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Good evening everyone! I am an Italian guy which graduated in computer science last April (cum laude, saying this just to give a bit of context). The day after the graduation, I began work interviews (10+ in total in two weeks) and I received contract proposals by each interviewer but one - so I can say I had some choices for my first real workplace.

I finally choose a small startup-like unit which is property of a big consultancy holding (4500+ employees). This unit is in charge of maintaining a big web application, which is then customized and sold to big clients.

This units is composed 3 full-time developers (I am the fourth), a (project) manager, a community-manager-like figure, and two peoples managing the economic side of everything.

We are paid daily, and no overtime is accounted, ever. The reason for this is because there is a "flexible timetable", so enter and exit from the building are not registered. In the end this means that everyone works at least 20-30 mins free each day (not only in my unit). I am fine with that.

My real problem is that my colleagues almost never stop working. They come to the office, sometimes don't even eat (or eat a sandwich in front of the computer), work until 6.30-7pm, then go home and work from home till night. They also work 6-9 hours in the weekend. This is because we have absurd deadlines set by the manager, which does this in order to "win" clients.

My biggest concern is that colleagues (who also are nice guys - and taught me a lot these two months) don't question this way of managing things; in fact they say things like "this is the world of consultancy", "you have to do this as a form of responsibility" etc. I think they don't do this because whey are "workaholics", but because they feel compelled to. For me this way of reasoning is absurd: I DO want to work and I am not trying to make excuses in order to do less than required (in fact I usually do 8.50-6.30 with less than an hour lunch, and try to be productive to the maximum, even if I am still a newbie), but I value my free time a lot and in no way I want to sacrifice it systematically if it's not strictly required by a contingency.

I'd think every person in the world would value his/her free time a lot, but evidently for my colleagues it's not like that. I am afraid that this difference in mindsets will soon compromise my situation and the way they see me. For example, I've been moved to another project recently, and one of my colleagues, when we were making a quick daily report today, asked me if I could "finish things in the evening". I didn't know what to answer.

What would you do? I feel pressured by the situation.

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closed as off-topic by enderland, gnat, Garrison Neely, Jan Doggen, jcmeloni Aug 5 at 18:05

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I don't think I am in the position to explain anything to them. I am a junior, they have from 2 to 4 years of experience. Sometimes we had this talk at coffee break and when I express my opinion they look at me like I am some sort of alien. –  Pierre Aug 4 at 19:42
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Is daily pay the norm for Italian professional jobs? as opposed to salaried. Are you on different terms from the parent consultancy. Don't forget that the working time directive applies in the EU. –  Pepone Aug 4 at 22:01
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comments removed: Please don't use comments to answer questions as this may prevent others from providing full, complete answers that the community would vote on. Please see How should I post a useful non-answer if it shouldn't be a comment? for more guidance. –  jmort253 Aug 5 at 6:54

6 Answers 6

You mentioned these people suggest that this is just what the world of consultancy is like.

I work as a consultant in a large, very successful international consulting company. We do not work hours like this as standard. We stick to our 40 hour weeks. There are the rare occasions where we do some hours of overtime, but those occasions are kept rare. We are, in fact, specifically trained to manage our communication with others so that we do not end up in situations where we have to do this.

Working hours like you're describing is not a part of consulting. It's a part of that specific company's culture. It's probably not unreasonable to suggest this company is taking advantage of or exploiting its workers. This isn't healthy or profitable for anyone:

  • The employees are likely to burn out from, well, what sounds like a total absence of work/life balance. This is bad for the business.
  • If you're making $25 an hour, that's neat. But if you're paid for a 40-hour work week, then work 78 hours (12 hours × 5 work days, plus 18 weekend hours), suddenly you're being paid a lot less per hour. This isn't good.

So, context, I'm 24, so I'm young too, and graduated about two and a half years ago, and I joined a graduate program to work with a consulting company. I enjoy it a lot.

I strongly advise against caving and doing these long hours, because it's not going to be healthy for you. Some will say it's good to work hard to benefit yourself early in your career, but a need to work regular extreme overtime is something else entirely. Find a course of action that leads to you not being exploited for free work. You have a couple of options available for changing your circumstances.

1. The obvious one: find a new job.

I'm suggesting this first and foremost because you need a situation where your company will treat you well and not exploit you like this. That cultural change may or may not happen in your current company. I'll get to that next though.

