Update: Thanks for all the answers, some more useful than others. Conclusion is: I went to HR and told them my concerns about said employees behavior. Turns out I wasn't the first to complain so they continued researching his behavior. I did not hear the full conversation but as it turns out the behavior he displayed in our company was the same behavior that got him fired from the last company.

Recently a new colleague started at our company (Germany, approx. 30 employees). Since he started, almost every day right after he comes in he leaves again to get a coffee at subway without stamping into break time. Also he often comes late to work and leaves early.

I am not his supervisor nor are we in the same department. Our offices just happen to be right next to each other.

Thing is: Spotting him coming late to work is easy. Our work plan states he's supposed to come in at 8 AM. I'm in around 7:30 AM so its easy for me to see when he does show up. Often not until 8:15 AM. Tricky part is him not stamping into break time. I can only see his stamped time because I work in the IT department and therefore have access to every employees personnel number via database. So while he's out getting coffee I log into his time account using his credentials to check if he's stamped out. He never is.

Also he pretty often uses his private cellphone in the office which is not permitted but I'm the only one around to notice.

Only him coming late to work is provable by comparing his work plan with his actual work-hours. I can't prove he uses his cellphone or does not stamp into break time unless someone else catches him.

How should I report this behavior to HR? Especially the part with me logging into his time account.

Update: Every employee can look into every time account using the personnel number. There is no policy that forbids one to do so. I'm guessing I stepped in some kind of gray zone. Having access to every number just makes it easier for me, though probably not less ethically questionable.

Update: The work-environment is indeed a call center.

  • 85
    while he's out getting coffee I log into his time account using his credentials to check if he's stamped out - Do you have the ok to log in using other's credentials? Abusing the break policy may be wrong, but abusing your login access where you don't belong is far worse IMO. Don't do that.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 7:44
  • 14
    What is more important? That he does well his job or that he arrives on time?
    – Thomas
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:05
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    There doesn't need to be a policy. I'm pretty sure this is covered in the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz. Because the data can be directly associated to him via the personnel number (personenbezogene Daten), it should fall under the protection of the law. You have no right to access that data and if you make a complaint based on it, it will (and should) backfire and get you at least reprimanded if not worse. You basically exploited a weakness in your system and in my opinion this not at all a gray area. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:53
  • 35
    While you spend your work time investigating his comings and goings, and checking into his status on the time system, are YOU clocking out as break time? Because you stated you're not in HR, nor a supervisory role, so it sounds like your work hours are also spent doing non-work. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:49
  • 14
    Honest question: Why does this bother you? Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 15:58

10 Answers 10


You're not his supervisor. You're not even in the same department so you can't argue that the hours he works affect you by, say, forcing you to cover for him. You should mind your own business. Don't report anything to anyone. Stop paying attention to when your colleague shows up. And for goodness sake stop abusing your privileges to impersonate him.

If your colleague isn't working the hours that he's supposed to be, that's a concern that his supervisor can take up. If your colleague is not meeting his supervisor's expectations, that supervisor is certainly capable of looking at his time cards to note his late arrivals or to suggest that he focus a bit more at the office. For all you know, the supervisor is well aware that he likes to take a walk and get a coffee while he thinks about a problem.

  • 6
    Exactly... Is there a policy which clearly dictates what is considered work hours and what not? Maybe he can think better about problems walking to subway? Maybe other people stamp in early and are still sleepy for the first two hours and virtually get nothing done besides physically being there on time... If he meets the expectations of his supervisor, you shouldn't care how he does so
    – Falco
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:39
  • 5
    Minding your own business, doesn't the person in question work at the same company or maybe even, Business? Depending on what kind of job the person is doing it might actually negatively impact the Job the OP is doing. I'd suggest talking to the person though.
    – Mathijs
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 12:00
  • 4
    if it negatively impacts the job, then that's the issue. The timekeeping has nothing to do with it. Hours spent at desk don't have a particularly strong correlation with productivity in most jobs. (and if they do, then it suggests you have a job that should be automated already)
    – Sobrique
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:20

This is the key line:

I am not his supervisor nor are we in the same department. Our offices just happen to be right next to each other.

Stay out of it. It's none of your business and would only serve to paint you in a bad light. You should leave matters like this to his supervisor.

  • 44
    Especially given that the poster has abused his IT privileges to check his timestamps.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 7:28

As a pragmatic advice:

Either ask him personally, or just leave and accept it, never mind if he's from your department or not. Life is unfair; once you accept that, living is funny again.


