Employee X is not at work 40 hours each week. For the last several weeks, Employee X has worked roughly 37-37.5 hours each week. Employee X is the primary web developer for each of our companies' websites and has been with us for 3 months.

Some other employees believe this is not fair. Our company has a general 'Get Your 40 Hours In' rule that has worked well for us in the past. The employees that have broached this as being an issue are phone sales and support personnel and other ancillary roles that usually work with only one of our several companies. Without a good explanation, this makes me look like I'm playing favorites. If I take no action, this may sow discord among some of these employees. This could lead to decreased employee performance, employee obstinance, or (unlikely) even some of these employees to leave.

The problem is primarily based on these employees' perception of fairness. The ideal situation would be to get Employee X to show up on time, or at least earlier, so that these other employees will feel as if they're being treated fairly and that their voice is being heard. This may even improve my relationship with these employees going forward.

First attempt to solve the problem

Offer Employee X a $5,000 raise to arrive earlier. This is not a direct pay-for-result kind of offer; rather, Employee X has performed incredibly well over the past 3 months and that fact ties in to the offer. If successful, this would solve the problem with these other employees and, if Employee X accepts, may improve relationship with Employee X (if he thinks raise = increased feeling of perceived value).

Making the offer to Employee X

I met with Employee X and we discussed the issue of him coming in late and not hitting the 40 hour per week expectation. I received the impression from Employee X that he did not feel the 40-hour expectation should necessarily apply to him, although he did mention that he wasn't coming in late just because he could, but rather that in general he has a hard time waking up in the morning. He argued that his output as an employee wasn't simply a function of the number of hours that he was at work. In his opinion, he should not be judged by the number of hours he's at work, but rather the quality of the work he produces and the speed and efficiency at which he produces it. To be sure, Employee X produces work that is well-designed, functions great, and is completed very quickly. He has started and completed several novel projects that, before he arrived, would not have been possible to develop in-house. Some of these projects have even been of Employee X's initial conception while some others would not have been as successful without Employee X's guidance and research as the project progressed. Within 3 months, some of his projects have already created real, quantifiable value for our companies. I definitely do not want to lose Employee X as an employee.

Unfortunately, the issue was not resolved during our meeting. Several topics were discussed, including:

  1. Possibly coming in earlier but also leaving earlier. As a manager this situation would be easier to explain to other employees. Employee X claimed that the reason why he generally arrives later is physiologically-motivated - he just has a much harder time waking up in the morning, even if he goes to bed at an appropriate time.

  2. As mentioned above, Employee X doesn't believe the hard 40-hour limit makes sense for his position. He claims there are times where he is at work where he doesn't have something to do due to a project being inadequately specced or having other limitations to progressing on the project that are out of his control. He claims that being at work during these times can be frustrating. I'll be the first to admit that my project management skills could be improved and said I'd work at getting better in that respect.

  3. Employee X brought up the idea of occasionally working remotely as a possible solution. However, due to my own experience in outside sales, I have strong feelings about remote work (mainly, that a better name would be remotely not-working). I tried to tie in the idea that working more (i.e., 40 hours) would make him more money (the $5k raise), but he didn't seem to buy it. He didn't feel the comparison between outside sales and salaried remote work was fair.

I would greatly appreciate it if I could hear from other experienced managers about how they might approach this situation. I am hoping that we can figure out a solution where all parties win. Thanks for any and all input!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user44108
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 8:31
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    Regarding the 5k incentive, I encourage you to check this article: Incentive Pay Considered Harmful, written by Joel. Generally, I would encourage you to check his blog, as it provides insights on the motivation of developers, and some clues on how to manage them.
    – Jofre
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 8:41
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    I tend to agree with the employee...some jobs will understandably require attendance during specific hours, but software development is arguably not one of them. That is, unless he's missing PI planning, standups, etc. If his output is where you would expect it to be (features or story points per week), perhaps you should consider that as meeting expectations. If he made a point to attend the extra 2-3 hours per week that he's missing but then slow down his deliverables, would you still be happy?
    – Brian R
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:22
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    You say they already do their job well, why not allow them to "remotely not-work" for the remainder of the time? So long as the job gets done do you really care? This gives you an out for when others complain to you about it. Just say "due to circumstances, ___ and I have discussed that he can work from home when needed"
    – Joe S
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 17:03
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    Some other employees seem to have too much free time on their hands if you say the guy has been brilliant doing his job. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 21:17

12 Answers 12


As a developer, here is my perspective. Research has shown that a developer (or any other intellectually demanding role) can put in 5-6 hours per day of quality work.

