335

One of my coworkers is especially nosy and keeps tabs on when I come to work and leave, and how long my lunch break is, how many times I go to the restroom and how long each break takes, and so on. Every time I check my phone he notices and writes it down, then later he'll come to my desk and say "You've wasted 14 minutes today. Why?" We're in the same position. He says he has a running log of how much time I waste and he's going to submit it to our manager. Should I just let him and hope my manager doesn't care, or should I say something to him or my manager now?

  • 251
    Wouldn't the guy who is doing this be wasting time by timing you, writing stuff down, and keeping this log? If you have wasted 14 minutes, he probably wasted a few minutes by 'keeping tabs' on you. – Justin Jan 29 at 15:33
  • 9
    Are you a hourly or salary employee? – ventsyv Jan 29 at 19:05
  • 17
    Is creating this log part of job description, if not he may be stealing time as well?! – Konrad Jan 30 at 14:02
  • 7
    Answer might depend on whether you're habitually late, always on your phone, taking long lunch breaks, leaving early, and sitting in the toilet for an hour playing on your cell. – A C Feb 1 at 1:03
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18 Answers 18

690

First, take a defensive position.

Arrive 5 mins early, leave 5 mins late. (if possible)

Don't go to HR, yet, although they may need to be called in.

Normally, I'd say go to your coworker first, but this person is up to something and you don't want to tip him off. Take this up with your manager ASAP, as this is not about time, this is harassment. Mention coworker's timing your use of the bathroom. This is not normal or professional behavior on his part.

Tell your manager that he's making you feel extremely uncomfortable in telling you how long you were in the bathroom. If your manager suggests you go to HR about this, do it.

This is the very definition of workplace harassment, and should be dealt with by management or HR (start with management).

  • 195
    "and toilet breaks" I've never worked in a company where how long you spend in the bathroom is remotely an issue. – eques Jan 28 at 19:53
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    @VN if a company has to resort to that level of micromanaging employees' time, then they have far bigger problems. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jan 28 at 20:02
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    @VN I think it's more the coworker's creepy game than the company's – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jan 28 at 20:05
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    @eques Depends on the job/role: Software developer? No need to log it. Call centre / helpdesk / pretty much any customer-facing role? They need to be able to monitor that they had sufficient staff on-phones at different time of day, measured against volumes of incoming calls, to determine if they need to increase their headcount, et cetera. – Chronocidal Jan 29 at 10:58
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    @James no, that's falling into the trap. Creepy coworker will then complain that OP was harassing HIM.\ – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jan 29 at 19:32
231

This is a direct attack and somewhat creepy. Talk to your manager about it. Ask your manager if this guy is supposed to be monitoring you in the bathroom etc,. and that it's weird and upsetting that he does and makes no secret of it and threatens you with it.

You can move forwards from your managers reply. Your manager should at least talk to the guy. Best to proactively nip this behaviour in the bud. Don't wait for the weirdo to do whatever he wants with his log and then react.

  • 89
    somewhat creepy?! My first thought (and by no means advice) was to punch the guy in the face. – Cribber Jan 29 at 6:28
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    @Cribber yeah, but if the OP was that sort of person, they wouldn't need advice. – Kilisi Jan 29 at 6:44
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    @Kilisi - An OP having punched a coworker would need way more advice than an OP with just a nosy coworker. – Pere Jan 29 at 11:38
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    Make you wonder how much time that person waste looking at OP and making notes. Does they ever do any job? Sometimes I don't even notice that people sitting next to me went for lunch and are gone because I'm working. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 29 at 14:43
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    @Pere Hard to be nosy with a broken nose. – James Jan 29 at 18:47
84

I like Richard U's answer, but another tactic you might consider is to say,

Let's go to our manager's office together to discuss this with him/her right now.

Do so in a calm, helpful tone. I think you will learn how serious they are about reporting you. If they are serious and you go right then, I think (hope?) it will be clear to your manager how weird, unsettling, and inappropriate this behavior is. I think it will also be clear how much time your co-worker is wasting monitoring your wasted time (the irony, no?). You will also be there to defend yourself or correct any misconceptions by your boss. After that, I would be sure to follow up with your boss and let them know it's your intent to be a productive employee and if he/she has any concerns about your productivity or work ethic, to please let you know immediately so you can discuss. Also let them know how this whole thing has made you feel (worried, creeped out, etc.) and then let them take it from there.

