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My manager at a software company I've worked at for a few years has asked me to join a status update (a standup if you are familiar with agile) meeting daily, before my normal work hours. My boss didn't call this meeting, but a project manager did as he is primarily interested in the status of the issues. This has proven difficult as I'm usually quite busy in the mornings, handling getting myself and my children ready for their day during this time, and for the most part unavailable. I could rearrange my schedule to make it work, I just really don't want to do that.

To make matters worse, this meeting is pointless for me to attend, it is a status update on a project I have very little to do with. Once every few weeks I may actually need to be there to say a few "status update" words. These could easily be summarized during work hours, as they are not time critical.

I tried just not attending, but got caught and he asked me again to join. I've explained my time commitments, and my lack of work on this project, but still he pressures me me to attend and "zone out" waiting to see if my name is called.

How can I better communicate that I do not wish to waste my time attending this meeting every day?

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Oct 26 '18 at 23:12
  • Are you asking for a script for getting out of the meetings or do you just need the requests to attend to stop? It's not clear whether or not you are currently attending the meetings and that affects the answer. – BSMP Oct 27 '18 at 17:10
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    Is there any conceivable reason that the meetings couldn't be inside your normal working hours, and if so would you be opposed to going to them? What time of day are your hours vs this meetings hours? Are there any people in the meeting remotely such as from other countries? I think some context might be helpful given that it's odd that you got in this situation to begin with. – The Great Duck Oct 27 '18 at 19:46
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    Are they paying you overtime to go to these meetings? – Bakuriu Oct 27 '18 at 20:46
  • "Outside my normal work hours" - Are your normal work hours different from the company normal work hours? – Brandin Oct 31 '18 at 5:54

11 Answers 11

221

Isn't the real problem here that they are asking to have work meetings, outside of work hours? We have daily scrums slightly after the day starts so that people can get drinks/etc. and then do the meeting and focus on their day. I would argue that, given the meetings are for work, they should arrange them at the start of the work day and not before.

Also because they are daily, if for whatever reason they can't do it during your work hours (because its normal work hours for everyone else perhaps?) you could try working out the night before what you want to say and send it to someone that is in the meeting so it can be read out daily as a compromise.

The only reason for mandatory attendance is either so you have visibility on everything that is occurring or for them to discuss issues with you and the former you seem to not require and the latter shouldn't be done in a scrum anyway.

  • 97
    I agree with this - discussing the usefulness of a meeting is a thing, asking to attend outside work hours is another. – Liquid Oct 25 '18 at 14:58
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    Good answer. Work hours or no meeting that's all – L_Church Oct 25 '18 at 15:39
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    It's possible that this is a global company. One meeting attendee's start time may be another attendee's finish time. The company I work for has flexible hours for this reason - if I need to attend a 10PM meeting on Tuesday, there's no need for me to start work at 9AM. – James Donnelly Oct 25 '18 at 16:51
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    Yo, this is a software company! Normal work hours are therefore a very elastic concept here. It's perfectly possible that Jay's regular working hours are not some other manager's concept of 'normal', and that doesn't make either the work or the meeting invalid. – user90842 Oct 25 '18 at 21:39
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    @Fattie I work at a software startup and what you said is 100% wrong. I get paid by the hour. Our schedule is flexible but we have office hours (and support hours!) that we are expected to work, and outside of which we are not expected to work. You are confusing “software” and “startup” with “toxic culture”. (Further, since I’m not in the US I wouldn’t call my job “insanely overpaid”. My compensation is good but it’s not out of the ordinary, given my level of qualification.) – Konrad Rudolph Oct 26 '18 at 13:16
66

A few suggestions:

  • Ask the meeting organizer if you can attend the meeting remotely, over email or chat for example. Send your update the prior evening or at some other convenient time.

  • Ask the meeting organizer to move the meeting time to accommodate your schedule. If they won't, you can at least inform your supervisor that they didn't which is one way of demonstrating that you might not be needed anyways. I know that this goes against some people's ideas about Agile, but if your Agile process isn't agile, I'm not sure it's really Agile.

