Hi all
About 6 months ago I was promoted to manage a small team with direct reports. We work from the same office, 2 x 9 -5 salaried positions, one part time admin support. The 2 full time directs were promoted up at the same time as I was.

I have recently become aware that they are consistently working longer hours than I am. I do work over and above the basic 40 hour but having burned out in the past, I am very aware of my work and personal obligations, and am very careful with my time management. I am accomplishing all of my own regular work and starting to take on some delegations from my boss.

I have weekly O3s, and always ask my directs how they are finding their workloads and offering support if they identify problems. Generally, they assure me they are comfortable working as they are. I encourage them to prioritize and try to give them clear guidelines as to what work is critical.

I typically put in .5 - 1 hour extra per day, and have no problem putting in whatever extra is required for particular circumstances. What I strive to avoid is consistent 50 + hours per week. Both full time directs probably do around 50 hours per week at present.

In some part I think this is due to their being relatively new to their jobs, in part to their personalities and work styles.

I feel guilty leaving before them, but at the same time I want to set the example that they don't have to work late every night. Also, I don't want to work late every night, and have put quite a bit of effort into organizing my work so I dont' have to.

What are other peoples' thoughts on this?


fcch_mngtools's picture


IMHO, you have it right. Lead by example.

When I had several directs and I saw them working long hours, I'd ask them if they were just in production mode, or if the little extra they were doing would FINISH the task or project they were doing.

If projects oblige staff to work extra (+50 hours) [b]every week[/b], they could be a problem somewhere in the organisation of time, priorities or resources.

my 2¢

itilimp's picture
Licensee Badge

We have a new boss who strongly believes in work/life balance and he comes in on-time and leaves on-time with regularity.

Some of my colleagues have commented on it in a negative way; personally I think it's great that he is sending the message to all of us "It is okay to do your hours and go home. We aren't paying you for more." Admittedly some of us still go over when projects require it, but the point is that he isn't expecting it of us so why should we expect it of ourselves?

I say keep on doing what you're doing.

DWElwell's picture
Licensee Badge

I, too, think you are doing the right thing by leading by example.

A couple of thoughts - If I as a manager note that there is enought work to keep everyone busy 50+ hours per week, week in and week out - than this is a good inidication that I have overcommitted and in reality need additional staff.

If, as is more often the case, people are spending more time at the office because they aren't efficient in the use of their time, then some feedback and coaching is in order.

Personally, I as a manager would prefer people not work excessive hours. There are times when it will be neccessary and I don't have a problem asking for it in these cases, but this is very much the exception rather than the rule.

Of course, I am more concerned about outcomes than I am hours spent in the office...

teamleader's picture

Hi Brenda
I have just signed on today to Manager Tools and saw your post whilst looking over the site. I have regularly done the excess hours thing and am now regretting what this eventually achieves, zero beneficial outcome.

I am now reviewing my whole approach to work/life balance and am impressed by your message. Keep up setting the example to your team, your colleagues will see that this is the right approach.


TomW's picture
Training Badge

I try to lead by example, too. I try to work a normal week (usually gone by 6:00) unless there's a deadline or crisis, then I'm there as late or as long as needed. I can remember a couple 80 hour weeks my life, but only a couple (I should mention that the senior partner took very good care of the team for that, too!)

I also make sure the entire staff is comfortable calling my cell number day or night if there is an emergency. I've gotten those 7 AM and 11 PM phone calls, and I [i]REALLY[/i] make an effort to not sound tired or annoyed, even if I just woke up or just went to sleep.

I've seen partners here encourage people to home late at night or on a nicer day or to even go to the extreme of assigning them more help on a temporary basis to help get them caught up.

escuccim's picture

I work a lot more than a normal week - probably 55 - 60 hours per week minimum, but my reports still work longer hours than I do.

I like to be home for dinner every night so I come in early and leave between 5 and 6 pm. Some people come in at 8 and stay until 8, some come in at 8 and leave at 4, and some come in at 10 and leave at 10.