You're a promising young graduate, and you're skilled. There are companies who will want you. My own company has a graduate program and wants new graduates.

Hiring processes tend to make you think that you're just one of many options, and that companies are picking and choosing from you, and you have to work hard to be appealing to them and you're lucky if you get chosen. In an industry like IT, though, where there's often a labour shortage and good developers are in high demand, the inverse is true too: each company is just one of many options, and you can pick and choose among them, and they should feel they have to work hard to be appealing to you and they're lucky if you, the skilled developer, chooses them. You don't have to choose a company just because it chooses you.

2. Manage your workload so as to not work long hours

We have a bunch of questions on this in and :

The bottom line is your managers shouldn't be expecting you to work such long hours, nor should your team. This is a significant ethical issue.

The details of managing your workload are long and involved, and there's a lot of subtleties with dealing with the ins-and-outs of it. But basically it comes down to this:

  1. Decide your line for yourself, such as 40 hours a week, rare overtime of a few hours acceptable in times of the company being in need. Stick to this.
  2. When you are given work, assess it. If you have 20 hours available this week, but you're given 30 hours of work and they're both expected by the end of the week, talk to the person managing your work: "So, I have these two things, but I can only do one of them. The other one I cannot do until next week. Which one do I do?"
  3. Politely and professionally decline regular overtime. You may have to do this as part of step #2. Decline to stay later, or take work home on the weekend, except in times of need. Stick to the line you drew in step #1.

In your company's culture, this may result in shock and incomprehension. It might also be really difficult in a situation where everyone believes you should be working long hours and weekends. It may also lead to a manager deciding to fire you, because they'd rather not set a precedent and they'd rather stick with employees who'll allow themselves to be exploited.

My recommendation: do both!

You should find a company that respects you — at the very least, more than this — and it's very unlikely to be this one.

Go searching for new work. In the meantime, manage your overtime with your current workplace. If they change and give you your work-life balance and you feel happy staying, you don't need to accept new work. If they don't, and they are not being easy on you, or they fire you, you already have Plan B in progress.

Bottom line is, I wouldn't accept working at your current workplace - find a new situation for yourself and do not accept this one. There is better available for you.

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+1! Working hard is one thing but you have to protect yourself. Unfortunately the young new hire is unlikely to change a company's culture by themselves. Work hard, do your best but don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of. –  Liath Aug 5 at 6:42
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Its one thing to work an extra 30 minutes to some "end of day tasks" that you think are important ( source check-in, work log, ect ) its another thing to work 2-3 hours OT every day and come in on the weekend. –  Ramhound Aug 5 at 11:46

What would you do?

Over different stages of my career, I'd give you different answers.

When I was younger, I worked very hard to get ahead. And when I worked for startups, that often meant putting in lots of extra hours on nights and weekends. I was rewarded well via salary, stock options, promotions, experience and a terrific sense of accomplishment. For me, the hours were worthwhile.

When I got older and had a family with children, I cut back a bit on the hours. I still worked a lot more than a 40-hour week, but was more judicious about when I spent the extra hours. Family time was more important. I was still rewarded with salary, stock, and other perks. This fit my personal needs well.

Now much later in my career, promotions and experience are far less important for me. Worktime flexibility is more important. I still work a lot of hours, but they are very much of my choosing. I still works some nights, but fewer weekend hours. And more often now, I get to choose where I spend those hours - in the office, or at home. It fits my family situation.

These situations all came about because I specifically sought out positions that matched the company's needs with my needs at the time. I've never worked a 40-hour job as a professional; it has seldom been less than around 50 hours. That's worked for me. When the company or job no longer fit my needs and the needs of my family, I knew it was time to move on.

A young person needs to understand what he/she is getting into when choosing a job. Every job has tradeoffs, no job is perfect, but it's important to make sure the needs of the job fit your needs as well.

It sounds like you have landed in a situation where the norm involves lots of hours. Perhaps the rewards of the position (salary, bonus, perks, opportunity, experience, etc) make that worthwhile, perhaps not. You get to decide how much your free time is worth to you. If the needs of this company don't fit your personal needs, then unfortunately you may need to look elsewhere.

