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I have several coworkers in my department. On paper we are all equal, no one is the offically the manager, team leader nor even the lead worker. Our oversight from our actual manager is minimal.

We do have an unofficial leader, Coworker A, and I have good reason to believe she will be promoted in the near future. On a daily basis she has been asking me about Coworker B's attendence. Coworker B's attendance is afwul, she doesn't even show up approximately on time, leaves early, and takes VERY long breaks.

I'm guessing A is getting her ducks in a row to get B fired, but I'm still rather uncomfortable answering A's questions. It could come back to bite me if B doesn't get fired and I make an enemy within the company.

Is it worth it to answer A's questions, or should I simply say I'm uncomfortable answering them?

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    You should probably detail why the unofficial leader is unable to see for themselves. Are they working from home? Jun 25 at 6:32
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    Which employee should you upset? Employee A or employee B? We really can't make that decision for you. No one else knows more your situation than you do. Jun 25 at 6:32
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    You also run the risk of making an enemy of Coworker A, who may view your actions as trying to cover up a co-worker that seems to be blatently deliberately underperforming. Jun 25 at 6:35
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    You don't say what your own role is, but it sounds like you're just another team member, on equal footing as A and B. What is the reason A is asking you, in particular, about B? It sounds like you could just refer A to B's manager for answers to such questions -- because they're the one responsible for B, not you.
    – B. Ithica
    Jun 25 at 8:30
  • Is B's poor attendance negatively affecting their (or the team's) productivity?
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 25 at 9:07
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Someone asked you an honest question, why would you not give an honest answer?

You are not other people's timekeeper or watchdog, nobody should expect you to be precise or have a good memory, but if you cannot answer a straight, simple questions with a straight, simple answer, I would get suspicious of you covering something up.

If I asked you if you know when Alice came in yesterday and you said "I don't want to answer that, that question makes me uncomfortable", then I need to involve HR. Around both of you, because something is brewing and it's not good if my colleague cannot look me in the eye and answer a fact based question.

Again, you are not employed to watch Alice. "Around 9-ish I think", "I don't really know, at some point between 8 and 10", "I'm not sure, but she was there for the daily standup, so before 10:30" are all good answers. And nobody gets fired because a colleague cannot remember the exact time someone arrived.

But you are not employed to form patterns. Or pass judgement. That is something that you could be uncomfortable about.

So as a summary: do answer simple, fact based questions. Leave it to others to come to any conclusions based on those facts.

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  • So far I have ben answering honestly, but the fact it's being asked almost every other day is what is hard on me. Jun 25 at 23:51
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should I simply say I'm uncomfortable answering them?

Yes, you are uncomfortable with that, so say so.

It could cost B their job, and you're in no position to know the reasons for their apparently poor timekeeping. It's reasonable to be uncomfortable.

If A persists, say that you'll warn B that A has asked to you report on their timekeeping. That way you're acting honestly with everyone. In fact, if A was honest, they'd tell B themselves. If they were a good manager, they wouldn't set team members against each other.

Imagine how you'd feel if you were B. Either you know you're taking advantage of everyone, or you feel that what you're doing is OK. In the first case, you don't deserve any loyalty. In the second you would really appreciate some warning.

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It sounds like A is trying to gather evidence to support a case against B.

If written evidence exist detailing B's attendance and timekeeping (logs, emails, attendance records, etc), then you could simply tell A to go and gather the evidence they want from those sources.

If you personally possess written evidence to support A's case, then you could choose to make it available to A. If you decided not to provide such evidence, and this came to light in the future, then A may not be pleased.

If there is no written evidence (which I suspect there is not, and that is why A is asking you) then it is not possible for you to help A - because all you would be providing is hearsay, and hearsay is not evidence. In this case you could just tell A that you are not in possession of the facts, and therefore cannot comment.

This actually happened to me one time. I was asked by my manager about a colleague who was seriously underperforming.

At the time, I chose to say that I didn't really know and that I had not noticed anything, even though I had noticed that they were underperforming badly. I just assumed it wasn't my business.

I then discussed it with two of my other colleagues, who told me that our manager had asked them the same question. And they had both been honest and said that he was useless and they should get rid of him.

Another few weeks later they also got rid of me. I have no idea whether my "covering up" for the other colleague had any factor to play.

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    OP is not providing hearsay: "I saw B arrive/go online/whatever at..." is first-hand evidence, and A could use it in a decision of her own. A's use of it to others would be hearsay: "OP said that B arrived at..." Jun 27 at 7:31
  • Noted thanks @andrewleach
    – numenor
    Jun 27 at 8:11

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