Who is your boss at home

Goodbye, I'm finishing work! Why you should say no to overtime

The hands glide very slowly over the clock face and tick inexorably in your head. Actually, you could now close your laptop and march towards the end of the day. Actually. Because even though your overtime account is bursting at the seams, your guilty conscience is sticking to your screen. Find out here how to break out of this vicious circle.

Is overtime the order of the day?

43.5 hours - this is how much full-time employees work per week, according to a new study by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. That is five hours more than the agreed average[1]. And because in most nine-to-five jobs the lunch break also takes place between the keyboard and the mouse pad, work-life balance and punctual finishing sound more like luxurious privileges than the run-of-the-mill standard.

The boundaries between private life and job are blurring, which is why the Power Point and briefing document remain open even on weekends - unpaid, of course. E-mail inbox and pulse flash frantically, unfinished tasks accumulate faster than stress marks on the face. It is hardly surprising that more than two hours of overtime a week leave psychological and physical traces on workaholics: back pain, tiredness and exhaustion.

24/7 we-feeling and we-are-family-remorse

But to simply say “no” because the battery is empty? Seemingly impossible. The word overtime also appears almost 14,000 times in the reviews on kununu. “Overtime for free” and unpaid extra time are viewed as “normal and required”. They disappear as a matter of course between flexible working hours and time recording based on trust. As if it were a "private pleasure" to see the boss more often than the family.

The real problem, however, is not overtime per se. Rather, it is the we-are-family mentality: if the colleague is still sitting at the desk, unpaid working hours must be okay. After all, that's how many companies do it. But that is precisely the crux of the matter: because they can only do that because the employees put up with it. It's okay to say “no” from time to time.

Know your rights. And dare to enforce it.

Of course, the legal situation differs from country to country and there are certainly exceptions that do not allow a generalization. In general, however, the following applies: Only you have it in your hand to assert your claims. Find out about binding laws, know your employment contract exactly and, in a friendly but determined manner, dare to inform your boss of the agreed regulations.

In Germany the Working Hours Act stipulates that a maximum of eight hours may be worked per working day. “The Working Hours Act has nothing against the fact that working hours are extended to up to ten hours - under one important condition: the working hours exceeding eight hours must be compensated. And not at some point, but within the next six months. On average, nobody is allowed to work more than eight hours per working day within six calendar months. "[2]

The regulation is similar in Austria: “If there is an increased demand for work, 20 hours of overtime per week are permitted. The daily working time may not exceed 12 hours, the weekly 60 hours (including overtime in each case). However, the weekly working time may not exceed 48 hours on average for 17 weeks. Exceeding the 12 or 60 hour limit is permitted under certain conditions and only in exceptional cases, e.g. in connection with readiness for work or with approval by the labor inspectorate. " [3]

In the Switzerland “Overtime is spoken of when the statutory maximum weekly working time (45 to 50 hours depending on the industry) is exceeded. It must not be more than two hours a day. In a calendar year, it must not exceed 170 hours (with a weekly working time of 45 hours) or 140 hours (with 50 hours). If it is not compensated for by free time within a certain period, it must be compensated with a wage supplement of at least 25 percent. "[4]

Work-life balance, collaboration and management style: culture defines the personality of a company. Reveal on kununu.com what the corporate culture of your employer really is - completely anonymously, of course!

"Boss, I already have something in mind"

Admittedly, staying true to yourself and keeping your own promise “I'll really be on time today” is difficult enough. However, the dilemma is even greater when the supervisor demands overtime. A "no" becomes impossible - especially when extra hours from the point of view of your boss form the irrefutable monument of your raison d'etre in the company.

Resistance is also difficult for us because we fear failure, overexertion and social rejection: Before something becomes complicated or we catapult our inner weaker self into an uncomfortable situation, we prefer to linger in the familiar zone. We'd rather stay within the norm in terms of social cuddle pressure than do something that other people dislike. Especially when these people can decide on our future career path.

The yes-man sidekick doesn't come home as a hero

At first glance, the world of work shows you one pattern in particular: Yes-sayers and noders are promoted more often. But here it is worthwhile to take a closer look and take a close look at the executive floor at your workplace. Coach Martin Wehrle reveals in an interview with Zeit Online who the real winners of the successful marathon are. Namely, superiors with clear convictions - and with a clear and self-confident "No" win the career race in the long term. Strength of character and a clear positioning create respect and trust, because clear values ​​show what they stand for - and what not.[5]

And let's be honest: In the end, it's not the yes-man sidekicks of a movie that come home as heroes. But those who defend their values ​​with a clear position, accept conflicts and lead a resistance.

This is how you say “no” to overtime

The next time your boss asks you to work overtime, keep these five points in mind:

  1. If you feel downright attacked by your supervisor and did not expect his request, give yourself time to think it over. You can do this either by clearly communicating that you need to think about it, or by using a smaller task as an excuse so you don't have to answer right away. E.g. “I'll finish this task, then we could talk about it.” Your advantage: That way you don't get an automatic “yes” that you may not be able to take back later.
  2. When you've decided on an answer, be clear. That means: No whispered “No”, no half-hearted excuses, but a loud, clear “No”. Why is it important? This will nip persuasive attempts in the bud and show that you are confident about your decisions.
  3. You should avoid detailed reasons. They quickly sound like you are justifying yourself to yourself and being insecure. This leads to the fact that your counterpart receives food that he can use for his counter arguments. In the worst case, you will catapult yourself out of the way and at the end can only say "Yes".
  4. Know your priorities and your workload. In this way you can tell your boss very clearly: “If I say 'yes' to this task, then I cannot invest the time in the other project. But does this have priority or do you see it differently? "
  5. If overtime has been on the negotiating agenda for you for a long time, prepare yourself before your next employee interview so that you can tackle the issue together with your boss.


[1]Working time report Germany 2016. Dortmund: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
[2]Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
[3]Chamber of Labor Austria
[4]Swiss Federal Chancellery
[5] zeit.de