How to Leave Work Without Looking Like a Slacker

Jocelyn Greenky, an office culture and politics expert and author of The Big Sister’s Guide to the World of Work, offers smart tips for navigating potential sticky situations involving less face time at the office.

Open white office space

Know your workplace's "Office Time Zones," or when the leaders come in and when they leave.

It may be the norm for people to duck out of the office a little early a day here or there during the hectic holiday season, but calling it quits before the rest of your team on a regular basis can do serious damage to your work reputation. Jocelyn Greenky, an office culture and politics expert and author of The Big Sister’s Guide to the World of Work, says it’s important to be aware of what calls “Office Time Zones,” or when the leaders show up to work and leave, and abide by them. However, there are certain unavoidable situations that happen that can cause you to have less overall face time at the office than may be typical or than you’ve shown in the past. Below are three common scenarios that may change when you leave the office, and Jocelyn’s smart strategies for handling with grace.

Scenario #1: You work in an office culture where people typically stay late to finish projects but you have to leave at a set time because of family demands, such as picking up a child from daycare. What do you do?

How to Handle:  “Two words: Be honest.  Sit down with both your boss and HR contact and describe, with sincerity, the challenges that you are facing personally.  Hopefully, your work showcases the star that you are. This should fly easily if you have a history of producing on time and mostly flawlessly; demonstrate that you easily handle your responsibilities; and if you are well-liked within the organization. After all, you can’t get fired for leaving on time. Rather, you get fired for passive/aggressive behavior and crappy work.

If you need to leave early for an extended period of time, it would be up to the company senior executives and a set policy based upon your tenure just how much time they will give you to sort out your life. Negotiating working from home for two days a week for a short period of time may do it also.  Walking into a meeting with options for the executives to choose from would be instrumental to get what you want and to give to your personal life what you need.”


Scenario #2: You’ve become your boss’s go-to person for late-night, last-minute requests, but it’s leaving you drained. How do you leave the office when everyone else does without losing favor?

How to Handle: “Is “everyone else” working for your boss? If not, buckle up my friend and get cozy with a cup of Joe at the end of the day.  If you like your boss and your job, hang in there as it will pay off.  Having the confidence, insight, and trust from a boss—depending on personal stage you are in—is an incredibly fortunate place to be.   There is so much you will be exposed to and be able to take wherever your pretty self goes to next.  Often times, relationships like that last forever and he/she will take you with her/him when they leave or get promoted.  However, if your candle is truly burnt out, I would tell the boss you’re taking a class (and then go do it) and need to leave three days a week by X time.  Don’t cut back to 5 p.m. for a few months.  The boss depends on you and you may be on a fabulous ride of your career.”


Scenario #3: You or your loved one has an on-going health issue, so you can’t exactly schedule what needs to happen in terms of care. How do you show that you’re a dedicated employee even when you’re not going to be able to give the same amount of face time that you did in the past?

How to Handle: “Ug.  That stinks.  Pressure, stress, worry ….don’t forget to take care of yourself first, such as by exercising, watching movies, or taking care of your animals. Being able to think with a clear head will help you make the best decisions moving forward, no matter what’s going on at work.  Your dedication to your job and career has probably already showed itself as superb.  With that said, do the best you can.  That’s all anyone can ask of you.  Don’t show up late when you say you will be on time, attempt to smile when you’re at the office, and allow colleagues to help you get through your projects.  The chips are going to fall where they will in this case.  Keeping your sanity is most important.  If you don’t have your sanity and cool at work, the slope will be slippery.  Make sure you’re always updating your boss and HR.  They want and deserve to know how much time is required from you to take care of your family, and your expected end to your MIA face at work.  That’s fair for them and for you.”