I accepted a job without finding out the salary, my colleague works 24-7, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I accepted a job without finding out the salary

After three years of temporary and part-time jobs, I have finally been offered my first professional full-time job since graduating college. They gave me a salary range before the interview, and I said the range was fine. On Friday, the head of the department I’d be working in called to offer me the job and said that discussion of salary/benefits would be with his boss. I asked for a little bit of time to think it over, and quickly decided to take it. I wasn’t able to reach them by phone, so I emailed them both and said I’d be happy to take the position. (I was a little paranoid that they’d change their mind, so I didn’t play it as cool as I should have.) The boss replied and said they were happy to have me on board and that the department head would be in touch. However, they still haven’t offered me a specific salary or benefits package.

Since I already said I would love to take the job, am I still in a position to negotiate? I know them well and trust them to be fair, but I’m not sure which end of the range they’ll offer me. (They know I’m a quick learner with a pretty unique range of skills, but there are aspects of the job that I will be learning as I go.) It’s a grant-funded position, if that makes any difference.

I don’t know what’s up with companies doing this — there’s no job offer unless there’s a salary attached to it. They put you in a weird position by offering you a job without being ready to discuss salary — but you also shouldn’t have accepted without having that nailed down. (But I understand why you did, given your situation!)

You don’t really have much negotiating power at this point since they already know you’re accepting regardless, but you can certainly try. Reach out right now and say, “I’m excited about coming on board, but also a little uneasy finalizing things when we haven’t discussed salary. Can we nail that down this week?” Then, if the salary comes back low, you could try saying, “I was hoping for something closer the mid-part of your range — do you have any flexibility?” (I wouldn’t try for the high part of the range in this situation, especially since it’s your first professional job since college, which means that the lower or mid point is probably reasonable.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My colleague works around the clock and I’m concerned it will impact management’s idea of realistic workload

Upfront I want to say I realize it’s going to look like I’m just jealous of my colleague, and honestly I haven’t entirely worked out all my feelings, so there is probably some of that at play. I genuinely like the person, but at times I find they can come off as a bit of a martyr. The scenario is this: My colleague has taken it upon themselves to continually take on a larger and larger volume of work than I or anyone else in my role. I recently found out, through conversation with them, that they accomplish this by working hours and hours of unpaid (also not approved) overtime — apparently by staying late, bringing work home to work until 1 in the morning, and also often on weekends. I have no way to know for sure how many hours they are working, as this is just based on what they told me. I work my hours and often extra, like many, but nothing to this extent. Apparently this person doesn’t have any management aspirations; they just like the work and don’t have any familial responsibilities. There is no financial compensation for unapproved overtime. We’re both full-time, federal government for what it’s worth.

My concern is management may come to believe this is an acceptable volume of work to be managed by one person. I previously always exceeded expectations for my position, and I believe still do, but don’t compared to this colleague. I do have management aspirations, eventually. Should management be made aware of what it’s taking to produce these results? My instinct tells me it is important for planning purposes for management to know what’s a realistic workload for a normal number of hours for any position, but at the same time it would feel like gossiping to bring it up, and comes across as self-serving (which, admittedly it is to an extent).

This comes down to the relationship you have with your boss and how good you are at relaying information that isn’t strictly your business (on the surface, at least). Some people can do that really well and it comes across as collegial, helpful, information-sharing, and other people suck at it and it comes across as involving themselves where they don’t belong. But as someone who’s generally good at it, I’d say, “It’s occurred to me to wonder if the fact that Jane works so much overtime on nights and weekends will eventually impact our team’s norms around what’s considered realistic productivity. Do you think that’s anything worth worrying about?” (Also, you have to be someone who has high productivity yourself to say this; if you’re not, this will never fly.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Salary and promotion clusterf*ck

A position opened up in a supervisory/leadership role with my organization, where I’ve been employed for about 12 years. I let my bosses know that I was interested. Shortly after talking with me about it, it came out that other employees were interested in the job, so as an act of “fairness,” I was asked to apply for the position. I was assured that this was not an attempt to find a better candidate, and all of the other leadership personel told me they wanted me for the job.

I went through the interview process, and over the weekend I was asked over the phone by my immediate supervisor (who is not my future boss) if I was interested in accepting the position. I told her that I was, but that I would need to sign a salary agreement before I could officially accept. This is due to the fact that the initial offer is significantly below what I currently make. I arrived at work today to learn that an interoffice memo announced that I have accepted the position! Worse still, I’m receiving congratulations from team-members and coworkers agency wide, and HR says that they cannot negotiate my salary. I believe this was an honest mistake; (my [future?] boss is new), but she isn’t available for comment until several days from now.

What do I tell me coworkers (if anything) over the ensuing days? Should I proceed with salary negotiation as usual? Is there any way to save face here if I have to turn down an inadequate offer?

Well, this is a mess. If you said that you just wanted to “sign a salary agreement” before “officially accepting,” I can see where the misunderstanding came from. That sounds like you just wanted to confirm everything in writing; that’s a very different thing that asking for a different salary. No wonder they thought you accepted — I might have too!

I’d contact HR and the prospective manager for the new position ASAP and say, “I’m so sorry, I think there’s been a miscommunication. While I’m very interested in the position, I wanted to talk about the salary before accepting it. The proposed salary is less than I currently make now. I can’t accept it if it’s a pay cut, and I’m hoping for something closer to $___. I’m not sure what happened, but I told Jane when we talked this weekend that I wanted to nail down salary before accepting.”

4. Do employers have to provide job descriptions?

Do employers need to have job descriptions for their employees? My company doesn’t have them…at least not for my role and it makes it very difficult for me to understand what is expected of me.

Need, as in legally required? No. But it’s a good idea to do it, because you want people to be aligned with their employer about what their role is, what’s important, and what isn’t.

Why don’t you write up your understanding of your role and what your big priorities are for this year and ask your boss if it looks right to her? Use that as a jumping off point to get aligned on what she wants your role to look like and to spot any areas where you’re operating with different assumptions.

5. Email subject lines when reaching out for a reference

I have a question regarding what you would put in the email’s subject line when you’re reaching out to a former employer, instructor, etc. I’m wary of putting too much information into the subject, overcrowding it – but I also don’t want to oversimplify things and just put something like “Hello” in there. I kind of felt something like “reference request” would be a little too strong, too (especially in emails just letting them know I’m applying with their organization, and I leave the decision to endorse me or not up to them). What do you think would be the best approach? Am I overthinking this?

You are indeed overthinking this. Anything that sums up the topic of your email in a few words is fine (and yes, “hello” is not ideal). For instance, you could write “applying to teapot maker job with Teapots Inc.” when you’re not directly requesting a reference and “request for a reference” when you are (it’s not too strong at all; it’s totally normal — and useful for them to see that).

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    OMG, #2, you’re working for my old project leader! No, I know you’re not because he wasn’t shy about talking about his overtime, the fact the it bothered his spouse so much that he made jokes about her leaving him because of the job. At first I was impressed with his dedication, but when it did not end even after he kept saying he would cut back, it just got awkward with all the martyr talk because he needed to work less for his own mental health ands simply being alert at work. All our leadership knew, but nothing was done. I think it did create an unrealistic expectation. It also burned him out.

    Yes, a major problem is the team is under-resourced and we need significantly more people, but one person working 80+ hours is not going to make all the extra bodies needed.

    I don’t have a solution per se, but I also work for the government and I told my boss (not the project leader) about it and it was well received. It did not stop the crazy 80+ hour weeks, but my boss didn’t view it as tattling. Obviously we both know the government is huge and organizational cultures vary, but my culture was very accepting and my boss viewed it as trying to take care of a fellow employee. In your case there’s the added needed to expectation manage the reality of the workload.

    1. rando*

      Honestly, when I see someone work like this, it makes me think that they have problems with their life outside of work. Why don’t they want to spend time with friends/family? Do they have trouble sleeping?

      The exception is for people who truly have a passion for their work, or periods of time when there is simply a lot to do. At my firm, I can tell the difference between the incredibly busy attorneys and the attorneys who just don’t want to go home.

      1. Artemesia*

        Those two things can go together to — a home life escaped or responsibilities avoided plus passion for work. I knew a brilliant scientist like this; he had a bad marriage and so chose to be ‘busy’ all the time.

        Throughout my working life I have known many people who mess around all day at work, drinking coffee, wandering around having conversations, surfing the net etc while others are productive and then ‘have to work late.’ I have always assumed they would rather do that than parent their kids, mow the lawn, do the laundry etc.

        1. fposte*

          To be honest, approximately 90% of my job is preferable to doing laundry. (I long since outsourced the lawn mowing.)

      2. jmkenrick*

        At my office, it seems putting in that many hours can actually raise questions about your ability to time-manage. Yes, some people regularly work a few hours of overtime, and yes, occasionally there is stuff that happens on weekends…but if you’re regularly working weekends and staying late, etc, etc., you’d be viewed as poorly managing your time, even if you were producing a lot.

        Which, incidentally, is great for overall moral, I think.

        1. Maggie*

          Yup. “…putting in that many hours can actually raise questions about your ability to time-manage. ” I think this statement definitely applies for support roles. At a certain point, you should realize how to control your in/outflow, how to maximize your communication and efficiencies and the most important thing to remember: it’s not life or death. Unless you’re submitting paperwork for a live liver transplant to an office that is open 24/7, it can usually wait until tomorrow. Or shoot, come in a bit early tomorrow morning and get it done but for Buddha’s sake, go home.

          If you tell me that you just have TOO MUCH to do, all the time, then we will sit down toge ther and prioritize your workload and figure out what to DO, DELEGATE or DUMP. As a leader, that also means I will regularly analyzing whether a procedure, form or service truly provides integral value as the status quo suggests.

          I am such a huge fan of dumping. And going home.

      3. Ruffingit*

        I agree with you about wondering what is going on outside of work to cause this. The major workaholics I know have all had some kind of problem outside of work that they coped with by escaping into work. For one guy, it was not wanting to be present in his marriage. He ended up getting divorced and married someone else. The other person who I knew like this had a life that imploded because her friends/significant other got sick of it. She promised to pick her boyfriend up from the airport, but got into her work and forgot him. That was the last straw of many for him.

        I tend to see this kind of behavior as a (bad) coping skill for life problems.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it really depends. Some people just really love their jobs (I have often been one of those people) and throw themselves into it, and are able to arrange their lives in ways that accommodate that easily.

          As Jamie pointed out, people don’t say this kind of thing about people who spend all their time on a hobby; it’s only work that gets this rap. But being passionate about the substance of your work is no less healthy than being passionate about stamp collecting or baking or writing or raising pheasants.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Sure, but when it starts to affect your life outside of work then it becomes an issue. In my posting, I’m talking about people whose outside lives are affected such as spouses leaving them, bad relationships with kids, etc. I’ve also known people who escaped into work because their outside work lives were in turmoil in some way. It doesn’t apply to everyone of course. Just speaking on the topic from my own experience hence my saying “I tend to see this…” In using the word “tend” I leave it open to other possibilities as there may be reasons people do this that have nothing to do with what I’m saying. I’m open to that as well.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, yeah, I agree that in that context it’s bad. I just don’t think it should all be painted with the same brush, which sometimes people have a tendency to do on this issue!

              1. Ruffingit*

                I’m with you on that. Using a broad brush for all people on any topic is really unfair and it is true that people tend to look down on those who work a lot. I’m happy for anyone who enjoys their work and I encourage people to find a passion that pays.

    2. AmyNYC*

      Same here. There are people at my office where work is the main thing in their life and they stay late late late.
      Work is part of my life, but there so many other things – family, friends, hobbies, just not being chained to a desk – that I’m not willing to forfeit for a job. That doesn’t make me a bad or lazy person, just someone with different priorities.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I work to live, I don’t live to work. I’m not a lazy person, I’ve completed advanced degrees and had some intense jobs where I’ve worked hard. But at the end of the day, my priority is my husband and our life together. I just can’t put that much emphasis on a job.

    3. Clever Name*

      I have a coworker who is like this who is a manager. Everyone in the company knows he works ridiculous hours. He even stays plugged in while on “vacation”. It’s ridiculous. It’s led to some interesting conversations with clients. Many of them assume I’m his second when he’s on vacation, but I know better than to answer questions without prior “authorization” from him, so I always tell them to call his cell. Many of them are incredulous, and I just shrug.

      Fortunately our boss and the owner of the company is a reasonable person and know that people have lives outside of work, so oddly, it doesn’t create an unreasonable expectation of everyone working a ton of hours. I’m a highly productive person, by the way, and even though I work part time, I’ve worked overtime (40+) a few times over the years during crunch time. I just don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      1. Maggie*

        Yes, but he might just be a control freak who double checks everybody’s work (and that takes a lot of time). But I hate when managers don’t set the example for a work life balance because it suggests that their staff should follow suit if they are considering going into management, especially at that company.

        1. Dmented Kitty*

          It’s one thing if this one person in your team works that much over the weekends — it’s another thing though if he assumes that others have the same availability as he does.

          I’ve been in instances where some lead from another team would assume that anyone from our team are going to be always available over the weekend, and would attempt to schedule work (at such short notice — e.g. Friday, 4PM). Was it critical that we need the weekend to work? No. For some reason he just seems to like working all the time… :/

          After being burnt out on my last full-time position, I have long since valued work-life balance. Unless critical, I would refuse to open my work laptop when I get home from work.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do agree with that, despite my rant about pheasant-raising above — if you’re a manager with workaholic tendencies, you’ve got to be very deliberate about creating an environment where your employees don’t feel obligated to be the same way.

    4. Jessa*

      I think the OP needs to talk to management anyway. Especially since this is a government job. Working unpaid overtime can come back to bite the company significantly. Labour law requires those hours to be paid. If that employee gets disgruntled, they’re going to be sued for those hours. Jealousy or not, less productive or not, “Boss, employee x is working “this much time” off the clock. This could become a serious legal issue for the office.” Nothing to do with the comparative workload. This is a big deal.

  2. PEBCAK*

    #2 sounds like the coworker’s boss would be really mad if she found out…unpaid overtime is a whole mess on its own.

    1. Anon*

      Exactly what I came here to say and I’m surprised Alison didn’t comment on it… hours and hours and hours of unpaid overtime? Assuming the person is non-exempt, hello illegal! I bet the boss would be furious. (Also, I think it’s likely the person is non-exempt, as if they were exempt they’d be talking more about “not getting paid extra” or “not getting comp time” for overtime). Just my two cents!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m assuming they’re exempt, but regardless, the federal government has different rules for overtime for its own employees than it has for private employers. (Nice, huh?)

        1. Niki*

          I used to work for the government. On the surface it seemed like they had really good rules about getting paid for overtime, but were so strict about approving it. I worked there for over three years and never once saw anyone get approved overtime.

          1. Andrea*

            I worked for the federal government (though it was ten years ago). People were expected to work OT every Saturday. I balked, because no one said a word about that during hiring, and I had specifically asked about evenings and weekends. So then I was told that it wasn’t required. Just expected. And 98% of everyone else came in every Saturday morning and worked for at least 4 hours. I never did that, not even once. The culture of that place was backwards at best, but the whole “expected overtime every Saturday” was bonkers. Maybe if meetings had sucked up less time every damn week, folks would have been able to get their work done and meet goals without sacrificing Saturdays. In any case, I was thrilled to quit, for so many reasons.

            1. Niki*

              Huh. I guess it depends what department it is. I worked for the DOD more recent than ten years ago so the budget could have been different. Each month everyone was afraid they would be put on furlough.

              1. Andrea*

                This was Health & Human Services, SSA and OIG, specifically. And technically it was comp time, where you got extra time off, I believe, instead of overtime pay. But yeah, I’m sure things are different now and in other agencies/departments.

    2. Elysian*

      The federal government pays overtime differently than private companies do – it sounds like this person is FLSA exempt, but even exempt federal government employees are entitled to overtime if their overtime work is “officially ordered or approved.” I think that’s the overtime that we’re talking about here – since no one is telling the employee to work the overtime, its probably not officially ordered and approved.

      It’s entirely different from FLSA overtime, which only has to be “suffered or permitted,” a much lower standard. Lots of FLSA exempt government employees works voluntary overtime without overtime pay.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes, but if my employee shows up on a saturday to work unapproved overtime, we still have to compensate through credit hours, comp time, or overtime. You’re not allowed to work for free.

        1. Betsy*

          Right, but if Penelope Huffnpuff is just putting in extra hours at home without asking or telling anyone, you guys can’t get in legal trouble 3 years from now for letting her do it without compensation, right?

          The “secret” out-of-office overtime can leave private companies on the hook for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars down the line if the employee decides to suddenly make an issue of it.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            The problem is bidding on work. With out accurate “actuals” it is impossible to know how long a future job will take. That’s why a lot of companies associated with the feds ask you to record all hours worked – even if you don’t get paid for them. That way they can use the actuals to bid correctly on future jobs.
            OP #2 co-worker is hiding work, which means that the next job will be underbid. That means that they won’t scope the work correctly, and that means at some point a future job will overrun on costs and time. Then lots of people become unhappy, especially when it hits the newspapers.

            1. Dmented Kitty*

              This is especially important with consulting jobs. If you don’t report your exact hours on a project, then you’ll have problems providing an accurate estimate for future projects.

              This is one reason why accurate metrics is crucial — otherwise, you’ll never be able to allocate the correct number of resources you need for the duration of the project. And that reflects poor management, and very burnt out and unmotivated people.

              I’ve known instances where project managers try to “doctor” their project metrics such that it looks good for the performance of the company (high performance, low cost) — but that’s just not right. Metrics are there to *reflect* the project’s performance, not the other way around.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I’m not sure actually. It’s a moot point for us because we can’t work from home due to the nature of the work, so we know if you’re in the building.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        BTW, this isn’t true: “Lots of FLSA exempt government employees works voluntary overtime without overtime pay.”

        Well, they might do it, but they’re not supposed to. Now, it might be that they’ve capped out (there’s a set limit to how much premium pay you can get in a year, which actually can become an issue if you’re high ranking) but you’re supposed to be paid. According to the rules:

        “Employee Coverage
        FLSA exempt employees, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5541(2), who work full-time, part-time, or intermittent tours of duty are eligible for title 5 overtime pay. Employees in senior-level (SL) and scientific or professional (ST) positions who are paid under 5 U.S.C. 5376 are not excluded from the definition of “employee” in 5 U.S.C. 5541(2). Therefore, employees in SL and ST positions are covered by the premium pay provisions in subchapter V of chapter 55 of title 5, United States Code (e.g., overtime pay provisions in 5 U.S.C. 5542, and the biweekly and annual premium pay limitations in 5 U.S.C. 5547).”

        1. One of the Annes*

          I think Elysian was referring not to what’s legal but to what happens in practice. I’m an exempt state government worker who frequently puts in several extra, uncompensated hours when I feel like I need to (not saying this in an “I’m such a martyr” way but in a “this is what adults do” way). I know several of my colleagues do this too. Sure, I could probably get comp time for this if I asked my boss first, but my attitude is that I don’t nickel and dime the state just like I expect the state not to nickel and dime me.

          1. fposte*

            Wow, there are states with mandatory overtime for exempt state employees? Mine is definitely not one.

            1. doreen*

              Might have more to do with your work/title/agency than your state , though. Most exempt employees in my state agency don’t work any overtime at all and I’m sure that goes for most other agencies as well. But for those of us who do, it’s a function of the work/job itself rather than someone telling us it’s mandatory. The exempt workers in the payroll office probably don’t work any overtime at all, but I’m sure the lawyers in the attorney general’s office work plenty when they’re on trial.

        2. Elysian*

          Sure – I’m not saying that its right or that its proper, but I personally know a ton of federal who voluntarily perform overtime work (at home, on the weekends) and don’t get paid. They really shouldn’t be, that’s true – but if it hasn’t been pre-approved or ordered, they can’t submit it after the fact and then get paid for it. I know lots of people that just don’t bother.

          I didn’t want to get into a big thing about the ins and outs of federal overtime, I’m sorry if that’s what I started – I just wanted to point out that the situation with this employee will not be the same as it would for an FLSA non-exempt employee. I think that focusing on the “unpaid overtime” part of this question is a red herring.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Ah ok. I do too (extra work off the clock) but I’m really not supposed to :/

            I figure I make up for the number of times I comment on this website during the day. :)

          2. Federal Manager*

            Never posted before – but I wanted to point out that not only can you not work for free as a Federal employee – it is a violation of labor and appropriations law. “Unpaid overtime” is not really a red hearing here – both the employee and the manager could face discipline in this case, and even be removed from federal services. In fact, most agencies time reporting systems clearly state that misrepresenting your time (even under reporting) can result in immediate dismissal.

            1. Elysian*

              Yes, they could face discipline. But if the employee is FLSA exempt, they won’t face an unpaid overtime suit.

              I don’t think “working for free” is the right phrasing here anyway for exempt employees – they’re salaried, so they’re not working for free. They’re working for their salary.

              For example, see this case: http://www.fedweek.com/item-view.php?tbl=6&ID=3289
              “The court held that because the overtime the attorneys sought compensation for was not officially ordered or approved in writing, they are not entitled to compensation…” FLSA exempt federal employee can work without getting overtime pay (like the rest of us privately-employed exempt folks) if they fail to have their overtime officially approved in advance.

        3. JC*

          Huh, that’s interesting. When I was a federal employee (left a few years ago), my agency was adamant about not giving any comp time or overtime for travel or meetings outside of normal work hours. My husband’s agency gives “travel comp time” for time spent traveling (i.e. in transit) outside of normal work hours, but does not give comp time or overtime if they need to work extra hours while on travel or otherwise. We’re both exempt, and I didn’t realize what the law was.

          But either way, I’d think that breaking those laws are often largely ignored in the federal government. If they’re not regularly paying comp time/overtime for travel and meetings they are telling you to attend that bring your hours over 40, they’ll care even less about the exempt employee who voluntarily works more than 40 hours.

    3. BRR*

      That was my first though as well. If the coworker is non-exempt, the OP could phrase it, “Jane has been working a lot at home, I just thought you should know so we don’t get in trouble.” Or something like that.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I cracked down on one of my employees this week for this. I hate to crush enthusiasm, but I did explain that there are laws and reguations and I do NOT want him working more than he has to. He’s not even trying to get overtime – he just wants to work. I appreciate that he likes his work, but it’s not ok, and it creates a potential legal mess.

      As a recovered workaholic too, there are some other, non-legal considerations I now appreciate more as a manager:

      – You’re not working as effectively when you’re working 80 hours in a week. You’re really not. You get burnt out, irritable, and don’t work as well. There’s a reason a typical workweek is 40 hours – it’s not out of the generosity of employers’ hearts. It’s because that’s the amount of time that maximizes efficiency and minimizes mistakes.

      – One person working too much can mask a resource shortage that needs to be addressed by higher ups. It took me YEARS to understand this, because I took on all our extra work myself when I was younger. But the problem is that if the work keeps getting done despite not having enough people, then upper management never sees a problem. And when you burn out, it leaves the team in a bind.

      – Other people need a chance to shine. We usually work in teams -one hot shot isn’t good for team dynamics.

      1. Betsy*

        Yes! This is one of my personal bugbears, and I am a 40-hour workweek evangelist: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/stop-working-more-than-40-hours-a-week.html

        One quote from that article: “In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the “sweet spot” is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.”

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I had previously read that Ford supported a 40 hour week based on consumer demand for his products, rather than productivity. If workers had some leisure time, it would stimulate consumerism.

        2. Jamie*

          I just wanted to express the need for caution with things stated in absolutes. I sometimes like his writing style, but things are not that black and white and to say that we all hit a productivity wall at the exact same 40 hour mark is not possible – there are too many individual variables.

          I absolutely believe there is validity in negative returns after someone has worked past their productivity point and I’m not advocating for people to move into their offices and work every waking moment – but there is some personal judgement that crops up when this kind of thing is discussed which seems to infer that people who regularly work longer hours are socially or personally defective.

          We all have different levels of stamina, interest, ability, and time – and we all have different levels of outside interests and circumstances in our personal lives. And people often termed “workaholics” are that way for a variety of reasons.

          Most commonly one of four – IME:
          – Improperly structured job which cannot be done properly in a normal work week.
          – Bad time management/lacking the skills or ability to do the job properly in the allotted week.
          – Avoiding going home/work as an escape
          – Choosing to spend their free time working more.

          The first two are workplace problems and need to be addressed.

          The third? Some people escape into a bar, or the movies, or books, school, a time intensive hobby, sports…workaholics aren’t the only one’s avoiding emotional and practical responsibilities at home by delving into something else. They just like their work enough that they’d rather do something productive.

          The fourth? I have always failed to understand why the same judgement isn’t applied to those who work 40 hours and then take classes, or have an intellectually challenging hobby? By the logic applied in this article and what seems to be fairly common place if I had a hobby of writing open source sql reports on my off time that would be fine – but if doing it to benefit my job I won’t be productive because I can’t maintain the quality of work. I don’t get that.

          Jobs are different – people are different. And if there are no OT regs being broken, it’s up to management to understand that Jane works more than the others so if she were to leave they’d need to take that into account. It’s not like they are working like secret ninjas – so let management take it into account.

          I’m opposed to people being forced to work excessive hours, but I do take issue with people sitting in judgement of others who make different life choices for themselves if it’s not a problem for their boss.

          I just don’t get how if I typically work 55 hours a week I’m not productive at a certain point and a big mistake factory per the article, but someone working 40 hours a week and taking 15 hours of college classes at night is well rounded and balanced. So my ability to do journal entries is compromised, but not my ability to do well in a calc or physics class? I don’t get it.

          And with that I won’t comment more about this – because I wanted to point it out in case people read the article and applied it unilaterally, but I’m avoiding the rabbit hole.

          1. ChiTown Lurker*

            Thank you for expressing this so much better than I would have done. #1 is very common for those of us in IT who have support jobs that require longer hours to provide national coverage. When layoffs occur or there are hiring freezes, many of us are required to stretch our hours to remain employed. I am not a workaholic, I just work the hours of one.

          2. smilingswan*

            Maybe it has to do with the change in focus. That is, working for 40 hours on one thing and then an additional 20 on something else is not as taxing as spending 60 hours on one thing.

      2. NavyLT*

        All of this, especially the part about masking resource shortages. At a previous command, we were severely undermanned, and I had to repeatedly tell one of my (workaholic, martyr-complex) civilians that in addition to it being illegal for him to work unpaid overtime, if he picked up all the slack, senior leadership wouldn’t feel the effects of the manning shortage because as far as they could tell, we were “doing more with less.”

  3. azvlr*

    #2 At the risk of unleashing the wrath of the community, I am going to put this out there:

    I feel similarly when teachers do this! Please don’t mistake my intentions as there are many fine teachers out there who truly go above and beyond to make a difference in the life of a child. I applaud and admire those teachers. I’m thinking of those coaches, music teachers, tutors. etc. who work long hours directly with students. These are the teachers who are often the school’s most beloved and I feel they are vital to any school community, and it is these teachers who are the most satisfied with their jobs.

    What I find alarming are teachers who feel they must spend evenings and weekends lesson planning and grading spelling homework just to stay afloat. I had a friend who worked in a low-paying private school who did this. She would complain to me about the long hours. I told her to take her salary and divide it by the number of hours she worked. She was shocked to learn she was making less than minimum wage, but she still continued to do it and began to burn out.

    Teachers get a bad rap about many things, but I feel this attitude of so-called “going above and beyond”, while in the short term seems to be a good solution, is ultimately a disservice to all teachers. (again differentiating between the extra time spent directly mentoring vs. work done to stay afloat).

    The more this is done, the more it is expected of all. Teachers should be able to masterfully do their job in the space of the work day. That includes grading and lesson planning. But, the workload of teachers has increased little by little over the years. I have no proof, but I have a strong suspicion that it is impossible for a teacher to perform all of his/her assigned duties (some of which are required by law – Special Ed, I’m talking to you.) in the space of a 24 hour day, let alone a normal work day. When there are too many duties, something’s gotta give. Either instruction will suffer or the teacher will burn out.

    Again, I realize this may be a very unpopular viewpoint, but I hope I’ve made you think tonight: I think it’s time for teachers to stop playing martyr and start (collectively) demanding to be treated on par with other professional such as doctors, engineers, lawyers. Teachers often have every bit of education and experience people in these fields. Demand better working conditions, demand better pay! (And no, it’s not all about money, but it shouldn’t be about spending Every. Waking. Moment in your classroom, either). Those of you that aren’t teachers, would you do what they do for the money teachers make?

    1. Elysian*

      I don’t think this is/will be an unpopular viewpoint. When I was a teacher, the best teachers in the school were the unmarried ones/people without families or relationships/people without a lot of outside interests. They worked all day, went home and worked all night, and were superstars.

      I think this is a problem in a lot of jobs, honestly – people with outside commitments may value more balance, people who don’t have outside commitments work all the time and become superstars. I just think its more approved of in teaching (and in non-profit work as well) because you’re supposed to be “doing it for the kids!” (or for the cause) which makes you a martyr instead of a work-a-holic. The martyr mindset is THE biggest reason I stopped being a public school teacher.

      1. AVP*

        This is so interesting to me right now. I was more or less single the last 6 years that I’ve been at my job, and was an absolute superstar.

        For the last six months I’ve been in a really great relationship, and I just have no interest in waking up on the weekends to bang out emails and check my phone every fifteen minutes the way I used to. I’m assuming this will iron itself out as the new shiny relationship turns into more of a normal status quo, but I can definitely feel my priorities evening out. In a way that makes me happier, but also worries me a little about my job security.

      2. azvlr*

        I’m so surprised at the line of comments about this. I had thought I was the only one to feel this way, and consequently felt really guilty that I was not one of the “martyr set”. (Confession time: I am a former teacher who was never really very good at it. Is it because I was not willing to spend my entire life in the classroom?) All of the successful teachers I know also spend more than 40-45 hours per week working, so I will probably never know.) I left, in small part because of burn-out, but I also discovered what I really want to be when I grow up (still education related).

        My passion for my new field makes it hard NOT to do work stuff in my off hours, so maybe I just wasn’t passionate enough about teaching. Still, I can’t help but think that folks like doctors also make a difference in people’s lives, have a really hard job, and nobody begrudges their salaries.

    2. Rachel*

      You do realize that the current structure of our education system makes this impossible? Teachers unions are being systemically destroyed throughout the country. Classroom sizes are increasing, because there isn’t enough money. Where is this increased salary supposed to come from? Teachers are pushing back – and then they get yelled at about how this work is “for the kids” and not to pay their bills. See Chicago. See NYC, where plenty of people are angry about the raises and backpay the union just negotiated. The teachers aren’t the people who need to push here – they’re already doing that. I feel like you’re putting the blame on teachers for a systemic problem in their industry.

      Don’t get me wrong – I’m the daughter of a public school teacher who deserves to make at least twice what they currently pay him. But my father has three preps (courses that he is teaching and needs to lesson plan) every year, between 120-150 students in five classes, and teaches high school history. For him to complete all of his grading within a 40-hour work week would require that none of his students write a single essay for the entire year. For him to do the absolute minimum to do right for his students requires more than a 40-hour work week, and to change that would require dramatically reducing the number of students he teaches and the number of preps he’s assigned.

      So. I’m perfectly willing to raise taxes to pay for this, but I work in nonprofit and don’t make much. If those doctors, engineers, and lawyers are willing to pay more taxes, if corporations are willing to stop keeping all their money abroad and actually pay their fair share of taxes? Then we can properly fund our school systems! We could pay my father more for what he does, and hire twice as many teachers to reduce class sizes, and then maybe he’d be paid a fair wage. But in the meantime, putting the blame on teachers doesn’t help. Put the pressure on your local government to raise taxes and properly fund the schools.

      1. Heather*

        This, this, this.

        I live in NJ, where our charming governor’s hobby is screaming at teachers and posting the video on YouTube (I am not making this up, his staffers actually post these videos themselves), and there are currently huge issues with the budget because he refuses to raise taxes on higher incomes. One of his favorite”explanations” for the budget shortfalls is that they’re somehow caused by the unreasonable demands of the teachers’ union, and a lot of people actually believe him (because apparently they never had a good math teacher!).

        It would be wonderful if teachers could gain the respect and pay that they deserve, but in this climate, a teacher asking to work fewer hours for the same pay would be eaten alive. If we could get rid of the idea that the very existence of taxes is teh evil, it would be easier, but I don’t see that happening any time soon :(

    3. StarHopper*

      Thank you for this. I am a teacher (high school), and even before I had my first child, I was not one to bring lots of work home to grade. I value my home time too much. Instead, I place more value on low-prep classroom activities, and assessments that are quick to grade. Over the years, I have shifted more and more to a style of teaching that requires very little extra time (but a lot of energy and focus while IN the classroom!), and the more “extras” I’ve let go of, the better my students do. My subject matter, foreign language, lends itself to this better than others.

