Our company has a strict policy that employees need to be in the office by 9:00am or they have to take a PTO day. I personally think this is absurd. (We're all professionals here, and I don't care if somebody rolls in late as long as they get all of their work done).

I've noticed one of my employees often comes in around 9:30am. He's an above average performer and I know he works late every day. I really don't want to give this employee a hard time about being late, especially since I don't care. He's doing a great job and I want him to continue doing whatever he is doing.

So in a situation like this, is it better to enforce company policy to be compliant? Or should I just quietly ignore this and pretend like I don't notice him coming in late? I'm new to management and I'm still trying to figure out what my greater responsibility is: ensuring company guidelines are met or creating a high functioning effective team?

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    I would have thought as an executive, you would have a greater say in changing silly policies which make no sense.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 3:58
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 2:36
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    I'm unsure if the questions you have posted are real-life problems or a form of episodic fiction..
    – jwg
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:25
  • Maybe there could be a canonical ("What to do if I find company policy XX suboptimal?") question which could then be used as duplicate target for such questions. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:49

7 Answers 7


So in a situation like this, is it better to enforce company policy to be compliant? Or should I just quietly ignore this and pretend like I don't notice him coming in late?

Neither :-).

You should certainly not blindly enforce a company rule if you think it is not good. But you should also almost certainly not go behind your superior's back by quietly ignoring a company policy. Doing that is both disrespectful to your superiors and denies them a chance to rethink their policy (plus if it ever comes out it's likely you, and possibly your employees, will face repercussions, possibly even a termination).

Instead, ask for an appointment with your immediate supervisor. Then:

  • Respectfully explain your concerns, just like you did in your question.
  • Ideally, also present a proposal how the policy could be changed (exception for some employees, exception for everyone, exception once per week...?).

Then, listen to the feedback you get, and proceed accordingly.

Ideally, your boss will agree with you, and together you'll find a better policy. Or, more realistically, your boss wil understand but say some time is needed to change the policy - in which case discuss an interim solution with boss and employees.

Or maybe the policy is set in stone and impossible to change. Then the matter is out of your hands, and you will have to enforce it. In that case you might want to re-evaluate whether this is still the right company for you - that's your decision.

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    As the OP seems to be relatively new in their position, the employee in question may already be an exception to the rule that they just don't know about. It might be worth investigating this first before discussing the rule in general. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:29
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    @TheLethalCoder This could very well be true. My company has some what the same policy, only for us it is 8 am (though they don't force you to take PTO) but it is pointed out and used against you. We have someone who comes in at 9 am though due to a previous agreement with a previous manager.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 18:22
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    Also, talk to the guy who comes in late, and tell him to try to obey the policy until you can actually get it changed. This lets him know that (A) you're protecting him, and (B) you're working to make his life better. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 20:23
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    I'd also avoid mentioning the employee by name when meeting your boss too, there's no need to throw them under the bus. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 12:38
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    And if you want to discuss the policy with your superiors, please keep the discussion about this only to you and your superiors. You don't want to be that guy who asks too many questions and gets others into some kind of inconvenience. There is a chance your management might say, "Do people actually don't follow our timings?. Then we should enforce it strictly". So even though the policy was already existing you could be the person who got the management to get it enforced. I hope you don't want to be known for that. Especially the new guy in the company
    – Max Payne
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 19:00

I broadly agree with the answer by @sleske but would add this :

If the employee has a regular habit of starting half an hour late but staying half an hour late as well, see if that can be made official for them, e.g. an exemption or a part of their contract. Also check if there is some specific reason (e.g. family commitment) for this behavior.

Remember that if other of your staff are subject to this rule and there's no clear grounds for it not be applied to this employee, it's likely to create resentment. Don't risk that for one employee without a serious issue at stake (like a big family responsibility you feel is worth fighting for).

Leaving the matter unaddressed is storing up trouble for the future. The longer you ignore it the more likely someone else (HR, your boss, other employees) will raise a big stink over it.

