If you were ill, you were permitted to use as many of your accrued sick days as necessary. In any given calendar year you could take five sick days without any documentation, but the rest had to come with a note from a doctor indicating you were too ill to work.
There was also a company policy that stupidly tried to incentivize attendance at work: if you used no sick days in a year, you would receive a "bonus" vacation day to use the following year. Setting aside how this incentivizes people to come into work when they're sick, it also set up an perverse incentive after an employee actually had to call in sick.
Suppose you had to actually take a sick day due to illness. That day off cost you the free extra vacation day next year. Now you may as well just "call in sick" later in the year and exercise your remaining un-validated sick days.
You gotta love policies like these. What a way to shore up morale.
Our little team had 100 employees, but we matrixed those guys across all our contracts. While the clients disliked the idea of not having "their guy," they really liked having access to the technical depth of 100 guys vs. just the 10 they could afford. Turns out being able to have a Linux kernel guy, OS X kernel guy, Android kernel guy, database expert and hardware hacker on call at all times is incredibly valuable.
Since we matrixed across contracts, we managed to instuitionalize the "overtime hack." The guys were exempt status, so they didn't get time and a half for hours over 40, but they did get paid for every hour they worked. It was a phenomenal hack - guys were routinely making 20-50% more than their base salary. We intentionally understaffed by a bit, to make sure there were always extra hours to burn.
That team is 15 years into existence at a BigCo, and the hack still lives. If you find yourself in a consulting org and think you can make something like this work, don't think for just yourself, but shoot for the moon - set it up so it works for everyone and outlasts you.
In this case, a team of ~100 all had access to everyone's projects. So rather than being stuck with the demands of a single client, everyone got to work overtime whenever they wanted, and not when they didn't.
We simply let the team bill to multiple contracts. The contract & dev managers were responsible for authorizing the time and ensuring it was necessary/suitable/etc.
A typical T&M contract considers something around 1920 billable hours per year an FTE. 40 hrs a week, 4 weeks of vacation/sick time/etc per year. The typical way to manage those contracts at scale is hire one person per 1920 hours on a contract, then that person works exclusively on that contract.
We didn't allocate one person to a single contract, but fractions of a person - based on how much we estimated any given contract would need a certain set of skills:
"Joe's 20% on Project X and 80% on Y. Valerie's 100% on Y. Bill's 80% on Y and 20% on Z."
Of course, those are just estimates and nothing ever goes to plan - and it's always hard to hire enough good people. As a result, there were always opportunities for folks to do more work - either on their primary contract(s) or supporting another.
It makes the contract management harder, but it provides meaningful benefits to both the team and the clients.
By under resourcing the operation, employees were guaranteed to earn 'overtime' if they wanted it. However implication is that you would be happy putting in 50-60 hours.
You're taking a too narrow a view of it. We never committed anyone to 50-60 hours, that's unsustainable. But by _allowing_ it and building a system to manage it, you let folks work what they want and still meet the client needs.
Without that flexibility, what happens is what OP describes - folks work more than 40 because you need to / want to, but you don't get compensated for it.
(also I used the wrong "there"...)
2. When appropriate, ask your manager for more context into areas that aren't readily visible to you. What metrics do they care about? What metrics do their boss, their boss' boss... care about?
3. Provide frequent feedback, both affirmative and critical. When providing criticism, do so constructively, and always have ideas for possible solutions. Also remember that there may be other factors that you're not aware of (see point #2). Explicitly acknowledge that you're not criticizing any individual, and admit that you don't have all of the answers. Adapt your perspective fluidly when new information comes in.
4. Make sure your efforts are in line with the direction of your team, your division, the organization, and the industry.
5. Assume positive intent.
6. Be mindful of how your actions are perceived outside of your immediate team. Optics are important.
7. Make your manager's peers envious of the team that [s]he has assembled.
* Get to know your manager. What do they value, what do they care about? What's their style - analytical, from the hip, super-organizer, likes to try things...?
* Ask for feedback, ask for the things you want. Managers aren't mind readers. (Make sure you have regular 1:1s!)
* Ask for what their goals and expectations are, what they're looking at on a strategic level. Unless you got a heavy politician, most managers love sharing that, they just don't always know you want to hear it. (If you got "The Politician", learn politics or find a new manager)
* Communicate often. Your manager has likely a few more reports than you, and keeping up with all of them is hard. Worse, if your manager doesn't see how you're doing, you're likely more affected than they are. Make sure they see.
* Communicate clearly. If your manager is a veteran who wrote the system, sure, slay'em with jargon. If they're non-technical, or lack knowledge of the system, explain things so they can understand. Without being patronizing.
* Communicate respectfully. Both with your manager - that's just plain survival ;) - and with your team mates. Because it's your manager's job to fix those issues, and making more work is not a good way to win their heart. No matter how technically brilliant you are.
* Keep context in mind. All that info you're now communicating - do they need it right now? Can it wait? Is it turning out to be noise for them? Or, alternatively, will this lead to a crisis if not addressed urgently? Adjust accordingly. Managers are strange beasts, they both desperately want more information and are drowning in the wrong kind of it.
