It was dinner time. I was hungry. My new husband already was home and I was still in the office, waiting for my boss to leave. It wasn't the first time or last time I stayed at the office just to look committed. Years ago, early in my career, I was uncomfortable leaving before my boss. I thought it made me seem like I was a slacker. At the time, I had to prove myself and I wanted to seem ambitious. But after weeks of staying late for no reason, my new husband insisted I was being foolish. So, I quietly slipped out around 7 p.m., leaving my computer on to look like I might still be around.
It's tricky when your boss puts in long hours. Most of the time, her or she gets paid big bucks for that committment. I enjoyed reading a Wall Street Journal article this week titled When the Boss Works Long Hours, Must We All? In the article, Sue Shellenbarger asks, "Every night, your workaholic boss is still glued to the computer when you need to leave. How do you go home without looking like a slacker?" The article urges workers to check their assumptions, claiming that sometimes people make guesses about managers' expectations that are just wrong,
In my former job, while I was worried about leaving earlier than my boss, I realized he could see my commitment in my productivity. I bet my former boss never even realized I was waiting around for him to leave.
On the other hand, if you leave at 5 p.m. every day, hours early than your boss, and you complain of having too much work, your boss will think you are a slacker. I have had bosses tell me they can't believe when employees want more money and more authority, but still want to leave at 5 p.m. on the dot.
Sue gives some great suggestions for how to handle a boss who toils long hours at the office: shift around your work hours, leave at the normal time but call attention to your productivity, offer reassurance that you are meeting deadlines, ask your boss if he or she expects you to stay late. That last suggestion might seem intimidating but it's probably the most effective.
Do you feel like you need to stay as late as your boss? How do you handle leaving the office at a decent time? Have you ever had a boss that wants you to stay late but doesn't set the example himself?
For more on this topic and others like it, visit my new blog at CindyKeepsUp.com.