my boss won’t stop pressuring me to work more hours

A reader writes:

I work in an office with my boss and one coworker. From the very beginning, it was agreed upon that I would only work two days out of the week. I accepted because I am a full-time college student, and it worked perfectly with my schedule and major.

I learned everything pretty much on my own. When my coworker needed a couple of days off, I agreed to help my boss out even though I had school. During my break from school, my coworker went on vacation and I took over her shifts plus some work that I had not been trained to do. I would come in early, stay late, get my boss’ coffee before I came into work, and took some work home with me. I did everything I could to help out while I was on winter break. My boss and coworker would always tell me I worked so hard. And I think I did, too. I really tried.

Now I am back in school, and he wants me to work more extra hours. He asks almost every day I work with a guilt-trippy tone.

“So you won’t be able to work extra hours, right?” No, I’m sorry.

“Just those two days, right?” That’s what we agreed on, yes.

“Didn’t you work more days at your last job?” No, I actually worked less hours.

“Aw, man. What am I gonna do?” I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t have fired two employees when you were already understaffed? (I didn’t actually respond with that.)

I feel like he’s trying to take advantage of me and does not appreciate the me helping as much as I can. He actually fired an employee because “she couldn’t come in to work on days we agreed on.” FYI, said-employee’s very young daughter had a very serious surgery. Now, he’s even more short-staffed and is making me feel bad for working only on days that we agreed upon.

I make myself clear and stand my ground, but he won’t stop asking! I think I’ve made my boundaries clear, but he won’t stop fishin’ for a yes! I’m afraid that one day, I won’t be able to hold back how annoyed I am, and get fired. Is there any way to deal with this situation?

Rather than dealing with it instance by instance, raise the pattern with him.

For example, say something like this: “I noticed that you ask me a lot about working extra hours. I want to be really, really clear that I can’t work more hours than the two days we’ve agreed to. When I helped out when Jane needed some extra time off, that was a one-time thing and not something I can do again. I want to make sure that you know that you should only ever plan on me working (insert agreed-upon hours here) and that I’m not able to be a back-up or fill in at other times. When you ask me about working more, it concerns me, because I want to make sure that we’re both on the same page.”

If it continues after that conversation, just continue firmly saying no. Don’t feel guilty or like you have to justify your decision to him. Just keep repeating, “No, I can’t” and “Like we talked about before, I’m only available on Mondays and Thursdays.” Flat, matter-of-fact tone, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

If you try that for a while, he doesn’t let up, and you’re feeling aggravated and put-upon (and I can certainly understand why it might), you could say: “Like we talked about before, I’m never going to be able to work extra hours. It’s difficult when you keep asking me, because it feels like pressure to change my schedule, even though we’ve already agreed on it. Can we have an agreement that this will stay my schedule so that you don’t feel tempted to keep checking with me?”

That may or may not work; he sounds like a pushy guy. But that will at least assure you that you’ve run through your options, and at that point you’ll know that this is just part of the package of working for him (and then can decide if it’s worth the trade-offs or not).

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 93 comments… read them below }

  1. Cobol*

    Is it possible to find another job? This guy just seems like an a-hole to me. He fired the other woman because her kid had surgery?

    It seems like you’re using this job to pay the bills and not as a career job. He’s never going to change how he treats you, and frankly the only way he might change for the next person is if you quit and tell him exactly why.

    1. Mando Diao*

      Re: your first paragraph, this stuff is super common in small businesses that don’t have HR or official vacation/PTO/sick day policies.

      1. AVP*

        Yeah, some businesses are just too small to accommodate issues like that and they’re not required to – that’s just part of the package that you accept in businesses with less than 5 or so employees. Kind of similar to question #3 this morning in terms of why roles like this can have high turnover.

        1. Kate M*

          Well…maybe sometimes. But it seems like in this situation, the boss shot himself in the foot. Obviously, the business CAN accommodate one person being out for a short period because her daughter is having surgery because he didn’t replace her after he fired her. I mean, if it was an ongoing issue, sure. But if it really were an essential role to have someone in, he would have hired someone else to fill it as soon as he fired her. If it was a short-time accommodation she needed, the boss and business would have been better off probably keeping that person on the books, because maybe they would have been back in the office by now.

