when your manager values face time more than results

A reader writes:

I just finished interviewing for a promotion and was given some unusual career advice from the vice president of my division. He said that even though my working hours are 8 am to 4 pm, I should not be so quick to leave work at 4 pm. I was told that I should stay late once in a while to give the impression that I’m a “go-getter” even if all of my work is finished.

I responded along the lines of, “I do my work when I’m here (as opposed to screwing around) and the company should be happy that I don’t waste valuable time chatting and taking smoke breaks during the day, forcing me to stay later to finish my work.”

Why should I stay late if my work is finished? I work diligently during the day, hitting my goals and getting excellent scores on my reviews. Why should I be forced to stay late just to impress on someone that I’m a hard worker?

The advice of my VP got me thinking…has staying late at work become mandatory for career success? Under that premise, wouldn’t someone surmise that efficiency is not the key to recognition but rather dedicating more time to the job is the way to career success?

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    This is such a problem in the real world. It is common for people to screw around all day and then ‘work late’ to actually get the job more or less done. I have worked around mediocre producers who spend lots of time at the office and are always there on weekends. I assume they don’t want to spend time with their family and have no life. There are very productive people who work long hours — I am thinking of researchers who live for the lab for example, but there are plenty of people who spend time without improved results.

    My daughter had this experience on the college newspaper which I have described before here. She and a colleague were laying out the 8 page paper; the next morning the editor yelled at her because ‘you left at 4 and poor Susie was here till 2 am getting the job done.’ To which my daughter replied ‘I laid out 6 pages of the paper and Susie laid out two — I think I more than got my share done in time to leave for other plans I had.’

    People who diddle around and carry briefcases home etc are not necessarily productive. That said, when starting a new job, it is probably strategic to think carefully about that first month and how to project ‘hard working and valuable.’ On one new position I carefully left the door of my office open and scheduled an activity with clients that involved a lot of meetings in my office so that casual passersby could see me heavily engaged with clients. One of my roles was to be a primary interface with clients on difficult issues. Just seeing me day after day meeting with clients cemented an impression that lasted even when I rolled it back to a more reasonable load of such tasks. Staying late a few times especially on deadline may shine up the image.

    1. class factotum*

      I assume they don’t want to spend time with their family

      When my husband was married to his first wife (well before I met him) and the marriage was failing, he worked late a lot. He did not want to go home and fight.

      1. Artemesia*

        Plenty of guys (and I don’t doubt women as well but rarely do they have the home support to do it) don’t want to do housework or the work involved in child rearing — working late is a good reason to not be there to bathe kids, change diapers, deal with homework, cook dinner etc. Although in the days my husband often had to work until 8 or 9 he always bathed the baby at 10 — but you have to be mindful to organize like this. And when he had his own firm later, he was home for dinner and to do his share of cooking and kidding.

      2. Changing my name in case my ex DOES actually read this.*

        Heh. My ex is just like this. I got a random urge to forward this article to her.

        She’d BS around at work all day long, talking to her coworkers and walking around aimlessly, and then come home sometime between 10pm and 2am (her company was always open) and act like both a bigshot and a martyr.

        I do NOT miss that.

        1. 20Something And Counting*

          There will always be those people who feel empty if they don’t create their own business – and that’s their perogative – but what drives me nuts is that comapanies are rewarding this behavior even though it is costing them talent, money, and repuation!

        2. Changing mine too*

          I had a team lead at OldJob who was like that. She’d screw around, socialize, and basically do nothing all day, then stay in the office till 9PM to get at least some of the work done. Most of the time her team would stay late too, because they’d spent all day socializing with her, or sitting in pointless meetings, and were behind on their work too. They’d order dinner and expense it to the company. This team lead had a reputation with the management for being a hard worker who puts in crazy hours, even though she was easily the most inefficient worker I’ve seen in my career. She was promoted to management right before I left that place.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            This is when you switch people to hourly instead of salary and tell them no overtime allowed without very good reason and approval.

            But then again, management would need to actually acknowledge this is an issue

    2. Agreed!*

      We work in home offices. I know some employees play all day and then look as if they are productive by responding unnecessarily to emails at 10:00 p.m. in the evening.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I hate this too! It’s almost as if you are being punished for being proficient, on-time and meeting deadlines. Some places would rather you screw around all day and stay until midnight I guess.

      1. JoJo*

        That sounds like my former workplace. I’d work all day instead of making personal calls or gossiping, and I managed to get twice as much done as my ‘dedicated’ coworkers who had to stay late and work through lunch.

        Some people seem to think that effort counts more than output.

    4. Rose*

      Ya, this is BS. Suzy procrastinated all night. Not your daughters job to pick up her slack and miss her own plans. I hate this attitude

  2. Camellia*

    And if you decide to “(a) suck it up and put in some extra hours on occasion, even though it’s ridiculous” you could always use that time to catch up on AAM! Or take a class on-line. Or work on some other “development” goal. You can make that extra time work for you, not necessarily for them.

    1. Three Thousand*

      Yeah, if they’re clueless enough to value the appearance of productivity over actual productivity, they probably won’t know or care what you’re doing with your time if you do stay late.

    2. Jax*

      I love this advice, and honestly, I’m going to use it. My company values butts-in-the-chair and I’m angry about it. I know the only way to look like a dedicated team player is to stay late every once in awhile so I’m absolutely going to meal plan until 6 pm one night per week.

    3. Pennalynn Lott*

      That’s what I’ve done when I’ve worked for asinine companies like that. All the online stuff I would normally do at home (shopping, reading, socializing), I would then do at the office during the “extra” hours. Always keep some work-related windows and apps at the ready, though, in case someone comes by. So incredibly stupid and a huge waste of time.

    4. Rose*

      This is a huge part of what bothers me about this. If you stay late, you’ll likely wind up doodling around on the Internet, which will make you look like someone who spends all day on the Internet.

      To be totay fair, I have a really hard time imagining any office job where you finish a day and can’t think of ANYTHING else you could be doing.

      That being said, perception is a really crappy reason to make someone stay late, and a great way to make people feel like their time isn’t valued.

  3. khoots*

    Definitely was told the same thing at my job. If you stay late = great reviews. Leaving on time = you aren’t working hard enough

    1. Vicki*

      Unfortunately, some people who actually are productive take the “work long hours” to heart and harm their health in the process.

    2. Rose*

      This drives me insane. I get paid for a 9-5 day. Staying late to finish a big project or talk to a client is one thing, but I’m expected to work five hours a week that I’m not paid for.

