6

Worked at this company for around 4 years, I have about 7 years in the workplace overall. I work in a team of 3 who deal with 'reporting' (mostly financial), we maintain the systems that "month end numbers" come out of and other reporting during the month.

At month end - whether that's a weekend or week day or whatever - we have to work out of hours to close down all the accounts, run the month end processes so the business people will have the numbers they need to work with.

We worked out a rota for who has to do the "out of hours" work. There isn't any pay or time off in lieu - it's just accepted as the nature of the job that we have to give up 1 in 3 month end days to do this.

We have recently (~2 months) got a new boss, recruited from outside the company. Most recently it was my turn to run the "out of hours" stuff and be on call for any process failures etc. It was a public holiday weekend. I made an offhand remark that I'd be checking the numbers Monday (public holiday). New boss said we're all on holiday, "don't do it, wait and see who actually needs this stuff and when they shout, we'll respond to it" I explained why we have to do it, what will fail if we don't, etc. Boss wouldn't listen so I dropped it, pretended to go along with it, then logged on remotely anyway and did the things we needed to do.

Now I'm worried I can be "written up" for disregarding instructions, even though I am just doing what we actually need to do.

Given that situation what I should have said to the "new boss"? Am I doing the right thing? (Maybe I should be the boss instead of this person!)

EDIT: Thank you for the answers so far! If anyone else has an answer I'd welcome those also. A couple of points which I see now I didn't make clear, based on your comments/answers.

  • some of the reports are just internal stuff, but some are "returns" that have to be filed to the parent company, regulators (I think), used by our accountants to generate other reports that are time-sensitive or that they need to negotiate with suppliers etc.
  • there are also system consequences if month end isn't closed off when it should be e.g. transactions appearing in the wrong month
  • my comment that "maybe I should be the boss" was borne out of frustration and annoyance (as I'm sure many people picked up on) I'm well aware that there is more involved in management than just knowing the tasks of the direct reports! In fact I was a team-leader myself in a previous role and decided 'management' wasn't for me ;-)
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    @JoeStrazzere Maybe he know better than a new boss at the first time in such situation. – Gianluca Feb 18 at 8:51
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    @Gianluca If he thinks he knows more than the new boss, he should explain in writing all the details on why he thinks it's not the right decision. Then it's the boss responsibility to take an informed decision. Disregarding a clear and direct instruction not do to something is one of the most unprofessional behavior to engage in. – zakinster Feb 18 at 15:01
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    @zakinster I agree. My reasoning is that also a boss need some time to learn all the quirks of the job, so maybe the OP just saved his new boss from a predictable "fail" which he still don't even know there can be. And if the new boss want to restructure for any reason the process, maybe a nice way is to tell his subordinates so at least he can prepare himself better given the inputs he receive. (Starting from the point that OP know what the problems will be if the report is not generated on time) – Gianluca Feb 18 at 15:20
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    “There isn't any pay or time off in lieu” - Sounds like the manager wanted to try not allowing employees to work without pay. – Ramhound Feb 20 at 1:11
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    FYI, this is insubordination and grounds for dismissal with cause (read fired) at most companies in the U.S. – UnhandledExcepSean Feb 20 at 21:12
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You have absolutely done the wrong thing. Here's how:

  1. You disregarded a direct order from your boss to not do the out of hours work. He might have some things planned like review processes on how/why after hours work is necessary for a number of possible reasons. He might have even been working on trying to get you guys a better deal (time in lieu or overtime pay). For whatever reason he wanted to review and monitor the workflow. You completely ruined that for him and wasted his time and possibly others (ie he might have already had plans with his direct boss).

  2. Expect fallout. At the very best you'll be the trouble maker in the boss' eyes at the very worst you could face disciplinary action.

  3. Comments like "maybe I should be boss instead of him" show you have a complete lack of respect to his authority in the workplace. Be careful because this is how rumors and toxic work cultures can start. If you make yourself a threat to the new boss then be prepared to follow through (ie directly challenge him or wait for him to quietly prepare a case against you to get rid of you). When you blurt out statements like this there's no in between path.

The new boss naturally wants to impress his superior, if you stand in the way of him doing that then you will have started something that will most likely not have good consequences for you.

And of course if you really don't like the new boss then you could always find another job.