Also remember, just because others are working long hours, that doesn't necessarily mean you must. Your boss is the one to look to for understanding the company culture, not your colleagues. The fact that your colleagues don't question the hours doesn't mean you cannot. Perhaps it's time to find out how your manager reacts when you work the hours you prefer, rather than the hours your colleagues choose.

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I'm an HR expert and it sounds like your company has some wage and hour issues. Are you a contractor or an employee? If employee -- you probably should be paid overtime for anything over 8 hours. If a contractor, it sounds like you are misclassified and should be treated as an employee with benefits and rights to overtime.

You may want to "softly" tell the senior manager at your company that you're happy to work hard and help the team but you don't want to violate wage and hour rules.

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In a comment posted after your answer, @Pierre states he works in Italy, so likely the HR rules are different. –  Adam V Aug 4 at 20:03
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@AdamV and the working time directive applies which in Italy appears to imply a max of 40 hours a week with no more than 12 hours a week OT –  Pepone Aug 4 at 22:05
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+1 I really like this answer. It helps avoid a direct confrontation - "I was worried that we're breaking the rules..." –  Liath Aug 5 at 6:45

We are paid daily, and no overtime is accounted, ever. The reason for this is because there is a "flexible timetable", so enter and exit from the building are not registered.

Sorry, you've got it completely wrong. Or, better said, you were misinformed on purpose. Flexible timetable doesn't mean that you don't need to register enter and exit, just the opposite. Flexible timetable means you don't have to work from 9 to 17, but either you can choose in some amount your working hours (optimistic version) or that working hours are enforced on you on the basis of the business needs (less optimistic version).

I've had always flexible timetable, that mean, if I've got to work at 8, I could leave at 16, but if I was on 10, I've had to stay until 18. Registering exit and entry times allows more flexibility, for example one day I stay 7 hours, but in the next week I made 9. Registering time on flexible timetable is necessary, because it must be checked if you've made 40 hours, or how much overtime you've made.

The scenario in which you're working is a scam. You have a contract, which states 40 hours, but you're forced/tricked into working more, not paid for overhours which is most likely criminal offence (in Germany, your manager could get really serious problems for something like that) and there's a pressure to take work home.

It must be completely clear to you, that you have no obligation to work longer as your contract/labour law states. Normally, overhours are obligatory if required (although limited, for example in Germany no overhours are allowed in 6 months period, which means that every overhour must be returned to you as free time within 6 months) but must be either paid or returned as free time.

However, the problem is the enforcement of the law. From what I know, it's quite poor in Italy and such situation is unfortunatelly normal. Juniors are expected to be exploited and trying to enforce your rights could cost you your job.

The best scenario is, leave as soon as possible, which means, as soon as you'd be able to get some 'normal' job. Don't leave just to find yourself in the same situation, although, honestly, your work is, even for Italy, much under the average, so probably every change will be for better.

Startups are often the worst employers. Especially when the labour law enforcement is poor. Of course, there are many exceptions, so there's no general rule about it.

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Generous use of bold for emphasis.... –  itcouldevenbeaboat Aug 5 at 14:19

All the above answers make sense, I just wanted to add one thing:

If you do not want to work at home and/or week-ends, never do it. Not even once. If you do it one single time, there is no coming back!

I worked in a very large bank and we discussed overtime with a top level manager. I said I was OK with my team to work long hours (but not from home) but only during short periods when it is really needed. Otherwide it causes human resources and efficiency problems (more bugs, poor quality, burnouts, nervous breakdowns).

=> His answer : You're right, I always say 'it's just money, and it's not even mine!'

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It adds to the previous answers because Pierre worte he fells "pressured" to work more and at home. It is not especially easy to resist pressure and I know a lot of collegues who said "yes but just for this time" who end up with a permanent excessive home / office workload. I have even in mind a situation where a manager asked a pregnant woman to take work at home because the doctor sent her home due to excessive workload a health risks! What I'm trying to says is : If you do not want to work at home, do not start, because you will always be asked for more. –  Guest Aug 5 at 14:00

I would say simply work as much as you're comfortable with and listen to pressures and demands of your supervisor as you would the sound of the ocean.

If you want to stop working precisely at 5, then do so. If your boss cannot deal with you working what are normal hours, they will fire you. Mission accomplished - you have extricated yourself from this negative situation.

If they don't fire you, you are now working hours that you like. Win-win.

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