I remember when I was a student and was paid hourly. I used to sign up for frequent Saturday shifts. The same went for holidays. I worked 9-5 every day of the 2 week Christmas break, worked thanksgiving, etc… The same happened over the summer holidays. While many of my friends would go home and literally do nothing for the entire months of June, July and August, I would work. I was still able to have a social life. I would just hang out with my friends at night. Some semesters I took classes over the summer break, but I would still work at least 30 hours/week. It just felt good to build up some savings. To be honest, I always wondered what some of my non-working friends did all day. Some of them had a class at 10am, then another class a 3pm, and another at 5pm. But what did they do the the rest of the day…. seriously? I usually had class blocked out perfectly. I has class from 9-1pm, and worked from 1-5pm. I had to take exams at the testing centre at night, which sucked, but still, it was worth it when my paycheck arrived. Still, back to my main point. I worked those extra hours because my hours correlated perfectly with my paycheck.

Everything changed the moment I graduated and was switched to Salary. Suddenly it didn’t matter if I worked 40 or 70 hours in a given week. My paycheck looked identical. My eagerness to work overtime disappeared instantly.Why should I work weekends? Why should I stay late?

Everyone knows to expect occasional overtime. I understand that sometimes there are important deadlines, but where do you draw the line? After 45 hours? 50? 60? how about 70? In reality, most managers have no incentive to protect a full-time salaried employee from overtime. After all, it costs them the same whether you work 40 or 70 hours in any given week. So, if a company can produce more in 70 vs 40 hours of work, and at the same exact cost…. overtime almost seems like an inevitability. I suppose like everything in this world, there’s hierarchy. At the end of the day, a manager (or boss) just wants to report success to his superiors. They want to report that the project is complete/working. They don’t really want to report that they sent their engineers home due to too much overtime, and that they’ll fix it the following morning.


During my last few jobs I’ve noticed that there are 2 distinct types of managers (though obviously various subsets of each).


  • Manager-1 cares specifically about his employees. He wants to get the best out of them, but doesn’t want to take advantage of them. He wants to treat them fairly, and pay them according to their worth. If a project doesn’t get completed on time, the manager will (unless it’s absolutely urgent) alert his superiors that the deadline was unrealistic, that there were unforeseen complications, and that it will be finished soon. In the event that there’s a problem that’s absolutely mission critical, and requires overtime, Manager-1 will very nicely ask his employees for help, and, most importantly, make up for it later. Whether that is a raise/bonus and/or time off depends on the amount and frequency of the overtime. Not only that, but a good manager will proactively try to prevent overtime from being necessary, usually by either stretching out release dates, or hiring more employees.
  • Manager-2 only cares about results. You’ll only ever go home on time if absolutely EVERYTHING is finished perfectly. Manager-2 only ever wants to report success to his superiors. He hates to hear complaints, even if they’re extremely valid. If something goes wrong, it doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the night, or if you’ve already put in 60 hours that week, he’ll call, wake you up, and expect you to start work immediately. You won’t be compensated, and won’t be thanked, as you’re expected to do this sort of thing. Manager-2 likes to take credit for his employee’s work. Worse than that, he ends up believing it himself. Because of this, when a worker complains that he’s done too much overtime, Manager-2 is surprised, as he really believes he’s the hardest working person in the office.

Like most of us, I’ve had both types of bosses before. As you can guess, employees of Manager-1 are much more willing to do overtime, as they know their boss will make it right. Not only that, but they’ll try to make their boss look good in front of his superiors. It’s ironic, but the manager who only values results usually gets worse results.