If the boss works long hours, must you?

Leaving at 5 o'clock does not mean you don't work hard

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 17, 2018.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, Sue Shellenbarger explores how employees can prove their value—even if they do not put in the long hours that their managers do.

A Right Management survey found that two-thirds of employees put in many more hours than they did just five years ago. Most employees "assume managers value people for working day and night," Shellenbarger writes.

But before trying to match mangers' hours, employees should ask their bosses about ideal time schedules, according to Cali Williams Yost, CEO of consulting firm Flex + Strategy Group. "People make way too many guesses about managers' expectations that are just wrong," Yost says, adding that managers are only looking for reassurances that their employees are meeting deadlines and are not leaving extra work for their colleagues.

Employees should ask their bosses to define their job objectives and timelines for meeting them, says Pat Katepoo, owner of consulting firm WorkOptions. Then, they should "look for natural times to communicate about your progress, when you have a staff meeting or you're walking by or writing an email," says Katepoo.

Such conversations can open a dialogue about work-life balance and how managers measure the performance of their employees. In some cases, employers notice employees who work late, and employees can request a shift in their work hours. For example, they can move a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule to a 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. workday.

In negotiating for a new or different time schedule, executive coach Michael Melcher recommends that employees take managers' needs into account and bring in proof of job performance. Melcher says employees should start the conversation on a positive note, affirm the manager's perspective, and then state a solution that meets all parties' needs (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 2/18).

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