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Where I work there's a strong culture of "not snitching". Several coworkers leave 1-3 hours early. There is one in particular ("Bill") who literally does it each time. He often boasts about never having worked a full shift. Usually there's only two of us working at a time, so it's obvious to me when someone leaves. Everyone can see each others schedule. Often people ask me if I'm OK if they leave early. I find these questions uncomfortable because I don't see it as my decision. Some have very valid reasons (like there work permit only allows them to work certain number of hours per week) while others don't IMHO (they are tired from working another job or want to get coffee with a friend). To be clear people always clock out when they leave so this isn't time fraud.

Recently Bill (the one who leaves earliest) left me to work alone on a very busy day. This time he didn't even ask if I was OK. I messaged the manager informing her I was having trouble keeping up with the work load and I was alone. I also mentioned Bill always leaves early and if she was aware of this (to which she answered no). The pay system is automatically linked to the clock in/out times so I guess the manager doesn't need to keep a close eye on the times people are leaving.

We recently got a new manager. The previous manager was very laid back and I think he may have told some people that if it's not busy one could leave early. But I doubt he meant they could leave hours early each day.

Today I had a talk with the new manager. She told me she wasn't OK with people deciding when to leave and will stop it.The same day another coworker said he wanted to leave early.

Obviously if we are short 1 person there will be less work done or I have to pickup the slack, so that's how it affects me. Also in terms of fairness, sometimes I may feel like leaving early. Even if it's not busy when the person leaves, it can always pickup later.

My questions are when is reporting someone's activity considering snitching or being a rat? Next time someone asks me if they can go home early what should I do? What if they tell me more so than ask me? If I wanted to leave early should I too not involve the manager?

Some answers/comments mentioned ethics. I'm certainly not here to be the ethics police, but I think it's a little bit unethical to routinely not follow the managers instructions while intentionally keeping them out of the loop. I mean am I crazy or is it rather strange to go home when you feel like it when you are scheduled to work a certain shift?

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    How can the manager not know if he clocks out early all the time?
    – Kilisi
    Jul 25 at 9:32
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    Admittedly leaving work one hour early is out of line, let alone three. And the manager knew nothing about this worker's habit of reducing working hours? Wouldn't HR have reported this to your boss by now? How many months has this been happening?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 25 at 11:20
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    @Mari-LouA Why would HR be worried about an hourly employee's hours not being consistent? Having your hours vary is fairly normal, especially if he isn't supposed to be full time. Unless his hours are falling below the threshold for qualifying for certain benefits (assuming he gets any) I'm not convinced HR should be worried about it.
    – BSMP
    Jul 25 at 18:12
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    @Mari-LouA I wasn't aware that retail managers had to run it by HR any time they changed an hourly employees hours. I was under the impression from other people that changes in the number of hours they get changes frequently and is just up to the manager.
    – BSMP
    Jul 25 at 20:28
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It’s not snitching if you are answering a direct question honestly. Unless your manager asked you why you were alone (Bill left early) and then followed up that question with “does that happen a lot?” you shouldn’t have volunteered that information.

The main issue is not that you told your manager something factual. The issue is that you repeatedly let your co-worker believe it was OK with you if they clocked out early, and then you complained to the manager in a way that seems like you were trying to get your co-worker in trouble.

I understand that sometimes it’s hard to say “no” to people, but practice makes perfect and saying “no” is an important skill to master. It’s better to tell Bill that he leaves too early too often and you’d rather he not do that without a good reason from now on than to let a situation that is upsetting you continue because you said “yes” once before.

Since that’s water under the bridge at this point, the best you can do is practice how you will tell the next coworker who asks whether you mind if they leave early that yes, you do mind unless they can get someone to cover for them so you’re not stuck by yourself doing the work of two people. Your coworkers might not like it, but it’s only fair to make it clear to them that you aren’t going to cover for them.

If Bill’s time cards accurately reflect his hours worked, then you should have limited yourself to telling the manager you needed help at the store and letting her solve your problem in whatever way she thought appropriate. Bill not working his scheduled hours would come out soon enough if you’re getting swamped at work and have to call the managers for help because he often leaves early.

If you make a habit of trying to get people in trouble, when you need others to cut you some slack, they might not be willing to. You reap what you sow.

