I am working on a book for managers/supervisors. One of the areas I will be writing about is expectations of what an employee knows. There was a time when workers coming into the work force could be expected to have certain basic knowledge but our schools have fallen down in preparing people for the real world of business.
A family member who had just graduated from college and gotten her first job in the professional world told us about an incident she had on her first day. She was told she would be working an eight hour work day. She showed up at 8:00 am, went to lunch at noon, was back by 1:00 and started packing up to leave at 4:00 having successfully completed her first day on the job. A co-worker asked her where she was going. She said, home. It’s been eight hours. Her co-worker told her that the end of the day was 5:00 pm, the one hour lunch was on the employee’s time, not the company’s time. My family member laughed about it when she was telling us but she also said she had been extremely embarrassed when it happened.
We all laughed about this incident but the truth is it really should have been explained to her. That company knows they don’t provide a paid lunch time, most companies don’t, but some do. That they don’t give a paid lunch time was treated as if it was something she should have known. Well the company knows it but people coming into the business for the first time don’t have that knowledge. It was a failing on their part. In fact any company that doesn’t get out of the habit of assuming people who are new to the workforce automatically understand how everything works, is going to have quite a few misunderstandings with their employees.
Just to show how silly it is to assume everyone understands how lunch breaks work let me ask a few questions. If you work through your lunch break does your company allow you to leave early? If you work through your lunch break and leave at the regular time does your company pay you for the additional hour of work you did? If so, how do they document that you worked through your lunch? If your company gives comp (compensatory) time instead of paid time, do you get 1 hour of comp if you work straight through your lunch and leave at the regular time? Do they let you take only a 30 minute lunch break and allow you to accumulate (gather or build up) the other 30 minutes as comp time?
If you are just starting with a company for the first time would you be able to answer those questions? This is the kind of information that is the responsibility of the business to give. Whether it’s the HR department’s or the supervisor’s responsibility depends on how the company has it set up but no matter what, it’s the responsibility of the business. In my family member’s case they failed her, they unintentionally put her in a position to be embarrassed. That doesn’t inspire confidence but I don’t mean to come down hard on the company. The ones who should have told her are people and people make mistakes.
As long as it was an innocent mistake it should be put aside, relegated to a funny story told to family members that you know think the world of you and chalked up as a learning experience.