Author Topic: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends  (Read 2066 times)

Sonos

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Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« on: August 15, 2019, 07:58:20 PM »
Long time reader and mostly lurker.

Anyone else work for a FAANG or other high tech job/role and feels pressure to work overtime but still manages to hold strong and just stick to 40 hours a week?

If so, how do you do this? Just miss the arbitrary deadlines they give you? Be super zen about the pressure? Tell me your Jedi tricks to handling this.

A little background on me:
I just returned to work this summer after 3 years mostly as a stay at home mom.  I have two kids, now ages 2.5 and 6 months.

Iíve worked in tech most of my career and have had plenty of high stress, long hour stints. Its not my first rodeo and I know theyíll never tell me to take my foot off the gas. That said, Iíve been very open with my boss about the huge workload and he is supportive of me trying to find balance, but he also is continuing to add responsibilities.

If Iím being honest, Iím traditionally a high achiever who wants to perform, so I naturally keep trying to meet every challenge, even if I run myself into the ground. Saying no is scary because Iíll feel like a failure and am terrified that Iíll fail at the job/be fired. Today I skipped pumping in the mothers room so I could keep working. This is not a path that I want to keep heading down.

« Last Edit: August 15, 2019, 08:05:17 PM by Sonos »

less4success

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2019, 08:42:16 PM »
If it's project-based work, your schedule is full, and your boss wants to add more work to the pile, let them know that some task will need to be removed in order for you to take on the new work. Management is usually in charge of prioritizing work, so this should be something your boss can handle, and more than anything, your boss probably just wants an accurate picture of what can be done and on what schedule. There's nothing management hates more than surprises.

If it's shift work, then it should be obvious if you're working more hours than you signed up for. You're probably on salary so how much you're supposed to work isn't always clearly stated up front, but you can let them know how many hours you're available to work.

Just remember that it's up to you to set boundaries. It's likely that you would get rewarded for working like a maniac, but your life is more important than money.

Sonos

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2019, 08:56:45 PM »
Thanks, less4success. Putting boundary setting in terms of how it benefits my manager is very helpful.

Iím going to put this on repeat in my brain:

Be accurate, reduce surprises, set boundaries, quality of  life > work doggie biscuits.


RWD

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2019, 09:29:54 PM »
Just miss the arbitrary deadlines they give you?

I've missed a lot of deadlines. Never had it brought up at my annual performance review. I have refused to work more than an average of roughly 40 hours/week since I graduated college. Though I haven't really been pressured to do so either. Your mileage may vary.

Igelfreundin

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2019, 05:16:56 AM »
It is reasonable to ask your boss to prioritize for you. If he can't, either because he doesn't have time or doesn't know how, then I'd recommend you prioritize but keep him informed. "I'm happy to work on x, and will be putting off y to do so" is something I say fairly often in my work.

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mtnrider

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2019, 05:50:13 AM »
You're right, there will always be more work.  And there will be pressure to do it all.

I've tried a number of techniques to work in this environment.  My current technique is to work overtime when I perceive that the need is real.  If I have to ramp up on a technology, or a project is holding up other people I'll put in extra hours.  But other times I prioritize exercise, family, and friends.

Retrospectively it seems ridiculous to feel pressure when your job is to think and tap on a keyboard, but that pressure is real.

jamesbond007

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2019, 11:39:01 AM »
Long time reader and mostly lurker.

Anyone else work for a FAANG or other high tech job/role and feels pressure to work overtime but still manages to hold strong and just stick to 40 hours a week?

If so, how do you do this? Just miss the arbitrary deadlines they give you? Be super zen about the pressure? Tell me your Jedi tricks to handling this.

A little background on me:
I just returned to work this summer after 3 years mostly as a stay at home mom.  I have two kids, now ages 2.5 and 6 months.

Iíve worked in tech most of my career and have had plenty of high stress, long hour stints. Its not my first rodeo and I know theyíll never tell me to take my foot off the gas. That said, Iíve been very open with my boss about the huge workload and he is supportive of me trying to find balance, but he also is continuing to add responsibilities.

If Iím being honest, Iím traditionally a high achiever who wants to perform, so I naturally keep trying to meet every challenge, even if I run myself into the ground. Saying no is scary because Iíll feel like a failure and am terrified that Iíll fail at the job/be fired. Today I skipped pumping in the mothers room so I could keep working. This is not a path that I want to keep heading down.



