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My current workplace has a policy where we are allowed to have a lot of flex time, we generally just have to ask the boss/check with project managers if we want to leave early and then make the time up later. My coworkers and I use this for everything from sporting events to concerts, we're just asked to not abuse it.

However, a lot of what I do in my free time is potentially controversial activism. I'd guess nobody would have a problem with it, but regardless I'd prefer to keep my politics seperate from my work. When I make a request to leave early/work an irregular schedule, my boss often reasonably asks what I want to leave early for. I'd prefer to not lie and get caught in a lie, though I know getting caught would be unlikely, and telling the truth could lead to a political debate I don't want. Up to this point I've been using euphemisms and half truths like, "I told my friends I could help them out at that time."

How can I best answer this question politely and without risking political tensions?

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    Do you have to give any reason at all for this flex time? – WorkerDrone Aug 23 '16 at 17:42
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; the conversation about politics in the workplace has been moved to chat. @JohnDoe, if you think any of your responses are generally relevant, please edit them into the question. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '16 at 17:29
  • Just my opinion but I'd call that abusing it. – Matt Aug 24 '16 at 22:31
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Your boss doesn't need to know exactly what you are doing.

At my workplace we would call this a "Personal Appointment" or a "P/A." When asking for flex time off I don't generally include any details about the P/A other than when it is happening, and how available I will be while it is ongoing.

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    I agree with this. I've worked at a place before where if you told them that you needed time off for a personal appointment, they not only did not push for more, but weren't allowed to ask for more detail. – Ethan The Brave Aug 23 '16 at 17:08
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    This is also easier to negotiate when you're already ahead of the curve instead of having to "make the time up later". If your work is ahead of schedule then asking for flex time off for a "Personal Appointment" is a no brainer. If your work is behind then asking for flex time off becomes trickier. – Nomic Aug 24 '16 at 2:08
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    I'd add this: What would you tell your boss if you needed time off to interview for a different job? Whatever you'd answer for that is probably a reasonable answer to this question. – Justin Lardinois Aug 24 '16 at 7:41
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    I'd stay away from personal appointment, but the idea is sound. The reason I would stay away from that is it leaves it open to speculation. That's fine, but if your already not comfortable saying where your going, you really don't want them filling in the blank. Try a "social event" or "some friends getting together" or even just a "meetup" or "gathering". The idea I'm trying to get across is basically the second comment to your post. You don't want someone filling in the blank, so find a balance between nothing and too much that gives them something, but not your controversial activity. – coteyr Aug 24 '16 at 12:29
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    @coteyr I think opening things to speculation is kind of the point. You have something you want to do on your personal time; whether its a gathering, a political rally, or playing video games is none of the employers business. The idea here is to be as vague as possible. – Andy Aug 24 '16 at 15:12
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I told my friends I could help them out at that time.

This is likely the best answer you can give. Most employees are quite happy not to pry, as I'm sure everyone has a "controversial activity" they'd rather keep to themselves.

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    Yes. Simply visiting the Dr. can be a private activity. – MikeP Aug 23 '16 at 18:00
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    To make it a bit more truthful without giving the game away, substitute "comrades" for "friends". : ) – Grimm The Opiner Aug 24 '16 at 8:06
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    I asked for November 3rd and 4th of 2008 off, saying "I'm helping my friend Barry get a new job." I think the boss appreciated the joke: I was getting people to the polling places in the big U.S. election that year. – catfood Aug 24 '16 at 16:23
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I'd be very VERY careful with this one.

If you can bow out, do so. As you said "we're just asked to not abuse it." if there is any chance that this could be viewed as abuse, you will be in trouble, possibly terminated. Basically, it would be seen as using a company perk to cause mischief, and they would take a very dim view of it.

If what you're doing is controversial, and your company essentially enables you by changing your schedule to accommodate this activity, and it gets back to them, it could be the end of your career at that company.

The counter argument, of course is that you're doing it on your own time, which is factually correct, but it won't stop hard feelings, especially if it runs counter to the corporate culture.

Also, be cautious in allowing anyone to know who you work for, as that may be leaked or exploited. We've all seen careers ruined by a 30 second YOUTUBE clip or careless tweet. A quick bing search can give plenty of examples. So, behave as if you were representing your company, because if you're caught on tape, that will be EXACTLY how your company sees it.

I probably don't agree with whatever your cause is, but I don't like seeing people being fired for their beliefs either. If you can bow out of this one, I would strongly recommend it. You do not want to compromise your company or your career. However, if you decide to go through with it, follow my above advice.

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The "told my friends I'd help out" answer is good. You could also say that you're involved with a "humanitarian organization", or any good, truthful adjective that throws the scent off the ideas of "activist" or "political". Don't give your boss the (figurative) hammer to nail you with.

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