How to tell your boss you have too much work

by Rebecca Knight

January 16, 2017 | 9:09 am
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These days it seems like most people have too much on their plates. Everyone complains about feeling overworked. So how do you tell your boss you simply have too much to do?

No matter how busy you are, it can feel exceedingly difficult to talk to your boss about your heavy workload. One reason for this, according to Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check Email in the Morning,” is the worry that by saying something you’re going to lose your job. But suffering in silence is also dangerous for your career, says Liane Davey, author of “You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along and Get Stuff Done.” “You overcommit because you are ambitious or you want to impress your boss, but then when you fail to deliver it sends a message that you are not reliable.” So when you feel overwhelmed, you really should let your manager know.

Here are ways to make the conversation go more smoothly:

— CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK: “Don’t judge yourself so harshly,” says Morgenstern. If you’re a good performer, saying “no” from time to time increases your credibility as an employee who will speak up.

— SEEK COUNSEL AND SUPPORT: When you feel too busy, it can be helpful to get an outsider’s perspective on your workload, says Morgenstern. Ask a trusted friend or colleague “to look at the amount of work you have” and give you an honest opinion “about whether it is too much for one person.”

— PROVIDE SOLUTIONS: Morgenstern suggests beginning the conversation with your boss by “stating the organization’s shared objectives” and then stating “what’s getting in the way” of you accomplishing those goals. Be as specific as possible. Offer three ideas for addressing the issue.

— SET PRIORITIES: It’s excruciating to have your boss give you yet another assignment when you’re already stretched thin. You can respond by explaining what’s on your plate and then asking, “Which of these is most critical? And how would you prioritize the rest?”

— OFFER TO HELP: Even when you have too much to do, it’s both considerate and professionally smart to provide help where you can. You could, for instance, offer to attend brainstorming sessions, read first drafts or serve as a sounding board.

— BE HONEST: There are times in everyone’s life when tumultuous personal events take precedence over all else. If you’re experiencing one of those periods, it’s best to be upfront about it, says Morgenstern.

— KEEP YOUR COLLEAGUES CLOSE: When the boss is unwilling to make changes, Davey recommends giving your teammates “a heads-up” that you’re feeling swamped. “If your boss won’t cut you some slack, they might,” she says.

If your boss is continually insensitive to how busy you are, consider it a sign that you may need to move on to a new job, says Morgenstern. Overwork “is not sustainable” in the long run.


by Rebecca Knight

January 16, 2017 | 9:09 am
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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