One thins that has worked for me working in the valley for over 11 years is setting the right expectation right from day 1. Under promise, over deliver to build trust. If you go through planning process like Scrum or some other BS, over estimate tasks so you factor in some extra time. Overtime, you will get to the sweet spot. As a PM, I totally encourage my eng team to do this. This keeps everyone sane. If a team member is working late nights and weekends out of necessity, then the company has failed to plan things properly. It all boils down to the culture at your company and team.

koshtra

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2019, 12:08:54 PM »
+zillion on less4success's point.

The best life-balance artist I ever know, when I worked in tech, always had that response to being asked to take on something more: "Sure. Which of my current tasks should this displace?"

He was always completely calm and matter-of-fact about it, but he meant it and you could tell.

mistymoney

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2019, 01:19:26 PM »
Just miss the arbitrary deadlines they give you?

I've missed a lot of deadlines. Never had it brought up at my annual performance review. I have refused to work more than an average of roughly 40 hours/week since I graduated college. Though I haven't really been pressured to do so either. Your mileage may vary.

what kind of deadlines are these?

We are in the process of terminating someone who has not been making deadlines.

RWD

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2019, 02:29:03 PM »
Just miss the arbitrary deadlines they give you?

I've missed a lot of deadlines. Never had it brought up at my annual performance review. I have refused to work more than an average of roughly 40 hours/week since I graduated college. Though I haven't really been pressured to do so either. Your mileage may vary.

what kind of deadlines are these?

We are in the process of terminating someone who has not been making deadlines.

Typically software changes that we want to have implemented by an arbitrary date. Sometimes it is the fault of multiple people that the schedule slips. I try to do my best to keep people from waiting on my contributions for the project to move forward. When deadlines are missed it's usually because the schedule was too aggressive for the given manpower or other projects were given a higher priority.

firestarter2018

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2019, 03:16:39 PM »
I imagine it's a lot harder to set these boundaries in a high tech environment where there are constant deadlines for code releases, etc.  I work in a different industry where real, concrete deadlines are few. That said, the work still has to get done. What I realized is that managers and coworkers take their cues from *you* to see where your boundaries are, and will generally abide by them. From the beginning of my career, I subtly made it clear that I wasn't working more than 40 hours a week except for rare emergencies. It's not like I made a banner that said "I ONLY WORK 40 HOURS / WEEK!" but I just never checked/responded to email after hours, I declined meetings at 5pm when my usual departure time was 4:30 (again, unless it was an emergency), I avoided getting a company cell phone for several years and when they finally made me get one, I just turned off the volume and left it in my purse after 5pm, so it wouldn't have done them any good to text me anyway.  I had one boss in particular that excelled in violating her direct reports' work-life boundaries, scheduling conference calls at 7am or 7pm, asking for new projects/reports to be done over a weekend, etc. But she never did this with me, and it's because I set those expectations -- again, subtly -- from the beginning.  I have found there are some people that will never be able to establish these boundaries and will just always answer emails after work or on the weekends because they think it will help them get to the next rung on the ladder. Sometimes it will, but more often working a ton of extra hours means you're not doing a good enough job of prioritizing your work to begin with.

I also agree with those who have said that when a new project comes along and your plate is full, ask your boss what task or item can come off that plate so the New Thing can take precedence.  That puts the ball in their court to prioritize, and truthfully everybody's got some chaff/unnecessary tasks that either don't need doing at all or can wait.

TLDR; set your boundaries early and often, don't make a big deal of it, and don't compare yourself to your coworkers. Do what's right for you and your family, and if things still don't work, then it's time to a) talk with your boss and potentially b) look for a new environment where they really believe in work-life balance.

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2019, 03:25:19 PM »
Under promise, over deliver to build trust. If you go through planning process like Scrum or some other BS, over estimate tasks so you factor in some extra time. Overtime, you will get to the sweet spot. As a PM, I totally encourage my eng team to do this. This keeps everyone sane. If a team member is working late nights and weekends out of necessity, then the company has failed to plan things properly. It all boils down to the culture at your company and team.