Realise that office air displacement has nothing to do with work value. Some people create 95% of your week value within just two hours. Some displace air 50-60 hrs/week, and are less productive than the guy working just 30 hrs.

Many people equalize office presence with productivity. This equation is as true as claiming that competing in Indy 500 is easy because you only have 4 left corners and 4 straights.

  • 2
    Lol'ed at "displace air".. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:23

So while he's out getting coffee I log into his time account using his credentials to check if he's stamped out.

How should I report this behavior to HR? Especially the part with me logging into his time account.

You shouldn't.

You aren't his supervisor - you aren't even in the same department. You aren't the time account police. Thus, you should not report his behavior to HR, nor admit that you used your IT access and his credentials to spy on his time account. (Oh, and stop doing that before you get yourself in big trouble.)

If spotting him coming in to work late is as easy as you say, his supervisor will notice and deal with him appropriately.

Do your work. Let your supervisor do her/his work. Avoid being the office tattle-tale.


Leave it.

In a business employees can have all kinds of "special" arrangements how do you know he doesn't have one of those arrangements?

I used to work at an office where I came in at 10:00 and left at 16:00. Why? I made an arrangement with my boss for these hours. Still some people who weren't even from my department gave me a "bad eye". Once you explained, they understood, but I didn't feel any obligation at all to tell someone from another department about my "arrangements", also kind of hard in a 400 person office.

  • Because our work plan states he is supposed to show up before 8 Am and work till at least 4 PM.
    – Scorch62
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 9:01
  • 9
    And how do you know he's not "excempted" from the work plan and his boss is fine with him making the hours he wants as long as "he gets the job done". There really is so much you can negotiate about in getting a contract.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 9:09
  • 1
    @Scorch91 Which is visible to his supervisor on the system. If it's an issue it will come up. If he's made arrangements then it won't be an issue. People don't like working in the Valley of the Squinting Windows. Do you really want to be the person who takes it upon themselves pry into everyone elses business like an elderly neighbor looking for gossip?
    – Murphy
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 11:18

I'm unsure whether other reactions are originating from a different culture but here are my thoughts from Dutch soil, which is closely related to Germany in terms of employment.

  1. My belief is you have every right to formally report any behavior to HR that gives you reason to be treated unequally or that seems out of order in relation to company rules.
  2. Checking his time account is a responsibility for HR. The fact that you used your heightened credentials is a breach of confidentiality and I would guarantee it would have consequences.
  3. As stated in 1. you have the right to formally report something. However this does not make you the person to judge or take action. Also it's none of your business anymore once the incident has been reported.

I disagree with most of the other answers. Good employees at small companies take personal accountability for the entire business IMO. You should mention it to his supervisor in such a way that he simply starts to scrutinize the employee's behavior himself. Something along the lines of "I happen to have an office next to person X and it appears that he always comes late and leaves early." Any good supervisor will not rely on your personal testimony but will follow up with their own investigation.

Mentioning it to the employee personally risks enmity between the two of you which could lead to the other employee intentionally making your work-life difficult.

  • 3
    Yes, but the key point is - is the work getting done? Physical presence doesn't really make any difference in most jobs.
    – Sobrique
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:17
  • @Sobrique That is true for many white collar jobs. Tardiness is a pretty good proxy for laziness at work, and at small companies there is usually more work to be done than people to do it. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:41
  • 1
    I completely disagree - they're two very different things. The value added in most skilled work is about applying critical reasoning and problem solving skills. These are things that are provably variable throughout the day based on mind states and rest. I'm regularly seeing people 'working hard' at tasks that are only hard because of the way they're being approached. Your "A listers" are the people who can perceive this, and they'll get more done despite spending less time at the grindstone.
    – Sobrique
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:07
  • 1
    It's a serious point I'm trying to make though - many employers expect presence, and 'value' their employees based on 'face time'. And almost every single one is making a disastrous mistake. Someone in the office bashing a spreadsheet may well not be working effectively - but they are working hard. And because the only thing that seems to matter is 'time served' there's absolutely no reason to improve. We - in effect - punish people for being 'good' as a result. Why not instead figure out a week's worth of work, and treat it as a 'if it gets done in 3 days, that's fine, go home'?
    – Sobrique
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 16:38
  • 2
    I'd say still the opposite. For menial narrow scope jobs - hours work directly correlates to productive output. For decent, thought required jobs it it doesn't. It can't. Realistically, if you are working fixed hours of "solid efforts" then you are simply doing it wrong. It is demonstrably the case that good quality work improves by decent rest and sprint cycles. Maintaining task focus is about 20m. Realistic productive effort in a day is considerably less than 7.5 hours. And most fundamentally of all - thinking doesn't require "looking like you are working". But you are paid to think.
    – Sobrique
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 17:47

I've been guilty of a similar sin as you...

