My working hours (as a software developer and team lead) was pretty OK, 9 to 6 every day with some overtime occasionally necessary. Pretty standard stuff.

A few months ago a new coworker got hired and, after a first period where he worked like the rest of the team, he started to get more and more passionate about the product. Management noticed that he was so enthusiast about the business and they promised him a promotion at the first possible occasion, something that was not easily rewarded to anyone on the team before.

He got even more motivated and started to work an insane amount of hours, even 12 per day, occasionally doing some work also during the weekends. His output is not bad but he is obviously starting to also add a bit of technical debt, maybe not enough to be concerned about that anyway.

Management loves this. He is now seen as a role-model for the other employees. If he does this, why can't everybody else do the same? A request to stay late a few months ago was seen as a sacrifice by the employee, now it's basically a given. Anybody who question some aspects of the product is now seen as a complainer since he accepts to add new features without ever offering any remotely contrary opinion.

How can I convey to management that this is not a healthy practice and that it will affect him, and the team?

  • 108
    Of course management loves this; it's basically free work for them. And holding him up as a role model starts a subtle workplace pressure for everyone else to meet this standard. It's the start of a toxic workplace environment.
    – fbueckert
    Nov 22, 2017 at 14:30
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  • Related Dilbert: dilbert.com/strip/2015-08-03 Nov 22, 2017 at 16:46
  • *He got even more motivated and started to work an insane amount of hours, even 12 per day, * --- can you define "insane amount of hours"? Is he actually doing 12 hours per day every day? Or, is he doing, for example, 9 hours a day and once in a while 12 hours? I think your definition of "insane amount of hours" is important.
    – user45269
    Nov 22, 2017 at 17:30
  • @Gnat, not a duplicate as it's asking for different perspectives. The duplicate is from the point of an employee being asked to do more work like their colleague. This one is asking how to show the colleague doing more work is causing harm to the colleague
    – Draken
    Nov 23, 2017 at 8:18

9 Answers 9


Every once in a while you'll run into someone like that, for whom work is their life.

I've always had passions and hobbies outside of work, and long ago came to understand that I'll never share that attitude. I don't feel guilty about it, but I also understand why that mentality is attractive to management.

I learned that the hard way at my first job. Our senior dev left, and my manager chose to promote my team-mate to the position despite the fact that he had a lot less education, or experience than me. In fact, I was sort of mentoring the guy, yet he got the raise and the promotion. The reason why is because he had moved there from out of town to get the job, and management knew that his financial concerns would make him think twice before switching jobs (especially after offering him money he couldn't possibly get somewhere else with his experience level).

I was upset for a bit, then realized that it was simply good sense for them to "buy his loyalty" in that manner. I had a lot more employment options, and they knew I would likely not stick around. Why promote someone who's likely to leave only a few years later?

That's the way the world works, and you shouldn't take it personally. It'll also be very difficult to communicate to management that this is "unhealthy". They're probably aware! But they're also reaping in the benefits of this person's obsession. Why do you think they're promising him a raise? They're buying his loyalty.

They know that you won't put in weekends, even if they were to give you a raise (you have family, friends, and hobbies you wish to engage with). But this guy is destroying his health for the mere promise of a promotion/raise. You can't compete with that.

You should still, however, bring it up to your boss. I would spin the issue as one of oversight. Explain that this new teammate is making decisions, and implementing code without team oversight, and that this will have unexpected, and likely unpleasant consequences down the line.

If the issue is raised of why the rest of the team does not exhibit similar levels of "commitment", I would clearly communicate that one of the reasons you like your position so much is the excellent life-work balance it offers you, and leave it at that. If you're asked to work late a particular evening, don't be afraid to push back:

Would those hours be paid as overtime, or offered as extra vacation to be taken at a different time, boss?

You may want to speak to your team-mates about presenting a unified front to management. If one person is going to simply fold and start working unpaid overtime, then others will have a much less tenable position when it comes to pushing back against those requests.

If you start noticing that the company is taking a definite turn for the worst as far as the expectation of working for free is concerned, you may wish to start looking for a new job, as management is clearly too greedy and self-serving to give a damn about you.

