Q: When my previous employer went out of business, I was relieved to find a very similar position with another company. However, I no longer feel quite so lucky. Over the last six months, my duties have gradually increased to the point where I could easily work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and still not get everything done.
My boss understands the problem and has asked for permission to hire another person, but top management won’t approve his request. I’m always swamped with work, so I feel exhausted and depressed most of the time. What should I do about this?
A: Because workload issues can seem so overwhelming, they tend to make employees feel helpless and hopeless. In reality, there are only three possible solutions to these problems: increase staff, reduce responsibilities or streamline work processes. Since the first option appears to be off the table, you will need to explore the two others.
Fortunately, you don’t have to face this challenge alone, because your manager is responsible for helping you determine which tasks are more or less important. Assistance with prioritizing is actually one of the benefits of having a boss. However, you will need to invest some time in preparation for this discussion.
Start by summarizing your responsibilities and tasks, then create sensible guidelines for designating their priority level. For example, activities that directly impact customers would automatically receive a high ranking, as would any project important to upper management. Those with little impact on critical objectives would be rated lower.
When you meet with your boss, present your concerns as a problem-solving opportunity, not a complaint. Instead of griping about long hours or impossible goals, request his help in evaluating priorities, then review your rankings to see if he agrees. Once the two of you have settled on a priority list, the next step is to identify tasks which can be reduced, simplified or eliminated.
Since your manager seems sympathetic, you might also try to agree on a reasonable length for your workday. To remain sane in this pressure cooker, you will need to establish a clear boundary between your personal life and your job.
Q: A few months ago, an angry female customer made a mess of the women’s restroom on our office floor. Since then, management has kept this restroom locked, even though we have 30 women working here. Now the women have to ask for a key to use the restroom, while the men’s room remains unlocked. Would this be considered sex discrimination?
A: Given the stupidity of this policy, I find it hard to believe that anyone in upper management actually signed off on it. To restore both equality and rationality, all 30 female employees should visit the highest available executive en masse and request that the restroom be unlocked. The prospect of dealing with 30 outraged women should be frightening enough to get the attention of almost any manager.
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