I worked all weekend and then got charged a vacation day

A reader writes:

I started a new job about a month ago as an exempt employee in a professional services firm. A major project in my department was due this past Monday. As of Friday afternoon, the project was nearly complete but needed a few finishing touches. Unfortunately, the person who had been working on the project was going out of town that weekend for an event that could not be changed (family wedding), so my boss asked for another volunteer from the department to take care of the final details. Figuring this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the department’s work, and also build goodwill with my boss and new colleagues, I volunteered.

We agreed that I would come in on Saturday morning at 8 am, and that the project should be finished by about noon. However, around the late morning, my boss abruptly decided that he was unhappy with the work my colleague had done, and that everything would need to be redone from scratch. I quickly cleared my schedule for the weekend (canceling a couple of my own personal commitments) and worked as quickly as I could, straight through the weekend. I finally finished at 6 am Monday morning (46 straight hours of work with no sleep and only a few short breaks of 5-10 minutes to get some air and clear my head). My boss was extremely happy with my work and thanked me profusely for my efforts.

Here is the problem: after completing the project, I headed home to get some rest (after confirming with my boss that it was okay to do so). I crashed and slept all day until the late afternoon, and then logged on remotely around 4 pm and worked until 9 pm. The company policy is that to avoid being charged leave for the day, exempt employees need to work at least 4 hours between the core hours of 10 am and 4 pm (either remotely or in the office). I assumed that an exception would be made given that working during those hours on Monday would have been pretty much physically impossible given my marathon work session, but was informed on Tuesday that I would be charged a vacation day. My boss is also upset with me – he stated that when he said I could go home and get some rest, he assumed I would just clean up, take a nap, and start working again by noon (he didn’t explicitly state this expectation; I assumed, obviously erroneously, that I was entitled to a reasonable rest period after working for nearly two days straight).

I definitely feel that this situation falls under the “no good deed goes unpunished” category. If this situation arises again, how should I handle it differently next time so that I don’t end up with an angry boss and/or lost vacation time? I really want to make this job work, but I honestly don’t know if I’m physically capable of meeting these kinds of expectations.

Wow. Your boss is thinking really short-term here — if he thought more carefully, he’d realize that he just destroyed (a) the good feeling that you were left with after pitching in, doing a good job, and being vocally appreciated — something that builds loyalty and generally drives people to do a good job in the future, and (b) your willingness to ever work like this again.

As for what to do about it now…

Ideally, when he told you that Tuesday that you would need to take a vacation day for that Monday (a day that you worked five hours — hardly a vacation day), you would have raised this then, saying something like: “I understand the normal requirement on this. However, I worked 46 straight hours over the weekend without sleeping in order to cover for someone else. And then I worked another five on Monday. Charging me a vacation day for Monday doesn’t make any sense to me, and doesn’t seem to recognize that I put in a total of 51 hours between Saturday and Monday. 51 hours of work shouldn’t equate to me being charged a vacation day. Is there a way to resolve this?”

When you have this conversation, I’d start with the assumption that he hasn’t fully thought this through and/or processed exactly how many hours you worked that weekend, rather than believing he has — since you want your tone to be collaborative, not pissed off (even though you have every right to be pissed off — who wouldn’t be?).

It’s now a week later, but you could still have that conversation if you wanted to. You could go to him now and say, “Now that I’m better rested, I wanted to talk to you about this” and then say the above.

If he has any sense at all, he’ll realize how absurd his earlier statement was, and you’ll get your vacation day back. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll have just learned something very valuable about your new boss, and can factor that into your thinking the next time he asks for volunteers for ungodly amounts of weekend work.

(By the way, I’d recommend against ever working for 46 hours without sleeping. That’s a recipe for overlooking errors, crashing your car on your way home, etc. Unless you are a surgeon saving lives or Vince Gilligan, work rarely warrants that. Get some sleep.)

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat*

    Wow, when I saw the title I thought it was going to be something like the OP took the following Friday off, which is more ambiguous for an exempt employee. This is just a horrible way to treat employees who you want to go above and beyond for you.

  2. John*

    OP should be granted a couple comp days. Geez.

    I favor AAM’s assumption that boss doesn’t realize how much work was involved and that, with some education, will come around.

    1. Jessa*

      Hopefully. But given the rule about core hours, someone is probably being completely picky and will insist “the rule is x you can’t do anything but x because the next person will take advantage if we make an exception from the rule. You did not do x so sorry.”

  3. Anonymous*

    First, never do that again… If I read that correctly, no one else was there with you when you where there for those 46 hours. I do understand that you are trying to make a good impression in your new job, but no reasonable person (including a boss or their boss) should expect this amount of work. I think that you may also want to discuss with your boss possible alternatives to avoid this situation in the future and hope that he will correct your co-worker’s “bad work” so that you are not taking up the slack for this person (I would tell what happened BTW). I would also say that if he doesn’t comply with not charging you a vacation day for a week’s worth of work over a weekend, that you should promptly take this to HR (if you have one). If not, I hope that you decide that your safety and well-being is MUCH MORE important than getting the work done. The work will still be there on Monday and if something happens to you as a result of working too much. I’ve been there and now work falls into #4 on my list of life priorities. Good luck!

  4. COT*

    Wow. I’ve been lucky enough to have several good bosses, and I can’t imagine any of them taking a vacation day when I worked five hours after working the entire weekend (though my workplace’s PTO policies have usually been a bit more flexible than yours). They probably would have told me to take a comp day or two after a weekend like that!

    I would assume that your boss wasn’t in the office for all 46 hours that you were. Maybe he just hasn’t really done the math about how much you worked (over 90 hours in an eight-day span). I’d approach him like Alison suggests, but I’d also apologize for not getting clarification before you went home and not telling him that you planned to start work again that evening. (I wouldn’t have thought to ask about it advance either, given how exhausted you must have been.) That might help smooth over his frustration with you.

    If he stands by his original decision, that definitely tells you something about your boss.

  5. Jillyan*

    Please update us on this! Your boss is a moron. Just keep practicing what you will say to him as many times as you can without getting emotional and then discuss this with him. Say exactly what AAM told you, it’s perfectly to the point.

    Most bosses would be THRILLED to have had an employee go above and beyond and basically save the day. Hearing things like this is why many employees will only follow the bare minimum of their job requirements.

    1. Rebecca*

      You nailed it. The next time this happens (and with this boss, there will be a next time), boss man is going to find himself out on a limb because no one will be available.

      If the boss won’t reconsider the vacation day charge, if I were the OP, I’d have a ready list of elderly relatives who need help, weddings, funerals, anything to use as an excuse not to do this again.

      I’m not sure my manager would stoop this low, and that’s saying something.

      1. Jillyan*

        Yeah I agree only you don’t even need to give an excuse for something like this. It’s the weekend, during non-business hours.

        Also I just noticed the Vince Gilligan reference! Why would anyone work through a weekend where one of the greatest shows ever ended??

        1. Cat*

          I watch Breaking Bad the day after, streaming, on Amazon. All day at work I was like ahhhh, why didn’t I call in sick to watch the finale and then read blogs about it all day?