With this knowledge in hand, one can plan the day in a few ways. For example use the ”extra” hours for lighter tasks like email, communication, reading articles and papers etc. One can also go home early sometimes. Some workplaces actively encourages socialization and team building, or working on your own project. I personally would chose a place with flexible hours and a culture conducive to my role as a developer. But others might prefer a structured environment based on fair rules for all. It is up to you to create a workplace culture, and up to me to accept it or not.

Which brings me to my second point. If I agree to a contract, I intend to stick to it. This is basic professionalism. Your employee X presumably agreed to the working conditions you offer. You need to expect him to stick to the agreement. Any raise/bonus etc should be a reward for good performance, not a carrot to make him keep his part.

You already had a conversation about this, and he is signaling that he needs to work someplace where he can come in later, deliver at his own pace, and be a bit lax about exact hours. If you can’t provide that, and he can’t conform, then you two are not a good match.

Finally, I recommend to consider the motivation behind your work culture. The people you will attract will depend on it.

  • @frankhond and even assuming that there is an authoritative source for this claim (AFAIK results wildly span from 4 to 10 hours then it's little bit hard to generalise) we're talking about CREATIVE work. Unfortunately not 100% of our job is creative. There is documentation to prepare, few more tests to write (often all those corner cases we marked with TODO in our tests), documents to fill, specs to read, new technologies to try, things to read...and so on. I'm sure 30 minutes (and much more) can be filled with these activities Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 15:09
  • @Adriano Repetti This is exactly what I write in the second paragraph.
    – frankhond
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 13:55
  • I know, I fundamentally appreciate this answer (I just don't agree on what to do with this employee). I wanted to remark that the incipit with 5 hours thing is slightly misleading because it seems to justify his behavior (when instead it's just a normal thing) Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 14:43
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    @AdrianoRepetti Your comments give the impression that you underestimate how much creativity goes into 'simple things' like writing tests and documentation. That's the whole point of the research frankenhond refers to, practically all aspects of developer work have creative aspects and there's a limit on how much time you can spend doing these activities on average
    – Cronax
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 12:39
  • @Cronax I absolutely do NOT think that writing tests is a "simple thing", that's why I wrote "...those corner cases we marked with TODO...". When just writing code it's easily half of our job and an important part if we are expected to be sure we're deliverying what we've been asked for. There are, however, activities which does NOT require creativity (writing docs, reading specs). Reading specs is long and tedious and (personally) go over them a few times, the first read is perfect for when I'm tired because I just need to grab an idea without too much details. Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 13:06

Sorry to tell you, my friend, but Employee X is right and you are wrong. Unfortunately I can't really state it any better than he did: Did you hire him to work for 40 hours, or did you hire him to get things done? If you hired him to get things done, and he's getting things done, then what's the problem? And if you hired him to work 40 hour weeks, tell him that you would prefer him to work 40 hour weeks than to get things done, and see what he says; by the end of the week you will be posting his open job position on Indeed, I assure you, and if Employee X is as good a developer as you say, you probably don't want this to be happening.

No functional tech company in the modern age works the way your company works. Things like flex time, core hours, remote work, and so on, have all become the norm in the industry. No self-respecting boss will willingly and openly say to their employee "we expect you to be at your desk for 40 hours per week even if you're doing nothing", which is basically what you've told Employee X (and what you're saying in your question); it's a waste of everyone's time to be doing this.

As for Employee X working 37-37.5 hours: I could understand if it was 30 hours or so, but for an average of 30 mins per day, are you actually tracking this? Why do you, as a manager, have nothing better to do with your own time than tracking the comings and leavings of your employees? Don't you have meetings to attend, or projects to coordinate? Perhaps if you spent more time thinking of new projects and ideas to help the company and less time tracking Employee X's time sheet, then it would not have been Employee X who, on his own initiative, created and completed a bunch of projects to help and save the company money, but it would have been you instead. Your priorities as a boss are all mixed up, and if you want to keep Employee X working for you, you need to get into ship-shape yourself.

