Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Bothers Me

I learned something today that bugs me.

The new A-100 students are once again being told not to request comp time or overtime pay for the overtime they work.

Because "it isn't done."

First off, yes it is.

Second, it is important that you take it for several reasons (with the caveat that I know there are folks out there who will disagree with me).

The first reason it is important is because you have earned it. No, you shouldn't count every minute that you work over. You are supposed to be a professional. That said, there will be S visits, codels, etc that will require you to work lots of overtime and you will need the time off to recharge your batteries.

I didn't claim it at first when I got to Jerusalem, because I bought into that whole "it isn't done" line. We are all one big team. Hoo-rah! But soon you get tired, burned out. And so you have to claim the comp time so you can have a chance to rest. Because there is usually a lot of work. I ultimately ended up taking it as overtime pay because I could never get the time to use my comp time before it expired. And I left Jerusalem exhausted and ready to quit the Foreign Service.

So here is the deal. You WILL work more than 40 hours a week as a matter of course, both before and after tenure. After tenure, you will not be able to get overtime, though some positions, like my current one, so routinely require you to work more than 40 hours that you get a "differential" to make up some of the difference. Because you do need to have a life outside of this job or you will burn out. And the extra pay, while not giving you more time for a life, makes living it a little easier. Plus, once you are tenured, you have job security. You do not when you are not tenured. Overtime and comp time are the price the department pays for being able to get rid of you if they chose (they seldom do).

But a second reason you should claim comp time or overtime is to help with staffing. If you work 60-80 hours per week routinely in your section, but it is never documented, the Department will never know you are short staffed. So when they do hiring increases like they are doing now, they won't know your post needs more people because your work ethics are concealing that. I actually had a boss tell me he prefered Junior Officers claim it so he could demonstrate he needed more people.

So don't listen when the old timers tell you it isn't done. It is. And it is your right. And it is not legal for you to be denied it and your boss can't mention it in your EER.

And you are not less loyal to the Department for asking for it. You are just taking care of yourself so that you can continue to serve.


hannah said...

Exactly! At my last post we regularly claimed overtime because there is no way the job can be done properly with the number of people we had. It got so bad that my boss would randomly call phones at 9 PM to see if any of us answered, then tell us to go home. We just laughed and kept working.

Unknown said...

I agree. No one at my first post ever tried to dissuade me from claiming overtime. In fact, I was sometimes offered extra work just because I could claim OT when others couldn't.

Ben said...

Furthermore, JOs SHOULD at least request comp time because of the whole "annual leave" limitation. When you're on your first tour, you simply don't have the balance of hours to make the most of your time off. Thanks to comp time, I'm going to be able to travel and see the rest of the region and not eat up my annual leave.

A fellow FSO gave me great advice on this: take your time off when you can get it. Your work is never so earth-shattering that you can't take a weekend here and there -- the only caveat is something like a presidential visit, of course! Besides, you don't know when you're going to be in Country X again.

Digger said...

I agree with all of you. As a JO, you get two weeks of vacation a year. Comp time, especially now that it doesn't expire as quickly, gives you some extra leave. And we all may think we are indespensible, but really, at the end our your tour, they will send you somewhere else, where you will drink from the fire hose all over again and put someone else in your slot. We are all exchangable. So don't give up your life.

And we are in such cool places, often in proximity to other cool places. Go there and see them. Don't live for the work.

I also had the experience of people offering me overtime because I could get it, as did my partner at her first post. And we have both done the same since becoming tenured.

I really hope someone tells the new folks. Because we do need them.

Anonymous said...

Any idea if the rules are the same for AID? I keep hearing that JOs can claim comp time.

Madam le Consul said...

I agree absolutely. Every time I've gone to a new consular section, I have to twist arms to get the JOs to claim OT or CT; they too have been led to believe that it 'isn't done' and doesn't reflect team playership. Well, hogwash. As you rightly point out, that's the only way to document chronic understaffed-ness and besides, it is a benefit to which they are entitled and it was given for a reason. It's in the FAM, and to encourage JOs to not comply is unfair to those who are allowed so little leave, as well as setting a bad precedent for FAM flouting in the future.