          1. Elkay*

            I watch the day after and thought on the way to work I should have called in sick grabbed the cats and settled down in front of the TV!

          2. Beth*

            Funny, we do this too. I had to be on a media blackout all day to make sure I didn’t accidentally encounter any spoilers.

  6. Jane Doe*

    However, around the late morning, my boss abruptly decided that he was unhappy with the work my colleague had done, and that everything would need to be redone from scratch.

    This was where I started rolling my eyes. In my experience, this means that he was either not looking at anything your coworker was doing (which is fine as long as you’re prepared to accept the result) or is the kind of person who changes his mind on things at the last minute. Sure, sometimes good employees who don’t normally need supervision turn in bad work, but I can’t help wondering whether your coworker received feedback on the project as they went along.

  7. EJ*

    I think we can lay off the OP for doing the work. In my experience with professional services, somtimes these sorts of demands just came up. And is even expected of junior positions (which it sounds like might be the case here). I’m not saying it’s right or fair, but it is an expectation. That said occasions should be rare and definitely followed with at least one ‘freebie’ day off.

    OP, for next time, you could try a few things:
    – set firm stop times for the day (for example, “I can stay until 6 but then I’m expected at home / at an appointment / at a family event”). And remind your manager throughout the day that you have a hard stop.
    – when it’s all over, confirm the expectation for when you’ll be coming back (for example, “joe, I’ve been up for 46 straight hours, so I will need to go home and get at least 8. I will send you a note when I’m back online”)
    – you can also discuss this as part of project billing, if it was client work, by asking whether they’d prefer that you bill the time on the day it was spent (on the weekend) or if they would prefer that you bill it during the upcoming week. This is one way to get around not being able to record hours for the day, by carrying forward hours, if they allow it.
    – provide periodic effort estimates and hours expended as you go (for example, “joe, here’s the lates draft. And just by way of an update, I’ve spent 6 hours so far on X, Y and I expect to need another 5 hours to finish up Z that you asked for”.

    Definitely bring it up with your manager as AAM suggested, in a way that isn’t whiny but addresses tht you’ve actually been penalized for this favour. There’s a very good chance your boss doesn’t grasp the number of hours you put in, so it’s always good to spell it out.

    1. WorkingMom*

      Well said – sometimes long hours are just part of the gig. However, it’s completely reasonable to expect some earned “down time” once the project is delivered to the client.

    2. Anon*

      Depending on the industry, “hours smoothing” (i.e., billing hours on a day other than actually worked) may not be permitted. That kind of thing is typically considered a little shady no matter what the industry.

      1. EJ*

        There are legitimate reasons for hour smoothing – facilitating easy time off in lieu, without waiting for official HR approvals, is one.

        I would agree that it is shady if the hours are being faked, or if there is a malicious ulterior motive, but I don’t see it as inherently shady if the project manager is aware and they were real hours. In my experience it’s reasonably common and accepted.

    3. Stephanie*

      Yup, that’s pretty much expected in professional services. Client pays a boatload of money and wants the project Monday morning…clear out your schedule. I interviewed for a junior position at a large professional services firm and they were pretty clear that the hours weren’t 9 to 5 and everyone (low-level staff included) was expected to put in extra hours to keep the clients happy.

      But OP’s boss should have honored the comp day!

  8. WorkingMom*

    Wow, there are (almost) no words. I’m sorry that you worked so hard, went above and way beyond only to be “rewarded” like this. It really sucks, and like Alison says, puts a bad taste in your mouth for ever doing this again.

    I would agree to approach the conversation with the assumption that he must not know that you worked straight through with no sleep. When you calculate the hours, it’s pretty shocking. If I were your boss, I probably would have awarded you with comp days to make up for your time spent. It’s possible that a conversation after the fact might help him realize he made a mistake and correct it for you.

    Good luck!

  9. Jamie*

    Unless you are a surgeon saving lives…

    Good point – and I don’t my surgeon cutting into me when they haven’t slept for 2 days.

    I’ve pulled some marathon sessions with a lot less sleep than I need to be human – but I couldn’t have done this. And 46 hours with no sleep…my work wouldn’t have been worth a thing when it was said and done.

    Did your boss know it was taking this kind of time? Because I can’t imagine the directive to work this much without sleep and not putting more boots on the ground – or changing the deadline – whichever would have been more feasible. So I’m really curious as to what kind of project can be completely revamped, single-handedly, by someone that new (and per her own letter still learning about the department) but was that critical?

    1. COT*

      Depending on the project, it’s also possible that a more seasoned employee could have done the work faster (though OP clearly did a great job). If this is the case, I wonder if your boss didn’t realize how much time you worked because some long-term employees could have done it in fewer hours. This depends, of course, on how much past experience OP has with similar projects at past jobs.

      1. anon*

        But then that’s not the OP’s fault. Even if it would have taken a seasoned employee a shorter amount of time, it was the OP who volunteered. If a longer-term employee could have done it faster, great, but then tap one of those people. Besides, the OP ended up having to start from scratch because the boss didn’t like what the coworker had done.

        I know you’re not blaming the OP here, but I think this argument risks tipping toward implying (as her boss might) that she was inefficient and shouldn’t have taken so much time. That would also seem problematic since the boss scrapped the original work, and the OP ended up having a lot more work placed on her, having thought that she was volunteering for “finishing touches” rather than starting the whole project over from scratch once the “touches” were made.

        1. COT*

          I didn’t mean to blame the OP at all, as you also picked up on. I just wanted to point out one possible area of miscommunication, in case that helps OP understand why/how to clarify her actions and ask for an exception to the policy.

          1. anon*

            Yes, exactly. I suspect I’ve had too much experience with a boss who would make that argument and blame the OP for not getting the work done fast enough. ::eyetwitch::

    2. Anonymous*

      Good point – and I don’t my surgeon cutting into me when they haven’t slept for 2 days.

      No kidding. The residency system kills patients.

      1. Anon*

        My thoughts exactly. Although lawyers usually have a lot more flexibility on when they bill their time (so billing 5 hours =\= vacation day no matter what time of day hours were billed).

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, the boss is way out of line regardless, but it is something I could imagine an abusive lawyer boss doing.

  10. Anonymous*

    It sounds like you may have been in over your head. Maybe your boss (given the work involved) didn’t expect that it would take all weekend and didn’t think you have worked 46 hours straight.

    1. Jamie*

      This does read to me like a misunderstanding and it’s very likely the boss has no idea how many hours she worked. This is …odd.

      1. Anonymous*

        Me too. I understand wanting to conquer all as a new employee. I wouldn’t say “Never volunteer again,” but I would advise that you discuss the project and get his/her expectations upfront. One of them would be ho long they think this should take.

        Once you get the hang of the environment, you’ll know how much time people generally invest on different projects.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    OP didn’t work five hours on Monday — s/he worked ELEVEN! (Midnight to 6 AM, and then 4-9 PM.)

    I’d go to your boss just as Alison suggests and ask what can be done about this, given that you put in more than a full day’s work on Monday *plus* what you did on the weekend. This is a new relationship, but I think depending on how you feel about it, you may also want to say, “Being charged a vacation day means I’ll think twice about volunteering to help out like this again.” Maybe this will make your short-sighted boss wake up and smell the propane.

