I work in the IT industry. One of my employee works late and on weekends. I, on the other hand, arrive and leave on time. The project schedule is tight, and others are asking me to work extra hours, too. I believe this is because they see him work late so they are demanding the same from me.

I do not get any extra pay for my late work, so I prefer to come home and utilize my time to study and enhance my skills.

How do I manage these expectations, so that I don't get stuck working extra hours?

  • 1
    How demanding are these other people? Could you lose your job or not get a bonus, promotion, etc.?
    – user8365
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:45
  • 3
    Forward them this question?
    – Telastyn
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:48
  • @JeffO Not much ..but they are expecting the same sincerity from my side...though I finish my work in time..but still they want to spend some extra hours
    – swapnesh
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:57
  • Are you this late worker's person's manager? What is the role of the person demanding late work from you? What kind of role do you fill in IT (many IT positions are expected to work late hours)? What does your contract/job description say?
    – atk
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 21:04
  • You have talked to management about overtime pay or taking other time off in lieu and such options, yes? If not, I highly think you are making a lot of assumptions here.
    – JB King
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 21:25

5 Answers 5


Salary situation

As an IT professional there is a strong possibility you're a salaried employee. If this is the case then there are times you'll need to "man up" and put in extra time to facilitate things, however; not to the point of being taken advantage of.

The rule I use is if they need me to stay late because of unforeseeable reasons or reasons that I'm at least partly to blame I put in the time. If the reason is over ambitious / unrealistic deadlines or poor planning I either don't put in the time or negotiate putting in time now for time off later, etc.

The frequency it happens is also something I consider, if it's a common problem I'm less amenable than if it's a rare one.

Hourly situation

Depending on your role you might be hourly, in this case you have more leverage to negotiate hours because you've specifically agreed to work a set number of hours otherwise you expect additional compensation. Normally this is simply overtime pay, however; I've known many people who negotiate time pools. (If I put in 50 hours on a busy week, I only have to put 30 hours in on a quiet week, etc.)

Hourly you can also respectfully decline saying "I can't stay late that day because of school" or other valid reason and really all they can do is work around it. (this won't be particularly good long term, but this depends on your priorities.)

Managing Expectations

Regardless of your situation you'll want to make sure your manager knows what to expect from you. Even if you want to be a strict 9 to 5er I still need to know what to expect.

This of course can be a VERY touchy subject, many managers feel by paying you salary the number of hours you work is irrelevant and if they ask you to do things that simply won't fit in a 40 hour week that's fine (it's not). There are also managers who take employee retention and burn out VERY seriously and will forcefully send you home if necessary if you put in too many hours. (these of course are the less common of the two)

What you need to do is approach this knowing in advance what terms you're willing to accept. What is the max number of hours you consider reasonable, if you're to put in more than the number of hours you expected what benefit or compensation would be necessary to accommodate this where you don't feel taken advantage of.

With this information be ready to negotiate, approach your boss in a non threatening / end all manner, if your boss thinks "I either cave or he's gone" the chances are 50/50 you'll make it to the other side. You want to come across as trying to present a mutually beneficial solution at best or setting expectations at worst.

If you can negotiate pooled hours or reasonable compensation to justify it, great you and your boss came to a mutually beneficial arrangement. If not you do have to say "Hey boss, I'm more than happy to put in an hour or two here and there, but only to a point. I also have a commitment with school I take seriously and any time past (whatever your cut off is) will be at the detriment of my education. I'm more than happy to try to come up with a solution, but extended hours isn't something I'm able to entertain."

Again, it's entirely possible your boss expects you to put in whatever hours they ask. If this is the case you could be at risk of termination. It's also possible with modern mentality it'll be assumed your coworker is "more dedicated" and a "harder worker" than you (we can debate that point) ultimately though your job is more than where your income comes from, it's a part of signifigant part of your life you'll put countless hours into, it's up to you to make that time commitment mutually beneficial for both you and your employer. You have to decide what is and isn't acceptable and act accordingly.

