I’m getting mixed messages about whether I have to work overtime

A reader writes:

I am receiving mixed messages from my manager, and I’d really like it to stop.

When I accepted my current position a year ago, I was very clear that I am a solo parent to an infant and I’m unable to work a lot of overtime. I clearly stated I could do it a few times a year, but not regularly.

I’ve been asked to work the last six Saturdays in a row, which put me in a difficult position with my family situation, but I cheerfully worked those Saturdays and kept my mouth shut, hoping it would not continue. But now, every week around Wednesday or Thursday, my manager sends a coworker to me to ask me to work Saturday because our project is late. It rubs me the wrong way that my manager isn’t asking himself, but that is beside the point.

I emailed my manager and said, “Can you set my expectations on what you’d like from me schedule-wise through the end of the project? I’m specifically looking for information on when I will be needed outside of the standard core hours M-F.” His response was one sentence: “Please make those decision based on your project/team needs.”

Yet I continue to get emails each week from my coworker saying, “You are required to work X hours on Saturday.”

That doesn’t sound up to me. I really can’t work these Saturdays any longer. How can I navigate this? Is it time to move jobs because I can’t meet the schedule?

No, at least not yet. It’s time to go talk to your boss and be clearer about your situation.

It’s very possible that your boss has forgotten the conversation you had about overtime when you were hired a year ago, and it’s not fair to be this frustrated when you haven’t directly told him that these recent overtime expectations are in conflict with what you need and thought you had negotiated. People tend to expect that their managers will remember this kind of thing, but it’s pretty common for managers to forget — not because they’re flakes (although sure, sometimes that’s the reason) but because they’re juggling tons of other things and this isn’t foremost in their minds, especially 12 months later.

So the first thing to do is to remind him. Say this to him: “When you hired me, we agreed that because of my child care situation, I wouldn’t work overtime more than very occasionally — at the time, we said a few times a year but not more. I’ve worked Saturdays for the last six weeks because I know that you’re in a pinch, but I can’t continue to do it. What’s the best way to handle this?”

It’s possible that he’ll realize he forgot that and this will take care of the whole thing.

Or, it’s possible that your boss will say that things have changed since you first came on board, and that you really do need to work these extra hours. If that’s the case, you’ll have a couple of options:

* Agree, but ask for more information. Say something like, “I do want to help as much as I can, but I need to balance that with child care obligations. Can we talk about how long you expect this will be needed, so I can figure out how to manage my schedule? It’s easier for me to accommodate this if I know in advance and/or if I know how long we’ll be in this situation.”

* Decide that you can’t keep doing it, and say that. There’s a risk here that you could be told you either do it or lose your job, but whether that’s likely depends strongly on your standing, your dynamic with your boss, and the culture of your workplace in general. In some offices, this would be likely to get you fired. In many others, it wouldn’t. It’s also possible that there could be smaller consequences (in your raise, assignment, and general standing with your boss and/or your coworkers). You might be fine with that, or you might not — but this is stuff to factor into your thinking.

If you get the sense that this isn’t a short-term situation and is likely to continue for a while and/or crop up again in the future, then yes, it might also make sense to start job searching . But if your sense is that it’s really just a one-time thing that hasn’t been handled well, it might make more sense to just get through this project and see how things go after that.

But have a clearer conversation with your boss before concluding anything.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 191 comments… read them below }

  1. Lu*

    At my last job I was full time and had to work Saturdays and Sundays because the boss rota-ed it in and no one else would do it. It may be because you’ve done it plenty before so they automatically assume you will do it all the time.

  2. DMC*

    Yikes. Sounds like a tough situation, but agree wholeheartedly with AAM and want to second the notion that perhaps your manager simply forgot. If you explain the real impact these overtime days are having on you and your family, and remind your manager you had been forthright about this issue upon hire, hopefully things will change. It certainly does all depend on your manager and what kind of a manager/person he or she is.

  3. Anonymous Educator*

    my manager sends a coworker to me to ask me to work Saturday because our project is late. It rubs me the wrong way that my manager isn’t asking himself, but that is beside the point.

    ….His response was one sentence: “Please make those decision based on your project/team needs.”

    Yet I continue to get emails each week from my coworker saying, “You are required to work X hours on Saturday.”

    Am I the only one reading a possibility here of the Manager saying to Co-worker, “Can you and OP make sure Saturday is covered?” and then Co-worker then saying to OP “You’re working Saturday”?

    1. J.B.*

      Umm…yeah. Has anyone other than OP worked the Saturdays? Why or why not? At the very least, OP has been there a year. In addition to talking directly to the boss, does she have enough standing to email the coworker back and say sorry, no I can’t anymore? That may at least force a conversation with one or the other.

      1. INTP*

        I thought so too. It’s just so weird that the manager would be so indirect with the OP herself and so detailed through the coworker. Communicating more through an indirect channel than to someone’s face isn’t that unusual, but refusing to tell someone whether they need to work OT at all to their face and then communicating through a coworker that they need to work very specific hours on a specific day is odd.

        The other possibilities that came to mind are that the boss thinks there’s something illegal about changing previously agreed upon hours and thinks they’re making it legal by hiding behind the coworker, or the boss is just painfully indirect, but I think the coworker acting independently is most probable.

    2. teresajs*

      Add me to the list of people suspicious that the OT directive is coming from the coworker. It’s possible that the OP’s boss is telling the coworker to work Saturdays and the coworker is passing that putting that onto the OP, with the Manager having no idea at all.

      OP, next email you get from Coworker about this, print it out, and go in to discuss the issue one-on-one with your Manager. Be polite but ask for clarification on whether this is something being requested from the Manager and, if so, how you can best support the project while meeting your family responsibilities.

      1. LaNa*

        OP isn’t getting emails from Coworker. She said Coworker comes to her mid-week and asks–definitely worth clarifying where this directive is coming from, in addition to Alison’s suggestions!

        1. LaNa*

          Or…OP is also getting emails from Coworker? Confusing. Either way, Alison’s response below is pretty great!

          1. Jinx*

            This confused me – if OP’s coworker is coming over to ask them to work Saturday, that’s one thing. But OP also says she’s receiving emails from the coworker saying “you are required to-“. If the emails are using that language, I’d definitely loop the manager in. On my team, I’m not “required” to do anything other than what my manager tells me.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, interesting. You’re absolutely right that that could be happening! Given that, I wonder what would have happened if the first time the coworker had sent one of these emails, the OP had replied, “I actually negotiated with (boss) when I was hired that I couldn’t work weekends. Let me know if I should loop him in!” or something like that. It’s too late for that now (since the OP has been working weekends), but this is a pretty interesting possibility, and all the more reason to go talk to the boss.

      1. OP*

        Hi! Thanks for the feedback everyone. It has been arbitrary who has worked weekends. I’ve confirmed with my manager when I was asked, but he seems to be asking those of us that are testing particular pieces of the software we are working on. As testers we are the last people in the project timeline so we aren’t the reason the project is late but we are paying for it with our weekends

        1. videogame Princess*

          Your manager has a responsibility to step in and solve this situation. It isn’t fair that you are taking the responsibility for other peoples’ bad deadline setting or failure to work fast enough. Is it possible to request your schedule changes, so that if the project is late you can take your weekend on a Monday/Tuesday or something like that?

