I am a regular reader of your column and so are many of my coworkers. I am hoping they will see your response to my question. The recent article entitled “Socialize with Employees but Know When to Draw the Line” contained a statement that I would like to see you elaborate on. The statement was: “…or an employee who comes in late twice a week…have all crossed the line, as far as I’m concerned.”
The problem that I have is that a few of my coworkers who fall into this on a daily basis. Last year, a couple of them were spoken to about their arrival time, extended lunches, departure times and how accurately they keep track of it on their time sheets. It seems to fall on deaf ears. One person in particular continues to come in ten to fifteen minutes late every day, takes a one and one-half hour lunch hour and still leaves before eight hours are in. Others come in and out as they please. The reason I know this is that I usually get the questions about where they are, or have to cover their job while they are gone, and nothing seems to be done about it.
The general consensus is that as long as they “get the job done” why should management care about what they do with their time at work or how much time they really put in (even when they put down 40 hours on the time sheet, when doing three to five hours less per week).
If I have to take time off for a doctor appointment, or for my kids, I struggle to make up my time or take it without pay. When I work to make this time up I am admonished by my coworkers who say I should not be so concerned and put down my 40 hours, and that nobody in management will be the wiser.
Now our company, along with many others across the nation, are watching the bottom line even more and trying to conserve money the best way that they can. I see that thousands of dollars are being lost every month with this behavior. This becomes increasingly frustrating, since we are being asked to watch our expenses even more, they seem to abuse their time more frequently.
Some people think that I am too fussy but when did the standards change? What ever happened to, “An honest days wage for an honest day’s work”?
I wonder what your coworkers would say if your employer shorted them on their fair day’s wage? I suspect they would be an angry mob, pointing their fingers at selfish, dishonest management.
While flexible hours and employee empowerment is one of the best things to happen to the workplace in 20 years, your situation steps over the line.
Many workplaces have loosened their grip on the rigid schedule their employees must work. A majority of organizations have moved to flexible scheduling, which allows for the occasional doctor’s appointment or long lunch. However, employees are expected to put in the hours they have agreed to provide. Since your coworkers are expected to report their hours, one can assume that this is true where you work. The new deal is: you can have more autonomy, if you prove you can be trusted with it. The manager is obligated to step in if an employee takes advantage of that freedom.
Where is their manager? If he or she spoke to them a year ago, the manager has done nothing to hold them accountable, which has invited further abuse. As their coworker, you have no authority to correct it. If you go to your manager and he or she starts to clamp down on them (and they know you were responsible), there will be some nasty days ahead for you, as they torture you for turning them in.
If you trust that the manager in charge will handle this information well, you have the option of voicing your concerns to management. You have two very valid concerns that are within your right to report. You have observed falsification of time sheets (which, by the way, is a fireable offense). In addition, you are being put in a position to cover for your coworkers’ absences. This isn’t fair to you.
One approach is to use a neutral tone and say, “I’d like some clarification on flexible work hours. If I come in late, leave early, take long lunch hours, doctor’s appointments and still get my work done, is that an acceptable standard here? I’ve noticed that this is common practice in our office and I just want to find out if I’ve been overly concerned about it. I’m starting to feel foolish for making up my time when others don’t.” Also, “What would you like me to do when my coworkers expect me to cover for them when they’re not there? So far I’ve been covering for them but I’m starting to feel that they are taking advantage of me.” If that doesn’t wave a red flag that someone needs to step in, you will never see any change.
If nothing changes, you have several choices: continue to cover for them, stop covering for them, or find a new employer where managers do what they’re paid to do.
Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership training, conflict resolution between teams or individuals, internal consulting skills training for HR professionals and retreat facilitation. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.
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