I used to get upset (quietly) over a colleague who frequently lied on his time sheets.
We had a leader board of most billed time and he would often top it with hours where most knew he was out of the office. Living near the office he would at times dissapear for an hour to walk his dog and bill it to an internal project.

After a few weeks he was let go, no notice, and a lot of his time was exempted from the invoices.

If you're noticing, his team most likely has.
His manager probably has...
There are plenty of people responsible for his work (him included). And if you're not one of them don't waste your time and energy worrying.
And for pete's sake do not get yourself in trouble over this.

It's not your business, not your fight. Maybe ask him to bring you a coffee next time he goes out?


I can't help but quote the classic sudo message, that should be familiar to anyone working in IT:

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.
#2) Think before you type.
#3) With great power comes great responsibility.

Unless that other employee is a security concern, or you have been asked explicitly by their manager to provide data, you are abusing your privileges by even checking their hours - also known as snooping around.

The answer would probably be 'not your problem' even if you were a regular coworker, but being in IT makes it unambiguous - even in the absence of ALCs or policies preventing you access to this information. You are still abusing privileged knowledge or expertise.


In this case I largely agree with most of the other answers: you shouldn't report this. However, I think this merits a more detailed explanation of when it is appropriate to report things, and when it isn't - and how to handle things in gray areas.

I largely separate issues like this into three buckets.

  1. Things that affect me, or those reporting to me
  2. Things that do not affect me but have a significant impact on the company
  3. Everything else.

Things that affect me might include, for example, a coworker who shows up late causing me to do more work than I should. A coworker who shows up late regularly, and thus causes other employees to follow his example and show up late, impacts me as well. Anything that has a direct impact on you is entirely fair game to take action on. And anything that happens to someone who reports to you happens to you, as far as I'm concerned (at least that's how a good manager should take it!)

Things that impact the company in a significant way, that his/her supervisor is unlikely to know about, are also fair game to take action on. If you see a coworker stealing cash, for example, that's obviously reportable. A coworker taking a few extra breaks? Probably not significant, in the scheme of things.

There's not a hard line that says "significant", though - that's a judgement call, though I'd usually call grey areas "not significant" without further information. I also include "that his/her supervisor is unlikely to know about", because to me that's very relevant. You work in a call center, you know there are a million metrics measuring your time. Someone who takes a few breaks on the clock is probably going to show up as less productive, right? But maybe he's super productive while on the clock, and the boss is okay with a super productive employee taking more breaks. Something that wouldn't be noticed I'd be more likely to report, at a somewhat lower significance level (though still pretty high).

Everything else I'd consider "not a good idea to take action on". If it doesn't impact you, and doesn't have a significant impact on the company, then it's probably not a good idea to take action. Even if it's a bit unfair that someone take advantage of the rules, not only are you going to end up in a bad relationship with some of your coworkers for "snitching", but you may be causing a problem by bringing it up officially. Companies often overlook small issues when they don't cause problems for the company overall - particularly with good performers - and prefer to ignore them, but can't ignore policy violations brought up officially.

As for handling things like this, in particular with 1), I would highly recommend talking to the coworker directly first. Anything that a coworker is doing that directly affects you (or your supervisees) is best brought up directly if possible. There may be some cases where this is infeasible to do in an appropriate way - but in most cases I find it's better. The other person may be unaware they're causing you grief.

If you bring it up simply, such as "Hi, You probably haven't noticed, but when you take the last cup of coffee and don't brew a new pot, it ends up meaning I can't have my morning brew for a good fifteen minutes. Could you try to start a new pot?", odds are the person isn't aware of the impact they're having and will try to fix. And if not - then you can handle it in other ways.

Of course, there are some situations this doesn't apply to (like stealing cash), but bringing up behaviors and showing how they impact you, you often can avoid official conversations. Things that don't affect you directly are probably better not to address this way - such as the employee not clocking breaks properly - unless you have a good personal relationship with them.

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