    1. Laufey*

      I think the early AM hours are included in the 46-hours straight calculation. I haven’t done the math, but that seems about right.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I wouldn’t threaten not to volunteer again because that makes the situation adversarial, which is tempting, but not helpful. If the OP’s boss refuses to be reasonable about this, that is something she now knows about the boss and she can proceed accordingly and not volunteer. She doesn’t need to say she’ll think twice or won’t do it. Just don’t because she now knows that any work above and beyond is not rewarded, it’s punished.

  12. Rich*

    I think the biggest mistake here was assuming. I agree OP shouldn’t have been charged a vacation day, but better to work out logistics for “nice deeds” in advance so this doesn’t happen again in the future. Lesson learned.

  13. Lisa*

    Did anyone realize that this prob happened before to the person that couldn’t get out of the wedding? Something tells me there was no wedding.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      That wouldn’t surprise me. I have definitely known people to have “plane tickets” when weekend work gets mentioned.

      1. Mike C.*

        As a true professional, I prefer to drive up to Canada and tell my boss, “Sorry, I’m out of the country”. ;)

    2. Stephanie*

      OP, if you’re in your mid 20s-early 30s, just have a lot a weddings to attend. Caveat: a wedding every weekend might only be plausible in the spring and summer.

  14. AGirlCalledFriday*

    I would suspect the boss had no idea that his employee had been working so diligently, and might even view the employee’s statement of a 46 hour work weekend with suspicion. In cases like these, it can be helpful to send periodic updates to those in charge, keeping them in the loop as to your hours/allowing for feedback. Unless the OP had been doing that, otherwise what a terrible reward for such hard work!

    Something else – I know this was a high priority project, but what are people’s thoughts on otherwise working through the night and after hours in general? I’m a big fan of life/work balance, but find that when I start a new job (as the OP did) that I become really driven and work a lot. I’m unable to keep that level of productivity up, so I think I come off as suddenly lazy, especially as other new hires and a few others continue to overwork. And of course I can’t tell my coworkers to not work so much after I was just in their position! Overseas my managers would tell everyone to go home for goodness sake, and even started closing up earlier, but I know this type of work ethic tends to be rewarded in America.

    1. Max*

      It’s not that that kind of work ethic tends to be rewarded, it’s that not having it tends to be punished. Overworking yourself won’t necessarily bump you to the top of the promotions list, but working “only” the times you’re required to work is often seen as a sure sign for being sent to the bottom of the list. Staying late every day isn’t being treated as going above and beyond anymore, it’s treated as the standard that all employees are expected to meet.

      However, this is often a case of focusing on the wrong things: what should matter is the quality of your work, not the amount of time sitting in your office. If you’re ahead on all your deadlines and producing top-notch work on every project, there shouldn’t be any shame in going home at 5pm so you can spend some time on family, entertainment, and rest – all things important to keeping your mind in tip-top shape and ready to give things your best. Working till 9pm every day may seem impressive at first, but it won’t look so good when the overtime starts compromising the quality of your work.

      Now, if you’ve got a big project that the company’s behind on and the deadline’s coming up, it’s just good practice to give it your all to get the project back on track (even though these are often failures in management or planning). But if you don’t NEED to work late to keep up with everything, then it’s self-destructive to do it; you’ll inevitably end up burning yourself out for no good reason. And if it seems like there’s no such thing as “enough” and it’s impossible to keep up to date with the deadlines and projects no matter how many extra hours you work, I’d seriously question the practices at your company.

      1. Lisa*

        Staying late every day isn’t being treated as going above and beyond anymore, it’s treated as the standard that all employees are expected to meet.

        You are a genius, this statement describes the new normal at my job. A co-worker was recently fired for only doing the bare min hours and ‘not caring’ to work hard like everyone else. The boss said that there was nothing wrong with her work, her output, or her skills. Which goes to, you can be fired any reason at all.

        1. Cat*

          So I don’t know how it went down in this case, but I’m going to defend the principle in some cases. In some jobs, things come up at the last minute that have to be dealt with immediately regardless of when they come up. I’ve seen situations in which the burden of dealing with those last minute emergencies always falls on the same people – the ones who don’t draw firm lines in the sand about working overtime or weekends – and that’s horrible for morale and burns out your best workers. I’m completely against expecting evening and weekend work when it’s not necessary; but if you are in a job where time sensitive things come up, the overtime burden should be distributed pretty evenly amongst your exempt workers.* Being unwilling to pitch in in that way in a job that requires it is a serious statement about your fitness for the position.

          I don’t know what your boss means when he says there’s nothing wrong with her “output” – if it wasn’t a job with time sensitive emergencies and she was getting just as much done with as her co-workers who worked longer hours, it does sound like an egregious firing. But if she was getting her work done during work hours while leaving other people to pick up everything that came up outside of work hours, that’s different, I think.

          * It’s different if people are hourly and certain workers want the overtime while others don’t.

          1. Max*

            If the job regularly requires people to stay past 5pm, then either that should be the standard and required work hours or workers should be expected to stay later on predetermined days. If the company does not properly express the expectation that people should stay late on certain days, then they cannot rely on the expectation that people will voluntarily stay late. Sure, most will, but people can only schedule around the hours they know, and it can be dangerous to rely solely on voluntary actions on the part of the employees with absolutely no guidance from above. If after-hours emergencies are a regular part of the job, then management needs to have a coherent plan for dealing with those events rather than just hoping and praying that enough employees had no prior engagements that day.

            To illustrate my point, let’s suppose a time-sensitive crisis comes up at 4:50pm on a Friday, only for the employer to discover that every single employee in the office had coincidentally made prior engagements right after work that night, and none of them are interested in being the one or two to cancel their evening plans? The employees can hardly be blamed for making plans, since there was no clear expectation that a given number of people would be required to work late that day, and there’s no clear guidance on who would be required to do it either. The fault here is the employer’s for not having plans or expectations in place to deal with a contingency like this.

            In the real world, of course, the situation I describe wouldn’t be a deadlock; an employee would almost certainly cancel their plans and generously offer up their evening for the sake of the company. But that still means relying on the generosity and selflessness of employees to sacrifice themselves to solve problems caused by poor planning or management. If these kinds of after-hours emergencies are a regular part of the job, then the management should have a real plan in place for addressing them, rather than just leaving it to whim and luck.

              1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                I think it might be a bit different for my industry as I’m a teacher. You can’t plan during working hours really – you spend that time teaching lessons – so all the planning and grading must be done before or after school and on weekends. If you want to include a lot of projects and hands-on learning it requires significant time to plan, plus parents want quick grading and constant communication. So it’s quite common to work 10-15 hours a day depending on the week, and usually these teachers look like superstars because they have more intensive lessons.

                Really considering career changing now. :)

                1. QualityControlFreak*

                  Raised by two teachers. Long, long hours and not great compensation. Not for me, but I certainly respect the choice.