  4. Helka*

    It’s interesting to contrast the “you look bad if you leave on time on the dot every day” mentality with the “working earlier in the day looks better than working later in the day, regardless of total hours” mentality. My department just implemented flexible scheduling, and I’ve started working the earliest possible shift (7am-3:30pm) since getting off work during business hours is really convenient. Do I look like a slacker for leaving so early, even though I’m the first one in at dawn?

    1. Camellia*

      I think what it ultimately comes down to is that we are supposed to come in early AND stay late.

      1. Sunflower*

        Actually we are never supposed to leave work. I am totally convinced that is what companies who have nap rooms and energy pods are actually striving towards

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          A friend of mine posted an article to FB about a developer’s plan to create a big building that is offices, retail, and apartments all combined. The commute would be a walk down a hallway. I know of dozens of companies that would love being able to hold their employees hostage like that.

          If I can find the link, I’ll post it.

            1. beachlover*

              This is not an unusual practice for factories in China. Many of the factories are in out lying areas and there is no outside housing for the workers because the factory is pretty much the only thing there. I worked with several chinese production plants in the past, and during Lunar New year, they would actually close for 3 weeks to allow their workers time to travel to and from their villages for the holiday.

          1. HR guru*

            I actually live in the lofts above the agency I work at. It’s so convenient but of course – no sick days for me!

          1. Mints*

            Oh, this is way less scary than I thought. The work space is like Starbucks / library work space for people who work from home. So you’re not living with your coworkers, you’re just in proximity with strangers. I thought it was going to be a mega tech company with dorms (which sounds horrifying)

      2. Lisa*

        Yup, exactly how my last boss put it. Working at home is also not seen so its like it never happened even if you put in 80 hr weeks. So stop bothering if that is the case.

        1. Allison*

          Plus there are people who believe that working from home = taking a day off. Working from home on a Monday or Friday, no matter how sick you say you are, will get a chuckle from some smug idiot who thinks you’re trying to get a 3 day weekend.

          1. Lisa*

            I was talking about working from home after putting in a 10 hour day. So doing another 3-4 hours on top of the workday. Boss would say, you leave right at 5:30. you respond with ‘I worked 32 extra hours at night at home’. He says ‘no one sees that’. Essentially, you didn’t work the extra time because you were not at your desk.

      3. Allison*

        I was told, in my early days, that when you’re new at a job you have to be the first one in and last to leave. I think I’d have to live at the office for that to be possible! Plus, I’m a contractor, so I need permission to work more than 40 hours a week. So not only would I not have a life, I would’ve gotten in a lot of trouble!

        1. Dang*

          Um, that’s got to be the most ridiculous thing ever.

          I say that as someone in my second week of a new job who is sitting around here until 5:30 on the dot so I don’t look like a slacker. I’m really not a slacker, I just don’t have enough to do yet!!

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I don’t know how your office is perceiving it, but if you’re worried about it, you might try to make your early-morning work more visible – for example, respond to/write emails first thing in the morning. Someone who sees you walking out of the office at 3:30 will then have that data point counterbalanced by the fact that your TPS reports are always already in their inbox by the time they get to work at 8, so they know you’re still working just as much.

      You could also say something around the water cooler like, “Now that my body’s adjusted to getting up earlier, I love how productive I am between 7 and 8! I get to avoid the morning rush hour, too, because most people aren’t on the road yet.”

      1. Kelly O*

        This actually sounds like a reasonable idea, and I’ve done it in previous lives. Not necessarily every day, but from time to time, make sure I respond to emails as soon as I get in the office (turn on the computer, grab some coffee while it boots up, and then reply to a couple of email messages first thing, especially those involving potential complainers.)

        1. Al Lo*

          I usually put in my first hour of the day at home checking emails and getting up to speed on things before I come into the office (and often end up working a slightly shorter in-office day), and I try to make sure I send something to all the key people at least once a week or so before I arrive at the office, just to remind them that I do that.

          It helps that my boss does the same thing — she rarely comes in before noon, but starts with emails at home in the mornings, so there’s a precedent in the organization.

      2. azvlr*

        As the new person on the team, I use a similar strategy to “show face”. My manager and team is on the opposite coast, so I send emails late in the day. Even though they have gone for the day, they have a way to see that I stuck around until the end of my day.

        The wonderful irony of this is that as long as I’m available when they need me and as long as I’m getting my work done, my awesome manager doesn’t mind if we duck out early or take a long lunch sometimes.

    3. Jaune Desprez*

      In my experience, there will certainly be people who’ll conclude that you’re a slacker if you arrive later or leave earlier than they do, no matter how many hours you’re putting in.

      In one job, I was covering two positions and working until 8 or 9 p.m. every night for months. When I came in at 10 a.m. a couple of mornings (because early mornings were the only time I could schedule some dental work), a coworker told me that it must be nice to work bankers’ hours.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I work those hours too, and sometimes I get “looks” when I leave at 3:30 or 4. But of course, there’s no one in at 7am to see me there working while others roll in at 9am.

    5. Purr purr purr*

      It depends on who sees you arriving early. If a manager can vouch for you then you’ll probably be OK otherwise I’ve found that most people assume you arrived about five minutes before them, even if it was an entire hour before them.

  5. Rebecca*

    I have been given this feedback before. It was combined with a comment about how people “my age” aren’t willing to put in the extra hours (I’m 27). I asked what I should be working on in those hours, since I was consistently getting glowing reviews from my customers and boss (who made the comment). My productivity was way higher than most of the senior people in my group and I had also implemented several process improvements to help our entire team. Given this boss also criticized me if I ever finished assignments too quickly (even though he had no critique of quality), it was overall frustrating. Luckily he had other issues and was soon switched to an independent contributed role in another state.

    1. Sunflower*

      Things like this just make me laugh. I just found out my boss had a problem with me leaving at 4pm when I first started. It was my first couple weeks on the job and barely had enough things to fill the day, let alone extra to do later. Now I still leave relatively around that time because the job I do is not that hard. Yes in our busy times I do need to work harder and stay later but I can finish almost all my work by 4pm and still have some downtime during the day. Not surprisingly, I’m job searching.

      I’m 26 and I don’t understand about how ‘we aren’t willing to put in extra hours’. Unless it’s at a start-up, it’s highly unlikely someone at that age is going to be a bigwig and major contributor to the company. Like there’s really little reason that someone at that age would need to be working a ton of extra hours unless you’re in a field where it’s the norm.