          1. the_scientist*

            It sounds like there’s a multitude of bad management behaviour going on here. First, the boss is too passy-assy/avoidant to deal directly with his own team members: he’s asking other employees to confront their coworkers about their behaviour, and won’t directly tell the OP what the deal is with this overtime arrangement. Secondly, as others have pointed out, a good manager would hopefully remember something so integral to who their employees are as a person. And finally, I would bet a hefty portion of my next paycheck that the reason OP keeps having to work on Saturdays is because the boss is too chickenshit to confront the upstream people who are consistently failing to meet their deliverable deadlines. This is someone else’s time-management problem that is becoming the OP’s emergency.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, this. And also because “oh of course your overtime/travel/additional work will be only occasional” is the hiring manager version of “your check is in the mail”. Unless you firmly handle this with your boss, they will simply continue to dump work and unwanted shifts on you because why not, it’s not like you’re going to up and quit, right?

            2. KTM*

              One of my husbands favorite sayings is ‘your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part’

            3. The Cosmic Avenger*

              If you’re feeling particularly evil, you can always say yes to the passive-aggressive, message-relaying boss, but then either don’t relay the message or claim you were never given the message by a coworker. This is somewhat passive-aggressive itself, but since the boss has the power to take away your income, I feel it’s fair to fight back in a somewhat passive-aggressive, less provable way.

              Of course, the top priority is to GTFO, but unless you’re able to quit and job search full-time, you’ll need to stay employed while job searching like crazy!

        2. Donna*

          OP, run like hell from this place! I read some of your later replies–your organization is being run by idiots.
          What they need to do is hire some temporary help, not require their current employees to work six days a week. Even if you hadn’t talked to them about overtime, requiring a department to work like that for six months is definitely not family-friendly.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Exactly what I was coming here to post.

      Based on the email, next time Coworker asks, tell her no. State you have other commitments and leave it there. Then speak with Manager again.

    5. Adam V*

      That’s what I was thinking too. OP thinks she has to because “Boss” is asking, but in reality, Coworker is pawning off her own shifts onto OP because she hasn’t said “no” yet.

    6. Ama*

      Yup, that was my first thought. I had a coworker who used to do this — she’d ask our shared boss if she could get my help with something, boss would say “you can ask, but I know she has X and Y on her plate,” she’d show up at my desk saying “boss says you need to help me with this.” It was only after I mentioned in a one-on-one that coworker’s projects were really making it hard to finish X and Y that we sorted it out.

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      Nope, that sounded fishy to me too. OP, can we get an update after you talk to your manager?

        1. Meg Murry*

          OP, what would happen if you replied to the coworker who sends you the email saying “Nope, sorry, I can’t work this Saturday.” and copied your boss?

          Or if boss is really that conflict avoidant, could you just talk to the coworker who is assigning these extra hours? How many people are also potentially scheduled to work Saturdays? Could you at least work out a schedule in advance so that you know that if Project X needs Saturday work on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, that is you, and 2nd and 4th is your coworker?

          Or for another alternative – are you working Saturdays because nothing is being passed off to your team until Friday afternoon? Or is it that you were supposed to get the handoff on Tuesday but it isn’t happening until Thursday? Would it be any better for you childcare-wise if you planned to make Thursday and Friday extra long days (come in early and stay late) rather than come in Saturday? Then you might only have to beg for an hour or two of someone’s childcare help rather than a whole Saturday. Or is Saturday a team effort where you all have to be there?

          1. OP*

            The project is late by a certain amount of hours based on estimates. So, the upper management has decided if we work 6 days a week they will be able to bring it in on time by making up for all the missed deadlines of everyone else up to this point. The deadline is in April and they’ve cut a lot of functionality, so April will be an “alpha”. We are supposed to keep working like this it sounds like through “betta” and then final release. Final release deadline is August. So until then, it sounds like six days a week.

            Another team member asked if we can work additional hours during the week in instead of Saturday and he was told no.

            1. the_scientist*

              Hmmmm…..maybe this is field-dependent, but that seems like a LONG time to work six days a week. Like, August is six months away. Do you get comp time/flex time for this? Or are the project managers just expecting that everyone will work six straight days with no additional consideration or compensation to launch this? If so, that’s poor project management and a disaster waiting to happen…..I think that really, the most you can reasonably ask for is maybe two months of that kind of schedule, and that’s under the assumption that once the project is closed everyone will get quite a bit of downtime.

              Honestly, it sounds like this is a sinking ship and you’d be well rid of it, but I wonder if you could just straight-up ask for more money? I mean, you negotiated a job with minimal overtime; I wouldn’t call half a year’s worth of six-day workweeks “minimal overtime” so the nature of the job has changed substantially and warrants a higher salary. Dollars to donuts your boss will laugh in your face, but it might be a last-ditch attempt before taking a new job and fleeing into the night.

              1. Just Another Techie*

                I loooove how project managers never roll “attrition due to low morale due to being treated like s***” into their estimates. Humans are machines! Just run the machines an extra day a week! There are never consequences for that! And then you end up three months before a big deadline with 60% of the staffing you expected, so you ask the survivors to work even longer hours and then you get more attrition and and and.

                1. OP*

                  Yeah! I’ve just started reading The Mythical Man Month and it seems very very related to what you are talking about here.

              2. OP*

                They fired the project manager.

                We will not be given comp time that I am aware of. Truly it’s not money I want at this point, though that would be fair, I just want enough time to raise my child properly with his one parent around some times. But I will let them all know I can’t do the six days per week any longer.

                1. videogame Princess*

                  I’m confused. For some reason this makes me think that they JUST fired the project manager, which strikes me as really strange somehow. Or did they fire the project manager a long time ago and now everyone’s going along with what they feel would be a cool idea for the company?

                2. Ruffingit*

                  I’m seriously wondering if you are working for a company I worked for a few years back. All of this sounds suspiciously like the things they do. Are you in Texas by chance?

              3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                I have a friend who works for a large tech company, on a team that works on a big high-profile project, and she’s been working long weekday hours and at least one weekend day each weekend while they’ve been on deadline crunch. Problem is, they’ve been on deadline crunch for about nine months straight, with no clear end in sight, aside from a vague “soon” that keeps moving farther and farther away.

                She’s very well compensated, money-wise, but also exhausted all the time. Her boyfriend keeps trying to get her to apply for other jobs, but she doesn’t feel like she has time/energy to job-search. :-/

            2. Meg Murry*

              Is the whole team working 6 days a week? Or is it that the project now spans M-Sat, and your group doesn’t get much of the project until Tuesday, Wednesday or later?

              I know it doesn’t help with childcare if you are paying for 5 day a week daycare, but if your group still only has 5 days of work, just shifted Tuesday-Saturday, I would suggest you propose to take off every other Monday at a minimum (and don’t ask, tell) as a comp day and then at least you can get caught up with the rest of your life (laundry, grocery shopping etc) so that you can make the most of your Sundays with your infant.

              And then I would also keep looking for another job. Because “every single Saturday for months on end” is not “occasional overtime”, and that sounds completely reasonable to me in job searching. “Why are you leaving your current job?” “Because whenever a project falls behind, the result is that we work 6 day weeks for months on end and that isn’t sustainable for me, I will get burned out in the long run and I want to leave before I reach that point.”

              And I still think once you reach the end of your rope you should just start saying “no” to some Saturdays. If boss is that conflict avoidant, he probably won’t fire you either – although you might get a bad review.

              Are the Saturdays 8 hour days? Otherwise, I still suggest my trade off if it will work for you and your childcare – I personally would rather work every other Saturday for a long day than every single Saturday for 4 hours or less – then at least you can plan your life.

