25

I started a job relatively recently, and it is in retail. The store is small, so sometimes only one or two people are working at a time. There's a coworker who's only been there a few more months than I have. I have some issues with his work style, one of which he's very bossy.

At the end of my shift he was in the storage room. I left the front of the store to let him know I was leaving and he would have to man the front since he was the only person there. He said to give him a minute so I covered the front and waited for him. When he arrived I clocked out. After I clocked out, he then asked if I could stay for a few more minutes, so he could get some more things ready. He also complained that I didn't lock the door when I came to get him. This kind of annoyed me, because I saw it as doing him a favor that I even told him that I was leaving. I stayed about 10 minutes after I had clocked out.

If a manager asked me to stay late, I would say yes unless I had a very good reason. If a coworker wants me to stay late for no good reason, that's different. The manager knows the schedule and he knows that if someone's working alone he wouldn't expect them to do tasks that require two people.

Should I tell the manager what happened? Should I phrase it as I would like to get paid for the extra 10 minutes I stayed after clocking out? Or should I ask if there's a policy regarding this? Generally the work environment has very few rules, and even where there are rules no one cares about them (including management). If this happens again what should I do?

My direct manager is usually a bit unresponsive. I don't often see him face to face, but we communicate by text messages. He has begun to not respond to all of them. Though it's another topic, I can kind of see why. If he's not working he probably doesn't want to respond to them. I could go to the general manager.

Some other examples of the same coworker being bossy, is he writes lists of things for me to do. He also micromanages, such as when we clean surfaces he complained that I should spray a cloth first and not directly onto a surface. He also comes up with weird reasons telling me what to do instead of asking directly - for example was telling me they're looking to fire someone, so don't leave empty boxes in a place that everyone does because it looks messy.

It also might be worth noting that our clock in/out system is directly tied to pay, so clocking in a minute late means we get paid a minute late, and vice versa. Though I'm not sure how this works with overtime pay, which is supposed to be approved in advance by management.

Since comments are assuming it, to be clear, training has ended.

10
  • 15
    If anyone asks you to do anything you don't want to do, you can always refuse (with varying consequences based on who's asking). What exactly is the problem with saying no here and what does management have to do with a coworker asking for a favour? Apr 7 at 13:55
  • 35
    Surely if, after you've clocked out, someone asks you to do more work, you immediately clock back in, and then do the work, rather than working "off the clock"?
    – Steve
    Apr 7 at 15:50
  • 3
    As @Steve mentioned, if you're there working, you should be clocked in, even if you had to clock back in for a short time. Not doing so puts the employer in a sticky legal position, which can, depending on jurisdiction, lead to substantial civil or criminal liability for them. A reputable employer, who cares about doing what's legal, will want you to either A) clock in, or B) not be working. While there are people/managers/companies who will want you to work when not clocked in, the negatives for them when that is done are designed to far outweigh the positives (depending on jurisdiction).
    – Makyen
    Apr 7 at 16:37
  • 12
    Never work off the clock. Not just because you're missing out on earnings you're entitled to, but also because your employer can potentially get into major legal trouble for it. Aside from the normal violation of labor laws, there's also a big insurance headache for them if you end up injuring yourself in the course of work activities while not clocked in. Apr 7 at 21:09
  • 14
    To me, that doesn’t sound like micromanaging. It sounds like you’re being (somewhat informally) trained by someone with more experience. Spraying the cloth got the surface probably is better! Not leaving boxes where they shouldn’t be is correct - no matter what others do! When I was working in a restaurant, I was trained by a (more experienced) restaurant worker - but mostly not my manager (they had better things to do that train a pot washer to wash!). Being taught things like “use a wet mop + a dry mop” or “newspaper is better than kitchen roll for cleaning windows” was part of that training
    – Tim
    Apr 7 at 23:08
93

I saw it as doing him a favor that I even told him that I was leaving.

It is best not to get into a confrontation or even a dialogue like this.

Informing him you're leaving is not a favour; it's a normal hand off courtesy. Just inform him a few minutes before your clock out time that you're leaving and leave. Lock the door if he's on premises, but not at the front. If he wants you to stay, just say you can't; you have a ride waiting or something if you feel the need to make an excuse.

But you're not obligated to explain anything.

It's his responsibility to be organised and ready to start at the front when you leave, not yours.

6
  • 27
    +1 for “lock the door if he's on premises but not at the front.” which was the only thing the author should have done (lock the door)
    – Donald
    Apr 7 at 2:25
  • 1
    This could be improved by not downplaying opening poster's action. It can be a courtesy AND a favour. Apr 9 at 7:54
  • 7
    +1. It is neither a courtesy nor a favor. The OP has a responsibility to their employer to safeguard the merchandise and to serve customers. The OP couldn't say, "Hey it was the end of my shift and I knew no one was out front, but I just walked out and left the sales floor empty." That would be a firing offense. The OP did do a favor to the other employee by staying, but the original act was NOT a favor, it was a duty, and it was done improperly by leaving the sales floor unattended and unlocked.
    – Wayne
    Apr 9 at 17:04
  • 2
    Locking the door could be safeguarding the merchandise, but it could also be an OSHA violation. There is a reason for "This door to remain unlocked during business hours".
    – Stephen P
    Apr 9 at 21:19
  • I think the coworker has trouble communicating with others. For example today he said "can you do me a favor?" then waited for me to say yes then told me to do a very standard task that wasn't a favor at all. I prefer being asked directly and doing a job that requires 2 people has nothing to do with favors. Like what's a good response for when someone just says "can you do me a favor?" Apr 13 at 10:00
50

Don't bring your manager into this.

10 minutes is not worth the effort of bothering payroll with this, especially since your manager didn't ask you to stay longer, you took it upon yourself to follow the directions of your coworker after you had already clocked out.

Next time, just refuse. You must fight your own battles. You can't have your manager fight them for you.

Next time he criticizes you when you're doing him a favor, just tell him: "You know, I was doing you a favor, but now I don't feel like helping you anymore."

I'd also suggest you read this book:

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith

Please do not pay attention to the title of that book, the title really doesn't do the book justice, if you have your doubts, please read its customer reviews.

10
  • 1
    The title of that book is actually horrible. It really does not do the book justice. Please just read some of the customer reviews it has gotten to see what I'm talking about. Apr 7 at 7:54
  • 15
    Re "fight your own battles". If this is a one-off, I agree. But if it becomes frequent, it's time to get the manager involved, that's his job.
    – Barmar
    Apr 7 at 14:32
  • 3
    "Refuse that one" - you mean the way to spray? Or any sort of specific instruction? You know, for many chemicals it's actually recommended (or even prescribed) not to spray directly on the surface. Maybe it was a good advice, why refuse?
    – Zeus
    Apr 8 at 5:37
  • 3
    "You know, I was doing you a favor, but now I've just changed my mind. Goodbye." I don't necessarily disagree with the idea but the wording is pretty harsh and is likely to escalate things with a person like OP is describing.
    – JeffC
    Apr 8 at 15:52
  • 2
    @StephanBranczyk I don't really see the changes as all that much softer. I might say something like, "Sorry, I was only trying to help. I'll let you finish up." and then leave.
    – JeffC
    Apr 8 at 19:46
23

Work this out with your trainer and keep management out of it

This answer is based upon my limited experience in retail and listening to my wife's much more comprehensive experience. Your question doesn't specify your location, but I'm writing this with the assumption of the USA. Retail work in this country can be a bit awful. The pay is pretty abysmal and often the customers aren't great either. If you can't get along with your coworkers on top of that, then you're really going to be in for a terrible time.

With that said, I want to make clear that I don't condone working unpaid either. Wage theft is awful in the USA, but nothing in your question suggested to me that your coworker was deliberately trying to not pay you for your work, rather he was trying to get some help with something he was running behind on. Given that it's just the two of you, I suspect whatever he was running behind on was important and not doing it meant the opening crew was going to have to deal with.

A few options for how to address this situation if it happens again:

  • Clock back in. It doesn't seem like they were trying to pressure you into working off the clock.
  • (if you have to leave) Apologize that you can't stay and inform him that you really need to get going for whatever reason you want.

I do want to take a moment to address the things that you are describing as 'bossy', because my interpretation was not the same. You are being TRAINED. He is telling you what to do because he has been there for a few months longer than you and given the turnover rate in retail that's a lot more experience by comparison.

To reframe some of your issues:

He writes lists of things for me to do

That list is letting you know what things need to be done that day. Would you have known to do all the tasks on that list if he hadn't written it for you? When my wife worked for about 18 months in a grocery store's seafood department, she wrote out lists for her juniors to make sure that all the necessary cleaning tasks were completed otherwise they wouldn't pass health inspections so in her case it was really important (because there's a difference between 'I wiped this down' and 'I used the block whitener'. She didn't start off doing that, she did it because if she didn't 5 out of 10 tasks wouldn't be completed correctly.