      I have colleagues that come to school at 5 a.m. (we don’t start until 9) and that come in on weekends and breaks. I have colleagues that take huge stacks of work home with them to grade. It does not seem to be a healthy work/life balance. Come Teachers’ Appreciation Week, we get lots of praise for how hard we work, and how MUCH we work, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    4. Mike C.*

      You know what pisses me off? Every person who dares to complain about a teacher who’s “in it for the money”. You know who else has similar educational, certification and legal requirements and “does it for the money”? Lawyers. Doctors. Engineers. Those folks serve incredibly important functions to society and it’s totally fine for them to be well rewarded for their efforts, but the minute a teacher wants to be paid well they’re accused of “not caring about children”.

      Look at the huge need for teachers with STEM backgrounds. Personally, I have a BS in Math and Biology from a great teaching college (with the resources to actually convert science majors into science educators!) and with a bit of additionally training would be perfectly capable of teaching several different science and math courses. But then I’d have to deal with the bullshit politics, all the folks who blame teachers for the ills of the world, every moneyed “expert” who thinks they can “solve” our education problems with anything but funding it well, the insane continuing education requirements, constantly being a political football and the ever decreasing wages and benefit.

      Or I can walk over next door, make twice as much and never have to deal with any of that crap. Yeah, that’s a tough choice right there.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m honestly always a little confused by the highly qualified teachers who do stay.

        (Granted, this confusion usually comes after reading their FB rants about the long hours, uninvolved parents, etc. Their complaints are justified, but if I worked for Company X and had to put up with working nights and weekends and impossible people, friends would tell me to run for the hills. Because they are teachers, people instead say, “Oh, that’s just part of the job.” )

        1. azvlr*

          Yes. It’s so accepted as normal. It doesn’t have to be that way. When I suggest this to my teacher friends, I’m looked at like I’m from another planet (A planet where respect and dignity go hand in hand with impacting lives, I guess.)

        2. Anon7*

          I had two VERY highly qualified teachers in my high school, one in math and one in chemistry. And by highly qualified, I mean NASA tried to recruit the math teacher twice while she was working there, and multiple colleges/universities were after the chem teacher to be a professor.

          There were two reasons they both stayed:
          1. They really loved teaching, and they cared deeply about their students.
          2. They both had spouses that were making major bank at their jobs, so money wasn’t a concern.

          As an added bonus, they were both so well liked by students and staff that they rarely, if ever, had to put up with rowdy students or fussy parents, so that whole “impossible people” issue was minimized.

      2. Betsy*

        There are some other professions where this happens as well: nurses spring instantly to mind. If they suggest that the 60 hours they have to work to fill their responsibilities are too much, or that patients are in danger because the nurses don’t have time to double-check what they’re doing, they’re accused of caring more about the money than the patient.

      3. Xay*


        It drives me crazy to hear this mentality for public service in general, but especially teachers. Love of service and children does not pay bills.

      4. Mints*

        Agreed! I think this stems from people viewing teaching as an extension of being maternal/parental instead of the professional job it is
        My teacher friend constantly rants about how teaching is the only profession (requiring education, certifications, and experience) that people constantly criticize, even when they have no experience teaching

        Anyway, to get back on topic, teaching is one of many jobs where preople are guilted into working more than necessary instead of hiring on more people or raising wages to account for the work hours, and I’m not surprised that some other aspects of the public sector do this too

      5. MR*

        I’ve come to learn that the people who are the most ‘outraged’ about issues like this (I like to refer to it as ‘faux outrage’), know the least about the issue.

        It’s not worth your time trying to engage these people. The best you can do is to point them in the right direction with regards to the resources to educate themselves, but if they don’t choose to learn about the topic, then they are the ones that look like buffoons to the rest of us.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yup. I know people who get outraged about a lot of things because they heard some soundbite and they extrapolate that soundbite into “all the information needed” when the soundbite is actually half false itself. So irritating.

          It’s like a certain relative of mine who used to try to tell me all about what I should be doing with my law degree so I could be making bank. His suggestions were totally stupid and unrealistic and anyone who had been to law school would know that, but hey, he had all the answers for my professional life.

    5. Artemesia*

      In the early years of teaching this is the life. I taught in a high school where I had 6 hour long classes a day — If I had not worked every evening and weekend there was no time in which I could have developed my lessons and graded my papers. To be a good teacher means working long hours. After a few years, when new lesson preparation is not necessary continuously, there is less ‘ homework’ but still papers have to be graded.

      I college teaching I had 4 different preparations each semester the first year I taught. Pretty much a 24/7 job to just make it through the first couple of years.

      Anyone who expects a 9-5 job should not go into teaching. On the other hand, it is one of the rare jobs in the US that provides long vacation periods.

      when I worked in the private sector even with a demanding job, it was not only more lucrative but easier and less time consuming.

    6. LF*

      I agree with your overall point and absolutely agree that society should provide substantially more support for teachers, but please DO NOT confuse the amount of training that teachers undergo with those of doctors. Four years of college and two years of graduate education and a lifetime of learning on the job is not the same as four years of college and four years of graduate education and anywhere from three to nine years of working eighty hours a week for minimum wage. Devaluing all of the training undertaken by doctors and all of the sacrifices they make does not advance the cause of teachers.

      Doctors may be paid better at the end of all of that training, but they usually have significantly more in student loans and have sacrificed being present for the early years of their children’s lives (if they can even manage to date enough to land a partner with whom to have children, and figure out the logistics of it). I’m not saying that teachers don’t have it rough, but it’s not an apples to apples comparison, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

      Source: I’m a not-highly-paid lawyer who can’t have kids any time soon because she’s married to resident doctor. (Note that I haven’t said ANYTHING about lawyers.)

        1. LF*

          Grabbing five minute lunches in their hospital cafeterias, feeling too tired to date, sleeping in until 4pm on their one day off per week and never having any free time to make plans with friends…

          1. azvlr*

            You pretty much describe a teacher’s life, too. And yes, they are continually doing professional development. So they didn’t spend years in school just to become a doctor. They spent 4 (actually 5 years now) to become a teacher, so any further education is done while they are on already on the job. I agree that you cannot directly compare the education required for each job, but at least doctors are compensated and respected. I wish we could say the same for nurses. Sigh.

      1. Mike C.*

        Most of what Doctors and Lawyers go through sounds more like hazing than anything else.

        Yes, lets make them work 80+ hours a week making life or death situations while artificially limiting the number of people who can join their profession so we can justify working them to death in the first place. That sounds like a brilliant idea.

        1. LF*

          I work in a really respectful law office and don’t deal with that sort of thing. (Conversely…I’m not rolling in money.) It’s a cultural thing for lawyers, but not a systemic issue the way it is for doctors.

          Look, I’m not going to further derail this conversation by going into a thorough analysis of the underlying systemic issues, but the reason why cardiothoracic surgeons go through nine years of post-graduate training working 80-100 hours a week is so that they can *learn*.

          Sure, assuming that there was enough funding to do so, programs could structure themselves to cause their residents to work less, but apparently TBTP have decreed that it is necessary to work 35,000 hours to become an attending cardiothoracic surgeon capable of practicing without any supervision. Making people work shorter hours during the week would just stretch out an already extremely lengthy training period (13 years of medical and post-graduate training – only 3 years short of what it takes to get a college degree).

          Is so much training necessary? Neither of us has the knowledge or experience to know that.

          There are also medical care related benefits to doctors working such long shifts. While it’s true that fatigue can greatly impair your cognitive and decision-making capabilities, there are also studies showing that the greatest source of medical mistakes comes from hand-off errors. So, two people working 12 hour shifts means less opportunity for error than three people working 8 hour shifts.

          It’s a complicated issue.

    7. Kate M*

      Wait, I think teachers are different in terms of putting in overtime than other professions. When exactly do you expect teachers to make lesson plans and grade papers? They have students all day long – from 8am-3pm at least (and that’s if they don’t have any mentoring duties, after school activities, etc that they’re expected to do uncompensated). Are they supposed to ignore students while they do other work? The teaching day is for teaching. Sure this can vary depending on what grade and subjects you teach, but in general, when exactly do you expect them to do all of their other work? Even if we’re just talking about a self-contained 25 child 5th grade classroom that teaches 4 subjects (math, English, social studies, science), and the teacher gives ONE homework assignment per subject per week (which is way too low), that’s still 100 papers to grade per week. Minimum. I’m so confused about when you expect that work to be graded.

      1. Kate M*

        And to be clear – I agree that teachers should be making a lot more than what they are. I’m just confused about your wording of teachers being “martyrs” because they take home things to grade and plan.

        1. azvlr*

          I don’t think teachers who take home papers to grade should be considered “above and beyond” aka martyrs. Again, the one who work directly with children in those extracurricular hours often are superb role-models, (as opposed to heroes or martyrs).

          My point is that the system should be structured so that teachers do not have to spend time outside of work doing routine tasks. Submitting to this expectation does not make one a martyr.

      2. Jamie*

        Teachers are different also because of the school year schedule.

        The average salaries for hs teachers in my town are 73-112K. This doesn’t take into account summers and coaching which are compensated separately.

        They are earning their salaries during the 9 month school year in which they still have 3 weeks off.

        I’m not begrudging them the time, it’s great, but if they grade papers at night while school is in session they are still only working 9 months out of the year unless they teach summer school in which case they are compensated for that in addition to the base salary.

        Teaching is a very specific situation which doesn’t apply to other industries. For some people it’s a trade they are willing to make for the summers off.

        1. Jamie*

          I meant range – not average. I was going to do an average and then just entered the range and forgot to clean up the beginning of the sentence.

          Not correcting a typo – just clarifying that I pulled the whole range from low to high and it’s not averaged.

          1. AGirlCalledFriday*

            This isn’t correct, actually. Teachers are paid for the time that they are in the classroom. They do not get paid for vacations and summers – they may receive paychecks though because their salary has been averaged out for that reason. So a teacher is only paid for those 9 months but can receive a smaller paycheck so that they are paid during summer and winter breaks.

            Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who has commented that they realize the overwhelming workload a teacher has to bear.

            Someone mentioned upthread that teachers don’t have time to plan or grade during the day, and that’s true. As a teacher, my day begins before the students arrive. I prepare for the day to begin. Then I get the students, and I have them for the majority of the day. Lunch is only 20 min long – unless I have to be with the kids for lunch – and sometimes I have recess duties. Students might have a gym or art class in which I have time to myself, but I often end up eating lunch/having a meeting with a coworker or principal/do some cleanup/prep for the remainder of the day. And going to the bathroom. There’s never time to go to the bathroom. After school, it’s cleanup and grading, which I normally need to take home afterward. Planning is done on the weekends or after school.

            Aside from my teaching hours, I’m doing a lot. I’m planning my lessons, which are often in large unit plans and require outside research. I plan lectures, activities, I shop for materials, I create visual aids for everything I do, I do a dry run of the material taught to be sure that I am explaining it well. I create worksheets, tests, quizzes, and make copies. I’m also grading lessons, which requires materials too – stickers, stamps, colored pens (I love ones that smell nice). I upload grades online/put in a book and calculate overall grades for the week. I make note of what’s been understood and I reteach if necessary. I meet with students individually to discuss assignments if the material wasn’t understood by a few. I write comments explaining where they went wrong. I also get late assignments from students that were sick/forgot it at home/didn’t turn it in. I need to keep track of these and submit letters to students and parents so they remember to turn things in.