            3. Kyrielle*

              This is bad project management. For one thing, if development slips, that usually means development was *larger and more complex than anticipated*. They’re also usually rushing development by the end, which means more mistakes. The first means more things to test (sometimes), and both items usually mean more bugs found. That means more development changes to fix those more bugs, which in turn means more re-testing and more possible chances to break something that wasn’t broke. Which means more testing, and more….

              This is one of those cycles that almost always only gets worse. And it’s indicative of bad project management to let it get to this point, and then try to cram testing in.

              It’s hard when you have no spare time (because weekends), but if you can, it’s probably a good idea to start a job hunt. You might get out of there before August, and they might wrap that project up before next year – but your odds on the former are probably better than your odds on the latter.

              1. the_scientist*

                Honestly, this is such poor project management I’m doing the “flames on the side of my face” thing at my desk. Rushing through QA, depending on a six-day work schedule for SEVEN STRAIGHT MONTHS, not staffing appropriately, and seemingly not planning for any employee attrition as a result of that schedule?! PROJECT MANAGEMENT, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

                1. PoorDecisions101*

                  I’ve just started in tech after getting out of the sinking ship that’s mining and the OPs responses definitely resonates with me.

                  So there are companies where projects aren’t years late? And project managers who have an idea of what they’re actually delivering? There are scopes where all requirements are capable of being met with the solution the company bid with in the initial tender?

                  That’s just not possible!

                2. yasmara*

                  Exactly!! This is also lighting my hair on fire for the same reasons (and for giving project management a bad name).

              2. OP*

                They fired the project manager! So, yeah.

                You are so spot-on though:
                “development was *larger and more complex than anticipated*. They’re also usually rushing development by the end, which means more mistakes…”

                1. the_scientist*

                  Oh, man. They fired the project manager? And didn’t replace him or her with another project manager?

                  Flee, OP. Flee screaming into the night.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  If this follows the pattern I’ve seen in projects handled similarly in the past, it will be a flaming pile of poo by the time it is done. Things you can expect:
                  * The defect rate will be higher than normal per X lines of code, because those lines of code were rushed.
                  * More bugs than expected.
                  * The developers – who were slower than expected in the first place – will have more to fix.
                  * Pretty soon the developers will be working extra hours if they weren’t already.
                  * The good folks, the ones who know they have options, will job search and bail. (Very rarely, if you have an entire group that’s deeply dedicated, this doesn’t happen. VERY rarely. I would not bet on it.)
                  * The same situation will continue with fewer bodies.

                  At that point, they can demand more hours (!!), add more people (Mythical Man Month – this will not work as they expect it to), continue as they are for a longer period of time with a delayed release (more Saturdays!), or accept that it’s a complete cluster, reschedule for the reality they have, and return to five-day weeks.

                  The last requires a degree of sanity they have not displayed to this point.

                  I would seriously start floating my resume to other companies, in your shoes. In this scenario, it’s better to be one of the people who leaves than to be one of the ones left behind as the exodus starts.

                3. OP*

                  Yep, fired. They hired a “consultant” as project manager and his only roll is producing a report that details how many hours of estimated work was completed during the week and how many hours of estimated work is left.

                  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaand a coworker has strolled up to the fellow sitting next to me today and said “So, our boss has asked us to work this Saturday AND Sunday. Are you ok with that?”

                  I feel badly about this whole situation, it was a good idea (the software) and is just dying on the vine. Wish it could be saved.

                4. Kyrielle*

                  They may well save it! Over the bodies of the people working on it. Or they might – unlikely, but they might – straighten out and do it right, if they have the money needed to keep it up that long. But if they don’t, then doing it by cramming it on your backs for months is not a solution.

            4. Jinx*

              Ugh, this is a terrible way to handle the situation. First off, it refuses to acknowledge the fact that you clearly need more person resources than you have, by making you guys work extra hours for months. Also, it says that a project being in the red is worse than burning out all of your employees. Someone in your upper management is not managing well.

              If your boss is on board with “my reports will work 6 hour days to fix upper management’s organizational problems”, I would consider leaving. :/ I know that doesn’t really fix the problem, but the whole thing seems like it will drive good employees away.

            5. INTP*

              Your management is dumb. If they require Saturday work just for the hell of Saturday work, people aren’t going to feel inclined to be particularly productive or efficient, and of course they’ll dip out during the day or take long lunches to run errands or use their computers for personal business on work time. I worked someplace where overtime was just mandated by a specific amount of time for everyone based on business need, not a specific amount of productivity – and on 2 hour overtime days, let me tell you, they didn’t get an additional 2 hours of work out of anyone.

              I can’t really give advice because if upper management is determined for Saturdays to be worked, then they are determined. Was going to suggest you sit down with your team and work out a timeline that allows deadlines to be met with a minimum of overtime, but sounds like you wouldn’t be given the authority to manage your own schedules. The best I can give is if you’re in an environment where they won’t manage, then you can probably get away with not pulling your weight too – say “I’m not available this weekend, someone else will have to do it” and let someone else be the person who feels obligated to cover.

            6. SusanIvanova*

              Nope, sorry, I’ve worked in software for 20+ years, and this is horribly mismanaged. Crunch time should never start 6 months before ship date – a month, maybe, and even then the only time it’s forgivable is for the first ever release; after that, your management should know what’s involved in that kind of project. When they started dropping features they should’ve dropped enough to get the schedule back to something reasonable.

              And when you need to work extra hours, that needs to be flexible – if it’s going to take me just 2 more hours to finish and it’s Monday, I’m doing those hours on Monday. That lets everyone who depends on me start Tuesday morning, instead of Tuesday afternoon or worse. Sounds like their approach is just contributing to the slippage.

              If this is software, as the alpha/beta indicates, and you’re in Silicon Valley – start job hunting, because they are out there.

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      My first thought was that it really should be coming from the manager anyway to ask. But now you say it, yes I do wonder!

    9. Yes*

      This is exactly my first thought as well. That the boss doesn’t even know that LW has been covering the Saturdays because she has been told to, but thinking she has because the scope of the current project required it. With the request/order not coming directly from boss – this was my first question.

    10. Vicki*

      Also, what gives a co-worker the authority to say “You are required to work X hours on Saturday.”

      That’s manager-phrasing.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    This is not a situation I would have emailed the boss about, especially since the boss is being wishy-washy about actually telling OP to work Saturdays. The request shouldn’t be coming through a coworker, or at least a *demand* shouldn’t be coming through a coworker.

    Make sure this conversation is face-to-face, OP, or on the phone if the boss is remote. Then document whatever you agree to in an email and send it to the boss with a note that you wanted to capture your conversation for future reference.

    1. some1*

      Yeah, the cynic in me is finding it hard to believe the manager just forgot the arrangement they made at the LW’s hire. At the very least the manager is sending the coworker because she knows it won’t go over well.

      1. Jeanne*

        This is what I thought. The manager might be sending the coworker because he *does* remember their conversation and doesn’t want OP to be able to reply. He wants OP to just take orders through coworker. Wuss.

  5. some1*

    Does your manager typically send a messenger when she is asking for something above & beyond? Because that would bug me, too.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      That part bugged me the most. Getting emails from a co-worker with a directive is not the same as from the manager directly. It’s like some sort of passive management style, I’d say the cousin of conflict avoidance. Would drive me nuts.