He also complained that I didn't lock the door when I came to get him.

I'm assuming this was after the store's closing time? If so, I'd wonder why the door wasn't locked too. I've absolutely had a customer walk through the door at 6:05 despite our hours saying we close at 6:00. You can track the customer down and tell them the store's closed, but I assure you're they're going to be irritated about the confrontation. So now you're having a negative customer interaction plus you're going to be stuck there until you finally get the customer out of the store.

...such as when we clean surfaces he complained that I should spray a cloth first and not directly onto a surface.

Did you know that early in the pandemic a lot of credit machines got messed up because employees sprayed solution directly onto the machine? I bet your trainer knows.

...telling me they're looking to fire someone so don't leave empty boxes in a place that everyone does because it looks messy.

Honestly, if I'm working to train someone and they get fired because management's been looking for some good place to cut costs, I'd be kind of annoyed. Retail management never seems to be thinking very far beyond the month.

My direct manager is usually a bit unresponsive. I don't often see him face to face but we communicate by text messages. He has begun to not respond to all of them.

They may want you to start directing your issues to your trainer so they can focus on other things.


To sum, I think you're being trained. Whether someone formalized this arrangement or not is irrelevant (but pretty unlikely given the number of employees in the store). Skills for most retail jobs can be gained relatively quickly, but the true key is going to be enduring the grind. Enduring that grind will be much harder if you can't get along with your coworker.

It sounds to me like you have a coworker who is engaged in teaching you what they know. I recommend that you maybe ask them 'why' a bit more so that you understand their point of view on things.

11
  • 2
    (With absolutely no disrespect to your wife at all:). What I would say, is I'm tipping that a lot of the time "trainers" are not always the best people for the job, they are just the next person up on the pecking order. You're not going to get perfect individuals that always use the right tone, or always say exactly the right thing. Often they have just a little bit more experience that the person they are training, often they have their own duties to juggle as well as training. And of course, probably especially in retail, they are not actually trained to be trainers. Apr 7 at 16:16
  • 2
    @GregoryCurrie they're definitely not, but this is what consistently happens in retail because retail doesn't have formal trainers for most of the mundane duties. A lot of time, formal retail training (if any) comes in the form of, "Don't do these things because either we could lose a bunch of money." My one retail job had 2 hours of formal training by another employee who taught me how to use the cash register, told me where to put excess large bills, and advise me to never try to stop a shoplifter. Never saw that person again in the remaining 6 months I worked there. 1/2 Apr 7 at 17:19
  • 2
    But using the register was only part of my job. Nobody formally walked me around the store and advised me on where things were. Nobody formally taught me the protocols for 'truck day', had to learn that on the spot. Nobody formally taught me the closing procedures for the store, had to get yelled at by the assistant manager because apparently I'm supposed to sweep the front 1/2 hour before closing, etc. 2/2 Apr 7 at 17:21
  • 1
    Interesting take. However my training period is over. Apr 8 at 2:04
  • 1
    @employee-X based on the information I had at the time I wrote this answer, I assumed the 'bossy' employee was the trainer but probably not in a formal capacity. Since the querent's revision, I don't think I'd change that assumption. As indicated by the comments, there's a lot of times that retail training isn't really formal except for things that corporate is worried about could cost them a lot of money. Apr 9 at 20:40
8

After reading this, I think the best advice I can give you is to learn to be more tolerant of your coworkers. If this is the worst coworker experience you have, you are extremely lucky. Basically, as I read it, this person asked you to help out and complained made a couple of comments that annoyed you. People can be annoying, especially at work. It's not like you were harassed or this person put you in danger.

... when we clean surfaces he complained that I should spray a cloth first and not directly onto a surface.

Have you considered asking "why?" as a peer, you can do that and if you don't agree with the reason given, say so. Could it be that doing it your way fills the air with a mist of toxic chemicals that your coworker doesn't want to breathe? People can end up with deadly and debilitating illnesses because of repeated exposure to cleaning supplies.

Your attitude reminds me of people I've worked with who were more concerned about who was allowed to tell them things than whether what they were being told was good advice. I've even seen people repeatedly endanger themselves because "you can't tell me nothing." For example, I've seen people use knives in dangerous ways or lift heavy things all wrong and get angry when someone tried to correct them. Sometimes it was just dumb stuff like spending 10 times longer on a task than it should take because they insisted on doing it their way. Often the result was that later, the manager would yell at them or write them up for not following protocol.

