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So I've been working at this job for a couple of months. I'm a little frustrated because I do my best work from 2 to 7. In previous jobs, I've come in at 9:30-10:00 and leave at 7. Some companies have been okay with this, others have not.

But my current company insists on my being there at 8:30. Any deviation from this is a big deal. Is this typical? I have colleagues who are more 9:30 to 6:30, 10:00-7:00 guys...but maybe that is just startup culture?

I don't see why, given that I don't meet clients, etc. what the advantage to having things be so rigid could be. I also don't see why if there is 15 to 20 minute variation sometimes in coming in, why people don't just assume that I will adjust when I leave...

Are these unreasonable expectations as a developer or am I missing something?

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"Early to rise and early to bed, makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead" - Thurber –  Henry Jun 30 '11 at 7:21
    
+1 @Henry lol I'll remember that one, nice twist :) –  Darknight Jun 30 '11 at 8:34
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You should have asked that question at the interview. Flex-time and little to no overtime are really important too me. I doubt I would ever take a position that didn't provide both. –  Dunk Jun 30 '11 at 13:28
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@Henry..and adding "your wife sleeps with somebody else..." :) –  Srinivas Reddy Thatiparthy Jun 30 '11 at 14:53
    
Do they say the same to people who come in at 6 or 7 and leave early? Or is it just people who are perceived as 'lazy' because they are not there at 8:30? –  pyvi Jul 1 '11 at 6:11

14 Answers 14

It's not unreasonable.

Even though it might not be ideal to your needs as a person or a developer, it might make sense for everyone else. Having everyone come in on time helps identify who comes in late. Having everyone come in on time helps minimize arguments regarding "why does he get to come in late and I don't?". Having everyone come in on time helps schedule early meetings, for those rare cases where someone does need you face to face.

Those are just some of the reasons. They may not be important to you or make sense to you, but they make enough sense for the person signing your paychecks. It's not at all unreasonable or rare.

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If they expect you to be there at 8:30, you should expect to leave at 5. –  kevin cline Jun 30 '11 at 5:01
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"Having everyone come in on time helps identify who comes in late" - that's kind of a self-referential statement, like "Having everyone wear a silly hat helps to identify those who don't" - in other words, it doesn't necessarily make any sense. –  user281377 Jun 30 '11 at 6:26
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"why does he get to come in late and I don't?" - if the company allows flexible times, nobody will ask this question, because the answer could only be "it's your own decision!" –  user281377 Jun 30 '11 at 6:27
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"Having everyone come in on time helps schedule early meetings, for those rare cases where someone does need you face to face." If you schedule a meeting, I can only hope you do that in advance, so everybody knows and agrees that on Thuersday, Jun 30, they should be in the office at 8:30. I wouldn't want to be surprised by an early meeting as the first thing when I come into the office. What good could it be if I had no time at all to prepare for the meeting? –  user281377 Jun 30 '11 at 6:29
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I'm not at all advocating that being blindly process-oriented is a good thing. I'm just saying, hey, there are other people and other priorities in the workplace besides just you the one developer. Take those into consideration and you will discover that despite how dumb you think these policies are, they are not unreasonable. I didn't say they were right or favorable. Think outside the cubicle. –  Mark Canlas Jun 30 '11 at 19:44

Well I guess that is a programming question. I think it is pretty common.

As to why...

  1. It might be that they feel collaboration will work better as it is a problem when different time zones and schedules are involved.
  2. Along the same vein, this might promote a better "team" atmosphere.
  3. And of course it's always possible that you're superiors are forced to start at 8:30 and by golly you're going suffer too.
  4. They may have had some discipline issues in the past and are rigid now.

I think you would do well to try to determine the exact (and real) reasons from within the company and then present your case on how they would benefit from a more flexible attitude.

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In my mind, 1 & 2 are the only legitimate reasons for a programmer to arrive at a specific time. So +1 for those. –  Nick Jun 30 '11 at 6:18

But my current company insists on my being there at 8:30. Any deviation from this is a big deal. Is this typical?

Yes it is typical. And companies like that tend to have very high turnover with developers. I was chatting with one of the project managers I used to work with (he's now a VP with some other company) and he was describing the policy at the company he was working at (at that time, one of the big satellite tv providers): starting time was 0830. The second time you are late (within a certain period), the door doesn't open when you swipe your access card, it instead calls your boss who has to come let you in. The third time (in that certain period), it contacts HR who fires you. He was commenting on the 200% turnover they had, and chuckling at the clueless other managers who created this policy. He also mentioned that he gave out his cellphone number to everyone under him, so that if they were late, he could get around the system to get them to work.

