Office coach: Department revamp sparks burnout
Q. Ever since our manager reorganized the department, my job has become impossible. In addition to retaining all my previous duties, I have been given several new time-consuming responsibilities. I used to pride myself on delivering high-quality work, but now I’m struggling just to keep up with the backlog.
Although I make an effort to appear optimistic and upbeat, inside I’m a burned-out mess. I have tried to tell my boss how stressful this position has become, but he never seems to get the message. How can I make him see the hardship this change has created?
A. When describing workload pressures, employees typically focus on personal difficulties, saying things like, “I had to work all weekend,” or, “I’m getting really burned out.” However, the sad reality is that management usually worries more about the work suffering than the people suffering. This unfortunate lack of sensitivity obviously suggests a different approach.
Instead of lamenting your own stress, try to grab your manager’s attention by highlighting the possibility of undesirable outcomes. First, prepare a detailed summary of both your old and new duties to show exactly how much your job has changed. Since your boss undoubtedly has other things on his mind, he may be less aware of this than you think.
Next, ask for a meeting to discuss priorities. Explain that your recently expanded responsibilities require you to budget time more carefully, so you would like his opinion on which tasks are most critical and which are less important. The unspoken subtext is that some things must fall at the bottom of the list.
If this conversation proves to be an eye-opener, perhaps your boss will eliminate certain duties or reassign them. But even if responsibilities remain the same, it could give you a better understanding of his expectations and he will have a greater appreciation for your workload.
Q. Six weeks ago, I joined a small business where the owner is everyone’s boss. This man is a nasty micromanager who treats his staff as something less than human. Previously, I have worked in large companies with several layers of management, so this is a completely new experience.
Recently, the owner berated me so severely that I actually went home sick. Ever since, I have felt physically ill whenever he’s around. I deeply regret taking this position, but is it too soon to leave?
A. When you’re accustomed to working in a big corporation, the transition to an extremely small business can be quite unsettling. Employees are generally at the mercy of the owner, as long as no laws are being violated. And certain employment-related statutes don’t even apply to very tiny enterprises.
Of course, many business owners are wonderful people who value their employees and treat them well. But when you’re working for an abuser, the resemblance to a dictatorship can come as a shocking surprise. If your new workplace seems to fit this description, then it’s time to cut your losses and find a less crazy place to work.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”