You owe it a 100 percent effort, but you are certainly not obligated to stay late and sacrifice your personal life.
Q: I’m working on a one-year contract. After six months, my boss wanted to extend it for a second year. I was interested, because at first the job was challenging and rewarding. But ultimately, I decided it was too stressful. My personal life, including my health, suffered. I recently told my boss that I wouldn’t be staying.
Now I have three months left on my original contract, and I’m having trouble putting in 100 percent effort. I would put in more effort if there were some reward. But the company culture is lacking, I don’t feel much loyalty to my colleagues, the pay isn’t great, and overtime isn’t compensated. Professional development or mentorship opportunities aren’t available.
I’d rather cultivate my personal life after work than stay late at the office. Do I owe an organization more than the bare minimum if there’s so little investment in its employees? —Alex
A: As long as your organization is paying you 100 percent of your salary then, yes, you owe it a 100 percent effort, right up until your date of departure. Clearly, that’s more than the “bare minimum.”
But just as clearly, it certainly doesn’t obligate you to stay late and sacrifice your personal life on behalf of a job that inspires no particular passion in you and isn’t part of your long-term future.
I think what you’re really saying is that you were previously willing to work extra hard when you imagined this gig had a lot more potential — but now that you’ve figured it doesn’t, you’ve swung all the way in the other direction, and would prefer to just coast. All of which is perfectly human.
Finding the appropriate middle ground is a matter of your personal judgment, but keep two things in mind. You want to keep working hard enough that your current employer will endorse you in the future. And, perhaps more important, you want to feel good about the job you’ve done, and treat your employer the way you’d expect to be treated yourself.
What to do when your old boss won’t let go
Q: I am a young professional working for a nonprofit. I’ve been in the same workplace for a couple of years, and there are many things I love about it.
A few months ago, however, I got a new supervisor. I’ve always been receptive to constructive criticism (and have received positive performance reviews). But this supervisor never gave me positive feedback, took credit for projects I’d taken the lead on and intensely micromanaged me — even leaning over my shoulder and criticizing how I format a spreadsheet. When I tried talking to him about my concerns, he suggested I quit.
The stress being too much to bear, I elected to move to another job in the same organization. While the pay was lower, it would allow me to take some classes to beef up my résumé — an ideal situation for me right now.
Here’s the problem. Initially, I agreed to help with minor tasks from my old department while it searched for my replacement. But it doesn’t appear as though my old supervisor is actively searching. I am still under as much stress as I was working for him full time, but now I’m getting less pay.
How do I set boundaries and encourage management to hire a replacement without jeopardizing my new position, which accommodates my education schedule so well? —Rose
A: With hindsight, you have probably realized that it was a mistake to make such an open-ended offer. It would have been generous enough to suggest helping out with certain tasks for a specified period of time. That would have given your old supervisor — who doesn’t seem to have done you any favors — a clearer incentive to replace you promptly.
To give him one now, proceed on two tracks. First, communicate what’s going on to your current supervisor. Don’t make it a huge complaint, just be matter-of-fact. You thoughtfully offered to help your old department through a transitional period for the good of the organization — but you can’t keep doing two jobs forever, and you want to focus on doing the best you can in your new role. Your new manager needs to know that this is happening — and, frankly, should immediately step in to handle the matter without further discussion.
But second, you can simultaneously set some boundaries yourself. The next time your old boss asks you to do something, tell him that while you were happy to help during the department’s transition, you must now give your new job your full attention.
You could make that effective immediately, or set some concrete deadline in the near future, but your best bet might be to suggest, “I’ll do this one last thing for you.”
Be straightforward about all this. You’re not complaining, or starting a fight; you simply have the organization’s best interests in mind. Your old department needs to move on — and you need to do your new job.