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    From the Agile Manifesto: "People over process". – David Thornley Oct 25 '18 at 15:06
  • This is the best option I think. Lots of people seem to want you to give your update verbally at the actual time of the meeting so I would suggest just connecting via your phone and use a wireless headset (which I'd try to get my boss to pay for if I didn't already have one). Since it appears the asker doesn't really need to contribute anything or get any benefit from this meeting the fact that they are not really paying attention won't matter. If this option is refused I'd try the "that's not very agile is it?" line on them. – Eric Nolan Oct 25 '18 at 16:43
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    Attending remotely is not the point. OP has stuff to do then, but IMO "move the meeting time" is dead-on! – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Oct 25 '18 at 18:08
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    "Ask the meeting organizer if you can attend the meeting remotely" No. It's outside of work hours – James Monger Oct 26 '18 at 13:22
  • It sounds like the OP is already attending remotely. He has to get his kids ready for school etc. in the mornings which he wouldn't be able to do if he was already at the office for this meeting. – Chase Sandmann Oct 26 '18 at 20:57
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...my lack of work on this project, but still he pressures me me to attend and "zone out" waiting to see if my name is called.

The meeting an agile team standup.

One of the key tenets of agile is to maximise productivity by minimising time-wasting meetings. A standup should be short, informal, effective and useful to all attendees.

If it is not, then it is a waste of time.

Another key tenet of agile is that the rituals of any given process that you are following, such as Scrum, should not be considered to be carved in stone. The process should adapt to you rather than you adapting to the process.

It sounds to me as if your team is trying to be agile, but actually being far too rigid about it, and thereby missing the point.

I don't have any specific advice for you on how to approach your manager with this, but clearly there is a problem and you do need to discuss it. I hope the above will give you some useful ammunition to help you make your case.

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    Teaching a team how to follow agile when you're the new person who's there with minimal impact, in a standup which is not a retrospective, doesn't seem like a winning solution. – Edwin Buck Oct 26 '18 at 14:12
  • Scrum is one of the most rigid forms of agile, in my personal experience. – stannius Oct 29 '18 at 18:53
  • If someone who is only tangentially working on a project is a part of that project's daily standup, and they have time to zone out until their name is called, I'd say their standup is also too big. – Logan Pickup Nov 1 '18 at 5:18
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Ugh.. that's immensely irritating - you have my sympathies!

Since it sounds like your boss isn't going to just let this one go completely I'd suggest you offer him a compromise option where you can meet the business objectives but don't actually have to attend.

Try offering to write a status update message for the times when you do have something relevant to say and have that be delivered to whoever is chairing the meeting by close of business the previous day.

If this is really about getting your updates to the team then this should be sufficient from what you've described. If he pushes back on this with vague mumbling about "visibility" or similar then you can counter with the fact that the optics of you being there but "zoned out" (his words) are going to be worse than you not being there in the first place. If on the other hand he pushes back using the old "what if someone has a question?" line then offer that if they e-mail you the question you'll respond to any queries by time x (where time X is during your working day, reasonably early if possible).

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    Plus see if someone else from your team is regularly in at that early hour, and whether you can trade some other tedious late-afternoon obligation with them, so the team is represented but by a willing party. Even if they know nothing about the project, it's OK as long as you send them an email update every afternoon. The one you'd otherwise be sending that other manager if they were reasonable :-). – user90842 Oct 25 '18 at 21:44
  • OP mentioned that it is not his boss that is asking him to attend, it's his project manager. Therefore his "real" boss may be able to do something about it. – CPHPython Oct 26 '18 at 10:03
  • This solves giving updates. It doesn't solve hearing everybody else's. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 26 '18 at 10:09
  • @CPHPython The meeting was called/created by a project manager but it is their boss pressing them to attend. – BSMP Oct 27 '18 at 17:15
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If the meeting is truly pointless for you, and you cannot contribute (as opposed to being unlikely to contribute), he's probably trying to expand his footprint in the organization, and using you as manpower to do it.

I'd suggest talking to him about his goals of having you attend the meeting, and if he shares them with you, you can gain a lot of favor by attempting to help him achieve them.

