I don't want to get in trouble!
January 23, 2012 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Workplace filter: I feel uncomfortable doing something.. give me a clue as to what to do? Details inside

So a few months ago at work our little department of two grew to three. The new hire (named A) was hired on as a contract person rather than a salaried employee. And on a personal level A and I hit it off. We've become really good friends.

Our boss (B) travels a lot, esp since A started. While B has been in the office A has requested days off due to sickness and such, but when B is out of the office A will find all sorts of excuses not to come into the office. She used to text me in the morning with the excuse du jour and it got to the point where I finally told her I am not her supervisor so she doesn't need to ask me for permission. She got the clue and when she texts me she'll be out of the office she includes "I'll be sure to let B know." Great fantastic, it takes me out of the equation... except the fact that when B is traveling I sign A's time sheets... aaannnd I've noticed that on days she took off and wasn't working from home she didn't mark them as missed days.... sooo what should I do. I tried covering my butt by telling her I'm not her super but I don't think it's enough I just dont want B coming back to me and saying "Why didnt you let me know she was missing so many days?" "Why did you think you had the authority to give her days off" "Why did you sign the timesheet when you knew she didn't work those hours?".. etc.

The last few months A would miss a day or two every trip B took but the last two weeks that B has been out A only came into the office twice! .. I'm not sure what to do to not upset a new friend but also I feel I owe my boss visibility into this? Or should I just keep my mouth shut?
posted by xicana63 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
except the fact that when B is traveling I sign A's time sheets

Stop doing this. Problem solved.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:40 AM on January 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

A needs to be fired ASAP. Stop signing the sheets and tell your boss.
posted by michaelh at 5:42 AM on January 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

"A" is asking you to lie and put your job on the line for her. She does not sound like much of a friend.

I'm not sure what to do to not upset a new friend but also I feel I owe my boss visibility into this?

So, you don't get everything you want. Such is life. If you're in a position of responsibility such that you've got to sign time sheets, you are failing to do your job when you help her file false timesheets. Stop it.
posted by jon1270 at 5:46 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Whether she should be fired or not is not my call, and B told me to sign on her behalf when she is traveling. :/

I don't know if B has really given A permission to put it to the time as full time worked, so really my question is if I need to talk to my boss how should I approach her?
posted by xicana63 at 5:46 AM on January 23, 2012

By signing her timesheets, you are agreeing that she worked those hours. She didn't work those hours. Don't sign the timesheets until they are corrected. It really is that 'simple.'

'Hey A, I was reviewing your timesheet and it looks like you marked hours on a day you weren't working. Can you please correct this so I can sign it? Thanks.'
posted by muddgirl at 5:49 AM on January 23, 2012 [36 favorites]

Reading your followup comment, I think you should take this to A first, presenting it as a mistake. It is A's responsibility to give you her excuse 'Oh, the boss told me to fill it in that way.' You verify this excuse with the boss.
posted by muddgirl at 5:51 AM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Tell your boss that you want to discuss A's flexible work arrangement because you want to make sure that you understand it since you're supposed to sign the timesheets. Then you can mention her absences as days away from the office and ask that, if A had agreed to flexible work arrangement with B then what should you do to make sure the timesheet is correct?

This alerts B without overtly saying A is doing something wrong.
posted by saraindc at 5:52 AM on January 23, 2012 [41 favorites]

"Boss, I need some help with a situation I'm not sure how to handle. You asked me to sign off on A's timesheets while you were gone. Are you aware that A is taking a lot of days off while you are away, but filing timesheets that say she worked those days? I'm not comfortable putting my signature on them. What do you want me to do here?"
posted by jon1270 at 5:53 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Exactly what saraindc said.
posted by kpetrich at 5:54 AM on January 23, 2012

If you keep signing her time sheets, not only is she going to be fired, but you will too.
posted by empath at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your boss gave you signing authority in his/her absence, which implies that you have the responsibility to sign off on a true statement. You will be doing the right thing to respectfully question the time sheet entries. Pose it as a simple fact checking matter to clear up your recollection (you were off last Tuesday) versus her time entry for the date(s). It could simply be a misunderstanding. If you want to be extra cautious, tell your boss that you found a discrepancy or two and ask him/her to clarify if he/she knew of any different work arrangement that might explain it, otherwise you plan to ask A for an explanation.
posted by dgran at 6:00 AM on January 23, 2012

"I'm not sure what to do to not upset a new friend"

She's not your friend, and if she is upset that you won't help her to commit fraud, that is not your problem.

