my boss makes people work late for no reason

A reader writes:

My boss has told my two salaried coworkers on more than one occasion that she wants to see them working late more often (like she does), even while admitting that they get everything done on time and their work is excellent. The other day she said to me that she believes as a matter of principle that salaried employees should work more than 40 hours a week. I didn’t know how to respond. What would you say to that?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss wants me to fix his mother’s computer issues
  • People doing their hair and makeup in our bathrooms are leaving a mess
  • Was I wrong to ask about my coworker’s dating life?
  • Should I ask for a lower title when interviewing for a more senior job?

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. ArtK*

    I left a salaried job when a VP told me, explicitly, that he didn’t care if I was doing productive work or not, he wanted to see me in my chair. When appearance overrides actual work, that’s not a place where I would want to be.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Appearance over achievement and keeping score by butt-in-seat time rather than productivity are big signs that management is incompetent and doesn’t understand what their teams do

      In the instances I’ve seen those things, it was always because the manager didn’t have the technical and managerial skills to understand the function of the team.

        1. Anonymous 10/10*

          Ugh. My boss has this mentality, and thanks to a recent natural disaster we have no seats. Like our buildings were destroyed and seats are literally gone. So we’ve temporarily relocated to a much smaller place (maybe a 1/3 of what we need) AND we share it with another group (almost like shift work). He thought he was being gracious by releasing us an hour earlier than our contract time. When we reminded him that thanks to the split schedule we literally had no offices to work in the afternoon, he said that all 70+ of us could bring in our personal laptops and work in the multipurpose room. Even though there were several other locations in a similar situation (split schedule) who WERE releasing their employees, and most everybody raised a stink b/c there was no possibility of meaningful work getting done due to the size/noise problem, he doubled down and said it just “didn’t sit right” to have us leave that early.

          It took a few weeks before the right person above him in the hierarchy shut that shit down.

        2. Maggie*

          Pervasive in Hong Kong. It’s considered part and parcel of the local employers’ mentality.

    2. HerBerT*

      Best job ever was the one that said I could leave when my work was done… didn’t matter if it was 10 AM or 8 PM. Since my work was very measurable with that employer, it was great. I didn’t rush through, but during our slow season, I didn’t even work some days… still got paid though! They also didn’t hold me to a time to come in unless I had to be there for phones because someone was out. (We moved, otherwise, I would still be there!)

    3. Bend & Snap*

      One of my first jobs mandated a 55-hour work week for salaried employees. I came in early every day to get my hours in but still got in trouble because that really meant everyone has to stay late so you can be seen working. So pretty much everyone stayed until 8 every night. It was ridiculous.

      The job was with World Congress, which is one of those shitty conference companies that abuses their employees.

      1. Sk*

        I had a job like that too! The company owner actually made an announcement that he expected 50 hrs/week from us, and we should be lucky because some other companies in the industry expect 60-70 hrs/week. I, too, tried to come in earlier so I could leave at closing, but the owner pulled me aside to have a talk about how it looked bad to clients and co-workers that I was leaving before 8. He was an asshole in many other ways, thank god I got out of that place before I got Stockholm syndrome like some of the other employees.

        1. Zweisatz*

          It’s interesting how the terrible companies always come up with other companies that are even worse, supposedly, isn’t it?

        2. Annie*

          I had a similar issue with a boss expecting everyone to work late. I got round it by pointing out that by coming in that early, clients saw responses to overnight requests waiting for them when they got into the office, making it look like the whole company worked longer (and that I was the only person to take calls from a certain overseas client live due to the time difference, which the client loved).

          His response confirmed it really was all about appearances. He said it was OK, but on condition that if I left at that time when a client or upper management was onsite, I commented where they could hear that I was on “Country X’s project/time zone”, preferably with an exaggerated mention of what time I’d started!

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My old job was the opposite. I stayed late frequently but it didn’t matter because the guys in charge came in early, so if you really wanted the brownie points you had to be there early.

      3. Kes*

        Yeah that’s so ridiculous… honestly, I think it looks bad if your employees need to work until 8 all the time, that suggests to me you are not managing things well.

      4. Anon Anon*

        I had a job that had 50 hours in the employee handbook as the standard workweek. Everyone worked remotely, so it manifested as people sending emails late at night to prove that they were working longer hours.

    4. a1*

      I once had a manager who said managers should be in the office before their direct reports and also stay later than their direct reports. (I was a manager, too, fyi, so many layers at this place). And that it reflected poorly on me that I came in “late ” – like 8-8:30am – even though I usually stayed until 6. There were other people in the office that came in at 7! Not my directs, just other people in the office. So, not just my directs… ok, then. Also, this really made no sense since 2/3 of our team (the larger team, not just my directs) were in other offices spread across 4 time zones and a good third of those worked in home offices. I just… what?? Needless to say I didn’t work for him very long. I made sure to get out from under that pretty quickly.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My direct reports were angry on my behalf when they found out that after they left, I still had 4-5hrs left of work most days. Needless to say, I was flexible as humanly possible with them even though they were doing things that required coverage so butts in seats were moderately important. I would rather catch the phone for 20 minutes in the morning than them rushing to get in when traffic exploded or anything like that.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Butts-in-seats requirements and billable hours are the bane of my existence.

    6. Emelle*

      A dear friend at a previous job was working a big project in later time zone. His direct manager told him to just come in later because it didn’t make sense for him to just sit there waiting for his contacts to come in. Then several other projects came in in the same time zone, so his direct manager kept him on those projects. A different manager needed Friend for something minor and could have waited *days* for an answer and called my direct line looking for him. 2nd manager never spoke to Friend’s manager and went to Big Boss, who made a *huge* production out of people being in the office to be available, and butts in seats. So Friend’s Manager went to bat for him and was shot down. That first pay check with a shitton of OT because he was in the office from 8:30a-9:30/10p got the big boss to realize that butts in a seat wasn’t the greatest plan. Friend says he wished he had recorded his manager *gleefully* signing off on his OT.

    7. londonedit*

      I had a friend who worked for a big company in the City of London, and the culture was very much ‘whoever stays longest and arrives earliest is the hardest worker’. People were expected to stay at their desks until at least 9pm, and to be back at work by 7am, and the company would rather spend hundreds of pounds ordering in takeaway dinners every evening than actually let people work a reasonable schedule. People would purposefully send emails at 9.07pm, or 6.48am, just to show that they were putting the hours in, even if they didn’t actually have any meaningful work to do.

      I’ve experienced it to a very mild degree – I’ve had jobs where the boss would raise their eyebrows if anyone left at 6pm on the dot, or where you’d immediately be asked where so-and-so was if they weren’t there by 9.05am. Luckily where I am now, it’s quite flexible, and as long as we’re here for meetings and we’re getting our work done, no one minds if we come in early and leave early, or come in later and leave later. People work all sorts of schedules and we just let our colleagues know what we’re up to. Sometimes if it’s busy then of course we might need to work late, but most of the time we can get things done during our core hours and go home at the proper time.

      1. Emily K*

        That schedule is especially insane in a city like London, where unless you’re extremely well paid you most likely have a very long commute! 9p-7a is barely enough time to get a full night’s sleep even for someone who lived in the same part of the city as the office, let alone someone outside the city.

    8. RoadsLady*

      I fell into an internet rabbit hole the other week on the matter. Some guy was telling of his early career in a silicon valley business and how they tended to work themselves ragged. The company managed to get one of the most sought-after guys in the business to do some work for them. Super Guy comes in first day, dazzles them with his talent and efficiency… then shocks them by just shutting down and leaving at a sensible hour. The narrator of the tale says it forever changed his perspective on butt-in-seat.

  2. Roscoe*

    I’ve never had a boss say I HAD to work late. They did make comments about how I was out the door at exactly 5pm everyday. They kind of ignored the fact that I was usually one of the first people in. I just basically said “is there a reason you want me here later”. Their answer was both honest and annoying. He basically said how it looks bad when other departments see me leaving at exactly that time every day.

    1. HerBerT*

      It goes over better in DC… you just say you have to catch your carpool or a bus or train and no one questions it. Missing your bus can mean a 30 minute wait, if you’re riding a commuter bus or train out to the ‘burbs. Metro within the city, not so much, since they run a lot more frequently.

      1. Eirene*

        Yeah, I ride a commuter train to and from DC every day – people are generally quite understanding of my need to leave on time, barring occasions when I do need to stay longer because of a deadline. I feel weird sometimes when I roll out at 4:30, but then I remember I’m in here at 8, a full hour before everyone else.