That said, you need to also suggest that you further his goals in a way you can sustain. For example, you might suggest that by being late or nearly late to each meeting, you're probably projecting the wrong impression, so instead you'll try to go out to lunch with a few key players, or follow up in ways that can work with your schedule.

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    Note that if he doesn't share his goals, it will be hard for you to further them. While I wouldn't express that to him, it should tell you a lot about your future performance. You'll be judged against goals that you don't understand. Odds are not good you'll achieve them, and odds are even better that he'll manage by noticing the details of following his instructions (as opposed to the actual achievement of his desires) – Edwin Buck Oct 25 '18 at 14:44
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First of all, I advise taking the "I don't need to be in this meeting" out of the equation. Debating whether that's true is not really the crux of your problem.

Personally I've always been of the opinion that status meetings are more useful than many people think, because they are by definition an opportunity for a group of people to raise issues that perhaps individually they had never considered. What if something comes up in the meeting that does somehow impact your own work, and nobody else can possibly know that, and you weren't there to hear it and interject? The purpose of the meeting is to cover these cases, not for a bunch of people to stand around rattling off what everybody else already knows.

But only you can know whether this is even remotely likely to be the case for you, which means your project manager doesn't know either, which means using this as an arguing point is never going to work. So just forget it.

The salient point is having meetings outside of work hours. If the meeting has been scheduled outside of everybody's core hours, you simply say "I cannot attend that — could you move it into working hours?" and that's that. You shall not be forced to work outside of work hours and this becomes a matter for complaint to HR if it continues.

On the other hand, if the meeting is in some people's work hours just not your typical personal hours, you have a problem. You can apply pressure, asking people to move the meeting. This used to work for me and daily stand-up would slide later and later into the morning. If unsuccessful, there's really not much you can do other than make a decision as to whether you prefer to start when you currently do, or prefer to remain on good terms with the authorities involved.

Good luck!

  • 1
    This answer is likely to be unpopular but I completely agree with you on every point. – Konrad Rudolph Oct 26 '18 at 13:20
  • Unless the project itself is on a completely different piece of software or product than what the OP is currently working on. In which case the work itself couldn't affect the OP's daily work. – The Great Duck Oct 27 '18 at 20:00
  • @TheGreatDuck Agreed that if it's entirely irrelevant and has no plausible connection to the OP, then all bets are off really. But you'd better be sure about that! Arguably that's for the manager to decide as they see the bigger picture. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 28 '18 at 13:29
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit based on the question it sounded like the OP is there in order to make his department or whatever look nice by making an appearance not to actually provide insight. The manager's statement even make it sound that way. – The Great Duck Oct 28 '18 at 14:18
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    Slight nuance: If the meeting is during hours that you should be available for work, you have a problem. If the meeting is in some people's work hours but not during hours when you should work, the project manager has a problem. -- Therefore I fully agree with this answer, and think that if there is any way to defend that you should not be expected to work during those hours, this is the strongest point for you to argue on. – Dennis Jaheruddin Oct 29 '18 at 10:47
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As Agile, everyone's time is supposed to be taken into account. In my team, everyone is usually in the office by 9.30 AM, but there is one person who comes in later due to their daily routine. We scheduled the meeting at a time everyday after their arrival so that everyone is included. I think your manager can do the same and the fact that they are not is just wrong. You should address this with a person above you and the manager.

5

This answer has been heavily rewritten and rearranged to make it (hopefully) easier to read. The idea and rationale hasn't changed however I have changed (weakened) one of my assumptions as it seems it was to far fetched (I read it between the lines taking also some questions from comments as an actual state).

1. Strategy

Further parts will provide explanation why I suggest this strategy, this is just a step by step idea how to solve the problem.

  • First establish why your Line Manager (LM) wants you to be in those meetings and discuss with Project Manajer (PM) what is his perspective (does he/she think it's needed?). It might be that it's about LM wanting to be up to date with the project status through you. Other option is that he thinks your participation in the project is crucial.

