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Sunday, December 21, 2008

new boss ignoring traditional schedule

A reader writes:

I work at a company where the company handbook clearly states that the office hours are 9am to 5pm. We do not offer flex-time and everyone in the group works a straight 9am to 5pm.

Recently, we got a new senior manager (not our direct boss but rather the boss's boss) who is quite a micro-manager and who has decided that from now on every Monday for the next year that she is going to come over to our group (she works in a different building) to hold a staff meeting from 3:30pm to 5:30pm.

She is an Executive Vice President and a complete power hungry control freak and she is purposely scheduling the meeting to end after office hours to make some sort of point --- seeing as though she never goes home, has no family, and lives to work.

My issue is such: I have a daycare situation where I MUST leave at 5:20pm each day and not one minute later in order to pick up my daughter in daycare on time since the daycare closes and that is the latest I can leave in order to get there on time.

The problem is that I am being made to feel as though I am a poor performer because I can not do the meeting when in fact this meeting is not one of urgent nature (it's actually a boring, inefficient drawn out waste of time to be honest) --- but rather just a power-tripping micromanager who likes to abuse her power by making her subordinents listen to her every word.

Do I have a leg to stand on if I bring this up to HR? It clearly states in our handbook that the office hours are 9am to 5pm but not sure if that is any argument that is winable. It always seems that the employee never wins.

How do you know that she's purposely scheduling the meeting to end after your regular hours in order to make a point? Is it possible that you're projecting an agenda on to her that isn't actually there? You note that she works longer hours than most, so it's possible that she doesn't realize the impact of her meeting time.

Rather than approach this with the assumption that she is "a complete power hungry control freak" who "has no family, and lives to work" -- a charge rarely leveled against men in the same circumstances, by the way -- you'll likely have better luck if you drop the anger and assume that there's no evil motivation here.

Instead, talk to your boss and explain that this meeting is impacting your daycare situation and ask if there's a reason this meeting must be scheduled at that particular time. Ask if she can intervene with the senior manager to have it rescheduled to start half an hour earlier.

And really, do what you can to drop the animosity toward this senior manager. It's not going to take you anywhere good.


Evil HR Lady said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Have you ever tried to schedule a meeting with an Exec VP? I have. Our calendar system allows you to see when someone is available and people at this level are in back to back meetings all the time.

This may be the only time she can meet.

And even if she is a power-hungry person who is trying to show how cool she is for working long hours, accusing her of this won't help.

TisDone said...

Whether we assume that it is malicious or not, the fact is that this VP is abusing the privilege of being the boss. I have worked for both men and woman in this position who choose to dedicate more of their time to the job than most mere employees are willing to do. That is there choice if they think that is what they need to do to get ahead.

However - I for one would appreciate the answer for how to deal with this type of situation - let's pretend the original poster had left out the accusatory assumptions. Let's also pretend that when the employee does as you suggest and asks the immediate supervisor to intervene, they do so, and the VP insists that it is necessary to hold employees late. And - as it is stated in the employee handbook, this is contradictory to established policy (and not just normal conventions about when employees get to leave).

How do you get the VP level folks to recognize and accept that not everyone is willing to dedicate long hours - and that these employees can still be valuable employees during normal working hours?

Anonymous said...

I think AAM is spot on. Take all the emotion out of it and simply say, "Hey, because we have always had a schedule of 9 to 5, I have made my after work commitments accordingly and need to leave on time." Likely as AAM says, she is not aware of the concern, and to be honest, she can't possibly be expected to know everyone's after work schedules and commitments without at least the courtesy of being told. Its absolutely unfair to start calling her names because of this.

And as far as "long hours" I think a lot of us, managers and not, regularly work a half-hour past quitting time without considering it "ridiculously long hours" or what have you. So, it's likely just not occurred to her that 5:30 is such a problem for anyone.

Talking about things honestly (and before you've held it in for so long that you feel the need to throw around character judgments) will probably solve all the problems here.

TheLabRat said...

"Talking about things honestly (and before you've held it in for so long that you feel the need to throw around character judgments) will probably solve all the problems here."

QFT from Boss Lady. As a chronic "let it fester type" I can assure you this is a problem with any similar situation. I'm curious why no one pointed out to her on day one that these meetings contradicted with employee handbook guidelines.

Don't get me wrong; I've worked for my fair share of actual power hungry psychos (of both genders for whatever it's worth) and this manager may well be one of them. But if you and your co-workers never questioned the practice to begin with, it's a little hard to assume the fault lays entirely with the manager, regardless of her potential issues.

Anonymous said...

