Q: Six months ago, I took a position at a small public relations firm. This is my first full-time position after college, though I have done internships in the field. At first, everything went smoothly. I willingly work long hours because I believe that I am gaining an enormous amount of experience.
However, after a couple of months, my boss started to come into the office after 1 p.m., leaving me to run the entire business by myself much of the time. It is late in the evening before he gets up to speed, and then I am responsible for the execution of all his plans.
So, I find that I work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. I am exhausted and frustrated with the tremendous amount of work that I do. My position would be ideal if we worked together in a sane fashion. I don't mind working long hours, but I feel that I am being taken advantage of because I do all the work.
I don't know if I should tell my boss how I feel, but it seems to me that my boss has been operating this way for quite some time, and I doubt that he would want to change. I don't want to quit before a year because it will be easier to find a good job with a year's experience. What can I do to help alleviate my stress and frustration?
A: Even if your boss has been operating in this fashion for a long time, you shouldn't. Resolve that you won't let him take advantage of you anymore.
Think through how much you want to give to this job, taking into account what you are learning. Then, ask for a meeting with your boss. Tell him that you have been getting increasingly stressed with your job circumstances and that, having considered your situation, you concluded that your approach to work has to change.
Ask him if he would find it possible to collaborate with you along these lines. If he says yes, stick to the new rules. If he hesitates or says no, look for another job now. Your current one won't last a year anyway -- you'll crash and burn.
Working hours are a highly charged subject. A few weeks ago, I answered a reader who was wondering about the difference between government and private-sector employees that I thought a professional employee should stay with a job until it's done -- and that it's too bad that the government agencies he came into contact with did not succeed in instilling this attitude in their employees.
This brought quite a few protests.
"What if you are given more work than anyone could possibly do during normal working hours -- and then get punished when you fail to meet impossible deadlines?
"This happened to me in the federal government when I worked for the 'Boss from Hell.' She worked all kinds of hours and expected all of us to do the same, inspired by her example. It might even have worked if she didn't lose her temper and scream at us on a frequent basis."
"For too many managers, the term, 'professional' has become synonymous with someone expected to be a workaholic with no personal life. That might not be so bad if all professionals received the six-figure salaries that some do."
"I once worked for a company that specifically worked in personal time contribution into the annual performance review. I think the extra hours extracted from an employee by management for the sake of a company's bottom line are as unethical as embezzlement would be."
"As a city planner in Texas, I would love to know where this person got a municipal planning job where he or she only has to work 40 hours a week. Perhaps this person's agency was as lazy as the people they serve in California."
As I reflect on these reactions, I can't help but conclude that there is no right or wrong answer on this subject. Every person ultimately has to decide what he or she will put into a job.
In a book I had written, both extremes -- the ones who work with an eye on the clock as well as the ones who let themselves be taken advantage of (as in the first questions) are wrong. But, in general, a person will get out of a job what he or she puts into it.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara. Send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.