I work as a contractor for a startup company that has a fast-paced working environment and aggressive goals. Budget is scarce, and management cannot spend on tools or new hires. To reach the proposed goals of each quarter, middle-rank bosses assign resources to multiple teams and have developers working over schedule and weekends. This is a long term situation that has affected general life-work balance and health. Things get worse as we work with other outsourcing companies that are 12 hours ahead to our time zone, arising communication issues and misunderstandings.

Reduced performance and productivity, anxiety, detachment, feeling listless, low mood, difficulty concentrating, lack of creativity, fatigue? We are all tired of this.

What is the correct way to express our disagreement with management? I don't want to be disrespectful (they are having a hard time too) or lose my job, but things can't follow like this much further. From a technical point of view, we have been proposing solutions, but the majority of the issues are due to bad management and lack of vision.

Update: some of the clients were previously working as employees for the outsourcing company I am currently working with, so they turned into remote resources with harder labor conditions but better salaries. Apparently, middle-rank bosses forget that distinction and think that they can demand the same effort to everyone without extra compensation. My current employer explained that to me (too late in my opinion) but he agreed to speak with the client to make him respect the limits on our schedule. However, this is not the first time that we face a case like this with a client and I am afraid that the software industry is becoming more similar to a factory than to art, or perhaps we are having aftershocks of Tesla's crisis: barely achievable goals and constant pressure (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v43clIrh_yY or https://youtu.be/RTZdzFCmIgs?t=1294). I am planning to make a jump of industry, not only from a job. I also want to thank you all for taking the time to answer.


P.S. Management issues are on the client side and my direct employer has asked me to talk directly to the client.

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    Your P.S. makes it unclear whether you’re talking about your own management or the client’s. – AsheraH Apr 24 '19 at 4:57
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    Your direct employer should be interest in the quality of his resources (your health and productivity!). So if you tell them your concerns it is bad management too, to send you to the client for a solution... – Allerleirauh Apr 24 '19 at 9:38
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    The correct way is simply "walk out". Get another job. What possible reason would there be to work somewhere like this? Enjoy yoru next job! – Fattie Apr 24 '19 at 10:44
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    As a contractor are you being paid overtime for the extra hours? It seems like a no-brainer to get an additional resource if it means pulling work from OT rates down to standard rates. – Myles Apr 24 '19 at 18:13
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    This is not a viable business model: "Budget is scarce, and management cannot spend on tools or new hires. To reach the proposed goals of each quarter, middle-rank bosses assign resources to multiple teams and have developers working over schedule and weekends." The company is abusing its employees in an effort to stay in business. Most companies that do this eventually go bust (after destroying many people) – Dave Gremlin Apr 25 '19 at 10:55

The most reliable way to address a problem with overwork due to management issues is to find a new job. I.e. effectively fire the management. Understand that other options also may result in you needing a new job, as you may be laid off or fired. So the first thing you should do is polish your CV.

Assuming you want to keep this job, when they tell you to work overtime/weekends, say no, preferably as a group. Yes, they may fire you. Or they may go out of business, as not reaching their goals. But see the first paragraph.

If you do not do this, then they may still go out of business. But you'll go through months or years of frustration and stress on the way.

Acting as a group makes it harder for them to fire you. It may increase the chances of being laid off. But would you rather work like this for months more and then get laid off because the client simply can't execute?

I think that the distinction between your management and the client's doesn't matter to this. Assuming you've reported this to your management and they haven't fixed it, they are as much at fault as the client. They are telling you that you should fix it. I disagree with that. But since it's what they are telling you to do, do it. Tell the client that you won't work overtime or weekends to cover up for long term improper planning. If your management doesn't like that, then tell them to work out the problem with the client's management instead of passing that off on you.

You should only work overtime for a short period (a week or two). Since you're already past this, you should insist on a strict forty hours (or whatever regular time is in your jurisdiction). And you should only work weekends if the work needs to be done on the weekend (e.g. a server outage may need to be done at 2 AM on a Sunday for minimal impact) or to free up weekdays (e.g. you may work the weekend before a long holiday so that your week can end and your holiday start sooner).

If you have to work odd hours because another company is offset twelve hours from you, then change your start/end times in tandem. I.e. show up early and leave early or leave late after showing up late. And press the other company to do the same so that neither side has to change by more than three hours (if one stays three hours late and the other starts three hours early, that gives you at least two hours of overlap, plenty for a meeting).

Consider if you work 9 AM to 5 PM and they work 9 PM to 5 AM. If they stay until 8 AM (three hours late) and you start at 6 AM (three hours early), that's two hours from 6 to 8. Or if you stay until 8 PM and they start at 6 PM, that's three hours for each of you to get two hours to meet. This is even easier if your times are not symmetrically offset. For example, if they work 11 PM to 7 AM, then always have them stay late and you start early. Two hours for each of you gives you the two hours for the meeting.

But everything starts with a polished CV. You might even start distributing it. If things improve, you can always turn down offers. If things get worse, you want to be getting offers.

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    Resist unsustainable demands or you will end up asking a new version of this question – uɐɪ Apr 24 '19 at 9:25

Your last line is the actual question:

How to tell management they are bad at managing things?

Are you paid for the overtime and weekends?
If yes then the company have resources for new hires

If not then isn't you who are financing the company? Doing overtime for months mean you are basically doing someone else job just sliced into smaller parts. It's simple calculation, if two people work just for 2 hours a day overtime and 8 hours on weekend they make time worth one person job.
Multiply it by people who need to work this overtime and you realize how many people SHOULD be hired but company is saving (and for company every penny saved is penny earned).

At the beginning you mention all three angles of a "JOB" triangle. Time, money, goal. Every entry level management book will tell you cannot have effort on just one. You need to choose two. Otherwise you will be extorting from your employees.

So that leave us with two issues - either your management is just bad at making the company. in which case you should look for new job it's not your job to teach them how to run the company.
Or they are consciously using you for their own gain. in which case you should look for new job

  • "Are you paid for the overtime and weekends? If yes then the company have resources for new hires" that's a good point. And about "consciously using you for their own gain" it might be the case, as the other outsourcing company is our competitor and affine to some of the client's managers. – JFonseca Apr 25 '19 at 4:21

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