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I don't want to work overtime!

I don't want to work overtime!

I don't want to work overtime!

hi all,

I'm in the process of finding a new job so I'm interviewing with some really interesting companies.  I'm 23 years old and I'm trying to work in Raleigh, NC.  Everything is going well so far and some of the smaller firms look like great opportunities to learn alot about structural engineering.  There is only one problem with all of this: it seems to be industry standard that structural engineers work excessive overtime.  These small firms mention that they expect 50 hrs/wk from me minimum.  

I don't want to work more than 40 and I don't want the extra money.  I may consider working at one of these firms anyway just because it seems so much better than some other civil jobs, but I really don't enjoy working that much and I've found that a couple of hours a day can really make a big difference with quality of life.  I'm still deciding if this will cause me to turn down a job, but it seems that if I wanted to work ridiculous hours then I would go for a PhD.      50+ is just too much especially considering I'll be sitting in front of that great big computer screen for every one of those hours.  I feel strongly about keeping it at 40, and I know if I agree to 50 then I could easily be looking at 60 once I start working there.  

So this is the problem, and I'm sure that you-all know it even better than I do.  The twist is that I havn't started working anywhere yet and so I'm still free to decide.  My question is:

How outlandish would it be to try to negotiate 40 or maybe 45 hrs/wk as a condition of acceptance of an offer from a company that has mentioned that a typical workweek is 50+.   

I don't care about the risk of losing the offer if there's a chance they might consider it.  Also remember that its paid overtime that I'm turning down.  

Thanks in advance for your advice!


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

whoa, LOL....remind me to never ever send my resume to those companies.  we've had this discussion before in this forum i believe.  if it's truly an issue, don't work for them.  don't even try and negotiate.  

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

If you don't want to work, play the Lotto.

Everyone has to "pay their dues".  Some people clean out the deep fryer, others are stuck putting cardboard boxes in the crusher. 10hrs of overtime is not that terrible, considering you will be employed in a career that you chose to pursue.

That being said, I'm a strong believer in the 40hr week.  I hate people expecting me to arrive early and leave late to "set an example" or be a "team player".  I manage my time fairly well, and can get my work done in the allotted 40hrs.  I am also willing to work as much overtime as is required to get the job done.  If a project is going to slip it won't be on my account.  Having completed plenty of 36-48hr days during my career has helped me to learn to manage my time wisely.

You could try to negotiate, but remember you are one of many that will be applying for the same position.  Your resistance to hard work (as preceived by your future employer) may mean the difference between which candidate gets extended an offer.

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

If you want to work a 40 hours week you better go to work for the government.  

I've been asked several times at interviews how many hours a week the interviewee would be expected to work and I always reply "I tend to average 60 hours a week, and most of the staff is here when I get here and here when I leave".  I've never hired anyone who thought that was excessive.

The job is the job and if you feel that the employeer is exploitive then you won't be happy.  I've never worked for anyone who came out and said that I had to work overtime for free, but if I ever didn't get a project finished on time it would have had an impact on whether I was ever placed on the critical path again.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

As long as I meet my billable hour requirement and I go under budget, my boss is happy.  To make the clients happy however, sometime I need to be sure my design is finish in time so occasionally I do have to work overtime.  If you want 8-5 job, you shouldnt have done engineering.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Oh yes, by the way, it is saturdary afternoon right now and I am at work trying to finish my project smile.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

LOL, I really have a nice, cushy job for you, we hire clerks that work exactly 40 hours per week. It might require a pay cut, but you will only work 40 hours in an office environment.

I do admire your expectations. However, you really need to come to grips that working as a professional will require more than 40 hours per week. Once you establish yourself within an organization, you will begin to optimize your work load and your attitude will change. Some weeks you may work less than 40 hours, and other weeks you may work more than 40 hours.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

There is nothing wrong with not willing to work overtime. Just tell the would be-employer upfront. If they really do not want you, you will know then.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

50 hours a week is quite a lot to ask for.  However, at least you know beforehand that they require this and can adjust your salary request accordingly.  Otherwise, you may find yourself working in the $20/hour range, not much better than some clerks.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Move to France.....

In the US for any kind of engineering 50 hours a week is pretty normal.

-The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

"I really don't enjoy working that much"

One aspect of success is enjoying what you do. If you don't want to work as an engineer, you need to find something else to do.

-The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

When looking at the salary, consider what it equates to if you include that extra time as time-and-a-half like a lot of other workers.  Making $1500 a week works out to the equivalent of $37.50/ hr for 40 hours, $27.27/ hr for 50 hours, $21.42/ hr for 60 hours.  What sounds good in total doesn't sound so good if you realize your auto mechanic could be making more than that by working your hours.  Paying an average salary and expecting longer-than-average hours is just the equivalent of substandard pay in the first place.