  • 1
    Apart from this, you might want to have a talk about the new coworker. Not about that your reputation suffers from this, but that working that much has results short term, but long term will result in a burnout.
    – Martijn
    Nov 22, 2017 at 15:24
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    @Martijn - I believe that management is well aware of the issue. However, they're getting obsessive dedication in return to nothing substantial (purely a promise). They have no real interest in this person adopting a more "balanced" schedule. Sure, he may burn out, but they will have reaped the benefits. They might even inspire a second burst by actually giving him a modest raise! I don't think this is a conversation that an underling should really be having with his boss on behalf of another employee. The boss is most likely aware, and lacks the moral fiber to act in that person's interest.
    – AndreiROM
    Nov 22, 2017 at 15:29
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    I'm that guy. At my new job I've been averaging over 50 hours a week despite an hour of daily commute time. But I still work out or hike 5 days a week, always eat dinner with family, help with homework, and stay at home on weekends, etc. It's easy to work significantly more than 40 hours a week and still have a healthy life, if you are organized and disciplined. The reason I do this is I enjoy my job (mostly), but more importantly, I have a very high level of personal pride. And in my case, I'm not creating technical debt, but cleaning up a ton while still moving the product forward. Nov 22, 2017 at 23:43
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    @RandyHill Why would personal pride mean you regularly work longer hours? It seems orthogonal to me. Doing more in less time is something to take pride in. Doing more in more time doesn't seem to be to me. I hope it's clear to your management that you are working 50 hours a week: both for your sake if you ever need to reduce your hours to the "standard" amount or if a "crunch time" comes and they are confused why you aren't producing any more, and for the manager's sake so they can properly estimate the resources required to fill in for you when you take vacation or are otherwise unavailable. Nov 23, 2017 at 4:41
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    @AndreiROM If the employee isn't following process, then hours worked is irrelevant. If he is, then there is no "oversight" issue to bring up. Nov 23, 2017 at 4:53

I think I’ll have to split your Question in two parts:

  1. Your new colleague and your management have different deal.

    That one, in particular likes to show his dedication by putting in a lot of hours. He is encouraged to do so by management. This is between them. It is not about you, you are not part of that transaction! He can work as much as he wants, for as little money as he wants.

    You can try to counsel the management, that this is not a healthy way to manage the workforce, but unless you are recognized as an authority for these topics in your company, there is little you can do to make them listen to you.

  2. They suddenly expect more from you.

    You had a deal, delivered your service and got some money out of it. Now, they expect you to deliver more, for the same money.

    You just have to make it clear that you don´t follow that. If they are still willing maintain your 40-hour-contract, and respect it´s boundaries, fine. If they suddenly only want 60-hour workers, you no longer have a matching of interests - they need to find someone else. It’s better to clear that up once and for all, than to halfway put up with it for months to come, with the same end result.

Now there are two possible outcomes:

  1. You keep your pace, and your job, steadily doing your part as before. The other ones excitement will probably result in burnout and frustration down the road. Everything will calm down to normal. You will be seen as the reliable one in the end.

  2. Management decides to change everything. From now it is 60-hour weeks. They will probably have to deal with their mistakes some time in the future. You can do nothing to save them. Luckily, you won´t be there anymore when everything falls apart.

Edit: I also see you have other problems as well, namely the quality of work resulting from your colleagues attitude (buildup of technical debt) and the change of tone in management. I suggest you address them in different questions or search this site, as there are answers to these kind of problems already. Remember to not blame your colleague for things that really lie in your managements responsibility, even if he may be the catalyst for them to change their views.

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    Yes, point 2 in particular is the correct answer here.
    – Fattie
    Nov 22, 2017 at 15:15
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    Ok, so for those subtle requests, just stay professional and do your thing. If you have something meaningful to say to a request, do it. If they see you as a complainer, that´s their problem. If he creates problems by doing stupid changes instead of challenging the request, point out the problems and ask management how to handle them.
    – Daniel
    Nov 22, 2017 at 16:32
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    Management people on SE should read your answer, if they are not already aware of the points you have mentioned in your answer. Nov 22, 2017 at 17:29
  • 2
    Part 1 here - it's not your problem, don't meddle. If this guy is happy working 60 hours, it's fine.
    – bluescores
    Nov 22, 2017 at 19:32
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    I think there's a 3rd part, actually: Anybody who question some aspects of the product is now seen as a complainer since he accepts to add new features without ever offering any remotely contrary opinion. => this sounds like a hodgepodge in the making. Nov 23, 2017 at 10:06

The new employees motives are irrelevant.