      1. Charityb*

        Wow, if that’s an everyday occurrence it would drive me nuts. It would be an interesting game for him to play though, to see how much of his own staff interactions he can fob off on the staff members themselves. Maybe if you told him that you wouldn’t work on Saturday any more he would ask you to reprimand yourself.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Maybe if you told him that you wouldn’t work on Saturday any more he would ask you to reprimand yourself.


        2. Yes*


          Maybe if you told him that you wouldn’t work on Saturday any more he would ask you to reprimand yourself.

      2. neverjaunty*

        The good news is, if your manager is a spineless coward, he may back down if you personally confront him with “we agreed I do not work this many Saturdays and I’m not going to do it anymore”.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Seconded. I have a spineless boss at my part time job. She will have co-workers deliver information to each other instead of delivering the message herself. Whenever I have an issue with one of those decrees, I will bring it right back to the boss and say it doesn’t work for me. I’ll be nice as peaches about it, but since she doesn’t know how to deal with any conflict, she immediately agrees with me.

        2. INTP*

          Yep. Use the “Refuses to manage properly” situation to your advantage, and just refuse. Someone else will step up as the person who feels obligated to do it because no one else is willing, and the management will let that person be taken advantage of instead.

          (I wouldn’t suggest treating your coworkers this way normally but this sounds like a case where someone is going to be the fall guy while everyone else isn’t required to pull their weight regardless, and you might as well be one of the ones that doesn’t do weekends instead of being the fall guy.)

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        “Sure…when can I expect the management title and salary, if I’m going to be doing your job for you?”

        (#390237 of Things We’d Like to Say Out Loud But Only Say in Our Head.)

      4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yipes! Did you speak to the coworker?

        I wonder, if he has kids, if he has one sibling tell the other sibling that they’re grounded.

        1. OP*

          Yes, I try to be a good soldier to a fault I think. It was incredibly awkward but I told my coworker that I know she manages her time really well, is a hard worker and wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression. That “a manager noticed” and made mention of it to me. He asked me not to say it was him. Ugh.

          1. Revanche*

            Hah one of my idiot bosses did the exact same thing with me! “Could you mention to her, as a friend, you think mgmt has noticed and doesn’t like that?”

            “I could but I’m not her friend so that’s your conversation to have.”

          2. LQ*

            Holy wow. This manager has got to be in the worst manager running. Makes his employees speak to each other about their performance. That’s …that’s most of the job of managing.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Now we see why the PM ran away.
        Right now my bets are on the PM was not fired, he quit because your boss (and others?) is a weak leader.

        1. Cassandra*

          This was my thought also, though it’s certainly also possible that the PM was scapegoated for management’s utter fail.

  6. Anon for this*

    I would be asking for clarification about the hours in general. If I was being required to work on Saturdays then I would assume that the core business hours had changed and that I would be provided another day off in lieu of working on a Saturday.

    Additionally, are other people working on Saturdays as well?

    I’m also not sure what the OP’s role is within the team (and if she’s exempt or non-exempt), but if projects can’t be completed during regular business hours then I’d assume that either others within the team aren’t completing their work, another staff person is needed to assist with the project, and/or it’s a temporary project that has a specific end date. To me this seems like a potentially larger issue than just working overtime.

    1. Charityb*

      I think flexibility with days off is a good solution but I’m worried that in this case it might not work since the OP specifically needs Saturday off due to childcare reasons. For example – if the kid is in school Monday through Friday but out of school on Saturday and Sunday — the OP needs to be off those specific days and getting another weekday off wouldn’t help.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, and I don’t know about OP’s childcare situation, but my childcare is M-F. I would have to find another option if I needed childcare evenings, overnights, or weekends – and I can just about guarantee that option would cost more. (Sounds like OP has some help from family; not counting my husband, and obviously I wouldn’t be looking for childcare if he were available, I don’t have much family in the area to potentially help.)

    2. OP*

      I’m salaried and some of us have worked Saturday while others have not. It seems based on the lateness of particular portions of the software we are working on. I’m a software tester.
      They are trying to make up for lost time by adding in an extra day of the week so they are unwilling to give comp time.

      1. Anon for this*

        Are the delays avoidable? Because it’s one thing for everyone to pitch in because it’s a rush job. It’s another thing to be working weekends because someone else didn’t do their job when needed.

        1. OP*

          In my opinion, the delays were avoidable. It is a very very large software development effort. The management decided to use a new methodology for completing work rather than the waterfall method. It was probably too big of a project to experiment like that on. The methodology had the project scoping running concurrently to development in kind of an iterative way. So, broad stroke all the features then write lean requirements for each little part, build it, see how it works, iterate the development.

          On a small team and a smaller project this might have been ok. But on a large team (20-30 developers, 10 or so QA, handful of Business Analysts) it was unwieldy.

          1. Andrea*

            Sounds like you are doing Agile wrong :)

            You guys need a good project manager in there STAT. A good PM would get management to see that what they are asking you to do is not sustainable, and revamp the plan to work in the new reality. You are months and months away from release and you are already behind: are they seriously thinking it’s not going to be delayed again? What will they do at that point, have you guys work Sunday too?

            “Try harder” is not a plan. “Hope nothing else goes wrong” is not mitigation.

            1. OP*

              I’m a certified scrum master, we are definitely doing agile wrong.

              Try harder is the current plan. I suggested a group of consultants to my manager than sort of does triage on flaming out projects. My company is extremely well funded and large, so they have the means to do something better than what is happening now.

              1. Andrea*

                That’s awesome! I saw downstream that you used to work as an engineer, too. Man, at this point maybe you should put yourself forward to take over managing this project so you can have control over those things! Might get you more stable hours.

                1. OP*

                  I would love to take over this project but I don’t think that could happen. They are paying for my certifications and training though so it makes little sense to make use of it.

                  Thing about scrum is that a place like this needs to try it out on a small pilot project where a scrum master can reasonably run interference for the team. On a project this size I’d need a small army to keep the team insulated enough to meet the sprint goals.

                  It would be a great thing for this place though if we practiced scrum the way it is meant to be practiced.

              2. anon for this*

                oh god do you work for my former company?! (sidenote.. its a color with an animal… if so… i’m so sorry!)

              3. Elfie*

                OMG, do you work where I do? That sounds almost exactly the approach we are taking – except we’re much much earlier on in the process than you. But I can almost guarantee that we’ll end up in your situation, because of virtually every comment you have made.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Um. If you need a project timeline, and you’re not going to *cut features as needed to hit the time targets*, that method doesn’t work well. Sure, if you’re developing iteratively and you’re going to cut features at *whatever is in on the target date to start final QA* (because you were testing as you went along, right Mr. Project Manager?), then yes, this can work. Even for large teams. But if you have a must-have feature set and need to scope the project for that…not so much.

            You can always control at least one variable (time, cost, and feature-set). You can, unless someone’s painfully incompetent, control two. You cannot control three.

            If you need to control time and feature-set, then you scope it out up front, and if you realize you’re short bodies, you hire more bodies – at the beginning, and *accounting for the extra time on training/ramp-up, so you don’t Mythical Man-Month yourself*.

            If you need to control time and cost, you do the same thing, but if you’re short, you renegotiate the feature-set. OR you do the kind of development they had in place here, but with the more critical features up front, and you just cut it when you hit the end of the dev timeframe with whatever it has.

            If you have to control cost and feature set, then you can’t control release time. You can aim for it, but you can’t control it.

