Why some men pretend to work 80-hour weeks
May 4, 2015 6:25 AM   Subscribe

While work-life balance is generally seen as an issue mostly affecting women, many men also struggle with balancing work obligations with family. In companies which expect an "ideal" worker to produce 60-80 hour work weeks, men use a number of strategies to conserve time and shorten work weeks--with vastly different consequences depending on transparency.
posted by sciatrix (136 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my best friends used to have a job where he was expected to work 70-80 hours a week. When he left for a less demanding job he told me everyone in his office over the age of 35 was on a) coke, b) their second heart attack, c) their third wife, or d) all of the above.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


It seems like one big strategy for getting away with logging fewer hours is to produce lots of high quality work in the hours you do work. That this is presented as a sort of parlor trick, rather than as a completely reasonable way of assessing value, says something depressing about what "work" means in this environment.

Lord knows academic STEM, my own community, has its own work-life issues, but at least you're judged on the science you produce, not whether the green light on your chat client is lit at 10pm Saturday night.
posted by escabeche at 6:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


Intriguingly, the pushback men received for asking for time away from work seemed limited to time for family: one man who had since left the firm told me that, when his daughter was born he had been harassed for taking two weeks of paternity leave, despite spending some of that leave working. But when, later that year, he and his family took a three-week vacation to an exotic locale, the vacation was permitted, and his team encouraged him to “unplug” and take a real vacation.

This just gets worse and worse. It's pretty clear that what the firm is punishing here isn't "not being at work," it's "acting in a way we consider feminine."
posted by escabeche at 6:35 AM on May 4, 2015 [124 favorites]


Best advice I ever received was to always arrive to work before your boss and leave after your boss. I haven't worked for a company yet where my boss worked more than 8 hours a day on a regular basis. I certainly wouldn't work for a company that wanted me there 60-80 hours a week. Well, not without a 7 figure salary, at least.
posted by Snowflake at 6:36 AM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is a noxious aspect of American work culture. I have had some success with being firm about it, but that may be because I'm a programmer and thus harder to replace than Salesperson #41.
  1. (On Friday): "You will be flying out to California on Sunday." → New job within a month.
  2. (On Sunday, at 9 a.m.): "Production is down!" → "Ask the IT on-call desk to restart the service. I will look at it tomorrow morning."
  3. "You will need to be in the on call rotation." → "That is not in my contract. We will need to re-negotiate my salary if that is necessary."
  4. (On Thursday, Dinnertime): "New code in production is broken!" → "Roll it back." → "The client expects it today!" → "It is still business hours in PDT. Get someone on the west coast to fix it."
In the short term, it makes people angry at you; in the long term, it makes people value you because you can produce consistently and reliably without burnout. (Of course, make sure that you're nice and productive during work hours.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [43 favorites]


You know it’s tough to say I can’t be there because my—my son had a Cub Scout meeting.
No it isn't. You say "I have an obligation. Get Phil to cover this till I get back" and then leave. If they fire you, you will find another job, especially as a professional.

If everybody did this, then they can't fire you. Idiocy like this hurts those of us who are willing to set good boundaries and have some sense of what is actually important.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80? We have massive underemployment. Let the filth that walks like men hire enough people to do the work that needs doing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:41 AM on May 4, 2015 [92 favorites]


As a former consultant, I can 100% back this up.

It became VERY obvious to me, very quickly, that lying about what I was doing was better than the truth when it came to family. At one point my wife had to have emergency surgery resulting in me missing a client visit a 5 hour flight away, the president of the company actually asked me if it would be OK to to use the excuse "too hung over from partying with clients" because it would be culturally more acceptable. He did and it was.
posted by French Fry at 6:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [112 favorites]


Isn't 'Superman' a song about a delusional stalker?
posted by howfar at 6:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems like one big strategy for getting away with logging fewer hours is to produce lots of high quality work in the hours you do work.

Ha ha. No.

So many desk bound jobs are completely devoid from any meaningful measurement of quality, it's not that surprising quantity is measured instead.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:48 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


But of course people lie about these things, of course sane people don't actually work those 70-80 hour weeks they claim they do. For all but the usual loony "superstar" with no life outside their job, where's the incentive? More money? Ehh...

Glad I work in a reasonably sane work environment, where the expectation is that you do your work in the 40, 36 or 32 hour week you're actually paid to be present and overtime is only occasional because the team plans around the availability of its members, not the other way around. Being a con-slutant there's still a bit of obnoxiousness from the parent company about going to pointless meetings on your own time, but I've been ignoring that for a decade now.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


At one point my wife had to have emergency surgery resulting in me missing a client visit a 5 hour flight away, the president of the company actually asked me if it would be OK to to use the excuse "too hung over from partying with clients" because it would be culturally more acceptable. He did and it was.

Wait, how could you know that it "was" culturally more acceptable unless you simultaneously used both excuses in separate but otherwise identical universes? Of course, that being hungover was an acceptable excuse at all was pretty shocking. What industry was this?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2015


At one point my wife had to have emergency surgery resulting in me missing a client visit a 5 hour flight away, the president of the company actually asked me if it would be OK to to use the excuse "too hung over from partying with clients" because it would be culturally more acceptable. He did and it was.

There is no god.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I suspect in most cases you're still only getting 30-40 hours of real work output, even if someone is physically in the office or at their computer 80 hours a week. The rest is productivity theater.
posted by almostmanda at 6:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [66 favorites]


On of the reasons I became an independent consultant was this crap. Now I bill for every single GD minute of work. It is amazing how the deters a lot of extra time. I generally don't provide reasons for time availability, though of course if you refused a lot of things you would lose the client, so you do have to tread a line there. I say I am available, or I am not available. If pressed, I will say I have a previous commitment (it might be a commitment to my family). However, I am fortunate to be senior and have a valuable, hard to source, skill set; this is a lot harder to pull off for a lot of people, and those people are just being abused.

One place I worked for in my employee days ran into regulatory trouble w.r.t. OT (we have laws in Canada, and many professionals are exempted, but it isn't always clear what falls into the professional category). So they instituted timesheets to show that they were tracking time, and also for their R&D tax credits. However, the time was in "days". So, I worked a bunch of OT and put in the timesheet that, on that day, I worked 1.75 days (i.e. 7.5 hrs * 1.75). I got a call within minutes saying I couldn't work more then one day in a day, that wasn't logical! Then they coded the restriction in. OT problem solved, no one is putting in too many hours a week! This was after being acquired. We didn't get along too well. That was my last job (so far) as an employee. I do get the urge to be more of a part of a team, maybe someone start-up-y, to get some excitement and team dynamic, so who knows, I might go back to that life. Maybe. But I suspect my first performance review would remind me strongly why I left it.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:00 AM on May 4, 2015


My brother had to threaten to quit to get one day off to attend our sister's wedding.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:00 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think there is this mentality among some of the men that run these high-pressure work environments that the default condition is that a married man will have a 1950s style Donna Reed housewife at home. Men who are in more egalitarian marriages where they volunteer or are expected to provide more childrearing or household maintenance are punished by that standard.
posted by jonp72 at 7:00 AM on May 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


The rest is productivity theater.

Or meetings. Oh ...
posted by despues at 7:04 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


If the gist of that story about the wife's surgery is that the president of a consulting company told a client that one of his consultants was a no show at a meeting because of a hangover ... that Did Not Happen. I wonder what other anecdotes are similarly unreliable.
posted by MattD at 7:09 AM on May 4, 2015


Current workplace is reasonable.

Last place was completely insane, people were staying in the office until 2 am every single night and then getting yeld at for coming in "late" at 9. I wish I had quit sooner... But I didn't have enough time to search for another job! Many of the employees were on visas and were terrified to rock the boat (and had spouses who were in the country as guests and were basically forced to tolerate it). I did all kinds of stuff like write emails during the day and send them at night, schedule meetings for crazy times to prove in was working hard, etc, but none of it was enough. My boss was fired and his boss quit after having two heart attacks in close succession at age 36.
posted by miyabo at 7:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


My male co-workers are mostly twenty years younger than me with young children and they seem to be able to do things like take days off for kid's doctor's visits or leave at 4:30 in the afternoon to be able to get to the daycare before closing time and no one says anything. I'd hate to work in a place where that wasn't the norm.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It really is a corporate culture thing. I have never worked with anyone who actually put in more than 50 hours a week of real, functional work on any kind of regular basis, but I've worked at a few companies where a lot of people fronted like they were doing 60-80. And of course, those are the same jerks who'd come in while they were actively and contagiously ill, and actually drive IN to work during a blizzard when there was a non-essential driving ban. There was one particular guy who I'm pretty sure had whittled his job duties down to walking around the office looking sweaty and disheveled at odd hours when he knew his boss would be in. I had to work with him once on a project, and dude was completely incompetent at his actual stated job.

