected morale. It was one of the reasons I left that job – I realized my boss either didn’t care or didn’t have the power to deal with an ineffective staff member, and thus my hard work and dedication got me no where in the position. It sucked but it was a good lesson to learn about ineffective management.

    11. The Supreme Troll*

      I know I’m piling on here…but if the OP is reading this, Alison’s advice is absolutely perfect. This is definitely not a case of being a “snitch”. I really don’t have much to add beyond this.

    12. ElizabethJane*

      Because it sounds like Gary DGAF who knows what he’s up to.

      And also we need to get past this idea that bringing up performance concerns to managers is somehow not “minding your business”. It is my business if it impacts my workload.

    13. Workerbee*

      The Garys of the workplace world count on adults still hanging onto playground rules, where one of the worst things is to be thought of as a snitch. And they’re pretty good at knowing that they’re not doing any actual work. They usually get by because their behavior is enabled in one way or another.

      OP, be prepared for anything from sob stories that justify the behavior to instant quitting once this escalates to your boss, assuming you have a competent one in these matters.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        It feels like people are acting in a high school musical when they go calling people “snitches.”

        Even if it weren’t impacting her work, this could be a really annoying situation depending on the office environment. If a new person comes on and sees that 1 of his 3 co-workers blatantly ignores the one hour lunch rule – or blatantly ignores the standard hours – you can almost bet it rubs off on them because it seems like the accepted “norm.” One bad apple can ruin the bunch when it comes to habits that enable everyone’s work to get finished

      2. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        Also, prepare yourself for the possibility that your boss just won’t care. I once worked in a large group with a “Gary.” He became so blatant that he would check in in the morning, leave for the entire day (leaving his coat and or briefcase to let the supervisor see he was in, and then reappear just before leaving time. The rest of us had to meet deadlines despite his complete absence. When three of us (Out of six) complained to the manager, literally nothing was done. And they continued to fraudulently bill the client for his hours.

        1. Windchime*

          I worked with a guy like this once. He would literally clock in and then take off for the day. We were based in building A; he would say he was working downtown in building B. Except one day another person spent the day at building B and didn’t see “Gary” there all day. Eventually it got so bad that people would drive past Gary’s house when he disappeared; turns out he was clocking in and then going home to sleep until it was time to clock out for the day. He also got caught “partially unclothed” in a wiring closet with a TV and VCR, but that’s a story for another day.

          He finally got fired when one of his co-workers said to the boss, “Look, if this is OK for Gary to do, I’m just going to clock in tomorrow and then take my boat down to the river for the day.”

    14. Donkey Hotey*

      Big picture: Because it’s the manager’s job and (as noted) they are absent and assuming everything is fine.
      Little picture: Because if I’m doing Gary’s work, I want Gary’s check.

      This isn’t a schoolyard. Yes, in a perfect world, cornering the guy and saying, “Dude, really?” can be a valid option, but not everyone has the same privilege as I do.

    15. Aquawoman*

      I will say, my take on this was MYOB right up until the last sentence. So, I agree that letting your manager know that Gary is slacking off and letting other people do his job for him is totally appropriate. And I think the LW may have a little bit of mixed motives (i.e. partly just outrage over him BEING a slacker rather than the slacking affecting the LW, that they should consider before raising it).

    16. Sabine the Very Mean*

      “Being a snitch” is a different name on the same side of the “I don’t want to get Gary in trouble” coin. You are not snitching when reporting serious deficiencies and you don’t get others in trouble; others get themselves in trouble. Not wanting to snitch is how terrible behaviors go unchecked.

    17. soon to be former fed really*

      Lola, I agree. People have to monitor others to be aware of their comings and goings, I have had it done to me and it does not feel good at all. I never understood how watching coworkers didn’t detract from the productivity of the one doing the watching. I was subject to this in a professional setting, where no one had to pick up any slack because there wasn’t any as our jobs did not overlap, the watcher was just a self-righteous prick. Not saying OP is like this, but stick to the work issues OP and don’t worry about the clock so much. If he steps up getting his work done and still slacks on time, not your problem or circus. Address what affects you.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        …OP is trying to address what is affecting them. Gary isn’t doing his work, so OP and everyone else have to do it.

        And before the Time of Covid, I worked in an open office so I 100% was aware of what time the person who sat three feet from me arrived and departed just by virtue of existing in the same space.

      2. Oaktree*

        Did you not… bother to actually read the letter? Gary is not covering his work and the letter writer and their other colleagues have to pick up his slack. If this was just about clock-watching, Alison wouldn’t have given the answer she did. Not saying you’re like this, but maybe stick to reading the letter and don’t worry about your own projection so much.

    18. Ping*

      Can we stop with the “snitch”? OP never agreed to support Gary so it isn’t snitching. Especially when OP has to bear more work.

      I had a coworker like Gary. I finally told the boss that I wasn’t willing to work overtime to compensate for someone that refused to put in their 40. This person came in at 10, took a 2 hour lunch, and then left at 5:30. Since I was doing a huge chunk of work for the group he folded and started watching her.

    19. Penny*

      Having a co-worker that routinely comes in 45 minutes late and takes an hour lunch is incredibly disruptive to morale. Add in the fact that he is slacking on his work and its affecting others is unfair and the manager should be made aware of the issue. This isn’t snitching because other employees are being impacted.

