I recently* got on the roster for a large staffing agency. The manager has sent out mass emails with the new schedule. He has put me in at times that I may not available, as I'm working another on call job at the times (which takes preference). He is asking me to confirm.

How should I reply? I don't want to simply say "no I'm not" as there seems to be a disconnect that should be addressed. I don't want to sound rude and was thinking

Unfortunately I'm not available those days. Did I say something that gave the impression I was?

I want to make this very clear as the manager has a very unclear communication style.

*I was hired several months ago but not scheduled for any shifts until recent. I asked if there was something I needed to be doing to get shifts, like updating an availability calendar, and they said no. The manager I was reporting to had her contract end and now a manager from another region has taken over. It seems the transition had problems.

solved thanks

  • 2
    Okay. Let's take a step back. Have you ever discussed what shifts/days/times you are available for with the manager in charge of rostering?
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 2:43
  • @HorusKol no. I was told I would have work in August and now they're assuming I'm still available at any time.
    – Bertelem
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 9:32
  • Does your other job have a regular schedule, or does it vary from week to week? For example, can you just tell this boss that you can never work Mondays and Wednesdays because you have another job during that time?
    – David K
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 13:00

5 Answers 5


Since there has been a turnover in management this is the perfect face-saving way to decline these shifts:

I can work the 3rd, 4th and 5th as scheduled but the 2nd and 6th are evenings, which I suppose [departed manager] didn't tell you I can't do.

(Or they are weekends, or Wednesdays, or whatever your conflict is.]

If you can't accept any of the shifts you've been given:

Those are all evenings, which I suppose [departed manager] didn't tell you I can't do. I am happy to do any shift more than 3 hours, starting and ending between 9am and 6pm.

(Or any weekday, or any day except Wednesday, or whatever.)

Don't just say you can't work the shifts you've been offered. Re-emphasize what shifts you can work - nobody likes to play 20 questions to get somebody in to work and they'll just shrug and try someone else if you don't help them with this.

Asking "Did I say something that gave the impression I was?" will be perceived as a bit of an attack, but more importantly, requires the person to say no if they agree with you, which causes cognitive unpleasantness. If there hadn't been this manager turnover thing, you could go with the generally-approved

I apologize if something gave the impression I was available [evenings or whatever the issue is]

But here you have the marvelous scapegoat of the departing manager, who knew your preferences but didn't pass them on. You can simply neutrally repeat them without having to blame or criticize yourself or any current employee. Take advantage of that!

  • 6
    I personally find that 'which I suppose [departed manager] didn't tell you I can't do.' still sounds a bit awkward, like you're putting blame on him. I would say 'as I discussed with x' or even 'as I discussed with a supervisor' and just name no names.
    – Summer
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 12:09

Typically it is the responsibility of the employee to explicitly inform the employer of times of unavailability. I suggest you clear the matter up as quickly, politely, and professionally as possible.

Sir it is important that I clarify I am not available at {X days/times}. I appologize if this is inconvenient. I hope we can work around this.

  • I don't think this is good because it does nothing to address the misunderstanding. If the company only sometimes offers me a few days of work a week then they can't seriously be expecting people to keep their whole schedule open for them.
    – Bertelem
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 1:09
  • 2
    @Bertelem Well some companies can and will but that is beside the point. The point is that if you are not available the onus is on you to keep them consistently and explicitly updated on when you are not available. If I hire someone to work Saturdays and Sundays in December and they aren't available on weekends then: "Bye". However if their second job is during the week then we will fit. Every business I have ever heard of assumes you will notify them of times of unavailability.
    – Summer
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 1:15
  • 3
    If I hire someone for shift work at a business that's running 24/7 and they don't indicate any preference or unavailability, I'm going to roster them into shifts where I'm having trouble filling because other workers have indicated such preferences and availabilities.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 1:36
  • 3
    Yup. I update my availability as needed and put in my "requests" for appointments and such at the beginning of each month (Or as soon as I can). Most places I've worked keep a calendar or a folder for such requests, but text or e-mail also suffice.
    – Summer
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 2:40
  • 2
    How would he know not to consider you? And yes, I would (and do) advise my boss of my availability as far in advance as possible to ensure I'm not rostered at dates and times that would clash in my personal calendar. The other option is to have your boss assume you're never available unless told otherwise, in which case you're not going to get any shifts
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 2:40

Part time shift work is usually negotiable. If you don't push back you get the graveyard or other shifts which are more difficult to fill.

So just be upfront and inform the boss of your availability and they will roster appropriately, at the very least you will be given options or an ultimatum and can move forwards from that.

  • Just be aware you may be stuck with the shifts on the current roster since you didn't previously communicate your (un)availability. You may be able to find someone else to take those shifts, though.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 1:38
  • Normally they're negotiable and the boss sorts the roster to suit, one thing about part time jobs of little importance is that turnover can be high and over issues exactly like described.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 4:59

While I'm sure you'll consider this to be "absurd", I do find myself wondering how on earth you expected your manager to know not to schedule you for shifts that you were unavailable for if you hadn't told them you weren't available on those days/times. Sadly psychic powers don't come with the manager title (oh how I wish they did!)

I'm not suggesting you need to tell them your "24/7" schedule..but I think telling them when you have other work scheduled would be plain old common sense.

Since you'd missed the boat on this round of scheduling to do this you obviously need to communicate about them now. You propose:

Unfortunately I'm not available those days. Did I say something that gave the impression I was?

I wouldn't say that.. it makes you sound like a rude wiseass.

Instead try something more like:

Unfortunately I'm not available those days as I have work scheduled with another job. Are there any alternative shifts you'd like me to pick up? For the future what's the best way of me letting you know the days/times I'm available?


Actually it is manager's mandate that he can depute his employees in the shifts which he feels appropriate for effective organizational operations. This decision can be overturned as and when required basis.

It is general practice the shift management is done by considering both organization and workers benefits except few cases where operational commitments did not allow. As you have not yet informed to your manager regarding your other commitment, so he used his option and include you in shift. In my opinion you should tell your manager regarding your commitment, he will adjust you as per your desire unless it is mandatory requirement of your availability in that shift. In that case you should adjust your other commitment for your job security. ..

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