The BEHAVIOR is unhealthy both to him and to team balance.

What you need to express to management is that this is going to hurt them in the long run. The new employee is either going to get burned out, or bitter, at the same time this is going to damage team morale.

Say something like:

Boss, the new guy is working like a house on fire, but I am concerned that his hours and level of output are unsustainable. I think it would be better for him and the team if we started to hold back his hours a bit. If he ends up burning out, the team will take a major hit. Also, I've noticed that the morale on the rest of the team is suffering because we simply don't have the free time to stay here that he does. Please consider this, for all parties concerned.

  • These were my thoughts the first few weeks I noticed this shift in the dynamics of the office. But at the moment it doesn't really look like that. The guy and management are superhappy. Talking with my boss about this is not super easy because he's now much more closer to this new guy than me. Nov 22, 2017 at 15:10
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    You don't know his behavior is unhealthy. I average over 50 hours a week, not counting an hour of daily commute time and still work/hike out 5 times a week and spend time with my family. I do this because I'm making great contributions to my project and it energizes me. I don't expect anyone else to work my hours. Nov 22, 2017 at 22:40
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    If this doesn't work, the next best solution is to let the guy climb the ranks and hit a barrier that is far, far from you.
    – insidesin
    Nov 23, 2017 at 0:59
  • This is almost great, except Randy is spot on (I'm the same) plus the chat with the boss should/must include some mention of the increasing technical debt, which is a real, practical, tangible problem sometimes hard to describe to management but always ultimately something they need to care about. Nov 23, 2017 at 18:14

I am going to offer a very different view from the general consensus I am seeing in other answers.

If you were a bricklayer and other bricklayers in town loved their jobs more (and had no families waiting for them in the evenings), and were willing to provide 50% more output for the same price, isn't that just their competitive advantage? Is caring whether this is unhealthy for them relevant at all?

Everyone's circumstance and ability is different. Someone is tired and completely nonproductive after lunch, another person might sit focused for 8 hours straight and produce 1000% above average.

If you are not willing to work more than the contracted 40hrs/week (or do not have the extra skills to be more efficient to be able to deliver more while not working overtime): don't. If management insists, tell them there are enough programming jobs (or that they are breaking the law).

The pressure you feel from management is strictly psychological, and they like to use it to their advantage. Not everyone has to be a top performer. If you're not willing to put in extra effort to be perceived as "the best", just don't.

Output = Ability * Effort

This person is providing more output by putting in more effort.

If someone was delivering significantly more than everyone else while working the same hours, would you still complain it's unhealthy?

And last note: Don't try to apply some "politics" (talking to management his stance is unhealthy) to hinder the top performer's success - that's exactly what toxic workplaces do. Let him have his work pace and enjoyment derived from it. If it proves to be ultimately unhealthy for him, it's none of your business. If he ends up being successful (e.g. by moving to better paid roles much faster than everyone else), again none of your business.

  • I fully agree with your answer as the most sensible course of action in most of the cases. Maybe my perspective is a little bit different here because I'm the team lead and I really care about the project I'm leading. I would hate to see it going south because of a completely avoidable mistake. Nov 23, 2017 at 11:11
  • I couldn't agree more.
    – Ian Newson
    Nov 23, 2017 at 16:38
  • I totally agree, in a mature workplace/environment that's how it should be. The challenge in most workplaces is that there is a stacked ranking to do performance appraisal, it creates a zero-sum situation for everyone else, and pushes an average performer off the curve. But even in such a scenario there is nothing anyone can do.
    – amritanshu
    Nov 24, 2017 at 5:52
  • or that they are breaking the law this more than anything. In the US most states don't allow any employee to be forced to work over 40 hours... PS - If his pace is actually unhealthy, it'll more than likely show up in his work product. 1 sleepy mis-placed comma can cause more than a days worth of trouble down the road.
    – ebyrob
    May 28, 2020 at 15:08

The issue here is not the fact that the new worker is working a lot, or that the other members aren't meeting the same times.

The major issue here - the one that the OP and all of us should be concerned about - is the lack of compensation for the value added.

Don't talk to your management. Other answers are correct; if they haven't done something about this, they won't. You should talk to the new employee directly.

