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‘My Boss Lectured Me About Arriving On Time and I’m Furious!’

Photo: The Cut

Dear Boss,

I started at a new company about eight months ago. I was originally excited, as it was a bump in title and responsibilities that would put me more on track to my future career goals. My position has turned out to be different than what I was told it would be, which I’m not happy about, but I’ve talked to my boss and he’s agreed that this is short term and will change.

Recently, we’ve had a ton of projects hit at the same time. It turns out the short-term expertise I’ve gained is crucial to all of them, so I’ve been working 50- to 60-hour weeks for over two months now with no end in sight. Again, I’m not very happy about it, but my start time has been flexible enough that I was able to come in later (around 9:30) and leave later (7-9 p.m.). 

Today, we got an email from my boss that infuriated me to the point that I left work early in order to avoid going into his office and shouting at him. The email said that although our group was typically casual about work schedules, it was important to remember our corporate hours are from 8 am to 5 pm. He said that we are professionals who don’t need to clock in and out, but also that we’re a team that “practices and performs together” and “when one of us is absent, it affects the team.” He asked us to arrive on time and to “be considerate to the rest of our team in planning your daily commute.”

I’m at a loss for what to say or how to react. On one hand, I can see that maybe I should be arriving earlier, as those are supposed to be our hours. On the other hand, if I’m working until nine at night, then going home to eat and sleep before coming in all over again, what difference does an hour make in the morning? Should I just start leaving at 5 p.m., since that’s our corporate policy (and who am I to argue)? I need help deciding if this should be my hill to die on — or resign on.

Ooooh, this would infuriate me too.

When you’re working 50 to 60 hours a week, it’s really tone deaf for your employer to nickel and dime you about what time you’re getting in, as long as it’s not affecting your work or your coworkers.

That’s especially true if you’ve been allowed flexibility with your hours in the past, which you have been. That’s not to say that workplace needs and policies can’t change. But if they do, your boss should acknowledge that this is different from what’s been allowed in the past and explain the reasons for it … not just lecture your team for being “inconsiderate.”

And then throw in the fact that you’ve been working these long hours at a job that’s different from the one you were told you were taking, and that you’ve been quite gracious about helping out despite that! Given all of this, I’m not surprised you were on the verge of losing it.

For what it’s worth, your boss’s email reads a bit like either (a) someone above him commented on your team not being in at 8 a.m. and now he’s feeling pressure to do something about it, or (b) someone on your team is abusing the flexibility and your boss is a wimpy manager who resorts to all-team emails instead of speaking directly to the person who’s causing the problem.

Of course, it’s also possible that you could be the person he had in mind! It’s impossible to know, because he hasn’t bothered to have an actual conversation about this.

All that said, it is worth considering whether and how your arrival time might be affecting your work and your coworkers. If people need you for questions or meetings at 8 a.m. and you’re not there until 9:30, or if clients are calling with urgent issues, that’s genuinely a problem. So your boss’s concern could be legitimate, even though he’s flubbed the way he’s handled it. (Though, frankly, even if your arrival time isn’t ideal for others, it still might make sense to give you some leeway considering the hours you’re working — but you and your manager should have a conversation to figure that out first.)

So far, though, all of this is speculation because your boss hasn’t had an actual conversation with you. Since he hasn’t done that, you should initiate that conversation yourself.

Sit down with him and say something like this: “I wanted to check with you about the email you sent about our hours. I thought we had some flexibility on start time and so I’ve been coming in a little later because many nights I’ve had to stay at the office until 9 p.m. I think you know I’ve been working 50 to 60 hours a week because of XYZ. While I’m working those hours, I’d like to continue having that flexibility around when I come in. If that’s not possible, I probably need to scale back how much I’m working, so I wanted to check with you.”

Then see what he says. He might tell you that his email wasn’t even directed toward you and you can keep doing what you’ve been doing. (Sending group emails that only apply to a few people is a bad way to manage, but some managers do that.) Or he might say that he didn’t realize the hours you’ve been putting in (or hadn’t been thinking about that when he wrote the email) and that he’s willing to give you more flexibility while that’s happening.

Or, yes, he might say that he does need you to come in earlier. If that happens, you’ll have to decide how you want to respond. One option is to say, “I’ve been very generous with the company with my hours, staying late and working long weeks even though the job I was brought on for was something else. I’m hoping there’s room for flexibility in exchange, but if there’s not, I will stick with eight to five like you asked. That’s going to have repercussions for my projects, though, so we’ll need to figure out how to handle them.” You’ll have to decide how you think your boss will react to this. If he’s the kind of person who bristles at the slightest pushback, don’t take this route unless you’re willing to leave your job over it. But in other cases, this could be reasonable.

Even aside from the question of hours, though, it sounds like you might need to think about whether you want to stay at this company long term. They sold you on one job but have you doing a different one — and it sounds like they’re loading you up with a lot more work than you agreed to. Your boss has told you that’s short term, but you’ve also noted that there’s no real end in sight. It might be time to sit down with him and ask for a real timeline for moving you back to the work you signed on for. Explain that you’ve been happy to help out while they were in a pinch, but it’s important to you to do the job you accepted. If he’s vague and noncommittal about when that will happen, assume there’s a good chance that’s because there isn’t a real plan to resolve this. And if that’s the case, you’ll have to decide if it makes sense to stay — knowing this may be the situation for the foreseeable future — or move on.

That’s a bigger issue than your boss’s email about hours, so make sure you’re tackling it head-on with him.

Order Alison Green’s book Ask a Manager: Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work here. Got a question for her? Email Her advice column appears here every Tuesday.

‘My Boss Lectured Me About Being On Time and I’m Furious!’