Why So Many Managers Like To See People Doing Overtime (If That’s Not Productive)?

Why So Many Managers Like To See People Doing Overtime (If That's Not Productive)?

Imagine the following scene: it’s seven-thirty pm, and we still see some employees working, in some areas of the Company. Managers leave their roons and go home happy, because they know these people will stay working some time more. Consider that the regular time is from 8 am to 6 pm. So, do you see anything wrong with that?

Hopefully you said “yes”!

This scene is very typical in an industrial environment, and you will find all reasons and explanations possible for this people to be working overtime. So, why they are working overtime? Why most of managers like so much? And finally, why is it wrong?

Follow me step by step:

Reasons for doing overtime: backorders, projects with tight target dates, manufacturing issues, work not possible to do in regular time, reports to be done, analysis in general, work behind schedule, to look like a good employee, to make more money, etc.

Reasons for most managers like overtime in the area – During my entire career I have known managers that liked to see people doing overtime mainly because that seemed their team was committed. They were not really concerned about “why do we have to work overtime?” or “what do we have to do to avoid doing overtime?” To be honest, I believe I have already scheduled overtime that I would not, today…And, of course, I saw also proper overtime being done, when no other (best) possible alternative was found. And that’s something important to say, sometimes, overtime is an alternative that we have to use. After all, we are in the real world. The issue is the excess of overtime, the repetition of overtime, and the lack of actions to avoid it. The real problem is the people (managers and workers) start getting used with overtime.

Reasons why doing overtime is (mostly) wrong – Firstly, because there are studies, like the one from University of Nebraska (H. Randolph Thomas) that shows that productivity decreases with overtime, and we can realize that also looking at the eyes of people that work overtime. Fatigue or negative attitude is shown, some people may work in low performance as will be doing overtime, it’s a kind of saving energy method in order to handle with the over time. Secondly, because, in general (I said, in general), most of the reasons for the overtime could be avoided with proper management, good process and planning, people with the right competences and even common sense. It’s important to make clear that, sometimes, it is acceptable to do overtime, because we live in the real world, and that’s why overtime is for. Unexpected (and time bounded) orders increase, or quality issues that cause the production gets behind schedule; but, even in this cases, all the other alternatives has to be considered, like planning review or hiring outsourced workers (when appropriate or previous trained).


Next time you see people doing overtime, think about that!