Work tips: coming back from paternity leave and negotiating limits

I recently started a new job at a medium sized non-profit organization. Overall, it has been a rewarding job, friendly colleagues, good pay and benefits. But I am increasingly aware of a “martyr culture,” in which people regularly work well beyond their 40 hours, don’t take the compensation time to which they are entitled, work on holidays and other days off, and they even work (remote, at least) while you’re sick. The work we do is not life or death. This behavior appears to be the status quo. While I have never been told that you are expected to regularly work overtime, work while sick, etc., it seems to be an unspoken expectation and is modeled by senior managers.

I am a hard worker who is happy to go the extra mile when needed, but I also value a healthy work-life balance. I took make-up time and wasn’t told I couldn’t, but it was still awkward as most people here don’t, and it was clear to me how my absence would affect others. I also kept the line about not working on days off, with the same type of message sent.

I’m not sure how to approach this; when I’ve raised the general topic of healthy balance with my colleagues and superiors, the response has tended to be along the lines of: Wow, wouldn’t that be great! Beyond keeping my own boundaries, is there anything I can do?


The best thing you can do is keep your limits reasonable and very healthy. Many companies have these unspoken cultures of overwork, but overwork is rarely good work. It leaves people disillusioned and burnt out. Doesn’t make you a better employee, not really. It’s a shame that your colleagues have bought into this idea that they have to sacrifice for their jobs. You are setting a good example. I can imagine it must feel precarious to do something as normal as taking your own compensation time.

I used to work at NBCU and left the company 15 years ago under difficult circumstances. Recently, I have seen several openings at NBCU that are a good fit for my experience and skill set. I know someone in RR. (not eligible to rehire) list or have any “ding” associated with my name.

I haven’t heard from my friend. This is not a close friend, but we have socialized numerous times. I’m struggling not to call them out for not giving even a perfunctory response. Everyone knows that jobs are earned on merit, but having a person in the company sometimes provides that little “push” or insight. I am disappointed in your lack of common courtesy. Am I out of place to say something?

Mike, Los Angeles

Yes, you are wrong to say something. As you yourself note, this person is not a close friend. Socializing together several times does not mean that he owes you anything. I’m not sure why you would call your friend. Not answering an email is not a social crime. And why would you go to that extreme instead of just sending a follow-up email? Most people drown in email and do inbox sorting every day. There may be several reasons why they haven’t responded yet.

If this is indeed a friend, give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they feel awkward or uncomfortable with your query. Perhaps they intend to come to that. Regardless, this person is not the obstacle that stands between you and a job at your previous employer. I understand your frustration, but there are many things here for you to reflect on and reconsider. I’m also curious why you think jobs are earned on merit. Since when?

I work for a mid-sized sales company in the Midwest. My boss has told me several times that I’m going to be promoted, but when the time comes, he says that he tried but management didn’t agree. He now tells me 60 days to go, then 16 weeks, then a year from now. He does it in front of others, too. I’ve asked him to stop telling me that, but he won’t. He seems to think that he will lift my spirits and make me feel important, but he is doing the opposite. He makes me feel stupid, and he feels cruel. Other than reporting it to human resources, do you have any advice on what I can tell them?


If you’ve told your boss to stop and he hasn’t, I doubt there’s any other combination of words that gets through to him. In situations like this, repetition is key. Every time he flashes this promotion in front of you, remind him to stop. Remind him how long he has been doing this. Tell him what you told me: that this behavior is not motivating, it is deflating. Sometimes it’s just hearing the truth over and over again that makes people really listen. Also, start looking for a new job. You deserve more.

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