      1. MD*

        I agree. I am the most junior person in my office. I will have worked here exactly one year in May, and I can count on one hand the number of busy weeks I’ve had to stay late to get all the work done. Most days I get in at 9 a.m. and comfortably leave at 5 p.m. on the dot (taking my full hour lunch break). Our work is completely client based, so there are times where we just have to sit tight until things come in. As long as the work is finished, leaving on time is fine.
        The only thing I could suggest to someone who wants to leave straight away at the end of the day without having to hang around for no reason is, perhaps, eat lunch at your desk (if you aren’t already). That’s what I usually do. I don’t work during that time, just eat and browse on my computer or read, but it gives the impression that you’re working through your lunch. It could possibly pass for that extra hour your boss is looking for without causing you to needlessly stay late.

  6. YandO*

    Counting my hours instead of relying on my work/output is a sure way to kill my motivation and productivity.

    1. Peppermint Patty*

      I totally agree. It took me years to figure out a work pattern that takes into account my quirks, and I am far more productive this way.

      I work in a flexible workplace but come in before 8 most days because that is when I do my best work. If I need to work on something really hard without interruption I will come in even earlier. A couple of people have commented on how “it must be nice” when I leave right at 4. Ironically, that’s coming from the slacker coworker. I used to explain, but now I let it go. My manager and the directors who sit in the offices near me know I am here before them, know I am on top of things, and that’s good enough.

  7. Monday*

    Unfortunately, I do think that certain ways of “performing” being busy/hardworking really are often rewarded over actual productivity. Staying late is one, talking about how busy you are is another, and sending emails in the middle of the night is another. I think work cultures sometimes reward these behaviors over actual output because they’re not measuring output effectively (or at all); also, often bosses like employees who act like they themselves do, whether those actions are particularly helpful or not.

    1. Hotstreak*

      Also, even if your performance is being tracked, staying late or sending midnight emails are things that everyone will notice, including peers or supervisors who don’t have access to or look at your actual performance on a regular basis. Those folks might not be in a position to make actual changes like a raise or promotion, but by influencing them you contribute to your reputation as a busy/hard worker, and your reputation can definitely matter.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I used to manage a customer service department for a warehouse that shipped natural foods to a several-state area and that also had a small retail grocery shop for local customers. One of my reports in the retail area was really good at making a flurry of activity around appearing to be really busy, while her coworkers were more calmly efficient and got more done. I could not convince MY boss that the one who was a whirling dervish of activity was not the BEST employee EVAH — the flurry of activity equated with good work to him, not the actual results. He kept prompting me to give her more responsibility, which she couldn’t handle the complexity of, and which any other of my direct reports could handle better.

    3. Michele*

      Oh yes, you can spend twice as much time talking about how busy you are than actually working and get rewarded more than someone who gets a lot done, but doesn’t constantly go on about every little thing.

  8. Workfromhome*

    First thing I would would not to be to have any discussion with the boss but to find out how things really work at this company. Find out who the last few people who have been promoted are (if there are in fact any). Did they all “work late”. Were there people promoted who didn’t work late? You may come to find out that nobody is getting promoted or a raise regardless of what they do.

    If your research indicates it really doesn’t make any difference then just nod your head , say thanks for the advice and just ignore it. Keep doing great work and leave when your great work is done. IF you are working for a good company then if you do good work it should be rewarded. if its not and working late is more important then they don’t deserve your good work.

    If your research shows that people who do crap work get promoted because they work long hours then start quietly looking for another job ASAP. Places like this never change.

    I know this is my experience. Even though I am salaried non exempt (as are others) we would often put in extra hours for no compensation or hard to redeem comp time to be seen as “go getters”. Years went by with no promotions for anyone or raises. The people who leave at 5 no worse off in terms of promotion or $ than those who work till 10 PM. Now few are willing to go the extra mile.

  9. RVA Cat*

    This is yet another way they can penalize parents. I would stay late but the daycare closes at 6:30!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I think that goes both ways. Because in most cases the parent gets to leave to pick up the kid and the childless ones are expected to stay and pick up the slack.

      1. Carrington Barr*

        Yes, thank-you. In my experience, it’s always been the childfree people picking up the slack.

        1. random person*

          But if the parents get their work done by 6 PM or whenever (very reasonable!), and would only stay late to look busier, there is no slack.

          1. Cat*

            Where I find it to be an issue is when something unexpected comes up at 5:30 (or whatever), which isn’t an issue in every business but is in some. I understand that (some) non-parents, myself included, have more flexibility and I’m willing to be more on call because of that flexibility. But it is frustrating when that translates to more over-all hours.

        2. MAB*

          I have a child. He just happens to be 1200 lbs, 4 legged and a horse. I don’t want to stick around any later then the parents do becuase a work life balance makes for a happy employee (me)!

        3. neverjaunty*

          In a functional workplace, people pick up the slack for each other – maybe the parent has to leave at 5:30, but when the childfree person’s dog gets sick, nobody bats an eye when they have to bug out to get to the vet in a hurry.

          In dysfunctional workplaces, I’ve been expected to work twice as hard to prove I’m not one of those parents, including covering for childfree co-workers who had important commitments to Happy Hour.

      2. Kelly O*

        Although I will add, most daycares I’ve spoken with have strict policies on picking up children by a certain time, and there are fees if you pick up your child past the posted close. Mine recently changed theirs from $1/minute to $5/minute because there were several parents consistently picking up late, and the daycare has to pay their staff extra to stay… you get where this goes.

        I’m not saying it’s fair, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a second parent or a friend on your list of “okay to pick up my child” then sometimes it can work. But when the overtime happens all the time, or with little warning, it can make it hard to choose.

        And please don’t think I’m trying to justify the whole parent thing. I know not everyone wants to be a parent, or is at that point in life or whatever. But I think we can respect that our choices are different, and there is “penalization” on both sides when it comes to issues related to children.

    2. Rita*

      That could be anything though. I’m in a local community band that has practice once a week starting at 5:15pm, but with afternoon traffic sometimes it can take me 20-25 minutes to get there.

      1. TT*

        It could be – the only difference I see with parents picking up children is that there is a financial penalty to doing so and the threat of having Child Protective Services called if you’re leaving your child in daycare for an extended amount of time. Around here the standard is 10 hours.

  10. Sara*

    There are certain people at my workplace – thankfully none of whom are responsible for supervising or evaluating my work – who are drunk on face-time Kool-Aid. I have co-workers (including one who, like me, works in a position that pays based on a 32.5 hour week) who pull 12 hour days every day. I have yet to see any evidence that their work is better than mine.

  11. Vicki*

    I have a hardware engineer friend who worked in a group that got a new manager. The guy had been in the army (and acted like he still was). He announced that the engineering team would henceforth be in the office no later than 7:30 am every day.

    For a week, they did that. They came in, got coffee, and sat at their desks, staring into space for about 2 hours until they were sufficiently awake to even think about what to do next.

    On the following Monday, the entire team walked into the manager’s office and said “This stops or we all quit.”

    The sill hours requirement stopped.