If you have already knowingly signed false sheets, do what saraindc said. If you haven't knowingly signed any false timesheets yet, do what muddgirl said.
posted by tel3path at 6:16 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since we don't know the details of A's arrangement with your boss, I think you should approach your boss exactly as saraindc has suggested.

Don't worry about not offending your new "friend"; a real friend wouldn't put you in such a position. She would handle her timesheet issues and missing days with your boss and not involve you (as you've already requested) in possible theft of company time.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:16 AM on January 23, 2012

Sardic nailed it. If A says that she alerted B, that's great. You don't even have to feel like a snitch. She has basically told you that she thinks this is 100% kosher. So, I would send B an email and cc A. I would be as above board as possible with this, because if A just gets a reprimand instead of being fired, you'll still have to see her in the office... even more than before apparently! Suggestion:

Hi B--

The last time I signed the timesheet, I wasn't sure about something, so I wanted to check with you. A stays home from the office occasionally when you are out of town. The last time you were out of town, A stayed home from the office XX times. A has been marking herself "present" on the timesheets for those days when she is out. Is that the right way to handle this? I've been assuming yes, since she said she spoke to you. However, since my signature is going on the timesheet, I just want to make sure we're all on the same page. Please let me know.

posted by tk at 6:25 AM on January 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

I'm not sure what to do to not upset a new friend
Friends do not generally ask you to commit fraud on their behalf, which is what she is doing if she is marking herself as present on a timesheet when she was not in fact present. So whilst you may like this person she most definitely is not your friend.

And no, you can't win this one. You either help her commit fraud and risk losing your own job or you do your job properly, which includes checking her time arrangements with your boss and confirming how correct or otherwise her reported time is before you sign the timesheet. And unless she is open with you boss about her frequent absences she won't like that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:52 AM on January 23, 2012

I personally wouldn't put this in an email; I'd call or (ideally) ask B in person with the papers in my hand.

And do it sooner than later, because A sounds like bad news to me, sloppy at best and dishonest at worst, and could easily tell B that you told her to do it that way or that you're the one who wasn't there, etc.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Muddgirl has it. Very, very direct in the message you are sending her, while remaining pleasant and non-confrontational. The perfect balance. Also, she's not the kind of person you want for a friend.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:20 AM on January 23, 2012

Yeah, she was basically asking you in the beginning if it was ok to stay home, you said 'don't bother asking me, I'm not in charge of your time' and then it turns out you are literally 'in charge of her time'. Don't lie on her behalf, that's crazy. Tell her you don't feel comfortable signing off on the sheets and that she needs to adjust them. If she refuses then tell your boss why you were unable to sign off. A friend doesn't risk your job for you or force (try to force) you into doing something unethical. She is making you uncomfortable while she is very comfortable, staying home from work. Is that ok with you?
posted by bquarters at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seriously -- this person is NOT YOUR FRIEND. She is being friendly toward you because she wants something from you -- she wants you to cover her ass while she gets paid for not working.

Do not feel bad about being duped by her. Getting fooled by a person like A happens to most people at one point another. Predatory charismatic liars like A are very adept at flattering and befriending people as a prelude to using them. They're also very adept at creating accidental co-conspirators and shifting blame. You do not want to take the fall for A's misdeeds. I hope you do take saraindc's advice, and I hope it goes well for you.

You are not being a bad friend if you do this -- A is being a bad friend right now by putting you in such a compromising position.

(By the way, it might be useful for you to look up the term pathological narcissist, and see whether the description seems to fit A.)
posted by BlueJae at 7:39 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first thing you need to do is clear up with the boss (a) what exactly A's arrangement is as to days worked, etc. , with particular reference to when, whether and under what circumstances is would ever be okay for A to work from home, and (b) what the boss's expectations are as to your responsibility in monitoring A's work habits when you sign off on A's time, with particular reference to what you should do with respect to days A might have worked from home.

This should give you clear marching orders, and so long as you do strictly what the boss expects, you should be just fine. If the boss expects you to simply sign whatever A gives you, then that's what you should do. If, on the other hand, it turns out that the boss is not okay with A ever working from home, or expects that you verify X, Y and Z with respect to A's work product on days worked from home before signing off on any such time, this offers several courses of action to you. First, you could tell the boss if it is not possible for you to verify X, Y and Z, in which case the boss has a decision to make. Second, you can tell A that you have been made aware of certain expectations with respect to signing off on her time, and that since you are putting your own reputation (not to mention relationship with and trust of the boss, continued employment, etc.) on the line when signing off on time, you will not be signing off on any time that doesn't meet X. Y. Z criteria. If that means A has to physically be in the office or you won't sign off on time, then that's what it means.