  • Arrange a meeting with both LM and PM and

  • If LM thinks your attendance is essential but PM not, try discussing the best way to keep track of the project status without your attendance to stand ups (if that's why LM wants you in the stand-ups) or how would it be best to have you in the meeting when you're really needed.

  • Either way bring up that most of the time you're not participating in the project and your everyday presence brings little to no value while costs plenty of your time and some of team time so it would be best if you joined the meetings only when there is a direct reason for it - either you do something for the project at that specific time or project team needs some information from you (which in most cases can be achieved in some other way).

  • If that fails but the time of the meetings is really outside of reasonable working hours, ask for rescheduling the meetings to some more convenient time.

  • If both PM and LM agree you're needed in the meetings and it cannot be recheduled that's probably all you can do. Always remember there is an atomic option if you really can't stand those meetings.

Be aware any other software development team you might join after leaving this one is likely to heave stand ups as well. They might only be in more convenient hours. On the other hand the project also doesn't last forever. If this is the only problem and the above suggestions don't help, I recommend you just try to hang in there until the project ends.

2. Working hours and meeting schedule

Are your working hours actually defined? If you work in environment anything like mine (rather standard for software development company/department) there is a large flexibility in your working hours. Yet usually there are rules when you have to be available for meetings (e.g. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. or even 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.). If you have any meeting planned within that range of time you just have to accept that.

If the meeting is outside of that time you can request moving it to other timeframe. Yet since you're apparently not a key participant, there is a huge risk that this request will be rejected. Usually you can't do much about it anyway but that might become a point in discussion why you should attend in the meetings only when really needed.

If you don't have any strict availability hours but the meeting is in reasonable time (8 a.m. still has to be considered reasonable!) then again, there is little you can do about it. Effectively your flexibility is then limited but it does not excess in any way what an employer might require from you. If the hour is unreasonable due to e.g. time zones difference (for example the meeting is at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.) this can again work as an excuse to attend only when your participation is really valuable.

Real life example: I work in a project where every Monday and Friday we have a meeting at 4 p.m. Having flexible working hours I like being early at work and leaving early, meaning I usually leave at 4 p.m. But on Modays and Fridays I simply show up and leave an hour later. There is nothing I can do about that. Moreover the Monday meetings are often cancelled at the very last moment or even the host simply doesn't show. It changes nothing since when they happen I'm crucial to it.

3. Private stuff

Let's be plain about that. If you're within working hours your private stuff doesn't matter. Especially when we're talking about something planned upfront. Just accept it. Don't bring that on a table during a discussion or everything you'll get is a negative outcome. Look for other arguments that might support your case in discussion.

4. Value of the meetings

This is another topic that you need to weight very carefully and pick the right wording to avoid negative response.

Stand ups are often perceived as a waste of time by teams. There are several reasons for that, one of them is that people don't understand the purpose of that meeting. Second - they are led incorrectly and result in actual waste of time. If a stand up is run properly it should be a short meeting very efficient in exchanging information and putting everyone on the same page in terms who does what. It should also help to immediately address issues that happen during the project.

Yet what is important (I would even say critical in your case) - these are internal project team meetings. Apparently you're not part of the project team, just occasionally provide some service to them.

Stand ups should not serve as a means of providing the "external world" the status of the meeting. It actually makes those meeting less productive.

If the main reason why your manager wants you to attend those meetings is to keep track of the project status then you have a very strong case to discuss your attendance to those stand ups.

Since you're not a part of project team then according to Agile you should not attend those meetings unless there is a reason for that (e.g. you do something for the project at that time). It might be that your Line Manager (LM) wants to keep track of the project progress and uses your small involvement in the project as an opportunity to be "the inside guy". If that's the case, the best you can do is discussing with both LM and PM how to establish a good communication path so that your LM can be sure about the project status. If the project team uses some tools supporting project tracking (like JIRA, Rally or even Mantis or other Bug tracker), an access to such tool and some dashboards about the project status might do the trick without your involvement. Otherwise you might agree on some regular status meetings. Maybe there are some happening already, after all there should be some project status update for the sponsors. Other option might be some regular reports provided to LM.