            Aside from these, there are never-ending projects for holidays and events that need to be completed. I need to figure out how to do these projects, complete them myself, and find time to do them in class. I need to put things on the walls or take them down. I have reading areas and math centers and my students draw huge maps of countries we learn about in social studies. All of these require materials bought, and my time to research and display. I have to organize everything in the room, so students know where I keep materials for them. I have to buy many of the materials and bins/labels to organize with. We have posters on the wall – I buy or make them. We have cushions and rugs in the reading center, which I buy. I buy books for the library.

            I have discipline plans. This requires reward and punishment systems. I have cards that I punch holes in, charts on the wall, certificates I pass out, coupons. I keep track of time wasted, I time how long it takes for the students to transition to different subjects (getting books and other materials). I need to make all of these things, display them, and update most of them several times through the day. When a student misbehaves, there are papers to send home, meetings with students, meetings with parents, meetings with administration. Not to mention that when students misbehave in class, we can’t finish everything planned and that means I have to adjust my plans for the remainder of the week. We have job lists that I needed to create and enforce as well.

            I also have many non-discipline meetings – meetings with coworkers, with the principal, with parents, with students. Parents always want more information, so I send friday folders home with newsletters that I create myself. I have multiple emails a day, I have phone calls from parents. I send more emails and call more parents to say something nice about their kids so everyone feels good.

            There are also events. I often have to help with music concerts as the kids don’t have enough time in music class. This means I learn the songs and assist with decorating, endless practices, teaching the kids the song. Last year, I taught my 4th grade class a french song and created props, I taught 2 other songs, 1 with harmony and the other choreographed. There are field trips that need to be planned, notices to send home, money and slips to collect, transportation to arrange. Field trips are exhausting but kids love them. Also – teachers normally have a club or several that they direct and need to plan for. Last year I was doing speech for grade 2 and 4, book club, and watching kids after clubs before they were picked up by parents.

            Finally, there’s the counseling. The skinned knees and kids crying, the child whose parents are divorcing, the neglected or abused child, the one who loves unicorns and can I please plan a lesson using unicorns/cars/snowmen? The kid in a fight with his best friend. The new kid who doesn’t know anyone. The one who doesn’t speak English properly. The one who doesn’t hear so well, the one who isn’t so good in math. The one who cries after every test is passed back. The kid who is always late. The kid who is too overweight and is insecure. The kid who complains all the time, the kid who does nothing, the kid who bullies everyone, the kid who wants so much attention from you, the kid who hugs you whenever they see you. All of these kids demand your attention and time during the day and before/after school.

            I know a lot of jobs that also require a ton of work to do, but I know of no other job that requires this much personal time and expense that also vilifies the people who step up to do it. If you teach for awhile you learn better systems, you’re able to reuse plans, you know the material better and you teach it better. But for teachers who start out, it’s impossible to do it all and do it well. Not to mention that young teachers are given the most difficult classes. This is why teachers burn out. I did all of this and more, and I was paid 27k a year. My roommate makes 120k, works 6 hours a day with 1-2 hour lunches, and never on the weekends or late.

            It’s true that you do it because of the kids – it’s what drives you. But complaining parents, demanding administrators, lack of a personal life or money to pay bills, and the overwhelming disrespect soon overwhelm.

            1. AGirlCalledFriday*

              I know that comment was super long and I do apologize for that. I decided to post because given the current climate with education, I really feel its so important for people to understand what a teacher actually does. Please feel free to delete if it’s too off topic or long – I don’t want to offend!

            2. Jamie*

              This isn’t correct, actually. Teachers are paid for the time that they are in the classroom. They do not get paid for vacations and summers – they may receive paychecks though because their salary has been averaged out for that reason.

              That was my point, actually. The salary they earn is earned for 9 months of the year. So if they are making 85k which is the median of the teacher in my kids’ high school they are earning that for 9 months work with summers off. In other industries people need to work all year to earn their salary.

              I’m not saying all teachers are fairly compensated, I know some schools pay less than ours, but the point I was making is that yes, they do OT grading at home during the 9 months, but for 3 months out of the year they aren’t working at all and it’s not like they are getting part time salaries.

              1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                Oh – my mistake, I see that now. But I am confused about the 85k a year. Average teacher salary is about 36k across the board for starting teachers, and the top average in in the US is New York at 69k. So for your children’s hs teachers to be averaging 85k is something that is not the norm and is going to specifically apply to that particular school, whether its the neighborhood/many longterm teachers/specialized private school with lots of funding.

                I don’t doubt that the hs teachers at that school do make a lot, but it seems disingenuous to mention it without comparison to other schools in the state or the area. I know you mean well, but it’s misunderstandings like this that create a lot of hatred for teachers.

                Also, during the summer months most teachers I know are working summer school, going to school for public development, or creating units/planning lessons/developing management plans/organizing and decorating the classroom. I’m sure some teachers do not do this though.

              2. Elysian*

                I think in most places its more like 2 months off – I worked through most of June and half of August. I know that doesn’t really change much, but I figured we could be factual accurate. Different schools have different schedules though, I’m sure.

              3. Rose*

                People bring up the fact that teachers get all summer off a lot, and it makes sense to think about. IME, people often bring it up while hinting that teaching is an easy profession or that teachers are kind of slackers, but I think it’s a huge downside to the job.

                Can you imagine having two months mandatory unpaid vacation time? That would be devastating for me.

                1. Paddlebug*

                  The two to three months is no secret and as far as lifestyle for those with kids of their own incredibly convenient. The salaries (at least in Ontario, starts at the absolute lowest at 45k and can max out at over 93k with NO competition just experience and education) are quite respectable for 12 months of work . It’s not some complicated formula where it is then prorated backwards, that’s what you get for fewer, albeit longer days when you are starting out than most other jobs.

              4. Callie*

                There is no way that is the average salary in your district unless you are in a high cost of living area and have a huge mount of teachers on the high end of the scale because of years of experience and advanced degrees.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I think high school teachers do pretty well. It looks like our teachers are 5-10k below yours, but that $100k figure is limited to two people who have been there ~30 years.

          The elementary teachers who are in the 30s and 40s have me shaking my head sometimes. It is a lot of school for that salary range, but then again, of, elementary teaching seems to attract people looking for a lifestyle job, where the HS teachers seem to be the truly dedicated ones who want to put in the really long hours. (I know I’m risking offending the teachers here, but so much of my kid’s stuff is graded in class by peers or online by the computer. His teacher this year was on maternity leave, too. She’s definitely working hard, but not putting in 60 hrs/week.)

          1. Rose*

            Where do you all live? I live in an upper middle class suburb outside of one of the country’s VERY expensive major cities, and teacher salaries here 57k.

            I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but couldn’t justify a job with such a crap salary.

            Also, most of my teacher friends picked their grade/subject by their interests (i.e. history, young kids, special ed). Lifestyle is more something they dealt with after. Most of the elementary ed teachers would love to do the extra work for the extra pay, but they really love the age group.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              “Most of the elementary ed teachers would love to do the extra work for the extra pay, but they really love the age group.”

              I’d consider that a lifestyle choice. : )

              I live in a suburb of a not-that-expensive major midwestern city.

              1. Rose*

                Haha good point! It just seemed like you meant it more as “they want something easier,” and I wanted to add that that hasn’t been my experience. :)

            2. EAA*

              Salary depends on unions, state laws (PA has a minimum starting salary) and what school boards can get from the taxpayers. Also the more education a teacher has the higher the pay.

              1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                In Chicago, you start at 48k. With a masters, 52k…but they won’t hire you if there’s a cheaper alternative. It can be really expensive to live in the city. If you look up pay range, you will get a higher number. It’s usually a particular private school or suburb that pays a lot, and teachers who have been in the same school for 40 years. It’s a very, very small group. Chicago pays some of the highest teacher salaries. New York does as well, but cost of living is so high it’s really not an adequate comparison.

          2. Elysian*

            I think this might have just been your experience. I taught 2nd grade – my kids weren’t old enough to grade each other’s work. I had to grade it all. Plus I had to teach six/seven subjects a day and I got zero planning periods during the day. It was a TON of work. I was always jealous of HS teachers because they at least got one ‘period’ off that they could use to grade and plan. I only had 20 minutes out of my whole day that I could use to go to the bathroom, eat lunch, plan, etc.

            I loved my students and I feel very strongly about good early childhood education – kids who are behind in reading by the 3rd grade almost never catch up to their peers, and they fall behind in all subjects. And I made about 40k a year, far far below any $100k. I did have awesome dental insurance, though.

            1. Hiding*

              All the school districts I’m familiar with have planning time at the elementary school level. Are you having to teach art, music and gym also?

              1. Elysian*

                I had to teach art. They only had music and gym once a week each, for 15-20 minutes.

                1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                  This was my experience as well. You don’t usually get a planning period every day. Also, if the gym teacher isn’t there, you usually keep the kids and there goes your planning time.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              Yes, my son is in upper elementary. Our teachers do have a planning period. As I said, elementary teachers are in the 30-40s in my district, not the $100s. That was two teachers in the high schools, who have been with the district for ~30 years. Most high school teachers are in the 70s-80s pay range. I don’t think $40k is much for what teachers do (elementary kids are my worst nightmare). Should they be paid more? Probably.

              But these comments are what I don’t understand: if it is unreasonable work for unreasonable pay, why keep doing it? (It sound like you might not be anymore, reading your comment.) I say the same thing to anyone in any other field, too. Walking away and starting over is easier said than done, but no career is worth 20 more years of hating your life.

              1. Elysian*

                Yup. I am not doing it anymore. It’s how we lose good teachers (not that I was a good one, but lots of people leave).

                1. Artemesia*

                  This was why I taught high school for four years; I was burned between getting my masters evenings and summer and working 24/7 during the school year. I probably made it harder for myself by having my 150 students writing about every week to 10 days in addition to tests and such but I don’t think students learn unless they are engaged in thinking and writing. Imagine reading 150 plus essays every week or so in addition to planning lessons, devising special programs for students with disabilities or who are having difficulty, dealing with disciplinary programs for students etc etc.

                  I loved teaching high school kids. But 4 years was as much as I had in me. I don’t know if that was the reason the marriage ended, but it did at the same time.

              2. AGirlCalledFriday*

                I only just found another job doing something different – still in education though. In my experience, it was EXTREMELY difficult to find a different type of job, because many I spoke to seemed to have this idea that teachers just babysit and read stories all day, and don’t do much. Most jobs I saw wanted certain majors and more direct experience in the industry – I can’t fault them for that – but teaching is such a plethora of responsibility that I can see a lot of different occupations a teacher could transition to, if allowed.

              3. Rose*

                I do agree, but I think the problem is that it’s very challenging but often rewarding work for crappy pay, and if you stay long enough the pay might get good.

          3. Callie*

            elementary teaching seems to attract people looking for a lifestyle job

            Uh. NO. That is the most insulting thing I’ve ever heard. Teaching little kids is HARD and not everyone is cut out for it.

