13

I've been working for a German-based company as a contractor since mid September and I have a 4-month probation period. As a contractor, I log my hours (typically 8 per day) via third-party site under their company account and then bill them based on that. After 2.5 months they've asked me to provide short commentary on what did I do during that day along with logged hours.

I know that it is a common practice, but why asking me halfway during probation period? Does that mean they're unsatisfied with my results? I'm kind of not sure whether I should start looking for a new job. I didn't give it much thought at a first time, but then my friend, who's been working with German companies for a while, told me that this action is basically a last threshold before actually firing an employee, so now I'm starting to get concerned.

Am I in trouble? Should I address the HR representative directly? (even though they asked me to this a week ago and wouldn't it be suspicious if I only asked now why did they want that?)

6
  • 28
    What makes you think it's bad if they ask you to do something that is common practice? Could they simply have noticed recently you are not writing comments and that's why they ask you to do that now?
    – puck
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 10:17
  • 1
    did they comment why they want this additional information? That could give some insight. otherwise, I would simply assume this is for internal controlling purposes
    – Benjamin
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 11:11
  • 2
    @Benjamin nope, after paying the last invoice they asked me to roughly outline what I did during work ours starting December Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 11:39
  • 1
    What did they say when you asked why they wanted you to start doing this?
    – AakashM
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 12:06
  • 15
    As a Danish contractor, this happens sometimes - simply because many clients are unsure of whether contractors should log hours as if they were employees or not. This could just be the company aligning you with the pre-existing internal rules, of which they have only just been made aware
    – morsor
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 12:48

3 Answers 3

36

There can be many reasons behind that ask, like

  • They may want to see how much effort is being put (overall) for certain areas (Planning, R&D, Dev, QA etc), and they collect these comments based on team / units and prepare some reports.
  • They may want to ensure you're putting actual hours and not copy-pasting general/ template booking times from past week.
  • They may want you to reflect on the hours spent on each task, and provoke thought about how to optimize it further.
  • They may have performance concerns.

We don't know, we can't tell. Unless you heard something from your manager already, I guess it's too early to assume. This may be a usual thing in the team / working unit to add notes with logged time, which you might have been missing, and they were waiting to see if you are going to do that yourself. After some time, they asked you to comply with that.

If you have genuine reasons to believe that this has something to do with your performance, please schedule a call with your manager and ask them about this. That's the best way to get correct answer.

9
  • 23
    The person managing your work may have changed, and the new person does things slightly different.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 15:32
  • 14
    They may be reviewing their documentation in light of the end of the year or an audit from an external organisation and changed policy or decided to enforce a pre-existing policy that wasn't enforced previously.
    – bracco23
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 18:11
  • 12
    +1 for "If you are concerned, ask your manager." Educating you about company practice is part of what they're there for.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 19:35
  • 3
    I work for the subsidiary of a huge German company (abroad). The (awful) time logging tool basically requires comments, either at (remote) clock-in or clock-out (so not when physically swiping a card at the office....) Else the manager gets flagged, and e-mails you to fix it. I basically put a list of meetings and tickets in there, which could be 1 item, in addition to "daily standup meeting", on most days (and never had a complaint). I doubt the manager even knows the significance in most cases. But yeah, agree with all of the above: pretty hard to say, without input from your manager.
    – frIT
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 9:03
  • 5
    This could be related to CAPEX. Companies gather data around their capital expenditure (e.g. hours worked) for many reasons: show investors that the company is investing in the growth of business, drive the future activities of the company, reduce the amount of tax they need to pay (CAPEX is tax deductible), etc Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 12:01
5

In my experience in German companies, I would not waste a second thinking about it. It could be anything and everything - quite possibly simply a general rule that it should be done this way in your company out of principle.

A benign interpretation would be that your company wants to make sure that your time bookings should follow the so-called "Verursacherprinzip" ("costs-by-cause principle") which simply means that the internal bookkeeping of your company wants to attribute costs (and your time is a cost in a sense) to whatever caused you to spend the time (i.e., project work vs. an internal employee meeting not related to projects or customers). A small comment would help someone check on whether the bookings are in the correct category in your timekeeping system.

For time and materials business-to-business contracts, where your company is forwarding your time verbatim to the actual customer, it is very normal to have these little comments, so the external customer can check on your company's bill towards them.

Even if there is a "bad" reason deep behind it (i.e., someone suspecting that you're wasting company time) it makes no sense for you to worry or think about it. If you are doing something nefarious, then change it (but in this case you would not be asking here). If you are instead doing good work, this will speak for itself and should be easy to confirm by your manager. If you are doing good work and have trouble "proving" it, then that is a very different problem that you should work on no matter what - "do good and talk about it"; make yourself and your work more visible. If so, that would be a topic for a different question if you want to ask it.

2

Is it bad?

It depends. I've had periods at my company where they have asked me to do this for overtime hours.

Most of the time they are happy with an honor system, but I did have a project that resulted in a crap-load of overtime (I accrued more overtime in one week than the whole team did in a month)—and I was getting grilled about it. I was putting detailed notes in, and eventually I invited my manager to one of the meetings so they could see what I was dealing with... They then understood.

So long as what they are asking for isn't onerous, it's fine. If they are asking for a breakdown of every 5 minutes of work, then that's not fine.

Most likely a question has been asked, and they need a justification. It can be a bit odd halfway through a project, but likely that means there are other conversations happening in the business that you aren't privy to and so now someone needs to the metaphorical receipts.

I wouldn't stress too much; just do your best and keep your notes.

You must log in to answer this question.

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