Another factor that your employer won't care about, but that makes a big difference to you, is how long it takes you to get to work.  If you have a 1-hour commute each way and then work 10+ hours a day plus a lunch hour, you're not going to be doing much besides working.  But if you work things right, you could easily work 10 hours a day and have more free time than some other guy working 8 hours a day due to driving conditions.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I got that BS about 50+ hours from a company in Raleigh area when I first came out of NCSU-Kimley-Horn and Associates. They called it "extra effort" and some such nonsense. Plus they want you attending lunch and learns, etc. etc. They tell you this story about how you will be like family. Your darn right you will be like family. You'll be living in your cubicle cubby. *cough*cough*sweatshop* Well, that job did not last long. It IS about quality of life. Don't listen to crusty old timers who tell you they work 15 hour days yada yada yada. I saw before and after pictures of guys that looked like little boys when they entered KHA and looked like old men after 10 years or less. But, Hey, if you want to be VP of engineering in 10 years, go for it! The computer screens and fluorescent lights and grumpy old men will suck the life from you. lol. That being said, structural engineering can be a rewarding, fulfilling career. I would pick your companies really carefully. The smaller the company the more likely they are a sweatshop. Me, I would rather make less and be happy, than make more and die young before I can spend my pension. I work when i am at the office unlike a lot of these guys who roam around chit chatting. Work smarter, not longer. This could be a little bit of a rant, but darn if it doesn't feel good.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I don't have any experience of the American engineering/work culture (except by word of mouth from American colleagues) but 50 hr/wk seems excessive for an entry level position.  

Of course there will be times when workload dictates I have to work 50+ hours a week, but it shouldn't be the norm.  Work to live, don't live to work etc.  Do you *need* the new SUV/bigger house/huge TV or do you *need* to spend some quality time with your wife/husband/kid/whatever...  I guess that's a decision which most guys ultimately make (though not always consicously).


Maybe less time spent on EngTips would mean less Saturday afternoons in the office!!

(...said with tongue firmly in cheek, I hasten to add!)

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I know, I cant help it!!!  I guess if your boss cant appreciate your work if you only put 40 hrs, then I think you should find another job. I work overtime only to please the clients so I can get the design on time.  

Yes, I think american work culture is a little harsh (40hrs a week w/ only 10 days of vacation a year average).  But I come from south east asia where people work Monday to Saturday!

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

If you want to be an engineer you will have to pay your dues like everyone else.  Be glad you have an opportunity to get paid for it.  Most companies will not pay an engineer overtime.  They really like to take advantage of you and work you 60 hours per week for 40-hour pay and laugh all the way to the bank, and have the gall to expect it of you.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


When I was your age I wasn't interested in OT either. I just got out of school; I wanted to enjoy things a bit.  Later on, I didn't mind OT; the extra money cames in handy. Now I'm pushing 50, I hate OT again because I don't get paid for it, no bonus, no nothing. I have to have at least 80% utilization but in reality if it isn't closer to 100% my boss takes a fit. As a result proposals, management reports, employee assessments, etc, get done on my time.

I don't see the purpose of mandatory OT just for the sake of working OT. If the workload requires it for a period of time that's one thing. Otherwise, you just burn yourself out and someone ends up paying more for a job. My employer has an office in Raleigh, hopefully they're not one of the firms insisting on 50+ hours. At least in my office we don't insist on that.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I find that all of the replies to your original post merit serious consideration.  They also seem to directly mirror my experience in the employment arena ( imagine that ).
I am at the point in my career where I work only if I am being directly compensated ( salary plus overtime based on billable hours in excess of 40/week ) or if I see other possible future benefits to myself for the effort put in.
Your knowledge and expertise are your product and you should be duly compensated for them.  What you need to do is balance any possible employers requirements with your own and strive towards tipping the scales in your favor.  Early on this may very well require putting in time for which you may not be compensated.  Carefully keep track of your output versus hours put in and see how that compares to those on your level and make sure your employer knows that as well ( assuming you are doing well ).  If things aren't going to your liking, discuss during your evaluation and move on if you can't reconcile things to your liking.  Be sure to have a definitive goal/professenial scenario in mind at all times and strive to attain it.  That being said I am not an advocate of implicit, uncompensated overtime.  I feel that if someone is extracting benefit from your efforts then you should as well. In practice this can be kind of tricky and needs to be handled tactfully.  Good luck in your endeavors.
p.s. ask  yourself regularly whether your are living to work
     or working to live and maintain a sensible balance
     between the two

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


Im not in civil, but in my limited vision of what you guys do on a daily basis is that you travel oftan from the work site to office and vice versa.  My guess is that you spend a good part of your day in transit. And, then once you get down to a desk or computer, your close the 40hr mark of the week so you need ot to finish your job.  I guess im asking if this is a typical situaion?

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I believe that these folks who "work" 50 to 60 hours a week would be surprised at how much time they waste in any given day.  Many a morning I hear my associates in offices down the hall talk about hunting, fishing, football, or sometimes really nothing at all for 30 to 45 minutes to start off.  This happens throughout the day too.  I guess I have a gift to be able to get down to work when I'm at work even though I enjoy all of those things.

You'd amaze yourself at how much can be accomplished in 40 hours.  That's a tremendous amount of time.  Efficiency is the key.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Overtime? You expect to get paid for that? Who signs in these days? Aren't the mighty engineers "exempt" employees?