          I mean, legally he could fire her obviously. But I don’t feel like cutting this boss slack and saying “well, the business was just too small to accommodate issues like this” when he’d rather have nobody in the role than someone who had to miss occasionally. If that’s his choice, then fine, but don’t start being a jerk to your other employees and pressuring them to work more because of your decision.

          1. AVP*

            Oh, I read that as he fired her when she needed ongoing time off, and that he should have replaced her with someone full time immediately but didn’t. I’m not trying to say he’s a great business owner or boss, just that this happens sometimes (and more often with small businesses than people think) and it’s not a sign of moral failure (i.e., “this guy just seems like an a-hole to me,” from the first comment) but someone who just isn’t a very good manager.

            1. Kate M*

              I mean, we all have moral failings sometimes, but I’d say that firing someone going through a rough time (their _child’s surgery_) under the excuse that “we need someone in this role to be here” and then not hiring someone immediately after, and then pressuring your other employees to work more is an actual moral failing, not just bad management. I’m comfortable calling the guy an a-hole.

          2. Jade*

            I would’ve suggested the owner hire a temp to handle the work of the employee whose child was sick while she was out, but then again this guy doesn’t sound like he’s on top of things in the hiring department. Heck, couldn’t he also hire a temp to take on some of the workload he’s trying to get OP to take until he hires another permanent employee?

        2. Charity*

          I’ve always wondered how businesses that operate at 200% capacity all the time survive. I mean, doesn’t anyone ever get sick or injured? I understand that they’re not legally required to build in that capacity, but then they apparently fall apart whenever *anything* bad happens.

          OP should definitely not fall for this guy’s guilt trip though. These are strategic decisions that the owner has made. He didn’t have to leave all those positions unfilled and he knew upfront what her time constraints were.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Probably the same way as restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares – somehow they’ve managed to get loans from friends & family or even banks, and they’re just running so far into the red that you want to just put the business out of its misery, but as long as they can keep borrowing they do.

    2. OP*

      I thought the same thing when I found out she got fired. Like some people posted, I noticed that this is common and part of the package when working with a small company. I found a paid internship for the summer, so I won’t be staying there much longer… I just need to figure out how to break it to him without being pressured to stay. Lol.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Same as with a bad romance – don’t try to “break it to him” because that’s giving them an edge for more pressure, just give notice and reply to everything else with “The answer is still no.”

      2. The Bimmer Guy*

        I’m not sure when “summer” is for you, but if you don’t want a job gap for the next couple / few months, I wouldn’t give notice of resignation until you absolutely have to, which for most jobs is two weeks out. Alison is always saying that bosses who are reactionary and vindictive shouldn’t expect more than the standard two weeks of notice, and this guy sounds like exactly that.

  2. jhhj*

    You also might want to consider what you want for the summer. Will you be working there? Finding something else? Travelling? If you want to work there full time over the summer — which you might or might not want — you can bring up “I’m in classes full time now but classes end [whenever] so I can work full time between [x – y].”

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Yeah, that’s a nice alternative; however, I’d be worried that this guy would start back up again with badgering the OP to work more hours once she went back to school in the fall.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      On the other hand, given the history, if you tell him you’ll work more during the summer it seems like he might get even pushier.

        1. OP*

          Lol. This reminds me of the time he asked me how many units I’m taking.

          Me: 16
          Him: That’s it?!?!

          12 units is considered full-time and 17 is overload in the quarter system… and he thinks I can take on more work.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I think your boss is being a jerk. I might have thought “Oh maybe he doesn’t remember how much work there is in even 12 credits”, but he fired an employee because she needed time off for her daughter’s surgery? That’s just mean, especially since he didn’t hire someone new – if he had hired a replacement, it might have been a bit more understandable because he needed someone in that position.

    3. neverjaunty*

      ….and then when OP tries to return to her usual schedule when school starts, Boss tells her she can’t because she’s full time now.

      With people who do not respect boundaries, there is no such thing as “temporary”.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I was going to ask if OP wanted more hours during spring break or summer she could specifically say that – “I can only work 2 days a week during the school year. I would be available up to X days/hours a week on March 20-25th, and from June 1-August 15th, but during the school year I can only do 2 days a week”.

