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How to Tell Your Manager You Are Overworked

by Bronwyn Timmons

When you're on a quest to impress your boss and gain his respect, it can be difficult to turn down extra work -- even if you're in no position to accept the additional commitment. Many people avoid speaking out when feeling overwhelmed because they are afraid it will reflect poorly on them professionally. If you're feeling overworked, it's essential you speak to your boss to ensure you don't take on more than you can handle and the entire company doesn't fall behind.

Evaluate the Situation

Before approaching your boss, evaluate your situation thoroughly to determine if the problem only pertains to you and whether or not it's temporary. Some industries experience peak times of year when business is booming, such as around the holidays or during the summer. If this is the case, the extra workload will diminish once the peak season is over and there's little your boss can do to lessen the burden now. You might not be the only person in the office who's tackling a large workload and staying late to finish projects, so before assuming you're being singled out, take a look at how much work your peers are doing. If everyone is being overworked, it might be more effective for you to approach your manager as a group with your concerns. If you know you're the only one carrying the burden of too much work -- because you willingly accepted additional projects -- arrange a private, one-on-one meeting with your manager.

Be Honest

Tell your boss how you feel and be honest about why you don't think you can realistically handle your extra workload -- while remaining professional and respectful, of course. Maybe you're dealing with family problems outside of work that are distracting you, or maybe you don't think you have the proper resources available to get the work done efficiently. Perhaps you don't feel you have the time-management skills necessary to get things done, or maybe it's as simple as the work is just too much for one person to complete. While it can be difficult to admit your own shortcomings or point out faults in your employer's business plan, it's necessary if you hope to reach a solution to the problem. Remember that your boss is human, and when you lay out your reasoning in a mature and civil manner, there's a chance he can relate to your frustrations.

Ask for Help

When you're looking at a long list of things that need to be done, it's easy to become so overwhelmed that your workload appears to be far larger than it actually is. You might be spending so much time focusing on large tasks that you're losing sight of the little things you could easily complete in a short amount of time. When you meet with your boss, bring a list of everything currently assigned to you, and ask for help prioritizing your tasks. It might be easier to get everything done when you have the list edited to reflect your work in order of importance. Alternatively, your boss might look at your list and agree that the work is too much for you to handle on your own, and you can work together to reach a solution from there.

Negotiate a Solution

Your situation moving forward won't be any different if you can't reach a solution with your boss, so be flexible and willing to negotiate during your meeting. While you can make recommendations regarding how you think your workload could be lessened, refrain from making demands. You could suggest having several of your tasks assigned to other employees, or you might recommend making a few projects a team effort that's shared between you and your peers. You could also offer to finish your current tasks, but make your boss aware that you're unable to take on a workload of that magnitude in the future.

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