    1. Not an early bird*

      My husband is a software engineer and his company used to have that policy. It was a small start-up, and the co-founders were both early-morning types. They tried to enforce hours of 7:30-6 daily, with every other Friday off – and every day started with a 7:30 check-in meeting with the whole team.

      My husband is VERY much a night owl, and try as he might he continually struggled to get into the office by 7:30, and often was a bit late. He also routinely was at the office late or spent weekends working on code – not just because of deadlines, but because he was so genuinely committed to the work and excited about it. He went to the co-founders and said, “Look, this timing just isn’t how my body works – can we adjust this?” It wasn’t until financially-induced layoffs took the company down to just 4 people that the co-founders finally gave up on the daily 7:30 meeting in favor of a core-hours mode. Now he gets in closer to 8:30 and often works past dinner. He’s getting at least as much done, but is happier with his sleep schedule.

      1. Stevie Wonders*

        At one company I requested to come in a little later to avoid traffic, and wasn’t just denied, but chastised for asking! A real old school manager (luckily he retired, good riddance).

        At another very large company, had a director that would walk around at 8:00am to see who was late. Would think someone at that level would have better things to do.

        Both jobs involving software development, not generally a clock dependent activity.

  12. nm*

    Try not to see working late as just a way to show your current work. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve put in lots of extra time – time spent improving procedures, creating new accounts/policies/plans. And I’ve gotten pretty far! I didn’t work late because I am a slacker, a goofball, lazy, inefficent, lacking in a personal life, what have you – I just honestly really enjoyed my work, and was passionate about it.

    1. 20Something And Counting*

      I can get all of that done during the typical 8 – 5pm period. I also love my work. But I also love my family, my physical health, nature, art, and having fun. Most salaried are already giving 45 hours a week (8am – 5pm with unpaid lunch that oh so often turns into a lunch time meeting). That’s over 25% of my adult life dedicated to the company, for which I’m only getting paid to provide around 23%, and now managment is moaning that I need to edge that up to 30% to be seen as a “hard worker”? No!

      Also I think it’s fine that you feel that way and want to dedicate 3o% (50 hour work week) or even over a third (60 hr work week) of your adult life to a company … but it’s not okay for management to try and thrust that burden on everyone and you shouldn’t be presurring your co workers to do that.

      1. Jamie*

        Why do you think you’re only being paid to provide 23%? Salaries are broken down into 40 hour increments because it’s simple for payroll and you need an average to assign to vacation and PTO days – but it’s not a given that people are paid with the expectation of 40 hours a week and anything above is extra.

        If your employer promised you a straight 40 then yes, it was disingenuous and it sucks and they should have been honest with you about expectations and what it takes to succeed there. And you certainly, like everyone, has every right to decide what kind of balance is right for you and try to find the right fit.

        But as you have the right to decide what’s best for you employers have the same right to determine what is best for the company in regards to how many hours they want people to work. Employers who are extreme task masters tend to have high turnover and a smaller pool of people willing to stay – so it’s really market driven. If they want exempt employees to put in 45 hour weeks and there are plenty of qualified people willing to do so then that’s their prerogative – just as it’s yours to decide whether or not you will do it.

        I guess my point is there is no magic formula that makes anything over 40 hours for salaried people a burden thrust at them by management. No one is violating anyone’s rights with these expectations – and people who don’t mind the hours or work more for their own reasons like nm aren’t pressuring co-workers to do anything. So if someone loves their job as much as you love art or nature they will spend the time working that you spend in non-work pursuits. The choices are equally valid.

        And whether intended or not when people say (in reference to not wanting to work more hours) that they love their family, personal life, etc. the implication is that those who regularly work longer hours don’t which can be kind of insulting. I’d venture to say the vast majority of people who work upwards of 40 a week voluntarily also love our families and have interests outside of work – it’s not an either/or deal.

        1. Liz in a Library*

          So, I’m delighted to see you here! I generally lurk, but I missed your insightful input and didn’t notice that you were back!

  13. Lily in NYC*

    This infuriates me! I am way more efficient in the morning so I prefer to come in early instead of staying late when I’m really busy. No one sees me here at 7:00 am so when I leave at 5pm I sometimes get a side eye from my colleagues (not my boss). But if I came in at 9 and stayed until 7pm I’d be seen as a really dedicated employee even though I worked the same number of hours. Grrrrrr.

    1. Yellow Flowers*

      I think I’m the rare person who has the opposite of this! Our hours are 8-5, but my boss comes in at 9 and works until 6. Only the people who make it in just before her – like, minutes – and she sees after 5 get the benefit of the doubt/

  14. Sunflower*

    What have you guys found as the best way to screen for this in interviews? It’s a big issue at my current job and I’ve seen a couple suggestions. Asking about the culture or work/life balance doesn’t get me anywhere it seems. I’ve tried asking ‘what time do employees usually leave’ but that sounds awkward.

    1. Addiez*

      What’s a typical work day? What are the hours people usually work here in the office?

      I’ve outed myself below, but I think immediately asking whether you can squeak by on 39 hours a week isn’t the best impression, so talking about it from a perspective of what the schedule looks like would be preferable in my perspective.

      1. Jill 2*

        See, I flat out asked my now-manager this because I got the impression this place did not have a good work-life balance. She said she felt she never had to work late and 40 hours was sufficient to get the work done. Cut to my starting here, and she works from 6am to 1am. She’s usually in the office for 12 hours a day, and then goes home and works too. On top of that, there isn’t a work-life culture balance at all.

        I’m convinced most all employers say they value balance because they know it’s a selling point to prospective employees. But once an employee starts, the culture can exert pressure and have them stay late. My job now is one of the busiest I’ve ever had, but it’s a point of pride for me to be incredibly efficient and productive in 8 hours. I could work 40 works here and get everything done, but everyone loves to complain about how much work they have and how busy they are. I’m worried they’ll give me more if I say anything otherwise. It drives me crazy that face time is such a big deal here. They all SAY it isn’t, but then everyone stays until 6 or 7, having come in at 7am as well. Actions matter more than words.

        In my experience thus far, I haven’t been able to screen for it. I’m not optimistic I ever will. When so many of you talk about flexible schedules and 40 hour weeks, I think you must all have unicorn jobs. Sniff! (And are you hiring??)

