What's your problem?

I can't handle the extra workload...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I'm slogging my guts out picking up work from colleagues who have been made redundant and it's getting to me. I'm working increasingly long hours and weekends and I'm a bit overwhelmed. I'm not sleeping well and my job seems to have taken over my life. I can't complain as there's another round of redundancies on the way and I don't want to jeopardise my position. What should I do?

A: It's easier to say what you mustn't do. You mustn't let this go on, suffering silently and becoming increasingly exhausted and resentful. That would help no one and could have serious consequences for you and your family.

It's clear from the redundancies that have already been made that your company is under intense financial pressure. They won't take on extra staff unless they absolutely have to. As long as they can convince themselves that they're somehow managing, they'll just keep going. It's not admirable and it's not even good business strategy - but it needs to be understood.

The first thing you must do - easy for me to say, I know - is rid yourself of the fear of redundancy. Overwork and poor sleep patterns nearly always amplify anxiety; the cycle becomes insistent.

So try to clear your mind, shrug off your mounting despair and look at the situation through the eyes of your managers. They must be acutely aware of the amount of extra work you've undertaken and the uncomplaining way you've gone about it. They must be mightily grateful for your existence - even if they've failed to say so. They must also know that if they had to replace you they'd find it impossible to find an immediate successor with anything like your experience and conscientiousness. What all this means is that they need you far too much to make you redundant. If they made you redundant, they wouldn't save money: they'd have to find more.

Armed with this thought - which is not a complacent one; just realistic - ask to see your line manager.

No threats, no self-pity, no accusations; all you need do is point out the workload you've been happy to undertake for the past year is simply not sustainable. In the interests of the company, at least as much as in your own, some changes need to be made. If challenged, make it clear that you're not threatening to resign, you're simply drawing attention to the truth: there's no more you can give and it's already having a serious effect on your health. If no relief can be found, you'll soon be forced to sign off sick - and that's the last thing you want to happen.

I'm pretty sure your hand is stronger than you think it is. You owe it to all concerned to make your company face the fact that change is now a hard necessity.

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