      But if OP doesn’t want more hours during spring break or summer, then yes, stick to the 2 days. And as others have said, be prepared that if you work full time during the summer he won’t want you back only 2 days during the fall, so you’d need to quit at that point if he won’t take part time for an answer.

    5. JMegan*

      Yes, to all the previous replies – I just can’t see the boss allowing a smooth transition back to part time if the OP goes full time over the summer.

      I would also expect that the boundary-pushing would continue DURING the summer, regardless of what the OP agrees to. They lay out a plan for her to work 40 hours a week, then it’s just a bit of overtime, then it’s a lot of overtime, and then he has taken over her entire summer – just as he’s trying to do now.

      Boss has already proven that he’ll push for as much as he can possibly get, as often as he possibly can, even in the face of OP’s clear and direct refusals. I have no reason to think that behaviour will stop just because the OP offers more hours.

  3. newlyhr*

    do what Alison suggests. There is a slight possibility that he is unaware of how much he does this and the stress you feel over it. Good luck.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      I disagree. Look at the way he’s framing the questions. It’s “Just these two days, right?” or “So you won’t be able to work extra hours, right?” and not “Oh man, I’m really in a jam this week and it would help me out if you could come in on Wednesday.” He’s asking really leading, aggressive questions. That says to me he knows exactly what he’s doing. Bringing up the pattern as Alison suggested isn’t going to make this guy suddenly realize he’s being a d—–, but it might make him realize the OP isn’t going to let him steamroll her.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Exactly. This isn’t simply the guy having bad planning. And he knows perfectly well that OP is aware he fires people whenever he feels like.

        Keep saying no do this douchecanoe, OP, while you job-hunt.

        1. Shell*


          I once had a boss like this (actually it was the grad student supervising me for my undergrad research project, but he was effectively my “boss” even though the prof was the one who signed off on stuff). I was putting in 7-10 hours a day on top of a full courseload and a 1-hour commute (one way) each day, and he was still saying things like “you’re not working hard enough” and “maybe you should as [prof] for an withdrawal because I don’t think you can cut it” and “you need to come in this weekend, homework doesn’t matter, only this matters, [prof] carries so much more weight than just your lettergrades on unrelated things” etc. etc.

          This was the same guy who’d swan off to the gym/lunches out/etc. He was often not even at the lab by the time I came in after my morning classes (12-1 pm), though admittedly I don’t know if he came back after I left for the night. It was a bullying tactic through and through, and he increased the pressure the more I pushed back, all under a thin veneer of being concerned.

          OP, this guy is an ass and is doing it intentionally. And on the minuscule chance that he isn’t doing it intentionally…he’s still being an ass, so proceed accordingly.

      2. StellsBells*

        Eh, it is possible. I once worked as a personal assistant in college for a woman who did this constantly. We’re still friends (10 years later) and I know she didn’t mean to make me feel pressured, it was just her personality (she was in real estate and had a very sales-y demeanor plus she really loved me and the work I did for her). Once I explained to her that asking me constantly was (a) not a compliment because (b) it was really stressful and made me uncomfortable, she immediately apologized, etc. I’d still have to remind her every few months that she was doing it again, but she really didn’t know how often she was asking.

        Now she also was the kind of person who genuinely cared about people, and would have never fired someone for taking off time to care for their child, like the OPs boss, so you’re probably right – but the OP should consider the slight possibility the boss is really just unaware of the stress this causes.

      3. OP*

        I completely agree with you. I think he knows what he’s doing. I get along really well with my co-worker and after I said “no” all weekend, he had my co-worker ask me to come in for two extra days later in the week. She’s not in school anymore so she’s there full-time. She’s the main reason I take up extra hours when I can, because I know how much she works. And I think he knows that, too!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This is going to sound cold-hearted, but her inability to say “no” is not your problem. And if you show her that a person can stick to reasonable boundaries and still keep their job, it might even benefit her.

          1. Ivy*

            He didn’t ask the co-worker for 2 extra days, he asked the coworker to ask OP to come 2 extra days. Playing on OP’s compassionate side.