You work until it gets done - then come back in the morning and do it again!

Of course, if you follow what MRM says (and it is true) you'll get an amazing amount of work done in 40 hours.

Things to learn: 1. Web-surfing is a time vampire, drive a stake through its heart. 2. There is nothing wrong with telling anyone that you have to get back to work. 3. Don't just learn to look busy, actually be busy.

These are good: "lunch and learns" as long as the boss picks up the lunch.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Sounds like a lot of people here need to put the movie "Office Space" on their birthday/christams wish list.
It can make you feel good to work 50 hrs a week and then go out on a job site and talk to an electrican who makes as much as an engineer.  He more than likely gets better bennies, can retire at 55 and gets paid every second he's on the job.
Contratractors don't seem to go broke any more than consulting engineers and they pay people for 100 % of their hours. Are consulting firms run by dummies or are the owners just greedy?
IF I had know better when I started school I may have been an electrican.  The economic analysis puts you ahead in the same time frame it takes to graduate from Engr school.  Four years of cash comming in ( even at apprintice rates) vs four years of cash going out in college.
 Most electricans I know live just as well or better than the engineers I know.
You can tell me that there dummer and don't do nobel intellectual work, but the ones that worked yesterday around here made about $400.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


I beg to differ. On avarge Electricans make way less than Electrical Engineers (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos206.htm).  Where as (in 2004) Electricans made about $20/hr ($42K/year) and the Electrical Engineer made $72k/year (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm#earnings).  That is $30k worth of OT the electrican has to make to catch up to a 40hr/ week Electrical Engineer.  

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Not to mention 10 hours a day cramped in a breaker box stripping, pulling, and snipping wire, on a construction site which is wicked hot in the summer or deathly cold in the winter.  

Been there, done that, I'll stick with engineering....

-The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I here you sms.  My first job our of college I was a field engineer (glorified tech).  I had to do installs of equipment from outside the building to the inside.  You know your job is starting to suck when you have to tap the eletrical box or any box in the basement to scare out the rats and bugs and then stick your hand in it.  And then, for OT you do more of it.  When I got my real engineernig job it was nice to come to an office sitdown with a cup of coffee and do work.

Today im doing some ot (sunday). I have a cup of coffee, 80's tunes off the net, and software cranking out some good analysis...sure beats rapping eltrical boxes.

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

A good balance between home and the office is essential.  I have worked with several who have lost marriages because by their own admission they worked too much.

If you don't have your own family yet (wife & children) it might be a good idea to work for one of these firms for a few years because you will learn alot. However, firms that operate like sweat shops often have a high turnover because their employees get burned out.

I just left an employer because I was consistently working 7 days a week, often until 1 or 2 am.  All of this was of course uncompensated.  I found another employer who has more reasonable requirements.  I choose to work about 50 hours because it gives me a little breathing room at work.  I also chose to get in early so I beat the traffic and so I can leave early enough to get home and be with my family for dinner.

Unfortunatley, putting in overtime comes with the territory of being a consulting engineer.  Not all firms require a minimum of 50 hours, if you look around some more you'll probably find one that has a work week you can live with.  Just don't expect that at crunch time you can strictly stick to a 40 hour week.  If you do and others have to pick up your slack you will be resented and may not last long.  Good luck

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Reasons to work 50hrs+ a week:
1. I am paid a buttload of money to do it.
2. I am gaining valuable experience or am fast tracking my career so I can eventually be put in the position to receive a buttload of money.
3. I just plain love doing what the job entails.

If there isn't one or more of the above I just plain won't do it.  Life is too short.

LewTam Inc.
Petrophysicist, Leading Hand, Natural Horseman, Prickle Farmer, Crack Shot, Venerable Yogi.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Good statistics but they are just that. They include all those "electricans" running romex in Mississippi etc. Check the ones doing construction in your area.
I assumed anyone serious about being an electrican would go the full apprenticeship route and get into a constuction local IBEW.  I know several that have made a $100K.  a year.  Thats about 500 hrs a year OT.  The only OT they donate is to Habitat for Humanity.

If you don't want to work OT you could  consider working  as a contractor.  Get you pimp to get you time and half for OT. At least when you work OT you get time and half and the "real employees" will get nothing.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


You may as well get use to working, it's never going to end. My son works a lot of hours and I encurage that. He complained to me that his company assigned him a car that looks like an old person would drive. Had to remind him that if he worked six to seven days and nights a week, he may be able to drive a Ferrari and look old, like I do.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


"Move to France.....

In the US for any kind of engineering 50 hours a week is pretty normal."

