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I've just started working and I have found that many people I work along with do not share the same commitment to work as I do. I've an instance to share.

Once I had stayed back late since I had work dependency on someone in a different timezone. And since I wanted to get it done I came back early the next day. My colleague came an hour late and I pinged him for something. He replied "Breakfast" and went offline.

I was aghast and it really made me think how to deal with all this. Here I am - having skipped dinner the previous day and breakfast today and then to have to put up with a colleague who's more interested in maintaining his work-life balance.

This is not a rant! I understand that work-life balance is important but I find it really demotivating when I am ready to work late to get the work done but do not get same response from my colleague.

Is my expectation wrong? What should I do? I am not sure if to let the manager know. Should I accept it as a fact?

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    I can't stand coffee. Is it right for me to expect my co-workers to feel the same way? – GreenMatt Jul 5 '13 at 14:31
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    Was this an emergency (critical bug in the fielded software, etc), or did you choose to work late and come in early because you thought it would be better? If the latter, why should you expect to get a bigger vote than your coworker? If the former, you really need to make that clear in the question. – Monica Cellio Jul 5 '13 at 16:07
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    "skipped his dinner yesterday, skipped the breakfast today" This is terribly unhealthy. Work can be a wonderful and fulfilling thing, but you should never be required to sacrifice your personal health and wellness for it. – Amish Programmer Jul 5 '13 at 16:57
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    I'll assume that you work harder than your colleague and your colleague works smarter than you. – emory Jul 5 '13 at 17:38
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    Simple answer is 'no'. Everyone has different priorities in life. – DA. Jul 5 '13 at 20:21

10 Answers 10

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I've just started working and I have found that many people I work along with do not share the same commitment to work as I do.

Welcome to life as a working adult - you'll come to find that quite a few people have this experience as they enter the workforce.

Why? Because your coworker probably did the same thing you did, only to find that the lazy breakfast-eating coworker got the same raise as they did (if not more!). Because they eventually got married and realized that it's wiser to anger the boss (and way wiser to anger some enthusiastic newbie) than the wife/husband. Because they maybe had kids and got 2 hours of sleep tending to the baby/sick-child/etc and know better than to help you in that state.

There are piles of reasons that people with experience value work-life balance, many of which are not entirely clear to someone just starting their career.

I would not let the manager know - any decent manager already knows and ratting on peers is a great way to harm your working relationship with them. I wouldn't necessarily treat the situation as fact, but you should be aware that your sacrifices are your own and your company will never sacrifice for you.

Personally, I would recommend getting a better work life balance yourself. An undedicated coworker is less aggravating when you have a hot date after work.

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    Great answer! I would also add that the OP needs to see what the norm/culture in the company is. While it is most likely that the OP is the outlier, it's quite possible that their colleague is as well. It might influence the conclusions that they draw for themselves. – MrFox Jul 5 '13 at 15:23
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    You are right, I just want to say it again , Do not harm the relationship with your lazy colleagues because you like to work hard , I did that once and I hated myself for a month – Abdullah Jul 5 '13 at 23:20
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    I'd vote for this answer, but faulting someone for wanting to get breakfast? Really? – Andy Jul 6 '13 at 19:45
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    +1 you should be aware that your sacrifices are your own and your company will never sacrifice for you. – jsedano Jul 8 '13 at 17:12
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    @jsedano: Not only will the company not sacrifice anything for you, it is most likely that you get no thanks and no reward for working overtime. If you always work 60 hours and then do 58, you're a slacker. If I always work 40 hours and one week do 42, I'm dedicated. That's what the company sees. – gnasher729 Apr 11 '15 at 19:39
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Here I am - who skipped his dinner yesterday, skipped the breakfast today

See, this isn't healthy. It will lead to burn-out and then you won't have any motivation left to do your work, and when you try, you won't do a very good job of it. Your co-workers are trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance because it's healthy. Eating properly is healthy. Getting exercise is healthy. Taking breaks away from the keyboard and getting out into natural light and going for a walk and getting fresh air is healthy. Going out in the evenings to a show or to socialize or just to sit and relax or read a book is healthy. Maybe they've been on the job longer and had their burn-out experience and learned from it.