Some managers are process oriented, and others are results oriented. You will quickly learn how to tell them apart. If you're smart, you'll figure out a way to ask in the interview some questions to determine one from the other without killing your interview.

In a results-oriented company, what you get done is more important than how you look or what your hours are. These companies/bosses have the least impedance mismatch for developers. In those companies, when someone tries to say "waaah, q303 comes in late", a results-oriented boss will say "q303 gets his products shipped on time and under budget, what have you done lately?" Stars and heroes are very common in results-oriented companies.

In a process-oriented company, how you get things done is more important. For a process-oriented boss, what time you arrive, what time you leave, and what cover sheet is stapled to your TPS report is extremely important. There is a huge impedance mismatch between the typical developer and this sort of manager. There are no favorites, nor stars, in a process-oriented company, and this is the sort who will deliberately fire anyone found to be indispensable. The perfect example of a process-oriented company is a fast food franchise - the goal is for every burger to be the same at every store in the country. If you make a better burger, you'll lose your franchise with them.

Modern business schools teach managers that they do not need to understand a business (nor what their employees actually do) in order to be a manager. These folks will want you warming that seat at the appropriate time because that is something that they can measure - they don't know what you do, nor do they care to, scientific management says they don't.

As you gather more experience in the working world, you'll find out that what is important to your boss is what you give them. You could cure cancer, balance the federal budget while juggling running chainsaws, but that doesn't matter because you come in late. They don't see you when you leave at 2am, because they leave "on time" (whatever that means).

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+1 for you could cure cancer, balance the federal budget and it wouldn't matter. That's EXACTLY how I feel and it is demotivating. I saved the company $30,000 in licensing costs a week ago. Doesn't matter! I was 15 minutes late this morning...when they make such a big deal about punctuality, it demotivates me because I feel it doesn't matter what I do. What matters is my butt is in the chair at a certain time. –  q303 Jun 30 '11 at 4:55
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Dilbert's pointy haired boss coming alive. I never heard something like this about any company here in Germany or Europe in general. All developers would quit immediately. –  thorsten müller Jun 30 '11 at 5:51
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@q303, my father described the situation to me this way: "when you go to work, they hand you 2 buckets. One they fill with money, the other they fill with shit. When the bucket of shit weighs more than the bucket of money, then it is time to quit." As for the saving $30k, write that down in a notebook somewhere to use for your performance review (if they have them). You cannot cure process-oriented people of their affliction. After all, things like ISO 9000 are the same sort of processes these folks adore. –  Tangurena Jun 30 '11 at 6:07
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Remember that your employer is the one who sets the priorities. If being on time is what counts, be on time. If getting stuff done is what counts, get stuff done. Clearly you're supposed to favour the former. If you could stay late and get something done, remember that punctuality is much more important than whatever it is you're doing. –  Мסž Jun 30 '11 at 9:49
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+1 - Found myself working at a process-oriented company and left pretty quickly. Individuals were seen as good if they matched the company profile and toed the line (including arriving at 9am and leaving at 5.30pm), irrespective of their actual performance at work. This just breeds complacency, doing well and standing out were bad - everyone did just as much as they needed to. Saying things like "Hey, I have an idea!" or "Wait, we could do this better!" were very dangerous indeed. –  Qwerky Jun 30 '11 at 9:50

I have never been happy or productive at companies like this. You won't like the code either, because these shops tend not to retain good developers. Get another job where the managers have a clue. There are lots of them.

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+1 in general, but no go for "There are lots of them." Maybe in absolute terms, but at least I've never heard of anywhere in the private sector where you won't get ragged at for being 10 minutes late (never mind that you ~always work more than 10 minutes overtime), except for where I am right now. Now this company is result-oriented. –  l0b0 Jun 30 '11 at 6:47
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@l0b0, as others have commented above, this may be country/area specific. I have worked at several European companies, and not a single one of them was so rigid with start/finish times. The closest to this was a German shop measuring the effective work times per day, but even there we were allowed to come in anytime before 11AM. –  Péter Török Jun 30 '11 at 7:51
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This x100. Smart companies don't measure developers the same as other office drones. The stupid ones do and whine if you're a couple of minutes late or take an extended lunch but work overtime every so often. These companies only retain the dregs who can't manage to do beyond the minimum level, as anyone clued-in will leave to find greener pastures. –  Wayne M Jun 30 '11 at 13:23

One of the (reasonably legitimate) reasons I haven't seen mentioned yet is that in many/most companies, support issues get escalated to the developers who know their product. To avoid critical production support issues going unanswered, the company expects the developers to be at their desk for the full client business day.

