A Flashing Red Warning Light or My Fear?


I quit my former job in December, fearing that that if I didn’t leave, I’d be placed on a performance improvement plan. I took a month off and carefully screened prospective employers, looking for ones that said they believe in a healthy work/life balance.

My former boss was a tough-as-nails manager. Nothing I did ever met his expectations. I tried by working days, evenings and weekends. He’d only say, “I know you can do better,” pushing me to work harder and forcing me to subsequently push the employees under me. They grew to hate me, called me a workaholic, and rebelled, going to HR and complaining about me.

The month after I left, my former employees got hundred of dollars of Christmas bonuses based on the profits I’d brought into the company. So my employees slammed me but benefited from my efforts. And my boss came out of it the “good guy” who rewarded everyone with bonuses.

I’ve been in this new job for eight months. Whenever my manager pushes me to “do more,” I react inside. I’ve tried to hold it in, but this morning he told me that I’d been here long enough to learn the ropes and now needed to show what I could do.

I freaked out and asked him what he meant. He said that I was salaried but was acting like an hourly employee and that it hadn’t escaped his notice that I was working only 40 hours a week. I snapped back that I stayed late sometimes, and he said most exempt professionals worked 40 to 50 hours weekly and added that I needed to “up my game.”

Is this a flashing warning light? Do I need to find a new job?


Possibly–if you don’t want a job where you work more than 40 hours weekly.

If you want to succeed in this job, however, you may need to overcome your emotional reaction to being asked to “do more”. Because your last job ended badly, with a final kick coming from others getting bonuses after slamming you, you’re carrying past-job  baggage.

Evaluate your current boss’ expectations as a separate reality from your past “tough-as-nails” manager. He’s clearly allowed you to work 40 hours a week for eight months and now wants you to “up your game.” That doesn’t equate to pushing you to work evenings and weekends.

Exempt, salaried professionals consider 40 hours a week a minimum and generally work 45 to 55 hours weekly. That’s their reward for not being dinged when they have a midday medical appointment and for getting salaries higher than hourly employees make. Are you currently working fewer hours than your current employer has the right to expect because you want to balance out your past overwork?

You may also be reacting because you’re particularly vulnerable to accusations that you don’t meet others’ expectations. What do you think about how you’re doing? Are you playing less than your “A” game because you don’t want to “give too much”? If so, what’s the right balance between overdoing and not doing enough?

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at lynnewriter10@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.


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One thought on “A Flashing Red Warning Light or My Fear?

  1. Fantastic post. I really appreciate you Lynne — both providing space for employees to describe issues and asking for reflection/introspection. I don’t think employers provide these two items enough, so we really need outside experts to way in and help.

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