Sometimes working long and strange hours is necessary, but usually only for things that are highly time sensitive, or for issues that are very serious. Ask yourself: "What's the worst thing that could happen if I leave this for tomorrow morning?" If the answers do not include things like "lives will be lost/people will be gravely hurt", "I/my co-worker(s) WILL lose my/their job(s)", "millions of dollars will be lost/the company will go bankrupt/we'll lose our important customers", "Cthulhu will awaken and destroy us all", then it's probably safe to have a life and leave it until the next day.

Is it right to expect my co-workers to have the same dedication to work as mine?

There's really no reason to expect others to have the same level of dedication and enthusiasm that you do, unless they actually say they do or if that level of dedication and enthusiasm is an actual requirement for the job.

Also, it's a bit of tangent, but you might want to look at the Urgent/Imporant matrix: "Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle", Mind Tools


I realize my tone might have sounded a bit harsh. I don't want it to sound like I'm putting you down or criticizing your for being dedicated to your job. Dedication and loyalty are not necessarily bad things (until they start having a seriously negative impact on other aspects of your life and health). Enjoying your job so much that you want to work long hours on projects is rare and if you have a job you really enjoy that much, keep enjoying it!! I just wanted to emphasize that it's equally important to maintain balance in your life to keep yourself healthy. If you overwork yourself to the point where you get sick, then you won't enjoy your job and won't even be good at it anymore.

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    My rule of thumb for what I should worry about is "will I even remember this one year from now?" Very few things make that cut. – user1113 Jul 5 '13 at 19:15
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    How do I get a job where I need to work strange hours to prevent Cthulhu from waking? I'm clearly in the wrong field. – Bobson Jul 5 '13 at 19:52
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Yes - "Breakfast" is a perfectly good excuse. You are probably missing huge insights into your colleague's commitment.

So stop congratulating yourself, and consider that maybe "Breakfast" meant:

I'm sorry I don't have time to spell this out in full, but I'm having breakfast with my wife/husband and my children. I wish I could wait for you to grow up in the world and understand such commitments, and the complex way they interact with other commitments in my life. You know what? I've probably proved myself on the job a hundred times over under live fire, and I welcome the possibility that once you prove yourself, you may become a kick-ass colleague. For now - I'm a little short of time, so 'breakfast' will have to do as shorthand.... OK?

  • I'm not sure breakfast is a good excuse personally. If the person was an hour late and then took a break for breakfast that strikes me as a bit unprofessional. I always think that if you're working 9-5 (for example) then you should have your breakfast before 9 and be ready to work at 9. – Chris Jul 6 '13 at 10:26
  • Not everyone has fixed schedules @Chris. We don't know what the corporate culture is like there. I agree though that if you and a colleague agreed to meet at 9, both parties should show. – jmort253 Jul 6 '13 at 16:11
  • @jmort253: This is true but in this case the phrasing suggested to me there was a time to turn up, he turned up an hour after that and then immediately went afk for breakfast. In general I think that you are employed to work a certain amount of time and meals happen on your own time (eg your lunch break), not on your employer's time. – Chris Jul 6 '13 at 20:47
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    I like that you found a way to make the terse reply "Breakfast" be more dismissive rather than less. :-P – ruakh Jul 7 '13 at 18:07
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Is my expectation wrong?

I'd say that the misperception here is that everyone has the same sense of urgency or an equal understanding of give and take. When you're up against a situation where you are going to give up something you care about to get work done, it's worth it to verify with both the boss and your coworkers what the urgency and tradeoffs are.

I often find with new employees and especially those who are new to the field at large, that the first urgent task is a matter of the utmost importance - there is no historical knowledge, so every issue looks huge. Over time, they learn that while most work is urgent not every task is a crisis, and it helps to check in and get a sense of urgency. Pacing yourself is important and the team coming to an agreement on the pace and urgency is also important.

What should I do?

I'd let this one go, but next time, plan ahead.

Things to try:

  • Urgent work - get a sense of what it means when an urgent and difficult task isn't finished on time. Managers love talking about the "critical path" - where anything on the path will cause further schedule delay if it slips a deadline. If your work isn't on this path, you may have far more slack to finish it, even if it is very important. This is a good discussion to have with the boss and any collaborators - everyone should get the same information on relative priorities and urgency.