@jamesbond007 is correct.  When I was a manager, I often told my employees that regularly needing to work weekends or over 40 hours per week was due to a failure of management (i.e. me).  I also explained that sometimes situations come up that demand long hours, but if they happen very often - more than a few times a year - then that's just bad planning.  It's a bit like someone getting surprised in their budget by a car repair one month, then a medical bill, then a tax payment, etc.  If it's happening all the time then the person who made the budget screwed up and the budget needs some additional buffer to reflect the reality.  Work is the same way.  If a manager is constantly blindsided by unexpected issues that demand extra work, then they aren't planning well and don't have the staff to meet their obligations.

In my experience, there are a few different reasons this can happen.  I'm sure this isn't all of them, but I think that identifying the reason will help you figure out how to address it.

A.  If this is a regular issue that most people on your team or adjacent teams deal with all the time, then this is either due to poor management or a company culture that has extra time as an expectation.  Is the manager who keeps asking for more bad at their job in other ways?  Or are they just bad at saying "no" to the customer or higher-ups?  Or is the team bad at planning and giving them bad advice?  Or are you downstream of a process that's always late?  Depending on the reason, you might take a different approach. 

B.  Legitimate issues can also lead to this.  If you're in a highly dynamic field with low margins, then it may just be the nature of the business.  I worked on a project where we took away business from the clear market leader, and were under huge pressure to show the customer that we really could do the job.  They trusted our abilities just enough to give us the contract, but they also knew that building the product was going to push us.  It took about 2 years to deliver a prototype that exceeded all of our performance requirements, and cost far less than the market leader.  We had an innovative solution that the customer thought added risk, but we were confident and delivered.  After that the pressure eased up. 

C.  High achievers / people pleasers tend to put themselves into this position.  In many cases they know what they're doing and are willing to put in extra to get ahead.  It doesn't sound like you're choosing to work overtime to get ahead, but are you putting the pressure on yourself even if it's not there from anyone else?  For instance, if you enthusiastically sign up for more work while you know you can't get your current work finished - that's a problem you need to address yourself. 

D.  Unfortunately, I've also seen this happen to low performers as well, particularly in software development.  Software is one domain in which low, average, and high performers *dramatically* differ in their output.  I remember a couple of SW engineers who took a full 2-week sprint to do the work that an average developer could do in a couple of days and a superstar could finish in an afternoon.  These people seemed to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect - they had no idea they were so bad at SW engineering.  Side comment - I had a developer with over a decade of SW engineering expertise ask me a really, really simple question about they work they were doing.  I asked if they had googled it.  Their answer, and this is close to if not a direct quote, was "I'm not very good with google." 

I don't know if any of those reasons might be the cause of your issues, but the point isn't to slot your issue into one of these boxes.  The point I'm trying to make is that you've told us the problem description, but not the diagnosis of the source of the problem.  Why are they asking for more than you can do in 40 hours?  Answering that will help you figure out the right way to address it. 

Good luck!

Oh - one other thing - I think it's also good to understand your place in the organization when you decide how to address this.  Are they struggling - maybe leading up to layoffs - and you're a low performer?  Or are they growing, can't hire enough good people, and you're a top performer?  Having some idea of where you rank among your peers and how the business is doing are also important as you decide how to address this. 

SwordGuy

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2019, 04:12:01 PM »
First of all, FU money is an essential part of a good job experience.   So are very marketable skills.   It allows you to decide not to put up crap at work.

There are two kinds of "emergencies" at work:


1) Real emergencies, which are temporary and genuinely not in someone's control, and

2) Planned emergencies, in which management has planned to have this problem happen by the choices they knowingly made.


If it's a real emergency, just chip in and help.  Shit happens.  Be there for your employer and your team.

A planned emergency, for example, is setting deadlines so that you will have to work an unpaid 30 hours a week on top of your paid-for 40 hours and then doing it over and over again.  (Anyone can make a mistake.  That's different.  We all learn by doing.)

About 1990 I decided that that I worked 40 hours a week for pay.  After 40 hours it was my personal time.  I and I alone (well, and my wife...) was the arbiter of how I spent my personal time.   I only worked extra on planned emergencies if I gained something out of it.   That gain might be additional marketable skills that I gained by doing things the right way instead of some "half-assed, sure to cause problems later" way a scared project manager might tell me to do it.   Gains might include improving our software development process by building a tool to help me do the job, preferably a tool I could take with me when I left that job, or it might include helping a colleague learn additional skills.

In addition, I never willingly chose to do things the wrong way unless my manager (a) instructed me to do it the wrong way and (b) sat with me and made me do it the wrong way.   I also followed the "never ask a question you do not want the answer to" philosophy on how to do my work.   Please note that's not the same as "it's better to ask forgiveness than ask permission" because asking forgiveness implies you did something wrong.   

What was the upshot of all this?

Yes, I did work extra hours on occasion.  But I didn't work crazy extra hours.  And every time I did work those extra hours, I was more marketable or people who owed me favors were more marketable or I had built tools that meant I didn't have to work so hard the next time.   

Managers noticed that my code just worked.  There was no drama, no emergencies.  It just worked.   And it tended to work better than they expected it to because I had taken the time to do it right.   (It's important to know that if having the code work correctly is important, it's actually quicker to do it the right way rather than the slipshod way.  If it doesn't matter if the code works, then of course it's faster to just write something and declare victory.)   

Managers also noticed that the people who worked with me were also getting better at a much faster clip than they ever expected.   They liked that too.

It enabled me to successfully convince colleagues to write papers for conferences and present them and to get the funding for those conferences from the company.   Why?  Because they realized their staff was actually, honestly, learning things of real value and using that knowledge for the company's benefit.   (Also our own, but they didn't realize that so much.)

Now, if you're in a situation where you're a wage slave and can't handle any interruption in your income, that's harder to pull off.  But even following those guidelines 50% of the extra hours will yield tremendous benefits over a 2 to 3 year period.



TheWryLady

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2019, 10:05:33 PM »
Prioritize tasks based on politics and visibility, so push back or just miss deadlines on tasks for less important initiatives/people. 

Over-estimate hours to complete a task and be sure to charge hours to spec out a task. 

Never send out deliverables before deadline, even if you have completed early. 

Skip as many meetings as possible, best to have excuse ready of a deadline approaching for something even if you've completed. 

If you are legit distracted by co-workers, incoming texts, emails, messages...then take measures to insulate yourself.

Always have a list of your current workload/tasks, and proactively update your boss of your status. 

For each new task, be sure to get deadline, and say right away if you can't do it.

less4success

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2019, 08:19:31 AM »
Wait, miss deadlines for less important people? Please be courteous and at least let them know you wonít hit their desired timeline :)

magnet18

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2019, 08:37:37 AM »
If arbitrary deadline based, just pick your battles.  I work overtime for projects maybe twice a year, and generally it's worked out such that if it is important enough the VP is getting daily updates on our teams progress, pull out all the stops.  If it's not that important, then it's an arbitrary deadline and just do what you can in your 40 hours.
When it is worth working overtime, the team pulled together and set up shift handoffs and pulled straight through for 3 weeks, and now I have a reputation for pulling out the stops and being an incredibly hard worker if it's an actual emergency, so nobody bats an eye when I work 40hours the other 45 weeks of the year. 




If task based, keep a list of tasks on your whiteboard, prioritized.  Whenever something new gets added, make sure they tell you what the prioritization is. 

You won't get fired, and if they sit you down for an improvement plan or whatever the pre-fired stage is, start looking elsewhere

More likely, they'll respect your ability to cut BS and be organized, you'll feel better and do better work for the critical things at the top of your pile, and they will appreciate you doing such good work for critical things.  <- that's my anecdotal experience anyway


Like any life change, start immediately, and make it non-negotiable, it's easier to set expectations up front than walk your way back later

Disclaimer, the above is just my anecdotal experience from 4 years in aerospace, don't get yourself fired on my account


I'm sure you've read the old "the man with savings" short story/news article, 100% relevant here

Greenback Reproduction Specialist

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2019, 09:55:28 AM »
Lots of VERY good replies in here, I'm not sure I have anything to add that hasnt already been said. Anyone looking for advice or guidance on how to do a better job managing their workload should read this post.

jamesbond007

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2019, 03:14:43 PM »
I highly recommend reading "7 Habits of highly effective people". It literally changed my life for the better.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2019, 08:25:50 PM »
One thins that has worked for me working in the valley for over 11 years is setting the right expectation right from day 1. Under promise, over deliver to build trust. If you go through planning process like Scrum or some other BS, over estimate tasks so you factor in some extra time. Overtime, you will get to the sweet spot. As a PM, I totally encourage my eng team to do this. This keeps everyone sane. If a team member is working late nights and weekends out of necessity, then the company has failed to plan things properly. It all boils down to the culture at your company and team.

