A reader writes:
How do I tactfully tell a coworker to stop commenting on my hours? I could do it, but I tend to be snarky, especially when I’m annoyed about something, and I’d like to maintain the appearance of diplomacy.
Here’s the background: I work in accounting. She’s the receptionist. She has to be there from 8:30 to 5 with lunch from 12-1 pm. I don’t. I’m sure her comments are because she’s resentful that she’s the only one in the office that has to work set hours, but that’s not my problem. She also barely fulfills her job functions, but that’s a different problem.
Every day, I’m in between 7 and 7:30 am and I leave around 4 pm. My boss doesn’t have an issue with it; I work better coming in early and leaving later. I take my lunch at 1 pm. Sometimes I don’t take my lunch if I’m busy or if I need to leave early. Usually I leave for lunch around 1 pm, but sometimes I leave later if I’m finishing something up. Some days at work I leave later than 4 pm if I’m finishing something up and I don’t want it sitting there when I come in the morning. Sometimes I leave earlier if I have an appointment or somewhere to be. I should add that my days are usually mostly the same — the times that I leave early aren’t that often. And I never short the company on working time. I get my work done. I know my boss doesn’t have a problem with it because he has told me so. He doesn’t mind as long as we (my other accounting coworker and I) get our jobs done and we are in the office a reasonable amount of hours. He doesn’t mind that we occasionally leave early; he knows that people have stuff to do. And he really doesn’t care what time we take our lunch at. He’s not a clockwatcher.
However, it never fails that every time I leave early, she says something. If I’m in the office after 4 pm, she says something. If I don’t go for lunch right at 1 pm, she says something. If I work though my lunch, she says something. If I come back from lunch earlier than 2 pm, she says something. She doesn’t see that I’m in at 7 am or earlier. And it’s really annoying. I hate having my every move commented on. And it’s not because I’m not letting her know when I’m in and out — we have an in-and-out board, and as far as I can tell I’m the only one that uses and she never updates it or remembers/knows where people are. I’m not sure if I’m the only she makes these comments to or not. Or if I’m the only one that it bothers. Any thoughts? I really want to tell her to mind her own beeswax!
I wrote back to this reader and asked what exactly the receptionist is saying. She replied:
If I leave early, she says, ” must be nice!” or “are you leaving already?”
If I don’t take a lunch, she asks why I’m not taking a lunch.
If I leave late for my lunch, she asks why I haven’t gone yet.
If I come back early, she asks why I’m coming back early.
If I leave after 4, she asks why I’m still there or how come I haven’t left yet.
Ok, now that I write them out, they seem innocent and they aren’t really underhanded comments, but I’m tired of my hours being commented on. I don’t ask her why she’s late every single morning.
I wrote back again, asking: “I could see these comments being genuine attempts at being friendly (although it’s still annoying) or it could be snide/snotty comments. Any sense of which it is when you think back on her tone/general vibe?” The reply:
I’d say it’s half and half. She’s already quite friendly with me and we talk often (too much in my opinion, but that’s neither here nor there — she tends to be an oversharer!) so I don’t think it’s an attempt to be chatty/friendly (and she’s not like that anyhow; she doesn’t go out of her way to be chatty/friendly with people) and while there is no underlying or obvious snideness/snottiness, I still get the impression that she is saying it because she’s resentful (since I happen to know she really doesn’t like her job and her attitude and work ethic quite frankly stink) that I (and others) have the flexibility and she doesn’t. And she’s said comments to me about other staff — like, “I wish I had kids so that I could leave early and pick them up/go to a soccer game/take them to the doctor” Or “I wish I had kids so I could stay home when they are sick,” etc.
Okay, this is useful additional context to have. When I read your original question, I thought her comments were pure snottiness, but now it actually sounds like it’s a combination of trying to chat and be friendly (without realizing that she sounds like she’s judging your hours) and expressing frustration with her own job … but not intending to direct it you.
Regardless, it’s annoying.
If you want to address it, I think you could say something like, “I feel a little odd when you comment on my hours. I can’t tell if you’re implying I should be staying later or something like that.” Or, “I know you don’t mean anything by it, but I feel self-conscious when you comment on my hours.”
If it continues after that, the next time it happens again, you could make a joking reference to your past request — saying something like, “We’re going to need a contract agreeing that you won’t keep commenting on my hours.” (Okay, that’s not a very funny joke, but if you say it in a cheerful tone while smiling, it’ll come across as good-natured.)
But I think ultimately you probably just need to realize that her comments are really just another way of expressing dissatisfaction with her own job and aren’t about you at all. Your boss is happy with your work and your hours, and that’s what matters.
And frankly, since she’s friendly with you, it might be kind at some point to say to her, “You know, you seem pretty unhappy with your job here. Have you thought about looking for something else?”