        1. MAB*

          Try my job! I am on call from 0230 t0 0100, but I work an 8-ish to 5-ish with very flexable hours. When I got hired I was told to streamline the job and cut the hours down from 60 hour a week to 40 hours AND they really wanted to hire people with a good work life balance. Its still that way now. I know middle and upper management work closer to 50-60 hours a week but it isn’t expected of me. Bonus: I know my boss that isn’t at corporate (yes I have 2 bosses, long and kinda silly story) works an 8-ish to 4-ish. He is just very easy to get a hold of. My other boss never stops. I swear. I have gotten emails at 2 am from her. I don’t ever want to have to work a scheudle like her’s.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          “I’m convinced most all employers say they value balance because they know it’s a selling point to prospective employees. But once an employee starts, the culture can exert pressure and have them stay late.”

          So true. I’ve been flat out lied to about it by at least one employer.

          I think the whole open-office trend makes it worse, too. It’s easier to see who is the first to leave, so people are afraid to be That Person, and stick around late even if they are just surfing the Internet hoping that someone else will go home.

    2. SpoilerAlert*

      Near the end of the interview when they turn it over to you to ask questions, I suggest asking what the “usual office hours” are, and if the answer is 9-5 and you would like something different, follow up with “How do you feel about/Are you open to employees working adjusted schedules at comparable hours?” Explain cheerfully that you’re asking because you’ve found that you are at your most productive and do your best work in earlier in the morning and were curious how they felt about employees working say, 7-3pm or 8-4pm. Most companies WANT you at your most productive (and most content, if it’s at no real expense to them) and I’ve found that framing it that way makes most managers view this as a win/win. Certainly worked with my manager :)

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      If you can find another employee of the same company who is not invested in the hiring process to talk to, that’s probably the most reliable — but also the most difficult to do unless your industry is small enough that you’re not trying to chat up a complete stranger, unfortunately.

  15. BRR*

    I have a coworker who came from an environment like this. People stayed very late at night but would just be on Facebook.

  16. Three Thousand*

    I’ve noticed high-performing, productive people are more likely to wear blue shirts than the general population. I expect you to start wearing blue shirts from now on if you want to get anywhere in this company.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Blue, wrinkly shirts. The wrinkles are because of being in the shirt so looong and working sooo very hard.

  17. Addiez*

    I’ll be honest – I rarely disagree with Allison’s advice, but this is one of those times. People who sprint out the door every day at 5 (or a few minutes before) at every place I’ve worked have been noticed. It’s not like they should be working til 7 every day, but staying til 5:15 or 5:30 sometimes shows a deeper level of commitment, in my opinion. Honestly, there’s always something else to do. If you truly don’t have a *single* other thing you can work on, sure, but I doubt that.

    As my (extremely successful) father told me when I was complaining in my first job – no one ever became CEO by working 40 hours a week. Take cues from your superiors – if everyone is working more hours than you and you want a promotion, take note. Being exempt doesn’t necessarily mean 40 hours a week.

    1. KathyGeiss*

      I think there’s a difference between a culture that values face time to the point where staying late matters more than productivity and people who watch the clock. I’ve worked with 2 types of people that leave on time everyday: the high producer who uses their time wisely and the person who leaves on the dot regardless of whether or not their work is done.

      I think some jobs are totally appropriate for the second group of people; some just want a 9-5 job and there is nothing wrong with that. But, in some positions, that lack of dedication is noticed and detrimental.

      But, I hope that most people are able to distinguish between those two types of people (wishful thinking maybe). I also hope that people recognize when it’s totally appropriate for a role to be filled with someone just looking for no-hassle 9-5ing.

    2. Chris*

      I agree with this. In every place I’ve working (I’m in non-profit conservation) there are very few people who’s workload perfectly matches a 40 hour work week. Most people have to work damn hard on keeping their tasks prioritized in order to not work incredibly long days. Although, working late (or early or through lunch) in my field isn’t about appearances, it’s about stepping up. It may not be the way the world *should* work, but if the people who are finishing their work within the work day aren’t either seeking more challenging projects or looking for opportunities to help others with their work, those people don’t get promoted or recruited for other internal jobs. Of course, I don’t know anyone in my work place that wastes time either.

      1. Jamie*

        Thanks for making this point – it’s along the lines of what I was thinking. Every job is different and for many jobs there is no “done with everything” at the end of the day. It’s a continuum and you leave when you hit a clean breaking point. If I had to leave at the same time on the dot every day I’d either waste time because I’d stop mid-task and it would take twice as long to get back into it in the am as to finish it now…or I’d be waiting out the clock for a some minutes because I didn’t have any short tasks I could cram in before the whistle blew.

        In positions like this people need to look at their culture – because we’re all judged according to the accepted practices of our workplace. If other people are staying later and doing more and you know it hurts your reputation to put in a solid 40 and out then you need to decide if you can live with the perception, want to change your work habits to be more in line with your employer, or seek a better culture fit where it’s not an issue.

        In cases where people have good time management and work efficiently on projects and the vast majority routinely put in significantly more than 40 hours then someone working less isn’t more effective – they are just devoting less time to their jobs. Which is totally their call to make, but if that slows things down for others there absolutely will be resentment. So it’s less a matter of what is right or fair and more a matter of knowing if the expectations and culture is a good fit.

        But the knee jerk reaction of some that those who work late don’t know how to manage their time is just as wrong as those who think people who don’t are slackers. Both are completely dependent on the situation and individual.

        I have had a couple of light days of software installs, maintenance updates where I am on AAM while watching progress bars and rebooting and I’m leaving on time tonight. Other nights where I’ve put in 16 hours because of necessity I’d go to the mat over anyone questioning my time management. There is no universal one right way to approach work.

        That said staying late and doing nothing for the perception is ridiculous and no one should get points for that. Either stay late and do something or explain why it doesn’t make sense for you because there is literally nothing for you to do until morning.

    3. Jill 2*

      But that’s if you want to be CEO. What if I just want to do my job because I need to pay my bills? I have no qualms about staying late if there’s an emergency or a crisis, and I do this all the time. Heck, I’m in a job where I work a minimum of 50 hours a week now. But it irritates me. I plan my day specifically to be done at 5, include my above and beyond tasks. I would much rather skip lunch (and almost always do) in order to be done at 5.

      I completely get the perception issue, and that’s why I never actually leave until 5:30. But it really, really bothers me that I have to do this.

      For the record, I’ve been promoted, given awards, and have received excellent reviews my entire career. I also know I never will be a Director or CEO because I will not go the extra mile on top of the extra I’m doing already. I’m totally okay with that. I just don’t want to get negative reviews because I’m not staying late enough and often enough. I wish our work culture worked differently.

    4. Oryx*

      Nope, there’s not always something else to do. Not all of us have jobs that have a constant influx of work like that.

      And, as others have pointed out, not all of us WANT to be a CEO. I certainly don’t and even if I did, I’d have to leave my current position because there’s no room for growth where I am right now. But that’s okay, because I work a job that allows me to leave when my day is done without being made to feel guilty or pressured to stay late because, as I said, there is nothing else for me to do.

