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We are an injured couple living in Belgium, and are unable to keep our house clean exclusively by ourselves. So we hired somebody through an agency to do it for us every week through what is called "titres-services/dienstencheques". So technically, we pay to the government, and get these checks in exchange, and we give the checks as payment directly to the agency. This special legislation makes it that we are the clients of the agency, but the employers of the people coming home helping us.

Now this lady is nice and all, and her services are really appreciated, but the more time passes, the earlier she comes at home.

Our contract states that she's supposed to start her work at 07:30, and she did come at or around 07:30 for two years. And she did all her hours.

But in the last six months she's been coming earlier and earlier, until she reached the time where I'm walking the dog. Now, she's in front of the door for how long before I open it, I don't know. I went walking the dog at 6:55 this morning and there she was waiting for us to go out so she can go in. Of course I let her in, at first because it was cold outside because of the winter, but now that the weather is sweeter, the habit has kicked in. Even though she comes earlier, she also leaves earlier, doing her hours, so that's not an issue.

I know that she comes from far and uses public transportation to come to our home, but the public transportation near her home comes about every 15 minutes, and near ours every 5 minutes.

But at 06:55, I'm still in my pajamas, preparing to walk the dog, and my wife is still sleeping, and we have no intimacy anymore in the morning on the days she comes.

I want to convey to our employee (as I'm forced to call her) that she's coming in too early, that I can understand if she comes in 5 minutes early because that's the time the public transportation arrives, but we don't tolerate anymore that she comes more than half-hour too early. It's the first time I'm in the "boss" position and I don't know what to do in this situation.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    May 7 at 6:51
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I've tried, acting surprised to see her early, telling her I was not expecting her so early

Unfortunately, you do have to directly use phrases such as:

Do not come until 7:30

You may not start until 7:30

It is not possible to begin until 7:30

And do not explain why. If you explain something, it's a discussion, not a rule.

It's not possible to use language such as was surprised, consider, prefer, acting etc.

Unfortunately that's the nature of these communications.

The only other possible solution would be to complain to the agency involved. But really that is even "more harsh", unfortunately.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    May 6 at 12:07
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    "It's not possible to use language such as was surprised, consider, prefer, acting etc.". This answer could be improved by changing "not possible" to "often does not lead to the expected outcome". Because possible... yes it is possible. And sometimes some of those options might actually be the best approach. Though not often. May 7 at 11:04
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    This is a great answer, except for one thing - the suggested phrases are not just direct but also impolite. How about a marker of politeness and providing a reason? "Please do not come until/earlier than 7:30. We have our morning routine cannot be ready earlier."
    – Robert
    May 8 at 14:17
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Just say to her one day, maybe when she has finished for the day:

I notice that you're coming early these days, before 7. Is there a reason? You don't need to come so early.

Be prepared that she may say "I don't mind coming so early" or she may have a reason you haven't thought of. If she says something like she doesn't mind or it's no problem, say politely but firmly

OK, but we'd prefer it if you started at 7.30 please. We need some time in the morning

If she has some reason you haven't thought of, don't be afraid to say you need to consider it, and then decide if it's reasonable or not before you next see her.

It can be tough to be in the "boss" position for the first time, but for everyone's benefit you have to be polite but assertive.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    May 6 at 12:06
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    "for everyone's benefit you have to be polite but assertive" - the problem with this answer is that your starting suggestion is not assertive (see the accepted answer for an assertive approach). By saying "you don't need to come in early" you are allowing that she can do so even though it's not needed. This also slightly conflates the issue of arriving outside the door early (which realistically you cannot forbid her) and starting work early (which is within your control as an employer). May 7 at 10:52
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    That's why it's the start of a conversation, not the whole answer... May 7 at 11:01
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Sometimes these kind of situations are based on misunderstandings and miscommunication.

From your comment your requirements are:

  • you want her to reliably put in her hours
  • you want her to be on time
  • you want her to not be ahead of time
  • you want to maintain a good (work) relationship with her
  • you do not want the private part of your time invaded by outside factors

From your description of her work:

  • she wants to fulfill her work hours
  • she does a good/sufficient job
  • she wants to be on time
  • she does not start contact with you until her official work time starts

From the information you shared, there does not seem any indication that it is not in her best interest to fulfill your requirements. In fact it seems that she fulfills all but one (not arriving too early) to your satisfaction.

