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Friday, June 13, 2008

You Just Don't Understand

My job involves ten and a half months of working 9-5 and six weeks of working 8-8 and occasional weekends due to government department deadlines

Apart from my co-worker, J, who works 9-5 throughout, because she has kids.

I have brought this up with my boss since we all have the same client allocations and I do not feel that I should be working unpaid overtime in order to help cover J's list, simply because J has kids and does not want to make arrangements for their care after work - her family all live in the area and there is no shortage of after-school clubs etc.

Furthermore, this is of particular concern to me since I have a chronic pain disorder and need to rest - obviously it is impossible for me to make arrangements to leave my pain elsewhere!

My boss tells me that 'well, J has kids, it's difficult. You don't understand'. I pointed out while I don't have kids, the 4 hours per day of overtime - which need not be so lengthy if she were doing it too - is wearing me out and making me ill.

I was told to 'Stop whining'. I am retyping my CV.

Kids are difficult and you just don't understand. Us working mothers should be paid triple what everyone else makes, plus only have to work 9 to 5 and we get to leave early if one of the little darlings has a school performance (in fact, those are so painful that we should be paid overtime to attend those performances). Ohh, plus, we should get 10 sick days for us, and 10 additional sick days for each child. Because it's HARD being a working mom.

Please write again when you have a real problem.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Of course, right now I'm basking in the freedom of maternity leave and writing this post when I should be painting my front door. (Did you know that you should paint your front door and frame every few years? Me neither. Turns out that if you don't, and you live where I live, your frame will start to rot and you'll have to spend $1300 to get a new frame installed. Trust me, I know on this one.)

But, it is hard to hold down a full time job and manage children. And it is true that until you've done it, you don't understand. But, really, that's not your problem.

I'm all for flexibility for anyone who wants it. But, flexibility should come at a cost--to the person getting the flexibility, not to the rest of her department. A manager should be clear in the hiring process that this job entails 6 weeks per year of intense unpaid overtime. If you can't do that, then you shouldn't take the job.

Now, for all you know, when "J" was hired they struck this deal where she would always be able to leave at 5:00, even during the busy season. She may have negotiated a lower salary in exchange for this. Your manager certainly shouldn't be discussing her salary arrangements with you.

But, even so, your manager needs to realize that granting one employee flexibility should not mean dumping work on another employee without adequately compensating that employee.

You've explained your concerns to your boss. You have been told to stop whining. You are working on your resume. Excellent. I would try one more time with the boss. And leave J out of it. You don't know what she's negotiated. You don't know if her family is willing to take the kids. And, you don't know if she has the money for the after school programs. And she might well have all those things available to her, but she doesn't want to do it for whatever reason. That doesn't matter to you.

What matters to you is your job. So, have the conversation with your boss over your responsibilities.

Is there another solution that would work? Can J's clients be spread over 3 or 4 people? Is there something that can be done to streamline the work? Can you get a raise?

The important thing when discussing inequities at work is to leave out any mention of slacker co-workers. They are not your problem. Your problem is your workload. Your manager is not managing well, so you'll have to help him balance your workload out. J and her childcare arrangements should not enter into the conversation. If the boss brings it up, don't go there. Just keep talking about your workload.

And yes, looking for a new job seems like a good idea.


Ask Rosezilla said...

You also might want to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act. Obviously they're willing to "accomodate" your coworker and not you and that just seems dodgey. Under the same principle, you could use a bunch of sick days during that time. Especially if you have a record of telling your boss that you have chronic pain and you get doctor's notes, there's not much they can do...

Ask a Manager said...

ADA might be relevant, although we don't have enough details to know for sure, but it doesn't get at the larger issue of her boss being an ass. I'm never thrilled to see legalities used as the solution to something that should really be solved by reason and good management. I'd say the writer should try with EHRL suggested and simultaneously be looking at other options (other jobs).

Just another HR lady... said...

I guess I would need to know if you were hired to work your stated hours in your letter, or if your hours were changed once you arrived to accomodate this one person. If you were hired under this basis, I would say that you were aware of the hours coming in, so suck it up, or look for a new job. (aren't HR people nice LOL)

If your job/hours were changed to accomodate this one person, then yes, I would agree that you have a right to bring this forward so you, your manager, and co-worker can together come up with some alternate solutions to cover the workload. If that doesn't help, then unfortunately, you will have a decision to make about whether you wish to stay under those conditions. I can't comment on any of the legalities here since I'm guessing you're in the US and I'm unfamilar with US legislation.

Ramona said...

Not that I think this should be done, but FMLA is in place for people like this poster who have chronic issues including pain. Obviously, the time would count against her allotment but if she medically could only work 8 hour shifts she could get FMLA for 4 hours a day to relieve stress from her chronic pain for those six weeks. I am not sure how this works as an exempt person who isn't getting overtime. Of course, she could end up at a disadvantage and will be expected to complete all of your work in the 8 hour period, but technically under FMLA, you have to be reasonable as to what the person is expected to perform when they are at work.