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  • I can kind of see you're point, but why wait until asked if you have information you think they would like? Jul 25 at 18:37
  • Perhaps I didn't make it clear in the question but I have to pull his wait when he leaves, if that makes a difference Jul 25 at 18:38
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    “Usually he asks me if I'm OK if he leaves early. ” Do you ever say “No, because I don’t want to have to pull your weight after you leave”? I wouldn’t want to work with someone who would act like it’s OK for me to leave early to my face, then run to my boss and try to get me in trouble for it. If you can’t tell him to his face that you don’t like having to work the end of the shift alone, it’s unreasonable (and a jerk move) to wait until he’s done it a lot then go tattle on him.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 25 at 18:45
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    Did you tell him as he was leaving, “Hey it’s really busy today, can you stick around please?” Tattling to an authority figure is not usually an effective way to resolve these sorts of workplace issues. A more effective way is to talk to your coworker and try to work it out first.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 25 at 20:27
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    @ColleenV I think you should incorporate those comments into your answer cause for me, that's really the main thing IMO: casablancaeggplant, your colleague isn't asking you as someone with authority to "approve" his time-off (he knows the situation with regard the manager), he's asking if *you* are OK with it. As Colleen says, if today he assumed you'd say it was fine, but you said "Hey, you know I normally don't care if you head early, but today is busy, can you stay on?" how would he have reacted? (Even if you think he would have blown you off, it would have been good to try this first) Jul 26 at 9:11
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Usually he asks me if I'm OK if he leaves early. I find these questions uncomfortable because I don't see it as my decision

Well you're right. That question is not your decision. This whole situation got created right here. The next time Bill asks you if it's okay if he leaves early, just tell him that you would be more comfortable if he asks your manager the question instead. Obviously you have the ability to message the manager during the day, so just do it. Then there is never any question of snitching. If manager tells Bill he can or cannot leave early, it's between the two of them and you aren't involved.

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  • How would the manager know if it's okay with the OP if Bill leaves early? All the evidence suggests the manager is absolutely thrilled to get all the work done and not have to pay Bill for more hours. The issue is specifically that the OP is not okay with this. Jul 27 at 18:31
  • @DavidSchwartz the manager said she didn't know about it and will stop it Jul 27 at 19:59
  • @casablancaeggplant Although it's possible she meant she wasn't aware of the hours worked, it's much more likely that she wasn't aware of how you felt about it. It's hard for me to understand how any manager could not know how many hours their employees are working. Jul 27 at 20:09
  • @DavidSchwartz I guess she just didn't read everyone's log that carefully, and she's new. Jul 27 at 20:20
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    @DavidSchwartz the manager probably doesn't care how the OP feels, the manager cares if there are enough people in the store. Question has been heavily edited, but original question mentioned "store" several times which leads me to believe it is retail. Retail is a very fine balance. Too many people on the clock and you aren't profitable, too few and lines get long and customers get pissed off and leave. Managing this balance should be the manager's job and not the OPs.
    – Daniel K
    Jul 27 at 23:42
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You didn't "snitch" on your colleague. You raised a real problem that's affecting your work to your manager. You ask:

In general when is something snitching and when is it a good idea not to just "mind your own business"?

Generally, the difference is in whether your work is impacted or not. If you're "telling on people" when their behaviour doesn't affect your work or well-being, that can be considered closer to "snitching" but only in the sense that it's not really your business to address. You're in a workplace, not a playground. Snitching as a concept just doesn't really apply in a professional context. Reporting each and every little thing that doesn't really concern you isn't ideal and it's a good way to lose camaraderie but it's still not snitching.

If you have a managerial function, you also have an increased responsibility to the company so even more minor things that just "wouldn't look good" are things you'd be expected to report. As a regular employee you wouldn't tell someone's manager that you always see someone yawning or looking tired. You hopefully would tell their manager if you see illegal or immoral behaviour.

If Bill or another colleague asks why you told your manager, simply tell them some variation of this:

I know Bill clocks out when he leaves early and I assumed he'd run it by [manager] but when it happens so often it's really problematic for me because of [cite a few reasons like lacking hands for certain tasks]

If Bill explicitly asks why you didn't protest when he "asked if it's okay":

That's an uncomfortable question for me since you really should be asking [manager] that and not me. I understand if you might need to leave early once in a while but when it happens consistently that really puts me in a bind so I'm not sure I'd say it's okay for me.

