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Firstly, great show guys. I only discovered you 6 weeks ago and I'm happily downloading the many months of backlog. Thanks for all the help so far.

I'm needing some advice.....

I work for a software company and was recently giving some feedback to one of my managers about his work habits. The "issue" I have is that his team works very hard and often do more hours than the standard 40 (this is a growing software company after all). It's nothing extreme and we do give people time back in return, we treat people well (office events, lunches, salary, bonus etc) and certainly don't plan this workload.

The manager of the team is strict 9 to 5. It's unusual to see him in one minute past 5 (and I know that there is no pressing demands that he HAS to get home at a certain time - e.g. bus/train/daycare etc).

My issue is that there is a disconnect between the team and the manager (PS the manager is new so that the teams work habits were set by their previous manager). My own experiences are that if people are motivated, they care, are happy and are challenged, they typically do a little more than is needed (without asking). They take on extra work, they work a little harder to get a problem fixed for a customer etc.

I'd also like to clarify that I'm not advocating constant 50 or 60 hours work weeks, I just want to occasionally see some people working late because they feel their work is important enough to stay that extra hour to get it finished.

I did discuss this 'feedback' in one of my one-on-one sessions with the manager. Basically he completely disagrees, he feels that he's done the 60hrs a week slog in his career before and regrets it (the company folded and he was let go). He also is of the opinion of "it's not the hours, it's the output" which I can partly appreciate.

So my question is am I being reasonable and if so any suggestions on how to get my point across? My worry is that the team are beginning to emulate his behaviour and the sense of urgency and going the extra mile is beginning to dissapate.

PierG's picture

Great post.
Here is my experience:
. we want to sustain a constant pace indefinitely that's why don't like overtime
. if we need overtime, it's the team 'asking' for it (something like when you say: they typically do a little more than is needed (without asking) )
. I'm for the 'go first' paradigm so if I want to behave the way I ask the team

At the end I don't see a problem IF the team is strong enough (it's A team) and IF the manager has accepted reasons.

Hope this helps.

Ciao,
PierG

PierG's picture

Have a look at this http://www.xprogramming.com/xpmag/jatSustainablePace.htm : I don't in which business you are but it's very good for SW Dev (Ron is a real myth)

PierG

marc's picture

Interesting paper, thanks.

My counterpoints would be:
1. This isn't overtime or a prolonged sustained period of activity. This is perhaps expecting to see a manager working a little in excess of the 9 to 5 now and again. Perhaps a one example is that sometimes when I leave the office I get talking to people on the way out and the next thing I know I've spent 45 minutes helping someone with an issue or just talking about how they are doing and how their project is going. Another (perhaps better) example is when you go to get your brakes fixed ten minutes before the shop closes, how do they treat you and do they put the extra effort in to treat you well and do a professional job.
2. I'm not a fan of extreme or agile processes. We've adopted some of them, however the fast iterative and steady pace approach does not work for us. We have project cycles and have firm deadlines imposed externally that cannot be moved. We either cut features and/or work harder at the end. Any excess time worked is taken off after delivery. It's a bit like training for running, there's periods where you do sprints and there's periods when you do long runs, the even pace is good in theory but in practice the demands on your time are not constant when you have customers and people to manage (e.g. "Sorry Jim, I'm really sorry your father's seriously ill, but I have a squash game at 5pm. Can you come see me next Thursday? Oh, and the tissue box is just on my desk, bye". [That was very tongue in cheek - sorry].

I'll keep thinking though...

JimH's picture

Marc - I have shared your frustration many times and I have given the same feedback to people. However, I dont necessarily think the issue is time but rather results. I used to work for a company that it was almost required for us to be there on off hours (weekends etc...) At times, I really needed to and at times I did not but I knew that it was expected. That was frustrating to me and my wife. It was not motivating. Getting work done for me was motivating. Mark H (from manager tools) teaches that results are ultimately what matter. I think that you would be far better off keeping the feedback to getting better results. Keep pushing the required results and the time will automatically increase. That is unless he's complaining about being busy. If you have read Mark's blogs on that, you will know how to handle that. Good topic

Jim

Len's picture

I feel your pain. In my current place of employment, we have three categories of people:

(1) Salaried personnel who are paid to be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, whenever and whatever the mission requires, no overtime, no comp time.

(2) Salaried personnel who are paid for 40 hours per week. Period. We are not even permitted to pay them overtime, or to grant them "comp time" for extra hours worked. In fact, when I sign their timecards, I sign a statement to the effect that "I have not suffered any overtime to occur."

(3) Contractors: 40 hours per week.

So, what you typically find is that all of those in category (1) are putting in 60-70 hour weeks, consistently. Some of those in category (2)--very few--also put in long hours, but most promptly leave at quittin' time.

This all results in a bit of ill feeling, and as a manager, I've contemplated ways of dealing with it. On the one hand, if we are paying for 40-hours per week, and are not even permitted to pay overtime, it doesn't seem fair to ask a person to work for us for free. After aall, this is a capitalist democracy and people should be compensated for time well-spent. On the other hand, it is difficult to form a team mentality when the employment conditions vary so significantly.

After long observation, I've concluded that one of the reasons why we have some people working such long hours is that we suffer from inefficiency at the individual and organizational level. There are many time-wasters (people and processes). Those poor souls in category (1) (like me) rarely accomplish much between the time we arrive in the morning and the end of the normal working day, because our time is consumed by distractions. Thus, we stick around late so that we can actually work.

I plan to change this. In fact, one of my thoughts is to conduct an experiment in which I will FORBID anyone, regardless of their category, to work more than 40 hours per week. At the same time, I will hold their feet to the proverbial fire to accomplish all assigned tasks. My thinking is that those in category (1) might learn to discard some of their old time-wasting behaviors, since they'll be under the gun to get the job done.

In any event, I understand the desire to see people putting in the "extra time" to demonstrate that they're team players. When they're supervisors, it's particularly hard. I was once a category (1) guy with a category (2) boss. He always left at 4:30 sharp...even when every single one of his direct reports was going to be pulling an all-nighter to finish a hot project. But, we get what we pay for. And if that's 40 hours....

Thanks,
Len

Mark's picture

Marc, PierG, and Jim-

Great question, and great responses/discussion.

My answer is what Jim said. The underlying core issue is results. If the guy is achieving everything you ask, and he's working 9 to 5, that's a very good thing, for a number of reasons.

First, it means that if you really had to have him crunch for a week, he probably could. And, you'd KNOW it was focused and effective.

Second, there's so much waste in most people's days, they could use a good example. IF IF IF - as PierG says, the work is getting done, well, stay out of the way.

I just wouldn't even address time. If someone complains and says he's getting off easy, tell them they can do that too, as long as the work gets done. (some will try, and if it works, GREAT... they'll be a LOT happier, and again have some new reserve time if you have to go to that well.)

Now, are there negatives? Sure. It does sound to me like this guy would leave at 5 even IF he weren't getting anything done. If that WERE the case, again, just focus on what's not getting done. I wouldn't even suggest he work longer hours... sounds like he won't. That said, if he's not going to get where you need him to be, him choosing to have less tools in his bag is better for you - less time before you have to call it quits. Disappointing, yes, a failure, yes... but if he takes away one of your tools... burden falls partly to him.

What about effect on the team? It is hard for me to surmise how he's communicating to the team about this. He may be pooh-poohing their inefficiency. He may not be aware of their frustrations with him for not setting an example. If these are the case, you'll have to look for data to support that, and then give feedback... but it won't be about time, it will be about communication and the team. He might complain that it's about time... but if you're careful, you never have to go there.

I would in RARE instances ask him to stay. But if he stumbles when more work is called for and he still goes home, if you're so inclined, you can fire him for lacking professional sticktuitiveness. I am NOT recommending this, but am providing this argument to reassure you if you are afraid my broader recommendation ties your hands. It doesn't. You can still go here if you want... it's just different verbiage.

I have videos of managers from 5 to pm. They are FABULOUSLY worthless. Let him go home, and just hold his feet to the fire professionally.

Mark

(And, if you've addressed this somehow, in some fashion, in some way before, close that loop with him and tell him about your change of heart. It'll help. - H)

Mark's picture

To all, regarding Len's quote, which came up while I was writing mine and watching the hail hit my suburban...

[quote]After long observation, I've concluded that one of the reasons why we have some people working such long hours is that we suffer from inefficiency at the individual and organizational level. There are many time-wasters (people and processes). Those poor souls in category (1) (like me) rarely accomplish much between the time we arrive in the morning and the end of the normal working day, because our time is consumed by distractions. Thus, we stick around late so that we can actually work.[/quote]

THIS IS SO RIGHT LEN COULD'VE WRITTEN MY BLOG FOR ME. The issue IS... NOT... TIME. It is working on the wrong stuff, and taking too long on the right/hard stuff. Time management is really all about priorities, and about people having the guts to admit what they're willing to not do/get in trouble for.

THE ISSUE... IS... NOT... TIME.

Well said.

Okay, one other point. The time strictures Len mentions are unusual. When he mentions the guy who goes home at 4:30 while his team toils for an all-nighter... you need to be ready for senior people to hold that guy to a higher standard. Just... be ready.

But, in the end, it is NEVER about TIME. It is about RESULTS.

Mark

bflynn's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]THIS IS SO RIGHT LEN COULD'VE WRITTEN MY BLOG FOR ME. The issue IS... NOT... TIME. It is working on the wrong stuff, and taking too long on the right/hard stuff. Time management is really all about priorities, and about people having the guts to admit what they're willing to not do/get in trouble for.

THE ISSUE... IS... NOT... TIME.

................

But, in the end, it is NEVER about TIME. It is about RESULTS.

Mark[/quote]

After thinking about this a bit - and having just reread a Jack Welch article - aren't time and results linked? I recently left a job like this, for this specific reason. There was an unsaid issue; if the employee can accomplish everything in 8 hours of work, then upper management believed they weren't reaching far enough. The results were good, but they could handle a larger challenge (and work 3-4 more hours per day to do it).

So, back to the original question. Is what you're really asking "How do I raise the bar so I can get more from the employee?" Can I suggest that this is the wrong question to be asking?

Brian

esanthony's picture

Wow, so many issues so little time. I think trying to separate time from results is like trying to get gum off your shoe. Results are certainly NOT a function of time however both quality and quantity of results can be affected by the amount of time spent on the results. When combined with the quality of result, time can be used to measure efficiency and therefore effectiveness. A person who produces good results in less time can produce more good results over the long term than someone who doesnt.

Good result + Minimal time = Efficient
Good result + Maximum time = Inefficient

In the end I want the most efficient people working for me. I dont care how long it takes for them to do it as long as it gets done on my timeline. At review time or when it comes to delegating larger responsibilities I will look to those who produce the best results in the least time.

As for the "role model" facet of this discussion, people will usually only invest as much as their leader, if that. If your skips have an issue with one of your directs and you dont, make sure you focus on his effectiveness. Hopefully when they see the flip side they will understand and improve their own efficiency.

Eric

FR-NYC's picture

I have a related question. I currently manage a group of systems support analysts who vary widely in age, experience level and efficiency. All are salaried excempt employees. The company uses an electronic timekeeping system. Although each indiviudal has an agreed upon start and stop time to thier work days they freqently vary thier times by as mush as 40 minutes per day. However all make sure that they put in the required 40 hours per week and are never short on hours. What is bugging me is that I frequently come in at or before the earliest person and leave with or after the latest person. If I need to leave more than 30 minutes early I let my boss know. Therefore I feel that the group should be adhering to thier schedules more closely or request a permanent change. Should I be holding exempt employees as close to thier schedules as I do with hourly employees?

esanthony's picture

FR-NYC,

For me it is a matter of courtesy. Especially for salaried (professional) employees. If they committed to being at work at certain times then that is what they should be doing. Let them know its OK if they need to come in 30mins late or leave 30mins early so long as they give a little notice. This is a perfect topic to be covered in your one-on-ones.

Eric Anthony
Eric Anthony Consulting Group
www.ericanthonygroup.com

TimBryce's picture

Sounds like the manager hasn't adapted to the corporate culture yet. Either that or he is determined to undermine it. Further, clock watchers tend to be disconnected from their work. In other words, they do not see their personal and professional lives as one. This is not conducive for craftsmanship and leads to bad work habits.

Hope this helps.

All the Best,

regas14's picture

I agree with Tim's point and it reinforces Mark's earlier point that the issue is not time but rather productivity and effeciency - neither of which are measured solely on a clock.

That said, to the extent that the coming and going habits of team members effect the overall effectiveness of the group, you could make a case for slightly more structured guidelines. An example could be if you observe that the arrival/departure of people generally disrupts co-workers for "good morning" and "good evening" type discussion, it could be cutting into productivity. As another example, if there is significant collaboration between team members, it might be important that they start their day at the same time so that they can come up-to-speed and begin an effective day together.

If it truly doesn't impact effectiveness and you don't see how it will improve productivity it's probably not a big deal and as Tim points out may be culturally accepted.

AManagerTool's picture

One-On-One Discussion Notes 9/27/06:

Joey leaves at 3:15 pm every day. It has become an office joke that you can see the dust fly from his heals and papers stirring in then air at that time. Gave feedback to Joey about this.

[b]Me:[/b] Joey, can I give you some feedback?
[b]Joey:[/b] Sure
[b]Me:[/b] As you know, I am trying to showcase your abilities to our management. When you leave each day at exactly 3:15pm, dropping everything including conversations with our customers as you do it, here is what happens. I get complaints from our customers about your attitude. The rest of the team jokes about how you leave but I think that it actually demotivates them to some extent. It also has been observed and commented upon by my boss (your ex boss). It also makes me think that you leave some jobs partially done and increases the work queue that you have. Is there something that you can do to help me and the rest of the team with this issue?

[b]Joey:[/b] Tool, you don't understand! I have been in this position for 10 years without a promotion or a decent raise. After the first few years with Bucky (his old boss and my current one) and his lack of recognition of the fact that I bust my ass, I decided that it gets me nowhere to work later.

[b]Me:[/b] Bucky is no longer your boss, I am. Of course, he is still my boss and I have to take that into consideration. I promised you that I would be fair in my assessments of your performance and I will. This is a problem for me and I would like you to address it. In other words, I would like you to help me to help you. You want to get promoted. I want to help you do that. This problem stands in the way of my efforts to do that.

[b]Joey:[/b] OK, for you, I will try not to leave with things still hanging in the air.

[b]Me:[/b] That's all I'm asking. I'm not saying that I expect you to work 60 hours a week. All I'm asking is that you not leave our customers work dangling if a few more minutes can finish the job that day instead of the next.

Looking at the posts here, I wonder if I handled this right. What do you guys think? I kind of think the problem is more of an attitude problem than anything else. I've said in other posts that my current boss and my directs last boss was NOT the greatest manager that ever lived by any stretch of the imagination. I feel that this issue is a manifestation of that lack of management. "Joey" is actually a hard working and skilled machinist and I would hate to loose him. I am working to correct the damage by managing my team the MT way. I think it's working because "For me" he is willing to change. However this makes me worry that if I don't happen to live up to his expectations for some kind of recognition...Well it kind of sounded like an ultimatum...no?