      I’ve had a situation where a co-worker reported that he started at 7 AM every day except he would come in around 7:30 or 8:00 AM. The only time he stayed after 3:45 was when our manager got in before him and he would make a point to go to her desk and apologize for being late and making up some excuse about oversleeping or having to help his mom with something. But no one said anything because his work did not impact our work. There was no overlap so no issue. The same guy played a video game on his phone all day in the office and no one complained because, his work had no impact on ours. If he wants to drown that was on him. Gary however is hurting his colleagues by slacking.

      1. Windchime*

        Ooooh, I forgot about another person we had like this. This was years ago, in the days when medical claims were filed on paper forms. This gal said that she was working at night due to [reasons]. After she quit and went to another job, we found boxes of unfiled claims under her desk. She wasn’t really doing much; makes me wonder if she was just clocking in and then boxing up claims and leaving.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Yes, I remember someone in USAF who departed rapidly due to flunking a drug test, and we found a ton of incomplete purchase orders in his desk. Well, we all pretty much knew what he was doing instead of his work… (and this, my children, is why you should go through your own desk right before going on vacation,, not that I would leave anything bad behind, but hey, we all have our little rat pile of doom, right?).

  3. MissDisplaced*

    Why must there be Gary’s? They totally RUIN IT for everyone.
    Normally, I would say that this kind of thing isn’t your business, as long as Gary was still completing his work and/or not making such a regular daily habit of late arrivals and long lunches, and basically blatantly abusing the trust given to him.

    I hate to play informer as well, but given that your manager is not onsite currently, I do think that it’s something to flag for your boss, even if you don’t want to give all the details. If you don’t feel you can be as blunt as Allison’s script, maybe framing along the lines of suggesting to your manager that you feel Gary may need a lot more direction, oversight, and regular follow-up given he’s new. Hopefully, your manager can infer something is amiss from that.

    But if your boss did start checking-in more on Gary, do you feel he’d get with it? Or do you think he’ll still skate whenever he can?

    1. Lucy P*

      We don’t have Garys in our office, we have Gerrys. The Gerrys, try as they may, have the hardest time meeting deadlines. Worse, when the Gerrys are finished their portion of the work, it has to be handed over to my group that does the finalizing and aesthetics. The problem is that my group has the same deadline as the Gerrys, so we have to work that much faster to get the project out the door. We’ve had many Gerrys all in the same department and I’ve yet to figure out what makes them so late all the time.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I would pad the deadlines for the Gerry department by a day or three. Or a week. Two departments should never have the same deadline.

        That sounds like project mgt issue, and should be fixed by the schedule padding. But you MUST still hold the Gerrys to the “pseudo” deadline as though it’s the real deadline, so they’re forced to ask for another day or two extension. But then no big, because it’s been figured in.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I tried doing that with my Gerry, but he knew when the real deadline was, and pushed it, always (of course, he was also doing three different jobs in his office and didn’t have the budget to hire anyone, so we kind of had to put up with it).

      2. CatsOnAKeyboard*

        I’m going to sescond that that’s a process or project management issue, not a Gerry issue. The Gerrys are getting their work done by their deadline – the problem is that that’s not the right deadline for their piece because it doesn’t allow for additional steps after.

      3. Mr. Tyzik*

        I once had to work with a dysfunctional partner team during software deliveries. They were so late that I would tell them our delivery date was 30-45 days earlier than our target just so that they would deliver their piece in time.

        The first time I did this with a new team, they thought I was crazy and someone let the real date slip. We would up delayed by two months. The second time we had to work with the team, they suggested we follow the original plan. :)

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Further thoughts on the concept that two departments cannot have the same deadline. If Department B isn’t able to finish their work until Department
        A begins, the project management schedule should have that as a dependency. There can be some overlap. But you can’t install the last ceiling fixture until the ceiling paint dries, so don’t tell the painters to finish on Wednesday AND tell the electricians to finish on Wednesday. There must be time for paint to dry.

      5. Nonke John*

        I’m not sure this will be any consolation, but the opposite problem is no picnic, either.

        My colleague Geary was upstream from my team, and his internal customers loved him for always getting things in well before the deadline. Along the way, he’d be giving his SMEs and stakeholders regular status updates that were completely factitious. Then, with a week or so to spare, he’d throw work product together any old how. In forwarding it for review, he’d say, “Hey–I’ve created everything as we discussed, but I just wanted to confirm one last item that I think it’s important to get right.” The poor, overstretched SMEs were so grateful to be spared reviewing time, and so hoodwinked by his show of detail-oriented-ness, that they’d sign off on his stuff without really looking at it.

        After he “finalized” his feculent deliverable and handed it off to my team, they’d have to recreate it *entirely* before doing their actual job of converting it for the market we served. This took twice as long as it would have if we’d been given good (or even passable) source material, so it looked as if we were creating the impediment.

        Like the OP’s Gary, Geary came in late and left early every day. He was too canny to be looking at his phone all the time, but he always had some non-work-related page open on his browser. He was an all-around know-it-all jerk, too. When my boss told me he’d quit, after years of getting away with this baloney, I got up–right there in one of our fishbowl conference rooms–and danced a jig. And then a reel. Good grief, I loathed that man.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t understand the “if it isn’t affecting your workload etc, it isn’t your business so don’t get involved” line of argument. (Which I appreciate isn’t the case here, since it seems like it *is* affecting OPs workload, but more of a general comment about this type of logic wherever it appears.)
      Yeah, maybe it doesn’t directly affect the deliverables when ‘Fergus’ is late every day, takes long lunches or whatever and everyone’s work still gets done.