One aspect of this, the fact that Bill works a second job, is potentially relevant information for your manager but this is an area where you might not want to get involved more than you need to be. Generally I would say that it's not your information to share and to limit yourself only to talking about the problems that affect you, not any potential motivation or reason behind them.

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  • "Snitching as a concept just doesn't really apply in a professional context." It might, once unions get involved. If your coworker is trying to raise support for unionization, and you go tell your boss about it...
    – nick012000
    Jul 29 at 7:56
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Today the next person was running late and the store was really busy. "Bill" had left over an hour early and I messaged the manager that I was working alone and having trouble keeping up with the tasks. I told her that Bill always leaves several hours early and asked if she was aware of it. She said no and that she would address it.

You were totally honest here. You said factually that Bill left hours earlier and that you were overwhelmed. That's not really snitching as much as it is a factual statement.

Personally I wouldn't have added the last bit here asking if she was aware. I would just say Bill left hours earlier. And ended it there. If she asked how often Bill does it, I would just say pretty consistently. Reality is while Bill does in fact leaves early, you don't know factually if Bill has permission to do so. It is something, as you said, speculative.

There's a strong culture of "not snitching" in my workplace. It happens often a coworker tells me something and finishes with "...but don't tell the manager". In this specific scenario was there a better way I could've handled things? Should I have talked to Bill first before talking to the manager? In general when is something snitching and when is it a good idea not to just "mind your own business"?

It certainly doesn't sound like there is a culture of not snitching if only Bill is the advocate.

I guess I thought it was obvious, but this affects me to the extent I have to pull my coworkers weight when he's not here. Also some tasks need two people.

It's unclear what you're trying to ask here overall. Are you worried that Bill will do something to you? Are you trying to figure out if you did right?

One thing is that you should be totally factual and never ask a question to answer a question. As you said earlier in your question that you are unsure if Bill had permission to leave earlier. He could have, so it is never a good idea to point out things that doesn't concern you such as if the manager was aware that Bill left early frequently. You only know that Bill left early at that time and if asked, he does it consistently. Not so much as "snitching" but more along the lines of just being annoying at pointing out things that may be private. Suppose Bill is just joking around about punching out earlier, but reality is he has to leave early to pick up his child from day care and it is something cleared by the manager? Or in the vice versa, he may really be clocking out earlier. Either way, it's really not your job or concern what Bill does or does not do.

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There may be many reasons why your boss may schedule multiple people on where only a single one suffices. It could be for health and safety reasons, for example. It could be rules from head office. It could be anything.

Personally, I would absolutely not "snitch" on a coworker for a clear mistake. But if a coworker simply decided that they didn't care to work their hours, and even decided to boast about it. I'd certainly let my boss know. Or at least, I would check to make sure they were aware. If they boss gives the OK for this activity, that's fine, that's the standard going forward.

I would then ask my boss what they would like me to do should this happen again in the future.

If they say not to bother them with this, then I would never mention it again.

If they say that I should tell them in the future, if I was ever asked by my coworker if they could leave early, I would tell them that I've been explicitly asked to let the boss know if this happens in the future.

I would absolutely not get into a discussion about rationalising it, regarding multiple jobs, or picking up the kids from school, or any reason. (Catching up with a friend for coffee? How is this a valid reason?) Just don't discuss it. Just tell them they it's not up to you. End of story.

If a coworker put me in a position where I may have to lie for them, then I don't really feel the need to protect them.

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I'd just answer this question very loosely:

Bill doesn't report to you. Just like you, he reports to "your boss."

• Therefore, you can presume that your manager sees the time reports, and will in due time respond to any problems – as (s)he(!!) sees fit.

• However, "your boss might not realize, by inspection of the time reports alone, that one of her direct reports perceives that there is a problem which (s)he might need to address." This is your legitimate concern – and something that you should raise.

To the extent that Bill's behavior is impacting you, and by extension *(and from your limited perspective, "the work itself"), you are perfectly entitled to raise the issue with your boss and to fully explain your position. As much as practicable, discuss only "the work, and the impact to the work." Having done so, "your proper involvement in the matter is finished."

Do not(!) say anything to Bill! (See point #1.)