                  (Also completely respect someone choosing to opt out and change course if it’s not for them! Teaching is a career choice that can only be explained by love or masochism.)

              2. Jessa*

                Exactly if you regularly have stay over work, draw up a rota of available people and the first time it’s stay over it’s Sam, then the second Lola, etc. and they know it. So if your group regularly goes over at least once a week you know when it’s your week you don’t make extra plans. Once everyone has had their week you start again. Or something.

            1. Cat*

              That’s just not the reality in the real world. Some jobs require people to sometimes work late on an unpredictable schedule. My father is a newspaper reporter – if a story breaks after 5pm, somebody is going to have to stay to cover it and sometimes it should be him (sometimes it should be someone else in the office). I’m an attorney; if a client needs a temporary restraining order after hours, the client needs a temporary restraining order after hours, and sometimes I’m going to need to be the one to draft it. Likewise, each judge is sometimes going to have to hear it, and that judge’s clerks are going to have to be up drafting the order. You aren’t always going to know what days those are going to come in, and it’s not always going to be consistent enough that somethings comes up after hours to make that someone’s regular shift. (E.g., newspapers certainly have reporters on the graveyard shift, but they won’t necessarily have a business reporter on the graveyard shift just in case Lehman Brothers happens to collapse.)

              It’s not every profession, but yeah, a condition of going into certain fields is that sometimes you’re going to have to suck it up and work late. Sometimes that will mean cancelling plans, but usually someone will be available; and it shouldn’t always be the same someone.

            2. Anonymous*

              There are only a few professions that warrant a 46-hour working day and even doctors get breaks to sleep, etc. And this doesn’t sound like one of them. Working long hours does not equate to only working, not sleeping, not bathing, etc for days. DAYS. That’s the point that needs to be made here. This goes way past that expectation.

              1. Cat*

                Oh, do not get me wrong. I was NOT defending this boss and would never. He sounds horrible and the job sounds unbearable. I was responding specifically to the idea that it’s unreasonable to fire someone for working the minimum hours – it often is, but in specific circumstances, it can be a deal killer re fit with the job in question.

                1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                  Also it just shows that once in awhile you are willing to go the extra mile. After all, we want employers to be extra understanding when life throws us curveballs, it makes sense to do the same for work.

              2. Jessa*

                Exactly. We did this once at the answering service, it was the year central Florida had three hurricanes back to back. Someone brought in an air mattress for people to rotate to take naps on. We answered for companies who boarded buildings and for the City Electric company as well as a zillion doctors etc.

                I took cat naps in my chair at the manager’s station. The owner brought in whatever food he could find and took my van (I had gas cans in the back) to get extra diesel for our generators.

                It happened exactly once in 7 years.

                Most of the time in professions that have after hours emergencies or projects you come up with a fair schedule for people. You make a rota or a job wheel and whoever is on first gets it then goes to the bottom of the list (that’s how they used to do it at the police department, with the detectives if a major crime that needed them happened after main shifts, you called the person in who was at the top of the list, and they knew the order of the list so they knew approximately when they’d be up.)

            3. KellyK*

              Totally agree. It’s usually pretty easy to tell whether you’re in a line of work that has last-minute emergencies or not. If you need people to be available on short notice, you make sure they’re aware that that’s part of the expectation of the job. (Even at that, it’s frequently a lot more logical to have a plan more specific than “everybody’s evening plans are set in warm jell-o, every day of the week.”)

          2. Bobby Digital*

            I agree with Cat. I think it’s all about culture. If everyone else is leaving at 5, sure, make dinner plans for 5:30 and stick to them.

            If, however, most people are staying late and you’re deadset on leaving at 5 every day, it’s going to signal some ignorance of or resistance to the culture of your workplace.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I agree, but it’s not really that productive in the long run. Sure, if something comes up last minute or something is high priority, staying late is appropriate.

        But I’ve seen many cases where co-workers work extra hours each night, and then they spend the first couple of hours each morning fixing the errors they made when they were too tired the night before. It’s a lot more productive to quit for the night when you are tired, and not make those mistakes in the first place.

        1. Windchime*

          OldJob was kind of like this. There were a couple of team members who worked 4-10’s in a week, so when they were in the office, their quitting time was around 6 PM. They made snide comments about the rest of us who worked 5 eight hour days a week because we left at 5 or 5:30. Apparently we were “lazy” because we chose to go home to our families when our 8 hours were up. We were all willing to stay and work if there was a tight deadline, and we often did so. But the expectation that we all put in extra hours routinely was unreasonable, in my opinion.

          1. Windchime*

            I meant to add–I’m glad that NewJob values work/life balance. Last week was a tough, stressful week and everyone worked extremely hard. Our boss told us at our morning meeting to make it an early day, and to head home around lunchtime. It was only a few hours, but it made a big difference to have our efforts recognized (and rewarded with a little down-time).

          2. Ruffingit*

            Your OldJob co-workers sound like jerks. You worked 40 hours in the week as did they, you just spread it out in a different way. Nothing lazy about that at all.

            1. Windchime*

              I agree. And they were jerks. This was just one way that they demonstrated it; there were lots of others. I seriously think I have some lingering trauma over some of the things that happened there.

    2. QualityControlFreak*

      I don’t know that this kind of work ethic is exactly “rewarded” in America, but it does seem that the lack of an (IMO) unreasonable level of motivation is sometimes punished here. And I say this as someone universally known as a workaholic by coworkers and managers as well as friends and family. (I’m not really. Really. I just honestly love what I do. The motivation comes from that rather than a desire to make a good impression, and I’m able to sustain a high level of productivity because I’m able to sustain a high level of motivation. Five years and counting with this org.)

      That said, a 46-hour working weekend marathon? Um, no. I can’t see that being productive for anybody.

  15. Seal*

    I certainly understand a new employee wanting to make a good impression by going well above and beyond on a project. I can even understand a supervisor deciding that major changes need to be made at the last minute on a project with a hard deadline. But what kind of idiot sticks a brand new employee with that kind of responsibility outside of normal business hours unsupervised?

  16. Tax Nerd*

    Oh holy hell. I’ve spent my career in professional service firms, and worked a couple sleep-deprived projects, though none this bad.

    Your boss is way out of line by (1) charging you for a vacation day, and (2) expecting you to “nap” and come back into work that day.

    Definitely explain to him that you worked from Saturday at 8am until Monday at 6am with no sleep, and then again on Monday from 4-9 pm. In any reasonable person’s world, working from midnight to 6am and then from 4pm -9pm is hardly a vacation day, core hours or not. (Nevermind that you’d just put yourself through the wringer over the weekend to step in.)

    The timekeeping systems I’ve used just ask for the number of hours each day, but I imagine that I would have been told by my boss to “move” my midnight-6am time to 6am-noon or something on the same day, to get around the system’s limitations and make sure I didn’t get “punished” for going way above and beyond.

  17. ChristineSW*

    That. Is. Insane.

    Although, I’m beginning to wonder, like the rest of you, whether the boss was aware that the OP worked 46 hours straight. Either way, this guy seems to have very unrealistic demands.

    Another thought from my twisted little mind: Could it have perhaps been a test for the new employee to see how well she handles a high-stress situation?