It is in large part a top-down phenomenon, where some companies encourage and reward that sort of thing, but at another level, too, I think some of the people who do it actually have some strange need to feel important and validated, like they have to work that much because what they do is so important. They don't want to admit that they are non-essential.

And I work in tech, so most of the people I've seen doing this are making a huge stretch thinking their work is indispensable. Most of them were two or three removed management types overseeing software development or something like that. The worst case scenarios resulting from them not being available at any given time would normally be barely noticeable. Maybe pushing out a soft, incremental deadline of some sort or something like that. Never a life or death type thing or anything that can't wait a day or two.

And, of course, the companies that valued that productivity theater (thank you, almostmanda!) were considerably less productive than the companies who actually, oh, you know, just let people do their jobs.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:14 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Pope Guilty has it. This so has nothing to do with work, anywhere or any time. How many widgets does our society need to make? The work that I do in one hour would probably have taken twelve hours 30 years ago. Ok, so sometimes you need to work at home or be on call, um we have computers for that. The more we automate and then tell unemployed people on welfare that they're scum, the more pissed off they're going to be and the revolution is coming. Is this some kind of toddler extinction burst from people trying to prove that they're worthy of employment?

On preview: ernielundquist has it too.
posted by Melismata at 7:16 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]



Steely-eyed Missile Man
"wait, how could you know that it "was" culturally more acceptable"

In another nearly identical situation, I told the truth about the medical emergency and it was later used negatively in a review. The fake alcoholism was never mentioned in a more positive review a year later.

There are dozens of other examples where honest revelations about my family got me the side-eye or outright condemnation. When I started working less, but making it about more "bro" acceptable behavior or just outright hiding it, I got rapidly promoted again and again until I could stomach it anymore and left the industry.
posted by French Fry at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


There is no god.

Well, there is, but he's been too hung over from partying with clients to pay much attention for the last 50,000 years or so....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:20 AM on May 4, 2015 [31 favorites]


Best advice I ever received was to always arrive to work before your boss and leave after your boss.

Alice is level 4, works 9 to 5. Bob is level 3, works 830 to 530. Cindy is level 2, works 8 to 6. And the level 1 mopes are in from 730 to 630.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:24 AM on May 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80? We have massive underemployment. Let the filth that walks like men hire enough people to do the work that needs doing.

Where is the paypal link to donate to your Presidential campaign?
posted by penduluum at 7:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have never worked with anyone who actually put in more than 50 hours a week of real, functional work on any kind of regular basis, but I've worked at a few companies where a lot of people fronted like they were doing 60-80.

I have. In nonprofits, its not really that unusual. The worst job I ever had was when my son was two and I was the marketing/communiations/fundraising person for a local branch of a national NPO with an *insane* CEO who did nothing -- NOTHING -- but work every hour the facility was open (8 am to 10 pm). So its not just the programing bros who are subject to this. It is a thing.
posted by anastasiav at 7:28 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Lots of clients are billed for "meetings" by the coffee machine.
posted by bonehead at 7:28 AM on May 4, 2015


Among women professionals in my industry, the standard advice is to never say where you are going when you leave for a family commitment- just say you have a "meeting." It works really well and isn't completely deceptive - you are going to "meet" with someone, it just happens to be your child, or a teacher for a parent conference, etc. For professionals, it's really no one's business where you are at a given moment of the day as long as you're getting your work done.

Refreshing to see an article that applies this dynamic specifically to men.
posted by Mallenroh at 7:35 AM on May 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80?

is that a serious question? Do people really think that all jobs are just plug and play 'add manpower' is always an option if the hours are long? You can't just 'add people' in my industry (or a lot I know of), because the quality of people is finite and the cost of employment is enormous because of the travelling involved. Also budgets have a firm ceiling.

I've produced 110 hour weeks and 37 hour days at the craziest peak of my employment (although I wouldn't be physically capable of that insanity now) and even only doing fly-in stuff (so race events only, not full time) I am easily hitting 14 hours a day *at* work and probably another 2-3 essentially working in the evenings with unofficial debriefs over dinner and typing up my notes/checking data/video before bed.

The budgets are finite. The time scales mandated by the schedule. Adding more people is completely unrealistic.
posted by Brockles at 7:36 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


What's been really frustrating lately is the realization that the main thing I dislike about living in Japan is Japanese business culture, because every time I even think about maybe moving back to the US, it seems like the US has been working to emulate the worst parts of Japan's business and academic culture with none of the (potential) positives.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


If the gist of that story about the wife's surgery is that the president of a consulting company told a client that one of his consultants was a no show at a meeting because of a hangover ... that Did Not Happen.

And now it's time for that uncomfortable moment when someone calls your little brother a liar for talking about a thing that happened to him. I should have prepared a speech or something.
posted by cortex at 7:40 AM on May 4, 2015 [47 favorites]


The budgets are finite. The time scales mandated by the schedule. Adding more people is completely unrealistic.

The other option is that your company's business model is unrealistic and unsustainable.
posted by almostmanda at 7:41 AM on May 4, 2015 [62 favorites]


How long are you doing that for, Brockles? Our doctrine is no more than two weeks for a 12h/day schedule, and no more than a few days for essentially round-the-clock. I've seen parallel organizations do the 12-16/hr workday thing to people for longer terms---they look like the walking dead after a month and are about as effective.

At some point the error rate goes net-negative, and tired people start to cause more problems than they solve.

Someone who is apparently productive and working "80 hrs" a week is simply not being honest about their true hours. They've got a lot of downtime built into that workday.
posted by bonehead at 7:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is all making assumptions about office work. Not everyone works in an office. For example, in film production, working 12-14 hour days, six days a week, is hardly uncommon. A 10-hour day would be a luxury. The cost per day is so high, that it's cheaper to pay overtime to the crew (or hire them for a 12-hour flat rate) than hire the big actor for another day, or pay for the expensive rentals or the location. There are lots of economics where working crazy hours make more sense. It also means that your film crews have a lot of younger people on them, because that's who can maintain that kind of lifestyle.

It's also harder to pretend to be working, since it's all Fordism. If you're not working at a hustle, then you'll slow down the machine and be replaced.

Postproduction, on the other hand, is an office job. It's much easier to work flexible (but long) hours, as long as edits are being delivered on time.
posted by MythMaker at 7:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


People are missing the real problem here. In our atomized, dog-eat-dog society - with its vanishing common morality and solidarity - as long as there is even a tiny incentive to work long hours (or to be seen working long hours), some people will do it, thus forcing everyone else to do the same in order to keep up.

In other words, you could pass a law mandating a 35 hour work week, and the busy people at your office would just work from home for 40 hours a week instead of 20, and everyone who'd rather not work like that would feel the pressure to at least pretend.

What's missing, of course, is a common, healthy understanding of what life is for, a set of bedrock ideas about how to live one's life that puts work in its proper place. In a society as fragmented and adrift as ours, there is no such understanding, and it's entirely unsurprising to see this kind of behavior.
posted by corcovado at 7:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


The other option is that your company's business model is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Or it's short duration and high intensity. With adequate recovery time, really insane hours are do-able in the short term.

What's not believable is people who claim those insane work weeks over the longer term without being in a hospital bed after a couple of months.
posted by bonehead at 7:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I spent (regrettably) five years working for Accenture. This article is spot on. Spending long days sitting at a desk and billing the client for every minute of it was pretty much required.
posted by steinwald at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yes, if you've genuinely never known anyone to consistently work a legit 80+ hour week, you need to get out more. This is common - if not the norm - in prestige professions like big law, accounting, consulting, and medicine.
posted by corcovado at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm a software developer/manager and I have worked 40 hours a week for the last 6 1/2 years. To all my fellow techies out there who work in shops that claim to do "agile": Remember that "sustainable pace" is a core, unbreakable tenet of Agile. Here is a helpful question I use when talking agile with people : If you worked as hard as you are currently working for the next 10 years, would you be ok with that? How about 20 years? If the answer is no, then you ain't doing agile. Sorry! Tell your boss :-)

Working long hours sucks, and rarely has any meaningful payoff unless your title starts with "C" or "VP". It bums me out that so many companies seem to push people towards untenable schedules. Also, there's a vicious cycle with home life. Once you start working a lot, any home relationship starts to worsen, and then eventually you work more to get away from the worsening relationship. Which then gets worse. I've seen it happen to a lot of people.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [33 favorites]


> I think there is this mentality among some of the men that run these high-pressure work environments that the default condition is that a married man will have a 1950s style Donna Reed housewife at home. Men who are in more egalitarian marriages where they volunteer or are expected to provide more childrearing or household maintenance are punished by that standard.

