Coworker Cheats On Time Card

Question:

I was wondering how to handle a coworker who always comes in late but puts down the time she was supposed to be in. I find this frustrating as hours are being cut in the office and it effects me.

It is a small office and I don’t want to be a rat but the more she gets away with it the more she does it. I feel if I tell my boss, my boss would tell her that I said something. What could I do? It is frustrating to know someone is being paid for work that is not being done. I have always been honest and know I can sleep at night but I get tired of this situation of working with a slacker.

Signed,

Time For A Change


Answer:

Dear Time For A Change:

This could certainly be frustrating and irritating. I am wondering if your supervisor does not see employees as they come in. Or, if other employees don’t mind. I was also wondering how late the coworker is—a minute or two or ten or fifteen or more. And, of course, there is the issue of why she is late and if you know whether or not she leaves on time or if she stays later. That might indicate she has something arranged with the supervisor. It may also be that she is such an excellent worker in every other way, or has tenure or a special skill, and the supervisor is not holding her to the same requirements about lateness because of her other contributions. That might not seem fair but the supervisor may have that authority.

You have only three options really: Do nothing, talk to the employee directly or talk to your supervisor directly. Within those there may be some other options, but those are the main ones.

I don’t think you should do nothing, because as it isn’t right for any employee to lie about hours of work. My general feeling is if they would falsely report that more than once or twice in a career, they might do the same thing in another situation. There is also the issue that others have to carry her work when she isn’t there. Another concern is that in an era of downsizing, it would be very bad if all employees were evaluated equally, or if she was evaluated higher than someone else, when she is not deserving of that–at least in the area of punctuality. And, there is the issue you noted of just plain fairness for everyone.

I doubt that you would feel comfortable talking to her directly. You don’t have authority over her and if you were unaware of an arrangement she has made with the supervisor you would look badly.

So, I think the correct thing is to discuss it with your supervisor. I would approach it this way: Go to your supervisor and say something like, “I’ve hesitated to talk to you about this because if my role in it was known it would create a problem for me in the office that would be terrible. But, I’m really frustrated about something and felt I could trust you and hope for a good result.” (She’ll probably say OK and wonder what it is!).

Then you could tell her what is bothering you. “Jean has come in late to work by twenty to thirty minutes almost every day for weeks but she signs in as coming in at the right time. If all of us came in as late as she does we couldn’t open the office on time and we’d all be defrauding the business. I don’t think it’s the right thing for the office or the rest of us and I’m really frustrated about it. My main concern was to tell you and ask you not to involve me directly because of the serious problems it would cause.”

That will put the issue out in the open without discussing whether you think it’s right of the coworker or what her reasoning is or anything else, and without telling the supervisor what she should do, if anything. The bottom line is that you don’t think it’s fair and it’s bothering you, but you don’t want to have the coworker know you were involved in pointing out her wrongdoing.

A supervisor SHOULD be the one to talk to an employee about these things, so you don’t have to feel badly going to her. But keep in mind that your supervisor may not care. She may know about it and would give you and others the same break. But still, I think you should sound strongly upset enough that the supervisor knows you are not just venting, you want it to stop. Otherwise your supervisor may think all you were doing was venting but you don’t expect action.

If it continues, see the supervisor about it one more time. Then you will need to decide if you want to go above the supervisor or talk to the employee directly, or do nothing more and try to not resent it too much.

If other employees have commented on it, ask them to talk to the supervisor as well. They may not, but at lesat you can ask. And, use their names as witnesses when you talk to the supervisor.

But, keep this in mind as well. Even though it would be better for the coworker to not know you said something, you haven’t done anything wrong. If the coworker asks you why you didn’t go to her directly, the best answer is that you are not her supervisor. You have the right and obligation to ask the supervisor to help you and you did. As awkward as it would be, don’t let the coworker make you feel guilty. She is the one who is doing the wrong thing, not you.

This is a case where ethics, leadership and work relationships can really be tested, but it’s important. Being late by a few minutes once or twice is not a major thing. But when it is consistent and involves signing to verify a time falsely, it is a much bigger thing.

Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.