Why Employees Hate Mandatory Overtime

Two Workers Sleeping at a Table

July 1, 2019

Employee turnover can be described as a butterfly effect with consequences that resonate throughout an organization. One of those consequences is mandatory overtime—employers asking employees to work beyond their shifts to complete tasks. Below are some explanations of why employees hate mandatory overtime.

Less control


When workers are forced into mandatory overtime, their first response is typically indignance. Although neither the law nor their employment contracts are technically violated, their sense of fairness and social equity is on high alert.

To make matters worse, employees know that they have no legal or transactional mechanism to correct this perceived unfairness; they are forced to either accept it or quit and lose their livelihoods. In either case, workers have limited options and freedom to build the work experience that they truly desire.

According to Forbes, flexible work arrangements create buy-in and boost morale. In other words, employees would rather work with a company than for a company. Mandatory overtime robs workers of this necessity; instead of working their desired shifts, employees must work hours dictated to them by management.

Less family time


For most people, family far outranks career on the hierarchy of importance.

In 2000, CBS News conducted an interview with David and Cleo Young, two Verizon employees with young children who were routinely pressured into mandatory overtime. Cleo said that “I shouldn’t have to choose between my job—a job that I love—and my family. I had no choice as to the hours I wanted to do.”

As more millennials enter the blue-collar workforce and as more Generation Xers and Baby Boomers retire, the average age of the frontline workforce will necessarily fall. More frontline employees will start to build young families; at the same time, therefore, the older cohorts will have young grandchildren. Family is always important, but it will become critically important as Americans begin to shift between education, work, and retirement.

In addition to robbing workers of time spent with family, mandatory overtime increases tension on parents’ minds and budgets as they must find childcare with little notice. For many parents, working a job involving mandatory overtime is either impossible or highly stressful.

Less satisfaction


No one likes forced activities, especially when those forced activities are harmful.

A study conducted in 2006 revealed that nurses who work mandatory overtime experience higher rates of musculoskeletal problems. In light of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, it is also likely that this finding correlated with high dissatisfaction. Herzberg’s research found that dissatisfaction always results when a workplace has poor working conditions.

Even if workers are not experiencing physical health problems due to extended hours, mandatory overtime is harmful in other ways. Harvard Business School reports that flexible work hours are correlated with lower stress, lower absenteeism, and lower overall healthcare costs. Of course, mandatory overtime is the direct opposite of workplace flexibility. When employees lose motivation due to mandatory overtime and its effects, their employers suffer as well.

As research shows, employee turnover has the capacity to cripple a frontline business through monetary and nonmonetary costs. The root of employees’ hatred for mandatory overtime resides in feelings of being ignored and unheard. Even if a company is forced to utilize mandatory overtime, the starting point for cutting its associated employee turnover is listening to workers.

Learn how Qlicket is helping companies listen to workers.

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