    5. neverjaunty*

      I doubt anybody ever became CEO by staying 15 minutes late sometimes, either.

      “Sprint out the door” is very different than “leaving on time”. Confusing the two is the root of this problem – the belief that butts in seats are the only measure of productivity and commitment.

    6. Soharaz*

      From another perspective though, if I’ve finished all my tasks for the day and its 4.55, why would I start a new task that I know is going to take more than 5 minutes, stay late and rush through it when I could leave on time and give it my full attention first thing tomorrow morning?

    7. AW*

      staying til 5:15 or 5:30 sometimes shows a deeper level of commitment

      It shows you lost track of time and don’t have to take a bus to get home.

  18. John R*

    Past a certain point, you’re not being productive, no matter what you think. Yes, there are times when extra work is required, but sitting at a desk for its own sake is ludicrous.

    When I think back at my career, the jobs I’ve excelled in are those that were results based vs. timed based and the ones I was most unhappy in were like those described by the OP.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This. So much this. I have watched people start fumbling around in hour number 9 or 10. Pretty soon, they become worthless. Someone has to go behind them and clean up their messes.

      1. Jill 2*

        The thing that kills me is, for the most part at my current job, the extra hours do nothing! I still have to hound people constantly for answers. I get that for most of them, their jobs are much more demanding than mine, and they’re in more meetings. I really and truly empathize. But if you were truly getting double the productivity from the double hours you were working, surely you could answer a simple email I sent you multiple times? And have to follow up on the phone, via text, via IM, and in-person? And I still get my ish done in 40.

        It’s crazy to me.

      2. Jamie*

        I know there is a point at which productivity drops significantly, which is different for everyone, but 9-10 is really early to hit that wall for most people. Unless they have something going on medically or other issues (which will happen to everyone at various times) I would be surprised if there was a true productivity drop due to fatigue at that point.

        1. 20Something And Counting*

          Where are you getting that? I don’t know a single person who can work without a break for 9 or 10 hours straight without decreased productivity and increased errors.

          1. Jamie*

            Who said anything about working without a break? People routinely work 9-10 hour days effectively – take normal lunches, get coffee. Working efficiently doesn’t mean you don’t take reasonable breaks to stay fresh. I was referring to the regular workday and yes, I think that’s early to hit a wall for most people.

            In fact there is a move in a lot of sectors to go to a 10 hour a day/4 day week and a lot of people would welcome that schedule and I think most people could absolutely do 9-10 hour days without losing productivity.

            1. Be the Change*

              Oh my goodness, I disagree completely. Our university moves to a 4/10 every summer and it’s like moving to a 3-day week because no one does much after 4, and you can’t ask for anything on Thursday instead of Friday. That said, we’ve had no raises for years and years, so maybe it’s more low morale.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        In my experience, it is them, the next morning. When I work 10 hour days, I work productively for about 8 hours, slow down for the next, and start going backwards after that. So the next morning, I need to take an hour or two to clean up what I messed up in that last hour. I’m less productive in 10 hours than in 8 because of that daily backwards movement when I’m so tired.

    2. AW*

      Past a certain point, you’re not being productive, no matter what you think.

      In fact, there are studies that show this. Spending an extra hour or two failing to solve a problem because you’re too tired to think straight isn’t “commitment”, it’s pointless.

  19. Chriama*

    One tough thing is if you work different hours from the rest of your team, there might be a real effect to leaving early. In my current position I find that no one else leaves early, so even if I come at 8 I’m not quite comfortable leaving at 4 because my boss doesn’t leave until 4:30 at the earliest. And sometimes – oftentimes, actually – things come up around 2 0r 3. They’re not quite emergencies, but leaving a task undone because I want to go home earlier means my coworkers willl need to pick up the slack. Getting in early doesn’t have the same effect because the stuff I’m working on in the morning doesn’t have as high visibility.

    Anyway, when your job is highly interactive you can find that you’re forced to work hours that complement your team and/or other departments, because otherwise you’re not really a team player.

  20. 20something*

    This! This is what I’m worried about too. I come on time and leave right on the dot everyday. But I also stay at my desk and focus on my work, as opposed to my coworkers who chat while they work, go to each others’ desks and yak, etc. I am more productive because I don’t waste time not working. But they always stay after I’ve left, and I’m worried that my boss will think I’m not as dedicated because I don’t stay longer to meet deadlines.

  21. A Bug*

    The flip side of this is the salaried worker who has to work extra hours to get the work done that she should be able to get done during normal working hours 9either as a result of fooling around on the sly, or of being an unproductive worker). To a casual observer this worker looks like a dedicated, hardworking employee, and can sometimes make the actually-productive employees look bad by comparison.

    (The problem with that one is it’s hard to correct a manager’s perception on this without coming across as a bit petty.)

    1. 20Something And Counting*


      It’s what I like to call the “diligently mediocre” and I’ve seen these co-workers clip past truly productive and valuable employers when management just won’t take the time to see past the easy face time litmus test.

  22. Anonymous Educator*

    I think there’s a difference between staying late and leaving at 4 pm right at the dot.

    If you’re an exempt employee, and you leave at 16:00:00 every day without fail, I doubt you’re being as productive as you can be. Really—you aren’t ever in the middle of something and have to stay until 16:01:30 or 16:05:00? I find that very hard to believe, and I don’t believe at all in this face time business. If that’s the case, you aren’t getting assigned enough work, or you could be doing it even better than you are.

    I absolutely have never put in face time for face time’s sake at any of the jobs I’ve had over the last decade and a half, and I’ve never gotten dinged for it. But I’ve also never (apart from when working non-exempt) sprinted out the door immediately when the clock turned 3:45 (or 4:30 or 5:30… or whenever the official end time of work is). As an exempt employee should do, I would usually leave around the normal leave time (sometimes a little earlier, and sometimes a little later), and then occasionally stay really late… or occasionally leave really early.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It would be interesting to see how much time the VP is talking about. Perhaps he means 15 minutes or so. But maybe he means hours and hours.

      If a person is prepared to leave at exactly 4 pm every day, then it is safe to assume they are a clock watcher. They have it timed exactly. Someone who is focusing on the work might be early one day and later the next day because they are following their workload, not the clock.

      All that said, I think the VP is talking about hours of OT, not minutes. Kind of superficial in my eyes, there are better ways of measuring productivity and figuring out a person’s worth to a company.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        If it’s hours instead of minutes, then the end time is disingenuous. If they expect you to work until 5:00, then 4:00 isn’t the real end time. Maybe that’s the case, in which case I side more with the OP.

