“You have a choice and you should not accept or risk becoming ill over a job. Making a necessary change is a strength, not a weakness”.
Career Coach Ines Kretschmer advises a reader on how to manage stress levels in a demanding new role. Is it possible to tell a new boss that your workload is too much without losing face?
I have always been ambitious and have worked hard to climb the career ladder quickly but I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew with my latest promotion. Between managing a greatly expanded team, trying to appease a boss who has set highly ambitious targets, and the fact that I am expected to be out of the office more than in with important clients, I feel like I am sinking under the weight of expectation and the sheer volume of work.
I have permanent knots in my stomach and the tension in my body from constant stress is making me nervy, nauseous and is ultimately impacting my decision making. Can you please advise how I can manage my stress levels so that it doesn’t impact my performance? I don’t want to complain to my boss about the workload as I don’t want to be perceived as weak or unfit for the role.
Thank you very much for your email. First – I strongly believe that it is ok to tell your boss that the workload is too high, especially when it has come to a situation that cannot and should not continue as it is making you ill. This is a price I don’t think we should be willing to pay.
You ask, how you should manage your stress levels, so it doesn’t impact on your performance. I would rather ask, how you can reduce the actual stress, so you can enjoy your job again and therefore perform well.
Having said that, it is no harm to look at the components a little closer first, as either you will find you can change the situation yourself or else you will find yourself better prepared for the conversation with your boss.
From your letter I see three aspects: A greatly expanded team, highly ambitious targets and the split between meeting important clients and actually being in the office to get the work done. You ask, how you should manage your stress levels, so it doesn’t impact on your performance. I would rather ask, how you can reduce the actual stress, so you can enjoy your job again and therefore perform well.
Whatever way you look at it – you cannot be in two places at the same time. Either you meet clients or you are in the office. But you do have a team, and so the ambitious targets you have are not on your shoulders alone. So let’s start by having a look at the team.
Many managers do not sufficiently delegate, for different reasons – be it, they are afraid to lose control or influence, or be it that they do not find the time to train team members to take over certain tasks. But good managers are the ones that do manage to delegate tasks. So start with looking at your team – are there any tasks you can delegate relatively easily? Are there any very time-consuming tasks, that require a bit of training, but once done would save you a lot of time not having to do them yourself?
Make it a management style to involve your team and do not think of it as a weakness.
Also, are there certain team members who would actually be more motivated if they had new additional tasks and a little more responsibility? It may sound mad given your workload to invest time in thinking this through, but you may find that taking two hours to make a plan on what tasks can be shifted quickly will save you two hours each day very soon. And these two hours can be used to train people on more challenging tasks saving you more time and so on.
This may lead not only to you having more time to meet clients and make better decisions, but also give rise to higher levels of motivation within your team. Which would be helpful to achieve those ambitious targets. Make time (again, it may sound mad now, but might help in the long run) to talk to your team. Share the targets. Ask for suggestions on how they can be achieved. Make it a management style to involve your team and do not think of it as a weakness.
There is positive stress, where we feel we are busy, needed, important and we can have an impact in our work. Positive stress is where we can actually manage and enjoy managing. But there is also negative stress, which is what you describe: where we feel there is no way that we can manage, where it is all way too much and where we are constantly frustrated and feel we are not good enough to do what is asked of us.
You have a choice and you should not accept or risk becoming ill over a job. Making a necessary change is a strength, not a weakness.
If you feel you have exhausted all options that I have touched on above (you have tried to delegate, you have looked at your time management, you have categorized your tasks by urgency and importance, you have involved your team…) but it is still too much – then you should discuss this with your boss. You will not have anything to be afraid off, because you have looked at all angles.
Be open to his suggestions, or be open to change roles or company.
As you have said in your letter, you are hardworking and ambitious but for whatever reason – perhaps this role is not for you. If the targets are unrealistic then even more so. You have a choice and you should not accept or risk becoming ill over a job. Making a necessary change is a strength, not a weakness.
About Ines Kretschmer:
Ines Kretschmer is a Personal, Leadership and Executive Coach, based in Dublin.
Tel: 087 4149489
Do you have a career dilemma you would like answered? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ask our experts to help.