            1. Paddlebug*

              The vast majority of people I know who have pursued teaching have done it at least in part because of the lifestyle. Getting into teachers college is highly competitive, new teachers are screaming to get in (in Ontario, cannot speak for the States or other provinces), and complaining that the older teachers can’t retire fast enough. So there is definitely something very attractive to many about the job.

        3. azvlr*

          Jamie, you must be in a state that compensates teachers well. The average salary nationwide for high school teachers is $45K. In many states it’s lower (AZ and SD, I’m talking to you). And this is the average for teachers ranging from Bachelor’s/1st year teaching to Masters and PhD’s with 20+ years of experience.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t know about the state – but we moved to a town specifically due to it’s schools.

            From my understanding (which may be wrong) is that some states split the funding for schools equally, or more equally distributed – but some (like ours) a large portion comes from local sources – so you will have wide variances in the quality of schools from town to town.

            Teacher salary ranges for my town:
            Preschool: 29-40k
            Kindergarten: 47-74k
            Elementary: 62-98k (for us that grades 1-6)
            Jr. High: 63-98K

            Our student to teacher ratio is 16:1 (although this is averaged across the whole pre-K-12 span. There was about 20 kids per class overall for my kids – sometimes less and sometimes a few more.)

            Funding is a little over 2 mil from federal sources, a little over 11 mil from state sources, and about 58 mil from local sources. For a total of almost 72 million per year. we have 357 (prek – hs) full time teachers – so it gives the board the room to pay competitively.

            Towns with lower local dollars coming in via property taxes, etc. have less with which to work.

            Our schools funnel a higher than average percentage into special ed, which was critical to us, and overall they are ranked highly. Believe me, the schools were the reason we moved there – we could have gotten a much nicer house for a lot less money in a neighboring town. But I have a son who had special educational needs and so I don’t regret it for a second.

            My other son is in college now to be a teacher and he really wants to teach in his old school. I’ve prepared him for the fact that a lot of the teachers there travel a long way to teach there – the competition is stiff and he has to have a wider target. Go for the dream, but always have plan B.

            I’m in a suburb of Chicago – I know people who have taught in CPS and far more of their resources are required – I know teachers who went out of pocket to get books for the classroom and you can’t turn on the news without seeing the deplorable conditions some of these kids are expected to learn in, and how people teach without the proper tools or classroom I don’t know.

            So I didn’t mean to be insensitive – teaching is a critical and over all very undervalued profession – without those of you who willingly take up the mantle our kids are screwed and our nation is in serious trouble.

            I was trying to make the financial point that their salary was for 9 months and how that related to OT, but in rereading I can see I maybe came off as if I didn’t appreciate the work that goes into teaching.

            But yes, there are places where the salaries are so out of step with the educational requirements it’s a wonder they get anyone – and they shouldn’t prey upon people’s desire to educate by taking advantage of them financially.

            Because I can see how teachers have an emotional obligation to their jobs in a way I could never understand. I can feel bad if a co-worker is struggling or has trouble at home, but we’re all adults. Feeling an obligation to kids in your charge who are no more at fault for the lack of money than you are is something I can’t even wrap my head around.

            Teachers who teach well – my hat is off to you and you have my endless admiration. I adore my kids but I’d last about 15 minutes trying to teach them in a formal setting, much less other people’s kids.

            1. AGirlCalledFriday*

              Jamie – I think I know where you are at – right down the road from me! And if so, yes, some of the very best schools and a community that cares about it! The school employs people with masters degrees and an average of 20 years experience – very different from the surrounding areas. It’s really indicative of what can happen when people decide to place a priority on education. I wish your son the best of luck finding a job. I was looking in Chicago burbs and the city and found it impossible, but of course that was after layoffs AND I have my masters, which makes me expensive. I think that we all want to teach at our old schools, I hope he’s able to. If I can make a suggestion? He might want to consider a minor in something like finance, business, something like that, and know Spanish or another target language. Also to network, network, network! In Chicago and surrounding there are thousands of unemployed teachers, the only ones I know who were able to secure a job at all were either 1. just graduated, 2. a desired ethnic group, 3. knew a key language, or 4. knew someone in particular.

              I hate to say it, but there’s a common conception in the area that a new graduate should expect to be unemployed for about 3 years until they find a first year teaching position. It may not happen – plenty of principals want to hire the cheapest teachers – but it’s good to have a game plan just in case.

      3. Anonaconda*

        Yes, this comment baffled me too. Grading papers and writing lesson plans are essential to the work of teaching. If you’re going to talk about unfair demands on teachers’ time, what about the standardized test prep they’re now required to teach, or pressure to supervise extracurricular activities, take professional development courses, write letters of recommendation for college-aged kids, and participate in district evaluations? I just don’t think this person really knows a lot of teachers. My mother was a teacher for 30+ years in the state of NJ so I know the nonsense she had to put up with, and grading papers wasn’t half of it.

        Besides, if you look at the negative attitude in the country towards teachers’ unions and the dearth of teaching jobs right now, it’s unrealistic to expect those fortunate enough to even have teaching jobs to take on the work of redefining their roles.

        1. azvlr*

          I have seen first-hand how the teacher’s role can be structured so that they do not have to spend extra time outside of work and still get the job done. But to pull it off requires more resources and a totally different mindset.

      4. Callie*

        Former elementary teacher here.

        At the school where I used to teach, each class got to go to art, music, PE, library, computer lab, dance (and foreign language for 3rd-5th) once a week. This meant that each day, the class went to another teacher for about an hour, and some days they went to two classes during that day. This time should theoretically be the prep time for the classroom teachers. (The “specialists”, the art/music/etc teachers, had a similar amount of planning time.) There was also 30 minutes before and after school. As long as those times weren’t filled up by MEETINGS, it was enough time to get most of the non-teaching prep/grading/etc work done.

        Then the genius politicians in my state decided that schools should be funded by sales taxes instead of property taxes… and immediately afterward, the recession hit. So all of the special classes other than art, music, and PE got cut and those teachers laid off. So the teachers only got 3 hours of prep time per week vs 6-7. But the work still had to be done! So teachers were staying till 6 or later and/or carting tons of work home.

        Where I live now, the elementary schools only get music for 18 weeks and PE for 18 weeks. No art or anything else. So the classroom teacher gets one hour of prep time per week (and the music and PE teachers get none). They don’t have the extra teachers because people refuse to pay a dime more in taxes. (This also means there are a lot of 1/2, 3/4, 4/5 combined classes which is even MORE work for the teacher because she’s planning for TWO grade levels and not just one.) It is freaking ridiculous.

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. My first proper full time job, many moons ago, only gave me the salary when I finally signed the contract of employment. What didn’t help was that I had to relocate and wanted to work out how much money I could put towards rent.

  5. Chelsea*

    #2, While I don’t know all the details to your situation, I’ve been through this and it’s not a fun position to be in. In my case, I was the one staying late off the clock working 60+ hours a week while only scheduled to have 40. I work at a fast food restaurant and close by myself almost every night, and there’s no Manager on Night Shift so no supervision.

    I’ve always loved my job (been here 2+ years) but when I started having issues at home, I didn’t want to deal with family stuff so I avoided it by staying almost all night at work. Your coworker may be having the same problem; even if they haven’t let on, they could have stress from family or another relationship that they are trying to avoid. None of my coworkers have a clue what I’ve had to deal with, so I can assure you it’s easier to pull off than you think.

    Also, are you positive your boss does not know? Usually, it’s pretty noticeable if your coworker previously completed 5 projects in a week and now is completing 12. I never told my boss what I was doing or why I was doing it, but eventually he hinted that he knew I was staying so late, though he never confronted me. We started doing so much better on our inspections, it was like he didn’t want me to stop but knew if we directly discussed it, he would be legally required to pay me or tell me to stop. Could it be possible your boss *does* know but doesn’t want your coworker to return to their normal workload?

    Eventually, I did indeed burn myself out and now perform my required duties and a little more, just to stay in good standing. I’d say if your coworker is working crazy hours, they will inevitably do the same. In the meantime, remember they may be going through something you don’t know about, and maybe look for indicators that your boss is indeed aware of the situation.

  6. GrumpyBoss*

    #2: I get that you are trying to be proactive so this doesn’t become an issue for you. But right now, I tend to see this as a “not your business” situation. If someone wants to work 24×7, there are many reasons why. As others have pointed out, maybe there’s a problem at home that they are trying to avoid. Maybe they have a passion for the work. Maybe they don’t have a lot of outside interests so working at home is just as arbitrary as reading a book or watching TV. And unless your manager is dense, he/she will put 2 and 2 together when one employee is producing twice as much as all the others. If there are legal issues with OT, why insert yourself in them?

    I’m sorry to say this, but if one of my employees came to me to point out that their peer was working too much, I would most likely be telling that employee to worry about their own workload. The only way I think you could spin this is to ask for clarification on OT rules, since you see one of your coworkers working a lot of it.

    1. LBK*

      I disagree. It’s a management issue because it’s a staffing issue. If work is only getting done on time because this person is working as much as 2 full-time employees should be working, what happens when this person quits or gets hit by a bus? The department falls apart because now the OP has to do the work of 3 people instead of 1.5 if they were properly staffed. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It will affect the OP though. What about the next appraisal cycle, when productivity is measured in terms of metrics of widgets produced. If coworker produced twice as many widgets, she’ll get a much better score than the OP. Meanwhile, the OP was working hard during the hours she was being paid, and producing a good number of widgets. But she’ll miss out on the highest appraisal or promotion or bonus because she didn’t dedicate every waking hour to work.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        All fair points, but it takes a major assumption that the overachiever’s manager isn’t able to figure out what is going on – or worse, doesn’t care. Then that is a management issue, not a “my peer is working too much” issue. I’d bring my concerns up for the former much different than the latter. If a peer working late is a symptom of a larger problem, the OP is focusing way too heavily on that.

        That’s what bugs me about this letter. It is focusing very heavily on a peer without consideration to what management does or doesn’t know.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          ah ok, that’s fair. I agree it’s entirely a management issue, not a coworker issue. But if the manager is clueless, you might want to clue her in politely :)

          1. LBK*

            Agreed – the OP doesn’t need to take matters into her own hands or sit down and have a 2-hour venting session with the manager, but a quick conversation wouldn’t be unwarranted. Mostly as a “Hey, this is going on, I wanted to just make sure you’re aware.” Managers can’t possibly know everything that’s going on in their department without becoming authoritarian nutjobs who track every second of everyone’s day. It’s just not feasible.

        2. Marcy*

          I agree with GrumpyBoss. I used to work with this woman (I am sure of it!) and at first the managers were impressed and grateful for someone so passionate and dedicated. Over time it became apparent that it takes a toll — the woman was a hard-to work-with, polarizing, prima donna — with a neurotic need for personal achievement. Her fear of failure pushed her to achieve greater and greater things as a result of basic insecurity. (Look up Karen Horney’s “Self Analysis” on google.) Her peers soon dreaded working with her because she was arrogant, impatient and a lightning rod for conflict. And entitled – so, so, soooooo entitled. If I answered the qustion, “How can you stand to work with her?” once, I answered it 1,000 times.

