Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.
Oh, my, gosh, have I been receiving telephone calls from clients all over the country who are overwhelmed by work… work… work with everything on their desk a priority as daily more is piled on. We already know according to Gallup that 4 in 10 Americans say they work more than 50 hours every week, and 2 in 10 more than 60 hours! Then, you have the proliferation of technology such as email and cell phones tying us to the office 24/7—no matter where we are—which adds to the deluge.
What are my executive clients saying? “I’m overloaded. My boss has assigned me a ton of projects, and I can't see a way to complete them all let alone do the quality job I'm capable of performing. When I ask which assignment has the highest priority the answer is: ‘All of them.’”
Well, isn’t that peachy!? “All of them?” I don’t mean to be facetious; however, I can’t help myself. If everything is a priority, then the reality is none of them are.
Never ask your boss a general question regarding your “to-do’s” rather as President of your position your obligation is to have a handle on your assignments. What order you perform projects in should be determined based on due dates and criticality for your department as well as the organization’s big picture. All of which you should thoroughly assess and then, lay out your strategy for your boss ending with: “Do you agree? If not, how would you see the projects lined up?”
That seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? It appears not.
My clients defend: “I do, but my manager pushes back with ‘Everything is crucial.’”
That’s a tough one because, in my mind, and in a company’s mind as well, a manager’s primary responsibility is to prioritize employee workloads.
Regrettably, businesses are overflowing with managers who under pressure from above are unable to discern between corporate expectations, an employee's ability to perform, and what the critical assignments are for their area.
However, that doesn’t eliminate your obligation, which is to support your boss in generating successful outcomes for your division and your company. I would suggest (spoken confidently and with sincerity) you respond: “My intention is and always has been to support you, the division’s success, and the company’s bottom-line. I’m concerned. It’s not possible to satisfactorily complete all the assignments within the timeframe given. I don’t want to drop any balls. Can we brainstorm solutions, so we all win?”
Too often, women stay silent all the while drowning. This approach harms a women’s career as companies are looking for leaders. Quietly suffering does not demonstrate leadership.
You always have to be a “Yes” for your boss, so he or she knows you're a team player while simultaneously being a resource leader. This means, after due diligence; you say “No” or reallocate resources to get the job done or reprioritize "due dates" so you’re on top of your workload—not buried beneath it.
If you think working longer hours and harder will have you tapped for promotion, you'd be wrong!
Remember, in business playing the “Good Girl” is not a winning formula!