Stanley Bing

Ask Bing: When Stalin makes you work weekends

You are working for an oppressive regime, and unless you want to mortgage your life to these mean bozos, you're going to have to do what's necessary to free yourself or establish some guidelines for them.

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By Stanley Bing

I am currently employed at a financial reporting company and my position requires working some Saturdays and even some holidays. We are given a Saturday schedule every quarter and especially during the summer I plan accordingly.

Recently we have been implementing a new system, and they are asking us to work 6 day weeks. And since we are salary they do not give us any overtime. The next two Saturdays (both of which I was not scheduled to work) I have a feeling they are going to ask me to work. The only problem is I have 2 weddings and have already made plans for which I have paid for. I have told my boss that I cannot work, and he told me that he cannot promise me anything from upper management because he doesn't even know.

In the last year I have worked Thanksgiving, Christmas and the 4th of July and haven't complained yet. If I am told I have to work these next two Saturdays how do I approach my bosses and tell them that I cannot work? Can they threaten firing me if I do not work? And my second question is can they even ask me to work these days (i.e National Holidays)?

I'm sorry, my friend, but because you told your boss of your problem, you are now unable to accomplish the proper strategy - which is to call in sick on the days you cannot work. Usually it is best to pick something very contagious, like the flu or an eruption of something scary, like shingles (people who have not had chicken pox yet can get it from you).

Now, since he knows you have a problem, you will have to face the choice of outright, blatant resistance or expensive acquiescence. If they DO make you work, ask your boss if he can defray the expense this is causing you. If he makes you work and doesn't help you with the money, I would say that you should begin looking for another job immediately and not rest until you have one. You are working for an oppressive regime, and unless you want to mortgage your life to these mean bozos, you're going to have to do what's necessary to free yourself or establish some guidelines for them. They don't care about you, your expenses, or your plans to go to the wedding.

Your boss, by the way, sucks also. I know he's up against it with HIS bosses, because they don't even give him advance notice on how much work there is going to be this weekend... and he probably has the exact same problems that you do with his life. Problems in a Stalinist state don't affect the rank-and-file alone. But a good boss stands in front of the crap being leveled at his or her people. In this case, your boss should protect you, assign work where it will do the least harm, and give you a break.

This leads me to my final piece of advice: See if you can find the last remaining ember of humanity in your boss, and appeal to it. It's not about the workflow. It's not about his bosses. It's about one person helping another. "Come on, Bob," you might say. "Please. I'm beggin' you. I really need to go to these weddings and I'll catch hell if I don't and if you give me a break here I won't forget it. Please."

If that doesn't work, I don't know what else you can do except figure out what the next step of your life is going to be. And when you do quit? Do it without notice on a Monday morning. We all have to enjoy life a little bit now and then.

Boss thinks I am busy finding his faults.

I cite this question in its entirety as a tribute to its brevity and evocativeness. It also makes a point. After some time on the job, a lot of us shed our natural reticence (and fear) of authority figures and begin to show what we really feel about them as individuals and managers. This is relatively unwise, unless you are truly friends with your boss, which is both rare and at times evanescent.

I had an old boss once who had been on the job for a while and had grown thoroughly sick of the senior managers of the company, who were, in truth, a bunch of doofuses at that time. The executives in question had run the firm for a while and had recently been acquired by a larger, more powerful, more sophisticated company. They old guys were still in charge of the division, but were no longer truly running things, being forced to call Pittsburgh every time they wanted to wipe their noses. They were a mediocre bunch, and that's a fact. Which didn't mean they appreciated feeling that way about themselves every time they came to work. Which is exactly how Mary, my boss, made them feel.

We would sit down at the conference table for a meeting. Mary would light up a Benson & Hedges 100 (we could smoke at the office back then) and lean back in her chair. Say nothing. Glare at the chairman and the executive vice presidents as they kicked around whatever subject they were talking about. After a while, she would lean forward, stamp out her smoke, and say something like, "Well. That was certainly a worthwhile conversation." Then she would deliver, in a voice dripping with experience, weariness and contempt, her opinion on the proper course of action.

I would sit at the corner of the table, aghast. What was she doing?! Was she TRYING to get herself canned? As the meeting would come to a close, the chairman would quietly say to me, "Bing. After Mary goes could you stick around for a couple minutes?" I did. Then there was a second meeting without her there. I would walk away with the real assignment. At the end of six months, she was gone and I was in her office.

So be careful, terse correspondent. Your boss may have a million faults. Keep them to yourself, along with your contemptuous silence and snide remarks. You're paid for your work, not your attitude, unless it's one that helps get business done. And a lot of the time that means doing the exact opposite of what you're doing and making the big cheese feel good about himself no matter how full of holes he may be.

I don't have a question. I have a statement. In my opinion, the banana is NOT the perfect fruit. It's the Kiwi. (In response to one of your columns. I'm a recent, big fan of your views and notions!) Signed, Joel (in China)

I disagree. It's definitely the banana. Who can eat a kiwi every day? Thanks for writing, Joel.

As you're aging what is more important, good sex or big money?

Good sex, as long as you have money.

OK, so my boss moved up and has named as his "acting" replacement a dumb pretty boy who can't handle stress. In fact the dumbest Project Manager among all of us in the department. Do I restrain my natural impulse to ramp up the stress on him and just wait for him to fail, or do I actively organize the natural internal resistance to this loser?

You have an anger management problem, Bub. That aside, I would say to do both, with an emphasis on the latter. Working a game to destroy your (even acting) boss is dangerous, not to mention mean. You have to work the strategy slowly, with subtlety, looking for opportunities to strike and instill stress into the life of your prey. Not everybody can do that without hurting themselves in the process. You sound impetuous and enraged. I'm not sure you can do it.

Eat your pride and your anger for a little while. Do your job. If he's as dumb and crazed as you think, he won't be "acting" for long. The real question is why didn't the old boss choose YOU? I have some idea. To top of page

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