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# I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”8

## I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

(OP)
Hello Engineers,

During an annual job review meeting with my direct manager, I asked him if I can get raise and told him that I have worked hard during the past one year, and therefore learned more and produced more work. The next thing was, he said “ Why? Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?” He was right because I assumed he wanted me to work hard and produce more. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why would he not want that. I assume there is some politics going on there. Any thoughts?

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Typical attitude at Boeing... No surprises here.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA, HI)

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

When you're old, you have stories to share...

Many years ago, a friend from college took a job at Caltrans. She had wanted Fluor or Bechtel, but didn't get offers from them before graduation, so she took Caltrans instead. She could stand no more than four weeks of it, and it was so bad she left without having another job lined up. Fortunately for her, Fluor offered her a job a couple months later.

This is a summary of the story she told me soon after she left Caltrans.

On her first day, after filling out the required forms, she was taken to meet her new supervisor. He thought she was starting the next Monday, so he had not prepared anything for her to do. After he thought about it for an hour (!!!), he finally gave her the Caltrans Highway Design Manual (HDM) to read and that was it.

On Tuesday, he proudly declared he had something for her to do. My friend finished this assignment in about half an hour and took it back to her supervisor to review. Unfortunately, he had no more work for her that day, so back to the HDM.

On Wednesday, he again proudly declared he had something for her to do. His instructions to her were--and 40+ years later, I still remember this quote she told me-- "Pace yourself. Take all day."

It was then that she began to realize that she might need to leave sooner rather than later. She stuck it out a couple more weeks hoping things would change, but they never did, so she finally left after just four weeks.

That type of "work" environment is very difficult for a not-quite Type A personality.

============

BTW, I did a summer internship myself at the same Caltrans office and it didn't take me long to realize that I would not want to work there permanently. I met exactly one person (a senior level civil engineer) who had the work ethic of the outside world, but that was it. I could just see him from my desk and I never saw him not working hard. In fact, he had the reputation that if you really needed something done, give it to this guy because nobody else would do it. On the other hand, another seasoned engineer with nothing to do would wander the hallways on our floor and randomly stop to talk to people. As far as I know, he did no work while I was there.

That summer, Caltrans had hired nine civil engineering students from my university. The five that worked out in the field (inspections, geotech, surveying, etc.) were fully utilized all summer. Of the four of us working in the office, I was the only one with a full work load. I had a full work load because my supervisor handed me all of his work so he could cat nap frequently or spend time on the phone doing real estate deals (he was also licensed broker). He probably spent no more than 8 eights all summer actually supervising me. The largest part of my job was to update planning-level cost estimates that he had done in previous years. The fun part was that most of his estimates had major errors, like forgetting to include aggregate base for one five mile stretch of highway, forgetting to include bridges for a proposed freeway that would cross a river, being off by a factor of two on the length of a rural highway, etc.

One of my classmates was hired to work in the environmental section. Unfortunately, even though that section had been budgeted for a summer intern, it not been budgeted for ANY work that entire calendar year. So, the two permanent engineers in the section and my classmate had zero work to do. Also unfortunately, I was not allowed to give him some of my work and I had enough to give. His singular accomplishment that summer was spending enough time in the cafeteria with other, regular underutilized employees and learning how to play backgammon really well.

============
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Without having been there it’s difficult to give appropriate responses. A supervisor could say that due to laziness, sarcasm, not wanting to give a raise, or simply bc they legitimately believed your workload to be very light. In any case, I wouldn’t make any assumptions and ask for clarification. Good supervisors will ensure staff gets downtime/light duty occasionally to prevent burnout. They will also ensure juniors learn the expected level of detail for every bit of work. I’ve seen folks burnout bc they needlessly overworked themselves, also seen them laid off for not accomplishing the mission due to perpetually overanalyzing/working every detail.

Never attribute an error to others until you’ve heard their side of the story.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

I agree with CWB1, it sounds like you need to talk with your supervisor again and ask "What did you mean by that?" Also, you may need to look into others in similar roles and compare; How long have you worked there? When was your last raise? Has any one else gotten a raise lately? It could be your manager's way of saying "we don't have room in the budget for a raise for you." There's also a chance that you hard a hard worker that isn't valued as such and may need to look elsewhere to be properly compensated. Hard to say.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Like CWB1, difficult to say without being there. It's possible that you're a rising star in a field where they wanted somebody else to rise, it's possible that they're cash strapped and are looking for an excuse not to pay you, it's also possible that they are impressed by your workload and impressed by your boldness to ask for a raise and want to push you to see how you respond to a semi-confrontational experience with management. Tone is substantive...without hearing it I don't have a clue which it might be, or if it's any of these three to begin with.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

3
I can see myself asking that question. Seriously. Because I want you to understand your true answer for yourself. Do you work hard because that's what you think you are paid to do? Or do you work hard because you are driven to? Is it an internal motivation or external? If its internal, you would work hard at any job because your own standards will accept nothing less. You don't do it for any other reward or benefit. If your motivation is external, then you will never truly be happy because you will never truly think you're being compensated fairly for your effort. And that's a bad way to go through life. Think about it - if your motivation to work hard is external that means your natural state is one of laziness. Is that really what you want?

