Extended overtime is a culture killer.  A little is fine, but after weeks and months of putting work ahead of family and home life and evening and weekend leisure, it begins to feel abusive.  Teams become fragmented since the overtime load is unevenly distributed.  What may have started out as an enthusiastic response to challenge begins to feel like being used.  A sense of being used doesn’t drive people together; it’s more likely to drive them apart.

Companies that are most effective at extracting overtime from their workers have somehow managed to establish the following unspoken rule:

A willingness to work overtime proves that you’re a professional.

While most professional workers are willing to put in some occasional overtime, that doesn’t mean they are unaware of abuse when it happens.  The blithe assumption of overtime in making up budgets and schedules is an abuse.  It treats the people who will have to do the work as chumps. 

It also sends the message that the work is not very important; if it were important the budget and schedule would have made adequate provision for it without depending on contributed overtime.  When the budget and schedule are stingy, it will take more than pep talks to convince people that what they’re doing really matters.

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