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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

boss makes schedule without checking with employee

A reader writes:

Since I have worked at the company where my stepfather and stepbrother also work, my boss has written me in for shifts without asking me if I am available. Occasionally he asks a family member rather than me, but lately he has not even been doing that. I'm 17 and have been working there for over a year now. I am wondering if it's actually allowed as I can't even back out when I have other commitments as the boss claims he "needs" me to come in.

You need to sit down with your boss and get clear on how scheduling is supposed to work. There are some businesses where the boss simply makes a schedule from week to week, and employees are expected to be available for the shifts they're scheduled for. You need to find out if your company is one of those.

If it is, ask him what you're supposed to do if you're scheduled for a shift you can't work. Will he let you find someone else to cover your shift? Will he let you tell him in advance when you can and can't be scheduled for the upcoming schedule period?

First, get clear on this so you understand what the expectations are (and can decide if they're conditions you want to work under). Next, tell him that you understand the temptation to ask your relatives about your availability but that it causes problems because they don't always know your schedule like you do. Ask him to talk with you directly, like he would with any other employee.

You're 17, so you might not be sure quite how to open this conversation or how it should go. It should sound something like this:
You: Joe, do you have a few minutes to talk to me about our scheduling?

Boss: Sure, what's up?

You: I've noticed you've been scheduling me for shifts at times when I'm not always available, and I wanted to get clear on how this works. Can I tell you in advance about times when I won't be available? Or do you need me to plan to always be available during certain slots? What's the best way for me to handle this?

Boss: I generally assume you're available any time except Saturdays. It's hard for me to accommodate everyone's preferences, so I've ended up just doing the schedule and expecting people to follow it. (This is the worst case scenario response, but he may say something far more accommodating.)

You: Okay, I understand. Is there any flexibility, if there's an occasional outside commitment that I really need to keep?

Boss: Well, you can check with me ahead of time, but make sure you check before Mondays, because that's when I do the schedule, and I don't like to change it after that.

You: Thanks, I appreciate it. Also, by the way, I know sometimes you've asked my stepfather or stepbrother about my schedule, but they often don't really know for sure -- so would you talk with me directly, so we can avoid them accidentally giving you bad information?
Basically, be straightforward, and don't be demanding. And if you don't like his answers, you can politely ask if there are alternatives (keeping in mind that there may not be). Your goal is to get clear on what you should expect, and then from there you can decide if this works for you or not. Good luck!


honeypiehorse said...

Hi! I'm working girl too and i also blog on similar topics. Lots of great stuff here, I'll be popping in again. said...

Great advice.

As I recently posted about the perils of working for a nonprofit, the hardest working conditions are often those where you are working with family, friends, or benevolent organizations: the un-spoken expectation is that good people, friends, and relatives don't need to be as business-like with each other as other people, and communication often suffers.

It takes time to learn how to negotiate these sorts of things, and good for you to be starting already at 17!

Anonymous said...

I used to schedule would drive me crazy when their schedules would change and they wouldn't tell me they were no longer available to work a certain day/time. I would only find out after scheduling them, then having them tell me they couldn't work. This would lead to a scramble to fill the shifts.

Be proactive, tell your manager when your schedule changes or if there is a day you can't work.