Being a productive, hard worker doesn’t mean you need to accept an unreasonable workload. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s what to say to your manager to get their help choosing your priorities, and prevent you from burning out.
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It can be tough to know exactly what to say to your boss to get their help. Alison Green, writing at Ask a Manager, has some specific scripts you can use.
Say, “I can do A and B, but not C. Or if C is really important, I’d want to move A off my plate to make room for it. Alternately, I can act as an advisor to Jane on C, but I can’t do the work of C myself if I’m also doing A and B.”
If your manager resists making these kinds of choices and trade-offs, you need to keep pushing the issue. Say, “I hear you that we want it all to get done, but since I’m never going to be able to get to it all, I want to make strategic choices about how I should be structuring my time, and make sure that you and I are aligned on those choices.” If he still is no help (which might be the case; some people are bad at this kind of thing), then come up with your own proposal for what you intend to do and not do, and give him that.
This direct style is best if you have a good relationship with your boss, so if you don’t, try turning the statements into questions. For example, “I have A, B, and C on my plate. Which two do you think are best to prioritise?”
From there, you can talk to your manager about a reasonable deadline for each project. When someone tries to put something new on your plate while you’re still working on A and B, let them know your priority is A and B, and that you can get to their request by a specific date. If your boss gives you something new, ask them to reprioritise again, “Last week we agreed A and B are a priority. How does D (new project) compare?”
You’re the best judge of what approach will work with your boss. The goal is to get their help so you can get everything done in good order, without running yourself into the ground.
Help! My workload is too high and I’m burning out [Ask a Manager]