6

I have been a valuable member of my team. My peers know it and my team knows it. I spend 30% of my time daily working from home. (Due to personal commitments)

I am a part of a company which frowns on working from home. A company which does not extend much support to working mothers. (All policies are only on paper).

I have always had to work "extra" hard to make a place for myself here.

The project I have been in has been so critical from day 1 that I have not have the bandwidth to "play it smooth". There have been times I have rubbed all my superiors the "wrong" way. (By refusing to paint a rosy picture of the project) I have been trying to undo my mistake, but really, now there is no one who will support me or vouch for me that I indeed done a lot of good to this project.

The hours clocked and other stats also speak against me.

Today I got the shock of my life where the hours clocked from home where rejected. All that effort goes for nothing!

Is there any way I can recover from this situation?

Edit: Hours of work are usually recorded by a "swipe-in" and "swipe-out" system. When the employee does not actually go to office, there is a web app which with simulate the in and out times. This needs to be approved by my immediate manager. Without this, the hours cannot be billed against me. This approval has been denied to me. More than 4 days work spanning across the weekend.

Edit 2 days later I did have a chat with my manager and told him about the way I schedule my work, and how I intend to help him keep track of my work. I explained to him in detail about my home office and the fact that I am not always the primary care giver to my child. He set some limits and we came to a understanding. My overtime and work from home have got approved. Things are looking better between us now. So, well, thanks SO!

  • 2
  • @enderland, I have read that question and answers that followed. I have realized where I have failed. Is my situation salvagable? – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 11:34
  • @JoeStrazzere, "I cannot approve these." - That was the answer. I am supposed to get approval from him manager before he can approve. But this is a clear indication of his lack of trust in me. This is what I want to fix, if at all it is fixable. – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 13:05
  • 2
    This isn't an answer, but might help: Then talk with your manager - "If you won't approve these hours, then I will stop working them." Certainly your boss might be unhappy that you work from home, but perhaps does not understand well enough that it's better than not contributing to this important project. – Telastyn Nov 13 '13 at 14:36
  • @JoeStrazzere, yes, it seems like it would have been a natural question. But at that point I was seething with rage and wanted to end the discussion asap before I utter something terrible! Why not remains for tomomrrow's meeting... – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 16:57
6

It sounds like you're hitting a few cultural issues with the company culture. Cultures are NOT easy to change, you may change an individual, but if this is normal across the company, and there's better options out there for your type of work, this may not be the company for you.

The barrier I see is:

  • work at home may be in the policy, but it's not considered a normal part of operations, and heavy work at home is not respected.
  • something about how you and your boss communicate about your overtime is disconnected. Your expectations of what it means to go above and beyond and his expectations are noticeably different.
  • how you communicate problems and resolve conflicts has had rough edges in the past and you need to find a better way to communicate about projects.

If you feel the same, then here's some ideas -

Clear Expectations

Get the expectations about your work when you work at home to be abundantly clear. At this point, it's best to get them explicitly stated, even if that means you may have more constraints in the future - at least you and your boss might agree and you won't have overtime approval problems.

Things about work at home that could be clarified:

  • what is an acceptable level of interruption in the work at home environment? Many offices require that the worker have a dedicated space (like a table and chair) and that they be marginally free of interruption - in particular not being the primary caregiver for small children. Other offices may be OK with the interruptions of child care (particularly in an emergency) but want the worker to be very judicious in how they charge time with the recognition that each interruption is a context switch.

  • what is appropriate and acceptable contact with you when you are at home? Most work-at-home workers would prefer that their teams make contact with them just as frequently as if they were in the office (they are working, after all!) and don't want to be left out the loop. But how and when to make contact can take negotiation - for example, my last heavily work at home crew used IM extensively and we could all see when someone was busy with a colored flag - so I'd know not to call or IM if my person was away or in a meeting.

  • when is overtime appropriate? It sounds like you feel you're really killing yourself for the project, but your boss doesn't agree. Sometimes that comes to acceptable reasons for overtime.

  • what is efficient? I've had plenty of cases where people who weren't working particularly efficiently then had problems meeting schedule. It sounds like there's been plenty of blunt discussion over the challenges of the project, but one thing to check in with is whether you are aligned with the efficiency expectations here.

  • are you as efficient at home as you are in the office? What's required to balance any discrepancies? Taking aside personal interruptions, in tech work there can be all kinds of glitches when working remotely - slow connectivity, issues with access to certain resources, a delay in receiving important communications. Work with your boss to figure out the pain points and address them.

What's the problem?

I'd seriously start with taking that overtime rejection and asking the simple question - "why didn't you approve it?" This may be a long and ugly (or short and ugly) conversation, but at least you'll know the rationale. It's time to listen to what the boss is saying and figure out if his requirements are something you can agree to.

From there, you may want to set up a few regular meetings to iron out the general problems - if you don't have a weekly or every other week meeting with your management, now is a good time to start one.

I'm saying they are right or reasonable, but you have to at least hear the specifics around problems in your work before you can decide whether or not to fix them.

I'm hopeful - many times there's things that are pretty simple to fix, but are big pain points for the team.

  • Thanks for a very well written response Beth. You are right about multiple things: 1. Culture of the company being against WFH. Remedial measure, I have set up a format of status reporting which is very detialed and regular. 2. I feel that I am killing myself for this project. But if this succeeds, I will have demonstrated the fact that WFH does work! Probably I am putting a huge lot of pressure on myself for this. 3. Why did you not approve is for tomorrow's meeting. I will sleep over it tonight. :) – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 17:11
  • I have a private office set up at home with excellent connectivity. I am much more productive at home. Short of showing photos of my work place, there is nothing more I can do. – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 17:15
  • I will update my question tomorrow. When things are much more clear. Thanks, again. – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 17:15
  • @TheSilverBullet - good luck! Also - sometimes I've noticed with status that detailed reports are not as helpful as generalized ones. It's hard sometimes to wade through detail, so if you aren't getting good responses on the reports, you might ask what detail is needed and skip the rest... – bethlakshmi Nov 14 '13 at 13:43
  • Thank you! I did take your advise. Please Check my edit. – TheSilverBullet Nov 15 '13 at 16:14
4

There is the "letter" of the law and the "spirit" of the law.

You worked from home without getting prior approval from your manager. Were you aware of this rule? If not, many managers would try and cover for you and strongly suggest you never do this again. This may be in line with the spirit - manager approves.

The letter of the rule requires pre-approval. These types of restrictions get put in place exactly for this reason. Someone comes back from a weekend and wants to claim additional hours. The manager is put into a bind because who doesn't want to give credit to people for doing extra work? The manager doesn't want to accuse you of being dishonest or indicating a lack of trust, so he is hiding behind this rule.

Do you know of others who have been credit for work at home hours that are not pre-approved by this manager? If so, that may be an indication of personal bias.

In the future, ask first. Is it possible to have a meeting with your manager and get clear expectations of your work? Your speculations about how management negatively perceives your work may not be accurate.

Edit: You should get the approval in writing as well. Good point from the -@happybuddha.

  • I have been burnt many times over this. A written prior approval is what I would like to add to your great answer. – happybuddha Nov 13 '13 at 19:40
  • @JoeStrazzere- it is in the comment right after yours. @"I cannot approve these." - That was the answer. I am supposed to get approval from him manager before he can approve. But this is a clear indication of his lack of trust in me. This is what I want to fix, if at all it is fixable. – user8365 Nov 13 '13 at 20:34
  • @JeffO, thanks for your response. It did seem like an informal pre approval was needed! – TheSilverBullet Nov 15 '13 at 16:15
-1

A lot of people posting questions about employers in India complain that their work isn't taken very seriously, and that managers have unrealistic expectations. In the US, if you could show some evidence that you had put in the hours, they would have to pay you - they couldn't 'reject' it simply because they're unhappy. This evidence might take the form of packet traffic on the VPN and modification dates on files. Are you using a source control system that has 'check out/check in' timestamps?

There may be some form of discrimination in this situation, either because you're female or because of some other attribute. Is there any internal or external agency that can address that if there is evidence?

As far as the project goes, they may not like the message, but if the appraisal is honest they can at least plan around it. More than likely they're losing money - it might have been a fixed bid and it's run over budget. This is particularly likely if the manager that estimated the cost didn't ask for any input from the developer(s) and simply quoted what 'felt right'. This is nothing you can do anything about, but until they find someone else that could fill in your role you may as well stay on it and do the best you can.

If they're not honoring your hours it might be a good idea to find another employer - you should be insulated from bad choices made by other people but this doesn't seem to be the case. Often the people that do things this way keep these habits for a long time, so you could end up in this situation for your entire career. If no one else would work on this project, you know why you're stuck with it.


I worked on a project in the mid-1990s where I turned into a 'golden boy'. I had been hired as a temp to develop something in VB3, at that time most of the applications were 'green screen' VT100 character based. I was going to demonstrate Rapid Application Development (RAD).

This was related to a US Air Force support contract - most of the people in the group were maintaining an application but not developing any new code. My job was to integrate two applications that had, up to that point, been operated as overlapping projects, one in Oracle and one in Microsoft Access. The complaint had been that people were having to enter the same data twice.

I started designing the VB3 screens, and linking data from the Oracle database, so in short order I had a 'gee-whiz' interface operating that impressed a lot of people. As I was rooting around in this, I was asked to help out on another problem having to do with Microsoft Access - it was running extremely slowly and no one understood why. Turned out they were using Vector type graphics in their command buttons, so the computer was rendering a huge amount of detail on postage stamp sized images. We converted them to .BMPs, which sped it up.

Pretty soon people were lined up to get help, the site manager had another problem in Access which I fixed, the government-side liaison had an old creaky machine with a nearly full disk, which I cleaned up enough that she could get more use out of it, and so forth. In the meantime, it was decided that the 'demo' that I was running should be completed and put in production. Thus my six week 'temp' turned into a roughly 2 year project.

Getting credibility, in this situation, means not only impressing your immediate boss, but everyone you work with. You have to be experienced enough to see solutions to many of the problems your co-workers are having and be in a position to help them get their stuff to work. You need to understand not only your program code, but the business application behind it - in the case I'm describing above I became more or less the base expert on the process, not just the program. The user community in this case were fairly high ranking military officers, but they weren't even remotely system designers, and had been dragged into this from other specializations. I would explain to them how the data flowed through the system, and if they were told that requirements were changed, it was up to me to formally describe the changes. At that point they would sign off on them.

Pretty soon you 'own' the system and can not only write the code but advise high level users on design and business process. At that point your boss would be ill equipped to argue with you.

  • Thanks for your response! I have a lot of evidence in the form of time stamps of mails, actual status, check in and work done. I want to try to win my boss's trust rather than go this way. How do I start doing it? – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 12:48
  • 2
    The reason for this is that "demanding" fairness usually doesnt work for long. There are other means by which people can pull the rug from under you... – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 12:53
  • @TheSilverBullet - You might consider looking for a different company to work for if the leadership has not convidence in you and your working from home is a only on paper policy. You might not want to hear how you regain your mangement's confidence. It basically would mean going into the office, proving you have the ability, and making sure the project your currently working on is finished on time and on budget. – Donald Nov 13 '13 at 13:44
  • @Ramhound, I am trying to prove to the management that WFH does work. And one can be highly productive in limited hours. Quality vs quantity... But, for this the project needs to succeed at first... – TheSilverBullet Nov 13 '13 at 16:54
  • 1
    @TheSilverBullet - I understand what you are trying to prove. I am just being realistic. I think this simply comes down to the lack of trust. If they had trust in your ability they would not be denying your requests and would not be putting up road blocks, really the only way to convince them is to continue the path and finish the project. – Donald Nov 13 '13 at 17:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.