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I work in a large organization in the US. Because of financial issues we only have one car in my household and so my spouse (who has to be at work by 6am) have to carpool to work. For this reason my spouse drops me off around 5:30am every day for work, and my work day does not begin until around 8:00am.

For obvious reasons I am very tired when I get to work. I have children and so going to sleep excessively early is not an option. Because of my exhaustion, I have been using the lactation room to sleep in the morning because there is a nice reclining chair there, and because no one else gets to work before 7:00am. So, as long as I'm out of there before 7:00am, everything is fine. This strategy has gone off without a hitch for over six months.

Fast forward: last week, I overslept a bit and was found there at about 7:45am by someone seeking to use the room for its intended purpose. The person did not report me to management or anything like that, but it's clear that everyone knows what happened and my reputation has taken a serious hit because of this "scandal". People I previously had a decent rapport with are now giving me the cold shoulder, and I have heard others talking negatively about me because of this situation. I fear this may have gotten to the point where I should look for another job. But, I really love my job and I don't want to do that.

Is there anything I can do to repair the damage I have caused? I have stopped sleeping in the lactation room but I'm not sure anyone realizes that because they aren't here that early. Should I announce to everyone that I realize that what I did was wrong and that I'm not doing it anymore. Would a gesture like ordering pizza for everyone, or bringing donuts in the morning for everyone help? I'd love any advice.

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    Why didn't you just apologize to her right then? "I am sorry, I didn't get enough sleep last night and I was too tired, so I decided to take some rest here since the room was unoccupied. I apologise for causing you inconvenience." or something on those lines would have ended the issue right then. – Masked Man Feb 11 '18 at 7:49
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    To be completely clear, you have never counted any time pre-8:00am as “working time”? You have never going home early, saying “I came into the office at 5:30am?”. If not, there is most likely no (serious) problem. If so, I would suggest you (at the very least) suspend your “going home early” privileges indefinitely. – Joe Stevens Feb 11 '18 at 8:12
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    The only impact on the company here seems to be the use of a lactation room, as long as you’re working your expected hours I don’t really understand that fuss... If everybody turned against you just because of that, it seems the environment is kinda toxic anyway... – Laurent S. Feb 11 '18 at 9:26
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    Just to get this clear: it's a "scandal" because you're male? – AllTheKingsHorses Feb 11 '18 at 9:45
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    It seems like there's some information missing, as a single accident with an immediate apology shouldn't have caused a workplace-wide scandal. I'm put this on hold pending clarification. – Monica Cellio Feb 12 '18 at 2:35
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Is there anything I can do to repair the damage I have caused?

No, cause honestly I think there was no damage caused.

You were just sleeping, outside your working hours, on a calm and quiet room; there is nothing scandalous or wrong about that.

I also don't think the whole pizza thing is a good idea. Again, there was nothing "wrong" with what you did, so going for this would mean you think this was wrong and are accepting the guilt.

Personally, I would not make a big deal out of this and just forget about the "incident", perhaps you are over-thinking this a bit.

If you still feel bad for this, I think that one good course of action is similar to what Joe Stevens suggests in comments: if you are coming early to work, consider shifting your routine to start working earlier so you can leave earlier (Flextime).

This may give you a more relaxed daily routine, that perhaps enables you to sleep more (sometimes these things can turn out to be vicious cycles: sleep bad, work, more tired, babies, sleep even worse...)

Also, as Laurent said, as long as you do the working hours as stated in your contract there should be no problem with how you spend your non-working hours.

Also, if people are making a big fuss about all this, this would suggest a toxic or harmful work environment, so do consider if that is the case and if you may fit better elsewhere (for your and your family's sake). Hope you can sort this out.

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    I agree. If I saw my coworker sleeping in a meeting room I would think it's funny. – user1261710 Jul 9 '18 at 13:20
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Your first step is to have a conversation with the coworker who needed to use the lactation room when you were in it. She was the aggrieved party and has probably been telling other people if it is true people are actively cold shouldering you. Your conversation might go like this:

Hi. I wanted to apologize for the other day when you were trying to use the lactation room. I obviously had no right to be in there and I know that put you in an awkward position of having to ask me to leave. I was napping and overslept, and I know I should not use that room for napping. I haven’t used the room since then and I don’t plan on using it again. I’m really sorry and hope it won’t be an issue between us.

Hopefully they will take this apology as sincere (since your post seems very sincere). If she asks you about why, you can tell her honestly. If she doesn’t I would not bring up your commute situation - it will make you sound like you are justifying your behavior and I think you cannot use that room any longer for naps.

If she accepts the apology you can even say you’d like to make up for it by bringing in donuts for the group. Without the acknowledgement that you are doing this to make up for a specific error, she and the broader team may not accept this as an olive branch.

If you feel this is not enough to clear your name in the office, you should probably also go to your manager or HR department depending on with whom you have a better relationship. You should say that you wanted to come clean about something. You regret it and you’ve personally apologized to the individual person. You can tell them you have not done it again nor will you again but you wanted to be sure to stop any rumors that may be resulting in this. Reassert your dedication to the job and the team.

These are two difficult conversations to have, but it is very much like ripping off a bandaid. The more you let it sit out there the worse your guilt and your colleagues reactions may be toward you. Being honest, sincere and apologetic will likely raise your reputation in the eyes of critical colleagues. Going forward your actions will reaffirm your reputation.

I hope you agree that you can’t use this room to sleep in anymore. Ty to get more sleep at home. Ask HR if there is a suitable alternative or possibly flexible hours do you can finish early since you come in early, etc. Find a ride share or use public transport if available.

Best of luck.

  • Flexible hours are the worst idea, here, imho, since she has lost the trust of her colleagues that she will be working when they are not around. – Joe Stevens Feb 11 '18 at 8:19
  • "Ask HR if there is a suitable alternative" - although I completely disagree with this answer, this part is the only salvageable one. Maybe HR can suggest a better place for OP to nap before work, or perhaps agree to flextime (which I don't think is bad idea) – DarkCygnus Feb 11 '18 at 19:03

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