        1. HerBerT*

          I carpool… and I think it’s rude to ask them to wait. They understand if it happens occasionally, but I can imagine they’d ask me to make other arrangements if it were a regular thing. And I don’t feel guilty or weird at all … like you, I am here way before anyone else!

      2. epi*

        It’s similar here in Chicago IME. If people know you take the Metra (commuter train to the suburbs here), I’ve never worked anywhere or known anyone who worked somewhere they wouldn’t be pretty understanding.

        1. Seifer*

          I went to school in Chicago and that was the only way that got me out of staying late to work on group projects. I mentioned I took the Metra, got the wince, and then was assured I could just email in all my portions. I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise.

      3. D'Arcy*

        One of my staff members leaves 5-10 minutes early “to catch the bus” on *every* shift, which is grossly unprofessional. He’s an otherwise reliable (if mediocre) employee so the company is unwilling to terminate him for this, but he’s never, ever, ever getting promoted.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          @D’Arcy: Maybe the guy has to wait an hour for the next bus – or is catching the last bus of the day. Not everyone can drive or afford a car.

          1. D'Arcy*

            This is an hourly paid position, not salaried, and in any case he doesn’t come in early to balance his hours either. Moreover, there’s a difference between leaving *right* at your scheduled shift, which is entirely fair, and shorting your shift by a substantial amount.

              1. D'Arcy*

                No, and if he did the company would be liable for severe fines. Working through breaks is strictly and absolutely forbidden here in Oregon.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  (thinks about the days I worked 10 hours straight during peak at the tax place, yup, in Oregon…). Well, this explains why the boss actually got serious this year about making sure we took the breaks we were supposed to…though when peak hits again this year, um, we all know what we’re going to be doing (I’ll be scarfing down the pizza that got brought in on a Friday or my peanut butter sandwich in the back room at warp speed).

            1. gmg22*

              I wish we had more context here. I gather that you’re his manager? Assuming this early departure has a legitimate reason (no other good bus options, needs to catch that particular bus because of childcare pickup, etc), has any attempt been made to plan a workaround for him to get him in earlier at the beginning of the shift? Or is that not workable, perhaps because there isn’t anything for him to do before the regular shift time starts? You’re right that it’s unfair to other staff who work the full shift. (Well, you didn’t say that specifically, but I assume that’s at the root of your anger here.)

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I think it would be more professional for him to come in earlier.
                I tend to be a little late in the morning and I always make up the time in the evening. No one had to tell me, I just do it.

                1. gmg22*

                  I do the same. But if it’s not happening and it’s having a negative impact on his manager, seems like the next step is to figure out if there’s a way to set that expectation for him explicitly.

                  Just because we think something would be “more professional” doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to happen. Sometimes managers have to manage.

        2. Blunt Bunny*

          If you watch your other staff you would probably notice that they will put different amounts of work in over the day. There will be some that are slacking, dragging their feet having and stopping to have conversations with coworkers. There will be others that work hard and do almost twice the work others produce, always volunteer for overtime, help others when needed, solve problems and is dependable. Ask yourself what are they going to achieve in the last 5 minutes of the day are your other workers just washing out their mug, using the loo before they go, filling up water bottle. That what I think you need to focus on when getting angry at the presence of people in the office, present doesn’t equal working, absent doesn’t mean slacking if there’s no task that could be completed in 5 mins. If it bothers you that much bring it up with them and ask what the reason is and say if this continues we will have to reduce your contract by half an hour.

      4. Emily K*

        My experience has been that in the DC knowledge sector, there’s a huge degree of cultural flexibility around working hours. Some form of summer hours, like early Friday dismissal during the summer months, is common even in businesses that have no particular seasonality, telecommuting is fairly well embraced, and flex hours are super common.

        The downside is that rush hour starts at about 3 or 3:30p and runs till 7 or so because people work such variable schedules. I’m sure it’s less congested than it’d be if that wasn’t the case, but if you are a teleworker or service industry/non-9-5 worker or on vacation who just wants an opportunity to be on the roads outside of rush hour for some reason, you’ve got a pretty narrow couple of windows of time you’re working with.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I had a manager like this. Since he commuted an hour each way, he’d get there before 8 am, spend the day doing…something…then would start some real work in the afternoon and then leave after 6 pm. He was a self-proclaimed workaholic, though I never saw him doing much work. I lived 10 minutes away, came in by 8 am, worked like a dog all day (tiny bank, not making money, inefficient, not enough bodies to cover all the work) and then leave usually after him. On the days I’d deign to leave at 5 pm? He’d call out to me, “Oh, working a half day today?” He tried to pretend it was a joke. It wasn’t. Back then I didn’t know how to stand up for myself without getting fired so I just ignored it, which eventually led to major burn out.

      1. BottleBlonde*

        Ugh, I hate those types of comments veiled as “jokes.” My last job was super stressful, the kind of place where everyone worked 10-12 hour days without lunch or breaks. One day I had to step outside for 5 minutes because I honestly thought I might be moments away from a breakdown. When I came back inside, my boss said she could see me from her window, and “jokingly” (but not really) asked when I was going to “stop slacking off.” So demoralizing.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Yikes! I’m guessing bathroom breaks were also: 1. monitored or 2. not permitted, leading to frequent UTI

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      IIRC, this story was attributed to David Ogilvy. He was giving a speech and talked about a copywriter in his office. The guy came in at 8 am, took his breaks more or less at the same time, and put on his hat and coat to leave just after 5 pm. Every single day, he kept to this routine. People in the audience shook their heads and murmured about the guy’s lack of commitment. Ogilvy waited a few moments, and then said, ‘Can you imagine the discipline that takes?’

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I just don’t get how working one’s full eight hours, getting the work all done and then leaving is “lack of commitment.”

        1. Airy*

          It’s great when people are prepared to go above and beyond the normal requirements of their jobs in an emergency or crisis. That can prevent disaster. Trouble is, there’s always some twerp who thinks that means everything would work better if everyone always worked above and beyond those requirements. I think it’s the same mental glitch that makes people go “My acquaintance who has (allergy/intolerance) is feeling much healthier after removing (allergen/irritant) from their diet. I don’t even have (allergy/intolerance) to start with so imagine how great I could feel if I did the same thing!”
          And “Imagine how many golden eggs there must be inside the goose, if we only cut it open instead of waiting for it to lay one a day like chumps!”

        2. media monkey*

          i am going to guess you don’t work in advertising (as per the david Ogilvy story). working a strict 8 hour day in any facet of advertising would pretty much get you the side-eye.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            *Advertising crossed of my mental list of industries to work in* – Not that I wanted to anyway.

    4. Beatrice*

      My boss’s explanation was that, at the end of every task, you make a choice – either find another task, or stop working. It’s impossible that your final task will always end at 4:59 pm every day, so when you leave at 5 on the dot consistently day after day, that means that you’re leaving a small period of unproductive time at the end of every day, and you’re choosing to do that rather than pick up one more quick task. He didn’t care if you left at 4:40 one day and 5:05 the next, or if you worked 7.9 hours one day and 8.3 the next, he just hated to see someone hitting the door at exactly the top of the hour, or turning in a timesheet with a perfect 8 hours every single day.

      1. Alexander*

        This is just the way it is for people on public transport, sadly. leave “on the dot”, or wait 15/30/60 Minutes for the next train/bus to run… so you spend the extra 5 minutes it takes to finish the task after the time you leave, but you now spend another HOUR of your private time waiting for the next train… I don’t think so.
        (I’m in the “train runs every 15 minutes” camp, so that is the unit I’m planning my tasks around…if I can finish that extra task so that I am no more than fifteen minutes after my usual time, I do it (and take that train, but of course clock in the added 15 minutes) . If It would take me until .03 and I’d have to wait for the next train, I might just leave. Or stay and do that task, and add a few more on top as well to fill the time. Depends on what I’m doing with my day later…

        1. Luke*

          I work on a military base. My duty day ends at 4:30 PM and while I am technically an hourly employee, I am not authorized overtime. Every minute past 4:30 that I walk out adds 10-15 minutes to my evening commute. I have stopped answering those “Heeeyyyyy-how-ya-doin-that’s-great-I-just-have-one-quick-question” phone calls at one-minute-until-close. One, it’s NEVER actually “just one quick question”, two, if it’s good news, it’ll still be good news at 0730 tomorrow/Monday morning, and three, it’s NEVER good news.

      2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        That boss *really* didn’t understand work, or how people are in general, if they presumed that every minute of your day was either “actively working on task” of “IDLING LAZY LAZY LAZY”.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        You make a note of where you stopped in the task, and pick up there the next morning. Simple.
        Where I work they don’t authorize overtime unless there’s a crisis – luckily no one minds the exact hours as long as they’re 40/week.

    5. Stinky Socks*

      How about CHILDCARE, for Pete’s sake? A lot of places charge in 5-minute increments when you go over closing time…

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          $1 per minute *per kid*.

          When I had two in daycare at the same time, you can bet your bippy I was out the door from work on time.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I got that kind of thing for a while: “Must be nice” when I’m leaving at 3:30. So I started quipping that the hard part is getting in at 6:30. That stops people cold–then I point out that it lets me collaborate with the European office…and that the shifted schedule cuts my drive time, which is critical since I drive 35 miles and corporate eliminated TC. (To “improve collaboration. ..but they won’t send me to Brussels for some reason LOL)

  3. HBucket*

    I had a boss like that once. He thought “face time” was important. I do not (at least not just for the sake of it). We got a new boss and I was very up front that I believed if routine work doesn’t generally getting done in the time allotted (i.e., 40 hour work week), we were doing it wrong or needed to look at the processes and/or workload. He agreed and it was a very rare time when we worked late or came in on weekends. If we did, it was very necessary. People didn’t mind doing it nearly as much either.

    1. ArtK*

      Just had a phone interview and the interviewer (CEO) sounded very disappointed when I told him that my days of working 60-70 weeks were long past. For some reason, he kept focusing on the daily schedule (“we work from 9AM to 7PM”.) It’s software development — some days you finish early and some days you run late.

      This was a “dynamic, entrepreneur-driven” company; at least he didn’t say “work hard, play hard.” I haven’t heard back yet, but I suspect it’s a “no.”

      1. Tigger*

        I hate the “work hard, play hard” buzz saying. It leads to “Oh you are not a culture fit if you don’t work 60 hour weeks every week and get burned out then go to the bar with us friday night! WE ARE A TEAM!!!”

        1. errr*

          I wish I really knew what this phrase meant when I was interviewing at Old Job. They gave me this line and then started talking about “company culture! The get-togethers! The fun outings!” Now I will know better. =\

      2. The New Wanderer*

        If it’s a “no” due to you not wanting to work crazy long hours anymore, I suspect you’ll be dodging a bullet. I declined to go further in the interview process with a company that highly valued butts in seats (not the only deal-breaker but not a selling point). It’s just not something I’m willing to do for the sake of appearances since my type of work simply doesn’t inherently require it.

      3. gmg22*

        I was working evening shifts at a newspaper gig some years ago when I interviewed with a large DC consulting firm, and explained that I was looking for “more regular hours.” That was the wrong way to phrase it to ace the interview, but definitely the right way to elicit information that told me I wouldn’t have wanted the job anyway … as I learned when they replied “But, um, we work 8-7 every weekday and at least half-days most Saturdays!” The supervisor then cracked a joke about being a “reformed workaholic” — either she didn’t know the meaning of the word “reformed” or the 60-hour sked was a cutback. Yikes.

        (I felt pretty smug recently when I read the news that the firm in question was being investigated for federal contracting fraud.)

    2. Tammy*

      This is how I manage my team, too. If people are having to routinely work overtime, we’re either hitting an inefficiency in our process that needs to be fixed, or we’re mis-allocating our workload. And really, I have a lot of higher value things to do with my time besides micromanaging people’s schedules. If the work is getting done, people aren’t overloaded, and we’re not making a lot of errors in our work, that’s what matters.

      I come into the office at 6:15am because I like a bit of quiet time before people start arriving and meetings start happening. I leave around 4 usually, except when there’s something going on. I mostly don’t care what time my team comes in and leaves, if their work is getting done. Sometimes I answer emails in the evening or on weekends, but I’m VERY clear with my team that I don’t expect them to do the same. In fact, when I answer emails after hours it’s usually to shield them from having to.

      The people you hire should be responsible, professional adults, and should be trusted to manage their time like responsible, professional adults. If that’s not happening, you’re either not hiring the right people or holding too tight of a leash on their schedules, IMO. If you have phones that need coverage, fine – arrange people’s schedule flex so the required hours are covered.

  4. Catsaber*

    I left a job largely because of a boss like #1 – she told us one day it “hurt her feelings” that we “rushed out the door at 5pm” because it seemed like we’d rather be at home than at work. She then made a rule that we had to linger for a while so it didn’t seem to her like we hated our jobs. Spoiler: we all hated that job and left shortly after!

    1. rldk*

      Whenever I hear of a boss complaining that ‘it looks like you hate your job’ they are usually the reason why that is indeed the case

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yep! And I never like my job more than when I’m here at like 5:20 and the place is empty! (NB: It is also empty when I get here at 8:30.)

        1. SherSher*

          Right?! I roll up into my office when most people are just getting out of bed, so get off my back about what time I leave!

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes! As long as you do what you need to do and your job is not customer-facing, who cares what time you come and go? Clock-watchers drive me crazy!

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              A lot if it is that Puritan work ethic thing. “Work Hard, be Seen working Hard, or you aren’t working at all” mindset.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                And then there are those people who complain that you send too many emails if they roll in at 9 and have 5 emails from you… answering their emails from the day before. Go figure.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The sole exception I can think of is if you have bad seasonal allergies and work in a clean room.

            1. nonegiven*

              Snow and ice on the ground, power out over 11 counties, and everyone was eating the food provided by the employer that had 2 employees calling around arranging food and driving all day to pick up and deliver lunch to construction crews and bringing the leftovers back to the office. Construction crews were all staying in motels in towns with power, many employees were not.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Exactly! I like my job. I like my coworkers. I’d still rather be at home cuddling my cat and playing video games, or making art or writing or whatever. It doesn’t mean I don’t like my job, but we call it a job and not Happy Fun Times for a reason.

    2. ItsAllFunAndGames...*

      I mean the whole concept of work is that they have to pay you to show up and do it.
      So by that very measure most would prefer to be elsewhere.

    3. Mike C.*

      Of course you’d rather be home than at work. You have to pay me to show up to work. I go home for free.

      1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        That being said, if anyone wants to pay me to knit or snuggle with my dogs on my couch, I will happily accept.

    4. Parenthetically*

      That’s such a weird, weird thing to say. I mean, I’m sure there ARE people who’d rather be at work than at home, but surely they’re the exception, and surely that’s common knowledge.

      1. Catsaber*

        Not when you’re working at a place this boss described as “people would KILL! they would KILL!! to work here!”. :)

        1. RJ the Newbie*

          I worked at one of those places. It was so ‘terrific’ that one of my fellow Finance coworkers had a color coded matrix illustrating the coffee usage (by classification) per department for our entire company. It left me speechless. I’ve never seen something so petty and nitpicking in my life.

          And I left shortly afterwards.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      I do like my job. I also have to be in the elevator at no later than five oh seven to catch my train & pick up the espresso shots from school.

    6. RUKiddingMe*

      Of course you’d rather be home. Or at least most people would. What do people not get about “I work for money, not just to hang out?!”

    1. Sleepytime Tea*

      Oh I had a crazy coworker who was incredibly invasive and asked you the most personal of questions on a regular basis. But if you asked her anything mildly personal she FREAKED OUT. Like, she once mentioned where she lived (the town name) and when it came up in a conversation later and I mentioned it she flipped and asked me who told me where she lived. When I said she had mentioned it, she said “I would never do that.” It was just absolutely insane. She would ask you super personal questions about religion, your romantic life, your family, anything and everything. But if you asked her how many siblings she had she would flip out that you would ask her something so personal.

      Fun side note: she also went through people’s desks so we had to keep our drawers locked. She made baseless accusations to HR ranging from someone drinking on the job to installing cameras in the stairwells and monitoring people. It was just wild. Oh, and she of course complained that she felt left out when others on the team would go to lunch or happy hour or things like that together.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        ::eyeroll:: I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t be invited.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Wait wait…she accused people of putting cameras in the stairwells and monitoring people? Or she did put cameras in the stairwells and monitored people?! My head is gonna explode…that woman wouldn’t have lasted anywhere I’ve worked needless to say, we don’t take accusations lightly especially when it’s constant and conspiracy theory levels.

        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          She accused people of putting cameras in the stairwell and monitoring them. I was on the training team and one of the instructional designers was doing image searches of stairwells to use for a training course on safety. She saw this, jumped to the insane conclusion that this person had put cameras in the stairwells and was monitoring them, and reported them to corporate security.

