I work at a software development company as a developer in the United States. I am well compensated in this salaried role. I work with other developers who are typically are happy to be brought into discussions/bug fixes on nights & weekends, some of the issues can take hours to resolve up into the wee hours of the early mornings. There really isn't a "it can wait" attitude at my company. However, when I look at what is being asked of me and the other developers, it really can wait, nothing is on fire, people are still making money, and the work being asked "can" wait.

I am absolutely not in this camp of "work extra because I love my job", I don't want to work nights & weekends, I don't want to be bothered on the weekends, I simply want to be left alone to be with my wife and kids(7). I have typically "checked out" on the weekends, put away my phone, and generally am hard to get a hold of intentionally. I can be available on nights and weekends, if the situation demands it and it truly is an emergency situation.

I've tried to explain to my boss my "busy" family life, but I don't think he gets it. During the week, I'm usually away from my home in the evenings until late, and on the weekend, that is my time to relax with my family. Typically we have things we do as a family, and I'm not usually in a position to help. Sunday is my day of rest, and I've told him I check out that day intentionally because of my faith and family commitments.

Still though, he calls, he texts and still he wants me to do something he feels is super urgent (but it can wait, seriously it can wait).

How can I approach a conversation with my boss about constantly pressuring me to work on nights and weekends? I feel making my phone ring is pressure enough to 'work'. I'm really on the edge of just finding a new job, solely because I don't want to be bothered on the weekends unless it is a dire emergency. I feel I'm between a rock and a hard place though, as I don't want to look bad, or like I'm intentionally ignoring him on nights & weekends, but it's probably coming off that way.

They do sometimes "treat me right" for required weekend work, as I've received sporadic bonuses, but if you do the math, the money received isn't equal to the time they want me to spend on extra work.

How can I approach a conversation with my boss about constantly pressuring me to work on nights and weekends?


6 Answers 6


This is a difficult situation.

Basically you have a cultural mismatch: they way you want to work and the way that the rest of company operates are not compatible. It really doesn't matter who is right or wrong, but either you need to change or something in the company needs to change, which is really hard to do.

It seems you already have decided not to change your own habits (which in my personal opinion is the right thing to do for someone with a family!). Your next step is to set clear boundaries and communicate them.

  • Block out no work time in your calendar as "personal".
  • Be consistent about the times you are in the office. Leave when it's time to leave (unless there is an emergency). "Sorry I need to go spent time with my kids"
  • Turn your work phone and laptop off during the weekend. Consider setting an "out of office" automatic reply, so that all e-mails will bounce back to the sender.

Tell your boss directly that you will do this and why, so it doesn't come across as passive aggressive. Chances are she's not going to like it though.

None of this may work : You are free to set hard boundaries, but there is a good chance that this is a career ending move at your current place of work. It's quite likely that it will hinder your advancement and it may get you fired outright.

In parallel, I would brush up my resume and start looking for alternatives. Cultural disconnects are very hard to overcome and often result in the end of employment.

  • 1
    +1 on the cultural mismatch. Telling a senior management team that you will not have your phone or laptop on you when they want something done is a career limiting move. If the rest of the team jumps when asked, and you are the only odd ball that doesn't, prepare to get replaced. The phrase "... and other responsibilities needed by the company" can go a long way against a salaried employee that they want to terminate.
    – dfundako
    Jul 30, 2018 at 17:30

I've tried to explain to my boss my "busy" family life, but I don't think he gets it.

Still though, he calls, still he wants me to do something he feels is super urgent (but it can wait, seriously it can wait).

How can I approach a conversation with my boss about constantly pressuring me to work on nights and weekends?

I suspect that your boss "gets it" but that he feels your role requires that you be available nights and weekends.

Talk with your boss honestly. Indicate that working any nights or weekends simply doesn't work with your family needs. If you don't immediately get a strong sense that something will change (and most likely it won't) - start looking for a new job.

As you search for a new job, make it clear before being offered a position that you simply cannot work any nights or weekends. That will make finding an acceptable job more difficult, but will narrow your options down to acceptable jobs.

Sometimes companies can accommodate your particular family needs, sometimes they cannot. I suspect this is more about a lack of a match between the job and you, rather than a lack of understanding.

They do sometimes "treat me right" for required weekend work, as I've received sporadic bonuses, but if you do the math, the money received isn't equal to the time they want me to spend on extra work.

This might be the source of some confusion. You may be sending off "I want extra money for weekend work" vibes, rather than "I don't want to work weekends".

Get it clear in your own mind what you really want here before you talk with your boss. A mixed/confused message is unlikely to get you what you want.

  • 1
    "As you search for a new job, make it clear before being offered a position that you simply cannot work any nights or weekends" - I don't think OP is saying he doesn't want to work nights or weekends. He's saying that they are asking for regular work be done and none of the jobs I held ever done that. We have "on call" but only for emergencies like the website is down, database is down, or some bug is preventing some important transaction. It sounds like the OP is okay with after hour calls like that.
    – Dan
    Jul 30, 2018 at 17:48

1) It sounds like your team needs an "on-call" procedure. You can't have everyone on the team available at all hours all the time to jump to work-related incidents. People need vacation time, personal time, and sleep time, and expecting everyone to be on call always doesn't work.

