How Not to Be an A-hole When…

…Your Boss Changes Your Schedule at the Last Minute

Ok so as an employee I arrived to my scheduled shift of 4am- noon. How does one manage to not be an asshole when the manager who made the schedule says that she wants me to work 6-2 instead. I had already made plans after my shift like most do. I wouldn’t be nearly as upset and pissed if, say, I had been notified the day before of the schedule change instead of showing up on time and after having to commute to work.

That is so frustrating. That’s also two hours more sleep you could have gotten! If you ultimately started at six, did they pay you for the two hours you sat around waiting for your new shift to start?

In the Moment
If you have immovable plans (a doctor’s appointment), or simply plans that you don’t want to break (coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, a study group), you can try to decline. Be clear that you unfortunately need to leave at the original scheduled time because you have an obligation soon after your originally scheduled shift was to end. Acknowledge that your boss is in a tough spot, and that if you could shift your obligation you would. Unless she shares with you something from the employee handbook saying otherwise (more on this later), you changing your shift is more of a favor to her than an obligation.

Another option is to accept the schedule change now, but let your manager know that you need at least 24 hours notice for a shift change in the future. If they will not agree to that, or if company policy does not allow that, then you need to decide how important this is to you. If you think this is just a one-time (or maybe once or twice a year) situation, then it might be worth it to just go with it. However, if this manager or company has shown itself to take a mile when offered an inch, then perhaps it makes sense to accept the schedule change now but then start looking for work with another company that has a clear (and reasonable) policy about schedule changes

Longer Term
Depending on where you live, there may be some laws governing what an employer is allowed to do about schedule changes, especially at the last minute. Unfortunately, it appears that federal law offers no protection:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has no provisions regarding the scheduling of employees, with the exception of certain child labor provisions. Therefore, an employer may change an employee’s work hours without giving prior notice or obtaining the employee’s consent (unless otherwise subject to a prior agreement between the employer and employee or the employee’s representative).

Regardless of the law, as suggested above, you should look at the details from your employee orientation or handbook; there should be information in there about the scheduling rules of your company. It may say there that hours are subject to change with no notice, or a couple of hours notice, or something more reasonable.

If you find out that there are not rules allow for what your manager asked of you, and you don’t want to or can’t look for a different job, then you can try to bring this up the next time you have a meeting with you boss. Share your concerns, and explain, as you did in the moment, that you make appointments based on the schedule you are given, and that last-minute changes, while at times understandable, cannot be the norm. This works best if you have a solid history with the company – you don’t call out sick often without notice, you show up for your shifts on time, and you do the work well. If you aren’t reliable, then it’s hard for you to make a case that they must be reliable as well.

I am not currently working an hourly position, so if any readers are and have some suggestions I missed, please share them in the comments. 

Note: This was written assuming the advise seeker works for a for-profit company. Non-profit and government organizational missions might lead me to offer a different perspective.

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