• Also: "do not harbor any expectations as to when, how, or even if, your manager chooses to respond to Bill." Your boss – not you, and not Bill – is the one who is responsible to the business for everything that your team is doing for the business. (Trust me on this one ...)

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First of all, it's very important to keep in mind that neither your manager nor Bill are doing anything remotely immoral, unethical, or wrong in any way. Bill would prefer not to work these times. Your manager would prefer not to pay Bill more than necessary. Everyone is happy with this arrangement -- except you.

So it is very important that both Bill and the manager understand that you are not happy with this arrangement. Because if you were, it would be a great situation for everyone.

You need to communicate, firstly to Bill, that this makes extra work for you and so you consider it unfair. Try to negotiate with Bill a more equitable distribution of work that still accommodates whatever schedule requirements he has. If that is ineffective, then you need to communicate that to the manager.

But please, avoid coming out aggressively against an arrangement that has evolved over months that nobody really knew that you were uncomfortable with. Explain that you are happy to accommodate Bill when necessary, but as a regular thing, it's just not a fair division of labor.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I think your premise of the first paragraph may be mistaking: the manager does not know that Bill is leaving early so it's incorrect to conclude that she is happy with it. I'm just curious about your point on ethics: you don't see anything unethical with routinely disregarding the instructions given by the manager while not informing them? Jul 27 at 19:47
  • @casablancaeggplant I don't see how the manager could possibly not know how many hours an employee is being paid for. Again, this benefits the manager so long as it isn't bothering you. Without understanding that you object to this practice, there is no reason for either Bill or the manager to have any issue with it whatsoever. Jul 27 at 19:55
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I disagree with the other responses to some degree. Your concerns are valid, but I do not agree with the way you approached the situation.

On poisoning the well


There are different cultures in different companies. Some are more laid back, some are very strict. You have mentioned, a lot of coworkers are sometimes leaving early, so it is possible your previous manager allowed for such a culture (or at least was not opposed to it) and it carried over to the new manager.

Now as for the new manager - as @Kilisi already mentioned, if they were not aware of your coworkers leaving early, then they were negligent at their job. Since your coworkers did not commit time fraud and since this behavior of leaving early seems to have been frequent, the time discrepancy between what your coworkers were expected to work and actually did work should have been glaringly obvious.

Be that as it may, what I am missing from your post is you talking to Bill describing your malcontent. Just now I re-read your post to check for any such occurrence and have seen none.

Escalation should always be the last line of defense. Before that there should be at least a warning shot, i.e. you could have talked to Bill and explicitely told them, that you are NOT OKAY with them leaving early and cutting hours as they please.

Aftermath


So you did not pursue the chance of having a talk with Bill or your coworkers in general. Instead management has been informed and apparently wasn't aware of discrepancies due to negligence.

I cannot tell you if you are "a snitch", but yes, Bill may certainly perceive what happened that way. This is also likely to have effects on your coworkers, as they may also no longer be able to leave earlier. Perhaps they were compensating for the time they cut? Perhaps there were arrangements with the previous manager? Now that the well is poisoned all of that is out of the window.

To underline this, let me take a quote of yours:

Often people ask me if I'm OK if they leave early. I find these questions uncomfortable because I don't see it as my decision.

They are not asking for your permission. You are not their manager, hence you are not in a position to decide anything. They are asking if you consider the current workload to be acceptable for you to handle without their presence. This was an opportunity to say "No" if you are not. Bill apparently did not do that on one occasion, but since you are mentioning other coworkers in your post, an assumption can be made that you are dissatisfied with everyone's behavior, not just with that of Bill. Also your decision to go to management affects everyone as well, again not just Bill.

In summation


You are right to raise an issue if you are the one keeping the times, while others cut theirs. Especially if that affects productivity, since there are occurrences, where the workload was too high for you to handle and a coworker who was on shift just left.

However talking to people directly should be your first option, escalation is always still possible if nothing changes.

W.r.t. your question on whether reporting someone's activity is considered snitching in the scenario you described - honestly, yes. Your colleagues might feel this way, especially Bill. Regardless of who was right or wrong, your colleagues certainly may perceive your actions that way.

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  • As usual opposing opinions are invited to be stated in the comments. Otherwise I will never know your point of view. Jul 28 at 13:30

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