  • +1 for "If the reason is over ambitious ........ I either don't put in the time or negotiate putting in time now for time off later, etc."
    – user44522
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 20:51

It's quite common knowledge that working lots of overtime doesn't actually make you more productive. Quite the opposite. So if the subject comes up, you'll first ask why they think you should work more hours for no extra pay. (There will be much less of a demand for overtime if it comes out of someone's budget).

If the answer is that your colleague works unpaid overtime, then you need to point out that you actually produce the same or more results as he does, so the overtime doesn't actually benefit the company, and working longer because someone else does is no good reason.

And a quote from a Microsoft manager: "You can make people be at work for 80 hours a week. You can't make them work more than 40 hours a week".

  • This is correct but I see getting management to get this is a really, really uphill battle. IMO, very easy to say on this site but this is "time to look for a new job" material.
    – user42272
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:06
  • 2
    I'll have to dig out that Microsoft quote. It's in a book about software development, written by a senior manager at Microsoft, and he basically reported seeing people who were made to be 80 hours in the office do all kinds of things except working. And getting rid of that nonsense made them a lot more productive.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:38
  • You're probably thinking of Steve McConnell... really don't think you're getting to get management to think that way especially in light of their exemplar employee.
    – user42272
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:48

As I stated in a comment, I would consider having a discussion with management about if you did work extra hours what could this mean:

  1. Time off in lieu - Various places may allow one to take off time later in the week or year for working extra hours earlier. For example, someone may put in an extra 16 hours for a project to get done and then after that is finished take off a couple of days a week or two later as a way to balance the time here.

  2. Overtime pay - Some places that pay hourly would require an authorization to be paid for this of course. You do state that this wouldn't be the case but is that after asking about it or just presuming based on what you think they may say?

As for the person that does put in extra hours, have you considered what if this person has an equity stake in the company? What if this person has other arrangements to be compensated for this time he is working? There may be reasons he does this that you don't know because you don't know his entire situation.


Unfortunately, how to manage a situation such as that depends very much on the people running the show. There's no single advisable course of action. At best, it's fair that you raise your concerns with your immediate manager and possibly HR.

You should also entertain the idea that you might not be reaching the expected output in your allotted hours but very cautiously as this is highly subjective. I've been in this boat before where I was expected to be as productive overnight as the developer that had been writing the codebase for over a year independently and knew it inside and out. We both had the same pay, expertise and ability but the other had a major advantage not adequately taken into consideration. The manager had given me times to complete things based on what he expected from his current employee. And these would be tight. I'm talking about things as low as hours, sometimes 15 minutes. I would have a list of tasks and the times for each like this, from the first week. I would often take 50% to three times longer just from figuring the system out and also trip over my shoe laces. If I did something in time it would be so rushed the quality were sacrificed and it would likely have bugs or issues later. Then a week or two after once I had actually learnt that system, I would be put on a new one with the idea that "maybe he'll do well on that instead". The expectations were impossible. After a few months we had a meeting and mutually agreed it would be best if we parted ways.

The worst thing is that I actually took the unreasonable targets seriously. This meant I was over taxing my mind to try to squeeze in both learning the system so to know it which my coworker already did and getting things done in a woefully insufficient amount of time to accommodate both. I couldn't sleep at night. I would toss and turn unable to sleep due to anxiety. Imagine finally being at home when after a day of having to work at an impossible pace when you should be in your comfort zone of having your mind to yourself it is filled with uncontrollable thoughts about what you need to get done next in the code. You end up feeling like you're in hell because of the stress. It was like being a slave. I started to withdraw, become very quiet and sucked into my own world. After leaving that I had burnt out and couldn't work for several months. Managers don't always get it right either so ensure to consider both sides of the coin. If I had more experience and confidence to confront my manager on these issues I think things would have turned out very differently. My work was well appreciated so not all was lost.