In a past company I worked at, it was quite common to get support issues come in overnight and early in the morning (due to timezone issues - we had clients an hour or two away - at both ends of our own timezone). So it seemed quite unprofessional when a critical production issue was happening and it couldn't be dealt with by at late as 11am or lunchtime client time - because the responsible developer wasn't coming into work until 10am.

Otherwise, Tangurena is right.

Edit: I should mention - what I meant by issues coming in overnight and in the morning is that they had to be dealt with first thing in the morning. Support was never really required at night, but it looked bad if people showed up very late in the morning and left clients in the lurch until late morning or lunchtime. This was the reason for generally needing to be on time in the mornings.

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I'm their only developer and their DBA. I do support an application I built. The tickets come in at all times, though honestly there aren't that many. –  q303 Jun 30 '11 at 5:08
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I disbelieve. Developers have cellphones and should be able to work remotely. –  btilly Jun 30 '11 at 5:32
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I worked at a company in Fort Lauderdale, FL, that supported doctors and pharmacies. The group I worked for had to have someone present and available from 7AM Eastern to 6PM Pacific to support the help desk. One of the guys working there loved to be in at the crack of dawn because he liked the beach in the afternoon. I usually got in at 10-11am. When folks said "I want your hours" I'd reply that I was going to be there until 11pm, then they immediately said "I don't want your hours". As long as the help desk was covered, and our work got done, the bosses didn't care what we did. –  Tangurena Jun 30 '11 at 6:00
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@btilly: I agree in general, but it's not always practical. The particular workplace I'm talking about is an example where it was very hard to do anything useful remotely. Dealing with a nasty support issue was highly dependent on having full, uninhibited, real time onsite access to the production environment. A cellphone conversation about the description of the symptoms of the problem was next to useless. Granted this is only applicable to certain types of work. It might be totally adequate in many other cases. –  Bobby Tables Jun 30 '11 at 6:14
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They don't allow remote work at all. –  q303 Jun 30 '11 at 6:16

About a year ago, I had an employer who valued style over substance, and thought it reflected positively on his company to have happy, smiling employees at their desks by 8:30 in the morning. Except when I needed to take conference calls with teams in Asia, I had never really needed to keep such early hours, but it seemed essential in the 8:30-5 shop that I was working for.

I'm a bit of an insomniac, so this didn't work very well for me. I would often arrive exhausted and didn't do my best possible work, but apparently that wasn't as important as the ritual at that company.

Fortunately for me, since that CEO valued style over substance to such an extent that he wasn't actually conducting the business he said he was. He's now in jail awaiting trial for money laundering, wire fraud, running a Ponzi scheme, etc. This may not apply to your case (I'd say the odds are that it doesn't), but the upside is that I quickly found another job when that company declared bankruptcy, but before they completely ran out of mis-appropriated investor funds. So you may find a light at the end of the tunnel: Namely, another job.

Startup culture in most worlds that I can think of don't emphasize early-to-rise hours. They may expect long hours, self-sacrifice, and your full attention, but not usually early morning start times. It's kind of hard to simultaneously expect early morning start times and after-hours availability, after all, so most startups tend to have flexible hours, at least in the West Coast. Most interesting software companies emphasize delivering great stuff over all sorts of other things, occasionally valuing results over basic social skills and general pleasantness. (I prefer a more balanced approach, personally).

That being said, I don't think an 8:30 start time is completely unreasonable; I've made certain adjustments to my daily routine to accommodate employer needs. I would just prefer a more flexible start time, and tend to take gigs with companies that are less rigid about things that aren't related to delivery of quality work. (I have a family now, and starting after 9:30 on a regular basis would burden my family's routines as well, so I try to head off to work early enough to get home by 7 or so, but I also do some late night work from home).

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A while back I worked for a major investment management company. Most people connected to their core business got there no later than 6:00am. Most devs came in no later than 8:00. But I liked to come in at 10:00. (I still got up early, but I like to exercise for a couple hours first. lol.) My boss? He couldn't have cared less. All he cared about was results. This worked well for me. However, at least once every 2 to 3 months someone from another group would complain "blah blah blah why does HE get to come in all late??" and word would get back to my boss. He would sit me down, tell me he doesn't agree with it, but could I please come in at 8:30 to keep the peace? I'd apologize, make an effort to come in earlier, but within a week I'd be back to my 10:00am arrival time. That cycle repeated for two years! The truth is, it didn't matter when I came in because most of my work there was highly independent. If I had early meetings or needed to collaborate with coworkers, I of course would arrive at an appropriate time for those specific things. My boss could have put his foot down any time he wanted to--had he, say, threatened to fire me, I would have made damn sure to come in earlier--but as long as I got my work done he simply didn't care.

The moral of the story: see what you can work out with your boss that would give you greater flexibility but still allow you to do whatever it is that's necessitating the relatively early start time.

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One valid reason is that if you allow lot of flexibility, it's practically impossible to organize any big meeting. You can't do it in the morning, as some people come in late, you can't do it midday, as people take their lunch break at different times, you can't do it late, as some people leave early. This leaves you with very limited range of hours, when everybody is supposed to be in the office.

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The answer to that is to schedule meetings at least a day in advance. If executives or upper-level management need to have a short-notice meeting, do it at lunch time and provide lunch. –  Toby Jun 30 '11 at 12:39
    
@Toby: you're assuming that given day of heads-up people should change their daily routine just to attend the meeting. –  vartec Jun 30 '11 at 13:07
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The real answer is to have core hours (ie 10 to 3) then you can schedule those big and small meetings during those times. –  Dunk Jun 30 '11 at 13:41
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I would do back-flips around my daily routine if I could normally wake up after I'm rested and come to work showered, shaved, and fed. But I don't have kids. –  Philip Jun 30 '11 at 13:55
    
@Dunk: Core hours are awesome, and they work. You can 1-up core hours easily by just having voice conferencing equipment in the meeting room. ;) –  Steve Evers Jun 30 '11 at 21:22

In the last two companies I've worked for, I had no limitations about the time I start or finish my work. The only rules was:

  • 8 hours a day minimum.
  • I have to go to all the meetings, they will tell me the time the day before.
  • I have to coordinate my hours with your co-workers. They must know when I will be available.

These rules are the same in my current job. I know I'm very lucky.

Of course, my company knows that I'm not going to lie about my hours, because I put my fingerprint in a machine when I arrive and when I leave the office... and there is a camera looking to me all the day. That is the prize.

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There's a camera looking at you all day and you still think you're lucky? I'm quite sure that would be illegal where I come from... –  nikie Jun 30 '11 at 10:05
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Well... I'm lucky in the perspective that I've no limitations about how I organize my hours. Of course I'm not happy with the camera (It's supossed to be a security camera, so it's legal here, but It's looking to the developers room anyway). In fact, in the perspective of a Spanish developer: If currently I've a job and I earn a worthy salary, I can say I'm very lucky (yeah... so sad). –  Jonathan Jun 30 '11 at 11:25

It's normal, but it shouldn't be. I am a major advocate of the fact that we as developers should not be treated the same way as other office staff, because the nature of our work is vastly different and is not quantifiable by being at your desk for 8 hours. In fact from my experience, being forced to be at your desk 8 hours a day fosters the desire to pretend to be working instead of actually working, because most developers are only actually programming for about half that time, with the other time spent thinking/researching problems - this is often viewed as unproductive by others ("If you aren't typing, you aren't working") so we have to creatively work around it to still appear as though we're working even if we are reading documentation or playing with a sandbox for something new.

What if other people complain?

This is a management issue, and one that is their problem. A good company won't have these types of issues because they allow flex time, but the proper answer is something along the lines of "Developers have flexible hours due to the nature of their work."

What about meetings?

If you're always having surprise meetings, there's a bigger issue than your hours. Meetings should be scheduled in advance to you know that on Friday you need to come in earlier for this meeting (and leave earlier to compensate).

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Would upvote but for "only productive for about half that time with the rest spent on thought/research." I don't consider thought/research to be unproductive, particularly if it is directly related to your business programming needs. –  Michael K Jun 30 '11 at 13:50
    
Agree but most places I've been at seem to think if you aren't typing you aren't working, so it's not the fact that we are unproductive, it's that others think we are unproductive if we're thinking/researching. –  Wayne M Jun 30 '11 at 13:55
    
Agreed. Your edit makes the answer much better. –  Michael K Jun 30 '11 at 14:02
    
I don't think advocating for us to be treated BETTER than other office staff is a good way to approach this at all. Reasonable management should be applied to everyone. –  Morgan Herlocker Jun 30 '11 at 14:53
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I would point out that repeated last-minute scheduling meetings is a big sign of poor planning, and disrespect for the attendees. We have flex hours where I work, with core hours of 10-3 if you're going to be in the office (cause you can work from home if you want). All of the issues that people are bringing up just don't happen when you have a culture of results and respect. –  Steve Evers Jun 30 '11 at 21:18

Every company I have ever worked for has core hours. Some are more liberal, some are more strict, but the intent is that employees are more productive if they can consult their coworkers about problems.