          Net-net — after a few years, she got promoted to a Director position at age 30 (pretty unusual in that industry), and eventually, fired the woman who hired her and looked the other way! Then she herself got fired a year later. I was long gone by then but I think management just couldn’t stand her anymore.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      The problem is that the hours aren’t being recorded, not that the employee isn’t being paid. Please see my reply upstream for the reason. Federal work requires bidding hours on jobs. Unrecorded work messes up the bid. That’s why it is a problem.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And the OP is a federal worker, not a federal contractor, but for federal contractors, it’s very much not allowed. If contractors A and B are bidding on a job, and contractor A has someone working off the clock, they have an unfair advantage in their bid. Even if contractor A doesn’t know about it, they can lose the contract or be fined if it is found out. For federal contractors, it’s a big deal.

  7. A*

    #2 As another Fed, I see this way too often. A colleague of mine is like that. The boss knows because the colleague brings it up in conversation regularly “I was here until 11 working on this”, etc. The colleague also sends emails really late, so we know how late he works. The boss doesn’t care because he says that’s the employee’s choice and it makes less work for him. Another person who has the same position as the workaholic leaves every day on time to be with his newborn daughter, and the boss thinks it’s fine. I think our boss thinks the workaholic is kind of pathetic.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Is the colleague being paid for that time though? That’s where it all gets kind of shady to me.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      That always makes me think that people don’t know how to get their work done in a regular workday.

      Do we know for sure that the coworker has a very high output?

      1. Artemesia*

        good point — in my experience the people who hung around the workhouse till late every evening were not top achievers, they were avoiding going home.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I’m sure glad I don’t have a boss who thinks one of my peers is pathetic and let’s me and others know their feelings.

      Sounds awfully judgmental.

  8. Betsy*

    #2, I have been in that situation, too, and been in companies where 1 person’s obsessive work habits gradually creep into everyone else’s. Since their work day is 7AM to midnight, when you need to talk to them, they’ll squeeze you in at 5:30, and if you say, “No,” they regretfully say, “Well, I guess I have time a week from Thursday, then.” It’s gross and awful, and I’ve been there.

    One thing to keep in mind about long hours from anyone is that they give the company an untrue picture of its real costs and profits. If the department has 30 man-days of work to do in a week, and there’s one person working 70 hours a week, they may think they only have around 25 man-days of work to do. But if that person leaves the company, or even rolls back to normal hours, long-term planning is going to be thrown out of whack, because they’ll need 2 people to replace a single employee.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    OP #2. Having handled my own version of massive work loads, I used myself as a guage for learning how much is reasonable in a given time and how much is over the top.
    I decided that OT was not an option, this helped me to rethink my choices and my methods. It gave me more of a big picture focus rather than the details of the moment focus.
    My point is that this is just the thing that working managers need to develop in themselves. If you are going to lead a group of people you should have some idea of how to get massive tasks done with out ending up in the hospital. Your coworker is going to hear the doctor say “Six months of bed rest!” This will put him so far behind it will be mind-bending for him. Don’t start down this road yourself.

    Chose a road where you decide you are going to let the job show you things. What are the recurring problems? Are these problems preventable? What processes are unnecessarily encumbered? Can you take a small amount of time to streamline an aspect of a task so it is no longer a time suck? Are there problems with getting materials/information necessary to do the work? What can be done to ease these problems?

    Your coworker is probably not going to take control of the runaway OT. But you can use a big picture focus to corral your own work. In doing so, you will find yourself thinking and working like a manager who has to look at the whole picture. Role model, this is an opportunity to manage yourself and get the feel for what it would be like to manage people.

    This is going to sound smug. I told myself that I was going to get the work done inside an eight hour day. I was going to streamline and do it efficently. I promised me that I would watch out for those time sucks. The best thing I did that helped me was I made a to-do list every night before I went home. This allowed me to start right in each morning. The time savings was huge. You will find something similar- a strategy that just saves you so much time/effort.

    Notice how this has nothing to do with my coworkers. Yeah, bascially because we can’t change them. They are going to keep doing whatever it is they are doing. Yeah, I would run over some days maybe by a half hour or so. But as time went on that happened less. In the end, it became “how come NSNR gets all this done and goes home on time and others have to stay and work?” [Answer: It took one heck of a lot of effort and concentration. And the whole process started with my “smug” decision not to do the OT.]
    Management saw that it wasn’t necessary to do the OT. People who needed OT, were questioned about their need for OT.

    This may or may not work in your setting. Or it might ease things somewhat but not be a magic bullet that solves this problem. As you go along streamlining, organizing, etc you will find yourself in some interesting and informative conversations about the work, the flow and the processes. I ended up getting more interested in what I was doing.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Thank you for articulating what I was feeling. Worry less about your coworker, and focus on what you can control. Lead by example.

      Because let’s be honest. There is a martyr/long hour type in every organization. And you aren’t going to change them. Taking active efforts like you outlined so you don’t fall into this trap.

    2. Clever Name*

      Yes, this. And if you work in an organization where you have some control of what you work on, learning how to say “no, I don’t have time” without actually saying “no, I don’t have time” is huge. I know that I am very effective at my job because I’ve learned to manage my time well. And I work part time.

  10. anon*

    3. seems like the bigger cluster is the fact that a promotion comes by default with a lower salary.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, that also seems very weird to me, unless the OP negotiated a very high salary for their current job or they’ve built up a lot of raises.

      1. Anonalicious*

        Even if the do have a higher salary for their position, one would assume it’s still in the range for the position. Most places if it’s truly a promotion would at least keep you at your current salary.

      2. Red Librarian*

        But even then you’d think the company would allow the OP to keep their current salary.

      3. Cluster Poster*

        This actually is the case. At least in the field I work, management stays entrenched for long enough that many employees work for years before a slot opens up. Note that I worked for my agency for 12 years before getting into leadership.

        Given this, I’d expect a higher starting salary. I’m taking the proper channels to resolve this, but it seems like an honest mistake. My biggest issue here is how the co-workers who were passed over will feel when I reject a position that THEY were rejected for, and the ensuing politics of my bosses re-opening the position. We’ll see what happens.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      I’ve been there before. I was at a company for 8 years with steady4-5% increases. I was hired at the top of my range, and as the economy changed, so did the ranges of my role (and the promotion). I was allowed to keep my salary, but was told I’d most likely wouldn’t see a raise because I was so far out of band.

      In retrospect, I shouldn’t have accepted this limitation. If I was talking about a pay decrease, I wouldn’t have even applied for the promotion.

      1. Marcy*

        Oh, steady 4-5% raises — what a dream. I remember a time when that was the norm. Where I work now, it’s the steady 0-2% raise.

    3. Annie O*

      Sometimes managers make less than their employees do. I’ve seen it happen with technical teams, especially when the manager doesn’t actually need to have the technical skills to manage. I’ve also seen it in sales when commissions are involved.

      1. AVP*

        Also, if you’re moving from a non-exempt position to exempt. Taking away overtime can be a real pay cut in effect.

        1. Jamie*

          This is huge and something I’ve seen so many burned on in my career.

          What looks like a raise is so not a raise once you lose the OT. People have to compare their typical take home with the new salary – not their old base pay.

          1. AVP*

            Especially in industries where the worker bees are non-exempt and get a lot of overtime, and management doesn’t. Ie, manufacturing, car mechanics, etc. I’ve definitely heard stories of friends and family members turning down promotions into management roles over this, or asking to be demoted back to the floor.

      2. Greg*

        I’m sure it happens, but I’m guessing it’s usually situations where the higher-salaried person is more firmly entrenched than their manager. Asking someone who has been promoted to take a pay cut is the epitome of pissing on your head and telling you it’s raining.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Yeah, it should have been communicated to the LW early in the process. And certainly long before announcing their acceptance of the position. The current mess is just inexcusable.

  11. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I assume this is true in the U.S., but there are definitely other countries that require written job descriptions by law. I had an employee in one of them, and HR was diligent about making sure these were kept up to date – and signed – as required.

    Just another reason to appreciate professional HR staff – without them, I definitely would have been breaking a law that I never would have believed could exist.

    1. Anonalicious*

      Additionally, there are potentially state regulations or accreditation that require you to have job descriptions, particularly if you’re in healthcare or healthcare related. My hospital just went through all of our job descriptions and associated competencies to make sure we were up to par for JCAHO.

  12. Graciosa*

    One thing that always interests me about these situations (someone working ridiculous hours) is whether the individual thinks that this improves the chance of promotion. It doesn’t with me, but I’m sure there are other companies where this would help.

    Key skills in management are learning to say no (politely, but firmly), identifying true priorities, and managing resources for the long term. Someone who takes on too much work, can’t triage it properly, and tries to through more bandwidth a problems consistently every week (concealing problems from management and burning out team members so that they are either exhausted or not around at all in the future) is failing on all counts.

    I look at how people manage themselves when considering whether they should manage a project or a team. The overworking co-worker would have crossed himself off my candidate list – not always what is intended.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Back in my food service days, I worked with a guy who did this for about a month, specifically to get a promotion. There were three people in competition for the position. This guy would come in super early and stay super late, off the clock, so that it looked like he was getting twice as much prep work done as anyone else. Which he was–but only because he was spending twice as much time at work! But the boss didn’t figure that out in time, thought the other two were slacking off, and promoted the overworker. Once he had the position, he never went above and beyond in any way again. The boss must have wondered where all that magic ability to do double work had gone!

    2. Us, Too*

      I don’t look at hours worked, particularly, but I do look at results. And results are what have mattered to every organization I’ve ever worked for. The seedy reality of evaluating results is that, in most cases, someone who works more than another person is going to produce more. In fact, this is exactly why OP wrote in! The person working more *IS* producing more. How can I ignore that in considering raises and promotions?

      The objective results-driven metrics for a given role should be based on what a reasonable performer can achieve in 40 hours. If someone achieves significantly more than that whether it is due to talent or additional effort, I’m going to recognize that at review time with raises, promotions, special projects that appeal to him, etc. If someone is struggling to meet those objectives, whether they work 10 hours a week or 80, I’m going to be coaching/counseling him out.

      Someone can also work “extra” hours each week and not have the management issues you describe. They may simply just love their work! Overlooking this person for a promotion may be a huge loss to an organization.

      1. Us, Too*

        It is probably worth noting that I have worked for and with workaholics who do not expect others to maintain the same output or work hours. So I also don’t assume that someone like this would burn out his or her team.

  13. anon all the way*

    I once got to the final stages of an interview for a full-time job and they still hadn’t told me how much the salary would be. On the final interview, I asked once more how much the salary would be. I was supposed to meet with the president of the company and I did for a minute at the very end. When I asked how much the salary would be, he said, “we don’t discuss that.” I got the run around from several people and then when I asked again they said I needed to email the president. I did and never got the job just simply based on asking a question. If they won’t tell you how much you’ll make, then to me it’s worth doubting what the job is.

    1. fposte*

      “We don’t discuss that”? That bodes well for raises and promotion, doesn’t it?

