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I tend to care about my work and so I tend to work long hours.

I am a manager, so when my employees call out, I pick up their task and complete it. I am told I am an open book and my team and upper management know I care and work hard for great results.

Recently, upper management has asked me multiple times if I am okay.

This comes as a surprise to me.

Are they thinking I am not doing enough and under performing or am I so driven they are worried about my long hours? I really do enjoy my work and working 60 hours doesn't seem like a lot to me.

I used to work 85+ hours in the past.

Should I ask them what they mean, or just keep on doing what I am doing? I am a bit frustrated that they think I can't handle it.

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  • 41
    I think this question also needs some location info - different cultures would likely see these questions differently. Jul 8 at 20:12
  • 27
    when my employees call out, I pick up their task and complete it Surely that's not your responsibility? Jul 9 at 0:37
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    Are you paid for the hours you work? Might management be concerned that you burn out? Jul 9 at 11:33
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    @JohnGordon You'd need to know field. At, for example a fast food restaurant or retail that's exactly what a manager should do if he can't find coverage. Jul 9 at 14:51

7 Answers 7

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Should I ask them what they mean

If you want to know why they are asking if you are okay, you need to ask them. They are the only ones who could know their reasons. Any suggestions anyone here could make would just be pure speculation. It might have something to do with the hours you are putting in, but it might not.

Next time they say that, just chuckle and say something like "Hah! I'm fine. Why do you ask?" (or some other phrase appropriate to your language and locale).

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    In Britain, that response could be seen as implying exactly the opposite. Jul 9 at 11:36
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    British sarcasm/understatement, especially with the chuckle/exclamation, could make those words mean "Of course I'm not fine." A better response would be "Yes," perhaps with a drawn-out/puzzled/suspicious intonation while you're thinking "Why on earth are they asking that question?" which is then made explicit with "Why do you ask?" Jul 9 at 11:51
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    One of the first things foreigners, and especially foreign native speakers of English, have to learn in the UK is the trick of mental "translation". Years ago, while I was in university in the UK, a professor told me my assignment was "OK" which I took to mean "It could be better, but it could be much worse. This is satisfactory", while the professor actually meant "This is complete garbage". Just an example confirming the adage that the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language :).
    – terdon
    Jul 9 at 14:32
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    It might then depend heavily on location. What I'm used to is that "how are you?" is most often just a greeting (and an invitation to tell about my past few days if a close friend asked), but "are you OK?" implies a concern, like "is there a problem, can I help?"
    – Val
    Jul 11 at 9:26
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    I think this is exactly why Joe said "appropriate to your language and locale"
    – Mouke
    Sep 8 at 8:38
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Recently upper management has asked me multiple times if I am okay.

That's a good thing - it shows that they're aware that you're putting in long hours and it sounds like they care about your well being. Be grateful for that.

Sometimes, people put in long hours at work as a way to avoid a terrible situation in another part of their life. Work becomes an escape. You're not in that situation, but they don't know that. From their point of view, maybe everything is OK and maybe there's just a small problem that should be fixed now before it becomes a big problem later.

One other thing - if you routinely work those kind of hours, what will management do to cover for you if you are hit by a bus? Filling an opening that includes the phrase "... willing to routinely work 60 - 85 hours/week for no extra pay" is difficult.

I agree with Joe's answer but would suggest you use the opening to have a longer conversation. Try to see things from their point of view and understand their concerns - both the real and imagined ones.

For what it's worth, if one of my managers were routinely putting in those kind of hours I'd consider it a red flag. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could be, so I would have to ask questions.

I am a bit frustrated that they think I can't handle it.

You don't know what they think until you talk to them about it.

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    "I am a bit frustrated that they think I can't handle it." Most people can't so the onus is on OP to let the, know this isn't the case. Most people who end up working 65-85h per week don't do so by choice; They do it because they are drowning.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 8 at 20:39
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    @DKNguyen And some of those who think they're handling it are doing themselves long-term damage. Jul 9 at 1:02
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    I used to work with a colleague, he was the first to arrive at work (around 7 o'clock) and one of the last to go home (around 6 o'clock). Our boss invited him once, just to check whether or not he was ok, as to verify he was not using his job as an escape for a terrible home situation. This was not the case. In top of that, the boss himself had suffered a burnout some years before that and wanted to be sure that that colleague was not following a similar path.
    – Dominique
    Sep 7 at 12:51
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Working 60 hours, week after week, is probably what they are concerned about. In my experience, working that much for an extended time could lead to burnout. Picking up work from the employees you manage may also raise concerns about planning and scheduling while leaving appropriate buffers for uncertainty and unplanned events.

