I have started a new job about 6 months ago.

In my performance review, a couple months ago, We were both discussing my own performance, but also what I liked and disliked in the company itself. When the discussion turned towards the hours (it's 40 hours a week, but every employee decides when they come in to do them, as long as they are in the office between 10am and 4pm), the manager mentioned, almost off-handedly, that I shouldn't refrain from doing slightly more than that, for example if I am deep in coding, I shouldn't leave just because it's the time when it would disrupt my "flow" considerably.

I just had my second performance review, and the same thing came into the discussion, but this time it felt less like a casual offhand comment, and more like a demand.

He started by saying that he noticed I was a early worker (I usually do 7h30am to 4pm, taking a 30min lunch break), but he reiterated that I shouldn't "feel the need" to leave at 4 every day. Then he mentioned that some other coworker (senior) usually put in more than 40 hours, and that I could follow his example. My manager also mentioned that he was also on a 40h contract, but usually put in closer to 60h a week, and that he "doesn't mind" if anyone else does that.

It felt like he didn't want to outright force me to, but wanted to strongly recommend I start doing more hours.

There is literally no overtime policy in place. This is not about getting 1.5x pay during extra hours, right now extra hours are not counted anywhere, and we are not paid any compensation whatsoever for doing any. My total yearly salary would be the same, whether I put in 40 hours or 50 hours every week.

I also want to mention that I have done overtime (no pay) a couple times in the past, near important releases or to finish something I was working on. I only did it of my own will, because I wanted to. Now I'm wondering if I am being "forced" to do them.

So my question is:

Are they allowed to force me to do overtime at no extra pay?

If not, are they allowed to strongly suggest it with possibility of "unrelated" termination, or bad performance reviews if I refuse (which is essentially the same as forcing me from my point of view)

And, if not, then should I do it anyway just to "fit in" or make a good impression? I would much prefer to only put in the 40h I signed up for, but if it is an standard industry practice, then I can deal with it.

By the way, this is in Canada.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 5:16
  • I have been in this situation. You have two options: 1- just say "oh, ok" and keep doing your hours, leaving when you see fit (i.e. at 4 pm), so either they hopelessly insist on it or they are forced to pay to leave; or 2- embrace the (nasty) suggestion: "oh, well, if you want me to work overtime I'm fine with it, but then we need to re-define the conditions and clauses of my contract and sign them anew". Of course, this kind of behavior is a major red flag. I would look for another job, which in my case, was the solution I finally took.
    – busman
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 15:42

14 Answers 14


What your manager says is nonsense.

What he apparently wants is "bums on seats". A nice quote from some top manager at Microsoft: "You can make people stay in the office 80 hours a week. You can't make them work more than 40 hours a week". Working more than 40 hours a week decreases productivity, and not productivity per hour, but productivity per week. That's it from the company's point of view, it's nonsense. But for you, it is destructive. It destroys your health. It destroys your family life, or your chances of getting one.

So your answer to any demand working more than 40 hours a week, and unpaid at that, should be a very strong "No". You can give the reasoning I gave here.

PS. Let's make very clear that this is ONE MANAGER wanting you to work unpaid overtime, not MANAGEMENT. There is often a big difference between the two.

  • 103
    caution: giving a strong "No" could result in the OP being shown the door (for an "unrelated" reason). In the end that may be desirable, but I would rather "fit in" temporarily and then leave on my own terms.
    – mcknz
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 20:11
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    I think mcknz's observation should be worked into this answer. A polite but firm "no" is the correct answer, but OP should be aware this almost certainly sets him up to part with the company in the short-to-medium term, one way or another. He should send out resumes immediately. Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 22:57
  • 3
    The thing is: if you go skiing for a bit, and tell yourself 'it's so I can do things on my terms' you're almost certainly mistaken. If your employer makes one unreasonable demand, and doesn't seem to get any grief for it, there's no reason there will not be about just at the tail of that, and then, when will you have that moment, where you're the one on top, in control, and can just leave on your own terms?
    – rasmus91
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 23:28
  • 91
    Actually the OP need not say anything directly. In a culture like this, they can simply make positive noises like "I don't mind doing the odd bit of overtime" (which is true) then simply carry on as they are. This might not work out longer term, but it gives the OP space to decide on next moves, whilst any direct communication saying "no" could result in extra friction with the manager. I'd still back the first two paragraphs of this answer, and if the culture of long hours without any compensation is entrenched at the company, then the long-term move IMO would be to leave. Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 7:56
  • 4
    @mcknz Fitting in even temporarily can be very damaging to your chances of getting a good job elsewhere. You are not going to be in top form to look for jobs or at interviews while working large amounts of overtime.
    – l0b0
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 9:35

Are they allowed to force me to do overtime at no extra pay?

