Dear Daily Slog,
‘My boss stays at the office until at least 7.30pm every night and seems to expect me to stay with him. I would completely understand if we were under pressure on a project and we needed to stay to finish it but this is just the daily norm for him.
My work hours are until 5.30pm but I would never dare to leave work on time as he always makes a snide comment when I do. I feel like I need to make an excuse to leave at 6pm because he actually questions me on what I have on that evening!
I am happy to answer emails outside of work and at weekends when needed but leaving at a reasonable time in the evening is important to me as it gives me time to chill out, go to the gym or just be with my family.
I am constantly stressed that he doesn’t think I’m taking the job seriously enough by leaving ‘early’ though. How should I tackle this with him?’
Thank you very much for your email.
First, leaving on time should be the norm and not the exception. Your working hours are outlined in your contract after all and this is the time you are paid for!
There is no need to feel guilty because you have other commitments outside of work and you should not feel the need to explain yourself when you leave the office on time after your work is done.
Your boss certainly does not have the right to question you on what you do in your spare time – and the time after 5.30 p.m. is exactly that – your private spare time.
I think you certainly need to change the situation in order to be happy with both your work and your private life. If you are already dreading in the morning how you will make your exit in the evening it is not a viable situation for the long term.
It sounds to me that this is not actually about the hours, but rather about power.
It sounds to me that this is not actually about the hours, but rather about power. Your boss is your boss, no question about it, but that does not give him the right to be unreasonable with his requests.
Expecting you to stay in work until 7.30 p.m. every day when you actually finish at 5.30 p.m., and when there is no real need for it, is unreasonable.
In fact, it is because it is unreasonable that he does not actually ask you to stay, or order you to stay. Instead, he makes remarks, questions you about your plans in the evening and gives you the feeling you should stay longer.
And because he is your boss, you do not simply say: “You know what, I don’t have special plans and it is none of your business, but my work is finished and I am going home now”.
This is what I mean when I say it comes down to power. Your boss (intentionally or unintentionally) uses his power. But as his request is unreasonable, he can only do this if you let him. Asking you to stay longer on a regular basis when there is no need to is not justified by the job or his position and that is why you should draw a clear line here and not allow him to use his power in that way anymore.
Perhaps he does not even mean to question you or has not realised how much his remarks and the situation affect you
Leave Work On Time: Without The Guilt
Basically you have two options: be honest with your boss and explain the situation to him and what it is you would like to change – or just change it yourself without bringing up the topic openly and see how he reacts.
An open conversation might be a good option for you as it would put an immediate end to all the stress of manoeuvring your way out of the office in the evening, finding excuses and wondering what your boss may or may not think of it.
Also, there is at least a chance that he does not even mean to question you or has not realised how much his remarks and the situation affect you. From that perspective, an open conversation can certainly be helpful. If you are the type to speak your mind, then you should certainly go for it.
Make sure you are well prepared: give examples and point out your achievements to make clear that you are very well suited for the role. Explain that it is the quality of your work that counts, rather than how many hours you spend in the office.
He has never actually ordered you to stay longer – he has just given you the feeling you should. So take this power away from him!
Explain that you have noticed his remarks and that you are not happy with them, and that constantly working overtime to this extent is not an option for you. Stay friendly but firm and avoid making excuses or trying justify yourself.
You should not have to have this conversation in the first place as you are only asking for what should be the norm. However, give your boss a chance to explain his point too and try to find a solution with him rather than winning an argument.
If he really was not aware of his behaviour, this gives him a chance to make a positive change. If he was playing a little power game, he will see that you have the courage and spirit to speak up, and he will probably respect you more.
The other option is to just make it a habit to leave on time and only stay longer if the circumstances really require some extra work. He has never actually ordered you to stay longer – he has just given you the feeling you should. So as said above – take this power away from him!
If he wants you to stay, he would have to actually request this and give a reason
He may continue his snide comments. You can ignore them or turn them into a joke by giving a funny response. He may question you what you have on that evening and you could just say in a friendly but firm way that you do not have anything special planned, you are looking forward to going home and relaxing over a cup of tea after your work is done. Or you could just say you don’t know yet.
In any case – if he wants you to stay, he would have to actually request this and give a reason. And that would be much easier to tackle for you than just the subtle remarks and underlying expectations. I think the effect with this option will be the same – your boss will notice that you are willing and able to stand up for yourself and that he cannot make unreasonable requests just because of his status.
You do want a good working professional relationship – it is not in your interest that he loses face, only that he respects you more
Both options have disadvantages and advantages. An open conversation comes to the point quicker, but you have to initiate it. For option two, you will have to go through a bit of a process and it will take a little time. You may feel a little uncomfortable in the meantime, but you do not need to bring anything to the table yourself directly. You can wait for his reaction and plan your next move accordingly.
I think it depends on your personality which option you would be happier with, but I would recommend that in both scenarios you stay firm but friendly. After all, you do want a good working professional relationship. It is not in your interest that he loses face, only that he respects you more and that the daily working arrangements work better for you.
I hope my reply helps and I wish you good luck!
Looking for career advice? Here are some more great articles from Ines:
About Ines Kretschmer
Ines Kretschmer is a Personal, Leadership and Executive Coach, based in Dublin. To book an appointment with her contact her on 087 414948 or email email@example.com
If you have a career issue you would like help with email the details to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will source a suitable professional to help. All correspondence will be kept confidential.