The way on-calls usually work is you set a schedule (in my previous company which had on-call it was a weekly rotation) where someone is on-call for X time, then the next person is on call for X time (the same X time), then the next person, and so on, in a repeating fashion. Then, that person (and only that person) deals with high-priority issues after hours, and the rest of the team gets their weekends to themselves (and their family).

2) If your company/team has on-call, then you really have to be part of it, or find a new company. It's going to look really bad on you if you say "everyone else on my team does on-call but I don't because I have a family". You think your teammates don't have families or friends who they have to sacrifice to do these things? Of course they do, you're not the only one. It's not reasonable of your boss to expect you to be on call all the time, but it is reasonable to expect you to be on-call some of the time, so if your boss will give a little (by implementing a fair and even on-call rotation schedule) then you have to give a little by participating in it as a regular team member.

3) Regarding the issues which are not "high priority", this is up to your team to discuss with your manager. Does your team agree that the issues are not high priority? If they do, then you can explain to your manager why you shouldn't be called on weekends for them, and hopefully they will understand. If your team disagrees, then maybe you are misclassifying these issues; just because the entire business isn't imminently catastrophically collapsing to the ground doesn't mean the issue is not high-priority.

Alternatively, you can leave the company. Those are basically your choices.


Sounds to me like missing project management, since it seems that there is no prioritization of issues. Everything seems to be treated as "high priority". There are two kind of employees regarding this: Those who can't sustain it long-term and don't complain and those who can't sustain it long-term and complain.

Discuss with you boss that it would be good to have a list of prioritized issued and specific people assigned who will keep available in a shift system to fix new incoming very high priority problems (even if I don't have a very busy family lift, there are times when I am just not available).


Your family life is not your boss's concern. What's important is that you aren't going to work ridiculous and unproductive hours, and you need to make it clear that you aren't, and that you aren't going to in the future. Your reasons are basically unimportant in this case.

If you're going to argue it, go out and find some resources that say that excessive overtime in software development is counterproductive, which is a business-related argument.

  • I'd be interested in learning the reason for the downvote, so I can avoid doing whatever again. Aug 1, 2018 at 19:22

The right approach here would be to see this as a workplace-legal (as opposed to workplace-interpersonal) issue.

Essentially, yours and your boss' expectations as to when you are expected to work do not exactly match. Therefore the answer pretty much boils down to what your contract/employment agreement says about your working hours. There could be two possible situations; which one applies is a legal question, not workplace:

  1. Your boss is asking you to do more work than you have to according to the contract. He is simply taking advantage of you without extra pay. There is a number of options how to tackle this — from outright "sorry boss it's not my working time at the moment" to delicate "I would like to have a one-to-one meeting to discuss/clarify the terms of my contract". The choice depends on the likelyhood of you being fired for refusing to be taken advantage of, the likelyhood of finding similar/better job in acceptable timeframe and your willingness to tell the boss where to get off; OR
  2. You actually have to be "on call" all the time and resolve issues whenever they come down the pipe. If this was not your understanding at the time of signing the contract, it is now time to let the boss know and discuss options to make everyone happy.

P.S. Downvoters please don't be shy and explain your vote.


You may not have a written contract, or your written one may not specify work hours. Neither of these situations change the fact that your relation with your boss is a legal contract first and foremost, and the hours you work is a term of that contract — whether implied or explicitly agreed verbally.

In the absence of explicitly agreed terms regarding work hours and your boss basically asking you to work whenever he wants, it is now time to straighten this out: talk to your boss and ask him to clearly explain what his expectations are. You may have two possible outcomes:

  1. The boss sees that you cannot be taken advantage of/asked to work at any time anymore, and will set some clear terms which you both will agree on and follow; OR
  2. The boss confirms that he wants you to work anytime he wants. This will be the moment for you to say "I cannot be happy with that" and be prepared to search for a better job where terms would be clearly set out from the beginning — even if only verbally.
  • 2
    I didn't DV, but I'd guess that your assumption that there is some kind of employment contract/agreement in place is what's causing them. In the majority of US states, with "at-will" employment, there is often no such document in place or legally required (unlike many/most other civilized countries).
    – brhans
    Jul 30, 2018 at 13:19
  • 2
    I'm not a downvoter either, but as @brhans said, at-will employment often means contracts don't exist. Even if they do exist, they often allow changes by the employer or have weasel words such as "other duties as assigned".
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 30, 2018 at 14:50
  • To both of the above commenters: there cannot possible not be an employment contract (if the employer doesn't pay, the OP can sue for breach of contract). What there may very well not be, is any written record of the terms of that contract. Jul 30, 2018 at 17:04
  • 1
    I'm in the US, and I've never signed a formal employment contract. We agree on the important stuff (like pay), and other things are as listed in the employee handbook (which I sign to acknowledge receipt of, not to signal agreement) or employment law. That's legally a contract, since I agree to work and they agree to pay me, but it's neither extensive nor detailed. Jul 31, 2018 at 21:03
  • 1
    As a downvoter, a) most US jobs do not have contracts that specify hours, and b) the law around exempt employees is ‘you work as much as they want you to.’ You vote with your feet about it if the salary to work ratio isn’t to your liking.
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 1, 2018 at 1:17

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