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Stop Giving Your Time Away to Employers!

03/21/2014 12:39 PM

Too many employers are asking engineers to agree to work 60 hours or more a week. And the problem is that our commitment to excellence allows for that, but not for free!

I had a telephone interview with a large company and the worthless dog I was talking to made it clear that for the salary range they offered, they expected 60 hours of my time on site. After I thought about it a little bit, I realized that there must be too many unemployed engineers or they are just being stupid.

The point here is that some plant manager is scooping up all the benefits of your hard labor. They are collecting really big bonuses for holding a carrot in front of you and that is all you are going to get. I've considered engineering to be another term for an "Industrial Prostitute" but working these hours as if you might get a pat on the back is making the industry change the definition to something like an "Industrial Whore"!

Please, if you are negotiating for some engineering position that asks for such a commitment, demand a big cut in the bonus that the top dog is getting for having you agree to such ridiculous conditions. They figure the worst that can happen is that you will say NO. Even engineers deserve a life outside of work.

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#1

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 12:53 PM

What will the poor employer do when the incumbent goes sick for the day?

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 1:01 PM

Then you take your work and get on a plane and fly west, and you may get 3-4 more hours out of the day.

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 1:01 PM

What every short sighted employer always does, they blame the employee for not achieving their fantasy.

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#2

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 12:59 PM

Earlier in my career, money did not play the biggest part of it. Did I undersell myself..... yes. But the the work that I was doing and the freedom on how to do it was what I wanted.

60+ hour weeks, I actually enjoyed it........... with a few blowing that out of the water with 35-38 hour shifts on a start up and commissioning.

Now, this last job I let them know in my interview, I did not have the stamina for them to expect that at a constant level. Nor did I think I had it in me anymore, but I do. And they have been very good with performance bonuses, so I don't believe I'm giving anything away.

So fortunately, I am working for a fair company.

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#5

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 2:16 PM

One of the earliest peeves I learned of when I got into the real world was that way too often as a hourly worker there is a tax or deductions jump in a guys paycheck that hits you hard at around 95 - 100 hours on a paycheck.

I have had far too many paycheck that where I worked X amount of hours I made Y amount of take home pay but at X+1 I got Y-10% which for me is a no brainer to figure out that doing excess overtime is not to a person's advantage.

I have no interest in working for time and a half pay when tax and three quarters take out puts my take home pay at a value less than what I would get while working fewer hours.

My last job was a good example of that. I worked 60 hours a week but my take home pay worked out to only being about 10% more than what my wife makes just doing a 40 hour work week even though our per hour pay rates were within pennies of each other.

Sorry but if I am going to work for free I am going to do it at home to my gains not at work to someone elses and the tax mans.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 2:25 PM

tcmtom....

I don't know how I could have forgotten that.......

Yes, up until about 5 years ago........ I was always salary-non exempt........ hourly....... that was a that was always a a talking point in the interview...... but was never an obstacle............

And it all started that my first job, I wanted salary (something like $42,000/yr) the owner was all for it, but the smart ass nephew scoffed at it.......... so I went on hourly instead (I knew at the time there was a lot of work there), ........... I probably should thank that little prik for doubling my wage at the time.

I hope I didn't say prik out loud......... good thing my spell'n and gram'r aint so good.

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#7

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 3:04 PM

It's been pretty well established that an employee who continuously has to work lots of overtime becomes much less productive as the stress of the job wears him/her down. Short periods (a few weeks) of intense overtime can be very useful to get certain goals accomplished or to bond an engineering group together. But constantly having to put in 60 hour weeks eventually becomes counter-productive.

A company that doesn't understand this is probably making a lot of other serious errors in its business model. Unless you're really desperate for work, stay far away. If you do go to work for them, start looking for another job right away.

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#8

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 3:24 PM

you're fighting market forces and reality. its a typical supply and demand situation. if they really needed people badly their offer would reflect that.

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#9

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 8:40 PM

There was a time when people worked 60, or more, hours a week. Did it for months at a time, if needed. I've done it, once or twice.

BUT, it was not a condition of employment. It was done because there was no one else who could do it.

NASA missions, wartime emergencies and natural disasters come to mind.

I'd not ever consider 60 hours as a normal work week.