          She was terrible at her job and no one liked to work with her. Everyone knew it, including management, but no one would get rid of her. It was definitely the type of thing that made your head explode.

        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          No, she would LOVE that. She just wouldn’t participate. I mean, she was extreme. When we did stupid little team building activities she would refuse to participate and make rude comments. We did a “would you rather” thing (PC of course). Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible. Stupid things like that. When it got to her turn she said “I don’t like this game.” Ok… well that’s fine. Then she went on about how she didn’t like it until I interrupted her and said if she didn’t want to play we could skip her turn. Which in turn she spent more time saying she didn’t like it, and finally let it go and we moved on. That was just a mild thing. But she would love to sit there and listen to people’s personal information.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Ding ding ding…. or better yet would be squealing if the OP turned it around and told the other person they had crossed a line when questioning the OP about their private life. This person sounds like one of those people that will be annoyed by everything.

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      Or she constantly fishes for questions/comments on certain things, but if you actually bite, comes back with “it’s too personal, I don’t want to talk about it”.

      1. annakarina1*

        That sounds more like Facebook vague-booking of people who want to vent about drama in their lives in public posts, but then, when asked about it,are like “PM me for details” or going “This person knows who they are.”

        1. Flash Bristow*

          The difference is you can block someone on fb. You can’t point at a coworker and instantly delete them from your vision…

          1. Airy*

            Though it would be fun to just hold up your hand to obscure their face and say “Blocking you.”

            1. Goya de la Mancha*

              hehe…I’d get some satisfaction out of this, but I don’t think my boss would let it fly.

        2. Goya de la Mancha*

          Oh definitely I’ve seen the facebook version, but a current co-worker does this in real life. She’ll drone on and on about horrible/stressful her weekend was, and then when you ask “oh no! what happened!?” she counters with “I can’t talk about it, it’s too much”.

  5. Mommy MD*

    I’m sorry your Boss cares more about abusing power than true productivity and has no common sense. This doesn’t bode well.

  6. Jennifer*

    I read once that most people in the US only spend about 45% of their day actually working. Most of us are just looking busy.

    1. Earthwalker*

      I know of several teams in which the manager valued long hours. In one team in particular, scoldings and attaboys over face time gradually motivated people to show up early, spend the day drinking coffee and grousing together, and then get really busy on their work from 5:00 pm until late. To their inattentive bosses they appeared very loyal and hard working. I suspect it’s not crumby workers so much as butt-in-seat bosses who are responsible for the statistic about how much time Americans are at work but not working.

    2. epi*

      I think it depends what you do. My teacher friends are busy pretty much all day. I sit at a desk with a computer that connects to the internet, so I’m not. :)

      On the other hand, there are times that work is being done and it just doesn’t need any input from me right that moment, e.g. a script is running and there’s nothing for me to do until I can see the results. IMO it is work to be here, ready to respond immediately if something does come up. Not that different from when I was a cashier in college– just because there were no customers for a bit didn’t mean I wasn’t working the whole time.

      I don’t know about others, but a lot of my “slow day at work” reading list is stuff that is sort of related to work, or that otherwise would not top my list if I weren’t at the office. For example, I’ll go through the newsletters I get from various public health NGOs and read any link that seems interesting to me even if it doesn’t relate to my work. I never do that on the weekend.

  7. Micromanagered*

    OP4 I wonder if whether the “appropriateness” of asking about her dating life is in any way correlated to how well it is (or isn’t) going at the time?

  8. KHB*

    From context, it sounds like OP1 herself is not salaried, so her boss’s expectations of salaried workers don’t apply to her. In which case, the answer to “What would you say to that?” is “nothing” (or maybe smile, nod, and say “OK”). And make a mental note of whether you ever want to pursue a salaried position under this manager. But for now, not your circus, not your monkeys, as they say.

    1. BookCocoon*

      Correct! This was my question and I was not salaried at the time, though I am now. That director left last spring and we were all hugely relieved.

        1. BookCocoon*

          I should add that when I was hourly, the director (who had told me I could never work overtime because there was no budget for it) was always SUPER annoyed at me for being careful about my hours. When I was office manager I supervised our student assistants and their hours got cut because our director saw them doing homework occasionally and assumed that meant there was never a reason to keep them for more time than it took to cover the desk when I went to lunch. Then I was asked to go to the store for supplies and I would say, “OK, I will have to get the student assistant to stay later so I can go this afternoon,” and it became clear (though never explicitly stated) the director had actually expected me to just go during my off hours and not count it.

  9. Rebecca*

    I’m non exempt, and a previous (now ex) manager would stand in the hallway at quitting time and point to her watch, shake her head, and say “you all run out of here like you were shot in the a**”. Once I stopped and said “we’re non-exempt, and we’re not permitted to work overtime, so when quitting time comes, I’m gone. I don’t work for free.” After a time, she stopped frowning at us in the hallway at least.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh…the places that squeal and freak over ten minutes of OT in a pay period…but oddly don’t want you springing for the door at 8hrs. Barf.

  10. LaDeeDa*

    Senior Analyst: They may be looking for someone with the potential and some of the experience because they want a person they can develop into the role. Often when interviewing for a senior position hiring managers will come back with comments like “the candidate is too set in their ways.” Having an employer who sees your potential and wants to invest in you is gold. Ask the questions Allison recommended, and I would also ask “What is the culture around development.” or “what kind of development opportunities do you offer to employees to build their skills and body of knowledge.” If they have solid answers to all those questions and you think you have the potential and drive to reach their requirements in the next 2-5 years, I would jump at the opportunity if everything else lines up.

  11. Jennifer*

    #4 is one of those situations where I wish there was video. It’s all so subjective. I think Alison it’s right. To be on the safe side, steer clear of dating-related subjects.

    1. Close Bracket*

      #4 is one of those situations where I wish there was video.

      I, too, am curious about what was said, exactly, on both sides. I’ve heard similar conversations, and some people really don’t know the difference between general dating talk and explicit details of what may or may not have happened later that night.

  12. KHB*

    OP5: If they like you enough to want to hire you but think your level of experience is more appropriate to a less senior title, they are almost certainly smart enough to figure that possibility out for themselves. On the other hand, if they really do need someone for the more senior role, and if your level of experience takes you out of the running for that (which may or may not be the case – the listed requirements in a job ad aren’t always all non-negotiable), there’s not much you can do to change their minds. Either way, you’re either the best person for what they need, or you’re not – and they know far more about what they need than you do.

    1. SherSher*

      But definitely do the interview because they may come to the realization they have something that would be a better fit for you. Or something may come up later and they’ll remember you. Or… they may want to develop you! Definitely take the interview and use AAM’s questions.

      1. KHB*

        Or there may not be anyone in the applicant pool at the exact level of experience they’re looking for (this happened to us twice in the past year) and you’re the best fit of the bunch after all, in which case they may make you an offer, either at the title they originally advertised or a different one. But let them be the ones to broach that subject.

    2. Hmmm*

      Exactly this. OP5, don’t sell yourself short due to a technicality. Let the company make the decision. Don’t even mention a “lack of experience”. My career took off when I applied to and got a job requiring 10 years of experience in a field I only had 3 years in. Ultimately I had the soft skills they needed for the role and were able to recognize that any technical skills I lacked I could quickly learn.

      In the interview don’t lie about your experience. If you don’t know something you can frame it as something that excites you about the job. For example, “One of the aspects of this role that excited me is the opportunity to work with X system. I have not had the opportunity in the past to work with X but have heard Y and Z about it.” Whenever there is a skill that I lack or is very rusty, I always make a point to read up on it before the interview and memorize a couple of points about it in case it comes up. Not claiming any experience I don’t have, merely demonstrating basic knowledge that I know what it is.

    3. Gumby*

      Also – keep in mind that the people who write the job descriptions are not always the people doing the hiring. Once upon a time I saw glorious “requirements” in programming job descriptions that required more years of experience in a particular language than said language had existed. (i.e. “Ten years of experience with Swift.”)

      1. only acting normal*

        Exactly! Hiring manager tells HR they need 10 yrs experience, and they need X; HR writes up 10 yrs in X. Happens all the time. (Of course a problem arises if HR are then too strict doing an initial screen based on their own misunderstanding.)

    1. Alfonzo Mango*

      The link in my username is for a discussion in another post, I did not mean to include it here.

  13. Peter the Bubblehead*

    If boss is insisting salaried employees work late, just start coming in late so the time still evens out to 40 hours.

    I get the feeling boss isn’t there when employees arrive, so likely she won’t notice the change in starting hours.

    1. Lisette*

      This works only if you actually want to work a later schedule. I run into this issue in my position – the boss comes in late and then wants people to stay late. It is fine to come in late the next day….but then you just end up on a later schedule permanently!

      1. Quiltrrrr*

        My current job (where I am exempt)…was told I could work 6:30-3:30 (still don’t understand why I am FORCED to take an hour lunch…makes no sense). Go on vacation 3 months later (the vacation was already planned, booked, and paid for…and I wouldn’t have accepted the job if told I couldn’t go) and come back…and told that effective immediately, my hours were now 7-4. I wouldn’t have taken the job if that was an up-front requirement.

        Thanks to Allison and reading this site, I calmly asked for what the business reason for the change was (instead of flying off the handle). Boss didn’t know, and I said I really needed to know that. Answer that came back was ‘Perception’. That’s it…’perception’.

        Needless to say, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a new position.

        1. Emily K*

          Some employers mandate a lunch break because of state laws. In my part of the country it’s common for working hours to assume an hour lunch, half hour of which is legally mandated by state law. The mandated half-hour is unpaid and the extra half-hour is paid, so a full workday is 7.5 paid hours and 0.5 unpaid, and those numbers often come into play even for exempt employees in terms of how many hours of PTO must be spent to take a day off. Because the unpaid half hour is mandatory, you could theoretically skip the paid 30 minute break and go home 30 minutes early, but then you’d be clocking 7 hours paid and 0.5 hours unpaid, which could mean docked pay for non-exempt workers, or very strict companies may require exempt employees to spend 0.5 hours of PTO.

          In most cases the bottom line is that they need you there the full business day even if they don’t need 8 productive hours from you, so that towards available for meetings that start at 9 or end at 5, or you’re available when colleagues need to ask you something. The half hour break may or may not be required by state law, and an employer may or may not choose to give you an additional free 30 minutes as a perk, and some employers will allow employees who shorten their lunch to go home early. Others give the paid 30 minutes because they think you’ll work better in the afternoon and be happier if you get a longer break, but they can’t have a big chunk of the staff become unavailable for the last half hour of the business day every day. There’s a real business difference between “Jane is on lunch and she’ll be back to look at this in half an hour” and “Jane’s already gone home and she’ll look at this in the morning.”

  14. MLB*

    Clock watcher managers are the worst. My manager at my last job was like that. Sometimes I was late in the morning because of my commute and she would make comments. But I didn’t always take my lunch break, and would work late and on weekends if needed. I challenged her every time she mentioned it. She also hated that I worked 1 day a week from home ( a deal I made before she started). She made us account for our 8 hours on remote days with a report. I was way more productive at home than I was in the office without constant interruption and her running her mouth all day. Managers who care more about the hours you put in than the actual work you do need to be removed from their positions of power.

  15. Anonandon*

    Oh man, I had a boss like this at my last job. She felt that because I was the manager of my team, I should stay past 5 even if I had finished all my work (which was usually the case). She hated it that I would take my lunch break away from my desk – I’d go heat up whatever I had brought for lunch and eat in the lunch room, being away from my desk for a grand total of about 20 minutes. I was never clear on how it was more professional to be seen eating my leftovers at my desk? She issued me a laptop, but I was never allowed to take it home and it had to stay in the office, so it was unclear why I had it. Working from home was completely off the table under any and all circumstances, even though we had jobs that could easily be performed remotely. I had no autonomy at all when it came to making even minor decisions about my team, such as work hours (there was no specific reason why any of them had to be there at a specific time, such as having to cover a reception desk). Any decisions I made had to be approved by her, even though I was ostensibly the manager. I did not last long in that job; she was also a yeller and would often stand at my desk and berate me about things which were either incredibly trivial or out of my control. Nothing ever made me so happy as to give that woman my resignation when I left.

  16. I coulda been a lawyer*

    Another thought for OP1’s boss: they are demonstrating appropriate behavior for the non-exempt employees, who can certainly cause problems if they don’t arrive or depart timely.

      1. BookCocoon*

        Yes, and I was the non-exempt employee in this situation — my coworkers were salaried. Our director was NOT happy that I would stick to my hours and not just put in extra time without accounting for it.

      2. JSPA*

        “They” still defaults to plural, though it can also be used for the singular – gender – non – specified. It refers to the employees, not the boss.

          1. BookCocoon*

            I think JSPA is explaining that I coulda been a lawyer’s comment was a thought directed TO the boss, saying that the salaried coworkers, by working reasonable hours, are demonstrating appropriate behavior for those who can’t or shouldn’t work overtime because they are non-exempt.

  17. Valegro*

    I worked for a guy who would lose it if you left when we closed. He thought that wasn’t showing teamwork and he might want to talk to us since we were on the road all day which meant him making us wait 2-3 hours until he was “ready.” He also thought we should stay late to “collaborate” and take each other’s appointments and cover on call even when it was completely impractical to do so.

    Two of us left at the same time and he lost it on us. That was just a tiny taste of the awful management and gaslighting that went on.

  18. Linzava*

    At one of my previous jobs, I was the only hourly employee. One Friday, boss rolls in around 2 pm, and all salaried employees had taken PTO. She proceeds to lecture me on how the salaried employees were bad at their jobs because they always left on time and that if they really cared about the company, they would stay until after she left. Yup, the day she barely showed up.

    1. Queen of Cans and Jars*

      OMG, this sounds exactly like my current boss, except he’s a guy. He likes to act all insulted when people who arrived at 7 am leave at 4 because he’s still there, even tho he didn’t roll in until after noon.

  19. AliceW*

    I can understand the optics of staying late some of the time, as secondary to productivity/meeting deadlines. In some companies, certain departments may have to frequently work late to meet midnight client deadlines and may need, on rare occasions, assistance or information from other departments after 5 pm. I like to see my subordinates occasionally put in some after hours face time. Although I monitor my email in the evening and can respond in emergencies, it just looks bad when we’re the only department that is always gone by 5 pm. So I think it depends on your company culture. My company also pays fairly big, discretionary bonuses at year end and while I primarily reward employees for their accomplishments, for meeting deadlines, taking on more responsibilities, etc.- If I notice someone often stays late or comes in early and is available outside of the normal business hours to help internal clients, I’ll consider that as well, in my overall performance assessment.

    1. Karyn*

      If helping internal clients is part of your department’s brief, is it possible to have one or two of your team come in late and stay late? There might be a few who would jump at the chance to come in at ten and leave at six or 6:30.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I think you should rethink this philosophy, personally. If all my work is done…I’m going home. And I do not care one tiny little bit if other departments can’t get their work done on time. Nor do I care if they can’t be bothered to ask me for information during normal business hours. And if a boss told me that they wanted me to put in “after hours face time” even if I don’t have actual work to do…I’d be looking for another job.

      That doesn’t mean I’ll never work extra hours if something truly needs to be done. I just tend to choose jobs where that’s relatively rare…because while my work is important to me, my life outside the office is important, too. And I’m not going to sacrifice that for frivolous reasons…and “be around just in case they need something” and “it looks bad otherwise” are, to me, frivolous reasons. If other departments truly do need stuff, then work out some kind of on call schedule and compensate people accordingly.

      1. blink14*

        I agree with AnonEMoose. My department handles a major project every year that’s on a cyclical basis. The first year I was at my job for the full project timeline, my boss kept mentioning I might have to work at night or on the weekend (I’m salaried) to get it done.

        I buckled down and got it done within my normal work hours and within the project deadline. Since then, my boss has never mentioned having to work overtime on that project again. It’s a grueling few days over the course of 3 months, but I plan in advance to clear my schedule for those hard working days.

        I’m willing to check my email occasionally from home, especially during that project period, but otherwise, frankly, if I’m doing my work during my normal hours, I’m not staying late or coming in early unless its a very specific circumstance.

    3. Me*

      This can dangerously boil down to those rewarding those who 1) are more willing to kiss the bosses a$$, 2) do not have commitments outside of work, 3) are better at giving the *perception* of being a hard working employee than actually doing the work.

      “If I notice someone often stays late or comes in early and is available outside of the normal business hours to help internal clients, I’ll consider that as well, in my overall performance assessment.” This is patently unfair. For example, if two employees are otherwise equal, but one stay late sometimes and another cannot because of familial commitments, you would effectively be punishing the employee who cannot stay by rewarding the one who can. Please do not do this.

      If there is a legitimate business reason to have extended hours, then something like Karyn’s suggestion is on point. Anything else is smoke and mirrors and is a bad way to manage or run a company.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In the end, it all boils down to who steps up the most and who is willing to shine some backsides. The world isn’t fair, if you have other/more obligations, that’s going to shake out in less opportunities professionally.

