Black At Work: Stop Asking Me How Bad Do I Need The Hours?


Black At Work provides real world narratives of Black bodies in the work place. 
Each story shares the experiences, challenges and triumphs of our identity. 
To share your story email info@brokeblackbougie.com with 
the subject line Black At Work Submission.


Working in the not-for-profit sector is nothing short of intriguing. It’s excellent when you work in advocacy but, it requires tough skin. Back in the day, I was often told, "when you are starting in a non-for-profit don’t work for the money."


The money will come, maybe just not with an entry-level position. That’s okay if you are lucky enough to land an entry-level job with a good salary, kudos to you! However, for those who do start at the entry level, serve as interns or fellows they may be working with a limited number of hours, benefits, vacation time, etc. In these scenarios, I can almost bet someone is stretchhhhhhhhhhhing their paycheck.


So, when the office closes early for the holidays or the head boss tells folks to “close up shop” your face may scream NOOOOOOOOOOO.

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Whether your hours are cut, or the only time you may be allowed to stay in the office is when a full-time staffer is present (yes these rules exist at some establishments) your livelihood is impacted.

For the full-time employee who is eager to go home early instead of ensuring their “insert non-exempt position” can get their hours in, they may ask the cringe-worthy, but a straightforward question: Hey, how bad do you need the hours?

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I remember when this happened to me. It was the month of December, holiday season and I was trying to get my coins in order not to begin the New Year BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOKE. I was not in the holiday spirit, nor was I feeling geeked about going on vacation because I was in grind mode. If I remember correctly that December was rough because the office was consistently closing down and as a student employee I wasn’t a full-time staffer.

I also was only allowed to work a maximum number of hours each week. So let’s say if I maxed my hours working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the rest of the week I was off. Miss a day or two because the office was closed, I couldn’t go over that maximum number of hours the following week to make up time.

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On one gloomy Tuesday when it was just one full-time staffer and me in the office, I was popped the question. My co-worker was interested in leaving work early and wanted to see how bad I "needed" the hours to decide whether or not he would leave early.

I wanted to tell him:

"As bad as you need to breathe."

"It must be nice to make $140,000 a year and not be a broke grad student."

"My rent is due on Friday, I’ll have about $0.10 until then." (My sarcasm is crazy.)

"Ohhhhh, you don’t want to stay an extra hour to support the intern in the office, FINNNNNNNE."

"Black women make $0.67 on the dollar to White men, you as a White man asking me how bad do I need the hours is the perfect example of the intersectionality between race, gender, and socio-economic status. Not to mention this goes against the diversity and inclusion our not-for-profit prides itself on."


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Instead, I remained cool and said “I need them. Is there a time you’re looking to leave?”

He turns with guilt and says “Well, you know, it’s just that I’m looking to leave early….how about 4:00 pm?”

At this moment I realized it was clear my plight and needs to him didn’t matter. On that note, I was ready to go, irritated and frustrated simply because if someone were to ask him, “how bad do you need the hours?” I’m sure he wouldn’t want food taken out of his mouth.

That day I left work early with an important note to self. Questions like how bad do I need the hours, only exacerbate the challenges of Black bodies in the workplace. As collectively in the workplace we work on issues relevant to the masses, we must assess how our individual behavior in the workplace may contribute the exact disparities we are seeking to disrupt. 

Nevertheless, the moment someone asks you "how bad do you need the hours?" remind them what needing it means.

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