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I have been working for my company for awhile now and up until recently I was pretty autonomous. During that time I was producing great results that the majority of people were impressed and pleased by.

I have not been working traditional office hours to minimise disruption to other employees i.e. coming in at the weekends or hours early to get things done. In addition I usually head to and then work from home in the afternoons as it is more productive than being in the office.

Now I have a boss, who just started at the company, and they are trying to use the following paragraph in my contract to insist that I be in the office 9 - 6 Mon - Fri, be on call 24/7, still go into the office out of hours regularly, including weekends, while maintaining my current level of productivity and without additional remuneration:

Normal office business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, although, these hours are subject to change. As an exempt employee, you will be expected to work additional hours as required by the nature of your work assignments.

What is the best way to push back against this?

EDIT:

The linked question is not a similar situation. In that question the OP was under skilled for their position, their bosses were unhappy with their progress, and the company had an OT (overtime) culture.

In comparison my skills and abilities are not in question, the senior employees were very happy with my progress and the results that I produce, and the company does not have an OT culture (I'm pretty sure that I would be the only one this is expected of).

  • I am not sure I understand. Does your boss want you to work more than you did previously (and more than it states in your contract?) Or does he just want you to adhere to the office hours? – user180146 Oct 31 '19 at 15:38
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    Possible duplicate of How to deal with bosses that expects too much – gnat Oct 31 '19 at 15:55
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    @user180146 Yes my boss wants me to work more, they insist that I be in the office 9 - 6, be on call 24/7, and come in to the office outwith office hours regularly. My contract does not state a specific number of hours that I need to work but the generally accepted figure is 40 hours per week which I already do more than. For most other employees this is 9 - 6 mon - fri with an hour unpaid lunch break. – David Christie Oct 31 '19 at 16:41
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    Can you elaborate on this? "to minimise disruption to other employees" Are you in charge of the backups? The network? This part may be the most persuasive argument for you not to do regular hours. After all, being "on call" is usually reserved for emergencies. If you have regular scheduled tasks you need to do off-hours, to minimize disruptions to others, it makes sense that you use your regular hours to do that. Also, you may just have poorly negotiated your initial contract. Most people who do "on call" work tend to rotate the "on call" schedule with other colleagues. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 1 '19 at 0:11
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    @StephanBranczyk I'm an office manager so it's things like coming in early so that workmen can drill into concrete while there is no one else in the office. There was never any mention previously about being on call this is something that the new person is expecting of me. The new person messaged me on Saturday and I didn't reply until Sunday; they stated that it was not good enough and they expect me to be on call 24/7. – David Christie Nov 1 '19 at 15:22

10 Answers 10

78

First thing I'll say is, don't be in a rush to quit your job.

A lot of people on this stack are inclined to respond to almost any major issue by saying that you should start looking for a new position. It may happen that you wind up forced into that, but you have other options to explore first.

As others have noted, you should have a discussion with your new boss. First, it's worth noting that he's technically correct. Your contract does say that. Presumably when you signed it, you were working something a lot more like 9-6, and then that slowly adjusted to your current schedule. Your other bosses were cool with that, because you maintained (and probably even increased) your productivity, but that was a quiet understanding, rather than being something contractual. Your issue with the new guy is, in essence, that he hasn't bought into the same quiet understanding. He may not even fully understand it.

Second, it's worth noting that there are reasonable reasons for him to take the stance he has. It's not the correct answer, but it's not necessarily an unreasonable answer. Especially if he doesn't have a grasp of how productive and useful you are, he might legitimately think that you're a bit of a flake who needs to be reigned in. Alternately, he might have real, valid reasons for wanting people to be in the office. For example, if part of his job is keeping track of the work that you do, and he almost never sees you in person, that can be quite a lot harder.

So, when you go in to talk with him, you should go in seeking understanding. He needs to understand that you are producing great results, and that your unusual schedule is a big part of what lets you do that - that being forced to come in during core hours is going to seriously damage your ability to give him great work. You need to understand why he wants you to be there solidly for core hours, and see how you can help him get what he needs without breaking the system that works. The less confrontational you can make this, the better your chances are of actually getting it to work. Hopefully, you can come to an agreement that really does work for both of you.

Even if you don't, though, doesn't mean that you need to immediately start sending out your resume. You've said that you have a history in the company, and a number of bosses who've liked your work. Now is the time you can leverage that. If there are any of them left in appropriately high positions, you can go to them, and explain that the new guy doesn't understand about you, and isn't willing to let you work in the way that will actually let you be productive. See if you can get a transfer to someone who is. Alternately, if you think that the issue is simply that the guy doesn't believe you, it might help to have one of them talk with him and explain that, really, you are as good as you say you are.

Its only after you exhaust that possibility that you should start looking at sending out resumes.