      But on the longer term, there’s bound to be a hit to morale and/or productivity because one of two things will happen:

      1) people notice, become resentful and think “well, why am I bothering to put in all this effort then” etc and then what do you know, next time there’s an all hands on deck crisis, maybe those people have somewhere else they need to be, maybe they don’t give extra any more but just get the basics of the job done, etc. or

      2) Others see that the person is doing this, faces no consequences, so then think “well I’m a chump then for doing my proper hours and taking the allotted hour for lunch” and next thing you know, those people are also losing 2-or-so hours of their working day to late arrival, long lunches, etc. (if you can’t beat them, join them!) At that point, either the person ‘additionally’ doing this gets picked up on it by their boss (and then see 1) above) or they don’t, and productivity tanks all around in a kind of self-perpetuating cycle.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        These are childish responses. As an undergraduate, there were many who did not attend large lecture classes and got away with it. Didn’t influence me in the least, but I’m a more than the bare minimum type of person. Just keep your side of the street clean, don’t compare yourself to others, and Gary will eventually implode.

        1. Khatul Madame*

          If you are a fed, you know that Garys can last for years, decades even, without so much as a reprimand.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          The difference is that I attended those large lecture classes for my own benefit, not the instructor’s. Gary is the guy who skips all the work sessions so he can go play frisbee, but wants full credit for the group project that you, Jane, and Esmeralda skipped a concert to work on.

        3. voyager1*

          You pay to go to those big lectures, the professor is paid either way. At work you are paid to go and do stuff for the boss. Big difference.

        4. Prof. XYZ*

          There’s a big difference between behavior of an undergrad and work colleagues. Perhaps the closest analogue is if you have a group project as an undergrad, and you are stuck doing all the work because your Gary shows up late to meetings, is on. his phone the whole time and doesn’t get his share of the project done so you have to do it all at the last minute, but you are getting a group grade. Even if Gary did get his share of the project done, the frustration this would cause for his group mates would make them dissatisfied with the class and less likely to want to challenge themselves.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, this.
        It’s the other side of yesterday’s coin where some coworkers were annoyed because an employee with a chronic illness was taking 3 days off every month.

        This is why good management is essential. If someone needs accommodations that mean they’re working shorter hours or fewer days than other employees, managers must be able to communicate this clearly, even if they aren’t allowed to state exactly why the person has these accommodations. Similarly, once management has stated that a certain person is allowed to work shorter days or take longer breaks than most employees, the employees need to trust management when they say there’s a reason for it, without speculating about why or suspecting favoritism.

        But for the above to work, management has to be seen to actually be managing those who really are slacking off.

    3. Mockingjay*

      The trick is, don’t wait until after the project is finished to inform the boss of the difficulties caused by Gary. She needs to know in the moment.

      “Hey, boss, wanted to let you know that the Beckwith report will be late. Still waiting on Gary’s teapot handle numbers; we were supposed to have them last Tuesday.”
      Notice that the email does NOT propose you to do the handle numbers yourself. Let Boss figure out the solution.

      If you send frequent notices of “Gary” issues, she’ll see the pattern.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. Bring the progress of the project, and any blockers (including Gary) to her attention. She’s not there so she doesn’t see it, but all the more reason to give her status updates as required. It also gives a paper trail.

      2. A Ninny Mouse*

        I’ve been doing this with “Fergus”, someone in another department who’s in put I required to do my tasks.
        The last time I said I was waiting for Fergus and had just told him again, my managers reply was “telling Fergus something is like telling it to the wind.” So…someone knows now.

  4. Cruciatus*

    If only there was a good way to get the boss to visit the work site unplanned and early enough to see for herself that Gary comes in 45 minutes late.

    1. Elizabeth I*

      That wouldn’t establish a pattern in arriving late, though – much less give enough evidence to point to the overall larger pattern (long lunches, not doing work, etc) and its impact on the team’s workload. It would look to the boss like he was just late one time, which he could easily brush aside with a reasonable excuse (doctor visit, car problems, etc).

      Better to be direct and processional by explaining to the boss how this is impacting work, like Alison suggested.

    2. Jill*

      It’d be easier and also beneficial to create an email train to show her, just plan to do all of his catch up work first thing in the morning. “I sent this question to Gary this morning but when I went by to ask him about it he wasn’t there, this has been a regular pattern.”

  5. Too Many Garys*

    We just had a Gary in our org — in fact, your letter is so eerily similar that I had to double-take at all the details to make sure it wasn’t my coworker writing in. I held off on telling our director about his slacking until he monumentally dropped the ball on two simple tasks I asked him to do which ended up delaying an important campaign (that HE was technically responsible for, but I had been picking up a lot of slack to keep it moving). My director was appreciative of my feedback and made it clear to him that he needed to step up and be responsible for this campaign and start putting in the work accordingly.
    Then he quit with no notice the following day (Saturday) via email.
    I have no advice, but I sympathize. Just, be prepared for the problem to take care of itself if Gary decides he’d rather peace out than put in the work.

    1. Megumin*

      I had a Gary at my last job too – I also did a double take with this letter! He didn’t even try to put on a show of good performance – after my boss talked with him, he got worse and worse, and eventually was put on a PIP, and then fired. We were all so relieved when that happened, because not only was he not doing his share of the workload, the stuff he did do was so screwed up that me and my other coworker had to redo the work he actually did, in addition to picking up the slack. It was maddening. He also just had this awful attitude like we were the problem, and the final straw for my boss was when he took it out on customers.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, but better late than never. Your boss took the appropriate action to get rid of him. But for your boss to be able to do that, they had to be aware of the problem.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I mean, this is a pandemic still. You never really know the whole truth behind the slacking—perhaps there is a understandable reason.
      But Gary is a big boy, and the onus is on him to speak up to the manager if there are other factors affecting work or reasonable accommodations need to be considered. You don’t just let it go hoping you won’t get caught.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      A mentor of mine once told me, “One of two things will happen when you someone to pick up their slack. They pick up their slack, in which case, problem solved. Or they say, “Step off, I won’t do what you tell me!” and quit. In which case, problem solved.”