Bad news for you sms... smile
French engineers voluntarily work overtime as well. Maybe not all of them work 50 hours (I don't) but we stick around at least an hour longer than the clerks.
It's all about finding the right balance between having a good family life and having the feeling, at the end of the day, of having done a proper and thorough job. And if that involves occasionnally staying late to work efficiently while the office is quiet and the phone has shut up, then so be it (my wife at least doesn't mind).
On the other hand I expect my company to be flexible as well and let me step in half an hour later or leave a bit earlier if absolutely necessary (garage, doctor, that kind of stuff) and fortunately they are.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

For my first year with the company I work for, I worked consistantly 45-55hr weeks. I was getting paid hourly and did get compensated for overtime but my hourly rate was nothing to write home about. Now I am salary and am only required to work 40hrs/week, but I still put in the overtime (uncompensated) if I need to. The point is, for the first year I was proving that I could kick butt and take names every hour that I was working. I did 50hrs worth of work when I worked that many hours. Now my boss doesn't care if I work only 40hrs because she knows I will get everything done on time, and if I need to come in early or late or even take a day off and come in on the weekend instead it isn't a problem for them.

Get your foot in the door, negotiate for 45hrs/week if that would make you happy, but work you butt off for a while and prove yourself. Then you can set your own schedule.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I think its fine to be upfront and make it clear that you're not willing to work regular overtime as long as you accept the consequences that they might not offer you the job. I think that you should be prepared to work occasional overtime if there is a good reason for them to ask you to do it and you haven't got specific plans for that week - if it worked out the other way round and the workload slackened off for a couple of weeks, you'd still be expecting to get paid for 40 hours even if there wasn't enough there to keep you busy. And if slack period carried on, you'd be facing lay-offs and so by the same token if the reason for doing the overtime doesn't go away, you don't have to carry on working long hours.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I'm coming from the same place as you, OP.  9-5 is a myth because you are gone from the house at least 8-6 even on a "40 hour" workweek.  It is a bad thing and Americans work TOO MANY hours overall.

However, as it has been said above, you are competing against other people for these jobs.  If any one of them is willing to put in the extra hours, how can you possibly compete with that?  At your (our) age what position are you negotiating from that will put this position on your terms?  If you can do it then by all means go for it but I don't see what you (or anybody our age) has to offer that will make up for %25 more hours on the clock.  

Finally, these are PAID overtime hours, like time and a half?!  That's pretty rare in my (limited) experience, although I'm not structural...

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Perhaps you can negotiate to get flex time?  Work extra hours week and get additional days off another time.  I know some companies offer that up front, sadly not mine.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Come and work in Michigan.  Assuming you can actually get a job, you will probably only work 32 hours a week.  Of course, you only get paid 32 hours a week.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


If a prospective employer stated to me that 50+ hrs. per week was expected, I would try to find out more about why that was the case.  Is this a short term situation because of a specific project?  If so, it seems likely that a new employee would be assigned to that project (one that is apparently in trouble already).

If this is a long term situation, why is that?  Poor management, local supply vs. demand of engineers, shortage of qualified employees, recent defections of good employees,  just plain greed of firm management, etc. are all possible reasons.  It would seem important to find out why.  If there is a shortage of qualified employees, then you should ask for more money.  If it a problem of poor management, maybe you should pass.  If it is local supply vs. demand, then look in another locale.

One other thing for a young engineer to consider here.  Before accepting a job, I would certainly want to know what these smaller firms are doing about professional and leadership development.  After all, if you are going to spend 50+ hours per week on them, what are they going to do, formally, in that 50 hours to invest in you, to make you a better engineer, and a better leader.  I suggest that workin’ ain’t necessarily learnin’.  Further, I suggest that in an environment where you are expected to work 50+, your development will receive far less consideration than in a 40-45 hr environment.  In your original post, you mentioned that these smaller firms seem to “look like great opportunities to learn a lot about structural engineering.”  Maybe these smaller firms are looking at you and saying that you look like a great opportunity to put a guy in a cubicle for 50 hours a week, bill him out at full rate, and not have to invest a thing in him.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

JRESE makes a very good point.  Listen to his wisdom, grasshopper.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Hi Warelephant,

JRESE makes an excellent point, "If a prospective employer stated to me that 50+ hrs. per week was expected, I would try to find out more about why that was the case."

I don't have much to add, JRESE explains his point very well. It's a great idea to think to understand the business of the companies that you are applying to.

Good luck,


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

sorry typo

It's a great idea, to think like a businessman i.e. understand the business of the companies that you are applying to.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

If someone told me that I would have to work overtime continuously, I would ask them what are you going to do for me?
a) Give me more pay?
b) Give me professional experience?
c) Give me an end-of-year bonus?
d) Etc.?

My experiences with small firms has been very negative and I don't believe in any of their promises anymore. From what I have seen, the words "professionalism" "team player" "experience" are merely ways of extracting more free labor out of trustful folks, until they wise up and go packing. These types of employers are counting on a steady stream of new talent who take them at their word and accept such poor treatment.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Wow - looks like OT is a hot topic so I'll lend my two cents
You state:
"How outlandish would it be to try to negotiate 40 or maybe 45 hrs/wk as a condition of acceptance of an offer from a company that has mentioned that a typical workweek is 50+."   
My opinion is that it is certainly worth a try if you are set on only working 40 hours. Its always good to know up front what you are signing up for. And as some posters have already articulated it would be wise to ask what are the dynamics behind the 50 plus hours.

