I am an exempt employee with a job that frequently has me meeting (weekly) at 6:00 a.m. at a destination 30 miles away (thus having to wake up at 4:30 to be ready) and then also has many evening meetings and lunch meetings. I don’t mind – this is part of the job. What I do mind is that a new supervisor is insisting that I be in the office by 8:30 and stay until 5:00. What are your suggestions on how to handle this? My previous supervisor saw that the work was always done, that through remote access I answer emails nearly 24/7 and didn’t care when I was in the office. Can they really require me to attend meetings at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and then also demand a “full day” every other? (I should note that in the first six months of the year I never worked less than 210 hours per month – including weekends).
I’ll answer your last question first. Yes, your employer can require you to attend meetings at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and then require a full day every other day. They need to allow all the legally required rest and meal periods, but in general – so long as you are over 18 years of age and no collective bargaining agreement is in play — employers can require people to work any amount of hours. Nothing in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits requiring exempt employees to work a specified schedule
Evil Skippy looks intrigued. “So we could just work everyone until they drop and then hire a fresh crew and start over? Sweet.”
Well, no. Safety rules apply and hopefully everyone knows that both slavery and torture are illegal. This situation falls under my theory that employers should always ask two questions before implementing any policy.
One: Is it legal? (If not, stop. Duh.)
Two: Is it smart? (Too many employers skip this second question.)
Just from what you wrote, your employer is staying “legal” but not being smart. You are working a lot of hours – unless you are often missing in action or client needs are going unmet, insisting on the 8:30 to 5:00 schedule every day seems extreme. (Legal, but extreme.) Insisting on extended bankers’ hours could cause good employees to look elsewhere, especially now that there are rumors of actual job openings out in the real world. Consistently requiring killer hours will eventually drain employee energy and productivity – not to mention ruining your quality of life and creating overall health risks.
Evil Skippy rolls his eyes. “Get to the real question – how should ‘Brad’ handle the situation? Does he have any dirt on the supervisor? Blackmail can be so effective. Or how about this – stop working 210 hours a month. Be there at 8:30 and leave at 5:00. Nothing more, nothing less. Or you could put a tack on the supervisor’s chair. I always like that method. Or —
Ahem. Let’s let Evil Skippy brainstorm. We will focus on a novel idea that would never occur to him. Be honest, direct and professional. Put yourself in the supervisor’s shoes. Why is he or she doing this? Perhaps there are clients who need your immediate attention at 8:30 and 5:00. Perhaps billable hours are too low. Perhaps there are peak work needs that take place at both ends of the work day. (OK, perhaps the supervisor is just a control freak, but let’s put that possibility aside for the moment).
Once you have considered the supervisor’s professional motivations for changing the prior schedule system, determine ways that you can (and will) meet those needs even without the set schedule. Gather clear information to demonstrate how productive and profitable you are without the set starting and ending times. Once you have done all your homework, channel your inner adult (no whining, no blame, no “my other supervisor was great but you are a meanie” moments) and then talk to the new supervisor. Calmly and professionally, show how you can meet all expectations without a rigid schedule.
There was a great posting recently by Susan Heathfield on About.com, “Satisfied Employees Emulate Hummingbirds.” She notes – and I agree – that employees who speak up and tell their manager what they need are much more likely to get their needs met.
If you follow my advice and the supervisor still refuses to budge, it means either that there are strong workplace demands that make your wish unattainable or your supervisor likes to cause inconvenience and pain. In either case, you need to decide if it is the best workplace for you.
And don’t forget the tack-on-the-chair option.