Dear Lifehacker, I love my job and my boss. I also value what little free time I get and unfortunately it seems that almost every weekend my boss emails me something that either takes a huge chunk of my weekend or gets me stressing out over dealing with it on Monday. How can I get the time off I deserve and still be respectful to my boss?
Title image remixed from Ljupco Smokovski (Shutterstock).
It’s incredibly important for your mental health and your overall productivity to get the breaks you deserve. Sure, working on the weekend can show your boss you’re proactive about the job, but you can’t do it all the time. You have a few really solid options for how to approach the situation, so let’s get to it so you can enjoy the weekend off.
Make Your Request In Concise Language
Your boss doesn’t really want to hear you say “no”, but it’s important to be as direct as possible. In an article on CNBC, co-author of the book Conversation Transformation Dr Ben Benjamin recommends you do this by speaking in concise language:
As we all know, bosses tend to have selective hearing, and will hear what they want to hear while ignoring the rest. When you do use a “yes-but”, a boss may “tune out” after the “yes” portion, resulting in your objection (the “but”) falling on deaf-ears. So when communicating your message, you need to be sure that you are saying exactly what you mean. It is essential that you choose your words wisely and deliver the precise message that you mean to.
The idea is that when we talk with a boss we tend to avoid absolutes and dance around the fact we need something. Tell your boss in plain language that you can’t work every weekend and then supplement that with a reasoning why. The best reason you can have? That your brain simply can’t take it anymore. Let’s see what science has to say about working too much. Image: marc falardeau.
Convince Your Boss With The Power Of Science
Honestly, you shouldn’t need to justify your position to your boss, but if you’re worried you’ll come off as a slacker who doesn’t want to work, you may want to show your boss how it’s effecting the rest of your performance.
[F]or the last 100 years, every productivity study in every industry has come to the same conclusion: after about 40 hours in a week, the quality of your work starts to degrade. You make mistakes. That’s why working 60 hours may not save you time or money: you’ll spend too much of that time fixing the mistakes you shouldn’t have made in the meantime.
Essentially, you’re useless on the weekend or you’re useless by the time you return to work on Monday. That’s the best case you can make to your boss. Sit down and talk with your boss about what you need and make the argument that you’re just not able to work as much as she’s requesting. Image: RDECOM.
Offer An Alternative Plan
Unless something is actually on fire, chances are whatever tasks your boss wants you to do over the weekend can wait until Monday. Instead of outright saying “no” to a weekend project propose another solution. If the project comes in on a Friday you can suggest that you’ll stop what you’re doing right now and do the new task, but the one you’re doing will have to wait until Monday. Alternately, you can suggest you push around your Monday due dates so fit in the new task.
Just because a project comes in on the weekend doesn’t mean you have to do it immediately. If it can wait then let it wait. If you have trouble ignoring those requests it might be time to shut down your email on the weekends.
Forcefully Cut Yourself Off
You can never guarantee your boss will respect your wishes and stop emailing you over the weekend. In that case, you should set up your inbox so you don’t check them on evenings and weekends. Talk to your boss and come up with a system to differentiate between priority emails over the weekend and the emails that are just meant to help you prepare for your return on Monday morning. If your email account is properly prioritised you’ll be able to shut off those pestering messages without worrying that you’re missing a critical task.
This is especially helpful if you’re the type who takes on the weekend work even if it’s not a priority. Don’t allow yourself the option to even look at those emails unless you absolutely have to.
What matters in the end is that you get some rest and enjoy your time off. If you’re looking to progress in a position it’s a great idea to take on the extra work now and again, but if it’s happening every weekend then you need to put your foot down. Image: Mr Thinktank.
PS How do you usually go about telling your boss you’re not willing to work through the weekend?
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