    1. Ruffingit*

      If it’s a test, it’s a damn stupid one because what if the employee got into a horrible car accident on the way home because she fell asleep at the wheel? If anyone is doing this kind of “testing” at work, they are insane and dumb.

      1. anon*

        Also, what would she gain from passing the test? Yay, you perform well under crazy pressure! You win…. some more crazy pressure?

    2. ChristineSW*

      Oh I’m in no way condoning what the OP went through if it was just a test…that would be just plain evil (and risky, as ruffingit points out). I highly doubt this was the case…it was just a thought that occurred to me and couldn’t resist posting it.

      I never did respond to the OP’s original question: Sounds like there was a miscommunication as to the boss’s expectations about working that Monday after the weekend work (as I can imagine…when you’re exhausted, it’s difficult to think and process properly). I know every employer’s policy is different (though theirs is a little silly), but I think not charging the vacation day would be the right thing to do given the circumstances. I just hope this doesn’t become a regular thing at this job. Definitely keep your eyes and ears open, OP.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I didn’t think you were condoning it. I was more responding to the idea that if it was a test (which who knows, could have been, I’ve heard worse employment stories), then the boss is even more of an evil idiot than the original story makes him seem.

  18. Joey*

    Two questions:

    Does your boss realize that you worked 46 hours?

    And where the hell was your boss? It takes a special kind of a-hole to take the weekend off while your new subordinate literally works night and day to complete a project. The least she could have done was get you some help or pitch in herself.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Considering this is a project that the original employee was working on presumably for several days (or even weeks?) I can’t imagine the boss not knowing it would take a huge number of hours to complete by Monday morning since THE BOSS was the one who wanted it done again from scratch. Even if they didn’t know it was going to be 46 hours, they had to have known it would’ve taken all weekend long. And the fact it was being finished up at 6AM proves that included at least one all nighter (though in this case it was 2.)

      Working as the LW did (pitching in for last minute touch ups which transformed into a whole new project being dropped in her lap that need to be done RIGHT NOW through no fault of her own) deserves some sort of reward. Like, a free lunch or something ABOVE the comp day on Monday, IMO.

  19. Don't Care*

    Wasn’t there just an issue with BOA and how they were overworking people/people were marathoning work hours. Someone died.

    Get with it people. Nothing you/your firm/boss/company does is THAT important you can’t get your sh*t together to not have things like this happen. Manage proactively instead of reactively.

    1. fposte*

      I think of that–the German employee dying in London–when people talk about how sane work hours are in Europe. Not across the board, they’re not.

      1. CatB (in RO)*

        Not only there – here (Romania) we had a case as well, several years ago. Though here it was established that the international consulting company that had their employee die at work systematically overworked people, breaking local laws in a gross way (sadly, after more than 3 years all that happened is a fine that the company paid out of their petty cash drawer).

        The laws might be different, but “above and beyond is the new normal” is creeping in here also and consequences be damned.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I remember that story. It was about an intern in the City and the implecation that if you wanted the banking job, it was expected you would start work at 6.00am and finish at 10.00pm (or later) and then go out drinking every night.

          There is the EU working time directive, but there is an opt-out possible.

  20. Brett*

    If anything, I think the OP just learned why they ended up being the only volunteer. I suspect older employees already know that there is nothing to be gained by volunteering.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Excellent point. I can imagine the older employees have been through the wringer already and now the new employees are sort of hazed if you will by volunteering.

    2. Piggle*

      Totally agree with this. I work in public schools and I understand that you don’t actually clock out at the end of the day or even the weekend because the work is never-ending. You clock out for summer. Nevertheless, I also have a part-time minimum wage job in a senior living community. The place is held together by a shoe string and all the good, hard workers are run into the ground and leave after a few months. No long-term employees. I get calls every day because they are short staffed. It’s a good idea to set boundaries in some jobs.

  21. The IT Manager*

    This whole situation sucks, and I agree that the LW got screwed, but I am a stickler, and I keep coming around to The company policy is that to avoid being charged leave for the day, exempt employees need to work at least 4 hours between the core hours of 10 am and 4 pm (either remotely or in the office). The rule is very clear so maybe the boss has no wiggle room.

    LW deserves some comp time. LW deserved to sleep. And in her sleep deprived state I understand her misunderstanding ber boss. The boss seems to have less of an excuse for the failure to communicate especially to a new employee. The LW should, though, talk with him and try to work out some kind of comp time. Even a exempt employee deserves come comp time for a 46 hour weekend.

    That said 46 hours without sleep = crazy, dangerous, and great potential for errors in the work product so it should not have happened. I do understand how it could have gotten away from the LW especially since she was new, but I do wish you had drawn some sort of line telling your boss that you just couldn’t work any longer.

    ** This is hard for me to figure out b/c I have always taken leave in 15 minute increments so I am not sure what kind of comp you can work out with the restriction in place.

    1. COT*

      I think a truly effective boss can usually (not always) make wiggle room in a case like this. It might take some pressing on the higher-ups, but I think a great boss could make a case for this. Given the circumstances, an exception shouldn’t be a big deal if the place is well-managed.

      1. COT*

        Oh, and if there’s no wiggle room on the vacation day, a good boss would be apologetic (not angry, as OP’s was) and would try to find another way to reward the OP.

    2. Lora*

      The boss had wiggle room. Yes, he did. If any time is appropriate to engage in some creative interpretations, feign ignorance, or outright lie through your teeth on behalf of your reports, this is it.

      Part of the job of a boss is to push back on stupidities inflicted from the Powers That Be, and when you can’t sway their idiot opinions, do whatever you have to do to soften the impact.

      Yes, you still have to carry out the orders, technically, and if TPTB tell you that you need to lose 5 FTEs from your department on account of layoffs, you can’t very well say, “no, here’s just one” and get away with it. But this sort of petty nonsense? Just lie. Tell them you gave OP comp time. “That’s not our comp time policy!” Oh, really? Shucks. I’ll bear it in mind next time someone goes way above and beyond the call of duty. Also, I would like to present OP with Employee of the Month award and a cake, can you HR guys arrange that for me? That’d be good, thanks.

      Part of managing is using your judgment. This is the time to exercise it. You may not be able to swing competitive raises, you may not be able to afford all the FTEs you need to get the job done, you may not be able to give a promotion because the CEO’s nephew gets the job instead, but you can tell some dweeb who insists on this nonsense where he can shove it, sideways.

  22. Ruffingit*

    After 46 straight hours of work, your boss thought you’d go home, clean up, take a nap and then come back to work?? WTF, WTH, OMG, insert acronyms and four-letter words here. That is totally insane. I really hope your boss realizes just how crazy he is being and gives you your vacation day back. Regardless though, I’m betting he’s pretty much destroyed the chance that you will ever volunteer for anything again. Ever.

    1. khilde*

      “After 46 straight hours of work, your boss thought you’d go home, clean up, take a nap and then come back to work?? WTF, WTH, OMG, ”

      haha -that made me laugh. Two I learned in the military, not sure if they’re widely known in the civilian world? I rely on these a lot :)
      SNAFU (Situation Normal, All F#@!#-ed Up)
      FUBAR (F#@$-ed Up Beyond All Recognition).