  4. 42*

    Wondering if the OP should take it a half-step further and pointedly and directly ask WHY. Next time boss asks AGAIN, say “I notice that you continue to ask me this even though I repeatedly tell you no. Why do you keep asking me?” And then be quiet.

    It’s a little different wording than Alison had in her reply, and shines a flippin’ klieg light on him asking, and asking, and asking, and asking, and asking.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have found that pointing out the repetition of the question and then asking why usually stops the whole thing cold. They may ask one more time, but they hate explaining why, so be sure to ask why each time. Having to explain seems to clinch things and locks in the idea that they need to stop asking.

    2. Jade*

      Agreed. It is a bit more pointed, but maybe that’s the approach OP needs. He does sound like a pushy boss. He’s got more work to do than he has manpower to do it, and his solution is to continue badgering OP rather than hiring additional employees. I would ask why he keeps doing this, and then OP can respond to whatever he says with, “I understand, but that is not an issue I have any control over. I am available X hours only. Your solution to this problem will need be something other than asking me to work more hours than we’ve agreed upon.”

      We have something very similar going on at my job. One department desperately needs additional employees, but our boss is making a very pitiful attempt at hiring. Instead he’s focused on trying to shift more work onto the already-overworked employees there.

  5. Boy was I lucky in college!*

    Not sure if this helps; as you most likely have thought of it already; when I was in college my school had an employment center. Local businesses (including many non-profits) would list part-time jobs with the college’s employment center. I got almost all of my college jobs through them. It was a win-win. The organization would get someone who was looking for part-time work and the student (me!) would get an employer who understood that school comes first. Every one of my bosses through that school employment center were great! I know this comment doesn’t help much – just a thought though.

  6. Just Another Techie*

    I would come in early, stay late, get my boss’ coffee before I came into work, and took some work home with me.

    I sure hope he reimbursed you for the coffee, and paid you for the time you spent getting it, and for the time you spent on work you took home. It doesn’t sound like you qualify as exempt (from federal labor laws), so all that time you spent working at home and getting him coffee he absolutely owes you compensation for.

    “Aw, man. What am I gonna do?” I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t have fired two employees when you were already understaffed? (I didn’t actually respond with that.)

    If you can pull off a really genuine, helpful tone you might suggest he look into hiring someone to backfill the gap left by [name of person he fired for having a sick kid].

    Really this guy sounds like a terrible boss. If it’s at all possible for you to find a different job, that is probably the best solution.

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, I don’t understand the boss’ logic in firing someone for taking time off if he wasn’t going to immediately replace her. The guy really does sound like a jerk.

      1. Murphy*

        He sounds like the kind of person who yells at the cable repair tech on the phone, tells them to just go ahead and cancel his service when they can’t immediately fix they peoblem, and then get’s pissy when they do.

        People like this think they are simply assertive. What they really are is big fat jerkfaces.

    2. the_scientist*

      Seriously, the payment thing. I’m not inclined to really give this guy the benefit of the doubt, because I’ve witnessed too often unscrupulous bosses who take advantage of the naivete of student workers and use manipulation or guilt trips to get them to “help out”. ANYWAY, OP, if you are an hourly employee, which you almost certainly are, that means you need to be paid for all of the hours that you work- taking work home in the evenings and working “off the clock” is not allowed; you need to be paid for that time. If this is an issue, Alison has lots of suggestions on how to broach this problem with bosses but be aware that your boss might just decide to fire you over it. Only you can decide if it’s worth a fight to get all the money you’re owed, but keep in mind that if you leave this job you can usually still file a claim for unpaid wages with a state DOL.

      Others have mentioned on-campus jobs, and I will join in recommending looking into this for your job search. Yes, some universities do restrict on-campus jobs to work-study eligible students (i.e. those receiving tuition assistance/loans) but it really depends on the institution. On-campus jobs are great because they tend to be very flexible and understanding of school coming first, however they are often fewer hours per week and typically minimum wage-ish. While they may not work for your circumstances, it is really worth looking in to them!

      1. Jinx*

        Yes, this. When I was in college I was a TA for two years, and I ultimately quit for an on-campus job because of nonsense like OP describes.

        One year I worked for a very arrogant research professor who felt that the honor of working under him far outweighed the money we earned. He had us working way more hours than any other instructor asked of TAs, and got snotty if we couldn’t “pitch in” extra days because of homework / prior obligations / illness / etc.