This really depends on your local laws, your employment contract, and your status as an employee, none of which can really be determined here. Your best bet, should you really want an answer for this, is to consult a lawyer.

What is more concerning is that your employer appears to have no concern for work/life balance, which is essential for your well-being, your mental health, and your long-term employment.

In the software development industry, overtime is often part of the business, but is usually paid, at least in terms of compensatory time if not directly added to your paycheck. It is also not a regular occurrence.

Your manager may put in a 60-hour week, but that's his choice -- it could be because he has managerial responsibilities, and is getting paid such that overtime for him perhaps makes sense. To suggest that you do the same is ridiculous.

Whatever you need to do in the short term to fit in is up to you, but medium to longer term, I would explore new employment, because this will only get worse.

  • 68
    The manager may have to do 60 hours per week to do what anyone else can do in 40...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 19:05
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    Or he does 60 hours per week because he is too tired to work effectively, and could be doing the work in 40 hours himself. Or he is present 60 hours a week and only works 40.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 9:06
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    Or he "works" 60 hours a week, because it is an escape from a horrible home life. We do not know the manager's motivations.
    – emory
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 14:49
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    Personnal experience to supply this answer: on my first job, I got a contract for 35h weekly (and got paid accordingly). The management enforced a 37.5h "company-culture" week, which I was complying to. The 2.5h were, of course, unpaid nor compensated in any way. During my review, my CEO/manager asked me to do more, quoting the same "Don't disrupt your workflow" excuse. He didn't know the first thing about coding, he wanted "above and beyond people". Ended up being a toxic job. You're not doing charity. You're working according to a contract and have the right to have a personnal life.
    – Nyakouai
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 9:58
  • 2
    What is more concerning is that your employer appears to have no concern for work/life balance, which is essential for your well-being, your mental health, and your long-term employment. and long term employability as well
    – kube_ahmed
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 11:33

I would set up a meeting with your manager to discuss this. I would be point blank:

Boss, I am working and meeting all the demands expected. I complete all the assigned tickets/tasks on time and in completion. I am not clear on what you mean that I should work more than 40 hours. I am meeting expectations and do not believe I need to do more than 40 hours to do the tasks. Is there more expected of me?

If he cannot give a solid explanation on what he is expecting from you and keeps talking in suggestive tones, then you should consider quitting or continue to do what you're doing and continue to explain that you are meeting expectations and need further clarification on what they're expecting of you.

And, if not, then should I do it anyway just to "fit in" or make a good impression? I would much prefer to only put in the 40h I signed up for, but if it is an standard industry practice, then I can deal with it.

It's like in that movie Office Space with the pieces of flair topic. The manager explains in the movie a co-worker goes above the demand of minimum pieces of flair, but give no specific on what is expected of the main character who did the bare minimum that was set (I believe it was set at 13 minimum and she did that). If you cannot get a clear expectation then how do you know you're "pleasing" the manager? I would set clear expectations and if it cannot be adequately explained then you should ignore it.

  • 12
    I’m amazed that (so far) this is the only answer that recommends directing the manager’s focus back onto sensible performance metrics rather than arbitrary ones.
    – eggyal
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 22:56
  • 5
    Do you really want to be someone who only does the bare minimum? :P
    – Wildcard
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 1:58
  • @Wildcard If the minimum is doing a great job, sure! If the boss is expecting the OP to do more actual work, they need to say so. Saying they want the OP to stay longer without explaining what they want the OP to accomplish in that time is pretty silly.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 4:05
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    @jpmc26, it's a quote (or paraphrase) from that same manager in Office Space who was pestering Jennifer Aniston about having bare minimum flair. ;) (Eventual response was, correctly, "If you want me to wear 39 pieces of flair, then make 39 the minimum!")
    – Wildcard
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 5:18
  • 2
    Since it's constantly brought up - "I don't care if the other guy has 37 pieces of flare": youtube.com/watch?v=KJtrLKGZZFg
    – WernerCD
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 19:43

Canada is a big place, your province and city matter a lot. Since your overall employment situation most likely vastly exceeds the minimums required by law it is unlikely they are actually violating any labor regulation.

Culturally, in private sector, in software, definitely someone who always locks their workstation stands up and hits the door at 3:59:59 regardless of what's going on will be perceived as un-engaged, just here for the paycheck, etc etc. Especially if you're not, say, catching an extremely infrequent bus or something. That's just how some people will feel and you can't really change other people's feelings.