My boss seems to have a prejudice towards people who work late at night because he usually comes in late in the day and leaves late at night.

What we do is focus on the job, not the hours. If someone needs a day off they get it - no questions asked. Our basic policy is as long as the work gets done I don't care if my people work 2 hours a day or 20 hours a day.

I personally am big on encouraging a healthy work-life balance, as I have also burned out pretty badly in the past. But I find that being here hours before anyone else in the morning gives me the extra time I need to get my work done and still be home at a decent hour.

KCSmith's picture

I believe it is more a question of what is effective to get the work done. I think we can all reasonably say that more hours does not equal quality work getting accomplished. The law of diminishing returns definitely applies. We all reach a point where the quality of work suffers after too many hours.

Sure, there are times that the extra hours are required to complete the big project. But staying late or coming in early just to appear as if you are doing work, even if you are actually doing work, sends the wrong message. Planning your time and minimizing distractions/interruptions should be addressed in O3's, coaching & feedback. When I see people working extreme schedules, I question their effectiveness in completing their work.

I read an interesting article about Best Buy's "Results-Only Work Environment" http//
While an arrangement like this probably wouldn't work in many companies, it is a paradigm shift that should be considered. Come in, complete all of your work and other obligations and have a life. If you have been blessed enough to avoid burnout at any level, great. However, if you have experienced burnout, you can appreciate the idea of focusing on the work at hand and then going home to be with your family and doing things you enjoy. All work and no play...Work hard, play hard.

I think we owe it to our people to help them realize that they might not be as effective as they think that are by working long hours. Again, coaching and feedback.

My $0.02...


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

BLUF - People who work long hours are less productive than people who don't.

Do you really care how long someone is at work? Or do you care about what they get done? I think people work a lot are spectacularly unproductive. (I stole that phrase from either Horstman or David Allen.) I know I was when I worked that much.

It's a lot easier to measure out time spent than to measure objectives achieved. Did you know that studies show a significant productivity gain in telecommuters? I think this is because the manager is forced to measure productivity instead of time in the office. Once an employee gets clarity in their goals, they can achieve them.

That's a long-winded way of saying that my experience (boy am I going to get some fire for this one) is that most of the time (there's the dodge) people who work long hours are less productive than people who don't. They're less productive because they don't have clarity on what their objectives are.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

KC - interesting article. Thank you for sharing!

ashdenver's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]I think people work a lot are spectacularly unproductive. (I stole that phrase from either Horstman or David Allen.) [/quote]
How true, how true. Work smart, not hard. Organize, plan, track, adjust and accomplish your goals. It's not that difficult, really, but it's amazing how many people don't grasp that concept.

My previous boss didn't stress about the workload because he knew I'd always exceed my 100% plan and he insisted that all jobs should be "forty and out the door." His rationale was that "if I don't know how many hours it takes to get the work done, I can't properly staff for the goals being set for our team by corporate."

My current boss expects that I'll work 45-50 hrs a week and handle 200-300% of my planned workload. (No, I'm not kidding.) Luckily that boss is in Salt Lake City while I'm in Denver and in the nearly four years I've been with this company, he's only ever been to the Denver office three times. He can still track system-access time if he wants to but I don't think he does. While he has made a point of giving me those numbers, I really believe that he's happy so long as he's not getting escalated issues & the clients are happy.

tvalleav10's picture

I think "knowledge workers" are always better off focussing on quality rather than quantity. There is always room to improve your effectiveness WITHIN A 40 - 45 HOUR WEEK.

I agree with the others that you are setting a good example. As your folks begin to feel like they can lay off a little bit, give them good, consistent feedback and coaching if needed to learn to accomplish more and better results in less time.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Don't work more hours. It's not exactly an example, as work hours generally tend to be a function of role and maturity, and some folks can only learn the hard way.

But... don't miss the fact that your directs have a time management problem and a quality/speed problem, and you need to be coaching them on it. One way to to do that is give them shorter deadlines.

In other words, you have a productivity problem, boss.


Greenest's picture

I try to lead by example too.