      1. Chopsington*

        Lol. That’s rarely what happens. In actuality it’s more like…

        – what do you mean I’m working as hard as I can the deadlines are unreasonable
        – I’m totally meeting expectations all these other things no one told me about
        – I’ve got so much life problems I’ll keep on telling you about till you take pity on me
        – all my coworkers are the problem and causing me to be late
        – totally what you boss I’ll totally get my stuff done (and the regress in a month)
        – etc etc etc

    4. sacados*

      Oof. Yeah there was sort of a similar situation at my first “real” job. It was right after I left actually, I had given notice and was helping to interview/hire my replacement. The person they ended up hiring (will call her M) wasn’t my top pick, but “not my circus” and all that so I spent my last few days training her, left detailed notes/instructions/manuals for pretty much EVERYTHING and let her know she could contact me for questions.
      Well, only a week or two after I left that job I got an email from my former boss begging for help because M had just been a total flake. Showing up at 3 when she was supposed to come in at 11, several days of outright no-call/no-shows. And she’d been calling/emailing me with questions about lots of things that I had *definitely* gone over during training and/or left detailed notes on.
      So they had to fire her, and then asked if they could pay me to come back and work part-time for a few weeks just to keep things afloat until they managed to get another new hire in. It was a mess.

  6. Shinobi*

    I think it is always better to focus on outcomes over hours. A big part of that is because I think holding people to a strict idea of “working” for 40 hours creates a false sense of management. It does not matter if someone spends 80 hours in front of their pc not doing personal tasks if their work isn’t up to snuff.

    1. Hoya Lawya*

      I fully agree with this. If OP brings this to the attention of her manager, the emphasis needs to be on “Gary is foisting his work on us,” not “Gary comes in late.” (For that matter, if he stays late, too, how does OP know he doesn’t do his work then?)

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Later in the letter the OP notes that he leaves just after OP does. “I was still in the building when I saw him leave three minutes after me.”

        I agree with the focus on outcomes, not necessarily the behavior, but there’s also a good point to be made for making a remote manager aware of what you have noticed – as long as you do it as neutrally as possible. Present the issue of having a significantly increased workload due to Gary not getting his done, and when manager asks more about the situation, you shouldn’t not include that you’ve noticed Gary getting in late, taking a very long lunch, and leaving around the same time as everyone else on a regular basis. These are all things a manager onsite would likely have noticed, but is difficult to know working fully remotely.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          I disagree, all the hall monitoring stuff should be omitted, it looks petty.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            Yeah, yikes. I know the LW says that she can’t help but notice what he’s doing, but… knowing when he came in/how long his lunch was/what time he left ALL ON THE SAME DAY is a LOT of attention being paid. Now that we’re both working from home, I’m sitting right next to my husband and I couldn’t tell you this level of detail about his comings and goings.

            1. Amaranth*

              I can excuse it on the basis of the fact that once you start feeling really, really annoyed with a coworker, its normal to want to self-check and determine if its *that* bad or irritation is inflating the issue. Of course, OP could just be feeling that petty.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        OP knows he isn’t doing his work then because work ends up backing up until OP and coworkers pitch in on the deliverable.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This may not apply to the OP’s situation.

      I agree when the employees in question are salaried *and* non-exempt. Hours worked are a much bigger issue when dealing with hourly and/or exempt employees.

      Side note, even with salaried, non-exempt employees, this can become an issue for planning and project management, since hours can get padded due to the inefficiencies.

    3. Bostonian*

      Yup, and in this case, his work is subpar, so his lack of hours and attention while he’s there does matter.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, this is the important thing- the work is not getting done.

      You can mention the hours thing, it isn’t irrelevant; but it isn’t the real problem, the work is. Focus on that and let Kate handle it.

  7. AKchic*

    This isn’t snitching. We need to eliminate that word from the office vocabulary.

    I’d be interested in knowing if Gary is salary or hourly. Because my advice would be a little different for each.

    Either way, the next time Gary’s “work” ethic creates a problem, that’s when you have the right moment to bring it up to Kate.
    “look, I’ve mentioned this before, but this has come up previously. If Gary has a standing daily morning and lunch appointment elsewhere, I’ll back off, but he isn’t here for at least 90 minutes of every day and the work he does produce is substandard, which is causing delays and we are having to scramble to fix it or even fill in when he isn’t creating the work in general. When you’re in the office he is the model employee, but when you aren’t, neither is he and I’d like to flag that for you, because it is creating problems for the rest of us.”

    Make sure to email it to her so you have a record of it. Bcc your personal email account just in case.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      I’m willing to bet he’s salaried because:
      1) Kate would know about his reduced hours from his time cards.
      2) His slacker habits would hit him where it hurts, in the bank account.

        1. Office Drone*

          Not everyone has time sheets. I’ve worked as an hourly employee in a few offices, one being county government, and have always just been paid for the hours I’m “supposed” to work without tracking them or submitting anything to anyone.