If they aren't serious (they don't want to go discuss this with your boss), you go discuss the entire thing with your boss and let them handle it.

  • 100
    At first I liked this, but the more I think about it the worse it is. What if they say "Yes absolutely let's go right now", you open the conversation (to your boss) "Hey boss, <Coworker> is keeping tabs on when I come/go/use bathroom/etc. Hey <Coworker>, how much time today?" and he just says "What are you talking about? Why did you bring me in here again?". Then you look stupid/weird. Talk to boss in advance is definitely the better move here... – C Bauer Jan 28 at 21:28
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    @CBauer I would just follow them into the bosses office (if they go) and let them do most of the talking other than to correct anything. Problem solved. – JeffC Jan 28 at 22:02
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    @CBauer You turn to your boss and say, "<Coworker> expressed some concerns about... turns to coworker... what did you call it... time theft?... on my part. I suggested that we come talk with you immediately about it so we can clear up his concerns." Then you gesture to your coworker to take it from there. If they still won't follow through, you set a time to discuss this with your boss 1:1 and explain what they stated they were doing and (better) explain why you did what you did by bringing them into the boss' office immediately and how this whole thing has made you feel. – JeffC Jan 28 at 22:24
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    I don't see how going into your bosses' office cold and talking about this is any less weird than prompting the coworker to start the conversation, even if they feign ignorance once you get in there. Either way your boss is likely going to have a hard time initially processing either conversation... because it IS stupid/weird. – JeffC Jan 28 at 22:50
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    Coworker is keeping written records at his desk. That's evidence. If you tip your hand by inviting him to the boss's office, and he decides to shut up instead of put up, then he'll follow you only as far as the shredder. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 28 at 23:16
29

Whistleblowing is only whistleblowing if you actually whistleblow.

Threatening to whistleblow is not whistleblowing at all. It is threatening.

The only allowable case is "I will whistleblow you for X unless you stop doing X".

For any other case of "I will whistleblow you for X unless you Y", that is extortion and that is a serious crime in many jurisdictions. For instance, "I will whistleblow you for X unless you give me $100", that is plain extortion.

Now, in this case, you haven't clearly stated what exactly he wants from you. Has he already made a quid pro quo demand like a favor, lunch, transfer of workload, money, etc.? Or is that the next shoe to drop?

He's already placed his head in a noose. It's normal for two different people to recall conversations differently. If you inferred from his conversation a quid pro quo, all the evidence weighs against him. His denial is not credible, and a search of his desk will reveal copious notes as to your activities, proving your claim.

The point is, this is a very petty and foolish man. Very sad for him.

The kindest thng might seem to be to ignore it. But to protect yourself, this does seem like a "race to HR" situation. The first one there gets initiative: the second will be on their heels in defensive mode. I would think about what he has really been asking for, then go to HR and tell them what he's been up to.

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    If the coworker was doing this in exchange for a favor I would say this is absolutely on point. I didn't hear a demand, the sense I got was more harassing to harass. Which is still a serious problem. – kleineg Feb 4 at 23:22
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    It might well be that this is just an obsessive person. There are many mental conditions that could trigger this behavior. Criminalizing it would not be my first reaction. Also, going to the local manager first seems appropriate. If that doesn't help, I'd certainly talk to HR and make sure that they write it down in your file (I guess you cannot make them to write it down in the co-workers file, after all). – Maarten Bodewes Feb 19 at 1:39
18

The answer here is similar to answers on all other questions about coworkers and performance, or coworkers and "tattling:"

Be accountable for your own work/performance/timeliness and don't worry about others, or what they think of you.

Unless this coworker is your boss (he isn't, according to your post) it doesn't really matter what he thinks. As long as you and your boss are on the same page about your work, it doesn't really matter what he thinks. If you have good accountability with your boss and are on the same page with them about your work and your performance, then don't worry about this coworker - (say it with me this time) it doesn't really matter what he thinks. If you're not sure of your standing with your boss, well then - you should be taking care of that regardless of a tattling coworker.

