Help Me, Rhonda:
Three months ago, I transferred to a new division within my company. Already, I’m overloaded with requests that come screaming in at the last minute and which are due the same day or the next day. Nothing I have tried has worked (such as asking when the deadline is, etc.). Things are so busy that I have canceled my vacation twice to accommodate others. I can’t handle this volume and I need help!
Afraid for My Health
Dear Afraid for My Health:
A new job always comes with unique challenges, as you learn all the rules of the department. However, having to cancel vacations is a dangerous precedent for both you and your organization.
You need to set some limits. As you have seen already, your life can become compromised if you don’t. People can be very selfish and as much as they say, “I’m really sorry,” the company doesn’t care if you cancel your vacation. If your vacation is getting in the way of their workload, they want their work done, and aren’t as concerned about your vacation. That isn’t to say they are cruel or mean, but if you cancel, that is your choice. The bottom line: stop canceling your vacation. You need to be on your to-do list as well.
You need to have a chat with the people you support and let them know that the current workload is too much, and that you’ve been staying late and canceling your vacations. Show them you want to do a good job, and are capable of handling a lot, but currently, it is too much.
I know that you are asking questions at the time such as, “When is this due?” and “What is the deadline?” so continue to keep up those types of questions. However, it sounds to me as if it isn’t that the priorities are changing or are unclear, but that the volume of work is just too high.
Moving forward, when something new gets thrown your way, in addition to asking when it’s due, say, “If this is due tomorrow, that means that X won’t be able to get finished on time. Are you okay with that?” Let them know that you are at your capacity, and get them to decide on the priorities. That doesn’t always have to be your responsibility.
Communication is the answer to your stress. The team needs to know what you can and cannot do. So far, you are showing them that you can do it all, so naturally, they will continue to give you things to do.
Stress management, which is necessary for your health, is about control. At the moment, you have no control at work, and you need to get some. All the work will get done, just not necessarily by you. If it is by you, then some things are maybe not the priority you think they are. To the manager who keeps adding to your list, tell her that every time she does that it increases your workload and you don’t have the capacity at the moment to take more unless you can offload some tasks to someone else.
If you don’t say anything, you will end up with health issues and potentially job issues. You must let others know what you can and cannot do. They can’t read your mind.
Manage your stress, set boundaries that work for you, and communicate, communicate, communicate. And, enjoy a vacation at some point!