When i worked as a summer temp during college, I documented my time manually. I would put in the exact time, such as 8:03, or 12:12, thinking I was being completely honest — not stealing any minutes here. This was despite the fact that my supervisor asked me to round my times. In retrospect, I see that my quest to be “honest” might have been annoying for payroll.

So now I’m not against rounding. But I did hear something at a recent fleet conference that reminded me about my ridiculous rounding habits as well as workplace culture.

Minor Transgressions

Mileage rounding is nothing new. As in drivers rounding up their mileage when submitting reimbursement sheets, with some rounding so far up that it’s more like adding or doubling than rounding.

Working at a company in which we provide printouts of the driving route (along with mileage) with our reimbursements, I hadn’t realized rounding still happens.

I can see some minor transgressions as something you learn from your coworkers. You learn something is acceptable because it’s what everyone does, or because the boss is fine with it. And that’s not a terrible thing. If we followed every single rule imposed upon us, we might lead very boring lives.

But there’s a difference between regular rounding and, well, cheating. Some people will always take advantage of opportunities they see, but for the rest of us, what we do is determined by what we see around us and decide is “normal.”

Supervisors Set the Tone

I spoke to a fleet manager who discussed breaks during work hours. One of his technicians was used to taking an extra break — outside his allotted break time — to smoke a cigarette. The fleet manager confronted the technician, who said the previous supervisor had always allowed this. Not on his watch, this fleet manager responded, and the extra breaks stopped.

Fleet managers can help define the workplace culture. If they are confident their employees are productive, they may allow more flexibility. If they’re seeing things aren’t running smoothly, they might start enforcing more rules or making bigger changes.

A flexible schedule can make a lot of people’s lives easier. But obviously, flexibility doesn’t mean a laissez-faire attitude about what goes on in the workplace. If there is harassment or theft or other shady things going on, the manager should step in to make sure it stops.

It’s Always About Taxpayer Dollars

For anything having to do with public fleets, it always comes back to taxpayer dollars. Because public fleets are under public scrutiny, they always have to be aware of costs and how things are viewed.

An extra break might seem insignificant, but an auditor might flag it. A few miles rounded up might seem like nothing, but it can add up to a significant sum. A long lunch or a couple of stops in a fleet car on the way somewhere might seem innocuous, until a news van starts following you around and documenting (and later broadcasting) your stops while talking about government waste. It’s no fun when the information requests come in and your work e-mails are sent out to journalists and auditors seeking wrongdoing.

Fleet managers, as the head of their departments or divisions, can make changes to the work culture — along with heads of user departments. But they do have to walk a fine line between a work environment that’s not overly restrictive and one that passes public scrutiny.

Have you encountered this or made any changes to your workplace culture?

thi.dao@bobit.com

Author

Thi Dao
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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