I'd quietly discuss the issue with your employee so they know that, while you're fighting for him, you may not win and they may have to change their habits. Explain to your boss why you'd like to seek a policy change or exemption.

Ultimately this is not your choice or theirs, it's a condition set by other people who have the responsibility to decide these matters. It's disrespectful to them to try and ignore them and, again, will simply result is a conflict that's pointless.

Trying to negotiate a change or an exemption for one person or your section is reasonable. But you must respect the people who made this policy in the first place as (presumably) doing so for good reasons, even if you don't agree with them.

Worse case scenario : you have to enforce the policy. It's your employee's right to either comply, fight it or leave if that happens. But your obligations are clear.

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    What contract is he likely to even have? Maybe things are different outside the US but most employees in the US do not have any contract.
    – Casey
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:35
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    @Casey It might be a location thing or an industry thing, but I've never had (or known anyone with) a "real" job without a contract, and even temporary part-time jobs usually have one. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:49
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    @JacobRaihle My experience is exactly the opposite. Some people might have NDAs, non-competes, etc., but certainly not a contract laying out all the terms of employment. At-will suits the purposes of most employers fine anyway.
    – Casey
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:50
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    Proper contracts avoid the legal ambiguity which leads to employees suing companies and companies suing employees (or reduces that likelihood a bit). It creates a more stable basis and framework for both companies and employees as there's a well defined basis and process for resolving issues that doesn't involve a nuclear option like fire or quit.. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 19:58
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    @DavidSchwartz: That is a function of the local laws though. I still think no contract seems crazy though. What's to stop your employer from just paying you half what you agreed if you have nothing in writing to confirm what was agreed? Contracts generally are there not just to give excuses to fire people but to make sure that both parties have the same understanding of the situation (which might include what sins are bad enough to be considered sackable offences).
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 20:33

I can offer a view from the other side of "the trenches" as it were. Several years ago, I was working for a call centre and would regularly roll up on the dot of 9 am which was fine to start with. This was somewhat problematic when the time of start was moved back 15 minutes to 0845 due to "prep time" concerns that higher ups had. Reliant on others as I was at the time, I struggled to adjust my timings, but my supervisor reacted by altering my work pattern by 15 minutes.

She had noticed that I was regularly taking the last calls of the day and even working on my lunch break, and as a hard worker, she didn't want to punish me unfairly when I was regularly working over and above the hours set.

She therefore moved my official working hours forward by 15 minutes, which suited all concerned. This may also be a solution which works for you. Iirc (and I may not!) I just had to sign an updated contract which had slightly different hours laid out.


No. You're never obliged to do anything. You have a choice to enforce that policy or not. The company, when they find out, has the choice to punish you or not for not following it. What's more important to you, keeping your job or being morally right? I'd pick the second any day of the week.

I would work to change the policy to one that makes more sense. And I would treat all of your employees the same way with respect to that policy (if you let one person ignore it, let all of them)- otherwise that could become a problem.

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    I agree with the last point, as long as it is more clearly "if you let one person ignore it and they are getting all their work done, let all of them - as long as they also get their work done." So treat them the same, providing they are actually the same. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 4:07
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    @thursdaysgeek I'd relativate the addendum "as long as they also get their work done". You should treat all employees the same and ignore such counterproductive policies. If they don't "get their work done" does it really matter if they've been in at 9:30 or 6:30?
    – Kempeth
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 6:42
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    how are "morals" related in any way here? there are any number of jobs where you "have to arrive at a certain time".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 11:05
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    -1 "You're never obliged to do anything"? You certainly are obliged to fulfill the contract you signed with the company (whose contents certainly fall in the "anything" category). "morally"? What does "moral" have to do with this?
    – AnoE
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:15
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    @Fattie It could be considered immoral to give a punishment that doesn't fit the crime. Being forced to take a day leave for being half an hour late is pretty harsh unless you were late for an important meeting or appointment (even for continued offences with adequate warning). There are also any number of jobs where you don't need to arrive at or before a specific time. If there was an obvious and strong motivation for the need to arrive at a specific time, OP probably wouldn't have asked this. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:11

I'd advise starting by talking to him about coming in later and trying to find out his motivation for doing that and how important it is to him. You can do this without being hard on him.