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    @Mast Many contracts have clauses like "and other duties as required" which can be used to justify all sorts of things. In the question there is specific mention of a clause that says "expected to work additional hours as required", which means that unfortunately, they are in fact obligated to work whenever they're told to. – anaximander Nov 1 '19 at 13:18
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    @Mast Salaried workers generally have to work "as required" (e,g. "hey, we have to get this release out") but everywhere I've worked, 24x7 support was a separate item. – DaveG Nov 1 '19 at 14:09
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    While many of us jump to at least being prepared to quit, I think it important to note that context matters and agree that this is one case where OP should not do so. As worded, many/most issues that get to this site describe cases that look to many of us as though remaining remediation options have a high chance of worsening the poster's already bad situation. This one has options--many of which you rightfully point out. – John Spiegel Nov 1 '19 at 14:32
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    @terdon "Exempt" is closer to "local jargon" but its actually a defined term. It refers to the employee being "exempt from overtime (and minimum wage) laws." monster.com/career-advice/article/… – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 1 '19 at 14:34
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    I haven't seen the whole contract, but the clause you're focusing on doesn't say what you think it does. If the company wants to require people to be in the office between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and the contract is prescriptive and not merely advisory (employees don't generally work under a "contract"), then it needs to say that specifically in their contract. "Normal office hours are..." doesn't cut it; the OP already doesn't work normal office hours. – Robert Harvey Nov 1 '19 at 14:56
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Now I have a boss, who just started at the company, and they are trying to use the following paragraph in my contract to insist that I be in the office 9 - 6 Mon - Fri, be on call 24/7, still go into the office out of hours regularly, including weekends, while maintaining my current level of productivity and without additional remuneration:

"Normal office business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, although, these hours are subject to change. As an exempt employee, you will be expected to work additional hours as required by the nature of your work assignments."

What is the best way to push back against this?

Talk to your new boss. Indicate the hours you would prefer to work and explain why that works well for you. Talk about the kind of productivity you were able to achieve and how others were pleased with your work. Perhaps you have prior years' annual reviews mentioning the same.

If you aren't happy with the results of the discussion, you'll likely just have to find a new job.

Just because your former boss allowed you significant autonomy and permitted working outside the bounds of your contract doesn't mean that your new boss must do the same.

If you choose to go elsewhere, make sure the new company offers the hours and autonomy you prefer before you accept an offer.

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    Would it not be better to get one of those satisfied seniors to instead talk to the boss? – Mars Nov 1 '19 at 0:14
  • @Mars I agree with Joe Strazzere but for a different reason: going over someone's head without trying to resolve it with them first is huge middle finger shoved in their face. – Jared Smith Nov 1 '19 at 18:21
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    @JaredSmith if that fails, though.... – Ben Barden Nov 1 '19 at 18:40
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    @benbarden of course. – Jared Smith Nov 1 '19 at 19:29
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    @Mars, only if needed. Never go for the sledgehammer when a regular hammer will do. – Stun Brick Nov 4 '19 at 9:51
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It's quite likely that nobody told your new boss that you were working "non standard" hours, especially if it was an informal arrangement with your previous boss.

When people take on a new management position, they tend to get briefed about the problems, not the things that are going right, and from your account you weren't creating any problems.

Unless the new boss is just inflexible and unreasonable for the sake of it, he will quite likely agree to the status quo ante once you have told him what that was.

True anecdote: a long while ago, we had a software developer (call him Dave) who was generally accepted as a genius, but also as a very oddball character. His normal working attire was a kaftan, his beard that had last been cut about 30 years ago, and little else - certainly no shoes or socks. (He commuted 15 miles each way by bike, riding in bare feet - except in the depths of winter, when he wore open sandals, but still no socks.)

One day, a new manager found this strange character wandering along a corridor deep in thought, assumed he must be an intruder, cornered him and asked him "what the **** are you doing in here?". After reluctantly believing that the guy was an employee, the manager said, "well, we can't have people looking like you making the place look untidy. Go home and come back properly dressed".

Dave's response was "OK, fine" and he left the building. Two weeks later, the question "What's happened to Dave" was being asked more or less everywhere in the company.

And after somebody explained to the new manager exactly what this guy did aside from making the place look untidy, Dave returned - still barefoot, bearded, and sockless.

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    I like Dave already – TheEvilMetal Nov 1 '19 at 13:14
  • I assume there was “don’t come back until you do” or something along those lines? – Donald Nov 1 '19 at 23:12
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I would start looking for a new job.

I am not saying you should quit your job or accept the new one.

But looking for one might tell you a lot. Update your resume and put it on job sites your company doesn't use. When you get recruiters interested, make it clear they are not to talk to your current employer (and make it clear that you'll need really good terms to quit your current job).

If it takes a year, and the offer is 20% less than your current pay, that will be very enlightening, and might change your attitude about your boss's demands.