If your coworker continues to bug you about these things, take your own favorite ignore/dismiss approach (smile and nod then continue with your work. Or say "that's nice" and go on with your day). Don't engage, dispute, or argue with the coworker - doing so just gives fuel to their fire. You're not accountable to them, so there's no reason to give them implicit accountability over you by way of trying to prove or disprove their opinions.

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    Maybe -- I've been sandbagged by coworkers who smile all the time and then send disparaging comments to my supervisor for use during my performance review. Note: NOT at my current company! – Carl Witthoft Jan 28 at 20:21
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    Your advice seems to be 'do nothing', which... I don't think is a good idea. OP should talk to his manager about this. – dwjohnston Jan 29 at 2:09
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    I could get behind this answer if the logging weren't so extreme. Best to address harassment like this before it blows up for everyone. – WetlabStudent Jan 29 at 5:24
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    Yeah, I could get behind this answer to a point, but if the co-worker is logging bathroom use, that's so egregious that it really can't be ignored for long. – Zach Lipton Jan 29 at 7:10
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    Honestly this should be the answer. And anyone who harassed other employees like that should face the hot seat rather than the OP. But life does not always work that way. I would 100% do nothing if it was my current boss... every time I text that "I'm running a little behind" he tells me not to work late to make it up because family first. But I had a former boss that literally kept track of my bathroom breaks, even though I was well over 40 hours a week. Sometimes 60. I left there, I love it here, never going back. I would not trust a boss who let this sway them. – kleineg Feb 4 at 23:28
14

There is nothing for you to tell your manager if you have been doing your work. Let your colleague submit his notes to your manager. Hopefully your manager will then have the sense to ask your colleague why he is wasting time spying on you instead of doing his assigned tasks.

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    (+1) If I were the manager, I certainly would have words about the co-worker for his time wasting and his attitude, and remind him that 1) we are a team and 2) I get to decide who is working satisfactorily. I would also make an entry in his HR file. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 29 at 8:22
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    This is risky. People have a tendency to believe the first story they hear. – Tim B Jan 29 at 12:07
  • I'd at least attempt to bring it up with the manager, as some managers are really bad at handling this kind of issue. – user45266 Jan 30 at 5:24
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    I disagree, quite some people won't be able to stand the fact that someone is looking after us the whole day or it will disturb them and make them unable to focus on their work properly. – Walfrat Jan 30 at 10:23
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    I've had this situation before. The right move is to make sure you get your work done and call his bluff. I would sleep in my car during lunch at times, but I got my work done. Two of my coworkers ran a campaign against me to my manager who wasn't in office. Over time their whining backfired and my work got me a promotion and 20k raise. No one reasonable cares about the specifics of time, they care about the outcomes. – dustinevan Jan 31 at 20:47
13

To all of the other answers, I will supply this tidbit:

Have your resume ready. While a well-run company would at the very least respond to your cow-orker's report with a directive to focus on his own assigned tasks (if not disciplining him outright), there is always the chance that it will make trouble for you.

That would be a sign that you don't want to work there, so even if you are not terminated, if there is even a hint of taking action against you, bail.

  • 1
    Are you suggesting this in addition to the other answers? Answers should generally stand alone, so you might want to summarize the relevant advice from those other answers if so. (The wording "to all of the other answers" makes this sound intended as a comment on those answers, but it seems like a totally separate suggestion.) – V2Blast Jan 29 at 5:43
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    @V2Blast The answers are all right here on this same page, so recreating them in this particular answer seems at best a waste of time – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 29 at 11:40
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit: The issue is that the users might delete their answers later, or EvilSnack might only intend to concur with some of the suggestions, etc. Just a one-line summary or something might clarify which ones he means. (If he's not intending to concur with some/all of them, just adding his own answer, that introductory line is unnecessary.) – V2Blast Jan 29 at 19:45
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    Users might delete their answers, but I really don't see that being terribly likely for this question. – EvilSnack Jan 30 at 1:28
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    Also document that this is happening (date, summary of threats) in your personal records, and be mentally prepared if something does happen. Know how you'll respond in X situation so that if happens, emotions won't be making the decision. – David Ehrmann Feb 3 at 7:08
11

It's clearly harassment. He's not your manager. Even if he was (and it was within his right to monitor your work performance) it would still be extremely poor behavior.