I sometimes put in less than the 37 hours, sometimes in excess of 40. I have been explicit in saying that I have more than enough work to fill 100 hours a week, but I have priority HIGHER than work - my wife and child. It's is fine to see small rocks fall occasionally, so long as the big ones get delivered and the wife and child can still recognise their Dad.

Mind you I have also sat down with the boss and said "No, I can't do project X - I want to see my wife at dinner each night and put my son to bed" I am fortunate, the boss thinks it is important and agrees that often the benefit it brings shows in work.

The benefit to the team? I foster the view that the quality of work is more important than the hours put in - the reward for a good weeks output is the early finish on Friday. As a result the whole department on a Friday works toward an empty in-tray in good GTD fashion!

airax's picture

I'm inclined to agree with you about working hours.
Try to get to the root of the problem and see why they are working more hours. There could be a myriad of reasons why, although in my experience, its normally because they are not making the best use of the time they have.

I take the view that if I cannot accomplish everything I set out and I have to stay late (it can't be delayed, etc), then I've failed that day. Its a little harsh but it does work. Perhaps this is something to impart to them?

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Since I'm one of those people who ends up working WAY more hours than I'm contracted to I thought I'd share this link of ways to cut down work and still get ahead:


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Good one Wendii! Thanks.


bren811's picture

Thank you everyone for your comments and also for liknking to good resources. I now feel better about my own work hours but see that I need to address productivity in my team. I have already taken some initial steps here but need to make it a priority.

So far I have given everyone a copy of Seven Habits, and set clear deadlines for key tasks. One team member struggles with deadlines and I have already initiated coaching to address this. I believe she's a high s and am trying to work with this.

Any other suggestions would be most welcome.


pschenck's picture

I just had to comment on this one.

It seems that we are still judged by how many hours we put in. Sometimes more so than on the product we create. I've been trying to change this culture at my workplace I firmly believe that a task will expand to fill the time available for it (Parkinson’s Law). As a manager it seems simple, if my directs can't get the job done in the time available, either i gave them too much or they are incompetent.

But, how do we deal with the boss who cares more for the amount of hours we work past 6?

slymcmosa's picture


That is a very interesting article. I found two very intriguing points the author suggests:

[b]Refuse bad assignments. [/b]Figure out what matters, and spend your time on that. Once you have clear short-term and long-term goals, it’s easy to spot the person you don’t need to impress, the project that will never hit your resume, or the hours worked that no one will notice.

[b]Say no. Constantly.[/b] The best way to say no is to tell people what is most important on your plate so they see that, for you, they are a low priority. Prioritizing is a way to help your company, your boss, and yourself. No one can fault your for that.

I know you didn't write the article, so I am definitely not going to ask you to answer in defense.

I am wondering if anyone out there has ways that they practice either of these with success. I do believe in managing yourself as a business within your business. But I certainly have not known ways to say "No" or refuse an assignment from my boss. 9 times out of 10 I feel assignments have been expected, not offered.

Any one making this work in practice?


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge


I understand where you are coming from completely. I certainly havn't worked out how to say no to my customers without them complaining to my boss about my customer service standards.

I've also been reading the websites around the fourhour workweek and the book is on it's way from Amazon.. but again, how do I reduce my work week when some weeks I'm interviewing for 20 hours - can't do that from home, or in 4 hours!

I did recently tell my boss I was overworked and got her to agree to take some of my project work away. But it only lasted about 2 hours before she started filling up what she saw as my 'free' time again. The fact that she'd reduced my work from 125% to 100%, and that adding to it again meant I was immediately overworked seemed to have passed her by.

I'm open to any answers.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I think of saying "no" differently than many. I say no to work I already have, rather than telling my boss no.

What that means is, when you give me more to do, I'm going to look at everything I'm responsible for, evaluate the relative value of each, and choose to do the ones with the most value.

I am choosing clearly what I am willing to get in trouble for. If I hit home runs on the top things, and my boss hammers me for the bottom stuff, I believe I will be okay.

Sure there's risk...but there's risk in acting as if I can just always do more all the time, too.