        So I shouldn’t get any extra bonuses for being available? No. Sorry. I’m not ever signing off on that and thankfully neither is the majority of businesses.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I don’t think anyone is saying that availability shouldn’t be a data point. Just that it shouldn’t be the only or necessarily even a major point. There are ways of stepping up, collaborating, and/or innovating that do not necessarily involve “face time” or extra hours, and those should be weighed at least as heavily.

        2. pancakes*

          The world isn’t fair, no, but that’s a terrible reason to create unfairness oneself, or to revel in unfairness created by poor management.

        3. Myrna M*

          I think the majority of business actually disagrees with you, as evidenced even by this thread. I’m sorry you’re so poor at your job that you have to instead “shine some backsides” and just skulk around at work late in order to get promoted.
          Maybe you should take some trainings or something.

    4. MLB*

      So you would prefer someone sitting at their desk, with no work to do (because they finished it in the time allotted) to save face? I’m sorry but that’s ridiculous. If you need people available past 5, then stagger their hours. But if the work is getting done by quitting time, making them stay late for the hell of it is bullshit.

    5. Myrna m*

      Yeah sorry, this says something a bit concerning about your character, that you’re more concerned about image than actual work accomplished – and that you’d refer to your reports as “subordinates.”

      1. Airy*

        “Subordinates” is a pretty neutral word for people who work under your authority. It’s not “inferiors” or “minions” or “lackeys.” “Report” is also a merely neutral word, not particularly positive or respectful. That word isn’t the problematic part of their attitude.

        1. Myrna M*

          Yeah – you’re right. In another context it probably wouldn’t have registered as such. It just seemed to go with the general strangely entitled attitude and unreasonable expectations. But yeah, a neutral word generally.

    6. Myrna m*

      Also, I tend to think that people who work late regularly are inefficient, and don’t know how to work smart. So you might not look as great as you think you do if you’re hanging around at your desk after hours simply for the sake of “optics.”
      And I frankly think someone who is rewarding employees based on something ad frivolous as face time is not all that good at their job.

    7. HasBro*

      I agree with others that you might want to re-think this. When I worked in accounting, our busiest time was at the very end of our fiscal year, which coincided with the calendar year. We were busting our humps to get everything billed so that it would reflect well for the year, while the sales team was hanging around, partying it up… but since a lot of their clients shut down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, they didn’t have much work to do. I’d much rather they had just gone home… or elsewhere. Because, ultimately, they benefited most since our billings turned into their commissions (although we all got nice bonuses every year, so we benefited too).

    8. JSPA*

      This sounds like a coverage issue masquerading as a dedication issue. If you don’t want to arrange for coverage explicitly by shifting hours on a standard basis, maybe have a sign-up chart? Because perceptions of who’s really both there and helpful (or frankly, helpful even if not on site) after hours are notoriously open to misperception and unintentional discrimination.

  20. Lola*

    My last boss would ask for evening or weekend work as a power trip and then never respond to me until the next day after I submitted it. He wanted me to work even though he wasn’t.

    1. HasBro*

      The time I got an “urgent email” on Easter Sunday was the day I said I’d had enough …

  21. CR*

    The main reason I’m very hesitant to leave my current job, even though it frequently makes me miserable, is my amazing amount of independence and flexibility. Nobody is counting the minutes I’m in my seat. It’s such a huge benefit.

  22. mark132*

    @LW1, what I’ve seen happen with cultures like this, is often what people are looking at isn’t how long the person is at the office, but rather how late they leave. So I’ve seen people start to show up to work at 9, 10, or even later, but then stay late. So they really aren’t working more hours just leaving later. I’ve also noticed some people running errands a lot during work and taking longer lunches etc. Basically if you are measuring people staying late, that’s what you eventually will get, but that doesn’t of course equate to more productivity.

    So one of my suggestions in a situation like this is to so see if you can shift hours either officially or unofficially. So you are “stay late”.

    1. blink14*

      Yes! This is kind of like when someone is applauded for going to bed early and frowned upon for going to bed late, when they are sleeping the same amount of hours either way.

  23. KR*

    I’m so glad my current job isn’t big on face time. I have to be available during the day for general email inquiries but I’m generally trusted to make sure I work 8 hrs a day. It helps that I am completely remote and don’t work in an office with anyone from my team. I worked in a job where appearances were big and the upper management had some Feelings about when and why we were in the office even if work was being done. So annoying.

  24. Nicole*

    Watch the boundaries workmate start taking offense when you cease asking, claiming you’re not interested in her life anymore…

  25. Greg NY*

    It’s amazing to me how few bosses (and yes, I’m using that word in this case, because only “bosses” would have this mindset) understand the spirit of how salaried employment is supposed to be.

    When you are hourly, you are paid to be there at specific times (not necessarily actively working the entire time, mind you; waiting to be engaged is paid time as well). You are there all of the hours you’re paid for, but you’re there ONLY for the hours you’re paid for.

    When you are salaried exempt (salaried nonexempt, which is less common, is somewhat different), you are paid to do a set of tasks. You are there (or working remotely) as long or as short as it takes to get those tasks done. If it takes you 20 hours in a particular week (and you’re getting the tasks done effectively, not rushing through them), then hooray, you have the rest of the week off. If it takes you 60 hours, then you need to spend the 60 hours to make sure your tasks are done. The number of hours you work, in sharp contrast to hourly employees, is variable, and completely dependent on how long it takes you to complete your tasks in that given week.

    I work in a place that honors this spirit. Too often, other workplaces don’t. They expect you to find something else to do if you finish your tasks in less than 40 hours. They expect you not to leave early on such days (or come in late the next day). In my last position, I actually saw job descriptions for municipal office jobs that state “work a minimum of 40 hours a week”. There wasn’t even any being around the bush!

    You are working for a person who can’t see the forest for the trees and I would seriously reconsider whether you want to continue to do so. You deserve a lot better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t correct. There’s nothing in the law or in practice that says exempt workers can’t be held to core hours or expected to put in a full-time work schedule. Moreover, it’s generally agreed in most industries that if it regularly takes you 60 hours a week to get your work done, there’s a problem (with obvious exceptions of fields where those hours are known going in).

    2. Temperance*

      I’m only marginally a “boss”, but salaried jobs generally aren’t just focused on a single list of tasks that can be completed each day. If I finish a project, I have others floating around.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        The joke in corporate staffing is, we are never ‘done.’ We cannot be focused solely on tasks to complete and then leave once we complete them. There’s always something to do that’s related directly or tangentially to what we do. This goes for salaried and hourly folks alike.

      2. PB*

        Yep. I’ve been exempt for most of my career. All of my employers would have been fine with some flexibility in my hours, but there’s no way I could have ever worked only 20 hours in a week, unless I was taking vacation time for the other 20.

    3. MLB*

      At my job I’m salaried exempt, and I’m expected to be available for 40 hours a week. I may not be doing actual work for those 40 hours if we’re slow, but if something comes up, I need to be available. I can’t work for 20 hours and then take the rest of the time off – that’s ridiculous.

    4. Greg NY*

      Actually, I’m not disagreeing with any of you that this is the way it has become in many workplaces, I even mentioned as much. I’m simply saying, as I often do, that it isn’t the way it should be, it’s OK under the letter of the law but it violates the spirit of it. I don’t think the people that wrote the FLSA had exploitation of exempt workers as acceptable in their minds. I believe the intent of the exemption was to not nickel and dime about hours (on either end; meaning the need to punch a time clock on the employee end or the paying for every single hour on the employer end) when it’s clear that professional judgment needs to be used in the performance of one’s job and the actual time spent would vary from day to day and week to week. It’s also why those that are exempt need to be paid for a week no matter how many or how few hours they worked in any day.

      For those who truly think that the way that exempt workers are being treated is OK, why do you think it’s alright for these workers to be treated like hourly ones in areas in which it benefits the employer? Any rationale for setting full time hours (other than being on standby in case something comes up)? How about those who are exempt and still asked to punch a time clock (to actually keep track of their hours, not just to know whether or not they’re in the building for fire or other reasons)? If all that is truly OK, don’t you think that the employer should not nickel and dime PTO? To recognize the times that the employee works extended hours to meet a deadline and give them the opportunity to take it easy afterward?

      It would be one thing if the employer was consistent. But one thing I can’t wrap my head around is blatant violation of the spirit of the law.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        What you described was not the original intention of the law. If you think otherwise, I’d encourage you to go looking for a source for that.

