Workplace doctor: Do I have to give up all my Fridays?

I've been asked to work every weekend and take a weekday off. How can I negotiate this?

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I have been asked to work every Friday and take my day off on Tuesdays. This is to make sure the company is running smoothly seven days a week rather than six days a week. My boss has told me that this is an honour as running the company solely on a Friday means he trusts me enough to do so. However, I will lose valuable time with my family. How can I negotiate this issue? I don't mind working the occasional Friday but don't want to give up every Friday. SA, Sharjah

Hi SA, is this really a dilemma? My instant reaction is to ask whether your boss will be at your bedside the day you die, thanking you for giving up each Friday family fun time just for his business. I’m sure you already have your answer – isn’t perspective an amazing tool?

Coming back to reality though, there’s many variables in this letter that I can’t possibly appreciate such as the trust that exists between you and your boss, the history of how this company views and rewards effort along with many other unknowns.

Bearing that in mind, my first discussion point from a logic perspective is really about a business owner’s responsibility to resource a business in the right way. There is a fine line between efficiency and effectiveness, and ‘robbing from Peter to pay Paul’ only serves to ‘thin’ resources. If a business does require manning on regular days off such as family days, this is a fairly specific requirement that needs to be stipulated in the appropriate documents such as the job description or person specification. A business owner should not simply expect others to provide this coverage, but recruit accordingly and bear the brunt of that such as a loaded hourly rate, or even cover the time themselves.

I sense SA that you are still maintaining a level of balance with this request though, considering yourself to be a part of a solution, quite admirably so – something that possibly reflects the relationship you have with your boss. The word of caution I add here is whether the corporate culture demonstrates short-term memory. If so, ask yourself whether the favour of covering some Fridays could turn into an expectation and not be appreciated nor flexibly approached.

In business, I believe it’s one thing to help out (something that will always be required in exceptional circumstances) but do not accept responsibility for something that is clearly to be owned by another. This is why I would never work with my friends as time and time again I see delineation of responsibility becoming blurred, normally with the situation not ending well at all.

Again going back to the litmus test, picture yourself saying to your children that you cannot attend a picnic because you have to work, or as a single person saying to your family network that you cannot join their weekend activity.

My second discussion point from a logic perspective is when we need to say no, the negative message can always be softened if an alternative can be offered at the same time. Without knowing the duties that are required to be covered, there’s many options for you to explore.

Do you know of any tertiary-level student looking for a bit of spare cash (I believe there’s a new working visa for that in Dubai at least). Is there any business owner in start-up mode that you know of who would willing to cover this day and invoice it back, and/or are there any great social media advertising sites that could send the word out to see who might jump at the chance, such as Dubizzle.

All in all SA, it’s great to see you as a proactive employee and even better that you are being honoured. Just please remember that it’s not just the company that has to run smoothly but also you, your family life and lastly your career too.

Compromise is a choice – revisit what matters most to you before taking any decision.

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague