Q. One of my coworkers ratted me out for leaving early when my manager was not here, but I always get my work done and I have never missed a deadline. My manager is not happy with me, and I know I need to win back the trust. How do I do this?
A. Unfortunately the old saying “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it” applies here. Managers never like hearing reports of bad behavior (like leaving early) when they aren’t there – it reflects poorly on them. A mistake like this is not the end of the world if it is handled properly. But before we suggest a solution, we need to diagnose the problem—what is causing you to leave early>?
Is this a one-time occurrence or a pattern? Perhaps it was a beautiful afternoon for a round of 18 or a walk through the park. Everyone has experienced the urge to leave early and get a jump on their evening. If this is the case then the solution is simple: fess up. Even the least flexible managers will understand. Although he/she will not be thrilled that you left, they will appreciate that you took ownership of your actions. Emphasize that you are sorry and you are willing to make up the time you missed.
Were you bored? Were you sitting in your office with nothing to do? This could be the sign of a bigger problem. Everyone has slow days, but if you leave work early because you have a lack of assignments or responsibilities then maybe you aren’t in the right place. A busy day is a rewarding day. If you don’t have enough challenging work that you own, or your manager is not giving you enough to do, then it might be time to start looking for another job.
Do you think you’ll do your work from home? Again, if that is the case, a conversation with your manager about working remotely on occasion may be needed. Don’t expect a yes. It might work for your manager and organization, and it might not.
Do you feel entitled to leave when you complete an assignment? If your boss is not in the office and you completed an assignment then the urge to leave for the day may arise. Take a break; take a walk. Just because you completed a task does not give you the right to sneak out of the office. Would you leave if your boss was there? A business could not function if everyone left when they felt like it. Although your boss might not be present, you still owe the company your time and attendance in the office.
Was it for logistical reasons? Many bosses will accommodate employees that want to move their workday by a few hours. If you are struggling with the logistics of getting to and from the office, just say so. Explain to your manager that there is a more convenient train you want to catch, or that you want to beat traffic on the highway. Instead of leaving early, collaborate with your manager and adjust your hours to better suit your life.
There are many reasons why employees leave early when the boss is not there. As a rule of thumb, honesty is always the best policy. First, be honest with yourself—what caused you to leave the office early? Additionally, be honest with your boss—it is your best chance at rebuilding and deserving their trust.