I think this individual may have more advantages than she thinks. I would hope that its reflected in her performance review her full commitment during both the regular and busy seasons. I hate disparate treatment in any way.

The haves and the have nots....story at 11.

Lance said...

I kind of agree with both the hard ass approach and the cop-out approach. If this is the job you agreed to (including the hours), then you are letting yourself get caught up in your co-workers work schedule which, as EHRL noted, may have been negotiated. If I had kids, I wouldn't want to work that schedule either and I would be upfront about that. I would chalk it up to a tough lesson.

That being said, if you are having chronic pain that needs to be treated by taking a break, you probably need to notify your supervisor of this and get a doctor's certification for FMLA/state leave.

HR Godess said...

I also agree with EHRL. Focus on your workload, your work ethic, your pain, etc. Comparing yourself to others only makes you look like you're whining, even when your comments are justified. Shift the focus and see where that gets you. It sounds to me like the job isn't right for you considering your condition. Take care of yourself first. No one else will if you don't!

Anonymous said...

I can sympathize with the individual who posted the initial comment. I work in an environment where I am on a team of 11, and we are all responsible for production support. We are all expected to work overtime as needed. Of course, some of us barely put in 40 hour weeks and others of us, like myself, work quite a bit of overtime. During the last 2 years, I've worked 5441 hours -- which averages to 2700ish hours a year. There are some times that the hours have been 40 hour weeks and other times that the hours have been 80 or 90 hours a week. We have had management challenges with new managers having no prior management experience as well as a manager who has management experience but doesn't fully comprehend the technical challenges of the job and doesn't really know what everyone is doing. It is bad for morale to work in an environment where poor performance is tolerated and not addressed. But, that is a management issue. We have finally divided up the workload in a way that I am responsible for a subset of the workload as are the rest of my team respectively. If issues come up relating to those items, the individual is responsible. What has been helpful for me is that I expect people to do their jobs. So, if they come up and try to pawn off the workload that is theirs, I politely state that the workload is theirs and that I have plans or an unavailable during that time to do it. When they come and ask for help, I don't allow them to just hand it off to me to do it, I expect them to have at least tried. This has made it easier for me, although it is not 100% yet. Now, there are both tangible and intangible benefits that come up for being the hardworking employee who does not complain. Of course, you do have to toot your own horn, and sometimes, you will find yourself with most of the workload, too. But, I have gotten the top percentage raise in the last 3 years -- of course, one has to ask whether the difference between 4% and 5% really made up for the extra 700 hours worked that year. But, right now, my company is outsourcing -- and staff rankings had to be performed. The hard working employee generally does rank higher on the list; however, if you are classified as a whiner and somebody who is difficult, then you may not be ranked as high (which is probably the case with me). I think that there are effective ways to communicate what you are able to do to your boss -- you will probably have to figure it out. If you are working an extra four hours of which 2 hours is your coworker's workload, you could always have a reason why you can only work 2 or 2.5 hours later -- like visiting relatives or whatever. Of course, be truthful. Good luck, and I hope it works out.

The Engineer said...

I agree with Evil. Keep it focused on you. Move on if you are not going to be compensated for the work you do or be given a workload you can live with.

Leroy Grinchy said...

This one is so easy. Get 5 kids. Just adopt them. Hell, if go for broke. Get 10 kids all at once.

If they say that they don't believe you say that you don't believe that your co-worker has kids.

You don't actually have to do this, just tell your boss you are adopting them.

Retyping CV and looking for another job is a good long term approach, but in the short term, who are they to tell you that you can't have kids?

Smukke said...

An ex boss once gave me a very important and useful piece of advice. I was complaining about a co-worker who was racking up hours & hours of OT because she could not get her job done in the time allotted, whereas I was getting just normal pay because I put my head down, got my work done & was efficient. Sort of backwards of the situation you're in, eh? His advice was, "Don't worry about what she is doing; that's my problem. Your job is to do the best job you can, so I can promote you." Lip service, he *did* promote me -- unfortunately, it was an involuntary promotion into a job I didn't want. Doh! But it left me with a great resume & a much better attitude about co-workers. What they do is somebody else's problem. What *I* do its my problem.

Anonymous said...

OP here.

I was hired to work 9-5 with the understanding that there would be a lot of overtime in the chaotic six weeks (there has been overtime in all similar previous roles I have had). What riles me is that I am being expected to do UNPAID overtime not only on my allocation but on J's too.

Ramona said...

Is it overtime if its unpaid? If you're exempt, its not overtime. You'll have to erase that word from your head. It's just work.

Jessica said...

Blech, how awful.
I have to admit, my first thought upon reading this was, "Just stop." Stop doing someone else's work.
If you get called on it, say calmly, "Sorry, that's J's customer. You'll have to talk to her."
I'm happy to help co-workers out if they ask, but constantly doing someone else's work is never going to happen.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

What do other people with kids do?