To my mind, this second consideration is the one you can use if you want A to reform her behavior. Because it's simply true that if the boss catches wind of the fact that A has been doing some shady stuff -- billing for unworked time or whatever -- and you have been signing off on it... both your asses will be in a sling. And why should you risk your ass for A?
posted by slkinsey at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2012

I personally wouldn't put this in an email; I'd call or (ideally) ask B in person with the papers in my hand.

I actually really disagree with this. In these situations it is always handy to have a written record.

I would also consider making sure that the boss is always copied when A takes the day off. If A is only willing to call in or send text messages to inform you that she's not going to be in the office, I would send back a confirmation email with a CC to the boss. As in, "Just confirming that I got your message that you're not coming in to the office today." This way, the boss sees all the traffic and can make up her own mind what to do about it. It's also possible, of course, that once A gets the jist that the boss is being made aware of every time she doesn't come into the office, she will stop doing it. Or, of course, A could also approach you at some point asking, "why do you have to tell the boss when I take the day off" and effectively asking you to lie to the boss about it. In which case, I would hope that the path forward from there would be clear for you.
posted by slkinsey at 8:20 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

very remote possibility, so I'm asking this mainly to be clear: do you know for a fact that A know she's supposed to be the one to fill out her time sheet, and not B (and not you in B's absence)? That is, is there any possibility that she thinks simply by calling in, it's being taken care of in terms of her time sheet?

In any case, this has NOTHING to do with upsetting a friend. It has to do with making sure that the basic procedures are being followed correctly. That's all.
posted by scody at 8:25 AM on January 23, 2012

Wait, sorry, I see that she's in fact actually sending in her time sheets. The logistics have varied so much from place to place where I've worked, I thought it might be the kind of thing where the default action is to do nothing regarding the time sheet unless you specifically have to fill in time off (which is how it is where I work now), whereas she was assuming that she never had to do anything with the time sheet because the supervisor tracks time off (which is how it was at one place I used to work).
posted by scody at 8:35 AM on January 23, 2012

Write down every action you take at work, every day.

Just knowing that you do this makes people far more reluctant to screw with you.
posted by tel3path at 8:41 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

She used to text me in the morning with the excuse du jour and it got to the point where I finally told her I am not her supervisor so she doesn't need to ask me for permission.

This was your mistake. As the time-sheet signer, you most certainly are in a supervisory role. It's not part of your job description, sure, but it's a delegated responsibility and I'm afraid you didn't take it seriously enough. By saying this, you didn't get yourself out of something; to be indelicate, you made yourself A's bitch.

As a former contractor I was very often day-to-day supervised by someone who was my "peer" except in that they were an FTE and I was not. Most of them understood this to be a demi-training exercise that they could angle into a future promotion into a managerial role, even the ones who were super-friendly and great to work with. I rewarded that by trying to make them look good.

Your "friend" has rewarded your warm heart with betrayal, deceit, and fraud. You need to swallow hard and realize that you're being screwed, and your job is potentially on the line, depending on the relationship you have with your boss. As the on-site supervisor, you should have been acting in loco as your boss, and alerting B of all absences and any other time discrepancies from the very beginning. You sheepishly seem to realize this, now, but the only way to make this right is to stop it, now. Yes, this is very likely to mean that A either gets fired or is no longer your friend, but a brown-nose user is not your friend in the first place. Think about your job and how much more important that is.

The consequences for you could be serious as well. If I were your boss, no matter how much I liked you, I'd be disappointed at the least, and might not entrust you with similar responsibility in the future, and certainly would have misgivings about recommending you for promotion. That's if you haven't utterly abrogated corporate policy; your boss may also, for example, need to report this to HR and put it in your file, even if B doesn't want to. Ultimately, even your boss could face consequences from his boss. See, that's how you've let your boss down. Coming clean now and making it clear you understand you were used and how serious this was is essential.

I don't want to scare you into thinking this is the end of the world, but seriously, a time sheet is essentially a legal document. There was a company I worked at, long since dissolved, that had two people working together who had an affair, and they were fired over falsified time sheets, not the affair (which involved yucky/nyucky allegations of having sex all over people's desks and such). It does happen.
posted by dhartung at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

In future, go forward on the assumption that no one you work with is your friend. They're there to get paid, just like you are.

Every time I've gotten into a really bad situation at work, it's usually because I've forgotten that distinction.
posted by winna at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're signing someone's timesheets, be honest. Go to the A and say "I think you made a mistake. You were out these days." If A wants you to lie, you say I can't do that, it would jeopardize my job, and it makes me uncomfortable.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

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