Now some commentary:
Understand that if you are even able to negotiate 40 hours a week at a place that expects 50 you are setting your self up from the get go not to get any advancement at that company. My guess is that the company just likes milking young guys for all they can get until they move on... that is very common. Best bet would be work there a year or two and move on.
You may be unable to find a company in your specific area that is willing to give you exactly what you want so you may have to grin and bear it as you are young with little experience. Once you get a little experience you can be in the drivers seat.

Contrary to some posters, I am not of the opinion that everyone has to consistently work lots of OT to be a "team player". There are many companies that pull that crap but there are also a few still left that are really good places to work. I left my last job because of too many hours. The poor guys there now are on 55 hours a week minimum with no paid OT. To me that was not acceptable.

Good luck with your job hunt.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Hello Warelephant,

It is good to have goals in your career.  Stick to them as best as you can.

In the engineering fields, most engineers are paid salary, not hourly.  So if you work 40 or 50 hours you still are paid the same.  But the nature of the beast in many engineer fields 50 hours is standard.

I myself I work 40 hours, unless there is a deadline to make.  In the long run there are benefits to work overtime once in awhile.  Possible bonus check, extra time off, the boss gives you praise and sees you are a worker that does the job right.

When you move on to a new employer they will look at your experience and skills you have gained.

Many engineers I have worked with do get the time off for special events in their personal life.

One of the companies I worked for in Virginia Beach, most of the employees would get together for cookouts, play baseball and other activities after work.

So there are ups and downs, but keep to your guns and don't back down on your morals and character.  As you do a great job on a project - you will be rewarded even if it's 40 or 50 hours.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Hi warelephant,

As a veteran hiring manager in an automotive (not civil) engineering environment, I tell every person I interview about the culture of my organization.  At my previous employer, 45 hours was considered a normal work week.  The expectation is that as a salaried engineer, you will work whatever it takes to get the job done.  Some weeks, it may only require 40 hours, some weeks it may be 50-60 hours, due to extenuating circumstances (deadline, customer driven last minute changes, failed tests, etc . . ..)

That being said, here is what you get in return:
1) Work on cutting edge automotive technology.
2) Opportunity to learn from multiple engineers with 20-25+ years expeience.
3) Flexibility in case of family/medical/other issues.
4) Pay that was 10-15% higher than average for equivalent experience.

You have to make sure that the tradeoff is fair.  I think it is unfair for an employer to just state that 50 hours per week is expected, without also balancing the dialog with the benefits that counter the extra time.  One other crucial point is that you, at 23 years old, and presumably fresh out of school, are an unknown commodity to a hiring manager.  You have to go out and prove that you are capable of getting the job done.  It is a very competitive work landscape you are operating in, and it is unlikely that you will excel, and prove to be invaluable, while only working 40 hours per week.

-Tony Staples

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

tstaples seems to have hit the nail on the head.

To re-iterate or expand on the point. Most all engineering managers will expect you to work overtime if its required for a particular job or project. If the norm is 50 hours then expect to work 60 or more just to get ahead at the organization. If the hiring manager isn't willing to discuss hours expectations openly and honestly then look out for a rat.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

As a salaried engineer, if you can get your job done under 40 hours, can you go home early?

Seriously, if a business is managed properly, 40 hours/week from each employee (which include the typical waste from inefficiencies) should be adequate to handle the work load.  Good managers know in advance which months in the near future they anticipate heavier-than-normal work load and prepare in advance by increasing the efficiency level, hire additional staff, or forewarn the existing staff and recruit volunteers for overtime work.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


That is usually spelled out in the contract. Ususally your contract specifies what the required work hours are. Whether overtime is mandatory or not is also most often in the contract. smile


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Tony is right about the importance of the culture of the firm.  An employer that mentions 50 hour weeks is giving you a glimpse of that culture, but certainly not the whole picture.  Realize that in smaller firms, the culture is more likely to reflect the values of the person at the top.  As firms get bigger, the culture becomes a little more based on the values of the employees.  So when you interview with the person at the top in smaller firms, you have a good opportunity to hear his/her take on the culture.  Just realize that you are getting his view from the top.

A quick sidebar on small firm culture.  I made the following same mistake twice shortly after starting out 30 years ago.  I joined two different firms that only promoted engineers that had graduated from the same college as the principals.  You can bet that they didn’t tell me that during the interviews.

So how do you get a look at the culture from where you will be sitting?

I don’t really have good answers, but my best suggestion would be to try to set up a lunch meeting with an employee or two of the firms you are considering.  I would just come right out to the boss and say you want the perspective of your peers on the firm culture.  Ideally, someone who is about three to five years into his career with the firm.  I think that a lunch meeting away from the office is likely to be more revealing than meeting in the company conference room.  Ask pointed questions:  What are your responsibilities now?  How satisfied are you with your growth here?  How well are projects managed?  Is communication satisfactory?  Bonuses, raises, etc?  Who has the ear of the boss (Lots of times, the real power in the smaller firms is in the hands of a bookkeeper / office manager type who has been with the firm since the beginning; and participates in decisions about bonuses, raises, etc).  How varied has your experience been here?  Have you asked for experience with buildings, yet they keep giving you bridges to work on?  Small firms that are growing almost always have issues of ownership for the up-and-comer engineers.  Is there an ownership transition plan in place?  Has one been promised for years, but not occurred?  Is there an ESOP?