      1. AKchic*

        If Kate isn’t there to verify his hours, who’s to say he’s not lying on his timesheets? That would be another issue for HR/Payroll *and* Kate to deal with, but would be in character if Gary has no standing out-of-office meeting/appointment that Kate actually does know of and didn’t tell LW about.

        I’m willing to give grace to someone if they actually have morning appointments (hey, maybe he schedules all of his appointments for 8am, and he’s the medical person for someone else and has to be at their appointments too) or he eats meals with an elderly relative at a nearby assisted living facility (yeah, I’m really reaching here, but again, I am giving an example of something that Kate may know about but hasn’t shared with others, thinking that Gary told people, and Gary didn’t share because he assumed Kate told people).
        But that doesn’t give him the right to fall behind on his work and create problems for others. And I doubt the scenarios are actually real. Whether he’s salaried or not, I am going to bet that Kate expects him to be putting in roughly 40 hours a week for his paycheck, and I am betting dollars to donuts that for “accounting purposes” he is claiming that 40 hours whether he’s there or not.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        If he’s staying late to make up the time, he’d still have the hours on his timecard, he just wouldn’t have done any work for most of the time he was clocked in.

  8. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    Talking to Gary is a good first step, but that’s not likely to solve the problem. So let’s say Gary keeps slacking; here’s what you risk if you don’t tell your boss proactively:

    Someone or everyone downstream from Gary will eventually drop the ball because they’re stuck taking on more than they can handle. When that happens, Kate’s probably going to bring that issue up to you. Either you take full responsibility for the situation and leave Gary out of it, or…you mention the Gary situation. If this is the first time she’s hearing about Gary, you risk looking like you’re deflecting blame or worse, not a team player. Either way, you’re the one who ends up taking a hit from Kate over an issue that Gary set in motion. You don’t want either of these things to happen.

  9. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Examples of snitching at work:
    Gary is listening to Pandora on his earbuds and we’re not supposed to listen to music at work!
    Gary is wearing dark black jeans and not black pants and jeans are against the dress code!
    Gary took 35 minutes for lunch instead of 30!
    Gary printed a picture of his dog on the copy machine to hang on his cube and we’re not supposed to print personal stuff!

    Examples of things that are NOT snitching at work:
    Gary didn’t finish his section Teapot Report and the rest of us had to work OT to do it so we could get it out on time
    Gary keeps yelling Hubba hubba! at Tangerina and now she is afraid to walk past his desk
    Gary is stealing the toner cartridges from the supply closet and selling them on eBay, we are always out of ink and can’t print anything.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Every time I see “snitching” in a work context the only thing that goes through my mind is “What are you? Twelve?!” Which is possibly unfair to twelve year olds, since it’s actually behaviour (especially with your examples) that I’d associate with a 5 year old.

      If it is relevant to work, impacting your ability to do your work (or likewise the work of someone you supervise), or in any other way negatively impacting the work environment, it is an adult and professional discussion to have. Can we please stop “snitching”?

      1. CynicallySweet7*

        Eh I worked in a 3rd-4th grade classroom for awhile and those complaints are pretty on par for the age group (not the point I know). Ironically a lot of what you do as a TA for that age grp is help them identify when something is actually an issue and when it’s not.

        The 3 big questions we would stress about how to decide whether something should be told – which I actually think applies here well (we had a rhyme for them to remember but for the life of me I can’t remember it):

        1. Is the behavior you’re telling me about hurting you or someone else?
        2. Can the person you’re telling see the behavior in question?
        3. Does the behavior actually effect you? (is it effect or affect?)

        1. Amy Sly*

          Both can be verbs and nouns.

          ef-FECT — noun. a consequence
          EF-fect — verb. To bring something into being, e.g. I effected the contract.
          AF-fect — verb. To alter.
          af-FECT — noun. An expressed emotional response

          Decent rule of thumb with words that are the same in noun and verb forms: if the stress is on the first syllable, it’s a verb; if it’s on the second, it’s a noun.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Removed a long derail about effect/affect here and am closing this thread. (It’s affect when it’s a verb, as here, and effect when it’s a noun. There are some annoying exceptions, but most of the time it’s this.)

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


      This is a business. Things need to be done. If things are not getting done because Gary isn’t doing them, or is offloading them on everyone else on top of their own work, or is harassing others so they cannot get their work done (like in the Tangerina example), that’s a problem.

  10. Summer Anon*

    In my office we have had people spin it as a safety concern and email/text the boss “Hey! Gary is 40 minutes late and we were getting concerned. Have you heard from him?” And if he happens to walk in before you get a reply from the boss you can email the boss back and say “He just arrived!”
    Sometimes that scares the Garys into being on time going forward.

    Is Gary given deadlines? Same thing in my office. If someone doesn’t get a deadline then they don’t work on it.

    1. Mae Fuller*

      True story: my friend actually got in trouble because of this when we were at school. She’d bunked off to go and hang out at another friend’s house, but we were all such goody-goodies that it didn’t even occur to us, and a couple of other friends went to tell the teacher how (genuinely) concerned we were that she hadn’t turned up and we hadn’t heard from her.
      (Ah, the days before mobile phones…)

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        In college, I got distracted by a presented in the student union building and strolled into a lit class almost half way through. Everyone turned around and the teacher said, “we thought you were in the hospital again.”
        PS: not so much about being a goody two shoes at my school. It was super small, like 25 people in a class were called “seminars” small, so if you didn’t go, you were either a total slacker (nobody was giving you notes because you could walk the 20 yards from the dorm to the building) or you were dying.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      I get the theory, but this is very passive aggressive. Either talk to Gary or talk to Kate about the fact you can’t keep fixing his work for him, either because it’s wrong or because he’s not around.