        In my case, I found another job at the on-campus IT center. I worked both for a while, though I couldn’t tell the professor about it, because “he doesn’t like when his TAs pick up menial jobs that distract from research”. Jokes on him, though; I quit TAing for more hours at that job and my monthly income doubled. And somehow my career wasn’t ruined by not basking in that professor’s presence an extra few semesters. :P

        Hold firm, OP. Sometimes it’s good to work extra to pitch in for an emergency or meet a deadline, but you need to be properly paid and appreciated for your efforts. You helped out extra during the winter season, and instead of thanking you your boss is trying to get you to do it all the time. If you give him an inch he’ll just keep pushing the boundary until you give another, and another.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I like to think that the joke is on that selfish prof. He thinks his people are admired because of his work, no they are probably admired because they survived his prickly personality.

  7. ReluctantBizOwner*

    I cannot recommend on-campus jobs enough for college students. They’re part time, on the school schedule already, and it’s explicit that school comes first. I had one manager that pushed for more (granted, I had 22 hours and commitments to other things!), but I could shrug, tell him that I had class, and move on without worrying about consequences. Studying during down time is always okay as well. Look into it, OP.

    1. Zillah*

      If on-campus jobs are an option, that’s often a good solution. However, my experience is that on many campuses, jobs are mostly restricted to students on a formal work study, and they often don’t pay much. I know that in my undergrad, the only major non-work study options were the dining halls, which are their own problem. It’s worth suggesting, of course, but there are significant barriers to on-campus employment in many places.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, I worked in the dining halls, and while yes, they were very accommodating of class hours (they pretty much had to be), they paid very little.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Mine also paid in being the only student around when the kitchen staff wanted to get opinions on which type of blueberry pie the students would like best. ;)

      2. Anna*

        I worked temp jobs in grad school precisely because I could be very clear about when I was available. It was never an issue and I was always working, even if it were a one day gig. Most of them were long-term though.

        In undergrad I did work study and worked in the campus bookstore, which was not a work study job.

      3. Purple Jello*

        My daughters do not qualify for work-study and cannot find ANY non-work study jobs available on campus — they’re few and far between, and this includes the dining hall.

      4. ReluctantBizOwner*

        Really? Interesting. I had three, only one could have qualified as ‘work study’. My other two were an RA in a residence hall and a model for the art department for their drawing classes. The latter still holds the position of ‘favorite job’ years later.

        Was this a small campus, by chance?

        1. Zillah*

          Not particularly – it had 6000ish students, and I know of larger universities where it’s the case as well.

          1. Sammie*

            Yah–I went to Rutgers and there were no ‘work study’ jobs unless that was part of your FA package. I worked at a Kinkos for 4 years.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Really? Mine paid peanuts. I did far better hiring myself out to a couple local lawyers as a researcher/office assistant.

    3. mander*

      At my undergrad uni, this type of job was extremely hard to get. So it’s not necessarily a magic bullet.

    4. AnonEMoose*

      I think, as with many things, it’s very dependent on the specifics of the situation. I went to a large university, so on-campus jobs were definitely a thing, and not restricted to those with formal work study. (Well, some were, but not the majority).

      So I worked an on-campus job for just over 3 years until I graduated. It paid at least as well as the part-time jobs around campus (better than most, actually). And since it was mostly evenings and nights, no worries about my class schedule (although sleep was a consideration). I could even study if it was slow.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Also, the LW says this job “worked perfectly for my major,” which means it’s possibly valuable experience. Few on-campus jobs are going to offer that, unless they’re research-related.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      While I agree that the campus jobs are good because your employer understands (or should, anyway) that you’re a full-time student and the hours are often limited to around 15/week, I am reminded of the student in a former office (before I got there), who was upset that she was expected to work the agreed-upon schedule.

      Apparently, she thought “work-study job” meant that was a thing you got so that you could study on the clock AND get paid. Um, no. Certain jobs do lend themselves to being able to do some reading/work (checking IDs at the gym or verifying that students weren’t leaving with the entire reserve reading room in their backpacks). But, a campus student clerical position? Nope! We’ve got copying/filing for you to do, web links to check, appointments to make, special projects, etc. This student did not last long, I’m told.

