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I see quite a few questions like this one:

https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/27341/how-to-deal-with-requests-to-work-off-the-clock

(Please note: I'm not appealing this particular close decision; I'm raising a more general issue and using this question as an example.)

Questions like this don't quite fit the StackExchange mold because they describe a situation but don't ask a specific question. So, the question gets put on hold for being off-topic. In the example case, @jmort253 specifically explained what was needed, which is fine.

Here's the thing, though. In my experience people in situations like this often seek help partly because they don't know how to formulate their questions. They're in a workplace situation that doesn't smell right but they don't know exactly why.

There's a specific and well-known reason for that: Workplace issues are often iceberg issues. That is, they are 90% about stuff that's below the surface. In many cases, a good path to solving the problem is to have a non-confrontational conversation. But that's hard in situations with power imbalance.

In the example case the iceberg issue is "Boss, are you asking me to work without wages?". Even deeper and more significant are the questions "Did I do a bad job on this task? Did you have an expectation that I didn't meet? Are you going to fire me? Are you angry with me? "

Now, the rest of us have iceberg issues too. The question "are you asking me to work without wages?" immediately crashes into my personal "STOP! That's immoral and illegal!" iceberg. So, I might reflexively click "close: we don't do legal issues" on the question. But it isn't a legal issue (not yet, anyhow). Advising employees (how) to ask clarifying questions is definitely on-topic.

We could have left the question open. In that case, I might have advised the questioner: Say, "boss, please tell me more about what you expect from me on projects like this one. What do I need to do differently, if anything, to meet your expectations?" That question basically means "boss, where are your icebergs, and which one am I crashing into?"

To restate my question: Should we on Workplace close questions where questioners have a workplace problem but aren't quite sure how to reason about it -- how to navigate the icebergs? If we don't close those questions how can we best help those users? Useful answers about how to navigate the icebergs will help all our visitors, so they're worth keeping.

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Should we on Workplace close questions where questioners have a workplace problem but aren't quite sure how to reason about it -- how to navigate the icebergs? If we don't close those questions how can we best help those users? Useful answers about how to navigate the icebergs will help all our visitors, so they're worth keeping.

We definitely want to put these on hold, but we want to do it delicately and with the full intention of following up and taking it off hold as soon as there's some editing activity to help reduce or eliminate the amount of speculative answers.

I typically try to step in and put them on hold as soon and early as possible, with the honest intention of reopening the post as soon as there's a little more detail in the body of the post. I try to make that clear in the comments for these users, that the hold is preventative and in their best interests too, not just in our site's best interest.

In these situations, here is how you can help:

  • Ask clarifying questions in comments. If you have questions for the asker, leave them in the comments. The #1 problem is that we don't quite understand the full scope of the situation, and by asking the right clarifying questions, we can help identify what's hiding beneath the surface and find the true problem.

  • Edit responses back into the post. If the asker responds in the comments, encourage him or her to add the response to the body of the post, or add the information on their behalf as an edit, then flag the comment as obsolete. The editing bumps the post back to the top of the active page so reopen voters see it.

  • Solicit reopen voters. If the iceberg does get uncovered via editing, jump into The Workplace Chat and see if you can find more reopen voters, or create a meta post. Edited posts also get added directly to the reopen vote queue.

  • Flag the post. If a moderator put the post on hold, and it's clear the hold is merely designed to help the asker eliminate the noise of speculative answers, you can also flag the post for moderator attention, and if it looks like the asker is playing an active role in engaging the community positively, I may likely take the post off hold right away.

This is the ultimate goal of both the "unclear" and sometimes the "too broad" close reasons, to help the asker uncover the true problem and tease out the details so we can give this person, and our readers, the best answers.

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    +1: We definitely want to put these on hold, but we want to do it delicately and with the full intention of following up and taking it off hold as soon as there's some editing activity to help reduce or eliminate the amount of speculative answers. Bingo! – Jim G. Jun 18 '14 at 8:07
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The problem here is 2 fold. A) we dont know what the OP wants to do.(work it or not) B) We have no idea what the actual employment status of the OP is (Contractor, hourly employee, salaried employee)

The assumption here is the the OP is paid an hourly wage (or bills at an hourly rate) but it could just be that the OP is salaried but reports their hours worked. There are issues with not reporting hours worked in this situation but there is no legal issue. A company can choose whether or not to charge for the hours over normal or not. There could be other issues we do not know.

  • Perhaps the OP is going to be terminated if this work is not completed by Monday morning... I would work a few hours on Saturday rather than get fired.
  • Is the OP a freelancer on a fixed price contract to be completed by Monday?
  • Is there a comp time policy in place?
  • Has the op been given some time where they missed work hours during the week but were not forced to clock out, and now the business needs them made up?
  • It could be a bluff given Monday morning to the OP to get their work done by Friday at quitting time or work off the clock on Saturday(with no intent to follow through)

Certainly there are arguments to be made for working off the clock or not for any of these situations. But those arguments belong in answers to the question. With out having the important details it is impossible to tell what the situation of the OP is. The question provides no real details to the situation just what could be a hypothetical question.

If the question gets fleshed out with more details then we can provide an answer.

The best way to help the OP is to ask the important questions in comments, though I suspect the OP is a drive by and will not likely return.

  • Depending on where the OP works and how their contract is written, they may be salaried but still get paid extra for overtime. I've been in such jobs, where the boss still wanted me to work overtime without the extra pay, promising some time off in lieu which never materialised... – Jenny D Jun 17 '14 at 9:03
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I think people who ask questions have a lot of unorganized analysis already done in their head! its because they cannot arrive to a solution themselves they reach out to forums like these. And for the very same reason the questions may sometimes sound vague. But putting them to hold or closing them does nothing to help them and puzzles them even more so.

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    It may seem a bit confusing at first, but you ever go to post on a forum and they put your post in a moderation queue before it's visible, waiting for approval? Here on Stack Exchange, we take the opposite approach. We assume askers will include enough detail to have a really solid post, and if not, then we put it back into a sort of moderation queue. Our site's goal is to become a resource of knowledge for people to find answers to their problems, so it's important that every question fit our Q&A format. Check out our tour page to take the tour and learn more. – jmort253 Jun 18 '14 at 3:00
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    For further reading, I also suggest Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. Hope this helps and thanks for participating! – jmort253 Jun 18 '14 at 3:01

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