It was a busy day, but now it’s 6:30 and you've finished your project. As a junior in most corporate organizations, work is often assigned to you rather than generated by you. If you are finished with the assignments and your services are no longer needed for the day, can you leave? I’ve been often told that the answer is NO. However, by knowing your boss(es), knowing your organization’s culture, and using your judgment, it doesn't have to be NO.
Ask. This is my favorite piece of advice for most difficult questions in the office. Ask people somewhat more senior than you and ask your boss, indirectly.
For the mid-level (assuming you have a relationship with this person): “Hey Mike, how late did you usually stick around when you were just starting out?”
For the boss: “Hey Barbara, I’d like to make sure I’m on target, what are typical hours for someone at my level?”
Survey the scene. You can go to the bathroom or go grab coffee and see if people are generally still around and busy. Don’t leave before your boss, but you don’t necessarily have to stick around until everyone in the office is gone.
Trust your instinct. Does your organization have a reputation for long hours? Have your co-workers complained of being swamped lately? Did you hear about someone getting fired for leaving early too often? If you feel that your group is in a busy season or you get the sense that leaving early is accompanied by unwanted criticism, stay and read articles about your field or network by reaching out to contacts via e-mail.
Communicate. Different people have different approaches to leaving. Some prefer the ninja method of sneaking out undetected—lights still on…jacket on the chair…office door halfway closed – I prefer the communication method, letting anyone I’m working with who is still in the office (see survey above) that I’m heading out.
For the mid-level: Stop by his office… “Hi Mike, I was wondering if you needed anything else before I head out for the day.”
For the boss: See above. I told you not to leave before your boss…
In most corporate jobs, there will come the 2am nights, which in my universe balances out the 6:30 nights. If the work is done and you’ve made yourself available, go home. Just keep your phone on and be sure to check e-mails.
A brief note on leaving late
Stay until the work is done, if it has to be done that day. Never complain, but let it be known that you have stayed late. Typically, I throw it in casually when asked about my workload.
Mike: “How’s it going? You getting a lot of work?”
Me: “Good. I’ve had a few late nights on that XYZ project, but I’m learning a lot.”
To maximize the effect of staying late:
· Leave your office door open
· Walk around occasionally so people see you’re still there
· Respond to e-mails in real time
What time do you typically leave the office?