Q: I started my new job two months ago and am shocked by the working hours. Everyone's in by 8.30am and no one leaves before 7pm, even if they've finished their work. The two founders expect everyone to put in the same hours as them and the staff (mostly grads) are too scared to speak up. I'm a hard worker but I don't agree in staying late for the sake of it. Do I quit or speak up?
Jeremy says: The key piece of information in your letter is that this is a start-up, run by its founders. And if you're going to work for founders, you need to understand them because they're different from other employers.
These two people have staked everything: probably their houses, certainly their savings - and, perhaps most importantly of all, their pride and their reputations. It's no good expecting them to be 'reasonable'. To get this company off the ground, they believe (and probably rightly) that they need to commit themselves to unreasonable hours and unreasonable effort, and they expect all those working for them to do the same. Even if there's no further work to be done, to leave on the dot of 5.30 is unacceptable behaviour: an act of disloyalty verging on the traitorous. Unless you can come to share this almost fanatical sense of dedication, your future probably lies elsewhere.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.