      1. Elysian*

        Right?? I can see it now, on the first day: “Your salary is $24,000. You get no benefits or vacation. We expect 50 hour weeks as the standard, but occasionally you may need to work more.” I would never accept a job that won’t even tell me what I’m getting paid – you never know what kind of horrible surprises lay ahead.

        1. fposte*

          Or do they find it inappropriate to even talk about benefits or vacation when you’re hired? Is the paycheck just going to be a surprise from pay period to pay period?

          Even in the highly unlikely best-case scenario, where this silence covers great pay and fabulous benefits, you’ve got a culture where people don’t like to talk about things they find awkward. Which is human, but it’s workplace death, so they gotta get over that.

      2. anon all the way*

        Exactly! Also, on the second and final interview they changed the job description I had originally applied for. To top it all off, the CFO whom literally popped in for the meeting told me she had no time to meet with me because she wasn’t even scheduled and she was out the door for a meeting. I think in the end I dodged a bullet.

    2. Audiophile*

      Um wow that’s concerning. Why can’t companies just be upfront. I know a lot of us in here have lamented that question. It just saves everyone time.

    3. Megan*

      I’m in an interview situation like that right now – they know my requirements and have called me back for another interview, but I still don’t know. “The partners have to discuss it.” Awkward.

      1. Red Librarian*

        But you’re still in the interview process and it sounds like they need to discuss whether your requirements fit what they are looking for. That’s pretty standard.

        1. Red Librarian*

          That is, they aren’t dodging you they just haven’t come up with a counter offer.

    4. LW1*

      Luckily, I know the range and that I can live on the bottom end of the range, but it’s still a big enough range that it makes a difference for planning ahead. Also, since I currently get a hefty government subsidy under the ACA, the benefits or lack thereof could be a big issue. I think the job itself is secure and pretty clear, but it does concern me that they’re being kind of blithe about salary.

      (And to clarify from the letter, I’ve had some fairly professional jobs since graduating, but this is the first full-time, long-term one, and the first where the salary isn’t set in stone from the start.)

  14. BadPlanning*

    On OP#2 — These are some of the lessons that I learned from our resident workaholic. #1. Even though they complain, they like it (demented as it may be). #2. They put themselves in a “must have” spot that curses them later — like getting called while on vacation. It’s nice to be wanted, but not so “essential” that you can never get away. #3 They must be slightly super human. Or I’m a delicate flower.

    When I started working with workaholic coworker, I was concerned that I had to keep up and would be measured against them. I did try to keep up with him on one project and it was a terrible idea (for my mental and physical health). I think it’s almost like a grief process figuring how to feel about an overworking coworker and I think I made it to acceptance.

    We’re in an exempt field — so The Company (as an abstract entity) is happy for you to work All The Time.

  15. C Average*

    I have some thoughts about the overtime guy, because I’ve totally been that person.

    In my case, it happened the first time I was in a job that wasn’t explicitly shift-based and had a constant influx of work. Before that job, I’d always been done when the clock said I was done or my to-do list was done. Once I moved into a role where “done” wasn’t an actual concept–there was always more work to be done, and it was up to me to prioritize what got done now and what got done later, or tomorrow, or next week–it took my mind a while to catch up to that reality. I’d be at my desk, watching the minutes and hours pass, doing just one more thing and then just one more thing, with the elusive “done” somewhere out there on the horizon. I was like a teenager playing video games: “Just one more, I’m going to get another life as soon as I finish this level, and then I’ll beat my high score, and then I’ll really be done.”

    It took a colleague I really admire actually explicitly telling me I’d never be done, and that was OK, for me to ease off. It seems obvious, but it had never actually occurred to me.

    Another thing. When my manager came on board two years ago, she saw that I was in danger of burning out from the hours I was putting in. I was the only person in my role, doing things I felt had to be done. She explained to me that unless I scaled back to something more reasonable and let some of the tasks go undone, she’d never get the additional headcount she’d requested to help ease my workload. She ordered me to perform a normal workload–about 9-10 hours a day, no weekends unless it was truly urgent, no crazy heroic all-nighters, just a solid 7-5 sort of schedule–and let the chips fall, and let the organization see that one person couldn’t reasonably do my job.

    We got the headcount and I now have a counterpart. I do better work when I have a life, and when I’m not rushed in my more detailed tasks. My manager was totally right.

    I don’t know what I’d do in the OP’s position, but I do agree that having someone doing this kind of OT all the time is probably not just bad for that person, but bad for his or her team and possibly bad for the organization. Dedication is good, the willingness to go above and beyond when it’s truly necessary is good, but working like a dog all the time for no good reason? That’s just sad.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, i get the never-“done” thing. I had to work on that when I moved from customer service work to office work. In a fast food place or a retail store, you’ve got specific things that happen every day, and then at the end of the day, you close, and that day’s over. The next day you come in and start over with pretty much a blank slate. It was kind of jarring to realize that it was OK to leave certain things for tomorrow, for example.

    2. Us, Too*

      I’m not going to classify someone else’s life choices as “sad” categorically. I know a LOT of people who work in fields that they feel “called” to. Non-profit work, clergy, etc. And they work waaaaay more than 40 hours and do so happily. Some people may have issues with this, but others do not and enjoy it. These “workaholics” may feel sad for those who don’t enjoy their jobs enough to put in more than 40 hrs willingly.

      1. C Average*

        That’s a good distinction to make. I am definitely thinking of jobs here and not callings!

      2. Sharm*

        I don’t disagree with you, but it’s a bummer for those of us who don’t have a calling and work to pay the bills. Just because I don’t like working more than 40 hours a week (though I have, of course) doesn’t mean I want to be in a low level position all my life. I’d like to grow and be challenged and get promoted too. But if I’m competing against someone whose love is their job, and who WANTS to come in 70-80 hours a week, I’ll never have a chance. I think the number of companies whose culture is truly all about work-life balance dwindles with each passing day. The workaholics will always win.

        Again, I can’t disagree with it. To the company, they are clearly more valuable than someone like me. But it really feels like, “Oh, you have a family and like to relax and want to be involved in extracurriculars? Tough luck, slacker. Be thankful you’re even paid a penny with that attitude.”

  16. Anonylicious*

    Depending on what exactly #2 and their coworker do for the federal government, the coworker’s behavior would raise all kinds of security red flags for me. Staying late and coming in outside of normal hours is a classic indicator of someone trying to access things they shouldn’t.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would agree, but if she’s bringing work home then it’s almost certainly not classified. Of course if she’s bringing classified work home, there are much bigger fish to fry here thank work hours.

      1. Anonylicious*

        I know, and I’m sure if they were working with classified stuff, the letter writer would be reporting it, not writing AAM. But seriously, it could have almost been taken verbatim from some annual security training.

  17. Nusy*

    OP#5 here. Thank you, Alison. I have become so anal-retentive over small details like that, I start seeing things where there are none. :) I guess working in law, where giving the wrong title to a motion may have said paper thrown out doesn’t help either!

  18. OP #2*

    Wow! Thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments. As some have mentioned overtime pay isn’t a simple thing to get. It needs to be approved, with a strong justification for an operational requirement, and signed off by senior management. Most of us don’t bother as the paperwork itself could take more time than the overtime put in (if that makes any sense!), and probably wouldn’t get approved regardless. In all fairness there does need to be some control there, budgeting in the public sector for employee pay would be a nightmare if I could earn extra pay by deciding on my own to take on extra work. In this case the colleague has not been asked to take on the extra work, so no justification that would be approved. Really interesting points on the legality of doing this, and probably something we need to think more seriously about.

    We also have flexible working arrangements, with the option to log on from home (extremely helpful for days when you need to wait for repairs etc.) and management doesn’t watch our hours very closely, generally a really nice perk of the job! However it does mean that “secret” overtime is definitely possible.

    This colleague is not 100% efficient with their time, at least not if they are putting in the hours they are claiming to. I wouldn’t say they are producing twice the workload, but noticeably more than those who working their hours.

    I have a good relationship with my manager and am confident in what I’m producing (well, at least until I wasn’t and wrote into a career advice blog!). I think at our next face to face meeting I’ll mention it in the way Alison suggested.

    Thanks again for the balanced discussion, it was really useful to hear a diversity of opinions!

  19. Seal*

    #2 – Several years ago I took over a department that had been run by a woman who worked 12 hours days 7 days a week. She was very much the martyr, too – constantly complaining about how much work she had to do, how little staff she had, and so on. Much of what she was doing was work that should been done by her staff, or checking up on work her staff had done. Any suggestions as to how she might improve workflows or delegate some of her work were met with screaming tantrums and threats to mind your own business. Because she was so difficult and explosive, people stayed as far away from her as possible. Her staff turnover was easily the highest in our organization – few people lasted more than a couple of years working for her.

    Once she retired and I took over the department, it became obvious that despite all of the effort she was putting into her job, very little work had actually been done. Because the work she did do didn’t meet our industry standards, all of it had to be redone. The consensus was that while she may have been working hard and putting lots of time in – and she truly was working, no web surfing and whatnot – she certainly wasn’t working smart. Because she didn’t trust her staff, wouldn’t take direction, and made things up as she went along, in the end she made far more work for herself (the fact that her supervisor never stepped in to put a stop to her nonsense is another matter entirely).

    Perhaps this is the case with the OP’s coworker. Just because someone puts a lot of time into their job doesn’t mean they’re actually getting anything done.

  20. Greg*

    OP #3: Did I read that correctly that your company moved you internally — promoted you even — yet nevertheless expects you to take a pay cut? That is absolutely bizarre! Short of a sales management role where you no longer are eligible for commissions, I can’t imagine any scenario where that would be acceptable (and even then, not really).

    In my mind, that’s a far bigger issue than what your specific salary is, or how you negotiate over it. What kind of company operates that way?

  21. Sue Wilson*

    #4: According to my HR mother, while job descriptions aren’t required, it’s illegal to reprimand someone based on duties they weren’t assigned when the job was accepted. However, jobs often sneak under this rule by putting “and other duties as assigned” in the job description, so that unless it’s an unreasonable addition, it’s allowed. But no job description at all may trigger this rule.

    1. Big Tom*

      I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds like an HR urban legend to me. I can’t think of a law that would require anything discipline-related based on duties assigned at job acceptance, especially because jobs change and companies change and responsibilities change and that’s certainly not illegal.

      Additionally, from a practical standpoint, if job descriptions aren’t legally required then how would they prove what duties were assigned at job acceptance? I think your mom may have been misled at some point.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, that’s urban legend. There’s no law (in the U.S.) that says that. You can discipline people for anything you want, as long as you’re not basing it on race, religion, or other protected class and as long as it’s not for engaging in legally protected behavior (such as reporting harassment) or in retaliation for that.

      Many employers like to have an “other duties as assigned” category because it wards off arguments later, but there’s nothing illegal about assigning people other duties and disciplining/firing them based on those duties.

    3. doreen*

      Did your mother work in the public sector or a unionized workplace? Such requirements are common there, but not due to generally applicable laws – they’re based on either on laws that only apply to government workers or union contracts.

  22. Anonymous*

    #4 job descriptions: A colleague told me about a local government meeting in which one of the town’s employees was fired for not following her job description. Another newly-hired employee, who apparently had not received a job description, immediately asked what his was!

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