      Tell Gary you were looking for him earlier and he wasn’t at his desk. You were looking for him because X report is incorrect and you had to finish it for him. This isn’t the first time, so you wanted to go over it to clear up any questions and clarify that this does need to be done by 9:30am. If he isn’t there, you end up having to do it for him and that is going to be a problem, since you have your own deadlines.

      If it continues after that, tell Kate you had to do it because it was wrong again. If Gary couldn’t fix it because he wasn’t there, you can say that, but the problem is the work. Deal with the problem, don’t dance around it or “trick” Gary into being “found out.” It’s fun to play the petty game in theory, but once that actually gets going in an office it makes for a really unpleasant working environment.

  11. Steveo*

    Nothing kills a team morale faster than a co-worker who is a complete slacker and seeing nothing done about it. The next step is, maybe we should all take a 1:45 lunch, Gary gets to.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Agree, this has happened to me. Wait, it’s okay to be 45 minutes late every day and then take an extra hour at lunch? Nothing will happen and you will continue to make the same amount of money as me (or realistically, more)? Hm, perhaps I need to get in on that. Here I am putting in my 40-plus like a sucker.

      I would also definitely *not* be picking up Gary’s slack, as this prevents the offsite manager from “feeling the pain” of Gary. You need to let the manager feel the pain.

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree but if Kate has not clearly assigned work then it is hard to assign failure to complete to Gary specifically — and he is counting on that.

    2. Elbe*

      Agreed. Long term, people are not going to put in extra effort so that a coworker can slack off. They’re either going to complain, or quit, or start to slack off themselves.

      If other people are forced to pick up his work, it’s a big enough problem that it’s going to affect morale.

  12. Laura*

    The only thing I can think in possible defense of Gary is that Kate has okayed it. She’s been pulled away on a special project and hasn’t trained him fully. She’s told him she’s okay if he’s not fully occupied that he can come in late. That happened to me when I started a job during their exceptionally slow December. However, five months is a long time for this to go on. I wonder if the original poster could email Gary and Kate saying that she has noticed that he hasn’t been doing X, and since she’s approaching Y when she won’t be able to cover it, does Kate want her to train Gary? It is passive aggressive but flags the issue to both of them while allowing that there could possibly be something that the OP doesn’t know.

  13. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    If it doesn’t affect your ability to get your work done, let it go. If he’s missing deadlines, being loud and distracting, etc. then yes you talk to your boss. But if his slacker tendencies only affects him and his job, don’t get involved. I get that it’s frustrating, and if your boss asks you questions about him, by all means be honest. But it’s really none of your business. It’s up to your manager to manage him and make sure his work is getting done.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Just realized that you did say it was affecting you and others, so yes I think you need to talk to your boss. Sorry, need more coffee.

  14. Delphine*

    There was a new hire at my job who did something similar during her probationary period–she would come in late, which meant she was required to leave later in the day. Instead, she’d wait until her boss was gone and then leave immediately. She got caught once and then her boss started to keep an eye out and eventually she was let go. It was one of many problems with her and her work.

  15. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    This is interesting to read. The past few weeks I definitely feel like I’m slacking, because between remote work IT problems and starting a new process, I have very little to nothing to do all day at my government position in my field. Like, IDK, do I stare at the laptop all day and wait for the rare email, or go for a quick walk, or fart around on the Internet all day?

  16. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    I wouldn’t bother having the conversation with Gary on the grounds of “maybe he hasn’t realised Kate’s expectations” or similar … because it’s clear that he knows he is taking advantage since he doesn’t do these things when Kate is around to observe! So I think you can skip that step with a clear conscience.

    It sounds like Kate did ask for feedback about Gary and has received that information from both you and some of your co-workers… and yet it continues, with Kate as well as yourselves having to pick up the slack! It sounds like Kate has dropped the ball here…

    (I once worked with someone like this, early in my career, we were “peers” doing 2x the same position in the company. We had rigid hours like 9-5 with an hour for lunch; he would show up at 9.30 or later every day, unpack his stuff, turn on his computer etc then take everyone’s orders and head out of the office to McDonalds and show up again at 11am… then take a couple of hours for lunch and then slack off early… I did raise it with him directly in that case and got laughed off, so I did raise it with the manager, and got the disappointing response of “oh, haha, it’s just John being John! There’s not much we can do” (what?!)
    ….. Oh, except for that period when he was applying for a mortgage and needed more income (to support the amount being borrowed) than his actual salary would give, so suddenly there was a load of extra paid overtime that he needed to do in order to complete projects…. (It wasn’t pre-approved, but with a more mature perspective I think what must have happened was that that manager was complicit in the ‘hooky’ overtime in order to inflate his pay packet. At the time I assumed he was just doing the overtime unilaterally and then “ipso facto” had to be paid for it even though it wasn’t approved, but I was only about 19 then!)

  17. irene adler*

    OP wrote: “This ends up affecting all of us one way or another because he’s not finishing his work on time or correctly, so the rest of us, including Kate, have to step in to help and there’s really no way to say no to that.”

    Including Kate?

    This makes me wonder if Kate is registering this -at least as far as it has affected her. Certainly she feels this when completing Gary’s work takes time away from her project.

    Sure, there’s times where the boss has to step in and help complete the work of one of their reports. Given this is a regular thing though, it should prompt Kate to initiate a workload discussion with Gary. Is there too much? Is it too difficult? Why can’t you complete it yourself to the expected standard? Etc.

