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How do you keep up with workaholic colleagues?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community2 months ago

I work with a team of 5 engineers amongst whom two are in my timezone. They always work overtime, work over weekends. They dont necessarily create a bigger impact but they are constantly posting on team chat groups about minor issues that they have seen and resolve it over the weekends. And stay late evenings and very late nights talking to the other team members. They spend a great deal of time obsessing over minor details like naming convention, doing repeated tasks.

I cannot keep up with this culture. I would actually like to have a personal life and spend some free time during the week working on side projects or learning something. At some point the opportunities do go to the people who have the most visibility right, no matter how mundane the work they do is? How do I navigate this? I would like to maintain a good reputation and work on interesting things. But I feel like I may be overlooked for promotions due to this. Any advice for me?

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(3 comments)
  • 27
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    I worked at Meta, which is full of engineers like this. My team at Instagram had a lot of overworking folks, and I felt the exact same thing you did. My advice to you is simple: Ignore this.

    Of course, there are some caveats, but based on what you've said, I think you're on a good route to follow this advice. You mentioned that even though your teammates are working so hard, it's not like they're churning out way more impact than you are. This lines up with what I strongly believe: Working insane hours rarely leads to true productivity gains.

    The thing you should figure out (and please share that context by replying back on this thread if you have the time) is if this perception of working crazy hard is benefiting them while hurting you. Does your manager think you are slacking off because your teammates work so hard and you aren't? Is your manager giving your teammates the best projects because of this perception, leaving you out to dry? Answering these questions will lead you to 1 of 2 possible outcomes:

    1. You not working crazy hours is hurting you - At this point, I actually think you should find another job. If a company rewards perception of hard work over actual impact (doesn't matter if it's achieved in 80 hours or 8 hours), then that's not a good tech company with a merit-based performance system. Those kinds of companies tend to be very toxic and are hard to grow/get promoted in. If this is the path, you can follow my new course: [Course] Ace Your Tech Interview And Get A Job As A Software Engineer
    2. Your organization is fair and rewards impact - In other words, engineers are held accountable for achieving real results instead of merely putting in a bunch of hours for show. This is what every team should be. If your manager gives you props and you two have a good relationship despite you not working crazy hours, then congratulations, you have a wonderful team! Follow the advice in Taro to get the most bang for your buck with the normal amount of hours you do work and continue letting your impact + high quality of work speak for itself. Here's some good resources for that:
      1. [Course] Level Up Your Code Quality As A Software Engineer
      2. "How to figure out what the most important projects are?"

    Here's a bunch of great resources about WLB as well: [Taro Top 10] Work-Life Balance

  • 18
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    Become an expert in something valuable. At the end of the day, what matters is impact, not how many hours you spend. It sounds like your coworkers are spending time on low-leverage tasks that don't really help anyone, so those extra hours aren't hurting you.

    If you focus on developing expertise, you will be safe from layoffs or critique. e.g. everyone comes to you for the build system, the API, the mobile app release, or something else. Not only will you be safe from layoffs, but if you're able to improve the system for which you're an expert, you may get promo opportunities.

    If you're irreplaceable like this, you don't have to fight or win on the battle of number of hours. I'd highly recommend [Masterclass] How To Learn Quickly In Tech, which talks about the importance of depth in learning.

    See also the discussion here: Shifting from generalist to specialist

    • 5
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      Senior Leadership at Meta
      2 months ago

      The most important part here is to have a chat with your manager and ensure that you have a full alignment with them on their expectations. If your manager is clear what the expectations for you are as an engineer, how much and when is it reasonable to answer, what are the projects and impact you should deliver at your role. All of that should be your guiding principles.

      Now it's very important for your manager to set the tone for the team and explain what a Healthy Culture looks like, and if they are encouraging this behavior across the team that might be the core of the issue.

      You can be very clear and upfront with your manager and colleagues that they cannot and should not expect from you to respond during out of office hours. Set that expectations very clearly and even post about it something like personal "Readme" and if anyone is pushing on that this means you might be in the wrong company altogether.