How can I avoid forced overtime?

Jim Berlucchi

I am regularly working more than 50 hours per week, even though I’m only supposed to be working 40. I don’t really care about the extra money – I’d rather have the time. Is there a way for me to avoid this forced overtime without losing my job?

Well, it’s nice to be wanted. And overtime is much better than undertime or no time at all.

Because there are so many variables in every particular workplace, it’s hard to answer your question. But you imply that your job is at risk if you don’t take the hours. Which implies that overtime is mandatory. In that case, what does “supposed to be working 40” mean? Is that in your employment contract, if you have one? Is there an expectation that overtime will be required? If so, is it just occasional or long-term? Is it just expected in your work culture that everyone works overtime, whether they want to or not? Make sure you are clear on the ground rules and expectations. On that basis you can weigh your options, which include:

  • The safest step – just keep working the overtime.
  • The reasonable step – politely raise the issue with your supervisor.
  • The riskiest step – inform your employer that you do not want to work overtime.
  • The ultimate step – pursue another job that fits your desired lifestyle.

You seem pretty clear on your priority of time over money. So, it’s really a matter of wisely discerning how to achieve your goal. Here’s some slam-dunk advice I’ve followed scores of times: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly and he will be given it.” (James 1:5)