If one developer likes to be in at 5:30am and out at 2pm, and another is in from 10:30 to 7:30 and takes an hour lunch, then there isn't much time to schedule a meeting or work on tough problems together.

The alternative is to have all employees available by phone for questions. Would you rather show up during core hours or have people call you at 7am when they are stuck?

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This is why when you have flex hours you only require that people are in the office between X and Y so you can schedule meetings and things; other than that let them work hours that fit their schedule. This is IMO what separates a good company from a bad one; a good one puts the employee first, a bad one puts the company first. In your example if the core hours were between say 10-3, then the guy who likes to come in early can still come in early and the guy who comes in late can still come in later, as long as they're around during that timeframe. –  Wayne M Jun 30 '11 at 15:25

It probably is indicative of the demographic here, but no-one has mentioned children. Won't someone think of the children? If you've got kids, they need to be at school at 9:00 and picked up at 3:30.

My previous job was a strictly 9-5 place because the IT section was only a small part of the business, thus got the same rules as the kitchen staff, cleaners and admin people. I explained to my boss that I had to do school drop-offs and could not be in until later (9:30~9:45). My wife, who also works full-time, would start at 7:00AM so she could do pickups.

But that was not the question: Often companies may have a stated 9-5 policy but I've never come across a place where it is rigidly enforced. Usually, as long as you are there in core hours (10-4) then it is not a problem. The bigger the company or the less IT focused the company, the more likely to have such a policy.

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Part of the consideration is the area where you work. For instance, in the Washington DC metro area, it's considered 'normal' for people to come in to work between 6:30am and 10:30am. When they do that, they usually stay for 8 hours and then leave (so people who come in at 6:30am would leave at 2:30pm). This works because otherwise people would constantly be late trying to get to work at 8:00 or 8:30am.

On the whole, it's foolish to ask developers to keep to an 8-4 schedule. That's like asking motivation to keep to an 8-4 schedule. It doesn't happen.

I'm happy that where I work (The Motley Fool) allows me to come and go as I please. Most people get into the office around 9:00-9:30am, but we're allowed to come in whatever time we'd like, so long as we get our work done. They also have no vacation policy (a la Netflix), so that if I need a day off (for whatever reason) I just need to let my scrum team know I'll be out and have someone to cover any of my responsibilities.

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Well, I'm in the Bay Area in California. –  q303 Jun 30 '11 at 23:24
    
That "no vacation policy" sounds interesting but I don't see how that could work in the long term. I can see it working for a small close-knit startup company but once the company grows there will always be people that abuse the system. Also, on the flip side, I guess you'll have those people that don't take enough vacation. I'm sure the system can be manipulated quite easily. Just assign the time consuming work to others and the quick tasks to you and take a lot of vacation but show how productive you are by completing all these tasks that management doesn't know are easy tasks. –  Dunk Jul 5 '11 at 17:51
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@Dunk I'll have to write about the policy; as you are making comments that I've had many friends make -- but in practice it works great. It all boils down to being choosy about who you hire. –  George Stocker Jul 5 '11 at 19:20
    
@George : Does anybody keep track of time off (including the employee)? The description I read regarding netflix implies nobody is keeping track. –  Dunk Jul 6 '11 at 18:04
    
@Dunk No one keeps track in any place official. I could see how many days I've taken off by looking at the shared OOO (out of office) calendar; and in my head I have an instant tally (because I'm still used to having to worry about some things), but there's no automated system to track such things. –  George Stocker Aug 31 '11 at 2:42

There are two types of programming jobs:

1) You're an asset - they understand the value and importance of their in-house technology.

2) You're a liability - they'd rather not have you around, you're some weirdo taking up money and space, and doing things that really aren't necessary.

How to quickly tell the difference:

Type 1: They are concerned mostly about what you accomplish - goal oriented.

Type 2: They are concerned mostly about how you fit in and follow the rules - process oriented.

You are probably in a Type 2 job - find a Type 1 job if you can.

Having said that, discipline and restrictions will make you more of a pro - a pro delivers, regardless.

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