For whatever reason she might be too early, which might as well be one of the below

  • not wanting to be too late
  • trying to meet other timings in her private life
  • receiving a warning by her employer (the agency)
  • forgetting about the originally agreed time schedule
  • complication with public transport that you are unaware of

it does not have to be something that is necessarily in conflict with your interest.

So the first step is simply to repeat your expectation and while it certainly might be a danger of being "too generous" it does not hurt to also hear out her perspective. Especially since you are arguing out of a position of power (as being her employer).

And while doing so, you might want to avoid the indirect, polite approach of giving a veiled compliment/surprise of her being ahead of time. She might even misunderstood it as a praise (as in "wow, you are such a reliable person, you are even ahead of time.").

Just explain that you noticed a difference in her starting hours and that it seems that it has become more of a rule than an exception. Stress that it is very important for you to have your due time to start into your day and you do not want to start the (public) day before 7:30.

You should also state that her waiting outside your house is not an option for you.

But you should also ask her whether there is a reason for her being early, as she - similar to your "surprised" reaction - also seemed to have an indirect approach of communication by showing up early.

Maybe you will be able to find a common ground, which leaves you both better off than before. But you should also be careful not to be manipulated into a one-sided agreement.

Example outcomes (which will need to be kept up reliably):

  • she is afraid to being too early because of missed trains, move the starting (and end) time 5-10 minutes back
  • she has an important task that forces her to finish slightly earlier (e.g. picking up kids from day care), shift a small amount of her hours to a longer weekday/saturday and reduce the others accordingly.
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The best thing I can say to anybody in that situation is she won't know you don't appreciate the behavior unless you put the passive-aggressiveness aside and have a conversation with her about it like a mature adult.

It's not all about you. It's important to not only tell her you don't appreciate the behavior but have a conversation with her and find out what her reasons are for showing up so early. Maybe she prefers to show up a little early so she can leave earlier and have more free time in the evening. Maybe she feels so overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done that she feels the need to show up earlier so she can stay on top of it all. Maybe she just prefers to arrive early so she knows she's there on time.

Taking public transportation is difficult, stressful and unreliable in a work situation. Busses run late and anything can happen so you have to leave extremely early to guarantee punctuality.

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  • You could also expect that the "employee" here, being a mature adult also, would have the courtesy of asking before changing work agreement
    – Laurent S.
    May 6 at 11:13
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    @LaurentS. The employee received no negative feedback after showing up early multiple times. May 6 at 19:25
  • @MadPhysicist Exactly. How can anyone learn if no feedback is given? That's like going to school and then they don't give you a grade at the end. You'll just be forced to assume you did perfectly fine and passed with flying colors even though you failed miserably and don't know jack crap. Give people their midterm grades. It's important.
    – Justa Guy
    May 7 at 23:48
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I know this has already been answered, but what's wrong with:

Hi x, you're early today, is everything ok?

Maybe there's a reason.

If there isn't a problem and she just wants to get things done earlier, why not say:

Would you mind if you came at x o'clock just so that I'm ready?

I just noticed Matt said more or less the same thing, but being Northern English, I'd phrase it this way, which I think is easier to approach and say :)

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    Considering she has been arriving early for the past 6 months, it will seem very odd to suddenly ask "is everything ok?" out of the blue. May 7 at 10:59
  • Maybe so, but I'd still do it. The OP could always say that they've only just noticed it and feign ignorance. The OP is obviously struggling to come up with a diplomatic way to phrase what they want. So while person x may feel it odd to have it said to them, I think the important part is the ease of OP being able to say what they want, or at least start to.
    – Lee
    May 7 at 12:16
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" Even though she comes earlier, she also leaves earlier" .

From my experience that may be the point here. she comes earlier exactly to leave earlier.

Its very frequent that some employees prefer to leave early from their jobs the more common reasons that i see are:

-to do other things after work, so they leave at at time that they can have some "working hours left" with most places open considering that here in my country most things start closing at the end of these working hours about 18:00.

-sometimes they have other jobs after your job there, so they need to prepare and arrive there.

-they can have children to get in the school which also get release mostly at 12:00 and 18:00 which coincides with lunch and ends on working hours.

-and also most times those low paid people live in dangerous neighborhoods and they like the leave early to arrive home before its dark.

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  • This was my first impression as well, something external to the job makes her want to finish earlier.
    – Kilisi
    May 7 at 12:57
  • "From my experience that may be the point here. she comes earlier exactly to leave earlier." While this may seem to be true on the surface it's an assumption and one should never make assumptions. Always ask them what their reason is for showing up early when you told them to be there at a certain time and the truth will come to light.
    – Justa Guy
    May 8 at 9:05
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An alternative point of view:

Now, she's in front of the door for how long before I open it, I don't know.