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#10

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/21/2014 10:22 PM

Just as the time required for finish a task is the time that is available for it, the time to complete an engineering project or process is the time that is available for it. We succumb to the upper's guess-timate of the time they think is required. They do not allocate sufficient time as a means to prod us into getting it done in a shorter period than it requires. They think everything is simple and needs no contingency time because that is the way they want it to progress. They want everything to be faster and simpler than it realistically is so they can pat themselves on the shoulder for the great job they did in leading their subordinates to finish in less time and at the same quality or better. Do you know of anyone who would rather do a poor job than a good one?

Other times they are just passing along the pressure and silly projections of their bosses. What they need is a clear path of bidirectional communication so that realist goals can be set and to use it. Get the boss on the "same realistic track". A pair of brass ones is what this type really needs.

What it all comes down to is we are the ones that have the final decision for how much time we will work. Can we complete our assignments in the time WE allocate? Will you convey that to the boss and work towards him agreeing to it? Are you willing to find another job at a potentially lower salary and fewer benefits for the sake of the fewer hours? Most of all, are you really capable of completing the tasks in less time than what is available, refer to first sentences.

Once worked for a corp. that had plants nationwide. Another guy at a location across the country and I were once told we had to take care of one task at our respective locations that was of the utmost importance to us and the corporation. We were free to let anything go by that would hinder these tasks. His was to play golf as much as possible with his biggest customer because of the importance of their purchases to the division. Mine was the same but to take my biggest customer out sailing on my boat any time he wanted to and anytime I could persuade him to go. Not all extended time put into the job has to be considered as bad!

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/22/2014 10:22 AM

That time base was always difficult... There are goals, and then there is unrealistic 'guesses'

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#13
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Re: Stop giving your time away to employers!

03/23/2014 12:15 PM

On the other hand, I once worked with a wise guy who told me that the work involved to perform a task will always be structured to fill the time allocated.

So, taking the other side of the argument, if too much time is allotted, it will somehow be used anyway.

Then, there's the other side of the coin. I had a kid named Dennis who worked for me for three years. I'd ask him, "how long will this job take". He'd give his answer, always too little time. Then he'd come back to explain why he didn't get it done on time. He was a bright kid, did good work.

Finally I told him, "from now on when I ask you how long it will take you to do a job, figure out the time it will take you, AND THEN DOUBLE IT!

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#12

Re: Stop Giving Your Time Away to Employers!

03/23/2014 12:04 PM

I work for myself. I have to do the hours the job requires. Or should I say, did! I have retired.

But when working I drew a basic salary to cover a modest domestic cost of living. Hoping for a bonus at the end of the year if we made a profit. Quite likely, the profit, if any, after a small bonus maybe, got ploughed back into the business.

It was hard work, and worrying at times, but the one endearing feature was that I was first in the queue to help myself to a share of the profits.

Although second in reality, behind the tax man, who wanted his cut of the profits whether I took a bonus or not!

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#14

Re: Stop Giving Your Time Away to Employers!

05/15/2015 3:51 PM

Once upon a time, I had a job that was easily done in the time allotted - 8 hours a day. I found myself taking on more as time passed as I had extra time. Got a lot of valuable experience out of the extra work as most of it was not related to true engineering. That was then, now is now.

After that job, I had another one similar, at least for the first couple of years when I was indeed doing engineering work. Shift to the manufacturing side and, due to work load, the hours increased to 60 to 80 a week over 7 days. Most of it covering supervision duties as I did not want to put too much of an increased load on my front line supervisors and burn them out(they were quite a bit older than I).

Back into engineering work with another employer and 40 to 44 hours a week was the norm, with some stints running up to 24 hours at a time when there was a deadline to be met, but, the work gone done, we delivered the product and everyone was satisfied, even me, as there was a great sense of accomplishment.

Then, start my own business. Start ups are hard for the first while as you have to get into the correct mode, conserve cash and the like. Well after about 9 years in start up mode (7 days a week at work-but only 51 weeks a year) things look up and I find some good people to work for me. Then 6 days a week for a few years, and now,,, finally down to 5 days, but still 50 to 60 hours a week, but as an owner, kind of expected from yourself.

What am I trying to say, some extra time is sometimes necessary. I have learned a lot over time only because I was willing to put in the time required and take on the extra responsibilities.

A constant long work week(but definitely not your whole working life) can pay off in the long run, as long as the employer can appreciate what you are doing. That's the hardest part in doing the extra hours, finding an employer who understands why and appreciates/rewards the extra time put in.

With all I have been through in my career, I rarely ask my people to put in the extra time, and when it does happen, they are rewarded for their efforts.

There comes a time to put an end to the extra hours and that is a decision each employee has to make for themselves. If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel in the extra hours, time to switch tracks.

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