          3. Hlyssande*

            Yeah, you’ve gotta start small on Agile!

            I like the smaller sprints, but hate that it means more early Sunday morning go live smoke test sessions for me (because we have to coordinate with Manila, Romania, and India all at once).

  7. em2mb*

    I’m wondering if the OP and her manager have different definitions also of what “a few times per year” means. I’m guessing OP meant very occasional overtime, such as once every 2-3 months, when the manger is thinking “every Saturday during our busy period.” I know that in my industry, the latter would be standard. No, you wouldn’t normally have overtime – except when this one thing is happening, you know you’re going to be working a lot of extra hours.

    I’m also wondering if overtime has disproportionately fallen on the coworker who is asking OP in the past, in which case I could see a boss saying, “The two of you need to figure out how you’re going to divide coverage.”

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Totally. In my industry, although unpredictable hours are normal, one really shouldn’t be working weekends except in certain situations that crop up a couple of times a year. However, when it does crop up, the team needs to have people working three or more weekends in a row.

      “The team,” though, not the same people every time, unless the manager sucks. When I’m in this situation, I set up a calendar, get my direct reports together, and ask for volunteers for each day that needs coverage (and yes, I take a fair share of those days myself).

      This boss is either deciding that OP needs to work and doesn’t have the cojones to tell her that himself, or else as someone upthread suggested, he’s telling the coworker “make sure there’s weekend coverage,” and coworker is choosing to do this by passing the duties off to OP instead of sharing them.

      Either way, not good on the manager’s part.

      1. em2mb*

        Unpredictable hours are also the norm for my industry, and it can make flexible scheduling hard if the flexible schedule is actual a rigid commitment – i.e., “I need to leave by 4 p.m. every day to pick my child up from day care.” We constantly struggle with coverage from 4-6 p.m. A lot of employees would be available to pick up slack later, but the nature of the work is that it MUST be done in that time frame. So it’s often the same people working extra hours.

        I’m wondering if the manager’s expectations of how much overtime the OP needed to work just don’t align with the reality. But you are 100 percent correct that it’s the manager’s job to tell OP, “I know you said you weren’t going to be able to work much overtime when we hired you, but our needs have changed. What is your availability?”

    2. Just Another Techie*

      I don’t know. A crunch time that runs from February to August is not what we’d consider crunchtime in my industry. In my field it is understood that for about 6-8 weeks, every 18 months or so, you will be expected to work 60-80 hour weeks and work on weekends, and it sucks, but it’s infrequent, and management turns a blind eye to long lunches, early departures, and generous interpretations of “flex time” in the weeks right after a crunch.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I worked at a law firm where 60-80 hours was common. In fact, I worked 60 hour weeks for eight straight months, most of it mandatory OT. We were not allowed to say no to mandatory OT, we did not get flex or comp time (ever), we did not get to take long lunches before or after mandatory OT was over (which it rarely ever was – we were on mandatory OT for two years). Reading OP’s letter and this entire thread so far is giving me PTSD flashbacks to that time.

        1. Anoctopus*

          My father managed a legal department for a large company that had one case which kept the entire team working flat out for two years. Longest crunch I ever saw… but he did everything he could (and badgered upstream management into doing more then they wanted to) to make this viable for the people who worked for him.

          Everyone was notified at the beginning of the case what the workload would entail and how long it was expected to run. Anyone who couldn’t handle it, or didn’t want to, was transferred to a different section of the legal department with a more normal workload; those who stayed or volunteered to transfer in were given substantial bonuses both years, to bring exempt salaries into line with what was being asked of them. Everyone was asked about their schedule priorities (“I can come back after eight but I need to pick up my kid at five and take him home for dinner,” or “I need at least one complete day off every week so I stay sane,” or whatever), and he kept to them as much as possible, bringing in people temporarily from other departments to cover when he could rather than break in on anyone’s highest priority time off. They were still working 60-80 hours weeks, but at least the specific time they had off was the time they individually wanted most. And he made the company pay for everything from car service to dry cleaning to good food for everyone working those hours, so they didn’t have to use their limited remaining energy dealing with the basic problems of daily functioning any more than unavoidable.

          When the case finally wrapped, the company proposed taking the entire staff to Disney World for a week. My father told them, “Yes, do it… but you are NOT going to make this a ‘team building retreat’ with company activities. This team has been working like a well-oiled machine for two years; it is as built as it is going to get, and they do not need more company activities. They need time to relax with their families.” He persuaded the CEO to pay for all the employees’ partners and children to come to Disney World too, on the company’s money, in thanks for their support and tolerance of their family member’s insane workload the past two years… and there were no activities; they had their time all to themselves.

          That was right after Thanksgiving. He sent them home after the trip and told them not to come back until after New Year’s. Paid.

          It was *still* a miserable experience during that two year period… I remember it well; we saw even less of my dad than most of his staff’s families saw of them. But at least he was right there in the trenches working with them at the time… and he did everything he could to get them the support and compensation they deserved for taking on a job like that.

  8. Murphy*

    People tend to expect that their managers will remember this kind of thing, but it’s pretty common for managers to forget — not because they’re flakes (although sure, sometimes that’s the reason) but because they’re juggling tons of other things and this isn’t foremost in their minds, especially 12 months later.

    This is something that has stuck out to me a few times. And while in theory I get it, in practice I kind of don’t. I have 9 people under me and have had up to 13 at a time and I would never forget something like this (and a large chunk of my staff work weird hours because of things like child care, etc.). And not because I’m just that awesome, but because this is such a part of someone’s life and who they are that I can’t imagine forgetting that, for example, Sarah is a single mum and needs to leave by 4 every day. Could I forget that Sarah has something specific on one particular Thursday that screws up the schedule, sure, but a basic fact about her life? No. How is that not just part of getting to know your team?

    1. Regina 2*

      My good managers have never forgotten a detail like this, for the exact reasons you describe. IMO, it’s something a manager absolutely must remember.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d like to think I wouldn’t forget something like this, but in a particularly busy and stressful period where I was juggling 30 million things and being pulled in all directions and my mind is full of other stuff? I’m sure it’s possible that I have.

      Plus, it depends on how big your team is. It’s much easier at lower numbers, obviously.

      1. Charityb*

        I think it’s probably easier to forget if you forget the first time and the person doesn’t bring it up. If Sally has to leave at 4 but I ask her to stay late once and she is fine with it, I might start thinking, “Oh, maybe it was Jo who said that she had to leave at 4…”

        I don’t think anyone is saying that managers shouldn’t try to remember that, but if you have a special arrangement that you need to enforce you kind of do have to bring it up if you see it being disregarded. Maybe the manager is a jerk, or maybe they’re just forgetful, or maybe they just have a lot to do and made one mistake… wouldn’t you rather know than to just sit there and be overwhelmed?

        1. Murphy*

          Absolutely. I definitely agree that the onus for making sure your time is not encroached upon unnecessarily is on the person with the weird schedule. That’s a fair point.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or “looks like Sally doesn’t have to leave at 4 any longer…”

          On the opposite end of the spectrum, my boss (who is awesome) is conditioned to make sure I leave right on time to pick up my kid at school. Even though I keep telling her it’s no longer an issue and I can stay late if she needs me. It kind of makes me feel like a slacker when she says “Oh, we need to wrap this meeting up so Rusty can get out on time!” even though I correct her every time.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Starting in September, I shifted my schedule to leave an hour earlier than usual one day a week to get my kid to an after school thing. It’s still relatively new so I still put it on my shared calendar to remind people who might come looking for me, and even on weeks when there’s no Kid Thing, I still leave early so that people don’t start thinking I’m back to my old schedule.