        If, however, it’s minutes, I’d tend to side more with the manager. I’ve seen exempt employees like that before, who leave immediately when it’s 3:59:99 on the clock every day without fail, and those people have never been the highest performers.

      2. EEE*

        see, I leave at virtually the exact same time every day, because I rely on public transportation, and if I leave say 5 minutes later, I will miss my bus, which only runs once every hour. So yeah, I do keep a careful eye on the clock, and leave the same time every day. I also take great care to make sure that everything is done and wrapped up by then.
        If someone is a clock-watcher and seems to often have things a bit late or their quality of work is poor, yeah, I might infer that they need to be willing to put in a few extra minutes. If someone is a clock-watcher and gets everything done, I wouldn’t care.

        1. Jamie*

          I have worked with plenty of people who had to leave on the dot because of public transportation schedules, or picking kids up, etc and they were awesome – there are often good reasons people need to be rigid about when they leave.

          1. Zillah*

            Yep. Staying five or ten minutes later can easily lead to a huge hassle.

            When I was in graduate school, most of my classes were in the evening. Because the classes were long, we got a fifteen-ish minute break in the middle, but the later classes sometimes skipped it so we could get out early. I always hated it when the professors insisted we take it. The extra five or ten minutes meant that I spent an extra 45 minutes waiting for public transportation, without fail.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, but then the OP’s letter wouldn’t have said

          I responded along the lines of, “I do my work when I’m here (as opposed to screwing around) and the company should be happy that I don’t waste valuable time chatting and taking smoke breaks during the day, forcing me to stay later to finish my work.”

          Instead, it would have said

          I responded that we’d already talked about how I had to leave exactly at 4pm to get my bus or else have to wait another hour for the next one to arrive.

          I would assume anyone who has a special case in which she has to leave exactly at ending time would have already talked to her manager about it.

    2. Jennifer*

      Depends on your job. I am almost always utterly done with the day’s load before 5 p.m. on the dot. But I have a rotating load.

  23. Rita*

    Before my current role at my company, unless I had a deadline coming up and needed to put in extra time to get it done (which was very rare), I could easily leave right at 5pm or close to it. I was one of a few employees who worked in a support role outside of client projects (i.e. everything I worked on was internal). Meanwhile, all my coworkers who did work on client projects almost always worked late (past at least 6pm), as we have tight timelines in our work, lots of moving parts, constant changes, etc.

    There were times where I would purposefully work late because I felt like… I’m not quite sure how to explain it. I felt bad leaving at 5pm everyday. It kind of made me feel like I wasn’t a team player, wasn’t putting in the same effort as everyone else, even though I was getting all my work done and was productive. So once a week, I would stay later and work on things that were fine leaving till the next day to wrap up. There were occasions where I would stay and work on personal things, but it looked to others like I was working. Not super late, like 5:30-5:45pm. I know it was silly for me to think that way, but that was the culture at the time.

    My role has transitioned over the past year, and now I am involved with client projects in some of my work so I am finding myself working late from time to time. But, the work/life balance here has improved since I was in my previous role that people don’t work as late as often. We’ve improved how we handle processes, timelines, and client requests substantially. There are still fire drills that come in from time to time, but it’s definitely better for all here. When I see someone leave right at 5pm, I feel a sense of happiness for them that their workload was light enough that day that they could leave at that time.

  24. LV Ladybug*

    My boss is like this. I’m salaried, and unless you work 45 hours a week, you aren’t working enough.

    1. Jill 2*

      There have been plenty of people on these boards that have argued the same. In my mind, salaried means you stay late in crunch time and crises, but that you also have the flexibility to leave early occasionally. It should all make out in the wash. It has instead come to mean, “You work an additional 10+ hours a week without question.”

      1. Jamie*

        It really depends on the culture and honestly what is acceptable work week for salaried people varies dramatically from company to company.

        This is why I am a crazy advocate for transparency of expectations from the beginning. Tell candidates what the real expectations are – not ideally, but what the average time expected for someone in that position. How many hours are their would-be peers clocking in? So people can have real data and decide if it’s going to be a good fit.

        If the expectations are 45-50+ hours a week on a regular basis people should know that so they can self-select out if that doesn’t work for them. Hiring managers shouldn’t pretend 40 hours will be fine if it’s not just like people shouldn’t take jobs that they know require more intending to work 40 because that’s what they think is fair.

        1. Jill 2*

          I don’t disagree with you. It’s just that in my experience, employers lie. And then you’re stuck in a situation where the expectations don’t match what you thought, and if it bugs you enough, you have to go through the job hunt all over again.

          And may just end up at another place that lies.

  25. Jax*

    Alison, I appreciate that you add that each person needs to decide whether this is a deal breaker by weighing other job perks against it. I’m in this situation right now.

    My management LOVES people who will work overtime and even work on Saturdays, so people goof off all day and then brag that they had to stay until 7 pm to finish up. Management gives them head pats for it and it angers me. I think Live to Work! is a horrible existence and disagree with it. But if I leave I’ll give up a great commute, the flexibility to start later and run my kids to school (I had to negotiate hard for that!!!) and 3 years of proving myself to be awesome. Do I really want to start over somewhere else?

    I think those of us stuck in Live To Work! businesses ultimately have to decide where we want to end up. If you want to be a big shot, than you will have to live at the office. But if you just want to advance a bit or you’re happy with the role you have, then it makes more sense to ignore when other people are leaving and just do you. Pick up your bag at 5:07, say goodbye to your officemates, and walk out the door.

    I need to stop getting jealous when Suzie Neverleaves is the golden child while I am not. I would love some advice on how to deal with that!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I worked with Suzie, once.
      One thing I found is just to make sure I was knocking it out of the park each week. Hit those goals plus some. I basically created bottlenecks else where because my work was moving along and stopping once it left me. Not my problem.
      My theme song was that I put 200% in when I was at work. In my case, they could not make me work over because my work was done. There was not much for me to actually do. I absorbed more work and that got done, too. Finally, she left me alone. I was doing more in 40 hours than she was with OT and that was clear to everyone.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Also see 20Something’s post below here. If you are able to shave time off of processes, document that. Then show the boss what you have done.

      1. 20Something And Counting*

        Sadly this won’t always work though. Like I mentioned below, despite me showing how much production time and money I was able to save the team, as well as creating tools the entire team could use to reduce hourly FTE needs (huge savings there) I was STILL labeled as “not a team player” and passed over for a promotion.

  26. 20Something And Counting*

    This is the biggest frustration of my working career. I’m in my late 20s, and I’ve had to deal with this “face time = great time” attitude from all of my baby boomer and late genx managers. It’s why I left my first out-of-college company 2 years ago. My current manager is younger and hasn’t given me any guff about typically leaving between 4:45 and 5:15.

