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When A Co-worker Thinks You're Leaving Early (But You're Leaving On Time!)

It's been a long day filled with meetings, conference calls and demanding customers, but now it's quitting time!

You're making a beeline for the door when a work peer lays on the guilt trip. "Hey, you're bailing on us early again, I see," this co-worker says. "Aren't you going to stay for the 4:30 meeting? It starts in 30 minutes." Let's talk about the co-worker who can't seem to understand that you start work a few hours before they do!

Dealing with Colleagues Who Don't Understand Your Schedule
You've been in this awkward position many times before, reminding the Time Warped Colleague that you always -- always! -- leave at this time of day because you start work hours before they do. "No, I won't be at the meeting," you answer. "I got here at 7 a.m., and I'm done for the day. See you guys tomorrow!"

"It must be nice to be able to leave two hours early and miss important afternoon meetings when there's a lot of work to do," this colleague says. "See ya."

Grr. Having to defend yourself against the Time Warped Colleague's perceptions of office time and space begins to grate after awhile. No, you will not be attending today's 4:30 meeting, because you attended the 7:30 meeting this morning. You were knee deep in work while this co-worker was still at home deciding which pair of socks to wear!

It doesn't seem to sink in for the Time Warped Colleague, however, that you're not lazy -- you simply work a different schedule! Their 10 to 6 is your 7 to 4. You're putting in a full day, and then some! Funny how their 4:30 meeting seems to be the only meeting that counts, too.

Haven't we all worked with someone like this? What's going on here, and how can you effectively send the message that you're not, in fact, leaving "early" when you're leaving on time?

Welcome to a common workplace annoyance. It should be easy for our colleague to make a note of it -- Jane works 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., so she's not around if somebody schedules a 4:45 p.m. status update meeting -- but the message isn't getting through somehow. Maybe it's a time management issue for this colleague, or it's a passive-aggressive ploy to appear more productive than co-workers who work a different schedule? Perhaps it's difficult for the Time Warped Colleague to see things from somebody else's perspective?

Proposing fewer meetings or sending summary emails in lieu of meetings would be wonderful, but it's probably not very realistic in a global, 24/7 economy. More realistic is to know how to deal with the Time Warped Colleague who thinks you're always leaving early after you've put in a full day, and always lets you know it!

How to Deal With the Time Warped Colleague
So how should you interact with these co-workers? Here are five tips for dealing with co-workers who give you a bad time for leaving "early" when you're actually leaving on time:

1. Remind this colleague about your schedule. Is the Time Warped Colleague at it again? Tell them what your work schedule is -- again. Spell it out, frequently, until they get the message. "I work 6 to 3, remember? I start work three hours before you do. Hope the 4:30 meeting goes well. See you tomorrow!"

2. Tell them about the early morning meetings they missed. You're not going to their late afternoon meeting because you were at the early bird meeting where you got a leg up on what the day would bring. Oh, this colleague wasn't at that meeting because they didn't start work until 9 a.m.? Bummer. Well, you can fill in any missing details for them. Your meetings are just as important as their meetings.

3. Tell them what you did before they arrived at work. If the Time Warped Colleague gives you a bad time about leaving "early," then you might find a way to casually mention what you did early this morning while they were still snoring. You put new toner in the copier and filled it with paper first thing this morning because nobody bothered to do it last night before leaving for the day, and so on. Oh, and did your colleague see the sunrise this morning? It was simply glorious. Traffic was such a disaster at 6 a.m., they should be glad they missed it!

4. Tell them to quit it. You might have to drive home the point by saying what you really think. If you want to be snarky, then say: "If you want to start leaving 'early' too, then you can get here at 6 a.m. like I do every day." If this colleague's constant comments are getting to you, then you have a right to ask them to stop commenting on your schedule. Look for compromise where you can, too. They will update you on the 4:30 meeting, and you'll let them know what happened in the 7 a.m. meeting! This way, you both stay on track.

5. Ask them what it's like to sleep in on a weekday. If you work a crack-of-dawn, Monday-through-Friday schedule, then it's probably been ages since you've slept in on a weekday, right? Sure, they may point out how they work until 7 p.m., but you were here working at 7 a.m. It all evens out somehow.

Are these suggestions a bit, um, sarcastic? Yes they are, but this colleague also refuses to acknowledge your work schedule. You shouldn't be made to feel badly for leaving at your scheduled quitting time, which is different from your co-worker's scheduled quitting time. And no, you still will not be attending the 4:30 meeting.


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