Hi, all. I have a question from the perspective of an employee dealing with a demanding boss. I have worked with a small company (6 people) for 10 years, I am most senior apart from my boss (owner). We have always had a great relationship both in business and on a personal level. She has always been demanding, with very high expectations, but has been available to coach my growth in meeting her demands. It has been tough for me at times to grow at the level requested and lately I'm having that same challenge x 10. I am being directed (not requested, and without anything more than 1-minute coaching) to create and grow in ways that are new to me. I am all for growth and development and I want to deliver for the company, however I feel I'm being asked to do more work than is possible for one person to accomplish. Besides the normal full-time+ workload I deal with already I'm being pushed hard to do more, more, more.

My question - how can I resolve my desire to deliver with my belief that delivering would require more than I can give? Also, how can I discuss this in an open way with my boss so she doesn't hear "I can't" or "I won't?"

Any and all advice welcome - thank you!

mattpalmer's picture

Try to work out what you truly believe you can and cannot do with the time available to you, based on your understanding of the job and its priorities.  Then, if you feel uncomfortable with what you're going to be dropping on the floor (assuming you're an individual contributor, and don't have anyone to assign/delegate work to), then go to your boss, not with a sense of "aaah I can't do these things!" but rather, "Here's how I see the prioritisation of the work you've given me.  Firstly, have I got the ordering correct, and secondly can you give me any tips on doing *this* work more efficiently to allow me so I have time to do more of the other work?"

It would probably help you a little to listen to the MT cast entitled "The Juggling Koan"; there's also another one whose name I forget now on a similar topic (it might be something like "How to deal with a greatly increased workload").

dan west's picture
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As Matt mentioned, listen to the Juggling Koan cast. It's great.

In my opinion, this is a great sign of trust from your boss. She is throwing you in the deep end with the expectation that you are up to the tasks. Embrace this. Then look at all of your tasks and figure out which you will tackle and which ones you won't. Explain to your boss that you are dropping a few items in order to take on the new ones. Again, Matt's description of the conversation is a good starting point.

Lastly, if you haven't already, get comfortable with (a) not knowing how to do everything you're being asked to do and (b) not completing everything on your plate. While it doesn't feel like it, these are good problems to have. In the case of 'a' you're learning new things and becoming more marketable. In the case of 'b' it's a great chance to hone your prioritization skills (another good lesson)!


beesknees79's picture

Thanks to you both for your great suggestions. I will definitely listen to the Juggling podcast. I had a talk with my boss and let her know which tasks I am prioritizing, and projects outside that realm may have to fall to the wayside until I have more time to address them. She was on board at the time, but since then has continued giving me more follow-up items that clearly fall outside the scope of priorities. I get very frustrated by this but I probably just need to accept it as something beyond my control and note those items for follow-up at a later date.

Dan, I'll take your advice and make every attempt to see these problems as learning opportunities. I've been struggling with the ideas that I'm not up to the task, or just not willing to take it on. It's still a struggle, but at the very least I can fall back on the thoughts that I'll be even better when I'm through.

Thank you!