A reader writes:
I am receiving mixed messages from my manager, and I’d really like it to stop.
When I accepted my current position a year ago, I was very clear that I am a solo parent to an infant and I’m unable to work a lot of overtime. I clearly stated I could do it a few times a year, but not regularly.
I’ve been asked to work the last six Saturdays in a row, which put me in a difficult position with my family situation, but I cheerfully worked those Saturdays and kept my mouth shut, hoping it would not continue. But now, every week around Wednesday or Thursday, my manager sends a coworker to me to ask me to work Saturday because our project is late. It rubs me the wrong way that my manager isn’t asking himself, but that is beside the point.
I emailed my manager and said, “Can you set my expectations on what you’d like from me schedule-wise through the end of the project? I’m specifically looking for information on when I will be needed outside of the standard core hours M-F.” His response was one sentence: “Please make those decision based on your project/team needs.”
Yet I continue to get emails each week from my coworker saying, “You are required to work X hours on Saturday.”
That doesn’t sound up to me. I really can’t work these Saturdays any longer. How can I navigate this? Is it time to move jobs because I can’t meet the schedule?
No, at least not yet. It’s time to go talk to your boss and be clearer about your situation.
It’s very possible that your boss has forgotten the conversation you had about overtime when you were hired a year ago, and it’s not fair to be this frustrated when you haven’t directly told him that these recent overtime expectations are in conflict with what you need and thought you had negotiated. People tend to expect that their managers will remember this kind of thing, but it’s pretty common for managers to forget — not because they’re flakes (although sure, sometimes that’s the reason) but because they’re juggling tons of other things and this isn’t foremost in their minds, especially 12 months later.
So the first thing to do is to remind him. Say this to him: “When you hired me, we agreed that because of my child care situation, I wouldn’t work overtime more than very occasionally — at the time, we said a few times a year but not more. I’ve worked Saturdays for the last six weeks because I know that you’re in a pinch, but I can’t continue to do it. What’s the best way to handle this?”
It’s possible that he’ll realize he forgot that and this will take care of the whole thing.
Or, it’s possible that your boss will say that things have changed since you first came on board, and that you really do need to work these extra hours. If that’s the case, you’ll have a couple of options:
* Agree, but ask for more information. Say something like, “I do want to help as much as I can, but I need to balance that with child care obligations. Can we talk about how long you expect this will be needed, so I can figure out how to manage my schedule? It’s easier for me to accommodate this if I know in advance and/or if I know how long we’ll be in this situation.”
* Decide that you can’t keep doing it, and say that. There’s a risk here that you could be told you either do it or lose your job, but whether that’s likely depends strongly on your standing, your dynamic with your boss, and the culture of your workplace in general. In some offices, this would be likely to get you fired. In many others, it wouldn’t. It’s also possible that there could be smaller consequences (in your raise, assignment, and general standing with your boss and/or your coworkers). You might be fine with that, or you might not — but this is stuff to factor into your thinking.
If you get the sense that this isn’t a short-term situation and is likely to continue for a while and/or crop up again in the future, then yes, it might also make sense to start job searching . But if your sense is that it’s really just a one-time thing that hasn’t been handled well, it might make more sense to just get through this project and see how things go after that.
But have a clearer conversation with your boss before concluding anything.