    I’m Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified and a whiz with computers and programming. I leverage my technical skills and process prowess to shave hundreds of hours off of production time. My current record is taking a process that the previous owner took 5 business days to complete and shaving it down to 30-minutes of hands on time. The output was also much higher quality, as my predeccessor’s clunky process had about 1,000 more oppurtunities for error than my redesign. Did I mention that my predeccessor also complained loudly about having to work evenings and weekends? I never had to work a single weekend yet I took on all of the responsbilities of what use to be two FTE.

    Meanwhile I got dinged by my manager while working on that team for “not being a team player” and a co-worker who always came in early, stayed late, yet rarely answered emails timely, constantly missed project deadlines, and frequently made glaring errors in reports requiring re-work got a star review.

    I think an earlier AAM post addresses this very well https://www.askamanager.org/2011/01/how-to-manage-a-hard-worker-whos-dropping-balls.html

  27. Nobody*

    I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, you should be judged by your results, not how much time you spend at the office. Since you don’t waste time screwing around, you probably get more work done in 8 hours than your coworkers get done in 9 or 10 hours, and I hope your boss realizes that. On the other hand, though, maybe what he’s saying is that he wants you to do a little more, go above and beyond just what you’re assigned. I’m in a different situation because I’m paid hourly, but I also work hard all day and have high productivity, and while I always finish all my assigned work, if I could stay late, there is always something else I could do. If you were to stay an extra 30 minutes once or twice per week, is there something else you could accomplish beyond your normal workload? Maybe after you finish your TPS reports, you could stay a little longer and reformat the TPS cover sheet to make it easier to read, or you could spend some time researching a new chocolate melting pot with a built-in thermometer that would save your company $10k on external thermometers.

    1. 20Something And Counting*

      If he want’s to see more quality from you he should just say so and not frame it as “be seen in the office late”.

  28. Purr purr purr*

    This is a huge issue for me too. I arrive at work at 8.30, work hard (as in, no gossiping, no smoking breaks, etc), and then try my best to leave at 4.30pm, not always successfully. My colleague arrives at 9.30, an hour later than me, and stays until 5.30, i.e. he works the same total hours but he takes long and numerous smoking breaks. My boss usually arrives in the office at 9.30 to 10 so he doesn’t know when myself and my colleague arrived but he sees me ‘leaving early’ and my colleague ‘staying late’ and makes assumptions about us based on that.

    Personally, my feelings are that I’m hired to do 40 hours a week so that’s what I’ll do. I’m willing to stay late (and usually do) but I don’t want to make a habit of it because I have a life outside work. It annoys me that I’m effectively penalised against for choosing work hours that suit my life better.

  29. Kfish*

    I read an advice book that recommended staying late to show your dedication to the company. It told the story of a young woman who would regularly stay back late at work and type out pages from the dictionary, so that she appeared to be working. She eventually got a promotion for her ‘dedication and hard work’.

  30. marghini*

    Reading all these comments where staying late measn leaving at 5:30 or 6 makes me want to cry!

    I am currently working in Taiwan at a local firm and our working hours are by default 9 am to 7 pm. When I clock out around 7 pm, I am the first to leave. I know most people stay at the office until 9 or 10 pm every single day. That is the work culture in Taiwan, so I know it is not just a problem of my firm. My boss complained with me several times about my working hours and my “lack of commitment”, but I am so sick of this place and its practices that I just keep leaving around 7 to preserve my mental sanity.

    Needless to say, I am waiting for my contract to expire and then I will leave Taiwan as fast as I can..

  31. Gone Anon*

    Sadly I’m dealing with this at my workplace. A coworker whose productivity is low average is praised to the skies because she hangs around after her hours of work finish, emptying the bins and washing plates in the breakroom. We are a professional office, not a janitorial service FFS.

  32. Editor*

    I keep wondering if some tweaking to labor laws would help the bogus “face time” issue. Right now people can work at salaried jobs for fairly low annual pay rates, but there’s been some discussion of raising the salary threshold so exempt workers who put in more than 40 hours a week get paid a higher rate — I think the current minimum is around $23,000 annually. If a lot of poorly paid salaried jobs became hourly, then maybe more companies would have to start looking at results instead of face time.

    Also, I don’t know how management trends get started, but a flurry of books and articles about measuring productivity and ferreting out slackers might help change some workplaces. I think it would be great if Alison or someone could get a best-seller out of this topic, if for no other reason than to give me something to send to a couple of people anonymously.

    1. Jamie*

      Yep – it’s $23,600 in most instances – however you cannot work so many hours that you drop below minimum wage. Since that’s 11.35 an hour and where I am the min wage will be $10 in a couple of months it means you can’t make that person work more than a few minutes past 45 hours without being in trouble.

      Always struck me as weird that it’s the same @23,600 for salaries computer professionals but if paid hourly the min. exempt rate is 27.63 which works out to 57,470.40 annually (using 40 hour weeks.) I’d love to know the logic that went into forming that criteria.

  33. Irene*

    I had the exact opposite problem. I was working 10-13 hr days at my job to try to keep my location running and was getting NO kudos for it in any form. In fact, when my new boss came in during the summer, and asked everyone what their schedule was, all my coworkers who’d gotten pinged by their partners as screwing up listed standard 8-9 hr shifts. I listed my usual 10 hr shift. My new boss then asked why my regular hours were 10 hr long.

    My response was, “I actually stay longer than that.” And then went into how I was covering for a subordinate that was let go while still trying to complete my job which consisted of work specific to my role, covering for my other subordinate while they were out, and work that should be done by a 3rd subordinate that the company didn’t feel like hiring.

    I’m just now getting to a point where I don’t need to work 10 hrs a day. (My regular schedule is closer to 9-9 1/2 hrs now.)

  34. ContraryMary*

    My boss just changed our office hours from 5pm to 5:30 and I’m pretty sure he did so solely because he hates the way I dash out the door at 5 on the dot. Wait til he sees me dash out the door at 5:30. This is about control.
    I used to be chronically early too. Until he changed my hours, chewed me out in front of my co-workers and 50 other things I’ve let build and am now fuming over.
    It really bothers me too that he’s the kind of boss that wants to show up at my door at 4:56 and get into some long-winded story that’s completely devoid of value.
    I’m guilty of job-hopping too. I have a really low threshold for being disrespected now. (It’s got nothing to do with trying to leave at 5.) Once you’ve been demoralized too, you might as well just go.

    1. ContraryMary*

      Oh and because I always get 40 on the dot, he could never say anything or try to make me stay late. So in addition to changing our hours to 5:30, he just put me on salary.

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