First off, if this person is exempt, the extra half hour doesn't matter. Secondly, it's a half hour. Like, seriously? If an employee came to me and explained how the extra ten minutes affected their childcare situation, I would just suggest they leave at 5:20p. No harm, no foul - leave the meeting 10 minutes early. But all this animosity is hard to conceal, and to be honest, if someone came at me that way, I would be far less willing to accommodate them. Drop the attitude and grow up. Behave like a professional adult, and try to find a mutually satisfying fix to the problem.

How to handle the problem like a normal adult: go to your manager, and explain your situation. See what suggestions they have and don't expect that your time is more valuable than the VPs. Perhaps this is the VP's way of becoming assimilated with the company culture. Perhaps she has specific goals set forth by her management and she is required to meet with your team. But relax and lose the animosity. STAT.

Rachel - former HR blogger said...

This is a classic example of employee's letting their emotions get in the way of working things out.

I was surprised how much the reader bashed his/her new manager before getting to the question. All of that emotion gets in the way of the real question and a solution.

Talk it over without emotion!

Anonymous said...

I agree with BossLady that you should just tell your supervisor your situation. I usually agree with people with CamelCase names, and I always agree with people who call them things like BossLady.

I make it a habit of having a second job I need to get to right by leaving right at quitting time. If the boss tells me that I should stay at work, I tell them they need to compensate me for the time lost by quitting the second job.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say bravo to AAM for this phrase:
"Rather than approach this with the assumption that she is "a complete power hungry control freak" who "has no family, and lives to work" -- a charge rarely leveled against men in the same circumstances, by the way -- you'll likely have better luck if you drop the anger and assume that there's no evil motivation here."

BRAVO again!! And once more with feeling. :)

Bohdan Rohbock said...

Perspective: A half-hour, in and of itself, is nothing. If your boss is demonstrating her 'power-hungry' nature by demanding an extra half hour she's either a coward or silly.

AAM, the charge of not having a life outside of work is frequently leveled at men. Don't assume the questioners emotional response is so strong because the VP is female.

I still can't get over how great it would be to have a strict 9-5 schedule. I recommend the poster actually try to solve her childcare issue instead of try to be right and catch a VP in violation of company policy.

If the handbook can't accommodate an extra 30 minutes once a week it's a very poorly written handbook.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Bohdan. I respect your opinions and insight, but posting this just looks like an excuse to go off on a feminist rant. Granted that's an assumption, but no less of one is assuming the poster is some insecure head case who can't deal with female authority.

Ask a Manager said...

Hmmm. One parenthetical aside isn't exactly a feminist rant.

Anonymous said...

I must agree with one part: your childcare problem is YOUR childcare problem. It is your responsibility to solve it. Now, if a level headed employee asked me if they could leave 10 minutes early due to a child care issue, I would have no problem with it at all.

If an employee came into my office with a chip on their shoulder, flashing a handbook and claiming that their rights are being violated, I'd be far less likely to accommodate an otherwise reasonable request. In this economy, be happy to have a job and knock off the childish whining. Stop pointing fingers and accusing people of having ill intentions and get over yourself.

In my experience, I've found that employees who are infuriated with the idea of having to do an extra bit of work or sit through an extra meeting each week are the employees who think they're the cat's meow, when in reality, they're mediocre at best. I mean, this poster is in reality, completely infuriated over a 10 minute gap. It's silly.

Anonymous said...

See if you can make arrangements for someone else to pick up your child every Monday in exchange for a returned favor. If it were a daily request to work overtime or past regularly established hours, I might consider approaching the boss. But, you will want to pick and choose your battles carefully - and I would not choose this one to fight, if it were me.

Phyllis R. Neill,

Anonymous said...

Great answer AAM, I totally agree. Talk to your manager about your personal situation and see what happens. He/she may either be looking for an opportunity to bring forward the 9-5 issue to the senior manager, or your manager may be aware of the real reasons behind why the senior manager is holding a meeting until 5:30. Perhaps it's something out of their control also. Going into the meeting waving a handbook however, is just going to make the situation worse.

I find it hard to believe that it's only the 5:30 meeting issue causing this much anger (your anger really comes across in your letter). I suspect there must be other issues here, but I hope you're able to resolve this one calmly and professionally.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to everyone above for their time and comments to my situation.

I appreciate the feedback and also I didn't even realize that my letter came across as angry.....but I am going to use the approaches suggested and let everyone know how it goes.

I think I can learn a lot from this I think I often react in an emotional negative rant but that is sort of my normal personality --- however it unfortunately is unprofessional but I don't even realize it! :(

Thanks Again!