      2. Murphy*

        Fair enough. I can see how that could happen and I do admit that my team has an exceptionally close dynamic and these arrangements have been in place for a while so they’re sort of ingrained. I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to someone in a situation like this rather than ascribing malice where none may be.

      3. get some perspective*

        To build on that, in a healthy environment an otherwise good manager might assume, perhaps incorrectly, that an employee would speak up if the manager forgot something.

    3. Cafe au Lait*

      I work a swing schedule on a swing shift, and I find that I need to remind my manager all the time that I don’t work Fridays and I don’t come in before one. Granted, she has more people under her than you, and she’s also remote, but reminding her that “Nope, I’m not here at this time” is something I lump under “other responsibilities as assigned.”

    4. Elizabeth*

      As a supervisor of a small team, I ask my reports to e-mail me scheduling stuff/requests. I admit I can forget things and I’m new at my role so I’m still mastering the art of juggling many tasks. Having stuff in writing really helps me not to forget things like this.

  9. MaryMary*

    If your boss says you really do need to work the extra hours, OP, I’d also see if there’s any flexibility as to how those hours are worked. Do you need to be onsite on Saturday? Do the hours need to be put in on Saturday? Is the request really “I need you to work on Saturday” or “I need 8 additional hours of work this week”? Depending on your childcare arrangments, it may be much better for you to stay late a couple days during the week, or spread the work between Saturday and Sunday (obviously, none of these options are ideal).

    1. KarenD*

      This is what I was thinking.

      One of my best friends had almost this exact situation. She was a quality control person and the people upstream from her were not hitting their targets (there were legit reasons for this) so her week’s work often spilled over into Saturday just due to missed deadlines. She was a single mom with no local family, and was quickly using up all her “phone a friend” lifelines.

      Working with the company, she was able to come up with a plan where she could log in from home on Saturday and/or take things home with her. It still sucked (her kids ate a lot of takeout during that period) but it was better than any alternative … short of her company actually getting its act together and hiring enough production people to get the work done within the week.

  10. bkh*

    Years ago, I worked on dead man walking software project – I was responsible for doing the installation, but the software was continually changing, the configuration was fluid, and the client staff were reticent bordering on recalcitrant about the whole thing:

    Manager: Well, it looks like we’ll have a change window on the weekend to get the new release installed (It was Memorial Day weekend, and this was Thursday).

    Me: Ok.

    Manager: We’d like to get it installed.

    Me: There are 15 changes that prevent the overall release, which are coming down in 2 weeks, and we’ll have to install again.

    Manager: Yes, but we think the optics are good to make a delivery this weekend.

    Me: It’s pointless and wastes the time of everybody involved. (Where everybody is literally me).

    Manager: We think it’s important for the client relationship.

    Me: If you want me to work this weekend, you have to ask me to work this weekend. I’m not going to volunteer. You. Have. To. Ask.

    Reason number 1,378 as to why I’m no longer in software.

    1. Workfromhome*

      “Me: If you want me to work this weekend, you have to ask me to work this weekend. I’m not going to volunteer. You. Have. To. Ask.”

      This is gold.

      I don’t know how many times we’ve been asked to do something useless, put in extra hours to meet an accelerated schedule or add additional content all in the name of “client relations” or fear of disappointing the client only to find out no one ever actually said to the client..will it be a problem if we don’t do this, deliver on time instead of ahead of schedule etc.

      Overdelivering is usually a sucker bet. If you promise it in a week and deliver in 3 days you won’t get a pat on the back..all that happens is that next time if you deliver in 5 days you’ll be asked why its so slow.

      You want me to work the weekend? Then ask me and make sure its being done becuase of a need not some vague fear of something you are afraid to ask.

      1. bkh*

        I’m a tax accountant now, and when I have to work an evening or a weekend, it’s because:

        1) It’s rare.
        2) The deadline is, in fact, tomorrow.
        3) We’re billing the WIP.
        4) I’ll get next Friday off or any other day I choose not to show up.
        5) I got buy-in from my awesome wife because she’ll take that day off too.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Overdelivering is usually a sucker bet. If you promise it in a week and deliver in 3 days you won’t get a pat on the back..all that happens is that next time if you deliver in 5 days you’ll be asked why its so slow.

        OMG YES. I don’t even do this kind of work and this is so spot-on. I remember one time at Exjob we had a giant sample shipment and halfway through, my boss changed the requirements. It had to go out that same day. We ended up pulling sales personnel off their duties to help me pack boxes. I was so angry at the boss–they really needed to be doing their own work. The shipment went out on time, but I spent the next six months terrified that he would ask me to do that again–“But you did it last time!” I felt like I should have kept my mouth shut and let it fail. It was his fault everything had to be redone.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        This is so true about customer relations. It happens all the time here and drives me nuts. There’s a certain freebie we can give to new accounts but sometimes the salespeople don’t even ask the customer if they want it. So we give it and sometimes it just goes to waste and the customer is like huh? we didn’t need that um thanks I guess. Such a waste of time effort resources product, everything.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Beautiful. I can’t STAND when people make unreasonable requests but refuse to say out loud what it is they want in the hopes that you’ll volunteer it. good for you for calling this person out on their shite!

  11. OP*

    This is overall really good advice, thank you! I think we are at the place where I have reminded him and I need to move forward from there. When the overtime began I brought it up in our 1:1 and stated it would cost me in extra childcare and hat was also a concern as I am salaried. It is just sort of this never ending nebulous situation.

    1. Anon for this*

      If you are in IT, which from above it sounds like you, then I think you should think about walking. You’ve been clear that you can’t work significant amounts of overtime, and yet you are being asked to, probably because someone further up the project pipeline isn’t meeting their deadlines.

      I’d be on the hunt for another job.

    2. Red Stapler*

      You should contact your boss before you receive any requests from him or co-worker this week. Just send an email, “Just to let you know, I’m not available to work this Saturday.” That way you’re not disobeying an order, but being thoughtful and communicative about your availability.

      1. Jeanne*

        I like this. Add “because I am the only childcare for my 1 yr old son this weekend.” (Whatever details about the kid)

        1. Jinx*

          I don’t think I’ve ever given a reason for declining to work on Saturday. It’s always been “I’m not available on Saturday”. If you give reasons then sometimes people try to “help” you “solve” those reasons. I’ve turned down overtime because I want to snuggle with my cats on the couch, I still said “I’m not available at that day / time.”

          Mind you, I have a boss that’s reasonable about not burning us out. But it’s worth ashot.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            This, exactly. Don’t give people a reason unless you truly want them to help solve that reason.

            1. Laurel Gray*

              Or draw completely random conclusions about you professionally or personally in an entirely different context based on these reasons. I’ve witnessed what I thought was harmless sharing backfire on good people and it stinks.

          2. Sarahnova*

            YES. Don’t give a reason, because unreasonable people see it as the opening salvo in a negotiation. You are not available period, and it isn’t their business as to why.

    3. IT_Guy*

      Depending on your job category and salary, they will have to pay overtime. It would be worthwhile looking into this.

    4. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Burn everything. Burn it to the ground. All hope is lost. Take this project into a field and set it on fire. Salt the Earth around the project to that nothing grows from the ashes. Then use the field as a nuclear waste dump.