  • Cross Time Zone Work - if you have to work with a collegue across time zones, it's worth while to figure out a pattern you can sustain, regardless of the urgency. Given that different people have different work/life demands, it's worth talking through a general plan before you have a real crisis. I often have the conversation of:

    • On a regular basis I can... -- come in early and leave early, come in late, and stay late, meetup on weekends, etc. What's the least painful thing for you?
    • In a crisis I can... -- what can you drop if you really had to push for something?

This is a case where you really do need to figure out what limits you are OK with. You're ticked off now, because you skipped stuff that was important to you, and your colleague didn't. It's quite possible that he didn't even know it was important work or that completing it was something you were sacrificing for. It's amazing how easily this communication can fall apart.

I am not sure if to let the manager know.

For a single case - no, skip it. For a trend that will cause problems if unaddressed - bring it up.

That's why it's really good to set up some shared expectations before you hit a crisis. If you and your colleague talk out how you can share work and what each of you can to when in a crunch, you can address this proactively. And it lets you hold your colleague to his promise - the email to the boss saying "we talked it out, and he's going to do XYZ, I'm going to do ABC" creates a contract. If later on, your colleague can't be found for XYZ, you're in a good position to say "hey, we told the boss we'd do this... what's up?"

Conversely, if you can't find a compromise, you can certainly say to the boss that you're worried. Generally in a crunch, 1 person doing a super-heroic level of effort while everyone else plods along will NOT be enough to save the project from difficulty. So if you find that that's the situation, you can raise your concern about manpower issues as a overall project risk, and not as "this guy is a slacker!!!".

Should I accept it as a fact?

Not necessarily. Every team, every office, and every industry is different. The norms for what constitute "enough" work will vary from place to place, be rewarded differently, and be seen in different ways politically.

Generally, a workplace can't survive and thrive without a core group of people who are willing to put in some extra effort in a crisis. The best workplaces are able to separate "crisis" from "every day business" so that they don't burn people out, and a thriving group will find a way to commonly communicate which state is true for today - crisis vs. day-to-day life.

And every individual is different. One person may be able to skip meals, another may simply require them, but be willing to work on the weekend. It's all about talking it out.

Getting into the groove with the team, and finding the right pace is a part of any job. But you may find that you like a more energetic pace than your current company offers. There are certainly big differences between jobs and very, very different corporate cultures on this score.

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    Good point on the part about the colleague maybe not knowing that what the op was working on was critical and that the op needed the colleague's help. Communication on these fronts is indeed important and assumptions shouldn't be made. – jmort253 Jul 5 '13 at 21:07
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    Probably the best answer of all. – deworde Jul 6 '13 at 19:42
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Is my expectation wrong?

Yes. (In the same sense that "Life is fair" is wrong.)

What should I do?

Only two real options: move or stay where you are.

  1. You can move to an environment where colleagues share your attitude to work.
  2. If, on the other hand, you stay where you are, you probably need to think about taking on board your colleagues' more relaxed attitude to work. Or, work hard, and hope that by getting results you gain more responsibility, more interesting work, etc.

As I have similarly tendencies to yours w.r.t. wanting to get the job done, and am a lot further on in my career, I would add two pieces of (conflicting) advice, if you don't mind. First of all, you may be missing out on a lot in the rest of your life if you are too dedicated to work. Second, you are unlikely to find your working environment satisfying if the majority of your colleagues have a very different mindset, and changing a team culture is extremely difficult.

I am not sure if to let the manager know.

Do not. Your manager will already know, and letting him or her know will not reflect well on you, especially if your colleagues find out. The only constructive way to "let your manager know" is to work hard and get results, without trying to show your colleagues up.

Should I accept it as a fact?

Yes. People are different and have different priorities. Who's to say whether achieving results at work or in your home life is more important.

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There is more missing from this story. Was this an emergency? Or was it just the only thing you had to do and couldn't wait to get it done? If it isn't an emergency than you have to understand whatever you are working on might not be as important to others as it is to you, or your boss that asked you. I think the reply of "breakfast" is rude, it should have been something more like, "I will get back with you shortly".

As for you skipping meals, that doesn't make any sense to me. I have worked in IT for many years and I never went without dinner. I have worked through dinner and worked through breakfast (if you can call a protein bar breakfast), but I tried not to weaken myself as you are doing to perhaps apease the "IT Gods" that you are worthy. :-)

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First of all, everyone will have varying degrees of dedication to work so that is a fact. Some people will work nearly round the clock to get stuff done and others may avoid work as much as possible.

As for your case where a co-worker went for breakfast, did you convey what kind of importance this was? Did he know what time you wanted him to show up? Did he know what important part he would play in this saving the world moment, which while it may be a stretch is kind of how you are framing this from what I'm reading? Bear in mind that what you may see as important may not be that important to others. Was the entire fate of the company at stake for that precious hour that the person went to have breakfast? In skipping meals you do realize that could backfire on you right?

As for your claim that "it is not a rant" that I really doubt. Are you sure this isn't talking in an excited manner? Rant does have this as part of the first definition looking at Merriam-Webster. If you have a different definition please confirm as language can be something to note here as while you may think you understand some of the concepts here, I'm not sure you have had enough experience to know the context here.

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I suspect he believed the two of you weren't going to get it done in time anyway and since he stayed in late it would be okay to come in a little late.

Any decent manager will tell you that you're not doing anybody any favors. Hungry, sleep-deprived, stressed out people are ultimately far less useful than well-rested employees who might work late when the situation really demands it but aren't killing themselves over every missed deadline.

Mistakes are made. Deadlines get missed. If the entire fate of the company isn't on the line, not many people are going to respect you for killing yourself over it. Relax. Eat breakfast. Save the all-nighter sacrifices for when a lot of jobs are on the line. Not when things that you probably had no control over lead to a missed deadline.

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No, it is not "right". Were it right, then your co-worker who is slacking (or balancing work and life, depending on perspective) would be right to expect you to slack more so as to show the same dedication as him.

You can reasonably expect to see a large range of dedication levels across your career. If you focus on that in particular, I expect you will just end up angry. Focus on you and your work. Put the dedication into your work you feel appropriate.

I do disagree with most of the answers here, though. It seems to be the consensus that you should not tell your manager; I disagree. If you are waiting on a dependency, and the dependency isn't arriving on deadline (or it not being here now will keep you from meeting your deadline), then yes raise it with your supervisor or manager. What you raise is the dependency and its impact on your work. What you do not raise is that Bob isn't working hard, or is taking breaks, or anything else that is personal.

It is entirely possible that the person you are waiting on has a huge amount of leeway right now because of personal problems that he has already discussed with the manager. Or perhaps he is brilliant and has solved problems no one else could, and that means he can "get away with it". The cool thing about not being a manager is that none of that matters: concern yourself with your outputs and your inputs, and leave personal issues for managers.

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    The one thing you're missing here is that the colleague may not have known there was a dependency. In some workplaces and some career fields, people don't really have set schedules. So if you don't tell me you'll be needing my help at 7AM, I might come in at 8AM instead. Communication is key. If you tell me the night before you're working on something critical and ask me if I can come in at 7AM, you can bet I'll be there. :) – jmort253 Jul 5 '13 at 21:09
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    This is a leap, I doubt the coworker is slacking. It seems the op chose to do something he didn't have to and is upset the coworker didn't choose the same. – Andy Jul 6 '13 at 19:57
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There is no measurement for dedication to exactly compare one with another. It is not just commitment; it's ownership. You definitely need to let your Manager know. But, let that person know first; hey buddy let's work together and finish our task. Please get involved; if he doesn't change. Inform to your manager "I can take 8 hours of work dedicated" and can deliver only as much as possible in these 8 hours and am committed if there are extra hours needed to add in. What happens here in Manager's calculation that 2 people 2 days of work = 2 * 8 = 16 hrs. It doesn't matter if 16 hrs clocked by 1 person or two. So, it's all you have to correct. Maintaining ethics at work is so important and remember talking to manager is considered escalation and will have adverse effect. I advice you to talk to your buddy and then talk to manager.

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