  23. Workahaulic*

    Hi – OP here. First, thank you for the very thoughtful response from AAM, as well as all the great input from the commenters!

    I wanted to chime in with a few additional details. I am a mid-level marketing professional with my firm – the project was an RFP for a significant (potentially seven figure) client due Monday morning, so the deadline couldn’t be extended. The firm has a standard RFP format that we had planned to use, and my original task was just to add a few details on certain sections and proof the final proposal carefully (not more than a few hours of work). However, after I sent my boss the proofed final document, he called me to say that he thought the proposal was “too stodgy” and not the right approach for this client. I had been brought in as an employee to bring a fresh voice to the marketing team, so he thought I would be perfect to complete the rewrite. We needed new research, graphics – everything – the sort of project that someone likely would have worked on (part-time) over the period of a few weeks, or full-time for a full work week.

    An experienced employee would possibly have been able to complete it a bit faster, but not appreciably so, and not in my voice/perspective.

    My boss wasn’t physically in the office with me (he was traveling to visit one of the firm’s other offices at that time), but he definitely did not leave me on my own – we communicated by email numerous times over the course of the weekend, had about half a dozen phone calls and a couple Skype sessions as well. He did get a bit more sleep than I did, but not much – just a few hours each night.

    I did speak with my boss earlier today about this situation, and he reiterated that the the rule about core hours and vacation time wasn’t flexible. He also stated that in our industry, it is pretty common to have to work one or more all-nighters, and then be expected to work the next day as well – working or traveling all night isn’t a pass to miss work on a weekday. He also said that although I did a great job on the project (looks like we are the front-runners), he really needs people he can count on at all hours, and that I should condition myself better rather than making excuses to check out. (He isn’t really a hypocrite here – he works 18-20 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, and sleeps very little.)

    So, I am not really sure this job is going to work out for me. I knew extended hours would be required but was told the usual work week was 50-55 hours, with some “occasional” late nights and weekend work. I certainly didn’t anticipate having to work nearly 50 hours in a row (while being criticized for not doing more)!

    Anyway, many thanks for all of your perspectives!

    1. Kaz*

      Wooooow. It sounds like your boss believes he should be able to call on you do this kind of work any time that he deems it necessary and isn’t appreciative at all. I would get the heck out of Dodge.

    2. Joey*

      What?! 18-20 hours per day 6-7 days per week and 46 hours straight. This is starting to sound unbelievable. Is that even physically possible to sustain?!

      1. Workahaulic*

        My boss has been doing this for many years, so I suppose it’s physically sustainable for some people. (He is always complaining about how exhausted he is, while at the same time criticizing others who worked “only” 10-12 hours in a given day.)

        1. Anonymous*

          I wonder if this was made clear when you first applied or interviewed? I would think that the expectation of working more than 12 hours a day should be up front and explained. Then again, this is someone who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find a way around taking a vacation day for not working because you worked an *entire* weekend!

        2. QualityControlFreak*

          Run like the wind. This is the boss who uses employees up and tosses the empty shell in the trash.

        3. Lora*

          No, it is not sustainable for any healthy person.

          I do in fact know many people who have done this sort of workaholic thing for years, all finance/stockbroker types. They do it by using a LOT of coke and amphetamines. Not saying that’s what your boss does, but…

          1. Stephanie*

            I had coworkers who popped Adderall to get through stressful bouts at work (it was a production environment). Also not saying that’s what your boss does, but…

      2. Cat*

        I think there are the odd people who biologically need less sleep than the rest of us (or at least I feel like I’ve read studies to that effect). But my God, they need to recognize that 99.9% of the human population is not like that.

      3. anastasia*

        ugh, I had a boss like that once. Before he was hired by my company, he had two full-time jobs and slept maybe 3 or 4 hours a night. At our company, he worked 5 a.m. to midnight, by choice. There was no way to win with him – I couldn’t tell him that I was exhausted and burnt out by my 70-hour weeks because he was working so much more.

        As to how he did it, he consumed so much caffeine that sometimes you could actually see him vibrating.

        1. Stephanie*

          At OldJob, two of us were hired onto my team at the same time (at the same level). The other hire was originally from China (came to the US for her graduate work) and totally enforced the stereotype of the workaholic foreign quant worker. I believe all her family was in China and she didn’t really know anyone in the area. Because of this, she was always at work (like there for 12-14 hours at a time) and rarely took breaks when she was there.

          It was kind of an impossible situation, just because I looked super lazy in comparison.

        2. AGirlCalledFriday*

          I had a boss once who stated that our first priority had to be work, and that we had to be ready to come in at the drop of a hat no matter the time. He then proceeded to request that we submit personal schedules to him so that we wouldn’t have any excuse to not come in. Think dates, appts, events, any and everything.

            1. AGirlCalledFriday*

              Yeah, a few. He was a fan of hiring people newly arrived to America who felt they had very limited options due to language barriers. But this was pretty much in line with his managerial style, which included such awesome tidbits as hours-long rants about how all American kids are lazy, how biracial relationships don’t work, how Asians are no good at sports (this at an after school program for mostly Asian children – we had to sneak plan a sports day for them!), docking 2 days pay for one day off, stocking elementary classrooms with real hammers, nails, and a blowtorch -he actually suggested to us that we have the kids make puzzle pieces to replace missing ones and offered to get us saws for the kids!!! He was a master of etiquette, waiting for an employee to take a bite of food and then asking questions of that person so that he could lecture about taking ‘large bites of food’ while in meetings, that sort of thing. Best of all, he maintained one day that the water faucet in my classroom’s bathroom was left on (a restroom that was used by everyone in the building) and he docked my pay a full grand in order to purchase a new faucet that you had to step on in order to activate.

              I eventually quit – with nothing lined up, bad idea – and when my replacement left after a week he blamed me for badmouthing the position, though it wasn’t me. He then proceeded to brag in employee meetings about lying that I had worked there. He was also mad that I didn’t work the full month that was required when vacating the position, which was because I had to go to the emergency room because I was so drastically ill after being sick for months and never being allowed sick days.

              Not a rant – I know everyone loves a story! The good news is that there was a class action suit a year ago where the manager was sued for neglecting to pay us our overtime. I got a bit of money and it paid my airfare for my Thailand Christmas vacation. :)

              1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                What’s really sad is that this is just 1 in a line of awful jobs. I don’t think I’ve had a single good teaching position outside of student teaching, though I’ve been recognized by administrators and parents alike. That’s what happens when you are poor and lack options in a field where all the positions are being cut, I suppose. Sort of forced to take anything and hope it works out.

              2. FRRibs*

                That’s horrible! Is the school board in their pocket or just too scared to deal with it?

                How is that $1,000 dock for the faucet legal? If you didn’t contest it why not, and why not now?

          1. Workahaulic*

            OP here – my new boss seems to be like this as well. When I met with him about the weekend debacle, he stated that all firm personal commitments (24/7/365) need to be approved by him in advance – otherwise we should consider ourselves on call. He also made a point of stating that people can take vacations, but only if they keep up with their work emails and attend all meetings via conference call.

