I know lots depends on the industry and so on (and size of the company etc). So to narrow down the scope of the answers let me provide some context: A mature startup in the software industry.

So the question is: are managers expected to work longer hours than their subordinates?

If the answer is yes, does this logic apply for each level? ie

  • entry level employees work 8 hours a day
  • therefore their boss must work 10 hours a day
  • therefore their boss's boss must work 12 hours a day


if the answer is no, how else can the manager inspire their subordinates to work harder and longer hours?

update - addressing comments

Many comments where made and I would like to address some:

  • The start-up is actually not that mature.. ie < 3 years, < 30 employees.. so that can explain the added pressure/need to work harder and longer hours
  • Compensation includes stocks as most start-ups would do. That's why any talk about getting paid overtime doesn't make sense. Your overtime is compensated by the stock value appreciating, if you don't get that formula, you shouldn't be at a start-up
  • a lot of people are citing studies here and there about the limitations of working past 40 hours/week. Sure if someone is coding for 10 hours straight their code quality will regress and then they'll end up breaking things then fixing them etc.. but I never advocated that people work continuously in one block. I for example chunk my work in intervals.. I go to the gym in between, I go home spend time with the family, then go back to work. I pace my self and take breaks, but I still work longer hours and I make sure that my hours are productive (ie if I'm really tired I just leave work even if it's in the middle of the day.. If I see an employee working while being fatigued or not focused.. I ask them to go home.. sleep, then work some more). Further If I expect people to put more hours some times, by the same token I shouldn't mind them doing less hours when there is less pressure.. this point was well argued in the book The One Thing
  • A lot of the comments are one size fit all-absolute statements. Even in the same company can have different work ethics and expectations. For example the culture of Microsoft Bing is much more demanding and intensive than for example Windows. The nature of the job requires constant production support and constant deployments and updates (such is the nature of our start-up), that's not the same as the Windows team that has much longer release schedules (It's like having the same conversation about work hour demands when talking about someone who works in the ER and a pharmacist doing some research work).

That said the points about the difference between inspiring and demanding are very well taken and appreciated. Also about quality being more important than quality. Thank you :)

  • 18
    You have this so badly wrong: working longer hours is a failing, not something to be inspired. – Philip Kendall May 8 '18 at 6:10
  • 2
    @PhilipKendall so start-ups were built by people who show up at 9:00am, and leave at 5:00pm? – abbood May 8 '18 at 6:12
  • 8
    The expectation to work long hours without extra pay for any level is a sign of a toxic environment and bad management. Looks like an environment rife with bad morale. The only people who would fall for such garbage as that Amazon mantra would be fresh graduates and inexperienced 20-something year olds. How good would the product be when it is produced in such an environment? Luckily most smart companies are realising this nowadays and "work-life balance" is becoming a big selling point. – solarflare May 8 '18 at 6:20
  • 8
    Something for you to consider: Germany has a quite successful economy although employees routinely working more than eight hours is illegal. – Roland May 8 '18 at 6:25
  • 6
    One of the very first studies was Eysenck during WWII, where he found that people who worked 57 hours a week in the weapons industry produced less per week than people doing 48 hours. Not less per hour, but less total work in 57 instead of 48 hours. – gnasher729 May 8 '18 at 7:16

I think this is somehow opinion-based question, but still...

Short answer is: No.

if the answer is no, how else can the manager inspire their subordinates to work harder and longer hours?

The quality and even quantity of the work cannot be measured in hours. Example: I can be in the office for 5 hours and do work that was previously estimated to take 2-3-5 days, and at the same time John can spent 14 hours at the same task and he still won't achieve the same results. Even if neither of us is slacking off in this time, would that mean that John works harder than me?

I strongly believe in leading by example, but I don't think that this is achieved by continuously overworking yourself or just spending extra hours in the office. From manager perspective, you should make sure to support the people in your team and provide help when it is needed (let's say a person in your team is stuck on a task, or has too many things to do in short period of time), then you can stay later and help them out. Or by getting off their backs some of the problems they have that prevent them from working more efficiently. Or by assigning yourself some of the hardest tasks, or the ones that no one wants to do - at least sometimes. That are just few ways to provide your example in the case.

In general, you cannot make people work overtime all the time - both team members and managers. They will eventually burnout and spend more hours in the office, but they won't be efficient and work won't be completed once again, even though you've "achieved what you want". If this is required all the time, then you have an organisational problem that is not related to how hard your team works and how long are their hours in the office. You should always pay them fairly for the overtime, if they want to do it and come up with a schedule for the longer hours - some kind of rotation, so everybody gets a period with enough rest to avoid burnout and be happy and productive person. If this is a long-term situation, maybe you should hire more people or adjust your goals to be in a more realistic timeline.

  • 8
    Quote from a top Microsoft manager: "You can make people stay in the office for 80 hours a week, but you can't make them work more than 40 hours a week". – gnasher729 May 8 '18 at 7:14
  • 1
    All this, and also, you'll narrow your talent pool by discouraging potential employees who have family/carer responsibilities etc. – Geoffrey Brent May 9 '18 at 0:58

As you say this varies by industry and company. It also depends on the country. I'm writing about the software industry in the United States. I'm assuming a "mature startup" is a startup which as reached the point where its profits fuel it's growth and it is still working towards an exit.

In such a company it is often expected that employees with the most equity (ownership) will care most about the success of the company. Typically senior management have the most equity, followed by employees who have been at the company since the early days. Caring most could mean working more hours, being willing to do whatever is necessary regardless of job description or simply stressing more over decisions and outcomes.

In such a startup the example set by managers is not usually an inspiration to employees. Poor examples set by managers could be demotivating but good examples are usual not motivating. Employees who have little equity are often motivated by other things. Motivations such as opportunity to work on interesting projects, opportunity to learn new things work best. When such motivation can't be aligned with company goals then motivations such as performance bonuses can be used.


If the software you support operates around the clock, then yes, managers will generally be expected to be available by phone in case of emergency. This is obviously not "working" in the classical sense, but when I get that 2 am emergency call, I sure as heck consider myself to be at work!

It is definitely true that the manager should never be the first person in the call tree for emergencies, but they are often needed in order to issue approvals for what their subordinates want to do.

Beyond that, no, a manager should not be expected to put in any more office hours than anybody else. Most do (in my experience, that's just the type of person who typically becomes a manager), but there is no intrinsic expectation that it be that way. As with all other employees, it's up to the manager to be their own advocate. If they feel like they're putting in too much office time, they have to enforce their own work hours.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .