Is Clock Watching a Career Limiting Move?



Dear Dharma,

My company has gone through a lot of changes in the last year, including my department head, manager, and one of my colleagues leaving altogether. I was left running things with just our admin assistant for about 4 months – which was quite stressful at times.

Since then, a new department head has been hired, as well as a counterpart to myself. While the stress has eased a bit with new team members coming on board, we’re busier than ever and I have found myself being asked to work longer hours on a regular basis.

It’s done very subtly, my department head springing a project on me at 2 p.m. with a deadline of “today”, knowing full well that I won’t be able to finish it by the end of my regular work day. It’s just expected I will stay until it’s done. There seems to be little respect for my life outside of work and no concern that I’m working past the time I’m scheduled to leave.

I’m a salaried employee, so I do not get paid for extra hours.  Our company does not provide lieu time if you work extra hours either. Essentially, I’m simply expected to work the extra hours without pay.

Now, I know sometimes things get busy and you have to work late, but I now work 5-10 extra hours per week FOR FREE.

I’m a firm believer in keeping a healthy work-life balance, which includes not working crazy hours on a regular basis. I’m single and don’t have kids, so I often get push-back when I try to communicate my need for balance.

It seems unless you have a “good” reason for needing to leave on time (i.e. picking up your kids), it’s seen as unprofessional if you leave on time.

Call me an entitled millennial if you want (I’m 28), but I believe I’m entitled to a work-life balance and compensation for my extra time, regardless of whether I’m married with kids.

Of course, that isn’t exactly the most diplomatic way to put it. Is there a way to assertively communicate my expectations while remaining politely professional?

Too Much OT

Dear OT,

Sometimes I hate the way answers sound in my head and always hope that they come out better on paper.  This is going to be one of those times.

While not at all discounting the qualities of work-life balance, my answer depends on what you want out of your employment.

If what you want is simply a J-O-B (and there’s nothing wrong with that) then it sounds like you will have to start bumping up your ability to set boundaries.

When you get that project at 2 p.m. and you know you won’t be able to complete it by the time you leave at 5 p.m., communicate that.

“Hey, Boss Person, I got that project you sent over and I’ll get to work on it right away.  However, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I may not be able to finish all of it by the time I need to leave today.  I’m not able to stay late so would you like me to give you what I have completed at that time, or are you okay to get the finished product in the morning?”

You don’t need to offer reasons as to why you can’t stay late.  And you’re right… marital status/kids or not should not come into play. So don’t let it.  This is an open, polite and professional approach that lays out the expectations.

You may have to do this a couple of times for them to get the message…  But trust me, it won’t take long to stick once they do.

Which leads me back to my initial position of not knowing what you want out of your employment.  Because once that message does stick, you won’t be able to un-stick it, and your possibility of any kind of advancement is likely going to pass you by.  That’s the part I hate the sound of.

Look, in my experience, that’s just the reality of it.  It shouldn’t be, but… again, that’s just my experience, coming from many years in a corporate environment.

But if that doesn’t matter to you – and again, it doesn’t have to, that’s fine! – then politely and un-apologetically set those boundaries and stick to them.



Got a question for Dharma? She’s probably got an answer!

To submit a question anonymously, just make up a name and email – it doesn’t have to be real, as long as the fields are populated.

And be sure to follow Dharma everywhere!


Instagram too!

And of course, Twitter…

Oooh, and now on Pinterest!


For more of Dharma’s great advice, click here!


Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

%d bloggers like this: