Community QA

Community Q&A: Encouraging Others to Cut Back

Because we receive so many questions from our readers each week, we unfortunately cannot answer every question in the Crucial Skills Newsletter. To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, confrontations, and behavior change challenges, we’d like to introduce our new Community Q&A column! Each month, we’ll select a reader’s question, post it here on the blog, and invite you to share your advice and ideas. Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

One of my colleagues works ten- to thirteen-hour days, even though her job does not require her to put in that many hours. She is a single, middle-aged woman and also volunteers one evening a week at a food pantry. She complains about how long she stays at work, so I have carefully encouraged her to leave on time.

I kindly told her that there are others who can take care of things and that she owes it to herself to get out of work at a reasonable hour. This is always a lose-lose conversation. She says “I know,” but her behavior does not change and she continues to complain that she “stays so late,” she is “so tired,” and “no one ever thanks me for my help.” When other employees ask me why she stays so late, I tell them I don’t know and suggest they ask her.

How can I help my friend stop playing the victim and see that leaving work on time is actually healthy and reasonable?

Full-time Friend


Update: We have received many helpful responses to Full-time Friend’s question. Thank you to everyone who has responded! Here are a few comments that summarize our readers’ advice. If you would like to read or share more advice, please do so in the comments below:

  • “This is a difficult question to answer because we are missing an essential piece of information: What is her motivation for working so late? . . . Could it be that she is not a fast worker and is concerned about meeting a productivity standard? Could she be worried about her position and wants it known that she is going the extra mile? She has a need that must be identified and fulfilled in a healthier manner.” – Julian Fountain
  • “I see this where I work as well, and also find myself falling into the habit now and then of working extra hours. I am a ‘single middle-aged woman’ – my kids are adults and independent. If I don’t have something scheduled with friends or family it’s very easy to stay at work because there is no one waiting for me at home….a rare occurance because I keep myself pretty busy to avoid this situation, and it’s more likely others complain about my ‘being too busy’.

    Your ‘friend’ may need a regular afterwork get together or activity in addition to her volunteering. I’ve taken on the task of getting we ‘single middle-aged ladies’ together once a month or so after work to share conversation and the feeling of togetherness and ‘family’ that others get at home in the evening – others (married/male) are also included. Give it a try, my guess is she needs her ‘friends from work’ more than she needs to ‘be at work’ but doesn’t know how to ask.” – Linda

  • “What exactly is it that’s bothering you? Is it the fact that she complains about working late, or something else? Whatever it is, I think it’s essential at this point that you address what is bothering you, not her . . . Just remind her that this has been going on for a while with no change. Let her know how it makes you feel, and suggest a brainstorming session regarding how you can help change whatever you or she needs to change to improve the situation.” – Dave