If it takes a month, and the offer is 20% more than your current pay, you can immediately have a heart-to-heart with your boss or his senior and bring that up.

My guess is that you'll find it's more the latter than the former, but I'd never recommend spite-quitting your job until the replacement's lined up.

Most people in exempt jobs are exempt because they historically could walk off at any time and find a perfectly good replacement without missing a meal or a payment on their car. Your employer probably got the idea during the Great Recession that "exempt" meant "free extra hours," and showing them how easily you can find work elsewhere might get you a more realistic contract, or at least more realistic expectations.

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    The problem with this is that most ads will just post a salary range, which may well be 80%-120%. To get an offer with a concrete salary, you need to go to interviews, which is unfair to the new company if you are not serious about taking the job. – Robin Bennett Nov 1 '19 at 12:50
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    @RobinBennett An interview is as much for you to evaluate the new company as it is for them to evaluate you. There's no harm in going to interviews when you're undecided, and it's totally fair to go to an interview and then turn them down if they can't offer you the salary you were hoping for. If I was unhappy about my job, and it was caused by something in my contract, meaning that management are well within their rights to insist on it and show no inclination to change that, then I'd definitely start interviewing elsewhere. – anaximander Nov 1 '19 at 13:26
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It really depends on what business strategy is on his mind. If he wants everyone in the office between 9am to 6pm or other specific hours, there won't be much you can do about it.

Although, if the 'expected additional hours' are not paid, I would suggest to stop going in the office on the weekends.

2

What is the best way to push back against this?

Talk to the new boss and try to negotiate the conditions. If you are already on call 24/7 you can argue that there is no need to come into the office off hours as you can complete the work from home ( as you have been doing so ). If you don't want to be on call 24/7, you can suggest an on call rotation between yourself and your backup(s) (assuming you have any). That way you can have some breaks off hours.

After that it is all up to the boss. If he is reasonable, he will try to accommodate. If he is not then I suggest you start looking for a new company to work for. Although exempt employees in the U.S. can legally be asked to work as many hours as the company wants, there is a line that is crossed where it becomes abuse of the employee. This new boss seems to be leaning towards crossing that line.

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Explain to your boss that your current level of productivity stems from the fact that you are working in "task mode". If you switch to hours, your productivity will change.

In general, you cannot, at the same time, have assignments and work strict hours. There are bosses who would like to have the best of both worlds but it usually fails miserably.

0

The deal with every job is: The company gives you cash, you give the company your time. In addition, hopefully the company (or your team, your manager, or just the job) gives you enjoyment.

Your new manager is trying to change the equation. He wants to reduce your enjoyment by reducing your freedom. He wants more of your time, and of course without more pay.

You can push back. You can tell him that you don't want the real world terms of your job to change for the worse (and the company wash happy with these terms for a long time). You can buy a new phone, and the one where you are "on call" goes into a drawer at the office after you worked 9 to 6. You can try to move to a different place in the company. You can look for a position that is better than what the company offers with this new boss. Best done simultaneously.

Your new boss has likely less sense but more power than you, and will drive anyone away who is good enough to get a job elsewhere. So it's likely that you need a new job, because the old one will turn into something that you hate.

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I'm confused as to how you translated:

As an exempt employee, you will be expected to work additional hours as required by the nature of your work assignments.

into:

still go into the office out of hours regularly, including weekends


If you get all of your work done during 9am - 6pm then there should be no overtime. You need to learn how to not accept more work than you can handle and learn this quickly because if you let them overwork you then they will happily squeeze every waking hour out of you.

I don't know what the nature of your work is but "as required by the nature of your work assignments" would be defined as a weekend server upgrade and not some silly broken personal printer.


The best way to push back is to ask for clarification. My first question would go something like this:

Hey boss, what does this new contract imply? Are we expected to work 60 hours per week now?

and just hear what they have to say.

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You understand why you work those hours, but at first glance, your hours seem ridiculous. Working 8-5 pm or 9-6 pm M-F are standard working, so not considered ridiculous by most people.

You'll have to convince your new boss why your hours aren't ridiculous for what you do and why standard working hours are ridiculous to you. You can bring in others to help make your case, but that might get the new boss thinking in terms of you ganging up on him to change policy for 1 person, which might end badly for everyone involved.

To help convince your boss, you can agree to working normal business hours for the time being, with the understanding that anytime something prevents you from doing your job, you tell that boss and explain why it's impeding your progress or why it'll disrupt others. Once you get a track record of documented reasons why you shouldn't be working standard hours, you'll likely make your case.

I'm assuming you had to do something like this with your previous boss to get to your current situation and that it didn't "just happen overnight". It's annoying that you have to do it again, but unless you have overwhelming evidence right now and some sort of letter or meeting with your previous boss as to why it's necessary for you to work your hours, it's going to take more convincing your new boss than "Well, it's what I've been doing."

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