  12. Chriama*

    I’m looking shifty-eyed at this situation. Something isn’t adding up. Why is the boss sending the coworker instead of telling OP directly, then saying “figure it out yourself” when OP asks? Either the boss is *really* conflict-avoidant or the coworker is lying/misrepresenting the boss’s words. I think you need to go back to your boss like Alison said, but if the coworker covered all the weekend shifts last year because of your arrangement it might be that this year is your turn. In that case you would all need to agree on a fair rotation going forward, whether it’s trading weekends, months, years or projects.

    1. OP*

      He is pretty conflict avoidant, I think that is the nut of the entire problem of the project as a whole

      1. Laurel Gray*

        I’m not the type that quickly advises people to “get out, and fast!” but conflict avoidant managers are THE WORST. The trickle effect of this management style on the staff is never positive. Depending on the project, it may be 2 steps from dumpster fire. I truly wish you a good outcome from all of this. Keep us updated!

        1. OP*

          Thank you! I will.

          Yeah, he doesn’t want to reveal any ripples in his pond so he got up in front of the all IT meeting last week and let everyone know we *wanted* to work overtime and that it was voluntary on our part.

          I definitely am willing to pitch in at the end of a project but this is sort of silly with the no end in sight sort of a way this is going.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s perfect.

            “I’m sorry, I’m not able to volunteer for overtime this weekend.”

          2. Kristin (Germany)*

            If he’s this conflict-avoidant, what would happen if you pushed back and thus created a conflict? You don’t have to wave your arms and holler or anything, but if you clearly, directly, and professionally stated that this is creating a problem for you in a way that you specifically addressed at the time of your hiring and you simply will not be available to work any more weekends until the absolute tail end of the project — what would his reaction be?

          3. Chriama*

            Oh wow. That might be worth bringing up with him. “Hey, we keep asking to work overtime. I want this project to go in ok, but I can’t do that. What do you propose we do to keep to the project timeline?” Or maybe you can commit to working only every second Saturday, or take another day off as payment. Either way, you need to tell him explicitly “working Saturdays for the next 6 months is not possible for me” and see what he comes back with. Unfortunately he might come back with “too bad, so sad, do it or you’re fired” but at least then you know where you stand.

      2. Sarahnova*

        OP, I’m honestly getting quite emotional reading this thread. As an org psych and consultant, I have seen conflict avoidance bring whole organisations down and turn them toxic. It is the WORST. I am also sad for you thinking about the challenges you have spending time with your child.

        I kind of want to tell you to quit today, but I know that’s likely not feasible. Still, you seem to have a strong skill set, so I would 100% see how things go with just starting to refuse to work Saturdays (see if that conflict avoidance can work FOR you!) and in the meantime getting the hell out.

  13. moss*

    OP, my first job out of college was at a startup with a huge bro culture (porn on work computers, games all day, etc). I was a single mom. I told them when I started that I would arrive at 7:30 and leave at 4:30 every day. They would roll in around 9-10 and work into the evening. They gave me the huge side-eye about my schedule. I had to stick to it because I had to prioritize my child, because I was all he had. I only lasted a year there. It was a bad fit in so many ways.

    Whatever the resolution of this, I want you to know you’re not alone. Having child care needs doesn’t make you a bad “woman in tech” or a leaner-outer. We have to blaze the trail, and we get scratched along the way. You and I and all the other people who stand up and say “No, it doesn’t have to be this way and I won’t allow it.” make it easier for the people who come after us. It’s not fun but it has to be done.

    Ideally, the next time someone tells you to work on Saturday you simply say, “No. I can’t.” They’ll figure it out, whether they adjust the schedule, get more resources on the project, or whatever. My current office culture supports a 40-hour work week and I anticipate being here a long time. I know it’s hard and scary and you need this job so do what you need to do to protect yourself, whether it’s working or looking or whatever.

    But I want you to know that it’s not like this everywhere and it doesn’t have to be like this. There are offices where child care arrangements and challenges are respected. There are offices where teammates are supported and relationships are built, instead of people undermining each other all over.

    If you’re a software tester, you’re probably at the beginning of your career. I wish you a long and happy time in computers and I hope as you work your way up the ladder and feel more comfortable with your authority and agency that you will be able to help the people below you say “No, no more.”

    1. DropTable~DropsMic*

      Do you have any advice on how to find job with a culture like your current one? I’m early in my software development career and would like to move away from the frat-house startup environment.

      1. moss*

        Sure! I work for a CRO in pharma. Most of the people in my management chain and my coworkers are women. My #1 piece of advice on that end is learn to program in SAS. We are constantly looking for programmers. It’s a different type of programming than developing the next “killer app” but it’s very very consistent, in demand, well compensated, great benefits.

        you or anyone who wants to talk can email me at Marjorie.sloan at gmail. I’d be happy to answer any questions about that.

        1. the_scientist*

          Just wanted to +1 the SAS programming- R and Tableau could also be helpful. I work in the public sector and good SAS programmers have a boatload of stable, well-paid job opportunities here.

          1. Transformer*

            How / where do you learn SAS? I am familiar with R and SPSS but SAS doesn’t seem to be popular in my city/state in any of the nearby colleges and I would love to get experience in the tool.

            1. the_scientist*

              Oh, that’s unfortunate. A SAS license is expensive, and courses through the SAS institute are exorbitant. There’s probably some free online options out there (I learned through my graduate degree so I unfortunately don’t have any great suggestions) but you’d still need to pay for a personal license (which only works on PCs, by the way).

              If you’re good with R already, though, SAS should be pretty straightforward for you.

              1. SB*

                Transformer: UCLA’s Statistical Consulting Group has an excellent website for learning SAS for free. The “Analysis Examples” section will be especially useful in your case because it shows you how to do the same analysis in R, SAS, SPSS, and Stata, which will help you get up to speed in SAS more quickly.


                1. Transformer*

                  Thank you!!! I have been looking at this all day. I am so excited. I really appreciate the recommendation.

                2. moss*

                  Hi Transformer,

                  Also when looking to learn SAS, don’t look in the computer science department. Most schools should offer it through the statistics or possibly math departments, so I’d start there. For a university student the license for your laptop is something on the order of a couple hundred dollars per year. See if there is a statistical computing department or center on campus. They will be the ones to help you install and set up the license.

                  You can get SAS Certified and it helps. It’s not the only thing you’ll need but it helps. I have the Base SAS Cert and there is also an Advanced SAS as well as a newer cert that I think is more specific to study analysis.

            2. Honeybee*

              If you’re good with R SAS isn’t difficult to learn. The “hardest” thing is that something that might take two lines in R could take like 10 lines in SAS, but a lot of it is repeating. If you are nearby a university and can get access into their computer labs, some university computers have SAS on the computers there, even if they don’t have classes. Then I’d just use books and ats.ucla.edu to teach myself. The Little SAS Book is a pretty good resource.

      2. moss*

        my other piece of advice is that large companies, especially multinationals, normally in my experience, have a better culture than small ones. Small ones can really coalesce around a personality type and anyone who can’t be a groupie to the main personality doesn’t fit in. Large companies have more flexibility, more ways to move out from under a bad manager, etc. Just my opinion.

    2. OP*


      Thank you so much for the kind words. I am mortified to tell you I’m 20 years into this career, I started as a developer when I had nothing but time on my hands. I went into QA thinking (in hindsight really incorrectly) the schedule would be somewhat more manageable because I wasn’t having to keep up so much on the technology. I need to be familiar with it but I don’t need to learn a new language every five minutes.