Absolutely do not negotiate with this person or engage in pie-throwing (keeping counter-tabs, etc).

If it is legal where you are, use your phone to record audio of these conversations. Talk to your manager. If they don't believe you, let them listen to one of the clips. If they still choose to side with this person (perhaps they already have a strong personal relationship) or just remain passive (many managers are afraid of conflict), look for another job.

(Also: don't steal his notebook (or similar), as this could land you in trouble.)

  • Recording conversations could be seen as equally creepy. – Notts90 Jan 29 at 21:11
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    In this case it's in their self-interest, in response to obvious harassment. If there is anything bullies want (despite their threats to bring this up with management), it is never to go on record. But yes, recording coworkers out of the blue would be inappropriate. – Joe Terror Jan 31 at 8:09
8

I think this behavior clearly falls into the category of "harassment". You don't have to say a great deal, but I would give your supervisor a heads up. In the years that I have managed people I have never seen behavior like this that doesn't escalate, or at the very least, continue far past most people's ability to tolerate it. As far as when you come and go, most professional work environments aren't so rigid that you can't be flexible here and there as long as you are putting in the time expected. Unless you are punching a clock I can't see concern over a 15 minute longer lunch offset with 15 minutes at the beginning or end of your day. That said, if you are being more lax than you should be, it is still harassment and the issue is still between you and your supervisor.

  • Good point; any actual issue with working hours should be dealt with separately between employee and manager, not in a threatening manner with random colleague. – Joe Terror Jan 31 at 8:03
3

You do nothing.

If he asks you questions that are inappropriate, tell him you're not going to answer his questions.

Him: "You've wasted 14 minutes today. Why?"

You: "That's not something I'd discuss with anyone but our boss Beth."

If he makes threats to do stupid things that are not actually going to harm anyone, just acknowledge you heard him.

Him: "I'm keeping a log of how much time you waste and I'm going to submit it to our manager."

You: "OK."

There is no benefit in you going to your boss about this, and no benefit in talking to him about it.

Let fools reap their folly.

2

I was in a similar situation except I was the tattler. Half my group showed up 4 hrs late, left an hour early and slept most of the rest of the time (6 people on night shift). Telling my boss did nothing. Telling on my boss to HR did nothing. So I called a work stoppage with the half of the group that was working. The boss asked them why they hadn't reported the problem to him then fired me and I got blacklisted from ever working in the city's high tech again. (Another company informed me of this.) I'm a rat, paid a high price and feel I did the right thing anyway. The omerta good ol boys club rules.

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    Why would you "call a work stoppage"? Are you sure that wasn't the reason you were fired, and not just for telling your boss & HR that people weren't working? – Xen2050 Jan 29 at 7:28
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    @xen2050 There's this omerta attitude that it's every employee's duty to try and skim as much as they can off their employer, just like taxes. But when they do that, they're also ripping off their fellow employees and causing moral problems in the group. How is their thievery of 10's of thousands in salary per year their business and not as bad as stealing tools or stationary? I'm loyal to the company that employs me, not to a pack of thieves and their enablers. The work stoppage was supposed to show them and management what it's like to work with them every day. – ralfcis Jan 29 at 13:37
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    It seems you found the major hole in that approach. The message you wanted to send was "We're each doing the work of two people." The message you successfully sent was "We only need half as many employees on this team - oh, and half of them just refused to work" – timbstoke Jan 29 at 15:34
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    After step 1 & 2 (Telling my boss did nothing. Telling on my boss to HR did nothing) step 3-alternative could have been: "get a new job" rather than step 4. Of course we have the benefit of hindsight that the step 3 here "called a work stoppage" did not succeed and hurt OP. I hope you do find a new good position, yet sometimes the best, after tying to improve things once/twice, is to accept that some companies will not improve with you. – chux - Reinstate Monica Jan 29 at 17:07
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    -1 because this is not an answer to the question and your anecdote does not even seem nontrivally related to OP's situation. – R.. Jan 31 at 15:00
1

I'm assuming you've already spoken to your coworker about why he's acting that way and tried to resolve the situation without escalating it up to your manager. Assuming that I would get ahead of this since you don't know how the employee is going to approach the manager, what kind of spin they're going to put on it or how much they will exaggerate things (eg: "15 minutes" may become "almost an hour"). How your manager takes it largely depends on these details plus their relationship with that employee (is that employee a friend or a nuisance to them).