Yes it is normal in Canada for full-time developers to be salaried staff with no OT compensation or (official) time in lieu.

No it is not normal in most Canadian markets for successful employers of software developers to still be judging people based on 'time spent in seat' instead of 'useful work output' in 2019.

They cannot force you to do anything. You are employed at will and can resign at any time. Likewise they can lay you off at any time. (If they attempted to terminate for cause without a clear policy, find a decent lawyer and that would be a nice payday for you in most provinces.)

If you signed a contract that says otherwise that doesn't also clearly define terms about your hours and so-forth, there are lots of answers on this site about that.

  • 11
    "Culturally, in private sector, in software, definitely someone who ... hits the door at 3:59:59 regardless of what's going on will be perceived as un-engaged." I wouldn't say this is true in general. At my company, most people (developers & managers) put in right around 40 hours, or maybe a few hours extra, and this is perceived as normal. Everyone that I've spoken to, management or not, agrees that our out-of-office lives are more important. They're not going to pressure you into staying extra, because they don't want to. Most of my coworkers have families, which might matter.
    – Johndt
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 22:37
  • 3
    For sure, environments where lots of people leave at fixed times due to childcare responsibilities etc attract and retain like minded people! I guess that was my sideways way of suggesting OP needs to seek out such an environment if that's what he wants. Cause extremely fluid environments are also common in software, and I think in those types of places the guy who always quits at quttin-time may be at a perceptual disadvantage to someone who sometimes pulls an all nighter then comes in late the next day, even if they both worked the same total hours.
    – Affe
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 22:52
  • 3
    In many places with flexible schedules people who work earlier are frowned upon. Everyone sees that you're leaving at 4pm while the rest are going to stay for hours more. Almost nobody saw that you were there working hours before others...
    – Džuris
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 10:49
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    @Džuris "Almost nobody saw that you were there working hours before others... " You can be visible if you like. A common trick is to reply to all your overnight emails first thing at 0645. Another one is to say "Good afternoon" to everyone who arrives after 9am.
    – Calchas
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 13:04
  • 3
    @Calchas I would consider "Good afternoon" at 9.01 an aggressive move to make a point, not a friendly greeting. Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 23:03

I'm going to take up a contrary position to the other answers and agree with management here.

It's slightly unclear from your question if you're hourly or salaried. If you're hourly, it's definitely illegal for them to ask you to work overtime without extra pay.

If you're salaried, though, you're paid to do the job, not to work a specific number of hours a week. That being said, this is not unpaid overtime - you're being paid the salary you agreed to when you took the job.

Your question makes it sound like you think that you're somehow doing them a favor by occasionally working more than 40 hours to meet deadlines and do releases. You're not - you're doing the job that they're already paying you to do.

With that said, I think that you're missing their point about the overtime. It doesn't sound like they're ordering you to start working 60 hours a week or something. I suspect that their point is that if you immediately head for the door the second the clock hits 4:00, it creates the perception that you're just doing the absolute minimum expected of you.

I actually agree with them about not interrupting yourself at a bad stopping point just because it's 4:00. You don't say in your question if you ever do that, but if you do, I'd encourage you to reconsider because it's definitely hurting your productivity. Even if you're not doing that, the fact that it looks like that's what you're doing is still a problem.

  • 35
    This is a good point. The obvious addendum to this is to tell your boss, "Sure, I don't want to break my flow,, so I'm happy to finish when I hit a convenient break. But if I hit a convenient break at 3:30, I'm OK leaving then, right...?" Flexibility is great, so long as the employer is equally flexible.
    – Graham
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 0:25
  • 18
    "Your question makes it sound like you think that you're somehow doing them a favor by occasionally working more than 40 hours to meet deadlines and do releases." If the actual policy or contract only specifically requires 40 hours of work (which sounds to be the case), then they are doing the company a favor.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 4:06
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    @EJoshuaS But that's my point. They're not doing only the bare minimum. They're doing what's required to do the job and do it well. When the situation actually calls for putting in some extra time (deadline needs to be met, releases require some extra after hours work), the OP is doing it. When it doesn't, they're not spending extra time. Surely good time management is a positive. The fact that the OP, without complaint, does more than explicitly required without more pay when the situation calls for it is definitely doing the company a favor.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 5:28
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    This should be one of the worst answers ever. I have been hired to work 40 hours. If I put more, it is because I want to. If management is flexible enough with me, I will be with them in return. If they make a point of being idiots and bean counters.... Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 10:10
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    The answer's reasoning is spurious in most circumstances. "You're being paid for the work, not the hours, so it's appropriate to work 60 hours/week if that's what it takes to finish the work" also implies "you're being paid for the work, not the hours, so it's appropriate to go home after 20 hours/week if the work is finished in that time", but I've never seen a company that would accept a full-time salaried employee leaving after 20 hours. And if the company won't accept "the work matters, not the hours" when it's to their detriment, why should the employee accept it on the other side? Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 12:00

The important thing to recognize is that you are not meeting your manager's expectations. You need to decide how to react to this fact. You have a number of courses of action available, each with pluses and minuses.