    I wonder if Gary has spun this to his advantage. And Kate’s buying it. Something along the lines of telling Kate he’s too busy assisting others with their work to complete his own. Hence, she’s not looking into the obvious- he’s slacking.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I feel like she has (for whatever reason, too busy assisting others or whatever) come to believe that Gary’s workload needs to be redistributed around the team in order to finish the work on time.

      The possibilities are either: that she makes up the slack herself, or that she shares the ‘make-up’ workload among the rest of the team including herself to show that she is “one of the team” and so has only, say, 1/5th of the extra workload rather than all of it.

      The more I think about it, the more I think that Kate is the one to blame here. She is putting 2 and 2 together and making 3 (i.e. .. not seeing the obvious connection).

      Gary isn’t finishing his work, etc. (She’s heard from reliable teammates that..) Gary is slacking off and losing 2 or more work hours a day (assuming you work 9-5 with an hour for lunch, 2 hours is almost 1/3rd of the day!) But she doesn’t seem to see any issue with Gary even though it was pointed out to her by existing team members when she asked for feedback about the new person….

      So instead of taking this up with Gary she puts it on to the rest of the team.. why?

      I guess Kate was the “hiring manager” for Gary and that he reports directly to her. As such she ought to be aware of other people who report to her who Gary says he is “assisting”.

      Yeah I’d double down on what I said in another post that I think Kate is really at fault here.

      Gary needs to be fired imo!

  18. Bad Hare Day*

    I have a quibble with the “standard” advice that “if it’s not affecting your work, it’s none of your business.” Even if this LW didn’t have to stay late or work harder to cover for Gary’s failings, it’s still affecting his coworker’s morale to see him slack off and not suffer any consequences. It’s like we’ve collectively decided as a society that “snitching” on someone is the worst possible thing that anyone could do in the workplace, far worse than not actually doing your job!

    In a past highly dysfunctional workplace, I “supervised” a string of Garys. I put supervised in quotes because while they reported to me on paper, it was clear from how things actually functioned that I had no authority. Say we were the groomers for a farm of 240 llamas. Llamas have to be groomed every 4 months, and there were 3 groomers, so we’d each have to groom 20 llamas a month to maintain the herd. Gary #1 would groom his favorite 10 llamas a month and maybe 1 or 2 others if he was feeling particularly motivated. Gary #2 couldn’t tell which llamas had been groomed and which hadn’t (hint: focus on the ones with the longer hair). Gary #3 (#1’s replacement) o call/no showed at least once a month. Gary #4 (#2’s replacement) really wanted to be an alpaca herder and spent most of their time trying to work with that team. All this meant that I was grooming 30 llamas a month and we still fell behind, and there were llamas that hadn’t been groomed for years!

    However, when I raised this with my boss (dept head), they branded me as a snitch and a micromanager. My boss was extremely conflict averse and treated anyone who raised an issue as the problem. Oh, and of course there was gender stuff/misogyny at play as well.

    1. Bad Hare Day*

      And I can’t resist giving an update on the Garys:

      #1 left to go into fleece sales at another farm, and was fired after 6 months. I also found out that they were having sexual relationships with several VIPs at my farm (which I suspected, but could not confirm while they were reporting to me). This might explain why they repeatedly referred to their relationship with my dept head as “special.”

      #2 was transferred to another dept where they continued to do a substandard job. Now they run another small farm (not llamas).

      #3 was eventually fired for cause after mouthing off to my dept head. It ended in a restraining order against #3.

      #4 could hold an in-depth conversation about different washing/combing/shearing techniques all day long but would take all week to groom a single llama and it would still have to be redone afterwards. They were on a PIP when they managed to talk their way into a big promotion at another farm.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Damn, Gary #3! I thought Gary #1 was going to take the cake then you just ran on in here with your restraining order.

        It is so frustrating when you are expected to do the job of a supervisor but not given the authority to go with it.

        1. Bad Hare Day*

          Yep. Because I was the Director of Llama Grooming, I was ultimately responsible for the numbers, so I busted my ass for my team to look decent while the Garys just cruised along.

    2. Ms. Ann Thropy*

      The Garys of the world suck, and the only worse people are the managers who let them get away with their crap.

  19. Artemesia*

    I agree but if Kate has not clearly assigned work then it is hard to assign failure to complete to Gary specifically — and he is counting on that.

    1. CynicallySweet7*

      I didn’t get that impression from the LW. I got more of an ‘he’s being assigned work and then not doing’ it vibe, esp bc they have to step in to cover for him sometimes

  20. Elbe*

    When the others are picking up Gary’s work, I wonder if it’s being framed as “Gary’s projects are especially time consuming so everyone should try to help” or if it’s clear to Kate that he’s not doing the same amount of work as everyone else.

    If there’s any chance that Kate could be unaware that the additional work is the result of Gary’s behavior, then I think that the LW is obligated to let her know. This isn’t an instance of everyone pitching in to handle a high workload, it’s an instance of multiple employees being overloaded so that one employee can benefit.