The conversation you'll have is not about work-life balance, or cutting hours. You need to tell him and teach him to negotiate. Hopefully, this person is keeping a detailed log of the accomplishments he's making on the team. Right now he's working for a promise, and that's the bad thing; he's providing a lot of value to the company for little gain. That's not fair to this person as a developer, and it reflects badly on us in our industry. (I know, because I've been in the position where I worked a lot. I got little for it.)

If he wants to work a lot, that's fine! Make sure that he gets tangible return on the investment that he is making. This will help the employee, and it will also help your cause. If he is not getting a tangible return on his investment, he's screwing himself and by extension he's screwing your team.

TL;DR: Let him work. Teach him to negotiate, and help him get better compensation NOW.


In many workplace environments (not just IT) established employees warn newbies not to work too fast (more productively) than the team -- because it makes the team look bad and leads to increased expectations. Example: the plumber who is told to take X amount of hours to do a certain job, not less. Could you "gang up" on the new guy and tell him to back off? (Answer: probably not, not without starting a major battle with management.)

If the new guy loves his job, of course he's going to want to keep on doing it. This is especially true in IT, which I (and many others) find fascinating. When I graduated college and started work, it was like taking my favorite subject (from school) all day long. I quickly built up a reputation for doing the difficult/impossible. (I was even jokingly asked if I could write a program to make money. "Sure" I quipped, "give me your check forms.")

In one environment I learned that the full-time staff was actively sabotaging the system to make their company dependent on late-night rescue sessions (job security). I came in (as a consultant) and started cleaning things up -- making their teleprocessing system rock-steady. The full-time staff ganged up on me, made me look bad, and got me fired.


There's literally nothing you can do.

You know how consumer markets are driven by what people are willing to pay? It works both ways. You are competing for your own job at this point, this dude is changing the paradigm and it is, as you've seen, moving the needle further from center.

Honestly the only thing I can recommend is clocking in and getting back to work.


As was said you should talk with your coworkers to try to be united. It'll be much easier if its everyone else vs him.

You could also try to make sure that management understands that if the rest of the team doesn't want to work more than 40 hrs/week and they try to force them they will lose people. Then they will have to hire someone new which incurs recruiting costs and training costs. If this happens to everyone there will no longer be anyone who can train the new people and then they will have to relearn everything on their own, costing more. Plus they are most likely either going to have to increase salary, to get new people to stay, or accept people with less skill, adding even more costs. (I'm counting lowered output as a cost.)

Another thing is that as you said he is adding technical debt. It might not be enough to be concerned about now but what about when its required to work that hard and people start making mistakes from being overworked? They need to know that even if, and stress if, he is fine with it and can keep up the pace he is an exception not a rule and forcing everyone else to keep up that pace will introduce mistakes.

You need to convince them that in the long run it will have consequences.

  • 1
    When I managed development teams, I never required anyone to work more than 40 hours, except during crunch times. Even then I'd join the team for after-hours sessions so they knew I wasn't asking them to do anything I wouldn't do, and I'd give them comp time. I'm a strong believer in "sharpening the saw", that personal time is important for making better, more committed team members. But that said, if someone on my team tried to organize employees to push their own viewpoint of how we should work, I'd be very upset and your tenure would be in jeopardy. Talk to me directly, don't undermine me. Nov 22, 2017 at 23:46

There is one little trick, you actually can use, depending on the laws you are falling under according to the country of your employment.

Long story short, in some countries(e.g. US) it is illegal to work voluntary overtime, so all job has to be paid no matter what. If you country is one of those with strict laws about working hours, you surely can bring up to your management that they are breaking the law and than you can operate depending on this. You may even point out that if your management all employees to work paid overtime, why don't they just hire a few more guys, so they will work for that money. It's obvious that 5workers*8hours/day are more productive than 4workers*10hours/day, just because of human factor.

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    I am not sure for the US, but to me, as engeener I work for a daily basis, with an expected daily time. So I am not paid per hours, but per days. This give us however quite some flexibility, I can work 10h a day and then only 6 day the following.
    – Walfrat
    Nov 23, 2017 at 10:10
  • @Walfrat I know this info from another workplace.stackexchange question :) workplace.stackexchange.com/a/28270/76871
    – fixerlt
    Nov 23, 2017 at 10:14

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