It isn't appropriate for people to establish their expectations in that manner unless its the type of role that explicitly depends on that. Depending where you are and how strongly you're being pressured into putting in additional hours for free that may end up being in violation of employment laws.

When I wanted to work for most than 48 hours a week I had to sign a letter of consent to voluntarily opt out from those protections. I often work late but I consider this a personal sacrifice. When managing I've never expected others to stay late because I do or work weekends. I also never present it as a standard that should be seen as normal. I am lucky to be in the position where I both do and manage people on what I do. So usually I take the hit and do the overtime. I only have others do it when absolutely necessary. In a management position, I don't believe that it's normal to ask employees to do overtime, that's a potential sign of failure on the company side. It's always an ask. Never an expectation. However, that means that when I do ask for it, people take it seriously.

I always abide by these guidelines...

  1. Going beyond the standard should not raise the standard:

The company should set a standard that people can get the work done adequately within the time contracted. It's only niche scenarios where anything but relatively infrequent overtime should be required. Any trained HR knows that excessive overtime might hide staffing issues, over commitment or inefficiency. Their primary job is ensuring that adequate human resources are provided so they need an accurate measure of that. Significant amounts of individual overtime as a personal sacrifice should largely be extra work, not necessary work.

Rare exceptions to this might be where the skillset is very hard to find and the overtime is of disproportionately high contribution towards a critical objective. Few people are genuinely likely to be in that position. It's a common managerial perception that this is the case when its often not. It's also a natural managerial desire to get the most out of the resources given and that can mean pushing people to work beyond their standard hours. In fact those resources aren't given to the manager, your contracted hours are, so he is extracting your personal resources.

  1. Measure the effect, not the cause:

When the company is not demanding overtime on its own terms, people should never directly be recompensed or evaluated base on their overtime. It's very easy to invent work or simply steal other people's in the name of making up overtime (work slower even or spend more time on the toilet). Instead results should be measured and for overtime work to contribute to that significantly the additional results from that have to be fairly decent.

In the absolute worst case your peer isn't even increasing output with overtime but instead compensating for their poor output. If merely their hours are being measure rather than output this will turn out very poorly for all involved.

To argue from the other side:

"The project schedule is tight".

In this case the normal thing is to commit if you can. The project is in trouble, it needs your help. Technically speaking you don't have to adhere to extremely unreasonable expectations but not putting a bit more in if the situation warrants it wont reflect well.

The problem with that is if every project has a tight schedule or the project schedule is tight for a long time or you don't think you doing overtime would help.

There are unwritten rules about this kind of thing where you might do unpaid overtime but it should come into play come next pay review or bonus time.

If you feel you can't trust your company to be honourable, that's another kettle of fish. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but if you don't take the risk you may never find yourself in an honourable company that rewards you for your efforts.

As others have mentioned, the solution to that might be to arrange some kind of official deferred recompense.

Your coworker may work the same way as I do. I work hard on faith with the hope of being rewarded eventually. That's my own personal risk to take however. That isn't the kind of risk you can often ask anyone to take other than entirely voluntarily. The only cases where that might be different are things like a start up or company with a shaky financial situation with a set budget and it's either make or bust. That is, if things don't work out they have no means to even pay you let alone reward you.


Why are they working longer hours?

  1. Is it because they are redoing your work?

  2. Is it because they are working on a side job unrelated to their expected tasks during that time?

  3. Is it because they can't get their own tasks done on time during regular working hours?

  4. Objectively, do you get as much done and contribute as much as this person that works longer hours if they worked the same amount of hours?

If any of these are true, then that person's, inefficiency or incompetence, or whatever reason they need more time to do the same amount of work should not reflect poorly on you.

  • 1
    Sometimes, people are working too many hours because their personal life is a mess, and they prefer staying at office late than coming home (and e.g. have a dispute with family) Commented Jul 7, 2018 at 6:21

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