If you are supposed to join the meetings because you're part of the project team, you should challenge it. If you provide only occasional service to the project there should be some agreed way to communicate when your involvment is needed. You should then attend stand ups while you're directly performing tasks for the project but only then.

You should first discuss that with the Project Manager (PM). He might be your ally here since your attendance to the meetings can render counterproductive.

5. Waste of time?

Anyway, avoid using the wording "waste of time" in the discussion with LM. Look at my answer so far - I use it really hardly. For a reason. Yet, if you insist on using this particular word, what you can do is bringing up another Big Word - LEAN. If there has been any attempts to introduce LEAN in your company you can bring it up claiming, that your attendance in the meeting is a waste according to LEAN. You should join only if it is a benefit for the project.

  • I struggled to read through everything, barely made it. I think you are covering much more than required, therefore I downvoted. – problemofficer Oct 26 '18 at 10:53
  • Thanks for the feedback @problemofficer , I'll try to reorganise it and make a bit more readable, – Ister Oct 26 '18 at 12:23
1

Standup meetings related to a project usually don’t last forever. Most of the time they are created when a project is having difficulties and the standup is implemented in order to give attention to daily issues to get the project back on track. Once the issues are resolved, the stand up usually goes away.

Also, you have voiced your opinion to your boss but he wants you there anyway. If you are a salaried employee, there is really nothing you can do at this point but to attend. If you have a descent relationship with your boss, sounds like he wants you to hear the issues to give you insights into project dynamics. The only thing you can do is to attend and after a short time, revisit your attendance with him if you still feel your are not deriving any benefit from attending.

  • Yes, but the issue at hand here is that the OP is not being paid to come to these meetings. They are expected to come to these meetings while still working their regular hours without extra pay or time off. It sounds like the OP would be fine with the meetings if it were within regular hours or paid. – The Great Duck Oct 28 '18 at 17:29
  • Understand but if he/she is salaried, nothing they can do but to attend. As a salaried professional, this is part of the job. – alb Oct 28 '18 at 21:46
  • Based on their statements it seems clear that they are hourly. Some places consider it normal practice for hourly employees in software to work extra hours unpaid when a project is behind schedule or close to completion. The issue is that the OP isn't working on the project and so they shouldn't be forced to volunteer their time. – The Great Duck Oct 28 '18 at 22:11
  • Granted that might not be the situation the asker in but it seems like that's what they are describing. – The Great Duck Oct 28 '18 at 22:21
0

Establish why your manager wants you at this meeting, in clear terms.

Your attendance at this meeting, like your job in general, isn't about you. It's about the needs of the organization as a whole.

As an illustrative example, we have a similar situation where I work. Every day, someone from our support org attends our stand-up. Maybe once a sprint, we have something important to tell this person. Maybe once every few months, that person has something to tell us. This exchange of information does relatively little for our support organization most of the time.

It's incredibly vital to our development effort, because it's one of the only times we get clear, unmitigated feedback from the field. It also provides both us and them with a shared context for future communication that provides value to both our teams in context for outside of the meeting.

It's a waste of their time, but it's an incredibly valuable contribution for our project.

This value isn't obvious from cursory or outside examination, and it really can't be perceived only by considering the situation from the individual perspective of the attendees or the events of the meetings. It's the downstream effects that are significant.

It's the bigger picture that matters.

What asking management about this will get you:

It may educate you.

You may discover, by talking this out with your management and/or with the project manager in question, that there are reasons for your attendance you may not have considered. This could lead to you providing, or gaining, more value in future meetings, and feeling less 'put out' by your compulsory attendance.

It will empower you.

Trying to 'get out of' a meeting is an inherently imbalanced negotiation between you and whomever is calling the shots.

Convincing them that your perspective and your values should be sufficient cause for them to change their mind is an uphill battle. Convincing them that their objectives aren't being fulfilled by this course of action is a much more evenly balanced dialogue.