      2. KHB*

        Sometimes “being on standby in case something comes up” – or being available to advise, assist, or collaborate with coworkers – is an important part of the job.

        At my employer, there’s no clock-punching or nickel-and-diming, but we’re expected to be around for something resembling a 40-hour week unless we’ve made arrangements for PTO. Conversely, although occasionally things take longer than expected and we put in a couple of extra hours here and there, it’s made clear that if you’re routinely working much more than 40 hours a week, you should talk to your manager about rebalancing the team’s workload. I think that’s how it should be.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Managers tend to be exempt and therefore their job isn’t simply ‘tasks’ that they could power through and get out as soon as it’s all done. They’re there to manage their team, department or other details that pop up at any given time.

      So it’s not impossible to have a shorter week when it’s planned out or if it’s a dead quiet day in the office but it’s not as simple as you want to make it out to be.

      I do think the OP’s setup is ridiculously rigid and doesn’t fit my personality at all but I certainly don’t think that there’s anything wrong in the idea that you pay someone to be there and there are often core hours and a minimum to the hours they expect you to be in the office and available for all the what-ifs.

    6. Close Bracket*

      When you are salaried exempt, you are paid to do a set of tasks.

      Somebody forgot to tell all of my employers that. Hours count for exempts, too.

    7. londonedit*

      We don’t have exempt and non-exempt where I live, but I am a salaried employee (as are most people in office jobs) and that means I’m paid to work a 37.5-hour week (which is normal in the UK). I have some flexibility over when I get to and leave work, but I still have to work a set number of hours. Some jobs allow ‘flexi time’, where for example you could work more hours on some days and fewer on others, but you still have to work your contracted hours every week. My job doesn’t have flexi time, so whether I’m in at 8:30am and leaving at 5pm, or in at 9:30am and leaving at 6pm, those are the hours I work. There isn’t really a concept of ‘finishing my work’ in my job, as it’s all ongoing all the time, but obviously some days and weeks are quieter than others. I still have to fill my time and be at work, though – I can’t say ‘Right, I’m done, off I go’.

  26. Strawmeatloaf*

    Oof. The Japanese way of working. There’s a reason that people barely have a life outside of work there. If your manager/boss hasn’t left, then you don’t leave until they do.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Now I picture OP has a cute Red Panda who pulls out her mike a metal sings about the pain of work.

      … Ask A Manager should watch this.

      1. Strawmeatloaf*

        Reminds me I need to watch the Christmas special still.

        But yeah, one of the reasons it’s so popular is how (sadly) accurate it is.

      2. Airy*

        I remember once there was a Dear Prudence letter about a difficult family situation which Prudence answered in all seriousness before an eagle-eyed reader pointed out the letter was a description of the family in The Venture Bros., down to the names. Since then I’ve wondered if I’ll see a sneaky attempt to get a summary of Aggretsuko under Ask A Manager’s radar. I would Fenneko-laugh.

        1. NerdyKris*

          Someone did it even earlier with the Simpsons, using the Marge bowling ball episode from the first season.

  27. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    LW 1 – I had a job where stated hours were 8:30-4:30

    I often arrived by 9 (the T was awful) but would often stay until well after 6. Got a new manager who constantly made passive aggressive comments about my arrival time and how he liked to come in early b/c he could get a lot done. I started carpooling with someone and started arriving at 7:45 and left at 5. When he came into my office one morning, all flustered that he “urgently needed something last night and was looking all over for you”, I told him I now arrived at 7:45 and he couldn’t have it both ways. He looked very perplexed. I guess he thought I should move a cot in.

    Same guy who told marketing director we (financial analysts) would do marketing color graphs (because it was too harrrrd for them). Same guy who had a staff meeting to announce that we would be recreating ( read: retyping) monthly computer generated reports because some managent types thought they looked messy. I told him I wasn’t a secretary and “I don’t think so”

    This was in the 80s and yes, I’m a dinosaur.

    1. Me*

      I’m a little confused. It doesn’t sound like you told your manager of your schedule change? If that’s the case, I’d be upset too. I’ve never worked a job where I could just change my hours without clearing it first.

      1. MLB*

        Yes communication was key here, but that’s kind of beside the point. Unless you’re working at a job where it requires you to be available at specific times (like a call center), managers need to stop watching the clock all the time. She came in a half hour late, yet stayed late and manager wasn’t happy. So she started coming in early and leaving on time and the manager still wasn’t happy. Can’t have it both ways.

      2. Delphine*

        If 4:30 is the end of work hours he shouldn’t have been looking for her at night for something urgent anyway…

        Our stated hours are 10-4 in the office with a 40-hour work week–so most of us work 9-5, but many opt for 8-4 or 10-6 or somewhere in between. As long as you’re in the office within the stated hours, there’s no need to inform anyone that your switching things around. It’d be strange to have to clear that with anyone.

  28. Sans*

    My boss says that and I’m updating my resume the same evening.

    I used to work at a place with flexible hours. You could work anywhere from 7. -3:30 to 10-6:30. I came in at 7, a couple worker came in at 10. We were there the same number of hours. Yet upper mgmt always noticed that she “stayed late” (her regular ending time of 7.) It was ridiculous.


      Try it the other way. I work for an east coast company and they start at 8am their time which is 7am my time.
      At 7am I’m still running around my house getting dressed and feeding the dog. My company offers flex hours, but those that arrive early seem to get more attention from management and better opportunities. I actually work better when I’m alone from 3-5pm than when I’m here from 8a-11a. I’ve offered to work from home starting at 6am, I’ve offered to coordinate my schedule if it helps the team, but darn it, flex hours means FLEX HOURS. If I work from home, I misss the commaraderie. When I drive in after morning meetings, I miss some change that occurred in the 1.5 hours it takes to get ready and drive in. When I look at the people who do come in early, here’s what I see:
      – Single
      – With partner or husband
      – No kids or dogs
      – If married with kids, the spouse is a SAHP
      – If they have a dog, the dog goes to daycare or they have a dog-walking service
      – Pay to have their house cleaned professionally

      I work so I can go out in the evenings and do stuff. I don’t work so I can go home and sit with my dog and wait for the alarm clock to ring.

      1. NACSACJACK*

        Oh and PS if I do manage to get in the office by 7am, I am usually still here at 5pm or later, so why come in early if I’m going to stay late? Confused.

      2. Close Bracket*

        here’s what I see:
        – Single
        – With partner or husband

        So, independent of partnered/unpartnered state, then?

  29. RUKiddingMe*

    OP 4 I would just stop talking about anything personal (my own included) immediately.

    I’d also say, “Sorry that’s just a little too personal. You kinda crossed a line.”

    But…I’m petty like that.

  30. in a fog*

    Ugh, I had a boss like that about 10 years ago, so I was routinely staying at work until 8 p.m. She also didn’t like it if I had the door to my office even halfway closed, even though I was in a spot where people routinely gathered to chat, because she couldn’t see what I was doing all the time. I had to update her at least twice a day on where I was with all of my projects. She freaked out once when she came in to see that I was reading a short news story, so I told her that I was taking a quick brain break between tasks, but she still didn’t like it. Given that I was still fairly new in my career, I can look back now and be proud of myself for pushing back — I asked if she was unhappy with my job performance, whether she actually thought that no one should even think about anything besides work for those 10-12 hours she expected us to be at work, etc. It was so satisfying when I was in her office and looking over her shoulder at her computer for something she wanted to show me and saw an email from her husband land in her work inbox.

    TL;DR: Get out of there. The day I left that job was seriously one of the happiest of my life.

  31. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I love having to punch a clock again. As a salaried person, who is admittedly a workaholic, I was still taken advantage of by the psychopath of a former boss. To the tune of a 12 day straight stint, wherein I was spread between my two departments while being required to be at a trade show. They dumped it on each salaried person because they knew they had to pay OT to the non-exempt staff.

    Now my boss is OTT with appreciation when I’m here late. I just laugh and tell him I’m getting paid well for my additional contributions, so I’m happy to hang around when things go sideways every once in awhile. He always stays late because he’s a late riser. Whereas I’m from a background of 7am start times and given the choice, I stuck with it. So my schedule tends to mean leaving prior to him and since he’s a reasonable adult, he knows if it’s around 4, I may or may not still be logged in. No whining or challenging my loyalty.

  32. Anon for this*

    I work for a company that is undergoing constant reorganization (to ensure stockholder dividens). Recently I was told I’ll be reporting to a different supervisor in a different office, which is about 1 1/2 hours (one way!) from my home. When I asked if I could work at a different closer office a few days a week, so I could maintain a decent work-life balance, boss said “you chose to live where you are”

    Not feeling the loyalty anymore….