In my experience, if you are one of the last few people at a restaurant or something similar, common courtesy would be to tell your coworker you were planning to leave before you clock out, in case they needed some help. Clocking out and leaving exactly at the end of your shift then slipping out or whining about how you already clocked out is not going to help you build good working relationships.

7

To be honest, it sounds like the more pressing concern is the bossyness.

Generally I wouldn't advise employees to just walk out of a store so that it is unattended, which may effectively have been what happened if you just left at your clock off time.

A manager is more likely to fire/reprimand someone who willingly leaves the store, leaving it in a state where it is unattended, vs someone who is working in another part of the store who may have been unaware of the time. That's just the reality. It may be unfair, but it is what it is.

He also complained that I didn't lock the door when I came to get him.

I mean, I've heard people use the word "complained" regarding any type of critique. And just because you're doing them a favour doesn't mean there can be significant negative consequences of your actions. Example, if I'm babysitting for a friend as a favour, I don't expect to be free from criticism if I let their child play with matches. Sure, I would hope the "complaint" would be tempered somewhat.

In the future, I would just say that I've got other things to do, and decline to stay the extra few minutes. And obviously once you clock out, you leave.

4
  • I wouldn't bother with "other things to do". It's more assertive just to say you're definitely leaving on the nose without getting into justifications. The only reason you need is: that's when my shift ends. Apr 7 at 14:03
  • @samerivertwice I'm deliberately not being overly assertive. Apr 7 at 15:28
  • @samerivertwice great advice, especially if you will never need any help from anyone you work with. Because with that approach, you won't get it.
    – fectin
    Apr 9 at 0:22
  • 1
    @fectin they all work for me now so I get all the help I want INCLUDING the entire work output of all the bossy people. Moreover, the OP asked about how to approach somebody with a bossy attitude. That person was never going to be your biggest source of help in the workplace. If you give them details, reasons and justifications, they can challenge them. If you don't, they have nothing to work with. Apr 9 at 9:44
3

I wouldn't go to the manager with what you have said so far. Here's a few tips I would offer.

With all your conversations with him, be polite. Don't display an attitude, even if you think he "deserves" it. Act like a professional even if he doesn't. I'm not perfect in this but it's a goal of mine.

For your storage room example, I think you generally did the right thing. You didn't run out and leave the store unattended. Depending on where you are, working off the clock can be against the law. I would be careful about this in the future. As a courtesy, I would give him a 15 minute warning before you leave. If you are willing, you could even ask, "Is there anything you need me to help you with real quick before I go? I plan to leave in 15 mins at my end of shift." If his lack of preparedness causes you to stay after your shift a couple more times, I would have a brief conversation with him, "A couple times recently I ended up having to stay after my shift was over because you asked me for help. I'm fine with helping you but I expect to head out the door when my shift is over. If you want help from me before I leave, make sure you come to me with plenty of time for me to finish before my end of shift." If it gets to that point, be prepared for him to go to the boss and say you left him/the store unprepared, and so on. Have specific examples ready (dates and times and what was said) where you asked him if he needed help, had a conv with him about you leaving on time, etc.

If your co-worker tells you to do something, e.g. writes a list of things for you to do, I would respond that you have been trained and are aware of what your responsibilities are or in the case of where to spray cleaner, the boss has seen me clean and had no complaints with how I did it. If it continues, you might get frank with him...

You and I are co-workers and we both have the same supervisor. I am following the training we both received. If you have a specific way you want to do something, that's fine with me. If you want to change how everyone in the company does something (where to spray cleaner, etc.), you'll need to take that up with the trainer/boss.

If it still continues or gets worse, now it's time to go to your supervisor. Be as unemotional as possible. You are just informing them of what has happened so they can be aware. Don't recommend punishment, etc... that's your supervisor's job to determine.

Hey boss, over the course of the last few weeks Jimmy has been pretty insistent about telling me what to do, how to do it, etc. Generally acting as if he's my boss when you aren't around. He's written up lists of tasks for me to accomplish, complained about where I sprayed the cleaner, etc. I've tried to take care of this myself. I've had several conversations with him when this has happened. I've told him that we were both trained the same way and I'm following the training, etc. but he's not backing down. It's getting more and more frustrating for me. If there's anything I'm doing that's NOT right, please let me know and I'll correct it. Would you please talk to him? Thanks.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .