How to not resent a co-worker who leaves work on time when you are staying late

  • Monday, April 22, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I work in an extremely demanding job that has always expected late nights, overtime, uncompensated work on the weekends, and basically a commitment to make it one of the most important things in your life. It’s a charity organization that I deeply agree with, and I have always made that commitment happily.

A new hire started at the firm recently who doesn’t. It drives me to distraction to see “Pat” swan out of the office at half five, never answer emails until arriving at work, and rarely work through lunch. On occasion, when we have an emergency project on short notice, Pat will chip in with the rest of us, but not often. Pat admits to not understanding our commitment to the job and says it’s different in Europe (where Pat is from), where they “work to live.”

It would be annoying if Pat did this and was failing, but Pat’s work is consistently praised by our boss and put Pat in line for a promotion.

Is this person just so efficient that working hours are enough for what it takes me sleepless nights to do? Or have I just been pointlessly running in this hamster wheel expecting someone to see how much I love my job?

— Hamster

That darn Pat, committing flagrant acts of sanity.

Is that really why you work for free — “expecting someone to see how much I love my job”? As in, giving your power to the boss?

If so, then please see Pat as a living flick to the forehead. And a role model.

Maybe start with waiting till you get into the office to start work. Then move on to a firm departure time. If you typically leave around 8 p.m., then choose 7:30 p.m., then 7, etc., backing your way into a life outside of the office. Watch for workplace consequences, adjust schedule accordingly, repeat.

In the hours you free up, read articles on human productivity, especially in desk jobs. Pat might actually do better work because of the lighter schedule and firmer boundaries.

Also, here’s the easiest change ever: Tweak your vocabulary. Pat doesn’t “swan out of the office”; Pat leaves work. Presumably, to do other things Pat enjoys.

In fact, Pat sounds like someone worth treating to lunch — as in, leave the office and order food and don’t talk shop — so you can find out more about working less.

To: Hamster:

I had a co-worker who left work at 5 p.m. every day and it was disheartening knowing I’d be there five more hours, but he was very efficient, and I was dealing with undiagnosed ADD.

Or maybe you’re there all night to impress your bosses, in which case, they clearly prefer efficiency to face time, so just stop.

To: Hamster:

Spend a week doing exactly what your co-worker does: Work only normal business hours and turn off your phone when you’re not at work. See what happens. Maybe you’ll find you’re a better, more focused worker that way. Or maybe you’ll find you hate to be away from your job, in which case you’ll be better positioned to feel lucky to care so much and not resent Pat.

— Anonymous

Thanks. On that note, I’ll be swanning out.

—Washington Post Writers Group

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