    1. HasBro*

      Yeah.. you did choose to live where you are. And one of the reasons you accepted the position is because of where they are!! What a stupid response on his part!
      Our office is moving soon… to a location that is a lot better for me, but far worse for others. I fully anticipate a big pile of resignations to start flowing in any day. We are in area where there is lots of opportunities!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      How many miles is that? You can get unemployment in many places if they relocate you 50 miles from home…90 minutes leads me to believe it’s more than 50 miles but perhaps it’s a metropolis of course!!

      1. Anon for this*

        Yep, it’s about 70 plus miles. The kicker is that I’ve been working on high profile projects the past few years – and due to loss of personnel and upper mismanagement, I’m the only one who knows how to handle those accounts.

        So if I go, a number of projects will fail unless they hire some very expensive consultants, which will still result in expensive catching up and missed deadlines. I’m still reeling from this, and not sure which way I’ll jump.

        1. jb*

          You sound like you have lots of desirable experience, and should be able to find a job that’s closer to where you’ve chosen to live.

        2. Anon for this*

          Thanks for the confirmation from y’all. I’m going to polish up the resume this weekend and start looking around. I’m feeling a bit better already!

          1. Alexander*

            I would be mad if they move half a mile further from the train station where we’re located right now, but 70+ miles? get out of there FAST.

        3. CatMintCat*

          They made their choice to re-organise, they must have realised that this change would put them at risk of losing you. Do what’s best for you (I wouldn’t be surprised that if you quit, suddenly there’s room to negotiate).

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Oh I bet they’re shocked and feel horribly betrayed when Anon resigns. For jerk-bosses who will do things like this, loyalty doesn’t flow down to their employees, it only flows up.

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You deserve to be respected and utilized properly! Ef these gremlins, start looking for jobs. You don’t have to quit without anything lined up by any means but this commute will kill you mentally after awhile. Unless they’re paying you in truckloads of gold bars, they did it to themselves by mistreating you.

        5. WellRed*

          It’s not your problem if projects fail after you leave ir they incur expenses. Go ahead and look around for a company that treats you better.

  33. Workfromhome*

    Was an exempt employee at a company years ago where the president was a real “Richard”. The office had an alarm system and we each had a code to disable it /enable it if we came in early or left late. He used to look at the logs for the alarm to see who was the last to leave. I know this because I had a presentation the next morning and the data I needed was not provided to me until late ion the afternoon 9days after it was required). So I stayed late to get it all done and left the office at midnight. After the presentation it was mentioned they I looked tired because I had been at the office till after midnight leaving things to the “last minute”.
    Fortunately now I’m exempt but have a 37 hour work week. The place is a ghost town after closing. My boss will often come to me on Fridays or before holidays or vacation and say “Why don’t you get out of here early? Anything that’s not done can wait”. :-)

    1. Myrna M*

      That’s awesome. Your boss now, that is. That’s the kind of attitude that inspires loyalty and makes you want to work even harder.

  34. casinoLF*

    I think if the boss wanted me to work late and I had nothing to do, I’d occasionally bring something to do. Bring the week’s mail pile or some stuff from home you need to shred. Catch up on correspondence. Read a book in your browser (my favorite downtime trick). But that’s if you really have nowhere to be, because otherwise that’s incredibly annoying.

  35. desktroid*

    For LW1, that mentality has to suck. I’ve been lucky enough, in the military for my first career, to often have bosses who would say “If you’ve got nothing to do, don’t do it here” (within reason). And for the last six years, in a huge civilian company (4000 people at the main site and 7000 worldwide) there is massive flexibility and a lot of pragmatism.

    We do have 40 hours to do and we have core hours Mon – Thu, and we can leave at noon on Fridays if we’ve got the 40 hours. And even within that there’s a great deal of flexibility as long as we get the work done. This includes working from home if necessary and/or possible. After reading this site (I only discovered it about a month ago) I now know that I am bloody fortunate.

  36. Quickbeam*

    I seem to be the only person here who works in a place where hours in the seat matters more than just about anything. I am a full time salaried professional consultant and I open the office at 6 AM to take early calls from the east coast. I leave at 3:30 PM every day, a walk which is accompanied by “half day???” and various snarky remarks. My job does involve a lot of internal face to face contact. It s actually an excellent job save for that. As I retire in 2 years it isn’t my hill to die on. But I’d love to be able to leave when the work is done……

  37. cactus lady*

    I work in an office with “core hours” of 8:30-5, but my particular position (which is salaried) requires occasional arriving early (7am or earlier) and staying late (as late as midnight sometimes). My boss still requires me to be at my desk 8:30-5, no matter what else is going on (of note, I’m his only salaried employee). If I have a morning thing from 7-12, I still have to stay until 5, even if it’s for weeks at a time. Or if I have an evening thing until midnight, I’m still expected to be here at 8:30, and work straight through. There is no arriving late or leaving early under any circumstances, which usually turns into me sitting at my desk reading AAM for most of the afternoon because there’s nothing really urgent to do on days like that.

    When he hired me on, he said he was looking for someone long-term, but this aspect of the job is not inspiring me to stay long at all.

  38. VX34*

    Charge hours, charge hours, charge hours.
    There was no such thing as an 8 hour day in the professional field I was in. And the idea of working 11 or 12 hour days during the week to avoid weekend work was thought of as ludicrous.

    I don’t, and will not miss it, now that my industry is much more in line with normal workdays.

  39. MistOrMister*

    I was passed over for a promotion at one job and when I asked why was told the other person routinely stayed late (we were both hourly). I pointed out that I hadn’t been made aware that OT was available and was told I should have asked. It also made no difference that I was leaving on time after having conpleted all my work for the day and my coworker was staying late to conplete LESS work. When they promoted him they placed him over me and said since he didn’t know what he was doing it was best he work over someone who wouldn’t need him as a resource. He eventually got switched to another team and drove out his co-coordinator because of how little work he did while dumping the lion’s share on her. Needless to say, that place had a lot of turnover….

    1. Workerbee*

      This is the kind of thing that makes me think (mostly jokingly) that I’ve been going at my career all wrong: I should do less and appear to know less, so I can get promoted like the vast majority of the I’m Important Enough To Have an Office incompetents I work with…

      For any “What?? You’re LEAVING?” gasp-ers I encounter as I head out the door at 4 p.m. (and always at a decibel to turn heads), I sail back at them with a “Why do you come in SO LATE?” and cite how I’m usually in by 6:30 a.m. That usually confounds them enough to stop the commentary for awhile (but it resets, alas).

  40. cheluzal*

    4: I’d be pulling back from this one. Co-worker sounds like one who would go to HR about being “offended” by the personal questions…

  41. Marika*

    I had a college teaching job like this. We were required to be in from 9-5, five days a week… unless our classes started before or ended after those times, of course. But, 40 hours present, no matter what. Only, in the fall term I had a 125% load (I taught 5 sections instead of 4) and in the winter I had a 75% load. So in the fall, I was in by 7:20 four days a week and not out before 6:30 any days (and we’re not going to discuss the marking… I was a WRITING professor – the marking was endless). It’s a salaried slot- no overtime. In the winter term, I only had classes four days a week (I still was in at 7:20 three of them) but I was REQUIRED to be in that desk on Tuesdays from 9-5…. Really? Why? I’m half as productive in a shared office with three colleagues all holding office hours; my students aren’t going to show for office hours on a non-class day when I’ve got scheduled hours before or after every single class; and, honestly, winter in a large Alberta city when you don’t have a car can be an ‘interesting’ commuting experience. But be there we had to be. Rules for the sake of rules…

  42. ..Kat..*

    LW 2. What on earth is the boss’ mother doing that she needs hours of assistance per week?

  43. agnes*

    ugh, I worked for a guy who thought full time was a “minimum” of 40 hours per week. He once wanted me to make someone take an hour of vacation to get to 40 hours, even though the woman had worked waaaay over 40 hours for about 6 weeks in a row! He often boasted that no one worked as much as he did and I began thanking him for his service. (I know kind of being a smart a$$) Glad I don’t work there any more. I have a great job now and a boss that appreciates how much I do AND who makes me take time off when I have worked a lot in previous weeks.

  44. nnn*

    What I would say (not saying this is a good idea, but it’s what would come out of my mouth) is a cheerful, oblivious “Work on what?”

    If everything’s getting done on time, there’s nothing that needs working on after hours.

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