From this and my previous post, you might realize that I have some passion about this.  My son is just a couple of months away from graduating with his B.S. in Engineering, and he’s started looking at jobs.  So, I’ve been spending some time thinking about and talking about these issues with him.  Looking back over my career, it clear that the first couple of years of experience are very important.

I wish you luck, and keep us updated.

Jim Emanuel, S.E.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

The OP has stated they are getting paid for the overtime, so being taken advantage of is not the issue.

If warelephent can be selective in what opportunities of employment he will accept as a first job, then he is in a better position than most that I know.  It would be nice to see some feedback.

"Art without engineering is dreaming; Engineering without art is calculating."

Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Where were you when I was starting my career?

I had my Dad, grizzled old english millwright, who said, "Damn it boy just get your nose through the door, keep you head down and to the grindstone and you'll be set for life."

As wise as the man was, job hunting was not his strong point.  It took me getting burned by opportunistic managers a few times to start to come around to your thinking.

For my next job I am definitely taking out a colleague to get the real skinny, thats good for any point in a career........thank-you.

Frank "Grimey" Grimes
You can only trust statistics 90% of the time.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I never work overtime and will move mountains to avoid it. In the beginning, some 30 years ago, I was required to work some but I can honestly say that I never worked a single hour of overtime that was necessary, productive, or worth it. In my opinion, only disorganised time wasters need to work long hours (not counting the people who are forced to by the boss).

I'm talking about unpaid overtime which is what it is in most cases. I did work at a place where a certain group screwed off all week then discovered a Friday afternoon crisis, and had to work 12 hour days over the weekend. I believe they had made a special deal where they were getting paid for it.

I admit to being a clock watcher. If I didn't, I would end up cheating my employer out of several hours a week. Life is short. Try to enjoy it.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I'm with you warelephant.  Life is too short.  You might want to see if there are openings in any government agencies.  I work for one and rarely work overtime.  The exception is during construction.  If work can't progress until I provide a drawing, RFI answer or stamped shop drawing, etc. I work as long as necessary.  Once I even had to ride a subway at 9:00 pm to get a giant set of prints from a copy center to a fedex office.
But even when I worked for a private structural engineering company, I did not work much overtime.  It was not an option because I had small babies.  It probably looked bad to my employer at first, but I learned to get the job done in 40 hours.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Structural?  If you don't mind bridges rather than buildings, you can work for the state DOT and won't have to do much overtime.


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

"Remember, the boss has paved the road only to his driveway"
From Bill Cosby at a graduation ceremony.

Start paving the road to your own driveway.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I think that warelephent was killed in the "OT war"...
We never heard from him again...

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

"only disorganised time wasters need to work long hours"

Well that statement is valid only in an ideal world. It would be the same as saying that only disorganised time wasters are in a hurry because organised people have organised things perfectly so never need to hurry. That is just not true.

If I think back to the time when I was a process engineer in a chem plant responsible for the well-being of several process units, there were times when the operation was completely messed up by whatever phenomenon (the first thing to do was usually to find out by what) and every MINUTE the operational problem lasted literally cost thousands of dollars.

If this happens on 5 to 5 Friday afternoon, you can't just let everything drop out of your hands, step out of the office and come back 3 days later. You are expected to solve it, it is your job to solve it and if you have the slightest honour as a process engineer you will (@#$% add any expression) solve it even if it takes several hours.

It's all about having a sense of responsibility. It's somewhere between being a civil servant and running your own businss.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Exactly epoisses,

That should be rewritten,
"only disorganized time wasters and those that work for or under disorganized time wasters or those who's job involves repairing unforseen problems need to work long hours"


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Perhaps the company is assuming that you would like the option of overtime w/ pay.  They may be using this as a way to attract you!  

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

There are other reasons that overtime is required of engineers. There is a famous quote a manager made in Tracy Kidder's book (1981 nonfiction) about a group of engineers tasked with designing a new minicomputer "The Soul of a New Machine. The project was being compromized by lack of equipment and resources but management still wouldn't provide what was needed.

"Logic Analyzers cost $10,000. Engineering overtime is free."

The reasons that engineers frequently work overtime is lack of resources. I have almost never had the equipment needed to do a job efficiently. Many times it is not a lack of corporate money, but corporate permission to buy or rent what is needed to do the job. However, they always seem to have money when it comes to giving executive bonuses.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

wow, you guys are amazing.  These are alot of points I didn't even consider that are being brought up, and I'm glad to hear some arguments on both sides.  I'm starting to really get a feel for whats reasonable and where people are drawing the lines on both ends of this OT dilemma just from this thread.  Thank you all for your input and personal experiences and situations.  I feel like I just cheated at life, getting more knowledge than I'm supposed to have!  It also seems well understood that this is a philisophical, and not a laziness issue.  Thank you for not yelling at me for being lazy!  