  21. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

    I think I managed to read through all the responses up until this point, so I am going to make what is a very blanket statement: not a single person has yet pointed out that this type of Gary-behavior is directly related to employers doing things like implementing constant-monitoring software, insisting that all conference be on video, or policing all remote workers. We have seen multiple columns about how employers should NOT do those things – that trusting your employees to do their jobs is crucial, and managing them appropriately is how you ensure work gets done, not by watching their every move.
    But here we have a situation where: (1) OP’s manager Kate IS a good manager, but is logistically unable to truly assess what Gary is doing (because she’s not in the office) other than seeing his work product; and (2) she knows his work product is substandard, but she does not know WHY, and he’s only been there for 5 months so she is probably reserving judgment and trying to be fair in her assessment before deciding he’s just a bad fit/employee. This is a perfect example of where a good manager NEEDS the feedback on Gary from others in order to do her job effectively, and right now she’s not getting it.
    Every single person who argued against “snitching” if Gary wasn’t specifically affecting the OP’s job… what about the possible long-term effects? What about if management comes to realize what Gary is doing – has been doing, for 5 months! – and decides that everyone needs to be in-office, subject to monitoring software, etc.? If you have any investment in a non-toxic working environment from your employer, isn’t it incumbent on you to speak up when you see people engaging in behavior that is toxic in itself?
    And the things Gary is doing – even in the absence of creating more work for others – are toxic. This is not “5 minutes extra at lunch” or “using the printer to copy a picture of your cat.” This is a concerted effort at deceiving the employer by taking advantage of a situation where the employer is placing TRUST in their employees. It doesn’t take too many times of being burned by one employee to implement policies that effectively penalize those who didn’t need them in the first place. And if you say that that’s what a “bad” employer would do, remember that discrimination laws do not allow you to treat trustworthy employees differently – employees, generally, have to be subject to the same policies across the board.
    One bad apple really CAN and DOES spoil the entire barrel, and taking the position that you should MYOB when you don’t perceive any direct impact on your work can backfire spectacularly.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I don’t know, is Kate a good manager? If she’s regularly having to pick up the slack of a remote worker and not stopping to wonder why, that is a problem. I know OP thinks she is, but OP sounds like a pretty self-motivated person, so she may not need as much hands-on managing as other folks.

      It could be a short term thing due to this project, but 5 months is a long time to just be picking up the slack for a team member without a question. If she’s not asking why Gary isn’t up to speed yet or checking in with the team to get to the bottom of it, then either she has too much work to be a good manager, or she really isn’t all that great at managing folks that aren’t self motivated. It can be tricky to figure out how to remotely keep an eye on folks without becoming micro-managing, but it sounds like she’s way too hands off here.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Oh, also I get your bigger point about how this can make things worse for everyone. I do agree about that to an extent. I still don’t think it’s any of your business if your coworker is ten minutes late pretty regularly, but it doesn’t stop you from getting anything done and their work is stellar. It isn’t worth it and it’s really kind of petty.

        If it is impacting stuff, though, yeah, you should mention it. Especially times like this, his not being available isn’t just annoying, it’s causing problems. That said, I still think focusing on the problem with the work, and mentioning the time keeping as part of it rather than, “Kate! Gary is late again!” or a more petty email to Gary at start time with Kate cc’d “Gary, you aren’t here yet, so when you get in can you blah blah…” etc. The tardiness and lack of effort should be mentioned, just probably not as a thing in and of itself. If someone is doing no work, the chances of it affecting no one ever are pretty small. If it is possible to address it in that way, that is always the best option.

      2. Bad Hare Day*

        I think people often confuse “good manager” with “nice person,” or at least, “nice to me.”

    2. Kat*

      The level of extreme monitoring you describe still isn’t necessary, though. If the office has keycard access, you can monitor arrival times through the logs. If they use a company-provided computer, it’s much less invasive to track when they log in to and out of the machine, especially if you enforce it logging out on going to screensaver. We don’t monitor it, but at my workplace we definitely have access to that kind of data just by virtue of using a Microsoft ecosystem, no special spying software needed. It wouldn’t catch someone who logged in early and used a mouse-moving program to prevent screensaver activating (which was discovered at my workplace when it gave the laptop a virus) but would catch the late starts, long lunches, and early departures.

      Even with all of that, the first step is surely for the manager to address the poor performance, regardless of reason. It wouldn’t be nearly such an issue if the slacker got everything done in less time, would it?

    3. space cadet*

      But employees DON’T have to have the same policies across the board. Or, well, policies, yes– but this situation isn’t a problem of systems so much as a problem of management– I haven’t seen any evidence that Kate is actually doing an effective job. There may be reasons, including incomplete information, but it’s a really slippery slope from there to justifying universal surveillance.

  22. Jennifer*

    Don’t do Gary’s work. You don’t have to report him. Just stop doing his work. It looks like he’s doing more than he is because you guys are doing his job. If/when he asks tell him you can’t because you’re slammed and he needs to get with Kate to figure out a solution.

  23. Cassidy*

    >so the rest of us, including Kate, have to step in to help and there’s really no way to say no to that.

    And Kate should be questioning why this is happening.

  24. Gilgongo*

    This is currently happening to my partner. His (somewhat recently-hired co-worker) isn’t just 1 or 2 hours late. He works about 3 hours a day & has bragged about it. My partner is the only one that works directly with him, and is really the only one who knows (everyone works from home). It’s totally messing up HIS workday, so he finally talked to their boss. The result? Boss had my partner talk to the co-worker about his behavior. The kicker? The co-worker is my partner’s SENIOR!

    Co-worker took it fairly well, but then got really weird & passive aggressive the next day.

    I am aghast by all of this. His company (a big one) is horribly mis-managed.

  25. Meg*

    I look at it this way – if you’re doing your coworker’s work for him, then you’re subsidizing his salary/wages. And I too dislike the term ‘snitching’ for things people do that affects overall morale, because if not addressed it invariably leads to others slacking off too.

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