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Someone’s Going To Pay For This

, , , , , | Working | CREDIT: typhaona | December 9, 2020

I have a nine-to-five salaried job with overtime pay. I’m living in Europe, and in my country, this is the standard. The job is okay and the colleagues and the working environment are nice. Even my boss is competent and nice. My office has a fluid attendance, where we only HAVE to be there during the core times — 10:00 am to 2:00 pm — but can work whenever we want to, as long as we do our 38.5 hours a week.

I’m not a morning person, so I regularly come in shortly before 10:00 am; therefore, I have to stay later. No problem, because during the core time, I still can talk about important things with the others, and in the evening, I just write emails. I always do my work and get no complaints.

My boss, on the other hand, is a lark and is there at 7:45 sharp every day. One of my jobs is being an assistant to her for many little things, but it has clear limitations, so it is more like general assistance to my small department. And even though she KNOWS I will come in to be ready to work at 10:00 am, she calls me several times a week at 9:00 am on my way to work to talk about the plans for the day. Those calls last between fifteen and twenty-five minutes and are like a stand-up meeting, only she is drinking her coffee and I am not really awake yet. (No worries; I use public transport.)
She starts with this only after I am several months in and it gets worse over time, until she calls me every single day on my way to work, while I actually want to read my books and slowly ease myself into a working mode. It gets so bad that I always wear my headset so my arm won’t get tired while phoning.

Over the months, I try several times to raise her awareness that I do not actually like this and that it maybe could wait until I get there, but she never understands and calls them “just a jour fixe.” This is French for “fixed day” and is a short regular meeting about the status quo. Team members report how far they are and what their next job is.

Maybe I am too friendly about it, but I’ve learned from experience with previous bosses that they are not happy about criticism. When I try to leave a little earlier because of the extra time in the morning, she gets wind of that.

Boss: “You need to work your full hours, because those jour fixes are just phone calls.”

Then, I try to roll my cadaver out of bed earlier, so the call at 9:00 am will count as work time, but I am groggy all day and it hurts my productivity. And I swear to God, after a week, my boss starts calling me even earlier, again on my way to work! When I try to send her to the mailbox, she calls me several times, as if it was an emergency just to talk about the plans of the day, her agenda, and some to-dos for me — which I already know about. I just give up and it still wrecks my nerves. Until…

One day, I have an actual important question that cannot wait, but my boss is already gone for the day. I write an email. She does not answer for an hour. Then, once, I call her during her time off, because this thing really needs to be done today. It is quite short, but she ends the call with:

Boss: “Just for the future: I don’t like to be called during my time off, so please ask me while I am still at work.”

And then she just hangs up.

That is it. From that day on, I write up those calls as working time. We log our time in Excel sheets that I have to convert to the appropriate salary forms at the end of the month, so my boss does not see them. I have an hour a week of extra overtime, so at least I get paid for that.

Then, at the end of the next month, I have several days on which I work longer than the legally allowed maximum work hours per day. I fill out the forms at the end of the month, having several days in red, and send them to HR. They know this is a problem because the fines are quite hefty if the bureau of finances sees that. First, they ask me what those irregular times each morning are and tell me to answer my emails in the office, so this will not happen again. When I tell them what those weird times were and what I tried, they become very polite and end the call pretty quickly.

During the call from the boss the next morning:

Boss: “I have a meeting with HR today. I assume it’s just about some new laws.”

She comes back from the meeting red in the face. HR seems to have ripped her a new one.

Boss: *Sheepishly* “Are those morning calls really such a hassle for you?”

And FINALLY, she listens when I tell her that I am quite groggy in the morning and that an email would suffice because I generally know my to-dos. If she wants jour fixes, I will happily have them while AT work and with my own coffee.

To end this on a happy note: we got along nicely after that, and I could talk a little bit more openly with her. She still liked her jour fixes, but we did them at 10:00 am, when I had arrived at work and was actually awake.