When I worked an office job, I found largely the opposite. As someone unmarried without children, I found that it was generally assumed that I'd have zero commitments outside of work and therefore would be happy to do extra unpaid hours, answer the on-call phone 24/7 etc. People with families were generally given the benefit of the doubt ("your kid's got a thing? no problem") while I was assumed to not have a worthwhile life outside of the office and any request for time off was treated with a raised eyebrow.
posted by winterhill at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


This is common - if not the norm - in prestige professions like big law

Sorry, I work in big law and there is a ridiculous amount of padding. And no, it's not just my firm. I suspect that there's some padding in every business model that's based on the billable hour. It's just not a very efficient way to get work done, in my experience.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


The cost per day is so high, that it's cheaper to pay overtime to the crew

That's the difference there. Office workers get paid the same for 80 hours a week as they do for forty.
posted by octothorpe at 7:57 AM on May 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


Among women professionals in my industry, the standard advice is to never say where you are going when you leave for a family commitment- just say you have a "meeting."

Once upon a time, I overheard my boss telling a client that I couldn't make it out to meet with them because I was a single mother and couldn't travel.

That was a lie. My first day at that job was on an airplane traveling to a client site. I couldn't make it to that client's site because I had several other clients I was working with as well, and there was no good reason I would have to go out there, as I was only doing a small, specific part of the project (which is why I had multiple clients). When I talked to him about it, he said he thought it'd be a better explanation because they might be upset if they knew I had other projects, so that seemed reasonable. It had never even occurred to him that saying something like that was deeply professionally damaging to a woman working in a dominantly male industry. I never even kept a picture of my kid on my desk because I really wanted to avoid the weirdness and the nasty assumptions people make about working mothers, and this dillweed tells a client I can't do my job because I am a mommy.

So I painted the ceiling with his blood, but the prosecutor couldn't find a judge or jury who would convict me of any crime.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:57 AM on May 4, 2015 [41 favorites]



Pros:
- 40 hour weeks (well, more like 35 hours if subtracting lunch breaks)
- 3 months off per year
- months of accumulated sick leave
- a few personal-necessity days per year
- great benefits
- wear what I want
- decent salary (especially for 9 months work)
- no real boss, basically autonomous (that's kind of hit or miss depending on site, though)
- basically can't be fired

Cons:
- ~$80/mo fee
- somewhat annoying political stuff

Unions rule.
posted by Huck500 at 8:04 AM on May 4, 2015 [48 favorites]


i once worked in a place where the middle managers were under such pressure to show results and optimize everything that they really almost never left the premises. I recall two of them in particular -- one was my direct supervisor. He was a big fella with high blood pressure (although quite nice and thoughtful as a boss), and one day he just passed cold out on the floor, cracking his big head on the way down, and had to be carried to his office. But then he just got up, put a band-aid on his head wound and went back to work. I left shortly after that incident, but I heard months later that the place burned down, everyone lost their jobs, and the other middle manager (not my former boss) had a stroke and died. She was like 40 years old.

I’ve been lucky never to have been in a position with stress levels like that. But then I’d never seek or accept such a position ... unless it came with a lot of good free food ... and i mean A LOT ...
posted by despues at 8:04 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have done *one* contract where I billed by the hour, and I hated it. I was doing the work at home in addition to my normal job, and I would log small amounts here and there (15 min. increments) because I ended up having to do other stuff around the house or with the family. So it took me like 6 weeks to string together 40 billable hours and it seemed like I'd put in double that. If you can swing a salaried job with sane hours, you get paid even if you're at someone's birthday party in a conference room. Of course the down side is no extra pay when you work 80 hours ...
posted by freecellwizard at 8:06 AM on May 4, 2015


corcovado: In other words, you could pass a law mandating a 35 hour work week, and the busy people at your office would just work from home for 40 hours a week instead of 20, and everyone who'd rather not work like that would feel the pressure to at least pretend.

In Canada, at least, you're theoretically supposed to pay those people, which puts at least some limit on company behaviour. "The next time you reach for your BlackBerry on your night stand, consider whether you should be claiming overtime. And if you are an employer sending late-night e-mails to staff, you may get more than you bargained for. Employees and employers should be aware that responding to e-mails counts as work and can result in an entitlement to overtime pay.".
posted by clawsoon at 8:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


MattD

It did happen, but you're right insomuch as it's the most extreme story from that job. It's the one that made me quit and move 1,000 miles with that same wife and daughter to Cleveland for a new gig.

The "out drinking" excuse seems insane but you need to understand this was logistics and finance consulting. A completely bat-shit boys club of a culture. The drinking excuse was probably meant to be a half-joke that the client would laugh off and think was something else. It's very male dominated, very locker-room and weirdly proud about it.

This was a culture were actual black-out drinking would happen with clients on the company dime. Especially if you were traveling in eastern Europe or south-east Asia.
posted by French Fry at 8:08 AM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


And yes, if you've genuinely never known anyone to consistently work a legit 80+ hour week, you need to get out more. This is common - if not the norm - in prestige professions like big law, accounting, consulting, and medicine.

I totally believe that this is the norm. I absolutely do not believe that this is necessary. I'd much rather see a doctor who works 40 a week than a doctor who works 50, or 60, or 80. I'd far, far rather have two accountants at 40 hours a week than one at 80. If you are working long hours, your bosses are screwing you out of your life and themselves out of the work quality you're sacrificing by working long hours.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:08 AM on May 4, 2015 [28 favorites]


The cost per day is so high, that it's cheaper to pay overtime to the crew

That's the difference there. Office workers get paid the same for 80 hours a week as they do for forty.


Then you should negotiate your rate when hired for a specified number of hours rather than something indefinite. Flat rates are fine, it's just foolish to not include what the expectation for work is. I remember being hired as an film editor, maybe 13 years ago, and initially negotiating 9-hour days at a particular rate, and my employer wanted me to work 10-hour days, and so that meant a pay increase from my initial quote. Still a flat rate, but the pay compensates for the work.

I'm mainly an academic now, so pay is salaried, but slightly abstracted. While time in the classroom is fixed, creative/scholarly output and service, the other 2 contracted parts of my employment, enjoy a degree of flexibility. It's still long hours, but I generally get a fairly large say in what those hours are.

I would think that employment based on project productivity would be ideal. Since so much of my experience is based on freelance project-based work, while the hours are long (sometimes crazy long), the project will be done, and then you can take a break before the next one. The trick is just to find a sustainable way to do so.

Although, I do remember a time working as a perma-lancer (freelance, but on an ongoing basis project-to-project) for a postproduction company, and taking a week off between projects, after a particularly grueling one, only to discover that they'd effectively replaced me with an ambitious assistant editor working for half my pay. So, it's a tricky balance.
posted by MythMaker at 8:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you've genuinely never known anyone to consistently work a legit 80+ hour week, you need to get out more. This is common - if not the norm - in prestige professions like ... medicine.

And there's growing recognition that the resultant "adverse event" rate is killing people (PDF), quite literally. It's hard to measure in white collar jobs, but all the studies point to the fact that after about 12hrs on someone is, at best, just moving their mouse around, at worst, making serious errors of judgement in the next quarterly forecast. Past around 60hrs cumulative a week is when a high rate of major induced errors start to occur.

Assuming that "high prestige" positions are staffed by actual human beings, and not reptile people who don't have human brains, people working "80 hrs" weeks are finding ways to pad to give themselves enough downtime to recharge.
posted by bonehead at 8:12 AM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


Bob Slydell: You see, what we're actually trying to do here is, we're trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work... so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Bob Slydell: Great.
Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.
Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

posted by Fizz at 8:17 AM on May 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


Hey, no doubt, I'm just saying it's not all window dressing.
posted by corcovado at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2015


bonehead: And there's growing recognition that the resultant "adverse event" rate is killing people (PDF), quite literally.

At some point in the future, we'll recognize both crazy-making inconsistent shiftwork and crazy-long hours as public health issues.
posted by clawsoon at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The other option is that your company's business model is unrealistic and unsustainable.

I'm talking industry wide, not one company. Many thousands of companies worldwide.

How long are you doing that for, Brockles?

The insane stuff is usually at the beginning of each season. Maybe 2 months or so in one block? But the race events stuff is every second or third week. including travelling they are between 6 and 8 days long. If I was in the shop as well I'd be doing normal work hours plus up to 10-20 hours a week depending on work load when we got back.

The guys I worked with this weekend have been working flat out (by which I mean constant, hard, mental and physical work) for the last 2 months. They were due a break after this race event, but the car was destroyed in a crash in the race so they now have two days off after travelling for the rig and equipment to get back to the shop and likely 14 hour days from then on until the car is repaired. Then back out testing for a shakedown then another race event. It's Non. Stop.

This is all making assumptions about office work. Not everyone works in an office.

This. If the people suggesting 'hire more people' are office-based, they really don't know what it is like to work in a radically different environment. Office jobs are far more plug and play for the most part.
posted by Brockles at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


bonehead: Lots of clients are billed for "meetings" by the coffee machine.

A coffee machine that brews coffee and handles billing will be the most indispensable thing in the office.
posted by dr_dank at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


They were due a break after this race event, but the car was destroyed in a crash in the race so they now have two days off after travelling for the rig and equipment to get back to the shop and likely 14 hour days from then on until the car is repaired.

What is it about car repair that requires x people working 14 hour shifts instead of 2x people working 7 hour shifts?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:35 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Life is what you want to make of it - if someone really adores their job and gets the greatest life satisfaction out of working 80-odd hours a week, then who are we to tell them they can't? Some of the happiest, most fulfilled people I know are those who live where they work, who work long and sometimes weird hours and whose life and work are very intertwined - farmers and B&B owners and tourist guides, for instance. (This is, of course, a little different to those who spend 80 hours a week sitting in an office chair.)

The problem comes when we're all judged by the standards of the bloke who doesn't leave the office until 8pm every night. There's a rather creepy, judgmental attitude in Western culture that seems to have been brought back from Victorian times - the attitude that the only morally acceptable thing to do with one's time is to engage in at least 40 hours per week of paid work for an employer, whose conduct is apparently considered above reproach. If we choose not to do that - if we choose to work part-time and live on less money, or choose to take a less senior role than we'd be qualified to do, or even choose to live off the land in a community or similar - we're opening ourselves up to quiet tutting and judgment from those around us. People are frightened of those who are going against the grain, they're scary and a threat.

I've banged on about this to anyone who'll listen for yonks - but with technology making it easy for one person to do the work of several in a shorter period of time, we're not going to have mass employment in the future. Look at self-service checkouts at the supermarket, or those algorithms that can churn out sports news reports from raw game statistics, or the way we can communicate like this instead of needing a huge postal delivery network. These are things happening now, in real life. In our lifetime, there is going to have to be massive change in the way employment is looked at and wealth is distributed. It's an inevitability - those in power can start preparing for it now and have a quiet and positive transition, or they can ignore what's going on, assume that it'll be business as usual for the next 50 years and be taken by surprise by violent revolution.

There won't be 80-hour weeks in the near future. There won't be enough work for 40-hour weeks. We need adaptation and change, rather than to cling by our fingernails to an outmoded system.
posted by winterhill at 8:35 AM on May 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


What is it about car repair that requires x people working 14 hour shifts instead of 2x people working 7 hour shifts?

Know a lot of elite mechanics and engineers willing to work two 7 hour shifts a week if that's all the work that's required?

In specialized areas, often the thought process "we need specialized skills for less than one full-time position" where the pool of people willing to do it goes to zero very quickly. Surgeons in small cities deal with this all the time - there is 1.4 FTEs worth of work and no surgeons willing to work 0.4FTE. So then someone gets pinned into working too much.

Again, consider that an office environment =\= a field environment.
posted by buoys in the hood at 8:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's not believable is people who claim those insane work weeks over the longer term without being in a hospital bed after a couple of months.

Just for reference - When I was doing those nutso hours I had been working for a team all year (maybe 2 days off in 10 on average, most days of 10-12 hours, with 14 race weekends of 14-16 hours per day) then went to a race car manufacturer for the winter and was working 12-18 hours a day 6 days a week until the car was ready. Then I had a week unemployed until I picked up work with a team again and started the first cycle.

Incidentally, I was also building a race car in my garage for a friend on the weekends I wasn't working and in the 2-3 hours I had in the evenings when I could still function. Of course, I was 28 years old and relatively fit, but race team mechanics work HARD. It is no coincidence that few stay in it, and so many burn out or walk away. Only the truly dedicated and motivated stay in the sport. There's a reason that I refer to having the racing bug as a sickness.

What is it about car repair that requires x people working 14 hour shifts instead of 2x people working 7 hour shifts?

This is not car repair as you understand it. This is race car build. There is a finite number of mechanics for normal cars and a tiny, tiny fraction of comparable race car mechanics capable of building and preparing a $300,000 race car to the standard I work at. You need people that work at that level all the time to do it - expensive mistakes can be made even if your good mechanic is out of practice, so a newbie can cause major carnage and cost if they are let loose on a race car. You can maybe have extra hands for some of the more menial work (the cleaning and the graphics and sub contract paint prep and the like) but there aren't qualified and experienced people sitting around waiting for a week or two's contract work when and if a car crashes.
posted by Brockles at 8:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


7:00 AM-5:00 PM M-F basic teaching job hours
15 hours per week activities or monitoring activities
5 hours travel time for activities
Other random time for unscheduled meetings
Travel time for professional development

Classrooms are audially and visually monitored and teachers must actively teach 95% of the time class is in session.

This 80 hour week has a starting pay ~$33,000 per year. Summers off? Not really, professional development takes weeks of summer, and keeping up in the core area of expertise takes time also.

The only thing that has changed in teaching is there is no longer tenure or any guarantee of anything.
posted by Oyéah at 8:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


And yes, if you've genuinely never known anyone to consistently work a legit 80+ hour week, you need to get out more.

And meet who, the people devoting all of their waking hours to work?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Every place I've seen the must-work-80+hrs behavior have
a) top-heavy structures with partners that desperately needed billed hours
b) places that had lots of interns
c) places that Did Not Specify Work. No specs, just horrible non-structure that they called 'agile' but really was not in (buzz)word or deed.
d) retail for anyone not on a time clock

In other words - everything that is doomed to fail. If you see this stuff happening on the reg you are on a sinking ship or simply getting wrung out for a CEO's boat payment.

Never have I seen more than 50 hrs or productivity in a week, and over sustained periods it is more like 25 after emails and bullshit.
posted by drowsy at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Brockles works in an interesting industry where people can potentially be expected to be passionate about what they do. Nobody, and I mean, nobody, is passionate about office work. Passionate about lording it over the other apes, maybe, but not about the "work" (whatever it consists of, mostly bullshit in my experience).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


In other words - everything that is doomed to fail. If you see this stuff happening on the reg you are on a sinking ship or simply getting wrung out for a CEO's boat payment.

I was going to say, your list leaves out

e) teaching, Which Oyéah neatly enumerated above

But then I remembered that actually teaching is doomed to fail.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:48 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brockles needs to create an awesome FPP about auto racing.
posted by Melismata at 8:48 AM on May 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


Nobody, and I mean, nobody, is passionate about office work. Passionate about lording it over the other apes, maybe, but not about the "work" (whatever it consists of, mostly bullshit in my experience).

What are we counting under "office work"? Anything done in an office, or just anything that's basically about perpetuating the officeness of the office? Because my work is generally done in an office but it's interesting and intellectually engaging. (And seldom requires 80 hours but 50-65 definitely happens during deadline runs.) I personally am not passionate about it but many of my colleagues are, or were, or go back and forth between burnout and engagement.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nobody, and I mean, nobody, is passionate about office work. Passionate about lording it over the other apes, maybe, but not about the "work" (whatever it consists of, mostly bullshit in my experience).

I read the autobiography of a former CEO of Pepsi in which he related that one of the most important lessons he learned from some mentor or another was that the most important thing in business is passion, and not nearly enough people have it.

My conclusion was that it's a good thing that most people don't have a passion for selling ever-increasing volumes of sugar water. Plenty enough gets sold already.
posted by clawsoon at 8:52 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


My office work used to be awesome and now it is hella tedious but i am really glad that I no longer feel the need to work 60h+ work weeks.

The most important thing in business is your big fat paycheck, and not nearly enough people have it. For a soda CEO's take home plus annual bonus i would be the most passionate motherfucker this world has ever fucking seen.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


" Productivity theater," raised to an art form.
posted by pwnguin at 8:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm just relatively surprised that all of these consultants can't deliver a environment that maximizes productivity or at least quantify it. The cynic in me just thinks that this and ultimately karoshi generally (previously here) are generally signalling problems.
posted by 27kjmm at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2015


This is all making assumptions about office work. Not everyone works in an office. For example, in film production, working 12-14 hour days, six days a week, is hardly uncommon. A 10-hour day would be a luxury. The cost per day is so high, that it's cheaper to pay overtime to the crew (or hire them for a 12-hour flat rate) than hire the big actor for another day, or pay for the expensive rentals or the location. There are lots of economics where working crazy hours make more sense. It also means that your film crews have a lot of younger people on them, because that's who can maintain that kind of lifestyle.

It's also harder to pretend to be working, since it's all Fordism. If you're not working at a hustle, then you'll slow down the machine and be replaced.


Very true for restaurant work, too.
posted by rue72 at 9:01 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree with pretty well everything above.

I do want to comment about the "out drinking" excuse. It's probably not primarily that drinking is socially acceptable - it's that the truth, an emergency operation, is a "downer". If you're a salesperson you want to avoid any negative thoughts or situations involving your company. "A hangover" indicates FUN!! and so is a better strategy - so thinks a salesperson.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I read the autobiography of a former CEO of Pepsi in which he related that one of the most important lessons he learned from some mentor or another was that the most important thing in business is passion, and not nearly enough people have it.