I'm laughing at GrimesFrank because my dad would say the same exact thing: "work like hell and get your foot in the door!"  I've been hearing some people say to pay my dues, and I wouldn't mind, I'd love to; but I have a vague impression that the young guys I know now that are working long hours are going to keep working those long hours until forever.  And I see alot of older guys working the longest, didn't they pay their dues or did they forget?  My dad paid everybody's dues, but he still works insane hours as a construction foreman and lives in a motel 80% of his life so I learned my lesson vicariously through him I guess.  If a certain industry doesn't support my priorities now, I think its best for me to try another rather than to get tons of experience only relavent to that industry and expect things to get better.  After all, there are so many different kinds of civil engineering.

I'm definantly going to take the advice of trying to find out why 50 hours is standard there.  I want to go back in or call to try to get somebody talking to get a better feel for the culture and attitudes.  Thanks JRESE.  I have another interview so I'm going to see how it goes there.  I may even take graybeach's advice and send a resume to a government agency.  I'll keep you all posted...

thanks again,


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

There's paying dues and there's just bad habits.  

I had a manager who simply couldn't seem to let go of doing fun engineering stuff and would spend 10 hrs a day, 6 days a week working.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

It starts with just a couple of hours to get some work done, then you get more work and it is every day, then since you are such a good company man here is a little more to keep you going through the week end, and certainly your family would understand if you bring some home.

Maybe the only difference between an alcoholic and a workaholic is just different opportunities.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Fabulous deep thought EjgJW.

Going to have to use that one.


RE: I don't want to work overtime!

There was an interesting stat I saw one day that said that the amount of unpaid overtime worked by professional in North America alone was in the billions of dollars.

By law, managers don't have to be paid overtime.

I can see why it is expected for salaried personnel to work past 40 hours a week. But my take is if anyone wants my services, they have to pay.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I'm fortunate to work for a company that firmly believes in 8 hour days and forty hour weeks.  In fact, I will probably come in for half a day on Saturday this week, but that will be the first OT I've worked in months.

John Nabors

"Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain." - Friedrich von Schiller

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

How many mistakes are made by overtired engineers?

How many hours would an engineer have to work if he/she didnt have to go to interminable meetings, be trained in environmental/social/OH&S/quality or read emails about socila events/stationery/compnay good news stories etc etc Issues that are really commonsense and can be gathered from a well written manual? About half what he/she does now I suspect.

Work for yourself and charge by the hour with a premium after 40 hours. That slows their demands down and you will find you dont get asked to all those non engineering BS sessions and are left alone to engineer. If you really want the BS put up with the 60+ hours

Geoffrey D Stone FIMechE C.Eng;FIEAust CP Eng

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I know of a couple of firms that work 4 10s about 5 months a year.  Neither had to advertise for help, they had waiting lists.  They had all the work they could do and could pick their clients.  

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

BJC, I can understand why, I'd love to work 4 10 hour days a week and have long weekends all the time, plus you save on commute times.

As an aside, I found that nearly all fresh engineers have very little work to do for the first few months. I've never understood the concept of overtime myself, I've worked paid OT before out in the field and had no problems (b/c it was paid and b/c I could see the reasons for it).

In an office environment, OT should really not exist, I think that most people just become distracted too easily.
Studies show that after a phone call or email, it takes a person 5 minutes to return to their pre-phone call state of mind. 10 calls and emails a day add up pretty quickly.

Ignoring phone calls and email during a certain time period has been a big time saver for me, I get so much work done in the hour or two in which I do so.

I also find it difficult to respect those people who make sure that everyone knows they are working 12 hour days, 6 days a week. It signals inefficiency, low self-esteem and general time wasting and goofing off to me.

Granted I will willingly work OT, unpaid even, if need be, just as my employer understands that I may need to skip out unexpectedly on occasion.

And yes I am typing this at work, with a mound of work to do and I will have it all done on time, with no OT, after I brew myself a cup of nice hot tea.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

warelephant, as an aside, just remember two things:

1) life is a marathon, not a sprint,
I've seen people whom are 35 driving BMWs, but b/c of the stresses they've endured, they look 45, I've also seen people driving BMWs whom are 45, but look 35.

2) success doesn't need to be measured in monetary gains. In fact, monetary wealth is a purely western invention, which seems to have gained credence throughout the world, although in relation to the length of time people have existed, a philosophy of monetary wealth superseding all is just a blip.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Money is all but a western invention...

Homo sapiens being a hunter/collector, pursueing wealth, as in owing things or in owing money to temporary replace those things, is more of a genetically than a culturally driven thing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wealthy. There is something wrong with being 35 and looking like 45 though. smile

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

touche, I guess I'm reading the wrong anthropology texts.
I never said that wealth was a bad thing, harming yourself or others to be wealthy, that's another moral issue altogether.
Overworking oneself has many consequences, most importantly, the stress and lack of sleep associated with long hours lowers your life expectancy. I'd rather live longer than richer.

I guess the point I want to make is that there's more to living than money. Too many people have bought into the idea that they must drive nice cars, have a cookiecutter home in the burbs and have two kids who both go off to Harvard or MIT. They work themselves to the bone to achieve this and in most cases all they achieve is heart disease, a divorce and screwed up kids.

