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Marriage, baby changed supervisor's views about overtime

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Working overtime -- and getting paid for it or being able to take comp time -- is a good opportunity for some workers who say they need the extra cash or the earned leisure.

But many workers don't like additional hours for any reason at all because, they say, overtime wears them out, causes stress and reduces time off for their personal lives.

And there's one expert who says overtime probably isn't necessary in the first place.

Chris Ortiz is a quality engineering supervisor for a manufacturing company in Winston-Salem, N.C. Ortiz designs business and manufacturing processes "to achieve greater productivity" -- and thereby to reduce the need for overtime work. Since 1999, he has focused on workplace problems; his specialty is redesigning the eight-hour workday.

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Manager is 'naked'

Ortiz, author of "40+: Overtime under poor leadership" (AuthorHouse, $24.95), stresses that "bad, inefficient management" usually is the reason overtime is needed in the first place. The industrial engineer, who has a staff of 25 people, points out that a closer look at the need for overtime reveals that the emperor -- in this case, the manager -- is indeed naked.

"There are instances where you do need overtime, for instance to expedite a huge, unexpected order, but in most cases, with good time management and balancing workloads, overtime can be avoided," said Ortiz. "The problem is an inability on the part of managers to identify skill sets and avoid time crunches."

He says the problem is that in corporate America, "every quarter has to be better than the one before, so there's a huge drive at the end of each quarter to make shareholders happy -- and the result is that employees have to work far longer hours in relatively unorganized situations."

Harmful overtime

And overtime isn't harmless, he says. "It causes family problems because you're not at home," said Ortiz.

Many employees, he notes, automatically say yes to overtime. "People are afraid to say no; they're scared because the company hangs their jobs in front of their faces," he said.

Ortiz says a good manager should know what his employees' interests are outside of work and try to accommodate them.

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In a previous job, the engineer worked as an efficiency expert at a company where, at the end of each year, employees worked 18-hour days, resting on cots and then returning to the job. That went on for 30 days straight.

"It was due to inefficiency," he said.

Ortiz's own disillusionment with overtime arose when he met his future wife in 2000 and soon after added a child.

He left a job that required 12-hour workdays, taking work home and skipping lunches.

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