      1. Scotty_Smalls*

        How great would it be if you did get paid to study? Lol

        I worked at the circulation desk and I would read my soc articles and even finished up my papers at work. That was a great job.

        1. YawningDodo*

          I had a job at the front desk of my dorm, and I figured out pretty quick that if you take the late shift on Friday or Saturday night, the regular staff will be all gone and you’ll only get a few people per hour needing spare keys or wanting to check out movies. Sometimes the staff would leave me judicial letters to stuff into envelopes, but most of my time on the clock was spent doing homework or watching movies. Had it arranged with another student who’d worked out the same thing so we’d swap out and each of us still had every other weekend free.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      The system that is set up by HR at the university that I work at does not allow student assistants to work when class is scheduled. They have to clock in by swiping their student ID and if you are supposed to be in class, it will not allow you to log on. If your professor cancels class for one day, you still cannot log on to work. OP, just check the job listings a month to one week out before classes start. A lot of campus jobs are listed then so people have a chance to interview, hire, and start training before classes start up again.

    8. Al Lo*

      My on-campus job was amazing. It paid decently (I think it was about $12.50/hr), and it was totally related to my field of study. I actually had 2 — one was working as resident manager of a student-programmed theatre space (which was a combination credit and job — I got paid for X hours/week, and got credit for X hours of work), and I also worked in the media relations office for the school, where I had a great supervisor who gave me really relevant responsibilities. Both of those jobs definitely went on my resume, since they were relevant to jobs I was looking for afterward, and the manager job, in particular, was very responsibility-heavy and autonomous.

      As the manager of the space, my co-manager and I opened calls for submissions each semester, programmed the space, staffed the shows (we had another work study student with us who was the resident tech director), marketed the events, worked with non-producer artists to help them learn to think like a producer to get their work done, and so on. We were actually the only totally multi-disciplinary space in my art school that showcased work from each of the institution’s schools (theatre, dance, visual art, film, music, and critical studies).

  8. Workfromhome*

    Next time he asks follow the advice above and make sure you clearly state that “this is the schedule we agreed upon, its Tuesday and Thursday only and this will not change”. Then ask nicely “Are we agreed Tuesday and Thursday only”..the shut up. Don’t say another word until he speaks first. If the answer is not YES Tuesday and Thursday’s only then ask the same question again and keep asking until you get a yes.

    Since this is part time only and not career if it were me I’d also be tempted to send an email that same day “Thanks for taking the time to discuss my schedule. You agreed that it will be Tuesday and Thursday and will not change”

    Then if he starts asking again after that he’s truly a jerk and I’d simply say “I’m not going to discuss it anymore and walk away”

  9. Katie the Fed*

    When you bring it up with him, maybe also suggest he start looking to hire someone else to help with those other days. “Since I’m not able to work those days, maybe we can put together a job ad so we can hire someone to work those other days and you don’t have to keep asking me when you know I can’t”

    1. OP*

      Hi there. I have tried suggesting him hire another person. We had a “trial” with another person, but she ended up quitting because she couldn’t handle it (lack of proper training, super high expectations). I asked about her every time I came in and he would say, “she’s okay, but you learned so fast…” then the questions would come in. I even offered to make flyers and post them around school, but they want someone to be referred so they “know” the person.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “I’m not going to refer anyone. I wouldn’t suggest to my friends that they work for you, and I’m not willing to recruit people I don’t like. So you need to go with some other plan.”

        (No, I know you can’t really say that.)

      2. Jade*

        Wow now I really am starting to suspect you work for my boss! He is the same way. Only wants to hire through word-of-mouth rather than posting in the newspaper, going to job fairs, aka traditional routes. One of our departments is overwhelmed with work and he is piling on the existing employees rather than taking a chance on non-referred hires. Some of these poor employees are regularly working 6 days a week, 50-60 hours. Do you have any enemies you’d like to sacrifice- I mean, refer? Sounds like a nightmare.