      Now I’m a mom and I can’t throw in there with everyone else on the long hours. I appreciate the advice again, I’m trying to figure out how to still work in this industry and be an available parent.

      THANK YOU!!! and HIGH FIVES!!!

      1. Kyrielle*

        There are *absolutely* jobs out there in this industry that won’t ask this of you, or won’t ask it of you on the regular. Company culture and the manager are a big deal. I’m blessed to be working at a great place for balance (at least, so far it is and I have no reason to think it will change).

        (If you want to reach out to me, my handle here at gmail will work.)

      2. Elfie*

        You don’t have to go down the tecchie route either – you could try going into business analysis, PMing, or architecture. I’m an Architect, and I work on the front-end of the project – never late nights rushing to a deadline for me (well, not project-based, anyway)! I was a developer and then worked my way into MI analysis and architecture – if you’re a tester, I can see how your skill set could be very useful up-front (especially if you can think about NFRs as well as the functionals!)

      3. moss*

        aw, don’t be mortified, I was making assumptions. :)

        I know how hard it is to have to fight for family time at every turn when it feels like everyone else is constantly all-in on work. I am proud of you for making a great life for your kid and trying something new.

        Just remember: it’s not you, it’s them! Good luck!!!

  14. Come On Eileen*

    I’m kind of wondering what other sorts of dirty work the manager is asking co-worker to do. Like “hey co-worker, go tell Jane she’s not getting a raise this year. And tell the receptionist she’s now responsible for mopping floors. I’M OUTA HERE.”

  15. Marie*

    Yikes! I would never ever ever say , “I do want to help as much as I can, but I need to balance that with child care obligations.” The boss might have kids and be unsympathetic- s/he gets child care when needed, why can’t you? Unfortunately people with lots of family support and money for child care don’t always recognize that others aren’t in the same position. I would just say “my other obligations and commitments.”

    I worked for someone once who, like me, had kids. He could stay late whenever he wanted because his wife was always willing to be home with his kids. My spouse works full time and I was not in the same position. Luckily he was understanding but not everyone is. You don’t want to open yourself up to that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because people do have outside commitments and she negotiated this when she was hired, so it’s reasonable for her to expect that they’ll honor that agreement, especially since there’s been no conversation saying “I know we agreed to this, but things have changed; let’s talk about how to handle that.”

      1. Marie*

        That makes sense — its more about referring back to the original agreement. I just always worry since people can be really insensitive about this issue.

  16. Ad Astra*

    Why do I have the strong feeling that OP is exempt and not seeing an extra dime for all these Saturdays? (Oh, probably because I found myself in a very similar situation, minus the enormous responsibility of raising a child.)

  17. Not So NewReader*

    As an aside OP, I hope everyone at your place learns these sentences:

    “No, I cannot tell Coworker about X. I am not Coworker’s boss. That information needs to come from a boss type person.”

    “Boss, if you have a message for me would you tell me personally, yourself? Messages get muddied when they have to go through a second or third party. Going forward, any messages I get from others I am going to touch base with you before proceeding because it’s too confusing hearing things second or third hand.”

    And one more tidbit, “Boss, I heard you told everyone at that meeting that we are all volunteering to work extra. That’s great that everyone is volunteering so much. But I cannot volunteer anymore, I have outside commitments that I absolutely must attend to.”

  18. harryv*

    I skimmed all of the comments but didn’t see the possibility to test from home? Being a large software shop, I assume there must be people who do coding from home on a VPN. Would that be a workable compromise or is that an office culture no no?

    1. OP*

      For the big data analysis I need to do, writing huge sql queries and mom’ing is pretty impossible. I also spend a lot of time in video conference with people in other places and tending to the child while in one of these calls would be too disruptive.

  19. Felix*

    I’m curious what the script would be if someone was in a similar situation with too much overtime but didn’t have kids? I find it hard to have that conversation because I don’t have an urgent need to be home, I just am super tired of all the overtime that I didn’t sign up for. Thoughts?

    1. OP*

      I believe we, as adults, get to decide what kind of life we want. If working 40 hrs a week and no more for whatever the reason is where your boundaries are I don’t think you need to justify it with reasons. As long as you are up front during the hiring process and everyone is clear it shouldn’t matter why.

      1. Felix*

        Thanks for this! I agree :) it’s hard to remember sometimes when work stress is so prevalent, but yes we are in charge of our own lives.

        I hope your convo goes well and am looking forward to an update!

    2. Revanche*

      Agreed. I think there’s this emphasis on needing justification because you’re telling someone “no” and perhaps there’s an instinct to soften it but whether your reason is “I have 5 am wake-up with my child”, “I’m running a marathon,” or “I never miss my Saturday morning cartoons,” I think we all have the right to say “I’m not available.”

      That doesn’t mean, overall, there won’t be consequences for it because at least in the US the expectation seems to be that you should do your OT until you love it, but if there are, it doesn’t truly matter what your reason is. I’ve worked in those shops where the culture was that you’d better be volunteering for the OT or get fired, but at least we were paid for it. In other places, even if you were paid for it, managers couldn’t force anyone to work OT and when the younger set didn’t volunteer or weren’t always available, I heard grumbling over how “kids these days…”.
      Sure, I worked every minute of OT I could get back in my day because I needed the money but honestly it is a completely unreasonable to expect the same of everyone else. They’re not the me from 15 years ago in dire financial circumstances, and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to work their 40 and go enjoy their lives.

      Short answer, as others have pointed out, there are industry norms and you want to be conscious of them, but in general speaking both as a mom with childcare responsibilities and as a manager of many: “Sorry, I’m not available” when you’re asked to work OT can (and should) be a complete answer. I don’t need to know why, I just need to know yes/no.

    3. moss*

      I absolutely think we need to be able to say “No.” Not “No, because…” but just “No.” Parents or not, we are all human beings and deserve to live full lives that are not completely dominated by work. I think the parents are driven by more of a sense of urgency sometimes, in that you know as a parent that you can’t abandon your child and the day care is closing, whereas you might be able to justify, say, leaving a cat for another couple of hours. That’s the only difference.

      But this is coming from a person who thinks it’s perfectly fine to sit on the couch and stare out the window for a long time. I don’t think any leisure activity is more justifiable or important than any other. I don’t think being a parent means you deserve anything more than a non-parent. I think we ALL should push back against work creep taking over our lives. We ALL deserve rich lives with safe homes, well compensated labor, and fulfilling personal time.

      I’m kind of a socialist, I guess.

  20. auntie_cipation*

    I’m sure this isn’t a new thought, but depending on how many other people are working Saturday / how much privacy there is / how much concentration is needed, is there any chance it’s feasible for the baby to come into the office with Mom on Saturdays? Obviously not workable with a toddler, but with an infant, maybe it could work?

  21. CADMonkey007*

    It seems like there’s a lot of internal management problems factoring into this, but in terms of asserting your scheduling boundaries, I think you have to put your foot down and see what happens. If it turns out to be end of the world that “sorry, I am unavailable this Saturday, you’ll need to ask someone else to cover.” then take that as a sign to move on. Maybe suggest another arrangement like working remote after hours instead of Saturdays. Could you log in Friday night after your kid is asleep and complete your tasks? I would also minimize making this about childcare, because really, what your company is expecting of you is rude whether you have kids or not.

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