            And I think this is probably only the beginning of the crazy! No, this is definitely not the job for me; now, how to make a graceful exit and explain why I left a “top” job so quickly, without seeming like a slacker?

            1. QualityControlFreak*

              Well, I think you could explain that there were some scheduling requirements that were only made clear to you after you had been on the job for a short time … and then show them this post. Good grief, no reasonable human being can really expect 24/7/365 availability and total control over employees’ personal lives. That’s just creepy!

            2. Anonymous*

              1) Decide, given what you know now, what (if anything) you would require to stay at this job for at least a year.
              2) Explain to HR/hiring manager/boss that you accepted the position because you were told the usual work week would be “50-55 hours, with some occasional late nights and weekend work”, not the 24/7/365 you are being told now is a requirement.
              3) Demand what you decided in #1 to stay.
              4a) If you get it, great!
              4b) If you don’t (or if you get strung along), then explain that this wasnot what you agreed to, and quit.

              I wouldn’t even bother giving notice; you can’t list this job on your resume anyway. You’ll look like a job hopper; unless you explain the circumstances, in which case you’ll look like a disgruntled ex-employee bad mouthing an ex-employer.

              And you’re not going to be able to use this boss as a reference anyhow, since he considers you “someone who no-showed one Monday without telling anyone” and “someone who isn’t willing to meet the [in his mind] reasonable expectations of the job”. And that’s all a reference checker will hear before rejecting you without a chance to rebut with the actual context. The bridge is already burned, “quitting without giving proper notice” isn’t going to make it any worse. And ethically, you owe them nothing. Not after the bait-and-switch in expectations, not after the shenanigans with the vacation day, not after unapologetically demanding you put their policies on hours ahead of your health — and then trying to shame you for questioning their insanity.

            3. Diana*

              Yikes. Keeping up with work email and attending conference call meetings is not a “vacation.” A vacation is to get away from work and (hopefully) recoup energy.

              “All personal commitments…approved by him”?? Sorry, boss, but you don’t get to tell me what I can and cannot do on my personal time.

              This is the opposite of work/life balance.
              Work=100, life=0, doesn’t balance on any scale.

    3. Anonymous*

      Yeah, I work under similar deadline-driven pressures but I’ve done one all-nighter (after someone was let go) on a Friday night and was given the next working day off – in 8 years of working. It sounds like your boss has no life and expects you not to have one either. I would think a schedule like his would not be acceptable to a normal person who can’t function with only a few hours of sleep. Sorry this ending up being so crappy after you did all that great work. I hope it works out for you, whatever you decide to do.

    4. Chriama*

      Wow. This doesn’t sound like the right job for anyone. My advice going forward is to keep your head down, do good work but don’t volunteer for anymore ‘touch-ups’, and figure out how your coworkers manage. Maybe no one ever volunteers, or maybe they’ve worked out some informal system around your boss.

      “Working or travelling the night before is no excuse to miss work on a weekday”… because the human body is like a programmable thermostat and can be turned on, off according to schedule, right? Yeesh

    5. WFBP*

      You know, my sister had a job like this. She was completely terrorized and was burned and stressed out 24/7. She did this for eight years, which I don’t advise.

      HOWEVER…she spent about a year looking for her perfect job, a perfect fit on both ends, and (with the help of AAM and a great cover letter, of course) landed a great role with one of the largest and best firms in the country in her industry (Fortune 300, yada yada). She beat out over 300 other applicants because of the experience she got at Awful Job. Not only that, she performs at an insanely high level and has been recognized several times over, gotten awards, bonuses, etc. All for working on a – for her – normal level. Now she almost feels like she’s slacking a little, has almost zero stress, and is very happy.

      So, not advocating staying in this position forever, and certainly think your boss is a GIANT dbag, but…maybe stick it out a year and see where the experience gets you? That is, if it’s not impacting your mental/physical/emotional health or anything. These kinds of jobs can be ‘trial by fire’ but can leave you with some great tools to carry with you throughout your career. And, not sure I’d volunteer for anything else over the weekend, unless you see it as helping your career. It seems like this man doesn’t appreciate what he has. Work with him understanding his limitations and conduct yourself accordingly. People who live to work just don’t get it.

    6. EJ*

      Bosses who work crazy hours like that might not understand an employees need for work life balance. They expect of others what they put in themselves.

    7. Ruffingit*

      Damn. That is not going to be sustainable. This isn’t even an issue of not the right cultural fit, although that’s a problem too, it’s an issue of not the right biological fit. Unless you’re one of those rare people who really can function on very little sleep (and they do exist), this doesn’t seem the right place for you. I’m sorry your boss is such a jerk. Not many people could function this way nor should they be expected to.

    8. Girasol*

      You’re doing that level of work and your boss is playing gotcha with *attendance compliance?* There’s something wrong with this picture!

    9. Proposal writer*

      OK, this is insane. My entire job is responding to RFPs, so I know about all the necessary work that has to go into them, the careful adherence to requirements, etc. I’ve been doing this for several years, and I’ve definitely pulled some late nights, weekends, etc.

      In 10 years of doing this, I have never had to work 46 hours in a row, and I would have never been expected to. It wasn’t just a matter of work/life balance; it’s because RFPs require a certain adherence to specific details, and when you’re sleep-deprived, you can easily miss things that can get you disqualified from the procurement process. AND almost every time after a big project is done, as long as there’s nothing pressing, I’ve been encouraged to take time off. This is at three separate companies.

      Get out before this job eats you alive.

    10. Emily*

      Damn. How disappointing. The occasional all-nighter (or near all-nighter) actually appeals to me. There’s something satisfying about buckling down like that, especially when you know you’re uniquely positioned to do the job well, and when you have a partner or coach, even if they’re on the sidelines (out of the office, but staying in touch). I imagine it’s like a marathon—you put your all into it, you hit a runner’s high, you power through the pain, and you reach the finish line. But the finish line is a critical part of the reward! You don’t run 6-7 marathons a week for weeks at a time. Exerting yourself like that wouldn’t mean you’re an elite athlete, it would mean you’re a robot.

      So, to draw out my metaphor, I’m really sorry that what sounds like it could have been a satisfying marathon with a personal best time soured like this.

  24. LOLwhut*

    What tripe. There is no industry on Earth where those expectations are considered reasonable, unless maybe you’re pulling six figures.

    The boss is a workaholic, and expects his people to act likewise. Plain and simple. I worked for someone like this. He didn’t have any children (surprise surprise) and resented anyone with a family. So this guy sounds awfully familiar.

    I’m with Kaz, time to jump ship if you can. It’s only going to get worse.

    1. Workahaulic*

      That’s true – the boss is single, no children or other attachments, and resents anyone who has personal commitments (children, volunteer activities, plans with other friends or relatives, etc.).

      I am hearing from my coworkers that most people stay for a couple years for the experience, then burn out and move on.

      I just wish someone had been honest with me during the interview process about what would be required!