Talk to your manager privately either through email or face to face and put your own spin on it depending on what you think would go over better.

Hey there are some rumors going around that I'm unproductive. Are you happy with my work so far?

This will help make your coworker's tattling seem like he's just spreading rumors and if there are legitimate concerns about your productivity it gives your boss a chance to help you address them and shows that you're willing to improve.

The other option is to say something like

Hey [boss], [coworker] has been trying to micromanage me instead of doing his work. I've tried talking to him but he's persistent. This is starting to affect my productivity. What do you think I should do?

This way paints your coworker as the problem. He is not doing his job and is actively harming your productivity with his antics.

  • 16
    Trying to make it sound like rumors and offering up one's un-productivity as potentially a real issue is pretty weird and not going to get OP anywhere more positive. Much better to directly bring up that the coworker is timing bathroom breaks and it's harassment, rather than make it about his work vs. your work (especially if his work is fine or better, which we don't know). The boss is responsible for making sure both OP and the weirdo are productive, not OP -- OP should bring up the actual problem that is within his purview to bring up. – Matthew Read Jan 28 at 20:05
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    A really good way to make your manager thing you are widely thought of as a layabout is to say "there are some rumours". This sounds like the entire office thinks it about you. Awful phrasing. A co-worker harassing and threatening you is the issue. Focus on that. – Oli Jan 29 at 16:04
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    This is terrible advice. The best way to start a rumor is to say "There are rumors about". Also, you make someone second guess their evaluation of your image (if the consensus is different than what they see, they will start looking for reasons to agree with the consensus). – K. Gkinis Jan 30 at 14:09
  • I massively disagree with a guilty remark like saying "There are rumours about me." This coworker is timing his bathroom breaks. You don't react to that by accepting blame like a guilty toddler. You strike back, hard, fast, and without prejudice. It's harassment and it needs to be nipped in the bud, not treated softly. – The Anathema Jan 31 at 22:44
  • It is not always good to "strike back hard". It may look like you feel like you need to defend yourself which you can be rather sure that some are gonna interpret as weakness that they can exploit. – mathreadler Feb 2 at 12:06
1

Ok, first of all, that guy is extremely creepy. Yes, this has been said before, but this is harassment, since monitoring how you use your time or your performance isn't his responsibility.

Apart from all the great advice I have seen here, you should probably try to understand the reason behind his obsession with you. There might even be a racial/xenophobic/sexist/homophobic reason behind it (I have no data about you, I don't know if any of those apply), and that would be way worse. I mean, if he is calling you out for 14 minutes, there must be something else going on... I would say "wasting" that much time is far below average (between coffee and bathroom breaks, stretching legs, reading something on the internet or whatever)...

Yes, I believe you should go to your manager (you feel harassed and controlled by a coworker, that's certain to impact your work). But maybe you should also talk to your coworker the next time he talks to you like this. He might understand that he's losing time as well and that his behaviour isn't acceptable.

1

Just start taking the notes how much time he wastes recording your time.

  • 1
    Why? What does this gain you? What does this add beyond the existing answers? – Matthew Read Feb 4 at 20:23
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    I agree to some extent. It has to waste a lot of time and energy to track your coworker when that isn't your job. – David Kamer Feb 4 at 23:31
0

Your colleague is on thin ice. Why not make some waves.

Steal the notebook where he notes these things down. Go to HR. Tell them

"I found this notebook of mr colleague and I noticed, that these are the times I go to the toilet, when I come and when I leave. This is a gross violation of my privacy and quite frankly, quite creepy and borderline malicious. This is seriously not OK with me."

It is true, HR is not your friend - but they are not his friend either.

