Working 9:00 to 5:00 sounds like a dream for some people, as they get pulled into crazy hours. I got this question from a reader:

I am an exempt employee and work where many, many hours have now become the standard. One night we were required to stay until 11:30 p.m. After a 7:30 a.m. Start time. At a certain point are there any protections for workers in this class? We cannot be expected to work until all hours of the night on a consistent basis. Being salaried kinda stinks.  What, if anything can be done? My workplace found out I have begun tracking my hours and are most unhappy.

Yeah, it does stink, because they can do that. They can require that of non-exempt employees as well, as long as they pay the legally required overtime. (There are some exceptions where safety rules come into play, like medical residents or airplane pilots, for instance.) 

But should they? No. And can you do something about it? Yes. 

First of all, tracking your real hours is important. When you go to a boss to complain that you're overworked but have no evidence of that, it just makes you sound whiny. When you have documented hours, it can demonstrate that their staffing levels are not appropriate for the amount of work.

However, keep in mind that what is and what is not appropriate is very industry specific--and often seasonally specific as well. If you're expected to work 7:30 am to 11:30 pm year round, that's a serious problem and I'd advise you to get out of there as soon as possible. But, if you're an accountant and it's late March, you're going to come across as naive if you complain about and track the hours. You knew there would be a massive crunch time when you picked your college major.

So, first think about why you're working these hours. Is it an unusual project? Did someone quit? Is this due to bad planning on someone's part?

Are there things that could be done more efficiently? Look for solutions first. Don't just go to your boss and say, "I'm overworked!"  Say, "I'm overworked because A, B, C. Here are a few ideas I have to solve these problems." 

Look, not even your bosses want to be working crazy hours, so if you can come up with some solutions, it might make everyone's lives easier.

Now, if there are solutions and everyone wants to ignore them because "this is how we've always done it" then it's definitely time to move on. If the company is understaffed and they refuse to hire more staff, then it's time to move on as well.

Remember, no job is worth destroying your life and health over, so if there isn't a solution or relief on the horizon (and a job where they get angry when you track your hours may be such a place), focus your efforts on finding a new job and getting out.

Have a problem employee, problem manager or a people management question? Send your questions to

Published on: Nov 10, 2017
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