Direct Answers – Caught in The Middle

Caught In The Middle

My boss would like me to write a letter of complaint on what goes on when he is away from the office and I am left alone with two younger coworkers.

When they arrive at the office and clock in, they eat their breakfast in the break room, go on the computer and do personal things, like plan vacations, pay bills and read personal email. Sometimes they nap or leave the office for personal errands. At lunchtime we clock out for 30 minutes, but they continue their lunch break after they clock back in.

They are best friends and hang out together. We all do the same work, and even though they see me working they continue to text, talk about their love life and plan what to do after hours.

By the time they decide to work, half the day is gone. One will work while the other stands there and continues to gossip, text or listen to iTunes. When they don't want me to listen to their conversation, they speak in Spanish, a language I don't speak. Next day, when the boss arrives, he wants to know what we each did because so little was accomplished.

I started this job a few months ago and they have been here over a year. They work on the days the boss is in. It's the day he is out of the office that they abuse the system. My boss told me he wants me to write up these women in a report and they will not be fired.

But they will know who complained about them. I'm afraid of retaliation. I want to keep this job. I feel the boss should know what is going on but not use me. How can I write a report against them without them knowing I did it?

~ Lizzie

Lizzie, we all have an internal gauge, that no one gave us, which says this is fair and this is not fair. Fairness is valued in business and in life. When it is not met, everyone with a sense of justice notices. "It's not fair." That's where our head goes.

You weren't hired to make these two do their job. They have been there longer and you are not their supervisor. You come to work to do your job and get a paycheck. But for some reason, perhaps your boss' shortcoming, they have gotten away with this.

Evaluating their actions one day a week is not what you were hired for. If it were me, this is what I would tell the boss. Unless I am their supervisor or manager I do not feel it is appropriate to report on their activities. But as a supervisor, with an appropriate title and compensation, I will get them to work on the days you are gone.

These two are not your friends. They are like misbehaving schoolchildren. Teacher is out of the room and they've gone crazy. Without authority, you might be writing yourself out of a job if you write them up. With proper authority, you could stop them from doing what they are doing.

If you are granted authority, the first thing to say would be, this is an English-only office. Not because I am biased against Spanish, but because you speak in code to hide your remarks from me. Employees are not allowed to do that during working hours. Then make it clear, when the boss is out of the office, it is just another day at work.

Getting these two to work when the boss is absent is equivalent to increasing productivity by 20 percent. That kind of performance can get you your next, better job.

You can't write a report a supervisor would write without being a supervisor. As a supervisor, you would have protection against these two. As an equal, you have no protection.

~ Tamara

Column for the week of March 2, 2015

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