They Messed Up My Schedule

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about inconsiderate scheduling:

I work at a small smoothie place. I have worked here for a little over a year now, and I have been pretty laid-back except for a couple recurring issues. A little background is that all my coworkers are either high school or college girls around my age and our boss named Alice owns the place, but she primarily lives in Florida. She likes to travel down to her home in Florida almost every month and while she is away, she leaves people that she trusts in charge of making the schedule.

Everyone has their set availability that it is required to schedule around. I have my availability set for certain days and times so that it won’t interfere with my classes and give me enough time to do homework and study. A couple weeks ago Alice went out of town to her home in Florida and my two coworkers were left to make the schedule. They ended up making how they wanted and when they wanted to work and just filled in the remaining slots with everyone else. This situation got me in quite the stressful situation where I couldn’t have time to do any homework and also play in my coed softball team. I was working almost every day. So, my question is, how should I go about handling this situation and confronting them?
Signed- Messed Up My Schedule

Dear Messed Up My Schedule: 

You attribute a messed up schedule to being made by self-serving coworkers. They were  placed in charge by the owner of your smoothie job site. How do you handle this is a question that merits both an immediate response and a long range answer?

Immediate? How did you react to being scheduled in a way that conflicted with your set of available hours and days? What did you say and do? Our purpose at Ask the Workplace Doctors is to help those who send questions about unhappy assignments such as yours is to help them understand the context and to find effective ways to cope with short term frustrations and to conceive of options for how to prevent such problems occurring again.

Long range? How we interact immediately affects what happened both then and in the future. This is to say communication is a two-way street, and sometimes we really don’t know what we have said or done until we see a reaction to it. How did you react? Did you comply quietly or grudgingly, or comply aggressively attacking them for taking times that suit themselves, or assertively persuade your scheduling coworkers to modify their assignment, or simply refuse to work as they assigned? Your immediate response, now a few days later, is written into your interpersonal history with those two coworkers. Likely, it echoes in the conversation of other coworkers. What was said can not be easily undone, but whatever it was, the question remains, can be made less lumpy, even it can not be made into a smoothie.

In your communication and psychology courses, perhaps you have been encouraged to think of yourself as an inventor of language–with wording that engages and builds toward collaborative goals. Have you also become aware of how delivery of language in tone and rate, and nonverbals color your immediate and future relationship? With those thoughts in mind, since you didn’t describe what transpired when you saw how they messed up your set schedule, I make several options–options of language I suggest could have lead then and in the future to a constructive conversation with those who schedule, such as saying: 

  •  “I know it’s not an easy task to make schedules that please all of us. And I know it is an honor for Alice, our owner, to put you in charge of scheduling. Also, I’m sure you want all of us to be as satisfied with scheduling as you are for yourselves.”               
  • “What do you think would make it easier for you to schedule?”
  •  Can I help you have a big picture of all our preferred and available hours. Did you have my schedule of when I am available? If not why not?”
  • “Is there more than one way to make schedules, in particular that permits consideration of all our employees? For example, might we each take turns in signing up for hours and assignments sometime once we know our school courses?”   
  • “Constructive conversations is why my problem has prompted me to raise these questions about the process of scheduling. I think our owner will be more than happy if you two can find a scheduling process that is as fair as possible and for all of us to work as a team.” 

Of course these suggestions are only ways you might say them nor are they meant to to all be said. Use your own words. Listen more that talk. I predict  you will invent a constructive approach to coping with and preventing workplace conflict, if you allow these options to rumble about in your thinking– rather than to see yourself a victim who is cut short of time for your classes and cut out of your softball games.

Let us know what if any of these thoughts make sense and what you have learned about employees having a say in how they are managed.

Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. –William Gorden