What's Your Problem?

I'm fed-up of taking on a colleague's workload...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: One of my colleagues broke his wrist snowboarding six weeks ago and is yet to return to work. The rest of the team have taken on his workload and we're all getting a bit resentful of the situation. Our manager says he'll be back soon, but he says that every week. How long is too long?

A: I find it extremely difficult to work out from your question whether you're all genuinely overworked and seriously put upon - or whether you've just allowed this resentment to build up until it has become the focus of what you and your team mostly talk about all day. (It may, of course, be a bit of both.)

What you must guard against most carefully is allowing your shared sense of injustice to reach such a pitch of righteous indignation that when your hapless colleague finally returns to work, you'll take it out on him.

On the reasonable assumption that his absence from work is both legitimate and medically necessary, that would be deeply unfair. It would also be likely to do terrible damage to relationships within your team that would take months to repair.

If it's true that, for six weeks and counting, you and the rest of your team have been clearly overloaded, then the blame lies not with the unfortunate snowboarder but with your manager. You must register this fact, firmly and coolly, and discuss the possibility of retrospective overtime payments. (I hope you've all kept a record of overtime worked.)

And when the snowboarder finally returns, promise me that you'll forget your resentment and take him out for a drink that evening. (I'd quite understand, however, if you chose not to include your manager.) - 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: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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