Nothing wrong with that. There is nothing in the contract or elsewhere forbidding the lady from being early at the door. People using public transportation often do that to have some margin in case there are transportation problems. She was only a bit early the 1st time, so that might be what had happened.

Of course I let her in,

Did she ask to be let in? I get the impression from OP's question that such was not the case. If the lady was let in with no request from the lady then it was OP who, with some degree of implicitness, requested the lady to get in. And the lady was flexible enough to accept such request, thus she is working beyond expectations.

After such event the lady may have gotten the impression that OP actually wants her to get earlier and she may be making an effort to please OP. This impression is reinforced by the fact that she is always let in. OP's surprise reactions may be taken as joyful surprise at such considerate and hard working lady. Sure... from watching the "surprise face" you can often tell that it is actually distressful surprise. But... people often see what they want so see unconsciously.

This alternative point of view might be totally wrong. Maybe something totally different is happening. But such is the trouble with lack of explicit communication. We simply can't be sure.

Which is why you need to tell her what you want explicitly. You may frame it as "I prefer you don't come before 7:30, or at most 10 minutes earlier." or as "Don't come before 7:30". The tone depends on the situation.

Myself, and considering what has already happened, I'd follow with "I prefer". If that fails, let her in (because you are a considerate person and because you already let her in many times) but tell her "I may have given the impression that I was fine with you getting early, and it is actually fine it if is about 10 minutes before 7:30, that allows flexibility with transportation. But I am not fine with letting you in so early as today. You may start now today. But starting tomorrow you are expected to enter at 7:30 and may not enter at all before 7:20, if you get earlier than that you'll need to wait outside the door. I'd also like to tell you that you are doing a good job (assuming that is the case, which OP states it is in this case). But you must keep to the agreed schedule, no earlier." . If she is a reasonable person she'll do that since that is as required by contract. If even after that she gets too early, you will have to not let her in until 7:20. It won't last long.

As others have pointed out, if it gets to that, just tell her you are not fine with her getting in so early. But don't explain the reason.

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Though there may be a cultural factor involved, I guess many of us have been taught that being early for duty (such as work) is not a big deal, whereas being late is not acceptable. This may well play a role here – she tries to avoid being late, without considering that showing up early may be an inconvenience to you. Of course, it could also be something else – as others said, she might want to be able to finish earlier and thus try to start earlier.

First of all, it is important for you to figure out your own expectations: how much earlier than the agreed 7:30 can she show up without that being inconvenient for you? Would it be acceptable if she showed up later than 7:30 (and if so, how much later)? Can you offer her some flexibility in her working hours, so she can stay longer one time and leave earlier the next time (supposedly, some things need to be done only every other week and can be moved ahead or back by one week)? In the end, what matters to you that the work gets done, that it gets done in time, and that it gets done during a time that is convenient to you.

Find out (i.e. ask her) if there are any constraints on her side (e.g. her being required to be at a certain place by a certain time).

Let her know that you would really appreciate it if she didn’t show up earlier than a certain time, because her being early conflicts with your schedule, but that you’re OK with her showing up slightly later than that (as I said before, she might not have considered that).

If there are constraints on her side, suggest a more flexible schedule or work out a solution together. In the end, employment is an agreement between two parties, and the outcome has to work for either side.

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Because you are rewarding it

The worker is coming earlier because it works. If they show up at 7:00 am, you are allowing them to start early and finish early. Effectively they are double-booking your time: by the time your official time ends, they wish to be long on their way to another place.

So stop creating the reward. If the booked time is 7:30, invite them in at 7:30. If they knock earlier, tell them you're not ready for them and to come back at the agreed time. Make them wait.

That may not be a problem for them; a timely worker will build in "padding time" to cover difficulties in transit, so when everything goes right (most of the time) they will have time to kill. But such a worker would not bother you or demand to be allowed to work early.

Or, you may be putting them into a jam because at the time they're scheduled to be finishing with you, they actually need to be somewhere else. They will want to duck out early. Make sure that affects their pay in an appropriate manner. They will quickly learn not to schedule other stuff in conflict with yours.

One possible motivation is to shift their cleaning to times you're not home (e.g. dog walking). That way they can be in the house when you are not. Those reasons could be nefarious.

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