As for the other employees, what you should do is throw out the 40-hour-per-week rulebook, because it's stupid. You should make it a policy in your team that your team members can come and go as they please, as long as the work gets done. Sometimes they'll work 35 hours per week, sometimes they'll work 45, depending on the needs of the project; chaining them to their desks for 40 hours during slow periods only makes them want to jump up and run away right at the stroke of 5pm during busy times, because "well, I've put in my 40 hours, time to get out of here". If you want your developers to work overtime during busy times, you need to give them the leeway to work less during less busy times; it's a two-way street. And not just for Employee X, it should be this way for your entire company; unfortunately, since you're not the CEO, the least you can do is for your own team.

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    Not sure why you got downvoted, this is a good and accurate answer, at least in the US. I was reading the OP's question and thinking "this guy sounds like a terrible person to work for." If you need rules like 40 hour weeks (for completing work, not manning a phone), and no remote work, those rules are in place for bad employees. Why did you hire bad employees?
    – Keozon
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 15:22
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    @Keozon I wish I could offer a bounty to your comment, especially for "those rules are in place for bad employees. Why did you hire bad employees?" That clearly shows the OP is not even having an XY Problem, he is having a XYZ Problem.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 17:44
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    @Keozon a terrible manager to work for would be one who gave an ultimatum, work or leave, and not posted on SE, relinquishing the fact they don’t know what to do, and looking for suggestions. This answer also misunderstood this and it shows. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 14:49

I've been in similar positions before:

As a developer:

I was the person constantly arriving late. Every night I would struggle to fall asleep, often with the day's work buzzing around my head. Every day I would sleep through my alarms (sometimes dreaming that I was getting showered and dressed for work, such were the tricks my brain would play in order to get enough sleep!), wake up in a panic, send an apologetic message to my boss, and roll into work two or three hours after everyone else.

I did, however, ensure that I would always work my contracted hours and pull overtime as necessary to get projects finished.

My lateness was always raised in my performance reviews, but my contribution to the company always outweighed it, and it never impeded my career.

I was lucky - I've always had bosses who have understood that developers don't work very well when forced to work arbitrary hours.

In one job there were some co-workers (account managers, who would have to be at their desks from 0900h to deal with client calls) would have an issue with my lateness, but the boss quickly shut that down by telling them what I had accomplished over the last three months, and asking them how my getting in at the same time as they did would improve upon that. The silence was deafening.

(As an aside: now that I'm older I do find it a lot easier to get up in the morning)

As a manager:

Having been a developer with chronic lateness issues, I would like to think of myself as a very understanding manager.

Running a small IT department, I require the support staff to be in during core hours, because they need to respond to issues in a timely manner.

But my developers can do whatever they want, as long as they get their work done. I've stressed to them that their job does not require them to arrive at any particular time, and that I would rather they were well-rested and able to focus.

But here is where my experience differs from yours: after all that, ironically I have three developers who are all early birds and get in around half past eight!

My suggestion:

You've correctly identified your problem as being one of perception of fairness. I believe your solution should be to address that perception: To your staff who have an issue,

  • Explain that the job that they do is not the same as the job your developer does. Eg. a sales team is measured by number of sales, and to get this they need to be at work, selling, during the optimum hours. A developer is measured by the output that they produce.
  • Demonstrate that software development requires different skills to reading a sales script and then switching off at six o'clock.
  • Tell them that their concerns may be valid if the developer was not producing good and timely work.
  • Point out that this attitude is not unusual in the world of software development.


You may want to address your perception of working from home.

For a developer, working from home can provide the peace and quiet necessary to focus on work. Some offices I've worked in before have been awful for being able to get stuff done - constant noise and interruption - and being able to work from home solves that problem.

But it's not for everyone: some people associate home with relaxing, or find more distractions at home than at the office.

They key, I think, is to measure staff by the quality of their output.

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    One other perception concern the OP may want to take care of is like your previous manager did ask those that perceive the unfairness to... I don't know... mind their own (beep) business! As long as the OP, being the manager, is happy with employee X's performance and output, it is no one else's business how X is getting his results. "Do you think it's unfair?! Well, then, study hard, become a web dev as good as X, produce his level of results and you can come in late as well! Until that happens, mind your own business and get back to YOUR work!"
    – user110557
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:42

If employee X accepted the job (and salary) with the understanding that 40 hours is the norm in your environment, and you made that clear in your offer of employment, then you have an employee not meeting expectations after 90 days on the job. This is obviously a red flag. I think you are absolutely right to consider how others in your company perceive this situation and should take action in the interest of fairness. Reiterate that compensation is based on 40 hours per week, and if he/she is unable to meet that expectation they may be happier with a different employer...

It is easy to try to rationalize this type of behavior, and it probably happens all too often. "He/she is a talented engineer, maybe overlooking this minor fault is ok", etc. Don’t fall into that trap. If employee X really can’t be bothered to put in a full work week as AGREED, maybe you can work out an alternate solution (i.e. reduce pay on a pro-rated basis to match 35 hours or whatever), OR move them to an hourly, rather than salary status. Whatever you decide to do, don't put off taking action - the problem(s) will likely only get worse.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user44108
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 6:46
  • Fully agree. Basically, you have an untrustworthy fraudster. Period. He signed and does not believe his signature has meaning.
    – TomTom
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:28
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    -1 What matters is that you have a productive employee. So if the employee just sits at his desk and does nothing that would be better? Ridiculous Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 5:33
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    @TomTom Brilliant, you have this employee bring tons of values for the company outperforms all his peers. But wait, he does this in less time? What a fraudster, get rid of it!
    – Mathijs
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 13:14
  • What will happen is that the above average skilled employee will find a different employer and the OP can hire some fraudster who will be at his desk at least 40 hours per week, accomplishing barely anything. If this is what you want for your company that's all good, but you won't stay on the market very long.
    – Josef
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 11:24

Was he hired to be there 40 hours or get work done? I see a few options here:

Give them more work: If they're finishing a weeks worth of work in less than that, give them more to do. I doubt this will encourage them to get in earlier, but it's worth a shot.

Do Nothing: the people complaining will have to find a way to deal. Not are roles are created equal. I've worked phone support jobs where my time was tracked down to the minute, and I've worked development jobs where flex time was offered and we were the only department with a relaxed dress code. Different jobs can (and should) have different expectations.

Insist on the 40 hours: Best case will be a morale drop with X. Paying them more will only work short term, and I guarantee this behavior will return in 6-12 months.

A little flexibility goes a long way. When my employers were so focused on my timesheets, I would do what what needed to meet the expectation, no more. When they give me a little more flexibility, I'm much more willing to put in the extra time when it matters.

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    PS. Do some research on what motivates developers, money typically is not on the list.
    – Ian Jacobs
    Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 2:40
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    I'd go a step further on the Insist on 40 hours point, and indicate that the likeliest case is that the developer won't even be around in 6 months, let alone 12. If they're as smart and innovative as OP suggests, and OP insists on bureaucratic process without a valid reason, they're not gonna stick around - more flexible options with other companies will definitely be available.
    – Xono
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 5:33
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    "Give them more work" probably won't help. The dev will just complete all tasks slower on average. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 5:36
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    Give them more work is about the worst thing you can do to fix the issue. The only thing you're teaching your employees is that working fast means you have to work more; and it will naturally incentivize employees to work as slowly as possible without getting in trouble. As employees start slowing down their work speed, the average speed drops, and therefore the expected work speed drops, and this incentivizes people to slack even more. This is a spiral that's incredibly hard to get out of without proper management and reincentivization.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:04
  • Do nothing is also bad. OP's company has non-developer staff, presumably also people whose job is based on attendance more than workload pushed (e.g. call centre staff need to be present for a certain amount of hours, no matter if calls come in or not). Failing to punish the latecomer and doing nothing about it teaches your employees that they won't get in trouble for being late. This will carry over to the staff whose attendance is actually part of the job, and will cause friction, misunderstandings, resentment and outright conflicts when someone else gets warned about their attendance.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:06

While I agree that flexible time is helpful and results are more important than the official time you stay at your desk, I think that your current problem is to keep the respect and credibility you need as manager from him and the other employees; he negligently put you in an embarrassing situation. After you dealt with that then you can explore better workplace solutions. See also the full question text in How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in a software company?

I speak from personal experience, I've been that employee and I've been lucky: I've been able to continue like that and now I can honestly say I've been childish and unprofessional. It took me years to finally understand that a company is a team game and "solo players" with "special rules" are counterproductive and more harmful than beneficial.

Unless supported by a proved medical reason his justification "I, physiologically, can't wake up early enough in the morning" is so blatantly arrogant and immature that I'd fire him immediately. If you can't make it in the morning then you ASK and stay late in the afternoon (it seems it's just 30 minutes per day). Seriously? He had better to stay in silence. It's insulting even to explain why this justification is inappropriate. To find excuses (for breaking the rules without authorisation), to shift the blame (poor specs) and to decide what applies to him (without even trying another obvious approach) are HUGE red flags.

First of all, he signed a contract, he had to take this up instead of deciding it's OK to go home. "Hey chief, I'm short of work. Can I go home?" There are many posts on this site asking what to do in that case, fortunately no one ever told them "go home", the professional mature thing to do is to discuss with the boss (if autonomously he can't find a way to bring some other value to the company, for the time he is paid for.)

Even more important is the message you give to every single other employee. It's even worse (if possible) because he just arrived. Now that someone complained it's too late to use kid gloves. Offer him more money? Let it go like this? Everyone else will think that if you're "good enough" (compared to?) then you're free to break the rules and instead of a reprimand you'll get better benefits. You will deal with more and more behaviours like this. Where will you draw the line?

Working from home? He said that he goes home when he has nothing to do in office. How to be at home is a solution? Pick one: he lied or he is suggesting to be paid to do nothing, without someone seeing. I find this suggestion highly disrespectful of your intelligence and trust.

In short: while I generally agree that it's reasonable to find a deal I think that it's late to be soft because you will give a terrible signal to the others. Be firm and if you really value him then ask him to pick one:

  • Follow the rules, you may relax the entrance time but he, at the end of the month, has to work the same amount of hours of everyone else.
  • Accept 5% LOWER SALARY because he is working 5% less hours then he agreed to.
  • Find another place that better matches his expectations.

Something has to change if you want to keep your credibility as manager.

Lesson learned: you acted in a nice and constructive way asking his opinion (and suggesting a compromise) but it's ALSO your fault because you didn't note and discuss this issue with him before it became an evident problem. Unfortunately IMHO his response precludes many, if not most, future possibilities.

In future you may introduce flexible time for every applicable position.

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    It seems unnecessarily rude to call the employee childish, unprofessional, blatantly arrogant and immature and to say "it's your fault" (which may be partially true, but you could've simply said that it should've been discussed earlier without adding that part). Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 13:46
  • Childish and unprofessional was my personal experience then it's fine, I think, to be harsh to myself. Arrogant and immature are concrete facts. "it's your fault" I agree is too strong but "it's ALSO your fault" is IMHO the plain truth. Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 13:54
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    @Dukeling: While I agree that I'd dial back the tone a bit; the employee is effectively arguing that getting out of bed on time is hard. As much as that applies to me too, I would never expect my employer to accept that as a valid excuse. If there are justifiable reasons (e.g. taking your child to school, medical reasons, unpredictable traffic jams, an employee who lives excessively far from the office) I'd be open to considering a later start and end time. But him then arguing "i'll start earlier if I can leave earlier" already proves that this is not caused by having to wake up early.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:11
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    @Dukeling: In essence, the employee is perfectly capable of showing up on time, but they want to get something in return (permission to leave earlier). Such an agreement should be part of the contract, not something that is decided by the employee without first getting express permission. And again, a manager can make reasonable exceptions if the employee has justifiable life difficulties; but that is simply not the case here.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:13

A developer job where someone works less than 40 hours regularly? As a long-time developer (25+ years) where can I find one of those.

Yes, managing developers is like herding cats. We like to keep weird (at least to normal people) hours. That being said, publishing the 'core' hours everyone is supposed to be in the office (say 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM) and the remainder of the at the discretion of the employee working with their manager. Of course, some job functions (sales, support, etc.) will necessarily have different hours.

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    Being a software developer for a quarter-century now, you probably know, very well, the difference between "work" and "WORK-work". You can "work" 18 hours a day if that's what the contract requires. How much of those would be "WORK-work"? I'm sure you know the answer as well as everyone else in this thread.
    – user110557
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:36

You can put him on 90 %. Just give him the same or a little more salary since you're already happy with his work. Tell him the reason for that is office politics and you're happy with his performance.

This explains why he doesn't work as much. And for him it makes sense, since you still pay him the same/more. He is then free to work that amount of time.

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    If you pay people by the number of hours they put their ass in a chair, you may not get the results you desire.
    – Alper
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:34
  • Thats not at all what I'm suggesting. What I'm suggesting is, that he gets payed for the work he does, and that the time that he is in office is put onto his contract, instead of having a contract that is not defining his actual work in office
    – Mafii
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:37
  • See my answer to this question for a rather different approach to this problem.
    – Alper
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:45
  • @Mafii That effectively creates a different ecosystem for this one developer, which means that the company would have to always do things differently for that particular employee. It renders any team effort unreasonably obstructed by the additional workload of evaluating one employee's work differently Plus, you need to have contractual fallbacks for when the employee is incapable of finishing the assigned task (for whatever reason, justified or not). This is not an easy nor simple fix.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:18
  • "If you pay people by the number of hours they put their ass in a chair, you may not get the results you desire." - I hate to tell you, but that is the standard for like 95% of the people, including top layers (many of those actually may earn 800, 1000 USD Per hour, but it is still PER HOUR.
    – TomTom
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:32

I would draw from two statements in your question:

The problem is primarily based on these employees' perception of fairness.


Employee X has performed incredibly well over the past 3 months

Since your main problem is that your other employees don't think this is fair, you should share the performance dimension with them and let them follow your reasoning.

Employee X may miss 5% of hours, they still manage to perform to a very high standard. This means that performance and a small discrepancy in hours are not related at all. It also should follow that that high performance is worth much more (10x-100x) than those hours missed.

The next actions for your other employees should then be: how do they disconnect their hours worked from their performance and how do they also get to that high performance level.

  • 1
    Yeah, make their "sense of unfairness" into a question: "how come employee X, missing 5% of his schedule, is able to produce x10 of you people, each meeting his schedule to a tee?" And no, I'm not saying that cynically. The one thing I hate, today as an employee, and when I had to manage others, was people with long noses that always seem to get stuck where they had no business being stuck.
    – user110557
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:28

Your company needs to throw the "mandatory 40-hour work week" mentality in the bin where it belongs. Almost nobody actually works for 40 hours a week - at best the "top" people manage around 30 hours, most far less. (One study that I sadly cannot find now, showed that the majority of office workers are actually only productive for less than 3 out of the 8 hours they "worked" in a day.)

Now, the situation is obviously different for business areas where people are required to work set hours - e.g. call centres - in order to provide adequate customer service, but for everyone else? Forcing them to work 40 hours is wasting their time and probably yours, because you're paying them for that time but aren't actually getting any benefit for it.

The solution, therefore, is to get the attendance rule relaxed so that all workers are expected to work an average of 40 hours per week, where it makes sense (e.g. sales). You still pay them as if they worked 40 hours, but your employees will be happier and almost certainly healthier and more productive - and you won't have to deal with petty squabbles about who worked "their full hours".

  • I'm not sure I follow the last paragraph. How is expecting people to work for an average of 40 hours a week different to the OP's current problem? The employee still doesn't work an average of 40 hours a week.
    – rooby
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 11:52
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    "at best the "top" people manage around 30 hours," - ah, no. Seriously no. Check working hours for certain lawyers. While I theoretically agree with a lot of your statement, a lot of top performers put in a LOT more hours.
    – TomTom
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:34
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    @TomTom, that's exactly what rooby says: they put in a LOT more hours. Question being, are those long hours effective? Do they, being lawyers, come up with some valid case studies? Better litigatory tactics? Precedents? And then again, software development is not practicing law, is not practicing medicine, etc., so basically, "apples and oranges".
    – user110557
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 9:32
  • 3
    You know the joke about the lawyer who appeared at heaven’s gates aged 48 and complained? “According to your hours billed, you are 85”.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 17:19

I partly agree that agreement is for 40h week and employee should comply with it but there are more important questions.

