Q; I'm a first-time manager who is struggling with the amount of work I've taken on. I was promoted to manager at the beginning of last year, during which time there have been three rounds of cuts. Each time, I've been proactive in accepting new responsibilities because I thought it would be good experience and would hold me in good stead for a promotion. But the deluge hasn't stopped and I'm feeling overwhelmed. What should I do?
A: As a first-time manager, you've probably found it quite difficult to delegate. Until you were promoted, you were expected to do everything yourself and you did. So out of habit - and a highly developed sense of responsibility - you took on more and more work, while almost certainly doing too much of it yourself. The reason that managers are paid more than their team members is because, through skilful management, they're expected to improve their teams' productivity with absolutely no lowering of quality. And that means an extremely sensitive balancing of delegation and watchfulness. It's a skill that takes time to acquire.
There's one other change you need to make. Entirely understandably, your eagerness to respond to every new challenge has allowed your superiors to believe that your personal capacity is more or less limitless. They're not being villainous; you've made it conveniently easy for them to think this. So now, two years later, you need to begin to behave with the confidence and authority of an experienced manager. One of your key responsibilities, on behalf of your company, has to be to protect the quality of the work your team is asked to do. If they're overworked, however conscientious you all are, standards are bound to slip. By calmly but forcefully making this point to management, you're not whining and you're not admitting failure: you're doing exactly what you're paid to do.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.