  1. Continue working as you have been. They may fire you, and in any case, you won't be getting good raises or new opportunities. It may be too much trouble to fire you, so you might keep your job. You might even gradually change the culture.

  2. Convince your manager to value output, not time in the office. That sounds unlikely.

  3. Spend more time at the office. Whether you do company work at that time may be visible or may not. Recognize that you will not get paid for the time.

  4. Find a new job.

  5. In the US, software companies, in particular, have been judged to be misclassifying employees as exempt from the requirements to pay overtime. I don't know Canadian law at all, but here you could choose to work the overtime, then report the company to the labor commission and try to get paid for it. This has significant challenges.

  6. Start later. A problem might lie in the fact that your manager PERCIEVES that you spend less time in the office than your co-workers because you start earlier, still at the same time you leave earlier than anyone else.

The point is to evaluate your situation and choose the course of action that is best for you. To do that, you need to know what the practice is in other companies that hire people like you because you might find a new job only to find the same situation. Only 5 is impacted by the question of whether they are allowed to do this.

  • 2
    Great answer. I would also say 6 "Start later".The fact that a lot of OP's time is spent in office before the manager even gets there could cause the PERCEPTION that he is working less. If he leaves closer to when the manager leaves, even when working the same hours, it might temper his perception. Or it might not...
    – user87779
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 20:15

Most of the answers here seem to be taking it for granted that this is a bad thing, or a sign that the questioner is in trouble. I'd like to suggest that this is an opportunity, specifically, an opportunity to ask for more money.

The company obviously values the questioner's work, and wants him to make more of a commitment to the relationship. If he's watching the clock like a hawk and sticking to the letter of the contract, it's like he's a temp or a mercenary who only cares about the paycheck. The response to this is, if they want him to make a more serious and permanent commitment, they need to make more of a commitment to him -- such as more pay, a longer-term contract, or whatever it is that he's uncertain of.

Managers understand that if your pay is barely adequate, or there's no opportunity for advancement, that you're going to have to be keeping an eye out for other jobs, and you're not going to really identify yourself with the company. Put your request in terms of "relationship" and "commitment" and it might be a win-win scenario.


Your manager is giving you a 'heads up' for the second time. If you value your job and want to have good career prospects then take the advice seriously. If you don't, then just carry on ignoring it but expect potential repercussions in terms of remuneration or advancement.

Is the manager allowed to?

Yes, he can give you any advice he wants.

  • 7
    If the manager does not distinguish between normal days and urgent days, might be a good time to leave. The OP said he stayed in their own accord when there were urgent deadlines to meet. If a manager did that to me, I would start making a point of doing only 8h whatever it happened until finding a new job. Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 10:12
  • @RuiFRibeiro perhaps, but the OP didn't ask if they should quit, I just answered the question
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 10:31
  • 1
    This is an interesting use of the word "advice".
    – Vaelus
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 6:30
  • What is the "heads up"? That OP isn't doing good work? Or that even if it lowers work quality, butt in seat time is more important? Genuinely asking, because the manager is being quite ambiguous imo.
    – user87779
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 20:06
  • 2
    He's not ambiguous, he most likely has another manager (his probably) asking for asses in seats.
    – BoboDarph
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 13:32

Your employer is typically allowed to request you work overtime (within limits).

However, as far as I know, it is overwhelmingly likely that overtime pay is mandated by law in your province, even if you are salaried. (or the federal government if you live in a territory, I suppose) There are exceptions that vary province-by-province, so check if you are covered. (most relevantly, people with managerial responsibilities may be required to work overtime uncompensated, but that doesn't sound like that is the case with you) Your provincial government's website should have a page detailing overtime laws.

You should look for new work while working 40 hours a week at your current job. If you acquiesce to "suggestions" for unpaid overtime, also consider consulting a labour lawyer.

  • 6
    "Information Technology Professionals" are exempt at least in all the provinces that contain 'major market cities' for programmers and probably everywhere since I'd imagine the others are also more or less inheriting from the federal tables.
    – Affe
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 0:02
  • 5
    I have never heard of a situation in the United States, anyway, where overtime pay for exempt employees is a thing. That is almost literally the definition of what it means to be exempt.
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 21:34

Either your boss is trying to politely tell you that you’re underperforming/falling behind your peers and that you need to step it up, or that you are working for a sweatshop that’s bound and determined to suck every ounce of life from you.