That's because most managers of corporations have abdicated their role in actually being leaders of people.

Like everything, they think passion is a bootstrap skill that people need to bring with them to work. Most people don't get mentors for starters (try getting facetime with an upper executive in a company larger than 50 people for personal mentorship reasons), let alone those who've had enough success to actually know what comes next in a career.

The most important thing in business is to be a good-looking, charming, well-educated, well-connected (i.e, parents who are successful) male who comes from a household that preferred results and hard work to anything else. It's like running a 100-yard race where you left before the gun went off but nobody noticed - sure you run fast, but let's not pretend the head start didn't help.
posted by buoys in the hood at 9:11 AM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


My boss works 60 hour weeks due to pressure from higher-ups. He's tried to filter it down to me and I'm just not having it. I went out to lunch at a restaurant during the workday last week - the only time I've done so in three months - and when I got back I got a guilt trip about how he ate at his desk and worked through lunch. I hope my expression didn't give me away, but my inner voice was like "are you fucking kidding me?"
posted by desjardins at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I do think the author's choice of company was interesting.

As has been noted here, certain industries are well-known for their incredible work-loads and lack of support for out of work responsibilities. Traveling sales, consulting, movie production, sports or special event production... etc. But in those industries you're not surprised by those demands.

I'd be really curious how some of these problems, displayed here at their most extreme, shape and inform employment in more balanced workplaces.
posted by French Fry at 9:45 AM on May 4, 2015


I knew someone who told people outside of work that they worked 70-80 hour weeks even though I knew for a fact that they didn't. I guess it was that "strange need to feel important and validated" that ernielundquist mentioned upthread.
posted by desjardins at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This seems to be a very American thread.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's like that old Onion headline where "Area man uses work to avoid family and family to avoid work"
posted by Renoroc at 9:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I worked retail in Canada for a number of years - it was shift work and you got a schedule that conformed to the employment laws of the country, but you also had to be available to check and discuss the sales stats and strategies via your blackberry at all hours and you sure as hell couldn't ask for OT while doing so or promotion just would not happen. Attending a family event and ignore a call to discuss the week's sales from your manager? That's going to affect your raise/promotion chances. It may be a downside to the always connected society the available technology has driven us to or it may be the corporate system, but there was no way to leave the work at the store when your shift ended. Whether you're a man or a woman and behind a desk or working a sales floor, this kind of work-place culture is damaging.
posted by dazed_one at 10:06 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem, too, is that the costs to business to hire employees is more than paying overtime. If you sever the relationship that retirement and health coverage has to American businesses, you remove a lot of the "extra" cost of hiring more people.

In a sane world, everyone gets paid a living wage AND overtime costs the employer as much as hiring another person AND working part-time has no effect on whether you get to go to the doctor or get a pension.
posted by maxwelton at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Outside of government, who still gets paid overtime? Almost every job now is "exempt."
posted by miyabo at 10:31 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is not car repair as you understand it. This is race car build. There is a finite number of mechanics for normal cars and a tiny, tiny fraction of comparable race car mechanics capable of building and preparing a $300,000 race car to the standard I work at. You need people that work at that level all the time to do it - expensive mistakes can be made even if your good mechanic is out of practice, so a newbie can cause major carnage and cost if they are let loose on a race car.

So, here's where ideological differences come into play. My immediate reaction to this is not "Yes, 80-hour weeks are totally reasonable given the shortage of skilled workers and a short operating schedule," but rather the opposite. You're a skilled worker in a field with a serious shortage of talent. Whoever is bankrolling you is apparently able to afford $300K cars without blinking, so they can damn well either find someone else to help out during work blitzes (which is a long-term fix, given the difficulty of training n00bs), or they can readjust their scheduling expectations to give you enough time to build their cars with 40-hour work-weeks. Management has discovered that they can externalize this problem to you at no added cost, but they don't actually hold any of the cards. By your own admission, there isn't anyone else out there who can do what you can do, so you're in the driver's seat (er, no pun intended). Americans in general have chosen to internalize the problem, in no small part due to how organized labor has been vilified over the last half-century. If enough people were to push back, though, we could kill off this toxic workplace culture.
posted by Mayor West at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


This seems to be a very American thread.

If the topic is "your nominally First World society is trying to kill you," there is a 95% chance the thread will be very American. There just aren't that many non-native English speakers on MetaFilter, and most of the English-speaking world isn't trying to kill its citizens out of some sort of weirdo Puritan self-hatred.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


7:00 AM-5:00 PM M-F basic teaching job hours

Our contracted start time is 7:45, there is no end time, but the kids leave at 3 so you can't leave before then. The contract says you have to be prepared for the next day.

15 hours per week activities or monitoring activities
5 hours travel time for activities


Don't know what these are. What activities?

Other random time for unscheduled meetings

Our contact limits meetings to 3 hours/month, and they normally take place on a day the kids leave early, so they don't actually mean more hours. We have to get like 2 days notice beforehand, too.

Travel time for professional development

Sometimes, but often it's at our school anyway. It's never more than 5 or 10 minutes away.

Classrooms are audially and visually monitored and teachers must actively teach 95% of the time class is in session.

WTF? Seriously? Why did your union agree to that? (The monitoring, I mean.)

This 80 hour week has a starting pay ~$33,000 per year.

My district starts at ~$50,000 and ramps up pretty quickly. There are teachers making $120,000 here, not including benefits, for 9 months of work.

Summers off? Not really, professional development takes weeks of summer, and keeping up in the core area of expertise takes time also.

We have 2 days of professional development at the end of summer, and it's paid. Some of us take classes in the summer, but there's nothing required. I've certainly gone whole summers without doing anything school-related.
Core expertise sounds like middle school or above, we don't have this in primary.

The only thing that has changed in teaching is there is no longer tenure or any guarantee of anything.

We still have tenure, and here in California I don't think it's going anywhere. We're guaranteed everything in our contract.
posted by Huck500 at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was on a conference call last week with three Europeans. My company is trying to get a specific project done by July and all of them need to be involved.

French guy: Sorry, I'm out most of May.
Austrian guy: Yeah, I'm out in June.
Me: Okay, we can push back to Aug-
German guy: Nope sorry I'm on vacation in August.
Me: Which part of-
German guy: ALL OF IT.

There's also a lot of rending of garments whenever one of the Americans schedules a conference call after 9:00 am central time, because that's 4 pm in London and 5 pm in Paris (quel dommage!). Meanwhile, those fuckers will schedule a call at 7 am central time without a second thought.

(People in India get screwed by both continents, same as it ever was.)
posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Brockles needs to create an awesome FPP about auto racing.

Yeah, it sounds like the part of auto racing that's the least nominally exciting is actually far more interesting.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Classrooms are audially and visually monitored and teachers must actively teach 95% of the time class is in session.

Oh good God. MONITORING? That's completely awful.

WTF? Seriously? Why did your union agree to that? (The monitoring, I mean.)

Union? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha . . . hahahaha.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:06 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Brockles: When I was doing those nutso hours I had been working for a team all year (maybe 2 days off in 10 on average, most days of 10-12 hours, with 14 race weekends of 14-16 hours per day) then went to a race car manufacturer for the winter and was working 12-18 hours a day 6 days a week until the car was ready. ... Of course, I was 28 years old and relatively fit, but race team mechanics work HARD.

I'm not doubting you in the least, but when I've worked like that, the error and injuries start creeping in after week 2 or 3 of that pace. Even the oil industry doesn't work that hard, and they generally have 6-8 weeks on/2 weeks off policies too. I can't imagine working for that length of time without someone seriously hurting themselves from fatigue or making a very costly mistake. You must have had a lot of people doing QA/QC around you to keep that up.

Many of the earliest time worked for productivity/injury studies come, in fact, from autoworkers on the Detroit lines. The concept of limited-time shift work largely comes from auto manufacturers who wanted to decrease days off work from injury and car defect rates due to overwork.
posted by bonehead at 11:13 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


America sucks so bad. I wish I'd been born in Germany.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Makes me think of the Apple 90 Hours a Week and Loving It sweatshirts.

I've done crazy work hours. I'm lucky in that my crazy work hours paid off into a lot of money. Now I'm in a job in academia where the expected workweek is nominally 35 hours (plus lunch), and while some folks slide over that, it's a much more comfortable pace even when there's a crunch on.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2015


We need adaptation and change, rather than to cling by our fingernails to an outmoded system.

Yes, and it won't happen. Why plan, when it's easier and more profitable to run the system into a wall, being sure that you bail out a few seconds prior to impact?

