Business Agony Aunt

Ask Ronke Lawal: Will Leaving The Office At 5pm On The Dot Affect My Career Growth?


Two businesspeople in office with notepad

A Reader Asks;

I just got my first job at a small firm. My employment letter says work starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. Since I started the job no one has told me otherwise, however co-workers make sarcastic comments when I leave at 5pm. Most of them stay in the office and pretend to be busy until the MD leaves and he doesn’t leave earlier than 7pm most days. I am an organised person and I get my work for the day done in time to be able to leave at 5pm, so that I can get home on time. Should I also be staying till late and pretend to be busy like my co-workers, do you think leaving at 5pm will affect my career growth?


Ronke Lawal Answers;

ronkeThis is one of those classic office politics situations that makes so many people despair and become resentful of their workplaces. By getting entangled in the never-ending cycle of office politics people lose sight of their true selves in the world of work.

Firstly you are completely on the right path; you accomplish your tasks in the given time and to all accounts you’re doing them well otherwise the MD would be the one making comments. Secondly, I absolutely do NOT agree with the notion of keeping busy just for the sake of being busy. Not only is it rarely productive but it’s inauthentic! Who wants to work for 11-12 hours a day? NOBODY! Especially if you’re not getting paid overtime (if you are then in certain situations by all means do so once in a while but not every day…stress & over-work kills people).

In fact Timothy Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week advocates finding ways to work smarter not longer. The only person’s comments who you should be worried about are those of the person who will be promoting you and who has a direct influence on your career growth. Leaving at 5pm will definitely not affect your career growth and please do not allow any of your colleagues to fool you into thinking as such. The issue here is about conformity not performance and I fear that if you conform it will actually be at the detriment of your performance. By all means maintain good and healthy relationships with your co-workers but do not allow them to distract you from your core goals. Be confident in your work ability and stay focused on your path as Johnnie Dent Jr. once said “When you don’t fit in, be sure to stand out.”

If the comments become too frequent to the point of office bullying please mention this to your HR manager directly so that they are aware of the situation and hopefully they can address your co-workers directly. Stay true to yourself and keep up the great work. You’re on the path to greatness please do not allow anyone to distract you from your path to success.


Company founder Ronke Lawal was born in Hackney, East London of Nigerian parentage. Having graduated with honours from Lancaster University and the University of Richmond Virginia (USA) with a degree in International Business (Economics), she started her own business in 2004. In 2011 Ronke Lawal was honoured to receive a Precious Award for Inspirational Leadership. In January 2010, Ronke became the Chief Executive of the Islington Chamber of Commerce where she remained until the end of 2012 and became a non-executive director of The Hoxton Apprentice in 2011. She joined the board of Trustees of Voluntary Action Islington in 2012 and is currently on The Employers Panel for the National Employment Savings Trust.  She is a passionate business woman running RSL Management Services and the Simone Williams fashion label.  Apart from her active and involved business interests, her varied passions outside the business world include food, travel, music, literature and most importantly living a life she loves.





    February 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Hmmmmmmm….. Me, I’ve started staying late at work to keep up with appearances. Although it wasn’t said directly, I believe it affects my last appraisal.



    February 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I agree with the writer. This is why I left my left for my new workplace. I’m a mother and need to finish my tasks and have time left for my kids.



    February 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    As much as it I’d lke to say its alright to up and go at exactly 5pm daily I cannot and I will not. It importanat to manage your time well during the day and leave early as often as you can but you need to be prepared to stay long hours if you role or job demands it. It is also extremely important to study the culture of your work place and decide what works for you, for instance if you resume and you find you have a boss who just likes people to deliver on their tasks and he/she does not care what you get up to after 5pm, then its okay to just do your job and leave but if you work for a boss who likes to see folks faffing around pretending to be busy till late at night then…………….. hang in there till you find something else.
    As a parting shot though… you need to make sacrifices if you intend to build a career, a lot of women do not rise because they appear to be unable to balance home and work without letting either suffer.



    February 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you all for your comments! I hope the person in question has resolved the issue!



    February 19, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Yes! Finally something about Leadership Training.

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