Maybe I'm just weird b/c I don't want to commute and thus live close to work, within walking distance, don't want a giant house in the burbs and want three kids whom I don't expect to go to Ivy league unless THEY want to.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

OK I think we agree on that! smile

RE: I don't want to work overtime!


We must know the same people. I know a guy who brings up in every meeting how much work he is doing at home and how he has to spend holidays and weekends to get his work done. Just today I watched as he made another commitment and took on a project that he could easily have turned down. For a while I felt bad for him, but I think some people just function that way or maybe that's what they do for enjoyment.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Believe it or not, there are people out there, that function better when they have a lot of work.  My old (ex) boss and another friend is like that.  Taking on extra work, working crazy hours.  Both full of energy, and loving every day.
I am thankfull for those type of people, because they are the ones that bring in the projects that I end up working on. Without them, no work, and the whole overtime issue goes away.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

<i>Maybe I'm just weird b/c I don't want to commute and thus live close to work, within walking distance, don't want a giant house in the burbs and want three kids whom I don't expect to go to Ivy league unless THEY want to.</i>


You are not alone, although achieving this can prove difficult especially in the current economic environment. I used to work 50-70 hours every week, because I coped my work load kept increasing, I kept going until I had little life beyond work and vacations. Fifteen years of that does some damage although in my case I quit (started working no more than 40 hour weeks) because I had kids and wanted to see them growing up.
It was never about money for me, I just enjoyed my work, and enjoyed being busy, unfortunately for a while I forgot that it was only a job. When times get tight you find employers have no difficulty remembering the nature of your relationship with them.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Don't get me wrong, I like to have plenty of work to do, the faster the pace the better.

However there is a limit, my theory, a salary pays you for a 40 hour work week, with the occasional long day or three when necessary. As such I will do whatever amount of work I can do in that time, once again with the occasional long day. Making people constantly work 50+ hours/week  is operating in bad faith in my opinion, unless proper remuneration is provided. Case in point, doctors work insane hours but are compensated very well.

Maybe I'm just selfish (which I am) but the only way I would gladly work 80 hour weeks was if it was my own private enterprise. I wouldn't mind it b/c I can see my family anytime I want (I am the boss after all), I can work any hours I want (almost) and I wouldn't actually be working, just doing my own thing and getting paid for it.

I'm of the younger generation, the one without loyalties to companies. Seeing your elders get the proverbial kick in the objects by a faceless corporation really sucks the motivation out of you, I think 80% of my generation feels this way.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

I'm with you, Ziggi.  There was a time when I would cheerfully work 50 to 70 hour weeks but I have better things to do now.  I never had kids of my own and now I have a wonderful girlfriend whose kids have begun to call me Dad and the grandkids call me Grandpa.  I'm not going to chain myself to this computer for hours on end when I have my hunny to spend time with and kids to play with.  Besides, work is for people who don't know how to fish.

John Nabors

Two wrongs do not make a right.  Three rights, however, make a left.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

What are your thoughts on a firm who requires 45 hours/week, and the culture is 50+? Is it even legal to require 45 hours?

I'm considering a position at such a place because of the opportunity, but would be leaving a very comfy 40 hour week job at a place where people actually stop work and take 2 - 10 minute breaks everyday (even though these are in the same industry, same town).  Now, that said, I still see all the players at my current job putting in more than 40 hours. My fear is that the players at the other place have to put in 60.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Excessive work hours and the willingness to accept more work than you can reasonably do is, from my view, the result of the insecurity of our engineering jobs. Many of us work/worked for places where employment is very tenuous and have to do what you can to try to separate yourself from everybody else. When some people start to work longer hours, you're sort of forced to or else be viewed as a less desirable employee.

The few folks who are superstar engineers or who have a very specialized, hard-to-find skill set don't need to conform so much. The middle-age folks who are good, solid engineers but also replaceable, have to do anything they can to look good beyond just doing a good job in the allotted 40 hours.

Sometimes, though, that's still not enough and when things get tight, out you go. That's when you realize the folly of that approach and perhaps reconsider the wisdom of an engineering career.

How much do YOU owe?

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

High-powered careers in finance and law are even worse.


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

Hmmm middle aged engineers are that expendable? That hasn't been my experience, usually when there's a slow down us youngsters get the boot.
Just in case I better start working on that retirement plan now, freedom 45 here I come, and living the rest of my life in a country where $1000/month is a fortune.

RE: I don't want to work overtime!

WJSD, been there done that!  Extra effort wasn't my cup of tea either!!!

I have a government job now, it is the second public job of my career.  I usually end up with 45-50 hours per week.  I'm salaried, so I don't get paid for them.  Many of the people who I know who work for government do work more than 40.  
I get to interview occasionally and I'll admit, I'd be hesitant to hire someone who wanted to negotiate the number of hours that they work.  That would make me worry about their dedication to the job.  I don't have time to deal with someone who isn't willing to pull their weight.  Now, if the job can be done in 40 - great!  But it isn't fair that someone else has to work 60 hours so someone else can put in 40 when a deadline is approaching.

Good luck with the job hunt!

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