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    To add to that, doing things differently might have been the whole point of hiring a new manager, and maybe he only signed because he was promised that he could do a "business review" or however they call it. – Borgh Feb 18 at 7:58
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    Well, even if the situation is like the one you describe, the boss is not making an intelligent thing. Fine, you want to change the loadflow/trying to get a better deal/whatever but I don't think that an approach like "let if fail and we will see what happen" is the best one. – Gianluca Feb 18 at 8:58
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    @Gianluca It's not "let it fail". It's "see if anyone actually need it so badly that it's reasonable to have over time during holidays". That may be the case. The necessity of result is blown out of proportion. Notice that OP stated it's not a procedure they need to follow or it's a part of "verbal" process so not verified. – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 18 at 10:23
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    I feel like this is the correct answer, but id like to add on small detail. If this new boss told you to do something out of the norm. Be sure to get it in writing. if a higher up came to you upset you did not do your after hours work. You could point to the new boss' email showing your instructions were to not do the work. This way the higher up can correct the new boss, or work with said new boss to correct the process. – jesse Feb 18 at 15:09
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    It's also possible that the boss had a strong reason to avoid the out-of-hours work which the OP would not know. For example, if there is a complaint from a totally different section of the company about effectively mandatory uncompensated extra work, the potential consequences of the OP ignoring the boss to do the same might outweigh the practical convenience of having the work done slightly earlier. Whether or not the boss was right in this decision, they are responsible for making these decisions. It's a big deal to unilaterally go around that because the OP assumes the boss is a fool. – Upper_Case Feb 18 at 16:59
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Let’s rephrase this a bit, your boss gave you a direct order which you then proceeded to totally disregard, and you are wondering if (a) there could be some negative fallout for this and (b) whether you should be the boss.

I’d say the answers are yes and no. Whether there is any negative fallout is in the future, so can’t say for sure, but it would not surprise me at all. As for b, I don’t think this in any way indicates that you should be the boss, quite the opposite.

Let’s take it as a given, that if these reports are left un-done, the company will totally fail and go out of business on Monday morning when the report isn’t available. Your response was totally inappropriate. You should have refused to leave the work undone and escalated to the next higher manager (and the next if necessary) until you get authorization to do the work. That demonstrates personal responsibility and dedication to the company.

Now, if the consequences were less drastic, you should have stopped and considered whether or not your boss considered the cost acceptable for some reason. You should have asked for written/explicit (email) acknowledgment that you had warned of the consequences and then gone ahead and let the chips fall where they gonna fall.

Instead you unilaterally decided your boss was a clueless idiot and you’d ignore him. That doesn’t make you either responsibile or dedicated, it makes you someone that considers your manager an obstacle to be gotten around or ignored. Even if you are 100% correct in your evaluation of your boss, that doesn’t say anything at all about your qualifications. And your only positive point is that you’ve been there long enough to know that not running a report would be bad, they could hire a kindergartener and make sure that didn’t happen again.

  • Thanks, harsh words but you have given me a good way to think about this! Yes, I disregarded a direct order and the company wouldn't fail just based on this of course, but there would be a lot of "blowback" let's say. Actually (and I may be wrong in this as well!) I didn't escalate this to "big boss" as I was sure I knew best and it would be proved in a couple of days time. I don't think my new boss knew or appreciated the cost involved but just took an ideological point of view. If someone puts ideology over business practicality then sorry but they are idiotic. – user11076172 Feb 20 at 20:51
  • @user11076172: a simple rule, if it’s important enough to blow off a direct order, it’s important enough to go up a level. As for ideology vs business practically—if it’s important enough to the business, they will get it done, extra employee, extra expenses, whatever it takes. But as long as you are volunteering your free time they don’t need to even decide how important it is let alone pay the cost. – jmoreno Feb 21 at 0:33
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I'm going to add that the company has trusted your supervisor to run the department as they see fit. If things collapse, it's on them. You can't care any more than they do.

Like jmoreno has said, confirm with them in writing via email what they want to do, the consequences that you believe might happen, and by replying, they're giving the go ahead on that action.

Honestly though, I think the supervisor here was really doing a favour for you and your team. Holidays and time off are few, and are therefore precious. Having them uninterrupted by work is important to almost everyone, and they probably should be important to you. Don't work for free.