I mean, shit, what do you think the CEO class has been practicing for the last few decades? It's a fundamental premise of modern capitalism these days -- pump the stock by artificially boosting profitability, then bail out before things break. Stock tanks, then the next guy in the chair does the same thing, and the cycle begins anew. Over and over, until finally the last guy wrangles a buyout or merger.
posted by aramaic at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I rarely had to work more than 40 hours at the office back when my work was most intense, but I would often have to clock in a lot of extra hours working remotely from home just to keep up. What else can you do when you're thrown in over your head with unfamiliar technologies on projects that are already months behind? Never again will I let work/life balance get so out of whack as it was at its worst for me, though. It's not worth it. And it can destroy your life if you let it.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2015


Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80? We have massive underemployment. Let the filth that walks like men hire enough people to do the work that needs doing.

Yeah, much as I hate the long workweeks, in some fields they're actually hurting for people. My husband's company is so desperate to hire that they're offering them multiple-thousand-dollar bonuses if they can find anyone qualified to come work for them. And we could really use that money, too - but he and I, thinking together, both can't think of anyone we know qualified for it.
posted by corb at 11:47 AM on May 4, 2015


What industry is this, corb?
posted by domo at 12:04 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


A very specific form of engineering. In fact, if you're an engineer looking for work*, seriously, feel free to MeMail me about specifics. They pay pretty well and have a lot of perks.

*Edited to fix location. I initially was talking about his office, but actually I understand the other offices around the country are also looking for people.
posted by corb at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


We still have tenure, and here in California I don't think it's going anywhere.

Vergara v. California.
posted by escabeche at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2015


Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80? We have massive underemployment. Let the filth that walks like men hire enough people to do the work that needs doing.

The HBR article is about professional jobs (consultancies being the main example), and there isn't massive underemployment in this group--the unemployment rate for professional degree holders was 1.9% in 2014. You aren't replacing a McKinsey consultant with two out-of-work construction workers.
posted by dsfan at 12:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the topic is "your nominally First World society is trying to kill you," there is a 95% chance the thread will be very American.

Seventyfive percent these days, what with the UK doing its darnest to catch up and the thickies in charge of my country (some of them nominally socialist even) doing their best to follow in their footsteps.

I was on a conference call last week with three Europeans.

And the good thing is, for all their low hours worked and long holidays, even the bane of all American rightwingers, the French are still as or more productive than American workers....
posted by MartinWisse at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


You aren't replacing a McKinsey consultant with two out-of-work construction workers.

You could probably replace them with nobody at all.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


Management has discovered that they can externalize this problem to you at no added cost, but they don't actually hold any of the cards.

Dear god, this.

If your skillset is so difficult and so rare that the people who have it all have to work 80 hour weeks to keep up, your employer should have no difficulty repeatedly doubling pay rates until enough of a talent pool builds up to meet that demand. The fact that they don't do that should be an indication to you that maybe, just maybe, you are not a special snowflake, but are instead a rube who has been tricked into working double time so management can avoid the cost of hiring the appropriate amount of staff.

I work in software development. I stopped working nights and weekends years ago, outside of true, honest-to-god emergencies (maybe once every year or two). If the project is so important that it needs to hit a release date that's unachievable with the current staffing and reasonable hours, the company can hire more staff, or start paying me commensurately more money.

Unsurprisingly, this attitude quickly results in "hard" project dates suddenly becoming much more malleable.
posted by tocts at 12:45 PM on May 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


This is not car repair as you understand it. This is race car build. There is a finite number of mechanics for normal cars and a tiny, tiny fraction of comparable race car mechanics capable of building and preparing a $300,000 race car to the standard I work at. You need people that work at that level all the time to do it - expensive mistakes can be made even if your good mechanic is out of practice, so a newbie can cause major carnage and cost if they are let loose on a race car.

I dated a girl whose brother was an indy race car mechanic. Those guys worked hard when they worked but don't kid yourself that they do 80 hour weeks. They'd do a 40 hour week in 3 days tearing down a car and then building it back up and then they'd spend the next 3 days drunk and high as hell floating in a pool on a chair. Then they'd spend a day recovering and traveling and start all over again.

Also while they were good mechanics it was the team's system that ran the show rather than talent. They were methodical and systematic like nothing I have ever seen before. They had colour coded nuts and bolts, sheets with part outlines on them so everything went where it was supposed to and the cleanest tidiest most organized tool-sets I have ever seen and everything they did was double checked by another team member. In many ways their work was probably easier than a normal mechanics because they were working a known predictable environment with a fixed schedule.
posted by srboisvert at 2:03 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Outside of government, who still gets paid overtime? Almost every job now is "exempt."

In my role as HR, I've tried to move as many folks to salaried/exempt as possible because we have erratic production schedules and 1) it makes budget forecasting a hell of a lot easier and 2) with erratic scheduling it ensures that everyone is still getting a steady paycheck.

It also make them eligible for health benefits, so.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:09 PM on May 4, 2015


Almost every company does. The net effect, though, is that everyone's hours get longer since employers are no longer incentivized to hire more staff when the workload increases.
posted by miyabo at 2:31 PM on May 4, 2015


That may be true in some industries, but in brewing, a shift on the brewdeck is 6-7 hours. There's no way to add workload without adding staff.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:42 PM on May 4, 2015


they can damn well either find someone else to help out during work blitzes (which is a long-term fix, given the difficulty of training n00bs),

There are no people to help on short notice at a high level. There is no simple solution. Nobody WANTS to take the risks with these workloads, but it is necessary. We're smart enough to find another way if it were possible, believe me.

or they can readjust their scheduling expectations to give you enough time to build their cars with 40-hour work-weeks.

Er. The race sets the schedule. No-one has any control over that. There IS no rescheduling - if you don't make the races EVERYONE is out of work. Even if you miss a test then you've likely blown 10-20 thousand dollars on lost flight costs, hotels etc and if you have a sponsor? You likely lost that too. And, as above, EVERYONE is out of work. You clearly have no concept of the inviolable deadlines of this sport.

They'd do a 40 hour week in 3 days tearing down a car and then building it back up and then they'd spend the next 3 days drunk and high as hell floating in a pool on a chair.

I don't know many Indycar teams that have people double checking (or the staff to do so) so I suspect that was back in the heydays of big budgets and high level sponsorship. They run a lot leaner now. But the schedule you mention is only around travel - the mechanics work like dogs when the cars are there but have days off while the trucks are on the long hauls (opposite coast races or when the cars go abroad) but it's not typical. In fact, Indycar recently had five races in 6 weeks and they sure as hell aren't floating in a pool right now. They were only two races in when I was racing with them in New Orleans and they were pretty much not looking forward to their schedule.
posted by Brockles at 3:33 PM on May 4, 2015


the brewdeck

Best ship ever.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not doubting you in the least, but when I've worked like that, the error and injuries start creeping in after week 2 or 3 of that pace. ... You must have had a lot of people doing QA/QC around you to keep that up.

Nope. Sometimes injuries, but you work around them and are careful. If you hurt yourself, the other mechanics have to work twice as hard to fill in. It happens, but I've only seen serious injuries (beyond bumps and bruises) maybe every five or six years and that is in the series I am in at the time (not my own team) so maybe 4-500 people tops?

Also, outside Indycar and F1 there are generally 1-3 mechanics on the car. Further down the ladder 1 guy full time and up to 3 at races only. When I was a mechanic doing the stupid hours I was the only person building the car (a Le Mans Prototype) but the expectation was that the car would be rebuilt by the team when it arrived. However race mechanics were used so that the car could go straight on track if that was dictated by the schedule.

In all my racing there has been one guy responsible for each car. He may have helpers, but nobody is double checking him and sometimes it is ONLY him. He does everything and makes sure it is right. This is a hard, hard job with a lot of responsibility (getting it wrong can injure or kill your driver or even spectators) and the burn out and turnover rate is extreme. If people last the first few races they generally last a season or two. If they last two season they are generally in for life (where life is as long as they can keep up with the pace).

If all this sounds stupid, it's because it is. It is utterly insane. It just isn't going to make sense to a normal (ie outside racing) person, but that doesn't mean it isn't how life is. But without the mega millions the highest levels have (and even they don't have it easy) there is no choice. They instituted curfews in Formula 1 garages on race weekends because people were working 24 hours a day when things were bad. But the teams were able to reshuffle staff (although that is limited in numbers) and just spent more money on pre-built assemblies at the factory and ship more stuff. But without that budget you're just rebuilding everything yourself.

If you want to work in racing, it is hard, hard work with a high level of stress. Divorce, stress related illness and the like are rife. It's a running joke that people leave racing purportedly because they can't afford to have any more divorces...
posted by Brockles at 3:44 PM on May 4, 2015


I read the autobiography of a former CEO of Pepsi in which he related that one of the most important lessons he learned from some mentor or another was that the most important thing in business is passion, and not nearly enough people have it.

