By the end of this month, I will have worked five of the last nine weekends.
Before you think I am a workaholic, let it be known that this is not a state of events that I chose. Our team is wildly short-staffed due to long-term leadership oversights and enormous growth. The latter is a good thing, of course, but we’re in the rough period of scaling up. Our team plays a vital role as the last link in a long chain of events that lead to our products hitting the market. Have you heard the phrase “shit rolls downhill”? We’re in the valley trying to dig ourselves out.
Our leadership, which recently changed, is finally seeing the light and trying to solve the problems. But, it takes time to get bodies and train them. Our job is one that even someone skilled at it at another place would have to have training on the specifics of how the job is done here. So, here we are.
For some, working weekends is no big deal. For a working mother of two small children, one of which literally depends on my body for food, this is horrible. I will happily work overtime during the week. When I hear “work the weekend,” though, my brain immediately translates it into, “allow us to rob you of 1/3 of the time you get with your kids a week.” Weekend work is devastating for me. I do receive 1.5x overtime pay, but there’s not enough money (at least, not a realistic amount of money) that I would trade for those Saturdays.
I have raised this to my manager (even getting a little misty-eyed when explaining) because this is a very serious topic for me. I was told I can refuse, and there wouldn’t be performance review effects for this year, since I’ve already given a year of great work and the review period ends this month (in fact, reviews are already written).
That says nothing about next year, however. Nor if it would harm my chances for the supervisor position opening in a few months that I (think I?) want. Or my credibility as a team player. There are others on the team who have already been doing this for months, albeit voluntarily.
After a couple days of moping, I made a decision that I will continue to play along for this month. June is the end of the fiscal year, which is why it is so important to have all hands on deck to get the work done. Next month, if I am asked to do it again, I will say no. And I will need to escalate to my next higher up manager about the possibility of switching to a team that does not require weekend work or that would allow me to work from home. If that is not an option, I may need to look for a new employer, even though I want to stay with this one.
My level of hope about what will happen next month has been wildly variable over the past few weeks. After a conversation yesterday with my boss’s boss, my hopes are pretty high that this really is a fluke. They really are working hard to truly fix it and make July better. Other days, though, I remember times in the past where I have been told that, and feel hopeless about it ever changing. I suspect the reality lies somewhere in the middle.
I realize I may not be the only one trying to work through a rough patch at work. I wanted to share the thoughts that are getting me through, in case they are useful to others:
The Main Thing You Can Control Is Your Attitude
Not going to lie, I have rolled my eyes a lot at such sayings in the past. Yeah, yeah, but let’s fix the problem. I’m learning that institutional change is slow, even as it occurs. I’m also learning that choosing to be positive in a crummy situation does not invalidate the crumminess–you can acknowledge that it sucks and work towards making it better while still keeping a positive attitude that enables you to stay in the fight.
I Have A Little Agency
I am in the privileged position that if I found myself absolutely having to, I could quit my job. Mr. Steward makes enough to float us for a while until I found something else. I always find it comforting to remind myself that while my agency may not be perfectly what I want in terms of getting to set my hours, I do ultimately have the luxury of deciding to withhold my work. I don’t think it will come to that in this case, but it does let me feel like I have some small modicum of control.
The Gamble Could Pay Off
I don’t love the situation, but if I stick it through as others fall away, there might be big rewards. That supervisor position is coming, and in general there’s always the pride of being able to say you did the hard thing–as long as the hard thing doesn’t kill you first.
Focus on the Things That Matter
All of this overtime has helped me to renew my focus on the things that matter. Namely, when I am home, I am 100% focused on the girls. I also spend less, because I am aware what I am being compensated to be away from them, and the trade of dollars for that time never seems worth it.
Have you ever had to work more than you wanted to? How did you get through it?