In other words, treat them like a human being, and treat them like somebody whom you want to help. Congratulations, you're well on your way to be good at "managing up". ;)
Unfortunately, I have seen managers, technical and non-technical, who are seriously non-transparent. That is, they have and promote their own hidden agenda, without regard to how that affects others. Sorry for the pessimistic tone, but management tends to entail politics in big companies, which itself attracts those with the non-transparent personality trait.
This rings true in a lot of large places and in some medium places. If your butt is in a chair in the office, you better be working on something. It doesn't matter if you clear your plate, took a few tasks from someone else, finished those as well, and are looking at the Software Engineering or Code Review SE sites or OWASP to help holistically contribute to your project. Your billable time better be used for tangible results that can be demoed or shown on an agile board. Never mind that you crushed estimated 50 hours in 30 - you don't get to be a warm body.
It is amazing how enthusiastic you can be in hour 50 with that situation. I frankly think its unhealthy but at least there was a pain point for requiring it and that pain ($) also benefited me.
In the author's case the mismatch in understanding worked out for them. I wonder how many times it works out quite badly for one party or even both. Even between two sympathetic people where both desire to understand the other, sometimes you just don't.
Because it is a bad thing.
If you have a substantive point to make, please make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do.
For the required training I do because my work touches health care: The company has a record of what training I need. It sends me a list of courses. I then have to register for those courses -- within the same company. They can't register me for it on their own. I take the course, get my passing grade and now the course and my training record know that I have a passing grade for the course. So naturally I have to print that out, upload it to another site and mark it complete. Someone in India (literally) checks this. Not done yet, I fill out a paper copy by hand with course numbers and dates and sign it. Upload that and turn in physical copies to my management. If I want credit on the number of hours training I have for the year, I need to update that manually as well. Expect these forms to be kicked back multiple times on the way because the date is in the wrong format or some other reason. Also expect to take multiple forms of the same training within the same training year because it has been repackaged (not new courses, regrouped same courses).
Luckily our training system sounds more streamlined than yours. Different strokes for different companies I guess.
(There are plenty of jobs which aren't upfront about it, obviously. That's more of a scam.)
Sounds like the article, right?
Except ... this extra time was a very temporary scenario, and he would be getting benefits, an effective hourly raise, etc. Even more to the point, when we didn't need his services ... and he didn't grasp this part, we wouldn't bring him in and pay him, though, as a salaried person, I would expect he would be doing self-education while we had "down" time, so he'd increase his value and utility to the organization.
Basically, I was trying to provide value to both the company and to him. As we were a very small company, I was able to see the value aspect very clearly, and I made the bet (later proven wrong as it turns out) that he would make a stronger contribution to the company if he had a steady source of income, with less worries about billable hours.
The big reason why he was getting more hours was that he was helping us set up our lab space. That project was almost complete ... maybe 2 more weeks of longer weeks, after which ... we'd need him 25%-50% time at best. I did need someone with expanded skills that he didn't have, and thought (mistakenly) that I could grow this particular individual into that role ... he expressed a strong interest in it.
The incentives aren't usually well aligned in BigCo and employee. We are, effectively, cannon fodder, for their plans, up through and including the senior exec ranks. Your incentive alignment with the corporation varies inversely as some power of the distance from the strategic decision making.
In SmallCo and employee, there are typically better alignments, though still not perfect. For someone like me, an entrepreneur CEO/CTO at the time, I was looking to build a culture, an environment, where we took a long view, beyond the next billable event. Where value took time to grow, where we cultivated it, where we grew people into roles that they wanted but might not have been able to do at the time.
The problem is, when you are sufficiently removed from the decision making process, your alignment is entirely economic. When you can't impact outcomes, and gain professional satisfaction and positive reputation from helping to steer a better course, your focus is, correctly, on other matters that benefit you personally.
To a large extent, this is the way things work. What benefits you personally and professionally, and is the compensation, work, and culture, aligned to mutually maximize the value of all of these things. In the case of the OP, no, the compensation was specifically architected to minimize cost to the BigCo, and maximize the benefit to the big co, even at the expense of the employee. Which would, undoubtedly, negatively impact the culture, and the way the employees interact with BigCo.
I am sorry to say this is to be expected ... but it isn't the first time I've heard this type of story.
For me personally, I remember working for some small silicon valley outfit in the 90s, where they treated some of the specialist developers like crap, but paid the contractors something like triple the hourly rate to use their expertise. So, a fairly sizeable cohort of my colleagues resigned, formed small consulting groups, and were hired back at (then) outrageous rates to do effectively the same work.
This misalignment is manifest in many large Cos.
So not able to increase the numbers he employed, it was decided to bring in contractors to do the same work. Many of them were former workers at the same departments. However, there were less of them, but they still cost a lot more. Then the government started to realise they needed some way of overseeing their work, but they didn't have enough staff to do so, so they employed people to check on the contractors' work. As the workload was still high, they kept employing more contractors, and you guessed it - more supervisors.
By the time Howard left office, he was employing three times the number of people than the previous Labor government.