Ultimately, the professional value you derive from and perceive in this meeting is only a small part of the bigger picture. If you can't frame your argument in terms of that bigger picture, it's not really reasonable to expect to convince anyone that the best course of action for the organization is to proceed as you would desire.

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    But forcing a person to join daily stand-up when the information exchange happens in 1 meeting out of 20 is an incredible waste of time of that person. Establish a better communication path outside of stand up instead. – Ister Oct 26 '18 at 8:13
  • @Ister Wasting one person's time may be a legitimate investment on behalf of the company. One person spending 30 minutes that get wasted most of the time may be worth 20 people not spending an extra 10 minutes on something because they're in the dark, for example. There is more to consider here than just one person's time, and the OP did not indicate that due diligence had been performed on attempting to understand any of the other factors. – Iron Gremlin Oct 26 '18 at 15:41
  • @IronGremlin if you mean to say that they should be there in case something comes up that could maaaybe make sense. In reality though if it's something to be raised at the meeting known in advance then the person should be requested to come to that one meeting, not told to stay there everyday and certainly not during unpaid outside-of-work hours. – The Great Duck Oct 27 '18 at 19:53
  • @TheGreatDuck - There are many valid reasons for face to face communication. Ultimately the core point I'm making here is that whether or not this 'wastes your time' isn't your call, it's your management's call. So figure out why management wants you there first before you start arguing about whether or not you should attend. The conversation needs to be about whether or not it suits the organization, not whether or not it suits the individual. What to do about getting paid is another conversation, but I do agree it's one that needs to happen. – Iron Gremlin Oct 30 '18 at 15:41
  • @IronGremlin "isn't your call". It is my call as to whether it is my opinion that the meeting is a waste to have them there. I'm saying that if the person needs to give a monthly statement then they come in monthly. If it's a weekly statement then weekly. My point is that if the person is 100% never speaking at these meeting except those times then they should only be coming to the meeting those days, especially if the purpose is for them to give information and not for them to receive information. Just because it is managements decision doesn't mean an objective answer does not exist. – The Great Duck Oct 30 '18 at 23:20
-2

Check your contract, salaried or hourly

First, determine are you salaried or hourly employee.

If hourly, your strategy would be based on demand to be compensated for overtime. Simply state to your manager that you are not legally obliged to put extra hours without pay. Emphasize on "legally" , this implies that you already have legal council on this matter. Hopefully, your manager doesn't have authority to pay you extra, so some kind of solution would happen where you don't need to attend meetings, which is exactly what you want.

If salaried, things could get complicated. Best policy in this case is to state to your manager that you simply cannot attend the meetings. Theoretically, as salaried employee you still have some rights for overtime compensation, but this rarely happens, so don't count on it.

In any case, be prepared for deal breaker . If you really cannot attend those meetings, or your manager really needs you there, it would be prudent to simply brush up your resume. This is especially true in US, with employment at will.

  • 1
    Yes, I agree: this is a legal issue. What if other "project manager" decides to have another meeting at the end of the day (after working hours)? Since it is only a manager (and not his boss), I'd add that talking to his boss may help further resolving compensation issues before considering moving out. – CPHPython Oct 26 '18 at 10:08
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    Why go into legalities if you are hourly? It goes without saying that you bill for the hours because you are working. If it is customary to discuss overtime then have that discussion. I don't think compensation is the problem here though. – stoj Oct 26 '18 at 18:36
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    @stoj My impression is that manager pushes OP to join meetings from home, i.e. in his free time, therefore avoiding to pay overtime. OP didn't clarify is he hourly or salaried employee, this could make huge difference. My impression is that OP's manager want to squeeze more time from OP without compensating. OP doesn't want more money, but asking for more money could bring him more time. – rs.29 Oct 27 '18 at 10:08
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    @CPHPython not to mention that the OP says outside of normal hours implying that they are suddenly being expected to stay for their normal hours in addition to the meetings. – The Great Duck Oct 27 '18 at 19:55
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    @rs.29 indeed it sounds like in the question that the OP is expected to work them and normal hours without compensation. – The Great Duck Oct 27 '18 at 19:56

protected by Jane S Oct 27 '18 at 23:22

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