In most cases, employees must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than 1.5 of their regular pay.

Additionally, companies should have an overtime authorization process and inform overtime-eligible employees that they must obtain advance supervisory approval to work more than their schedule requires. These workers must be paid for all extra hours, whether overtime has been approved or not, however, those who putting in unauthorized overtime may be subject to corrective action.

But practice often differs from theory. And this was the case with Reddit user Young-Grandpa when he worked a couple of decades ago as a technician.

After an unfortunate set of circumstances, he was left to do the jobs of 4 people. As you can imagine, he couldn’t complete all the tasks in 8 hours. However, even though his boss was very pleased with the way the employee managed the workload, they refused to approve the overtime and offered for him to clock out early the next day.

Young-Grandpa agreed. And did so when he was needed the most.

This technician carried the workload of 4 people, but his boss refused to approve his overtime

Image credits: Mitchell Luo (not the actual photo)

Which prompted savage malicious compliance

Image credits: Dylan Gillis (not the actual photo)

We managed to get in touch with Young-Grandpa, and he was kind enough to summarize the context of the whole ordeal for us. “At the time of the incident, I had been with the company about 4-5 years,” the Redditor told Bored Panda. “I’ve stayed there and made a career. I should be retiring in about 5 more years.”

The employee also highlighted that he doesn’t blame his boss for what happened. “That was one of the best supervisors I’ve had. I worked with him for about 5 years and we’ve remained friends ever since,” he said. “The overtime ban was not his idea, it was a corporate mandate. I had actually put him in a tough spot by working it and that’s why I agreed to the compromise of leaving early on a different day. I would have preferred the extra pay.”

“The only rules I broke were working through lunch and working unapproved overtime. Thanks in part to a strong union, and a reasonable manager, I faced no repercussions of any kind,” Young-Grandpa explained the aftermath of the incident.

“They did loosen up on the overtime ban and allowed the first-level managers some leeway in managing their workforce. In turn, this allowed my manager to give me the leeway to make reasonable decisions regarding my time. He knew I generally made good decisions and was not happy about having to deny the overtime. In fact, when he left the position a few years later, he recommended me for the job—while warning me against it,” he said, laughing.

Just like Young-Grandpa, most people aren’t thrilled with the idea of working more hours than they should, and for very good reason. Overtime comes with a whole bouquet of problems, and can be symptomatic of:

  • An overstretched workforce. If the higher-ups have to ask employees to put in extra hours, surely that’s a sign they simply don’t have enough resources;
  • Poor project estimation or time management. Overtime suggests that bosses underestimated the time a project or task would need at the scoping stage, or that they didn’t allow employees enough time to focus on it in addition to their other work;
  • Unrealistic client expectations. Having to work overtime can also occur when clients aren’t aware of the time the job takes, aren’t clear that a brief has been finalized, or put pressure on the worker to complete projects in unreasonable time spans;
  • Communication breakdown. Overtime can also indicate wider communication issues. Needing more hands on deck suggests that no one is imposing proper work boundaries or setting realistic expectations – or if they are, they aren’t doing a good job of it;
  • Toxic company culture. Many workplaces promote a culture of staying late, beyond contractual working hours. It leads to the problem of presenteeism, where employees think they have to put in extra effort – and be noticed doing so – if they want to succeed.

At the end of the day, overtime is very often a result of poor leadership. When it grows into a structural problem, it can breed employee resentment, distrust, and ultimately disengagement, harming the company on a pretty big scale.

In fact, there’s plenty of research that suggests overwork does not help anyone. For starters, it doesn’t seem to produce more output. In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. While managers did penalize employees who were transparent about working less, Reid couldn’t find any evidence that those employees actually accomplished less or any sign that the overworking employees accomplished more.

Additionally, numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and her colleagues (as well as other studies) have found that overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease.

The companies probably aren’t winning much either, as overtime increases absenteeism, turnover, and rising health insurance costs.

Hopefully, that very bad server malfunction has taught the company in which Young-Grandpa worked why overtime isn’t the answer.

As the story went viral, the original poster (OP) provided more info about what happened in the discussion that followed