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Why tracking employee hours is dumb

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

We have a part-time pastor at our church who is required to work 30 hours a week. He has signed a contract that states he only works 30 hour weeks. He is an "exempt" employee.

He doesn't tell the personnel people in our church when he is on vacation or when he is taking sick leave. My question is, how do we know how to calculate his vacation and sick leave if he won't give us this information?

If it's important to track his hours, then tell him, "You need to fill out this time card, mark your hours, and indicate sick days and vacation time." And then if he doesn't do it, you fire him. Harsh? Sure. But if it's that important to you, then you have to make a consequence for disobeying. 

Does this solution sound stupid to you? I hope so, because it is stupid. 

So, stop and take a step back. Why is it important that you track an exempt employee? Is he not getting his work done? Is he not available when he's needed? Does he not show up for scheduled meetings? Has church attendance (or whatever he's responsible for) dropped? 

If any of the above is happening, are you attempting to fix the problem by tracking his hours? Lots of managers do that ("You're not getting your work done! Stop taking long lunches!") But the problem isn't the long lunch -- it's the not getting your work done. 

Instead of lowering the boom, sit down with him with him and say, "Pastor Bob, our parishioners expect someone to be in the church during posted hours. If you're not going to be here and we don't know, it can cause problems. For instance, last week the teen group leaders tried to hold their planning meeting, but couldn't get into the church because you weren't here and they didn't have a key."

Or: "One of the expectations of this job is that you visit any church member who is in the hospital. You didn't see the last person who was sick and she feels really neglected. She's been a member here for 22 years, and you dropped the ball on this one."

Or: "You are allotted 14 vacation days per year. When you're on vacation, the office staff needs to be aware, so we know how to direct your calls. It's a real problem if we leave a message on your voice mail and you don't pick it up for three days because you're on vacation or out sick."

What you're doing here is addressing the real problem. And for exempt employees, that isn't the number of hours they work or what time they come in the door; rather, it's the results of those actions that is the problem. 

The boss needs to sit down and address the actual problem, not the lack of time sheets. When you solve those issues, there will be no need for a time sheet. If you can't solve those problems, then perhaps he's not the right fit for the job.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

Photo courtesy of Flickr user William Warby

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