How your boss tricks you into overwork

How your boss tricks you into overwork

If you've found yourself constantly working beyond working hours or juggling too many responsibilities, chances are you are overworked.

Sure, as part of being a team player, one may have to comply from time to time when asked to go above and beyond their duties.

However, it becomes a problem when this becomes routine or when it’s coming from a boss who expects you to be a workaholic; overworking is never sustainable and you’re likely to reach a point where you feel burnt out.

Here are some common ways in which your boss may be manipulating you to overwork.

  1. Hustle and grind culture

From time to time, taking on additional tasks as your boss sends them your way is a great way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and stretch yourself as an individual on the job.

Your boss may further encourage you by reminding your team of the hustle and grind culture and dubbing your workplace as a fast-paced work environment. If you’re not taking on the additional load, do you even belong to the company?

Your boss may as well throw around quotes like Elon Musk’s “no one ever changed the world in 40 hours a week” and cryptocurrency entrepreneur Ryan Selkis’ “if you don’t work nights and weekends in your 20s, you’re not going to have a successful career”.

  1. Raise or promotion

It may be a tad difficult to say no to requests to take on additional tasks beyond your job description if your manager has recently promised a pay bump or promotion. After all, you would want to be on their good books, especially when e promotion or pay rise is lurking around the corner.

However, if your boss repeatedly promises the pay bump or promotion without any action whatsoever, chances are you’re getting played.

  1. Silent treatment

This is another crafty approach your boss may use by maintaining psychological dominance. They may ignore your text messages, emails, calls, etc. on purpose after having assigned you a bunch of tasks with their respective deadline. It's a quiet way to get you to give in to their demands.

What can you do about it?

So how do you tell your boss that you are deluged with work? No one wants to come across as lazy, uncommitted, or not a team player. So you have to be tricky.

  1. Rank your tasks

When tasks keep heading your way like a locomotive train, request to have a sit down with your boss to lay out the importance of your tasks. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and help you prioritise the ones that require immediate attention.

You should also clarify where the deadline for each of your tasks stands relative to all your other priorities. 

Mahin Rahman (pseudonym) who works for a leading investment firm shared her experience on this end.

“We have our team of twelve divided into ‘pods’ and make sure we are discussing to-dos and deliverables for the coming week without fail through weekly check-ins with each pod.”

“During these catch-ups, our boss briefly runs through our individual to-dos and helps us rank which to-dos we should prioritise for the coming week. These weekly check-ins are also helpful in terms of helping us visualise each individual’s workload realistically and rearranging to-dos accordingly,” she explains how an ideal scenario should be.

“If I feel a given task cannot be completed by the stipulated deadline, I make sure to communicate it to my manager in due time,” she further adds.

  1. Set boundaries

If you realise that overworking is part of the company culture, then it may be time to have a heart to heart conversation with your boss. This may sound intimidating but avoiding it is likely to do more harm than good.

Make it clear to your boss that over the long term, you cannot commit to continuing working on weekends or overtime beyond work hours.

That said, if you are in a work culture that glorifies workaholism, then it may be wiser to head out (unless you are a workaholic yourself).

  1. Don’t enable

Your supervisor’s workaholic tendencies may be a result of pressure and desire to get praised by and from their supervisor, making it difficult for them to initially relate to your desire for more work-life balance.

If you want them to understand that you have a life outside the office, you should try your best to not, under any circumstances, enable their workaholism. Avoid admiring their work or graciously accepting praise upfront when a result is obviously due to overworking.

If you or your boss pulled an all-nighter to complete a project, complimenting the sacrifice can be counter-productive.


As much as clear lines of communication from employees are important, bosses have a role to play as well. As a leader, if you realise that your employees feel overworked, you need to tackle the issue proactively to protect the interest of those who are driving the organisation.

 “We provide a mandatory one-day wellbeing leave every month outside weekends so our employees can engage in self-care activities,” Tawhida Shiropa, Founder and CEO of Moner Bondhu, a mental health counselling and wellbeing platform, shared with the writer about what she does as a leader to prevent burnout in her team.

Put simply, overwork is counter-productive for both employer and employee.

The writer is a senior year student majoring in Economics at the Asian University for Women. [email protected]

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