  10. AndersonDarling*

    My part time boss used to do this. I started out bending over backward to help her out, then I realized she would ask for extra work when it wasn’t an emergency, and sometimes it wasn’t even necessary. After saying “no” to the requests for a few months, she finally got the picture and stopped asking.
    There are bosses that will keep pushing until you push back.

    1. Workfromhome*

      This is why its so important not to overdeliver on a regular basis. When you go above and beyond “all the time” it no loger is seen as above and becomes the norm or the baseline. Instead of thanks for working 50 hours last week to finish that once a year super important project you will hear “Only putting in 40 hours this week..must be nice”

      We created our own nightmare because we told clients it could take up to 7 business days (verbally) to fill requests. But in order to “look good” to the client (manger’s words not mine) we’d often do them same day during slower periods. As soon as we had a busy period and the requests were 2 days old we’d start getting angry emails from the client why is this taking so long even though we were still beating the deadline by a couple of days.

      I eventually just put a policy in place internally that any requests done need to go on an email delay to be delivered no earlier than 3 days after we got it. Even if it was done same day just don’t send it out..because if you do it once they will expect it all the time.

      Same thing here. The boss by continuing to ask for more days is basically guaranteeing he’ll NEVER get them again even in a dire emergency. No good deed goes unpunished ;-)

  11. Mando Diao*

    I hope OP3 from the previous post is reading this one too. When it comes to very small businesses, this kind of nonsense is a feature, not a bug. The owner treats his small crew of employees like anything-goes assistants because that’s what he himself needs in order to keep operating the way he always has. You’re being assigned the overflow work in a lot of different categories, not a single defined job description. For some reason, the ribbing about time off or sticking to a schedule is also a consistent aspect of these jobs. Your boss works around the clock because the business is his baby, and he actually feels like he sacrificed something and is doing you a favor by paying you at all, since he remembers a time when the business was so small that he kept all the profits.

    1. The Strand*

      To be fair, a lot of small business people … “remember a time when the business was so small that I didn’t take a salary”.

      That’s why they think they’re doing you a favor by paying you.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Yyyup. A lot of people who run businesses have tunnel vision and think that since it’s their #1 priority, it should be everyone else’s too, regardless of pay or whatever else they’re getting out of it.

  12. LBK*

    I would make sure to emphasize that the times you have worked extra hours were one-off exceptions. I suspect that working outside your set hours once was enough to set a precedent in his mind. As far as he’s concerned you’ll always be free to cover as needed now because hey, you did it that one time, so why is it that all of a sudden you can’t help out anymore?

    I don’t actually think is always a wildly unreasonable assumption – when I was scheduling shift work, I knew which people were truly unavailable/didn’t want to work outside of their set schedule and which people had “available hours” but would always work outside them if you asked. I think you just need to make it clear that you’re in the former category and that you’re not able to make that kind of exception again.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      Also, try not to speak about how much tuition is or anything money related. He might be hearing that as a plea for extra hours.

  13. Mena*

    Well he isn’t trying to take advantage of you because he is paying your for all these extra hours, right?
    Assuming so, then this is a great lesson in setting and maintaining boundaries. You didn’t maintain the boundary when you accepted the extra hours (and pay) but now it is time to re-establish the boundary and maintain it.
    Can you work tonight? “I can only work X-day and Y-day, from to .
    Can you work this weekend? “I can only work X-day and Y-day, from to .”
    Can you work cover for X-person? “I can only work X-day and Y-day, from to .”
    Try to keep you tone pleasant, don’t get annoyed that he’s still asking (he’s asking because he’s gotten you to work more in the past with these requests), and keep repeating.
    He’ll catch on once he is no longer getting what he wants (more hours from you).

  14. Jess*

    He fired a woman because her little kid had surgery? This guy is a world class a-hole. There are other, human bosses you could be working for. Hold your ground with him, but job search too. You don’t have to put up with this.

  15. Menacia*

    You are in a really good position, you only work two days a week, so I’m thinking this isn’t a job that will make or break you so why not speak up and be assertive with your boss? What a great opportunity to put into action what Alison suggested. You really have nothing to lose, and I think you will learn soon enough (not sure why you haven’t already considering your bosses’ actions) a lot of bosses don’t care about you or your personal issues. You want to do a good job, but you also don’t want to be guilt-tripped (aka manipulated) into doing something your boss already KNOWS you can not do. School is your priority right now, good for you for holding your ground. This will serve you well in your future professional career.