Spot on.  This is how to do things in all kinds of areas.  Exactly what I do.  In fact, in many high-intellect fields, this is vital: projects and tasks may have incredible uncertainties, delays, and so on that are completely out of your control and hard to predict with accuracy at the outset.  You may be able to readily predict the net flow and drag of projects over time, and by type, over many projects, but super-complex individual projects aren't just widgets that one can throw together. 

Your company might find this approach "unacceptable" to management over time, but if so, they are just telling you something: their entire business plan at that level is to burn through people, and you're at the point where it's time to consider new options. 

As one of my favorite bosses says, "the only person who will build boundaries for your work life is YOU." 

Also, since you're a high-acheiver, go watch the two things I'm going to link.  Life-changing, at least for me.  Do fearsetting, and realize that the worst that will happen in your position is not bad at all.  Especially compared to the average (or even above-average) American.  In fact, this is a personal side comment, but my guess is that you could use more failure in your life, to learn from it. 

On a personal note, consider what you're giving up to your workplace to not have boundaries with your work.  For me, I lost some incredibly close loved ones at the last post where I did the crazy hours.  After that, I didn't have nearly as much trouble putting in boundaries: my outside time and relationships were obviously more important in my life. 

In fact, I'd wager you're looking at your job as an identity.  Part of who you are.  (A quick answer to one of the first things new people ask you: "What do you do?")  It's an idol in your life: something you worship, but something that will never bring you fulfillment.  It just never will, but the weakness of high achievers is that we think that it will. 

Second, here's a freebie about stress-free productivity.  Helped me tremendously.  To be clear, you don't have a productivity issue; it sounds like you need more work-life boundaries.  The concepts here are helpful, though ("appropriate engagement," e.g.) and can help you see what your tradeoffs are and more easily put those boundaries into place.  (I'm also partial to his martial arts analogies; they're spot on.) 

With that mental framework, you easily put things into the right categories: is this life-altering, or is this just another task for another day at work?

Also realize: it will take the people you have relationships with some time to get used to these new changes.  It's a new approach.  (Sometimes, that's why people take a job leap in order to do it.)  But that's all the more reason to start; it'll take you a while to get to where you want to be.  Make small changes rather than a huge leap--it's usually more successful over the long term.  Celebrate the small wins and keep adding them on. 

Wish you the best!
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 09:15:00 PM by Finances_With_Purpose »

Zamboni

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2019, 10:32:28 PM »
You have to say "no" more often to requests at work.

Since women are judged much more harshly than men for saying "no," try practicing the "yes, yes, no, yes" strategy.

Thank you . . .  for the email/for inviting me/whatever (first yes)
This sounds like a . . .  wonderful event/interesting project/whatever (second yes)
Unfortunately I will not be able to participate (no)
Please  . . .  let me know how it goes/feel welcome to invite me next time/feel welcome to contact so-and-so, who may be interested (final yes)
 
Most important thing is no excuse given with the no part in response to requests from most people. If it is your direct manager asking, then the no part might need to have the "unless you specify which of my other work needs to be put on the back burner." I hope that helps!

Chickadee

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Re: Setting boundaries at work re:nights and weekends
« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2019, 03:01:37 PM »
 Wow, I found this thread very helpful so I feel that I owe it to post and let you guys know that. Something that I found on my own which has really helped me is just not stepping up.
I used to feel this internal guilt when people would ask for volunteers to work extra ....and I felt that I had to volunteer and step up.  You know, because I was the single girl, the young one of the company, the junior, the one who thought everybody was waiting for her to say Iíll do it ...The first time I forced myself not to volunteer I felt really nervous, I was thinking everybody must be wondering what the hell is that girl doing not offering to help out.
As time went on I noticed nobody really gives a dang and there are a lot of people who use this strategy. If somebody really needs me theyíll go ahead and ask a second time ...or will ask me directly by name. In which case I can weigh whether or not I want to do it.
But I would say Iíve cut down about 75% extra unwanted work weekends by just shutting up ..and understanding my own psychology was creating the guilt and making me volunteer for things I didnít even want to do !