I work as software engineer on a company, since the very first day this company was founded.

My company is pretty much growing I think, at first we have only 6 employees, now we have around 80 people. Lot of things are changed, basically it becomes better in lot of stuff: salary, workplace, infrastructure, more clients, etc.

But there are few things which are not becoming better days after days, even after almost 4 years since the company founded.

  1. There is a habit, usually PM (Project Manager) tells the engineer to work on new task/work/issues right after office hours, and the PM expect this issue has to be completed before tomorrow morning (usually because client request, they wanted it to be completed soon enough).

    This kind of stuff often happen, at least twice a week. At the beginning I'm quite ok with this, since it's start up after all, but now after almost 4 years, this kind of habit still there, I saw lot of friends work until late night almost everyday, and I think it's NOT OK.

  2. The work assignment is not equal (my opinion), even there are around 70 engineers, sometimes the experienced engineers assigned into multiple project parallelly, two or three project at once.

    I think it's quite normal for senior engineer to have heavier work compared to the junior one, but assigned to multiple project parallelly? (let says like 4 projects at once) I don't know about this, I think this one is definitely not okay.

    This stuff is also the one that causing engineer to work overtime, because the work on multiple projects have to be finished soon.

In my company, there is no overtime pay, and there is no project bonus (sometimes there is, but mostly it's not). This is yet another reason why it's hard for me to work after office hours. But the salary is quite good compared to the other company in same region.

Sometimes whenever I get the email at midnight telling me to do the work, I got angry, and it makes me really wants to leave this company.

How should I do to fix those points? or what should I do? Especially point 1, since I'm married now, it makes me difficult to work after office hours. I'm trying to avoid it.

  • 5
    What happens if you say "sorry. I'm off the clock; I'll pick this up the moment I get back to office."?
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 6:30
  • 2
    "Sometimes whenever I get the email at midnight telling me to do the work..." - Just because you get a work e-mail at midnight does not mean you have to start working on it right then. He probably meant to start on it during your next shift. If it was an emergency that needed midnight attention (e.g. business critical servers down), it should be through telephone and an abnormal event.
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 7:22
  • 9
    Just don't read work emails in your free time (and let the company know you don't do that).
    – user8036
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 8:49
  • 2
    What does it says in your contract about working overtime or off-hours?
    – user8036
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 8:50
  • 1
    What do you actually want to do / accomplish? What kind of resolution are you hoping for? And you may want to remove question 2 as it's rather beside the point (and frankly not at all uncommon or problematic).
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 11:35

3 Answers 3


By not pushing back on these (frankly unreasonable) requests you are actually perpetuating the problem - the "habit" as you call it has persisted for nearly four years at least in part because you allow it to.

Pushing back doesn't need to be done harshly or in a confrontational manner - when you get a request after hours you can reply back that you will get started on that first thing in the morning when you are back in work. This subtly points out what should be obvious - that you are no longer at work and therefore are no longer working. But you aren't saying "no" or refusing to work on the task - but instead you are accepting the assignment and agreeing to work on it as soon as is reasonable.

The e-mails that come in at midnight I would handle slightly differently - ignore them until the morning. Then you can send a reply similar to the sort of thing I mentioned above but saying something like "I'll get started on this as soon as I get in"

If your employer is decent at a basic level they will accept this - it may take a few times for them to come around to it given the ingrained nature of the culture at this stage but they should come around. If they don't then start job hunting because abusive employers like that, while thankfully in the minority, don't change and you don't want to be working for them anyway.


The uncomfortable truth I have to start with is

You trained this behavior of your supervisor.

At the beginning I'm quite ok with this, since it's start up after all, but now after almost 4 years, this kind of habit still there, and I think it's not OK.

It happened that you were given additional work off the clock, and you did finish that work off the clock. You did not bring this up as a problem because you did not see it as one at the time. Now the situation has changed for you. Maybe even your supervisor has changed and you did not actually "train" this person. But they followed the status-quo, which was that you would do work off the clock without complaint.

Other people who came in later were never expected to do that. That can have multiple reasons. Maybe the new supervisors would not come up with this themselves, but still "use" it with people that seem "used to" it. Maybe their supervisors tried to do the same, but they just did not do the work before being back on the clock. So things did not get done, but as there was no way to enforce others to do the same thing, the people who had been working off the clock before would always end up getting those tasks that suddenly "need to be done instantly" after hours.