Or you could bluff it. Tell him that you found his notebook yesterday, took copies and one more snide comment from his part and you take it to HR. I'd not favor that solution though, it requires a head-on confrontation and he seems willing to risk those, given his behaviour.

You could also involve others, start spreading the word to your other colleagues.

Have you noticed that mr. X keeps a record of when we all go to the toilet and for how long? That is so creepy. I wish someone would do something.

Fight your enemy - where he is not. Make successful accusations about his creepy character, and his notetaking habit will only discredit himself - not just now but in the future.

  • 15
    Why lie and open yourself up to accusations of deception? No need to say you "found" it. Just go in and say that he's been recording your bathroom breaks and threatening you with reporting them and either take the notebook as evidence or take photos of the notebook pages. Also say you have no idea if the information recorded is accurate or not. – Tim B Jan 29 at 12:11
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    Why lie? What is the reason to do it? How does it help you? What possible benefit does it give you to say "I happened to notice" rather than "x threatened me with"? – Tim B Jan 29 at 13:03
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    "Finding" something means you didn't know it was there until you looked. Otherwise it's just "getting" something. He knows what is there so claiming to "find" it is a lie and opens you up to accusations of deception... and to asking why you're looking through a colleagues private notes. – Tim B Jan 29 at 14:06
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    @StianYttervik and there, you have the colleague ask you clearly in front of the boss "why were you going through my personal stuff?". If one of my employee would come to me with that, I would have a long discussion about nosiness BEFORE I even get to the other team member and go "don't record other people's time like that". You will give your manager ammunition to consider both you and the coworker as creepy (one for taking notes of bathroom breaks, and one for going through other people's stuff). I don't see this putting you in a positive light – Patrice Jan 29 at 17:40
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    Stealing, lying, and passive-aggressive behavior are not going to solve anything. – Paul Jan 29 at 20:54
-1

I think the real issue is "Whose time are you wasting?" If you "waste" 14 minutes a day by checking your phone, stretching your legs, chatting at the water cooler, etc. Are you charging this time to the company, or is it your own time. In other words, you could be "at work" for 10 hours, but only "work" for 8 hours, and get paid for 8 hours. Thus you are "wasting" 2 hours of your own time, and his argument has no basis.

Where I work, we have an unpaid lunch. I can take 10 minutes, or 2 hours for lunch. I cannot get paid for that time, so it doesn't matter how long I am gone.

Get a pair of over the ear headphones and listen to white noise. That way, you won't hear him.

Are you salary or hourly? If you are salary, you are expected to get your work done on time. If you are hourly, do you get paid in increments of 6 minutes? 15? I am paid in 6 minute intervals. So, my start time and end time can vary by as much as 3 minutes without impact. Any single event less than 6 minutes is insignificant. Going to the bathroom is a normal human function and does not require a time exemption.

  • 7
    Sorry for downvoting, but this answer contains several problematic examples. For instance stretching ones legs is considered a basic privilige in most countries that should not need to be corrected for. Also, the implied logic 'I get paid per X time so any deviation less than X/2 is irrelevant' would not apply to most people ;-) -- That being said, it does make sense to say that 'wasting time' should be a non-issue as soon as you are making even more overtime. – Dennis Jaheruddin Jan 29 at 11:11
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    I am paid yearly, for my full work over the 365 days. So any single event less than..... 6 months, is insignificant? Can you go have that chat with my boss? Cause I surely won't.... – Patrice Jan 29 at 17:34
  • 1
    BTW: Don't be sorry for down voting, if it isn't value added to the question. I appreciate your explanation. – Scottie H Feb 4 at 1:13
-1

I like a lot of advice here but most of them centers around the idea of paying back the coworker or making the coworker notice how you're arriving earlier or leaving later. I think these advice are counterproductive especially since your manager has not spoken to you regarding this matter.

I would just ignore it and if your manager comes to you, explain the coworker is noting times you go to the bathroom and for how long. You feel threatened by this and ask for clarification on why he's recording these times.

-1

Ask him if it is his job to supervise you. If he says no (which he should, since you are in same position, no?), then you could say "well, maybe you should be focusing on doing your job instead of doing stuff you are not hired to do".

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