If the former, the boss may be too much of a nice guy and is inadvertently setting you up for a nasty surprise at review time by not giving you the hard feedback now. If the latter, it’s probably a sucky workplace and you have to decide if the benefits/perks are worth killing yourself for.

What should you do? Ask directly about your performance, how it ranks at your current level, and how’re you doing regarding reaching the next level. Expect clear guidance on what you should be doing. If you don’t get clear expectations or you feel the expectations are higher than the pay/benefits you receive then it’s time to move on and find something that’s a better fit for you.


Sounds like your employer offered you a flexible schedule but doesn't honor that perk. Tell him that you selected a job with a flexible schedule because you are not available on afternoons and have to leave at 4:00 unless there's a work emergency.

Usually employees use the flexible schedule as a chance to come in late (when they wake up) and stay late in the evening, so managers are used to people staying late not leaving earlier and your early leaving makes it appear you worked less than others (nobody were there to see you working in the morning, right?)

Offer that, if there's a lot of crunching to be done, you can come in earlier than usual to get more done. Or, even better if possible, have proof that you are doing the same or larger amount of work per day than the colleagues who come and leave late.


I believe that a company that wants you to do unpaid overtime simply does not have a good business culture and if they treat people like that, sooner or later they will loose their best employees. There are many "If-s", however. If one has agreed to do overtime as part of the contract and if the agreed financial compensation calculates any occasional or seasonal overtime, then it is a different story.

It also sounds to me a bit strange for any Manager to request "more unpaid overtime during performance review". Does it mean that as soon as the "performance review" is done, the employee could sit back, relax and work less than one is expected.

I cannot suggest whether you should do "more unpaid overtime during performance review". You should ask yourself the question "How important is this job for me?". This is the main thing to consider!

  • I think you'll find that "more unpaid overtime during performance review" means "During a performance review, he suggested I do more unpaid overtime."
    – barbecue
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 17:35

Entirely outside of the legalities of the situation, different companies have widely different "cultural" expectations around overtime AKA "work-life balance." There are many workplaces where huge amounts of unpaid overtime are expected. While it is too late for this particular position, in the future I'd advise trying to learn what the expectations are for any position you are considering. Usually all you need to do is ask "what's work-life balance like?" around here, and you'll find out everything you need to know.

With that said, even if the workplace culture doesn't generally support it, there are ways you can potentially carve out a niche for yourself as the person who works 40 hrs/wk AND doesn't get flack for it.


  • Make sure you always do your full forty hours, and put solid, consistent work in during that span.
  • Do a good job and complete your tasks. Good managers leave people who are doing a good job and completing their work alone.
  • Do ALL the paperwork your job requires, and on time. Document all your work related activities. In my experience, nothing counts in any big workplace except what is documented.


  • Tweak your schedule to arrive no earlier than your manager, and to leave around when other people are leaving. Yes, they told you you could work your own hours, but this is the easiest way to make people happy. Maybe you could switch your exercise schedule to mornings, or something else like that, so it won't really inconvenience you.


  • Tell your manager. "Yes, I would be happy to work unpaid overtime, if that is a standard requirement for this job. I'd just like that in writing for my records." Personally, I always ask for any non-standard requests in writing. It's likely that this is the last you'll hear of it. I'd be cautious with this technique, however --it could easily come across wrong.

The thing to remember with a big company is (a) managers need something to do and (b) the only things you get credited for are what people see, and what gets written down. You're getting harassed about leaving at 4 because that's something visible that the manager can easily find an approach (a wrong one!) to address. If you can (a) make your work more visible and (b) find other ways to make your manager feel you're a valuable contributor, the overtime discussion may just fade away.


This is a great time to start managing your manager. Management is a skill which can be improved just like any other discipline.

There are a lot of good reasons to not work extra time.

  • Work quality goes down as you get tired
  • Work becomes something you dread as there is no escape
  • Poor work/life balance causes issues at home - which become issues at work
  • Learning outside of work becomes difficult

Start learning about these concepts and gradually introduce them to your manager. This doesn't need to be a conflict, this can be a learning experience for both of you.


  • When you give yourself space from problems, you can often come back with a fresh perspective.
  • Keeping a limit on your work time has allowed you to spend time outside of work learning new relevant things that contributed to the success of a project

If your manager isn't open to new ideas and improving how they manage, that is a separate problem. Be considerate in how you approach these conversations, focus on your way of working and how it affects you.

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