What's your Problem?

My job is taking up too much of my time...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I work as an events organiser and although I accepted the job in the knowledge that it would eat into my own time, I'm finding the increased demands outside of office hours difficult.

Since redundancies were made last month, I've been told to cover weekend events, as well as three, or sometimes four, weekday evening events. My partner is very unhappy about this, but I don't feel secure enough in my job to complain to my manager.

A: I don't think complaining is a good idea anyway. I have a great deal of sympathy for you - and indeed for your partner - but, unfashionable though it may seem, I even have sympathy for your manager.

It's already obvious that this is going to be a year the like of which almost nobody in work today will ever have experienced. I imagine that the events business is no less vulnerable than any other business that depends essentially on discretionary corporate spending, the kind that can be trimmed back or even cut completely, with no immediate adverse impact on the bottom line. Of course, clients' long-term businesses may suffer, but in 2009 not everyone will be licensed to think long-term. Simple survival will be the primary goal.

So your manager will have been set tough targets: and the consequence of failure will be not just your job but everybody else's, including the manager's. The unspoken balance of power between staff and management is changing daily - and not in favour of staff. The insecurity you already feel is evidence enough.

So complaining seems to me pointless: not just because you might find yourself out of a job (which someone else would gladly grab) but because, in practical terms, there's very little your manager can do to help. What you should do instead, I believe, is conspire with your fellow workers to invent a very flexible and entirely voluntary job-sharing roster - and offer it to your manager for approval.

It probably won't mean that any one of you needs to attend any fewer weekend and evening events - but it should make them much less inconvenient. Special dates, anniversaries and birthdays should be granted priority, with long-distance, overnight assignments allocated according to least personal dislocation.

To succeed, of course, it all depends on a real sense of communal goodwill; but that's often one of the benign by-products of thoroughly testing times. It won't solve your problem, but it should alleviate it. And your manager ought to be deeply grateful.

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