Recently I started work at an R&D firm, and as I was hired one of the big selling points was the opportunity to work on diverse projects and "never get bored".

For the first two months I assumed there was some sort of learning curve so I put in long hours (12 hour days). Keep in mind I am salaried. Well it is now 3 months later and I am wrapping up a week where I worked 12-15 hours each day. I feel exhausted and it is taking all my self restraint to keep from quitting.

My boss has constantly repeated the mantra that "an 8 hour day doesn't count". I don't buy this philosophy at all, but I was willing to put in extra work for a while as I was catching up. I have become twice as productive and I still feel like I'm behind. I think part of the problem is that my boss does not allocate reasonable time for finishing tasks. Every task should take "a few hours". I spent 4 days on a "few hour" task.

Also our company has entered a competition and I am expected to put in extra time at the office "outside of normal work hours" for the competition.

My question is, how do I manage the expectation that I work more than 8 hours? I am fine putting in 10 hour days even but I am physically deteriorating as a result of my work hours right now and it is not ok.

Any insight you guys have is appreciated. Honestly just typing this out felt therapeutic. Realistically I need to keep this job for 2-3 more months before I jump back into the job market.

  • 32
    "an 8 hour day doesn't count" -> brush up your resumé and leave, for your own health.
    – Erik
    Feb 16, 2018 at 22:26
  • 9
    unless your job title is "orange", stop being squeezed and search for another job
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 17, 2018 at 6:37
  • 8
    "A 5% raise doesn't count." Feb 18, 2018 at 16:30
  • 2
    What is your compensation for putting in all this overtime? Are you eligible for equity, profit sharing bonuses, partnership? Is your salary way above market rate? Considerations like that might make the long hours worthwhile. If nothing like that is on the table, then you should absolutely start saying 'no', because your employer is simply exploiting you. May 30, 2018 at 1:18
  • 1
    Or rather: unpaid overtime does not count May 30, 2018 at 10:52

3 Answers 3


To set boundaries - you just do it.

Unless you're working shift work where you can't leave until relieved, there's no one physically forcing you to stay there 15 hours. Work your 10 and leave. Sure, your boss is pressuring you to, but in the end it's your own mind you need to overcome that's keeping you there.

This does "run the risk" of him deciding to fire you for a 50 hour work week. That may be a pretty hard sell to HR/other management (is this customary for the whole company?), so I'm not sure it's a huge risk, but of course have your resume brushed up as leaving voluntarily is also a possible exit for you.

When he inevitably tries to sweat you about it, just hold your ground.

  • I'm getting plenty of work done, and it's good quality work.
  • I'm working 50 hours a week, not the bare minimum, but working more causes my quality of work and life to go down. It's not worth it.
  • I'm happy to go above and beyond to hit big deadlines, but not all the time, and I don't think that's reasonable.
  • Repeat as necessary.

Now, it is completely legal to force exempt employees to work as much as they demand. However, you're now a fully trained employee delivering good work. If he chronically mis-estimates that badly I am guessing he doesn't actually know how to do the work you're doing, and so calling the bully's bluff could work. It's very unlikely it's in his best interest to fire you and go through the hiring cycle for "only working 50 hours." But if he does - you're better off, plus you get unemployment and can rip them a new one on Glassdoor to make yourself feel better. Next interview, "the job wasn't a good fit, they required 80 hours a week of work and I'm only comfortable with 50" tells people all they need to know (and only weeds you out if they are similarly psycho to the current guy).

  • 2
    Yep this hit the nail on the head. Today I left after 10 and it felt strange but I could tell it was the right thing to do. I feel guilty but honestly who cares, it's self induced stress. Quality > quantity.
    – fermi
    Feb 17, 2018 at 5:03
  • 2
    @fermi: If you felt guilty, you should feel guilty about working ten hours and not eight. Fifty hours a week is not normal. It is inefficient. It is known to be inefficient. Long term you will be doing more work in 40 hours than in 50, and a lot more than in 60-75 hours.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 17, 2018 at 13:41
  • 13
    40 hours a week is not "the bare minimum". 40 hours a week is what you are being paid for.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 17, 2018 at 13:42
  • Yeah, that attitude won’t help the OP. And frankly in the US in tech trying the “40 hours is the deal no more!” won’t get you very far - as noted legally, you’re not “being paid for 40,” you’re being paid for whatever they require. Not all nice and socialist, but it has its pros and cons.
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 17, 2018 at 14:48
  • Work you 8 hours not 10 if you do wok more than 8 one day keep count and make sure to take time off to compensate Feb 17, 2018 at 18:12

Any insight you guys have is appreciated.

I believe you already know what you have to do: find a new job.

At this point, as you already plan to leave in a couple months, the best you can do is buckle up, keep smiling and delivering as best as you can, and endure this exploitation until you are ready to jump.

Needless to say, update your resume and start looking for options ASAP. The moment you land one proceed to give your notice period so you can move on as fast as you can.

  • Just be aware that answers offering quitting as the best option aren't considered particularly helpful. Sometimes it is the appropriate choice, but alternatives should always be considered first.
    – Jane S
    Feb 17, 2018 at 2:19
  • 1
    @JaneS I didn't said it was the best. Yes, I try to seldom suggest so, but this case if it is as described then I don't see other options. The boss seems that won't change his mind, and waiting until OP collapses to have a medical reason is not healthy at all. Besides, OP said he already plans to leave, so I suggested that meanwhile he would have to endure such expectations.
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 17, 2018 at 2:36

My boss has constantly repeated the mantra that "an 8 hour day doesn't count". I don't buy this philosophy at all

My question is, how do I manage the expectation that I work more than 8 hours?

You don't manage the expectation.

It's clear that your philosophy about work hours doesn't match the company's. That's a signal that you don't belong there.

Instead of trying to change your bosses expectations, start looking for a new company whose philosophy matches yours.

Use this as a learning experience. Think back and see if you can determine signs regarding this company's philosophy that you could have detected before accepting the job. That way, you'll get better results on your next job.

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