I've noticed you've been coming in at around 9:30 and also leaving a bit later. While this isn't something I personally have a problem with, we do have a policy about starting work at 9 sharp.

May I ask what your reason is for coming in at that time? Is it particularly important to you? If so, I'd be more than willing to ask the higher-ups to review this policy or make an exception for you if you want.

After this, if it's important to them, you have a few options: (modify the above appropriately and/or take into account the employee's response)

  • Speak to your supervisor and ask whether an exception or change can be made for this specific case.

    This may involve a change to the official work hours for that employee or a "yeah, you can probably just ignore that" and maybe "we didn't have this conversation".

    A positive outcome seems unlikely if the company enforces this policy particularly strictly, and if your request is declined, you'll basically be forced to enforce the policy or have a much higher risk of a much more severe action against you.

  • Discuss the policy in more generic terms with your supervisor.

    They may very well suspect this is regarding a specific employee or employees (if not you), which may lead to the above and/or a closer look at the working hours of those who report to you (if not your management quality as a whole).

  • Turn a blind eye.

    The simplest approach - just ignore it.

    This is the only option that, if found out, may actually put your job at risk or result in some other action against you by the company (in addition to an action against the employee in question), so do this at your own risk.

    If you want to lie about having known and not having done anything (which I wouldn't advise): Is it plausible for you to not know that this employee often comes in later than required (i.e. plausible deniability, which may or may not matter)? Is it plausible for the higher-ups to find this out at any point in the future, either by automated reviews of logs, looking for that employee specifically, possibly thanks to a meeting including them, just randomly strolling by their desk and seeing they're not there or someone just telling them? The answer to the latter question is probably "yes".

  • Enforce the policy.

    Within reason, a happy employer is probably more important than a happy employee.

  • Get a job without such strict policies.

    That's probably a bit extreme, but just putting it out there.


You said: "I'm new to management and I'm still trying to figure out what my greater responsibility is: ensuring company guidelines are met or creating a high functioning effective team?"

Your responsibility is to do what's best for the company. Which would be creating a high functioning effective team.

A company guideline that prevents you from doing that is plain idiotic. You might have a supervisor who insists that you do things that are plain idiotic. Doing what's best for your company might have negative consequences for you in the company. If that turns out to be the case then you'll have a personal decision to make.

BTW. You can't make me take a day off. When I travelled to work, and arrived a bit late, either I'll be working and you are going to pay me, or you fire me. If a company has idiotic rules like that, either the rules are ignored, or the rules are changed, or the company will quickly run out of decent employees.

  • While that's true for you and me not everyone is as lucky as us to be able to pick and choose jobs. Someone in a more precarious situation might not be so willing to put their job on the line.
    – Tim B
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 15:12

I would ask my boss why such a draconian policy is in place. What is the history behind it? There must have been a reason, and does that reason still exist? I would also suggest it is probably not legal, and even if legal, it is certainly counter-productive. Would you really force someone to take PTO for being one minute late??? Not only would you lose the employee for the day, they may not come back tomorrow. I wouldn't.

I've seen plenty of ridiculous policies in employee manuals over the years, but most of them are there for some specific reason that seemed reasonable at the time. An employee or employees did something bad that caused a reaction from management, and those reactions are not necessarily reasoned or rational (or legal). Maybe that was years ago, and things are completely different now. Unless you work at company that regularly reviews its policies (good luck with that), then it takes people like you to point out which policies are ridiculous and outdated and should be removed.

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