So I've been at my current job for approximately 4 months now. I am really enjoying it so far and it really is a great place to work. However, after a recent discussion with an employer in regards to changing position, I have been told I am not 'enthusiastic enough' about my job. I have been also told that my work is pretty good and I have definitely grown in terms on my skills and abilities since I have been there (it is a creative industry). It was explained to me that maybe I am not passionate enough about my job as I turn up right on time and leave at 5 and don't generally work through my lunch breaks or come in on weekends. I am currently paid an hourly rate with a maximum of set hours per day that I can be paid for - so even if I stayed late I would not get paid as I did sign a contract agreeing to this.

However, in my previous job (which was my first job out of university) I was predictably gung ho about working my butt off to impress my employers. I often worked up to 4 hours extra per day, worked through my lunch break and even came in on weekends/holidays to get extra work done. I never asked for anything extra, I was paid a very minimum salary (with a university degree) and never even thanked. And then after 18 months was 'let go'. Rightly so, I am now a bit wary of giving my all to employers and a business as I realised that all employees are just that - an employee.

Is it common (or reasonable) to be made to feel guilty about leaving and arriving on time and told you are not passionate enough about your job because you don't want to spend 90% of your waking hours at work? I understand it does take a lot of hard work to get places and am willing to put in that hard work but I also want to enjoy my life. I am still young and have at least another 40-50 years of work in front of me - I do want to enjoy life while I am still young but want to have a great career.

What are ways to have a positive work-life balance but at the same time show my real passion and enthusiasm for my work that my employer desires?

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    Unfortunately, gauging people's feeling is not on topic. As this is a Q&A site, questions need an actual topic we can address. If you can change the question to one that can have a definitive answer, we'll gladly help though.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 11:50
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    As it is said in the contract, you are paid to work a maximum of hours if you don't want to do more, they don't have the right to force you.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:51
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    Unless I'm reading this wrong, you are an hourly employee that is being pressured to work additional unpaid hours beyond the maximum allowable in your contract. Not only is it inappropriate for your boss to do that, that is almost certainly illegal. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 18:24
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    You don't say where you are, but in many jurisdictions, if you are paid hourly, it illegal to have you work "off the clock" EVEN if you agree to do so. If they are asking you to work more than your maximum number of hours, but also unwilling to pay for those hours, the problem is theirs.
    – DLS3141
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 16:49
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    How many pieces of flair do you actually wear? Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 20:53

5 Answers 5


Is it fair to be made to feel guilty about leaving and arriving on time and told you are not passionate enough about your job because you don't want to spend 90% of your waking hours at work?

Some employees just work the required amount. They arrive on time, they leave on time, they do what is necessary, but no more. In my experience they comprise the majority of workers. A company can get by nicely with many such workers.

Other employees work less than the expected amount. They sometimes (often?) come in late, are out a lot, and put in less effort. They are in the minority, but a company can't work effectively with many such employees.

And some employees go above and beyond. They work more, and work more intensely. They can be counted on to get important things done even if it means working through lunch, staying late, or working an occasional weekend. They are in the minority, but are very valuable.

You get to choose which kind of employee you want to be, and you don't need to feel guilty. If you feel good about yourself nobody can make you feel guilty, but you can bring that upon yourself.

That said, you certainly can understand that good employers reward those who go above and beyond and you can understand why. Your employer specifically told you how you can get ahead in your company. Now you can choose to take that route or not.

I'm sure it wouldn't actually take "90% of your waking hours" to get there. You are exaggerating.

I understand it does take a lot of hard work to get places and am willing to put in that hard work but I also want to enjoy my life.

You are seeing this as a two-sided coin. Either you work hard or you enjoy your life. In most cases it's easily possible to do both.

When I was younger, I worked a lot, attended school at night, got ahead, and still enjoyed my life tremendously. I love my family, love my life, and I loved my work as well. It worked out very well for me in my career and I wouldn't change a thing.

Perhaps being let go from your previous job hurt so much that it has made you wary that all employers will spurn you. Thus you decide to work just as much as required and no more. You can probably continue to do that and have a decent career. Or you can decide to take a chance that your current employer is right and that hard work can get you ahead.

As always, it's your choice.

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    What we don't know in the case of the OP if it's expected for all employee to work extra hours ? If so there is very likely nothing (except getting eventually fired), in terms of salary, career, to be gained doing the same.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:54
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    "That said, you certainly can understand that employers reward those who go above and beyond and you can understand why." doesn't seem to be a given, judging by the number of people here who complain about being overworked for little pay.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 13:12
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    What Erik said re "employers reward those who go above and beyond". The OP mentions that she did exactly that in her previous job and got nothing in return. Given that her current employer set up the financial incentives to not reward extra effort at all, I wouldn't rely on that carrot-on-a-stick promotion coming through either. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 15:57
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    "They work more and more and work more intensely". No they don't. Productivity (not just efficiency) peaks if you work 6-8 hours/day. People staying overtime are no better than those leaving early.
    – limdaepl
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:08
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    @JoeStrazzere My experience is that some people who only work 6 hours do get more done than many people who are there for 10 hours - especially over a period of a week or month or quarter. Being there and being productive are not always the same thing
    – HorusKol
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 14:43

You don't specify which country you live in, but in the US, having hourly employees work off the clock is an illegal labor practice, even if the employee agrees to it. This doesn't keep some employers from appealing to "passion" and "company culture" to extract free labor, but if the company needs more hours from their hourly workers, then company needs to pay for them. If they truly want to engage your passion, then they can make you a salaried employee and offer equity or profit sharing.


There are other ways to exhibit passion aside from working more hours than you are paid: you can read trade magazines, attend conferences, pick up a new class, practice at home (on your own art), or ask your coworkers if they know of other opportunities that will help you improve your skills. It could also be a matter of asking really good questions while you're working there - even if the question is "Is there a way that I can improve on this?"

I watched a former manager and good friend of mine cut back a bit on some of his hobbies to focus more on his software engineering skills - he attends lots of meet-ups, free conferences, plays around with Arduino boards, etc, and his career has gone a lot better for it. He's not as great as he used to be as a choir member, but he also brings less work stress to choir practice.

To really feel passion, you want to get to a zen state where you are constantly learning and what you learn is quickly applicable to what you're trying to accomplish.


If you work from nine to five and don't work through your lunch hours then your level of enthusiasm is just exactly right. Actually, your productivity will be optimal because working longer hours is known to reduce productivity. Not just productivity per hour, but total productivity.

If you are paid at an hourly rate, then your employer must pay you for every hour worked. If they don't, you can keep track of the hours you worked, and sue them later. For example after you leave. I can just imagine the stupid face of your boss when in five years time you take him to court, having worked 12 hours a day and being paid 8 hours, and forcing him to pay you for five years of enthusiasm. That is why many employers don't actually allow their employees to work more hours than in the contract, because it's a legal mine field.

I'll assume there was a downvote because employers read this site as well.

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    As another answer pointed out, it is literally illegal, so nothing about your answer is inherently wrong, but I can see some disagreeing with the litigious nature of your suggestion regardless.
    – Legato
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 3:32
  • You just got fired. You talk to friends "I worked my ass off at that place, working 12 hours every day without any extra pay, and that's what I got for it". Your friend whose wife is a lawyer specialised in employment law: "Hey, wait a second..."
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 0:11

Do you have to be at work to work? One option is to talk excitedly about your 'creative process' away from the office.

OMG! I had this great idea running this morning!


I took a drive yesterday evening to think I have the best closing for Project ABZ!

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