I started a new job six months ago and was given a clear job description of what my role as company project manager would involve. However, a key member of the senior team recently resigned and it will take a few months to replace her. As a result I am now working extra hours, with no extra pay, to fill in the gaps and the increased workload is making me very stressed. How can I manage my new work agenda more effectively? AG, Dubai
I really am pleased to see your words “how can I manage my new work agenda more effectively?” This indicates to me an acceptance that our world is rarely ideal, perfect or on target as we planned, and that this is a temporary situation that just has to be managed. Your words also indicate that you wish to be part of a solution, at least for the time being. Should it take more than a few months to replace this person or you see no efforts to do so, then perhaps a different strategy or approach may be relevant; but for now congratulations for being a team player.
Let’s work with the two issues you mentioned:
• Extra hours
Handling the extra hours is definitely something you need to manage, and if you don’t they will manage you; in fact they are probably already taking control of you in the form of the stress you mentioned. As one person is now doing the job of two, the following are recommended:
• Identify the duties you are doing in addition to your current role
• Identify connections, overlaps or dependencies of these duties to those of your own job description
• Search for synergies and possible efficiencies that could reduce the workload
• Draw parameters that will help you decide when “enough is enough”.
I used to challenge a workaholic colleague to go to the worst-case scenario when she couldn’t leave duties for the next day. Our conversation would go something like: “What’s the worst thing that can happen if this is not completed today? Will the world still be turning? Yes. So if we are still living and breathing and the world has not stopped turning, then what degree of importance should we be giving this duty?”
Regarding the stress, everyone has the same amount of time, so it’s not the amount of time that we have but rather what we do with the time we have that stretches us beyond our human capability. The following may help bring you back to working within your realistic capability:
• Prioritise the must do, should do, could do, nice to do duties — perhaps you can ask your manager to assist you here. During that conversation make one long combined list of duties and that way the priorities bring your work and the new duties together.
• Look for efficiencies from the managerial level above you to ensure your extra workload is not double but maybe one-and-a-half times the amount.
• Focus on stress-busters at regular and consistent intervals. It’s very important to show your body and spirit that you are not going to let them down or ignore them. Let your body release any built-up emotion and when doing this it will find the means to protect you when you are being stretched. Isn’t our body an amazing machine?
AG, long hours and stress are like a poison. Give them an environment in which to prosper and they will become an addiction. Well done on keeping the clock ticking, knowing that this situation will be short-lived.
Whatever goes into your body must come out. Release stress from long hours frequently and fully.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Workplace Doctor’s advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague