Q: When I was hired, my boss (who does not work out of this office) told me I could choose the hours I wanted to work. But one of my colleagues, M., has started criticizing me for not clearing my schedule changes with everyone else in advance.

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Q: When I was hired, my boss (who does not work out of this office) told me I could choose the hours I wanted to work.

I chose to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My colleagues either work those hours or from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sometimes I have altered my schedule to suit my needs. Recently, for example, I came in at 7 a.m. so that I could leave early. I did not ask permission, because I was told that I could choose my hours. I know that others sometimes do the same thing. But one of my colleagues, M., has started criticizing me for not clearing my schedule changes with everyone else in advance. She is not my superior, but she is close to our boss. Now she says I need to “coordinate” any changes to my schedule ahead of time.

Others (including M.) come and go early and late without saying a word to me, so why should I not be able to do the same?

A: Your boss’ scheduling “system” sounds like a recipe for chaos. That’s not your fault. But giving your colleagues advance notice that you’ll be leaving early seems straightforward. If you don’t want to position this as asking for permission, state your plan as a fact, presented as a courtesy.

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This approach is likely to give you more autonomy. If you wait until you’re asked why you’re skipping lunch, you end up on the defensive. And even if your behavior is technically defensible, you come across (intentionally or not) as indifferent to the office at large.

It is not your job to think up a better scheduling scheme. But sometimes it’s easier to use your own better judgment to rise above a poorly designed system.

Submit questions to Rob Walker at workologist@nytimes.com.