  • You're saying he's performing well despite that. So do you pay for the time or results? Imagine, if he would work more than 40h and there would be no outcome.
  • How do you measure that is real work or not? Just being on site? -3h per week is 36 min per day is not a big waste because actually programmer can't be concentrated for long hours. Some days it can be but over long time this work style may lead to burnout and decreased productivity that long working hours won't compensate.
  • 40h working day is remaining from industrial times and may not be suitable for modern professions so gross exaggeration of its importance can seriously demotivate talented employee. There are companies which experiments with 5-6h official working days or gives vacation as much as you want.
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    Also is this 40 hours including lunch or not 37.5 is a common expected "average" attendance pattern in the UK for salaried jobs Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 21:32
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    The question isn't about how the company should do things. It's about how to deal with an employee who has singlehandedly decided to go against the company's chosen work ethic. I'm genuinely baffled by the amount of answers here that offhandedly state that the rules should be changed when an employee wants them to be changed. I fully agree that measuring performance via attendance is not a good metric; but that doesn't mean that employees can independently decide to change their work hours because they (or random internet strangers) think it's a better way to do their work.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:20
  • @Flater Actually it does. They can do so by moving to a company (and there are plenty of them out there) that will allow them to do things the way they want. This isn't some pie-in-the-sky fantasy set of rules that Employee X wants; he simply wants flex hours and core time; this is provided by almost every employer in North America except the place he's currently working. And if Employee X is as good as the OP says he is, then he'll have no problem finding a better place; the problem then is on OP to find an employee as good as Employee X who also will work under this archaic system.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:14
  • @Ertai87 The question is asked from the perspective of the company, not the employee. I'm not saying that it's a fantasy (unless I'd consider myself living a fantasy), but the company is in no way forced to facilitate the working environment that the employee is trying to force on them. Our opinion on flexible hours is irrelevant to OP. He is not in a position to change the company's office rules, nor is he tryimg to open a discussion on whether he should attempt to do so. The question is how to deal with an employee who understands the rules but willfully ignores them.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:56
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    "OP is a manager, and therefore presumably has direct control over what his direct reports are allowed to do." No? Unless he works in a small company, things like work horus may even be centrally tracked by HR. I have been doing contractual development work in a number of banks, and no, managers of emplyoed people generally could not change the signed contracts on a whim. And could not change rules. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is fraud on the company.
    – TomTom
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 20:36

A little personal experience being that employee X myself:
I've worked at a company where I too signed a 40-hour week contract, I too am in the software business (with all the implied "productivity hours" that many other answers have already brought up).

Due to commute issues I regularly came in the office 10-15 minutes late, daily, or about one-hour cumulative absence a week. For the sake of the argument, let's say some days I was later still, and make it 1.5 hours missing a week.
Had I wanted to come in earlier, and again, due to commuting issues, I would have had to leave my home half an hour earlier each day and that would get me 10-15 minutes early to the office.
An exact mirror image of how things were at the time.

Two months went by, none of my colleagues gave a hoot, and one day I get called to my manager's office, the company being a small one, said manager is the vice-CEO.

My manager was not nice, compensate, understanding, and sure as hell didn't offer me a raise. If anything, he was not nice, bordering rude and crude.

"Accounting tells me you are missing an hour and a half weekly on your 40-hours per week contract. You have signed a contract for 40 hours per week, for which you're being paid accordingly.
You either meet your contract, or you will no longer be with us!"

That is pretty much word-for-word how the monologue went.
I tried explaining the commute issue. I had enough sense not to play the "productivity hours" card.
It didn't matter: "make your arrangements: either to abide by your contract or find another place to work".

So, the very next day, I made my arrangements: I started leaving home half an hour earlier and coming into the office quarter an hour early, so now, I didn't put in 40 hours a week, as per contract, but 41.
Rest assured, I didn't receive a penny more in salary. Not even an "ata-boy".
While I was expected to abide by my 40-hours-per-week contract, the extra hour-per-week I was "forced" to "volunteer" was seen as a duty I had to undertake.

What's my point (other than venting an old story)?
Personally, I do believe the "productivity hours" is a real thing.
I also think that if an employee does his job well within schedule, you should probably cut him some slack.
However, if, for your own reasoning, you being the boss, you can't or won't cut that employee slack, and instead want to enforce your "house rules"... that employee has to make arrangements, either to abide by your rules, or to find some other team!

When he's the one cutting the check, let him do whatever he wants.
Your company, your rules!
He doesn't have to like them, just play by them. Like all the other players do.

Yes, I get that he is a star developer who already made huge contribution to your company's bottom line.
The world is huge, and there are other developers, just as good, that will also understand how the world behaves: he who has the "dough" makes up the rules.

P.S. Having said all that, and I do stand by what I said, if it's in your power, you should try to make upper-management understand that today's job-market and actual jobs have changed.

Strict hour-per-week rules, lack of flexibility, rigidity... those will not help you get the best of the best.
And be sure that employee X is already on his social media telling his story of woe to everyone willing to listen!

You are entitled to make your own rules and enforce them at your company. Just take into account that it will impact what quality work you'll be able to attract.

Every tide has its flip-side...

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    And your story is the perfect example why tracking hours for developers is a bad idea to begin with... Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 17:53

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