This and "do what you love" are the most worthless pieces of "advice" someone in that position can offer.

Like giving a shit somehow confers a higher salary, more social contacts, etc. Except it doesn't.

That answer would make more sense if the question was "what's it like being in a position only a handful of people could even hope to aspire to — for reasons beyond their control?" At that point, yeah I kind of hope they have some emotional investment in their position or else it really is just bad comedy how things shake out.

/end rant
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


If you want to work in racing, it is hard, hard work with a high level of stress. Divorce, stress related illness and the like are rife. It's a running joke that people leave racing purportedly because they can't afford to have any more divorces...

Others have already pointed out that this general state of affairs is undesirable (which you seem to at least nominally agree with) and unnecessary (and I'd add for my part that "this is just how it is and always has been" is not a particularly compelling counterpoint), but I'd like to point out that it's also not romantic, not even darkly romantic like you're implying with your tales of broken people with too much passion to live life any other way. Every job ever invented had someone who decided that it was extremely and personally important for them to work twice as long as anyone else, because it turns out that pulling the levers on the human psyche that make them want to pour long hours into ventures they won't even see the profit from is pretty easy on the grand scale of things. My job is objectively one of the dumber things ever taken up by humans as a profession, providing no concrete value of any sort to anyone, and yet people in my department still sometimes brag about coming in on 5 weekends in a row or taking phone calls from Germany at 4 AM or whatever.

That shit isn't impressive or praiseworthy, and getting nostalgic for the good old days before the racing commission made people stop working 24 hour shifts is just the macho equivalent of having one of those signs on your desk that says, "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!!!"
posted by Copronymus at 4:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


The worst job I ever had was when my son was two and I was the marketing/communiations/fundraising person for a local branch of a national NPO with an *insane* CEO who did nothing -- NOTHING -- but work every hour the facility was open (8 am to 10 pm). So its not just the programing bros who are subject to this. It is a thing.

At my previous job i only contract at now, my boss was like this.

She'd show up at 6am or so, and leave sometimes as late as like 9pm. And this is at an office that was nominally only open like 8am-4pm.

I still think a huge part of me being mostly replaced was that i never showed up before noon... even though the main hours i could work were when their other locations were closed, which amounted to.. 11pm-5am. And i was on call 24-7, and most calls came in at 6am when the other locations opened up.

I explained this of course, but apparently it still looked bad that i wasn't there in the morning even if i had just been there at 3am.

Apparently she used to repair mainframes and DEC/UNIVAC boxes and this kind of shit was normal. When anyone else sided with me she just went "well, that's how the job is".

I met a lot of people doing similar stuff(POS/network engineering) who all worked stupid hours constantly and it was just expected of them. One of the guys had a small consulting shop with a little office.

His office had a bed in it, so he could nap randomly. Just right next to the desk with his phone next to his head.

Sigh.
posted by emptythought at 4:42 PM on May 4, 2015


I used to work 60's (well, 57's-ish, lunch at my desk with a run to the nearby store to procure, and a once a week departmental luncheon I organized so we could all talk out of school) for several months. It wasn't so much a work ethic thing as it was sort of necessity. I worked side by side with my boss.

We worked at a call center. My (and his) normal schedule was 2 - 10:00 when the site closed. Problem being is that we were in Resource Planning (read scheduling) and there was a substantial load of forecasting and time off requests that needed done that couldn't be done during business hours due to metric monitoring.

Actually, it wasn't bad at all. I got along with my boss, my department was very highly rated company-wide (among other RP departments) and we got the employee's requests handled in a timely fashion. (Okay, there WAS that one night about 12:30 that a break turned into a Mentos/Diet Coke break in the back parking lot, but that sort of stuff was really quite rare...)

We took our jobs pretty seriously and tried VERY hard to be responsive to both the clients and the reps...
posted by Samizdata at 5:24 PM on May 4, 2015


d) retail for anyone not on a time clock

I still don't understand how this isn't incredibly super duper fucking illegal. I mean i know the "exempt/non exempt" thing gets abused, but the entire concept of someone in retail even a manager being salaried seems like bullshit to me.

And the weird thing was, when i worked meatgrinder jobs like that, everyone would go "oh woahhh you get salary/you get commission?*" like it was an accomplishment to achieve... but then the managers or assistant managers or whoever else got salary like mobile department or whatever would just get worked completely inhuman hours because they couldn't rack up overtime.

I remember at one point doing the math and realizing that it was possible to make less than minimum wage at salaried retail when you started hitting stupid hours like that. How the hell is it so common?

*and to be clear here i'm not talking about some boutique, i'm talking about bozocorps big box store that has a cell phone department that pays commission if you sell someone a galaxy nutbuster 4g XL and a bunch of cheap headphones and cases with it.
posted by emptythought at 7:25 PM on May 4, 2015


my department was very highly rated company-wide

Don't take this too harshly, but...who gives a shit? Did that translate into anything concrete for you, ever? I don't take my job seriously, because my job doesn't take me seriously.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:33 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


In my field, for the most part public sector jobs have predictable hours (usually 37.5 or 40) and relatively generous leave policies, but significantly lower pay. Private sector gets you way better pay, but much longer hours per week and less leave. Whether or not the higher pay actually means you are earning more per hour really varies.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:50 PM on May 4, 2015


Hey, if you want to work crazy hours for low pay, I'm not going to try to stop you. I'd only suggest that you do it as a rational choice rather than getting sucked into it through peer pressure. If you're working 80 hour weeks, but you're getting lots of money and power and prestige from it, and you and your significant other have consciously made that decision, then it's fine! But I see far too many people who seem to be suckered into working crazy hours and aren't really getting anything at all in return. It's the sick system problem... You work hard because your coworkers desperately need you to work hard, but that's because someone higher up has designed the system so that your coworkers always desperately need you.
posted by miyabo at 9:06 PM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Best advice I ever received was to always arrive to work before your boss and leave after your boss.

That's weird and backwards to me. My whole work life it's been the opposite. Granted, 20 years of that was in the military, but it's still not that way where I work now. The lower level workers get to be carefree, just doing what you tell them until quitting time. The higher up you get, you start having responsibilities for general recurring things and collateral duties that have to be done on your own time.

I get to work about a half-hour before my employees to be ready to get them to work when they show up. I DO NOT expect them to be there when I get there; that would defeat the purpose of ME showing up early. Often I'm busy all day and then have some loose ends to tie up once the action is over and everyone leaves. And they have to leave, so I can get some quiet time to get my shit done.

My boss is there before I get there and God only knows how long she stays at night. Don't know; don't care. That's why she makes the big bucks. (Which is what my people say about me as they're going home to their families.)
posted by ctmf at 9:07 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Big Law. Oh boy, used to be in a Big Law firm, now partner of a mid tier.

The having to simply be there routine, to be physically present and lookf busy (elsehwere in this thread referred to quite rightly as theatre) to not leave before the partner did regardless of time of day was numbing.

Boring as hell.
We all billed 80 -100 units (8 to 10 hours) a day easily which was recorded on bills sent out to clients and not even checked. Clients, multinationals almost exclusively, didnt check the bills either it seems as they just paid whatever was on the bill.

Whilst we were physically present for at the least 10 hours a day (and usually at least one day a weekend, often both) I certainly didn't perform 10 hours of useful billable labour, unless you call reading case law utterly unrelated to the matter at hand billable. Which that firm did.
So it was a cakewalk to bill like a machine without having to break a sweat.

And that is how I came to leave the firm of (name withheld) after less than a year.

And of course when I left they said I would never work in a better firm and my life as a lawyer would be progressively downhill. Remarkable statements if only for their demonstrated inaccuracy.
posted by Plutocratte at 2:32 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know many Indycar teams that have people double checking (or the staff to do so) so I suspect that was back in the heydays of big budgets and high level sponsorship.

It certainly could be. It was 25 years ago when I spent a week with them and they had something like 5 guys and 2 cars for 1 driver.
posted by srboisvert at 5:23 AM on May 5, 2015


I read the autobiography of a former CEO of Pepsi in which he related that one of the most important lessons he learned from some mentor or another was that the most important thing in business is passion, and not nearly enough people have it.
This and "do what you love" are the most worthless pieces of "advice" someone in that position can offer.


I always assume that "passion" in job discussions is a typo and what CEO's and managers actually mean is "piss on"
posted by srboisvert at 5:27 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember at one point doing the math and realizing that it was possible to make less than minimum wage at salaried retail when you started hitting stupid hours like that. How the hell is it so common?

Because the people who make the laws that allow that either are or are in the pay of the people who pay you.


Hey, if you want to work crazy hours for low pay, I'm not going to try to stop you. I'd only suggest that you do it as a rational choice rather than getting sucked into it through peer pressure.

If people cannot choose to work long hours without pressuring others into working long hours despite not wanting to, then people should not be permitted to choose to work long hours.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:32 AM on May 5, 2015


I would assume that the people who are actually working 80 hour weeks are not commenting on this post because they are working 80 hour weeks. Some people who are working massive amounts of unpaid overtime are doing so because they (possibly rightly) believe that there is no one else to do the work. Whether it is in the not for profit sector, teaching, medicine or many other vocations, there are plenty of people who are working far beyond contracted hours. There are also people working second and third jobs for little recompense because they can't earn enough to liver otherwise. They are not part of the macho unpaid overtime world described in the article.

Those of us who have time to comment on Metafilter threads are less likely to be working ridiculous hours and are not part of that scene. We are unlikely to get 'the other side of the story'.

Personally I don't think there is another side to the story as such. Some people can find some solace in working very long hours. I see it as a coping mechanism for their particular mental make up and not as something that necessarily works for many people. That the example of the few people who can or will sustain this lifestyle is promoted as the ideal is hardly surprising, they are working for nothing. Sometimes too many trips on the 'magic roundabout' will kill a person, but there are always others willing to jump on.
posted by asok at 5:40 AM on May 5, 2015


As someone who used to work an honest to god 60-80 hour week this is how mine looked:
Monday- Travel Day. 13-17 hours
Tuesday - Travel Day. 13-17 hours
Wednesday - Travel Day. 13-17 hours
Thursday - Travel Day. 13-17 hours
Friday- Email and call Day. 8 hours
Saturday- Email only Day. 5 hours
Sunday- Expense reports and packing for the week Day. 3 hours

A great travel day is 10 hours. A shitty one is 26 hours. Two things often play into this kind of work/mentality/insanity commission and bonuses. If 50-60% of your earning potential is dictated by either results or perception of results you are incentivized to keep up or ahead of the Jones's.

As many have said there should be more people to fill in the gaps, but ironically as a consultant my job was to fill in the gaps at other companies short on high level talent. I worked for a couple firms and the best one tried to constantly hire more people to keep the work load in check. But we fired a handful of those guys a month because they didn't past muster.
posted by French Fry at 6:36 AM on May 5, 2015


The end of the article is telling:

Yet, a critical implication of this research is that working long hours is not necessary for high quality work. The experiences of those men who passed show clearly that, even in a client service setting, it is possible to reorganize work such that it is more predictable and consumes fewer hours.

Leaders of organizations, however, who are already invested in how things work, and who themselves likely made many personal sacrifices to advance, may have trouble accepting the possibility that there might be another way to work. Indeed, when I reported my findings to the organization I studied, I was met with two responses: (1) a response that “these men”—those who revealed their lack of desire to be always available for and primarily committed to their work—were not the sort of men they really wanted anyway; and (2) a request to figure out how they might teach women to pass. The broader implication— that the organization itself might alter its expectations—was lost.


A sick system indeed.
posted by harriet vane at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


That shit isn't impressive or praiseworthy, and getting nostalgic for the good old days before the racing commission made people stop working 24 hour shifts is just the macho equivalent ...

I don't crave or need anyone's praise or for them to be impressed. The people that consider it unnecessary do not understand the sport or the commercial limitations in it - you clearly do not, because only F1 and NASCAR are affected by the curfew, which is a tiny fraction of the sport.

But it is the reality and I shared it because it is relevant to the subject at hand. People who have no clue how an industry works can easily sit there and spout nonsense about how it is clearly (to them) 'unnecessary' despite zero data to base that on, but that also doesn't impress me. If it wasn't necessary, we'd not do it.
posted by Brockles at 8:44 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


(2) a request to figure out how they might teach women to pass

Darn right, so they can pay the women less.
posted by Melismata at 8:45 AM on May 5, 2015


America sucks so bad. I wish I'd been born in Germany.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:17 PM on May 4 [2 favorites +] [!]


Just one Operation Paperclip reference away from being eponysterical...
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:26 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um yeah the demands of being a mechanic for an Indy car team are different than working in an office. They are totally different industries with different time constraints. It really doesn't do any good to discuss the article using Indy car mechanic as the example occupation.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:53 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


My first performance review at a Fortune 200 corp at my first job after college I was dinged for not working late. I pointed out to my boss that I came in 60-90 minutes early every day to get shit done before the phones started ringing and he said, "I know, but nobody sees you doing that."

In the 20 years since that job I've spent exactly 1 year in a company with over 200 employees. Even start ups have political bullshit, but normally doing your damn job well trumps all the petty shit.
posted by COD at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2015


There won't be 80-hour weeks in the near future. There won't be enough work for 40-hour weeks.

I wish. Remember when computers were supposed to make our lives more efficient? The reality is things have gotten more efficient; any given office requires far fewer clerical workers than in the past, and of course manufacturing has become much more automated. But what this does is decrease the total amount of "work" that needs to be done by humans as a whole, it doesn't decrease it on an individual basis. If we have 10 employees and they work 40 hours/week, that's 400 hours worked. If the process becomes more efficient and we only need a total of 200 hours for the same output, we don't cut everyone's hours to 20 hours/week, we fire 5 of them and achieve the same output at half the cost.

The people working 80 hours a week are not people whose jobs will be made more efficient by advances in automation. They are the ones designing those factory robots, or raising the funding to build the new factory machines, or finding new customers for the factory's products. Or managing all those people. In other words, jobs where there is not necessarily any relationship between output and number of hours worked. You don't find 2x more new clients by working 2x more hours. And how do you even quantify "management"? Could they accomplish the same things working half as much? Probably. And they aren't actually working continuously for all those hours; nobody does, it's more so because some odd request pops up at 5pm and ends up taking hours to finish, or because you have some pointless hour long meeting every week to talk about nothing. I mean, there's an entire profession with its own professional designation that is essentially just walking around with a clipboard asking everybody if they did what they were supposed to and scheduling conference calls for everyone to talk about what they were supposed to do (no offense to anyone who does this for a living).

Worth a read: On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs
posted by pravit at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


I mean, there's an entire profession with its own professional designation that is essentially just walking around with a clipboard asking everybody if they did what they were supposed to and scheduling conference calls for everyone to talk about what they were supposed to do (no offense to anyone who does this for a living).

From what I've seen, without those people, hardly anything requiring the coordinated effort of a large number of people would get done at all. Most people just spend their whole day on Metafilter otherwise.
posted by clawsoon at 5:39 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm one of the clipboard people! It's not that nothing would get done because people are lazy, it's that it's impossible for (let's say) an individual engineer to know what all the other engineers are doing and what projects are going to be coming in and what resources will be needed for them, etc. Someone's got to have a wider view of all that or people start going off in their own directions and getting distracted/interrupted and it becomes inefficient. The engineer should focus on what she does best, engineering. She shouldn't need to worry about overall deadlines per se; just focus on doing her share and moving it along to the next person. She shouldn't be the one communicating to the client that the project is going to be delayed due to XYZ. And when you let the client talk directly to the engineers, it just takes time away from what they do best.

That said, there are lots of superficially superfluous conference calls and meetings and reports because Clipboard People have to know a little about everything, and they have to be able to communicate that knowledge to the people upstairs. The same people who work 80 hour weeks and expect everyone else to.
posted by desjardins at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The engineer should focus on what she does best, engineering. She shouldn't need to worry about overall deadlines per se; just focus on doing her share and moving it along to the next person.

I've long had a theory that management, particularly project and middle management, should be viewed as a support role, important, but a cost-centre like say finance or HR. It's necessary, but doesn't bring in clients or produce salable goods directly. A good manager facilitates and enables mostly by being the necessary interface between the value producers and the machinery of the company. Call them minders, rather than managers, perhaps.

This isn't to say that leadership isn't important. It is critical in the right situations. However, in most instances, direct managers would do well to worry less about leadership and mostly focus in keeping unproductive cost negative work off the plates of those producing the products that make revenue. Down-loading costs to the outer edges can cost real money in lost production.
posted by bonehead at 9:21 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Is there any job, anywhere, that can justify demanding 50 hours a week, let alone 60 or 80?"

If you know where to look... food service.
KITCHEN PREP COOK/CHEF (FULL TIME) (Midtown) = 50 hours
Amazing Opportunity for Talented and Passionate Sous Chef (NYC) = 50-60 hours a week
Pastry Sous Chef and Cook (NYC) = 55-60 hours per week
Seeking Restaurant Manager, Assistant Manager, Floor Manager (Midtown) = 60+ hours per week
AGM required for xxxx (West Village) = "If 60-70 Hours seems like a lot than this job not for you!"

Nothing for 80 hours. Still, that's generally the way of food service. And it's not just Manhattan. Either you're working 6-7 days or shifts are chopped up into 4-6 hour segments and part-time. Imagine you're the owner, right? Open a bar at 10 am and close it at 4am seven days a week. 126 hours/week.It helps if you live next door.
posted by xtian at 5:28 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


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