How To Get More Hours On The Job

There’s no doubt about it, Americans are working less — not just in terms of steeper unemployment levels but also in the sense of overtime.

Can you do something to get more hours at work? For a lot of folks, the answer is going to be yes. Here’s how:

By The Numbers

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the official unemployment level topped 8 percent in February, a rate likely to go higher.

Meanwhile, for those who have jobs, the news is also bleak. The BLS reports that of this writing a typical private-sector employee saw the usual workweek contract from 33.6 hours the third quarter of 2008 to 33.3 hours in February 2009. Seemingly not a big deal, however overtime fell from 3.6 hours per week to 2.6 hours. If one hour of overtime is paid on the basis of time-and-a-half, then at $18.47 per hour — the typical wage — our model worker is out $27.70. (3.6 hours less 2.6 hours = 1 hour. 1 hour at $18.47 x 1.5 = $27.70).

Over a one-year period, that’s $1,440.40.

What Not To Say

With companies reducing both jobs and hours, it may see as though it would be impossible to get more time and thus more income. In some cases that’s certainly true, but in many situations there is some flexibility. While employers would generally prefer not to pay overtime, with fewer workers overtime is actually cheap when compared to the cost of an additional body.

With that in mind, if you go to your boss and say you “need” more time on the job, you lose. Why? A few reasons.

First, the usual trade is employee time and labor for employee pay and benefits. If you “need” to work then the employer has leverage over you. What you want is a situation where you’re an equal in the marketplace with the employer, otherwise you’ll never be paid what you’re worth.

Notice that your “need” may be real and pressing. Still, you don’t want to tell your boss if you can help it.

Second, not all employers are saintly human beings. Some employers will take advantage of you if they can, others will take advantage because they’re being pressured by the management above them. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that you’ll get screwed.

Third, saying that you “need” work pushes the wrong button. The right button is this: Show the employer how he benefits.

An Example

“Wally, you know I really want to be the best worker in the place, the one person upon whom you can absolutely depend. I want to get stronger with the 1407 project (or with a lathe, or with clients, etc.) and to do that I need more time and experienceso I can do a better job for you. When you check the schedule can you see if there might be more time for me. I can work late (or early or on weekends, etc.), whatever best suits your needs.”

Now the issue is packaged and marketed differently. Wally — the decision maker — can see how HE will benefit if you get more time at the workplace. You can bet that the next time Wally has a little more work that needs to be done, he will choose the person who can boost his interests rather than the person who doesn’t put Wally first.

Say Thanks

Amazingly enough, bosses are people too. If you get some extra time, always thank your boss in terms he can understand.

“Wally, I really appreciate your help with the Foster project (or machine repairs, or work at night, or whatever). I really think that during the past few weeks I’ve gotten much better, something that would not have happened without the extra hours.”

That’s it, that’s all you have to say.

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