I don't know if that was what your boss was after, but that's what I get out of it. He was just trying tio get you to think.

By the way, your compensation should not be based on your efforts, no matter how extreme they are. It should be based on the value of your actual results. Sorry, life is hard. Deal with it.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

If I was told that I would apply for a new job that pays more. Your manager is a ****** so either he will advance you or you leave

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

(OP)
Hello All,

Thanks to everyone for your comments on this post. My goal here is to learn and look at this situation from different angles.

For those who asked for more details of what actually happened, my manager looked into my eyes seriously, and in a tone showing like he was bothered, and said “why do you work hard? Who asked you to do that?”. I didn’t say anything for about 1-2 seconds and then he changed the topic. I did not asked why he said that because I was confused and also I did not want our conversation to get awkward.

JBoggs,
I am internally driven and motivated to work hard. I basically thought I should ask for raise because of this, as a secondary benefit. In this big organization, I admit I am not bringing more projects to company that can translate more dollars for company. Yes, my hard work is not directly translating into more profit for company. However, on a smaller scale, it does make my manager look good for completing tasks on time and with good quality. I do agree with your last line. Thank you!

I was

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Your hard work ostensibly DOES bring more profit to the company. If your productivity decreased by 25%, say, then your project either takes longer (less profit) and/or your billing hrs go up (less profit for fixed-price contract).

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

I am guessing you are at a company that pays by seniority than output. In a place like that, your manager just wants as little turnover as possible. Been there done that. I had managers intentionally turn a blind eye to people leaving work early all the time, as if that made up for career progression. Fill up your toolbox and start looking. Your manager or the company are happy for you to just be where you are and no more.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

#### Quote:

Your hard work ostensibly DOES bring more profit to the company. If your productivity decreased by 25%, say, then your project either takes longer (less profit) and/or your billing hrs go up (less profit for fixed-price contract).

That's giving quite a lot of credit to someone who likely isnt far up in the food chain enough to make/impact their own timelines. JME, but I've always had the option of meeting timelines or finding another job, and kept busy enough that herculean efforts weren't moving the needle a noticeable amount.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

If the OP makes $60k, say, winds up spending 3 extra months on a project over a year, that an extra$15k paid for work they're getting for free, right now. So, if the contract is fixed price, that's coming out of profits. Given that, the OP's boss is acting against the company's interests, perhaps because his boss isn't participating in the profit sharing.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Some projects are time and expense and on those companies throw bodies on it for profit and the goal is just to create billable hours.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

#### Quote (Mech5656)

I have worked hard during the past one year, and therefore learned more and produced more work

I wonder if this means that OP was assigned and completed more tasks than their peers, or if they spent more time spinning their wheels and producing more unnecessary work for their tasks. I'm thinking it may be the second based on the bosses reaction. I think wheel spinning, learning, and doing "stuff" is great for a new engineer and is better than taking things for granted, but I don't think that is inherently worth compensation. Rather, I think that having that attitude early will make you a better engineer in the future and at that point you will provide more actual value that will be worth direct compensation.

Sorry to OP if I'm completely misreading the situation.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

I'm liking Zen master JBoggs perspective.

Why the hell are we doing what we are doing?

Not sure if motivation being internal is any more valid than external motivation. unless any of us is working in an industry that actually makes the world a better place, instead of just facilitating needless consumption, making somebody else rich?

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Reminds me of a story someone told about their summer job at a bottle packing plant. Eager to impress, he filled twice as many crates with bottles per hour as the other workers. He felt very proud. An older man took him aside after a few days, and said to him. "See, the thing is, if you keep filling so many cases, the bosses will realise we can to, and we can't have that."

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Not there so I don't know.

But in general, there are three prongs to good work: effort, efficiency, effectiveness. Working hard is only one part of the story. Is what is being produced efficient or effective?

The other part of the story may be soldiering. I have probably been guilty of that myself; watching young, single employees work late hours. I warn, "don't set any precedents." But I know from experience, you will be taken advantage of. You will never catch up. The more time you put in, more work load comes at you. Eventually you are working 12 hours a day, on holidays and weekends and missing out on your wife and kids. There is no way to dial it back except to go elsewhere. Now, I start at 8:00 and leave at 5:00. If I can't get it done in that amount of time, it's management's fault.

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

#### Quote (SandCounter)

Now, I start at 8:00 and leave at 5:00. If I can't get it done in that amount of time, it's management's fault.
Assuming, of course, what you do during that time is efficient and effective... otherwise, you're passing the buck to the manager's plate.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

### RE: I was speechless when my manager said “Why do you work hard? Who told you to do that?”

Confirmed: "can't" assumes efficiency and effectiveness applied.

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