Even though you may be fine with it, there are some organizational risks. Working extended hours may be seen as setting an example for the people under you that they are also expected to work extended hours. Working extra hours and taking on other people's work can also disrupt comparing estimates and actuals that may go into future plans.

It could be worth having a conversation with your immediate supervisor to make sure that everyone is on the same page about your responsibilities and habits.

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    Some research shows that burnout is not caused as much by hours worked as it is by organizational culture, leadership style, and other aspects of a job. 60 hours at one company can be as draining as one business day at another.
    – Lucas Ross
    Jul 10 at 23:25
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    It depends a lot on the job, but I'd be really worried if an employee was working 60 hour weeks most weeks, and 85 hour weeks other weeks. Most people who do this over a long period do burn out, even though that can take some years to show effects.
    – Brian C
    Jul 11 at 6:46
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    If you're in Europe, it also creates a legal liability for the employer (not the employee), as working 60 hours a week for a long period violates the working time directive. Jul 11 at 7:33
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As Thomas Owens mentions, you show some symptoms of burnout, and people around you are starting to notice. Burnout is not just "people hating their jobs".

During the pandemic, with so many people isolated working from home, uncertainty and all that, there has been a significant rise in mental health issues. Companies are now more aware of mental health and many are training their managers to identify certain signs and make sure people are OK. This may explain why they are asking. (I'm not entering into if they do this out of concern for their people or just because it may hurt their balance sheet).

The rest adds some context to why this is a concern:

As much as you are enjoying it, continuously working 60+ hours per week is not healthy. When you are at work, even if doing something you love, you are in a different mental state. You are doing something that may have big consequences (for you and others), and as such you have to put greater care and are in a state of higher alert. That is stress, even if don't notice it, but it adds up, until at some point something breaks.

As Michael points out in the comments, "working 60h/week leaves very little time for exercise, cooking, groceries, relaxing, sleeping, having relationships …"

You need your rest time to let the body recover from the stress. More work time means more stress and less recovery time for it, which adds up.

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    Even if OP doesn’t run into burnout, working 60h/week leaves very little time for exercise, cooking, groceries, relaxing, sleeping, having relationships …
    – Michael
    Jul 9 at 16:04
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If you are working 85 hours a week then it is quite likely that you are not Ok. And quite possible that your boss or manager noticed, while you are too used to it. And quite possible that they are genuinely worried about you.

Talk to them. It is most likely to benefit you.

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First ask what they mean and only after considering their detailed answer, even think about continuing as you are.

On the evidence you've Posted, being a bit frustrated that they think you can't handle it doesn't at all sound like a useful reaction.

In general "I tend to care about my work…" means "I tend to work long hours" only if there's a major emergency, and you're the only capable person. How true is that?

Being a manager is not supposed to mean, "when my employees call out, I pick up their tasks and complete them myself…" except in emergency; it's supposed to mean "… and re-assign them…"

What someone means by your being "an open book" is open to speculation…

In your case does "work hard for…" actually mean "and achieve…" or rather, "strive for…" great results?

What makes you think upper management might be thinking you're not doing enough and under performing? More, what makes you offer that suggestion first?

What makes you think that's greatly different from being "so driven they are worried about my long hours"?

Did you notice, "enjoying your work" is a very different thing from 60 hours not seeming like a lot?.

Did you notice, outside of emergencies, working 85+ hours is at best antisocial, if not bordering on psychotic?

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Yes, I agree that the people who ask you the question are probably nice. They might be nice and trying to make sure that you are healthy in every aspect of life. Some people are physically healthy, but not emotionally, so some are trying to escape through excessive work.

On the contrary, finally, for me, working harder than ever is not a bad thing. As a strong believer of laissez-faire capitalism, I learned from billionaires who used to work harder than ever plus using their intelligences properly.

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    The second paragraph is irrelevant to the question. That's probably the reasons for many downvotes.
    – Nobody
    Jul 9 at 11:13
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    @Nobody - Agreed, and the weird grammar too, maybe? Jul 9 at 11:27
  • Perhaps answer one or more of the questions more directly (instead of it being implied)? Currently, it seems mostly to be a comment about the motives of upper management. E.g., "Should I ask them what they mean, or just keep on doing what I am doing?" (But without "Edit:", "Update:", or similar - the answer should appear as if it was written right now.) Jul 9 at 20:31
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    The notion that 'people are billionaires because they work hard' (implying that people who aren't billionaires just aren't working hard enough) is dangerously false.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 10 at 7:52

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