      1. Ruffingit*

        Sure would have been helpful if someone had been. One thing I think can be helpful for any job interview process is asking to talk to people who work there and then asking that they be honest with you about the requirements. Some people will take that opportunity to tell you, in a hushed whisper, “Don’t do it, we’re all trying to get out!”

        In any case though, no way could you have known this was going to be the norm because it’s not normal. No sane person would think this was normal. Your boss is crazy. Get the experience and leave as soon as it’s possible to do so. You deserve better.

        1. Tax Nerd*


          If they won’t be honest with you, flat-out ask how many overnighters they’ve pulled in the last six months, and how many Saturday+Sunday weekends. If it’s more than they can recollect, run.

          Also, be very wary of anyone that says”We work hard, but we play hard, too.” I’ve learned that this is pretty much code for “We work insane hours, and drink to numb the agony.”

          1. Stephanie*

            Uggggggh, agreed on the “work hard, play hard” thing. Tech companies love to brag about that. It won’t immediate eliminate a position in my mind, but it gives me pause. Just because I’m a Millennial, doesn’t mean I need an extension of college in my workplace.

          2. Shoshie*

            I take this as code for “We expect you to work long hours and then extend those hours by being social with your coworkers, and you will be ostracized if you decide to go home and drink tea instead.”

      2. Scaredy Cat*

        That is such an unfair demand. I had something vaguely similar happen to me during my notice period. Basically, we suddenly had to do a lot of overtime (from an 8 hour job, to a 12-hour one… with no extra pay). It was not constantly, and nothing as drastic as you said, but over the course of 2 months, almost every week a few days.
        I don’t mind the occasional overtime, but when it becomes consistent, then you’d think something has to change.

        So I took my boss aside and tried to explain it to him. And he basically told me, that this is what it is, and that he gets that not everyone can stand extended periods of stress. But they appreciate my effort.

        Oh and not to mention, that I was exaggerating the amount of overtime I was suddenly required to do. It was all made worse, because no one else seemed to complain about the extra hours. Way to encourage people.

  25. Anonymous*

    The next steps for the OP should be:

    1. Polishing up his/her resume.
    2. Finding a new job.
    3. Post scathing reviews of the company–including naming names and describing exactly what happened.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    That boss is a total ass hat. If something like that happened to me, I would never want to volunteer to pitch in ever again. OP, if you can’t get your vacation day back you should start looking for another job. And if you DO get it back, pay close attention to how the boss handles the situation.

  27. The Other Dawn*

    Guess I should have read the responses before replying.

    “he really needs people he can count on at all hours, and that I should condition myself better rather than making excuses to check out.”

    This is very telling. “Workaholics” are like this. If you’re not putting in tons of hours outside of the normal 40, if you’re going home to rest after a marathon work weekend, or you decide to leave at a reasonable time once a week so you can see your kids, in the workaholic’s eyes you’re a slacker and don’t measure up. I know, I worked for one once. It was awful. If I were you, OP, I’d get the hell out, unless you want to work like a dog for the next few years and burn out.

  28. Anon*

    I don’t mind crazy hours at all – but I expect to be paid for it – which is one of the reasons exempt positions bug me. If you’re getting paid twice as much as the non-exempt employee below you but you’re also working twice as much, maybe more, you might very well be paid less.

    What’s the point of accumulating education and experience to be paid less? On top of that, why is seriously messing up your work life balance worth so little?

    I usually don’t see this extreme but I’m always shocked at what some people consider normal for work. Unless you’re making enough to hire someone to do the cooking and cleaning, I don’t think you should be working 60+ hours a week.

    1. Windchime*

      Yes, this. I don’t mind working an occasional 60 hour week, but “occasional” is the operative word. I left OldJob because of unrealistic expectations–nothing as bad as what the OP describes, but after too many weeks of working long days, 7 days a week left me so exhausted that I literally fell off my chair one night when I was at the table, working on my laptop at home. I just lost my balance and fell too the floor from exhaustion. It’s just not worth it, and it’s not something I would ever do again if I had a choice.

    2. Yuu*

      The problem is they told OP that she would be working a 55hr work week in general. I am non-exempt; when I’ve interviewed for exempt positions I calculate my salary expectations based on my current hourly rate to help determine if its a good move for me.

  29. Wren*

    I’m the opposite of those people who are capable of very little sleep. I get 7 – 8 hours a night work nights and I still sleep in on weekends. Although I pulled all-nighters studying for finals in college, I peaked in the tenth grade as far as all-nighters for projects! I am very grateful that in my line of work, “staying late” means 7:30.

    OP, I’m very much relieved to hear that you don’t feel like you need to continue to work for this insane boss. Best of luck to you in your next position, and in finding it quickly.

  30. MR*

    I’m pretty sure the OP knows where she stands. As Alison often says, you now know what your working conditions are so you either accept them or move on.

    As for what to say on the way out (if you choose to do that)? Be sure to mention to your manager that he was not honest about the working conditions during the interview phase. Yes, you knew you were in for a lot of hours (50-55 I believe you said before), but that a 48-hour weekend and losing a vacation day immediately afterward was not part of the deal (and not reasonable to anyone who objectively looks at the situation).

    I doubt it will really do anything with this type of person, but maybe it will make you feel a bit better on the way out.

  31. Former Usher*

    Wow. This reminds me of an OldProject at OldJob. I was at an off-site team building exercise on a Friday. Our director approached me with a new project that needed to be completed by Monday. While I started working in the back of the room, he went up to give his presentation on work-life balance! My co-workers left for a lakeside lunch. I went thought the drive thru and returned to my desk. Worked through the weekend (but still got sleep!) and barely made the Monday deadline.

    Two years of working evenings, weekends, company holidays, and vacation days before I was reassigned to another project due to my lack of “oomph.”

    OP, I sympathize and hope your next job is great!

  32. Elkay*

    OP your additional responses put this job firmly in the huge red flags territory. Start looking now for something else, at least it’ll give you peace of mind that you’re doing all you can to get out.

  33. Mena*

    You worked 11 hours on Monday – you did not take a vacation day. Please review with your boss what was necessary to meet the deadline, including the 11 hours of work on Monday. I’m guessing when it is understood what happened, the vacation day will be returned.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Unfortunately not. The OP has posted a few times above to explain more and it’s not pretty. It’s pretty damn ugly in fact. Do a search for Workahaulic, the OP.

  34. Employment lawyer*


    I think you have a good argument to quit and collect unemployment. What this boss is asking you (change from 50-55 hours week, to 75 hours/week) is not much different than reducing your rate of pay by 30% after you were hired.

    Say you make $80,000/year.

    At the promised “50-55 hours/week” which I have averaged out to 52.5 hours, and with 2 weeks of vacation, then although you get $80,000/year, you are making about $30.50/hour. Surprise! Your friends who “only” make $62k but who work 9-5 are actually getting more than you are.

    Worse yet, your boss doesn’t want 52.5 hours/week. It sounds like he wants more like 75 hours/week. Well, wat 75 hours/week, that job is now paying you $21.33/hour.. Surprise! Your friends who “only” make $44k at their 9-5 job are getting paid more than you are.

    Don’t be a sucker.

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