You have two options.

Actively bring it up. Talk to the people who ask this of you. Explain your point. Maybe offer them to occasionally be there for them if it is a real emergency if you feel like doing that. This is the more confrontational approach. Do not bring up the "others don't have to do that" argument, at least not early in the discussion. Bring up that you like the company, you feel like a valued employee (if you do) most of the time, but you cannot keep this way of working up. If this approach will get a positive reaction does depend on the people you are dealing with.

The second option is: Untrain them

Read the after hour emails. Judge to your best ability how important and urgent the task is. If the task is important and urgent enough and you feel like it is worth your extra time, do it. If the task is important, but not urgent enough, answer the email with information that you will be getting on it "first thing tomorrow morning" and add your favorite pleasantries of "have a nice evening". If you get complaints about this behavior this will need a meeting with the boss of whoever is trying to dump the work on you too late. I am sure you are not responsible for the fact that the problem revealed itself so late in the day. If the task is neither important nor urgent I would honestly ignore it until the next day. I am not obliged to read my work emails after hours, so anyone who tries to reach me like that at that time needs to count in the possibility that I will not read it at all before being back at the office the next workday. People do have a life. This change in your behavior can (if done consistently) untrain the learned "this person will do whatever we ask whenever we ask" of your supervisor. If it does not, you might have to either be more consistent, crank up your rules for what you still will do after hours (maybe you are still doing it too often) or bounce back on option 1 and be confrontational about it.

I have tried both. I have failed with both. Not failed badly, but not had the effect I hoped for. Whenever I had failed with one option, the other one did work though. The second is my favorite, but it takes more time. Sometimes you don't have that time and need change instantly. Some people also do not get hints.

EDIT: I need to add something I forgot about. Sometimes you need to untrain yourself first to make option 2 work. This meant for me to not read the emails some evenings of the week. That enforced the trust in me that while I will still get those emails, the world does not break down in one night, even if I don't read my emails. I would not do so when I knew that important things might come up (end stage of projects), but on normal weeknights where I could have been busy otherwise anyway.


Anger is good. It is a signal telling you that change is imperative. The trick is to channel the anger into productive rather than destructive change. Recognize that you are a prisoner to the culture of your organization, yet ironically you also helped create it. Culture is about expectations. You trained your manager over 4 years to expect certain behaviors from you. Likewise, he trained his boss to expect certain behaviors from him. Over time, patterns emerged because they repeatedly produced the desired outcome. You all now act in predictable ways regardless of whether those ways are the best. If nothing changed, these patterns would continue to suffice. But change is inevitable. For example, you got married (congratulations!), and your preferred lifestyle is not attainable given the current patterns. Because you feel confined, it is highly likely your morale and engagement are down, and therefore that your creativity, teamwork, and productivity are also suffering. Therefore, change is imperative not only for your personal benefit but also the company’s. So, how to reset your boss’s expectations of you? Firmly but meekly, in the attitude of an experiment. Consider this approach:

  • Select a symbolic change and make a commitment: “I will not take work requests after 6 PM.” Practice this commitment for two straight weeks.
  • Inform your manager in advance, including the start date. He may express concern over lost productivity or even anger or incredulity. Reiterate why this important to you, reassure him of your commitment to learn how to maintain your performance in fewer hours, and ask for his support. Setup time in two weeks to review the results of the experiment.
  • Shut off your phone every night at 6 PM, at least for this two-week trial period.
  • At work each morning, check your messages. Physically walk to your manager’s desk and either thank him for the lack of evening requests or acknowledge any requests and assure him you are now on task. (This is important; physically approaching him each day will keep you out of a reactive/victim state and ensure active communication, which is key to learning your way to new behavior and expectations).
  • At the end of the trial period, reflect on these types of questions in writing, then with your manager:

    • How easy or difficult was it to keep my commitment, and why?
    • What was the impact on my job performance?
    • What was the impact on my relationship with my wife?
    • What was the impact on my relationship with my boss, coworkers, and reports?
    • What was the impact on my engagement at work and overall happiness?
    • What will I continue, or how will I amend this commitment?

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