  16. Batshua*

    I don’t know if this is a good idea or a bad idea, but this is what came to mind when I was considering this situation.

    “We agreed my schedule would be [$schedule]. I know you’d like me to work more hours sometimes, but generally I can’t. My schedule just isn’t that flexible because of school, which is why we agreed on the schedule I have. In the very rare event that I *can* work more hours, I’ll let you know when I’m available.”

    I don’t know if “don’t call us, we’ll call you” is gonna work with this guy, but besides just straight up saying no, that was what I thought might work by keeping the ball in your own court.

  17. BadPlanning*

    Good job, OP, for sticking up for yourself so far! In addition to the AAM advice, there’s also the “make it a game” option to help save your sanity. Like a mental bingo/scorecard of how many times he asks. Bonus square whenever he manages to ask in a new way.

  18. OP*

    Hi everyone! Thanks for the suggestions. I decided that I won’t be working for him once summer comes. What pushed me to his point was that he moved 2 days worth of work up so he can go on a personal trip, and again(!) he asked me to come in on my long days at school. And before that, he asked me if I can take less classes next fall so I can spend most of my week at his office. Like some of you have mentioned, school is my priority right now, and it made me mad he would ask me to push back my graduation so I can help out.

    I have an internship lined up for the summer, and my last year at school will probably be spent doing other internships through school programs. I just have to suck it up for 3 more months.

    Thanks again Alison + everyone. :)

    1. LBK*

      And before that, he asked me if I can take less classes next fall so I can spend most of my week at his office.

      Oh wow. Totally unacceptable. You’re 100% right to get out of there. Good luck with your summer internship! Look on the bright side – it has to be better than this one, right?

    2. jhhj*

      There is absolutely no way to get him not to pressure you. Quit when you quit, assume he won’t ask you to work two weeks (alternately: he’ll try to get you to work 336 hours in those 2 weeks), enjoy your paid internship.

    3. Vulcan social worker*

      Wow. Now that’s a boss who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Lots of bosses express disappointment that an employee is graduating and leaving their employ, and an internship supervisor tried to convince me to take a job there because she wanted me to keep working for her even though she knew the pay was terrible and even she would complain constantly about the working conditions, but trying to make her push back her graduation to stay is a new one for me.

    4. Hlyssande*

      Wow, what a jerk! Pushing you to delay graduation for a crap job? No way.

      I’m glad you found something else.

    5. Nerdling*

      Don’t let him know about your internship until you give your notice. He will do everything to try to convince you to stay and may terminate you out if spite once he knows – or he’ll try to get every last hour he can from you during your notice time. Good luck!

      1. Chameleon*

        Or, even worse, attempt to sabotage the internship. I wouldn’t put it past this guy to call them up and bad-mouth the OP to try to keep her to himself for the summer.

    6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Adding on to everyone else to say that you will be well rid of this. It was already clear that he doesn’t accept that you’re prioritizing your education, but to suggest that you actually take fewer classes is jaw-dropping lay egregious.

      Since you’re still in school, I assume you haven’t had all that many jobs yet. Rest assured that this guy is not the norm. Unfortunately he’s not unique, but many better bosses exist!

    7. So Very Anonymous*

      If this is a campus job (not sure if it is, correct me if I’m wrong!) you should probably report to the campus employment office that your boss asked you to take fewer classes. That is just so out-there wrong for a college student that, if it is a campus job, someone needs to know that this is being asked. Pushing back graduation is not OK in and of itself, but if you were a student whose financial aid would be affected by taking fewer courses, but who also needed the job, this would be a pretty dire thing.

  19. Alienor*

    I went through this while working a retail cashier job in college. The store managers would try to trap people in by saying “You don’t have to cover the whole shift, you can just come in for a couple of hours,” knowing that once someone was physically in the store, it would be almost impossible for them to leave. You really do just have to keep saying no, and saying it even when you don’t have a hard commitment (like a scheduled class) that prevents you from working – it’s easy to think “Well, I was just going to finish some reading/outline a paper/do laundry/sleep,” but all those things are important and the time you have for them needs to be guarded too.

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