  • This is the correct answer: point out the consequences to your boss, cover your back, and do what he says. – Jan Doggen Feb 18 at 16:25
  • "If things collapse, it's on them" -- yeah, I could blame it off onto the boss quite easily if that happened (like by getting instructions in writing (which I didn't do, actually)) but it would have further consequences than just "the boss getting into trouble" or whatever. And I'm sure the new boss would then blame it on me for not having been forceful/explicit enough in explaining the consequences and so 'letting' it fail -- I'd be the scapegoat either way! – user11076172 Feb 20 at 20:54
3

You should be glad that your new boss doesn't want to set (or extend) the practice of having employees working on paid holidays. The boss actually seems to be looking out for his employees, which is a good thing. If you still have a future with this company, take this experience as a lesson learned.

3

You disagree with your boss decision? You think you know better than him? That happens a lot in the workplace, but here's how you should have handled it:

First, don't assume you know better. That may very well be true, but your boss may also have more information than you do, be aware of that and don't make assumptions.

Secondly, if you disagree with a decision, you should explain to your boss all the details on why you think it's not the right decision. Then it's your boss responsibility to make an informed decision. If he's wrong and you're right, he will appreciate the heads up and may change his decision. If you're wrong and his right, he shouldn't hold it against you and may take the opportunity to share his insight and explain his decision.

Finally, if you still think your boss has all the necessary information at hand but doesn't make the right decision, you have two choices:

  1. Go with it. You've already reported your disagreement and it should have been acknowledged. It's your boss responsibility to make the decision, not yours. Just make sure everything is traced in writing (usually email) such that if anything goes wrong, it would be your boss responsibility, not yours.

  2. Go to upper-management. At the last resort, if you think your boss decision is unreasonable or involve you doing something you're not comfortable with, you can involve upper-management in the reporting of your disagreement with the decision. Wait for them to settle the dispute and respect their decision. Don't do that lightly as it may be held against you.

In either case, never disregard a clear and direct instruction not do to something. It is one of the most unprofessional behavior to engage in.

Now for what to do next, You should go straight to your manager, explain what you did, why you did it and admit it may have been a mistake. It's the only way your boss may be forgiving and may trust you in the future.

2

Given that situation what I should have said to the "new boss"?

"Thanks Boss for the day off!" - Presuming you can prove, like an email, where new Boss gave you those specific instructions.

I actually agree completely with what he said. It's more common than you think for processes, especially reports, to go stale. He's doing his job to figure out what really needs to be done. Just because you've done it for 4 years doesn't mean it still has to get done.

Meaning, if you did miss a report and no one complained, that's a pretty good sign that no one is looking at that report.

2

Here's the thing about following orders: it's never your responsibility. If your boss gave you a direct order (as in this case), if that order goes south, then it's his fault, not yours. The worst thing that could happen is someone gets upset with your team for not supplying the data on time, and then you say "talk to my boss, he's responsible for scheduling", end of story. If your boss is OK with taking flak for not having you work during a holiday, then let him take the flak, it's not your problem.

As for should you be worried, the answer is "probably not, at least for now". Assuming this is the first time you've directly disobeyed an order, he'll probably let it slide; he's the new boss, and he doesn't want to come off as angry and vindictive right off the bat. The worst that will happen is he'll pull you aside and give you a stern talk. That said, make sure this doesn't happen again. If you are very anxious about him asking you to do something against the protocol you're used to, then next time have him put it in writing:

Thanks for the heads up and I won't work this weekend. But we do have downstream customers relying on this data, and they might get upset when they don't have it. Would you mind sending me an email that I can forward to any interested parties in the event I get flak for this?

Your boss shouldn't mind doing this. He might reply with something like "Don't worry about it, I'll handle it if you get in any trouble", in which case you should trust him until you have reason not to trust him. In which case you should report him to HR if he starts throwing his team members under the bus, as it were.

  • "Here's the thing about following orders: it's never your responsibility." That depends heavily on the context and how weighty a matter it is. Take it to the logical extreme and you end up with an infamous scenario that's known today as "the Nuremberg defense." (This is not likely to be the case here, of course; just pointing out that this doesn't make a particularly good general principle.) – Mason Wheeler Feb 20 at 21:13
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    @MasonWheeler Ok fine, it's never your responsibility unless you are doing something unethical or illegal. – Ertai87 Feb 20 at 21:16

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