So, I’ve spent several episodes talking about how to create a solid messaging framework and I shared templates on Ep 101, 102, 103 and 104.
Today, I want to share a personal story and talk about how to prioritize your workload when you and your team are overworked and understaffed.
A friend called me up several days ago. Let’s call my friend, Mary, and I haven’t heard from her for over 2 years. I was so happy to hear her voice when I picked up the call.
I said: “OMG, I am so happy that you called. How are you doing?” Before she can answer me, she started crying.
I was like did someone die or get hurt? Was she fired? What happened? At that moment, I had many questions, but I decided not to ask and let her cry.
After 3-5 minutes, she apologized that she hadn’t called for a long time… I told her I had been a bad friend and I hadn’t called either.
This is literally what she said to me: Pam, I see you creating content, speaking, taking on client projects, promoting yourself… You are doing several persons’ jobs. Are you exhausted or tired? I can barely manage my own job.”
Then, she told me that her company recently had a massive re-org, The manager she adored left the company. At the same time, she lost 2 people out of the 5-person team.
The company had a big product launch, there were many glitches prior to the launch. She was working for 70 hours a week. The workloads actually went up after the product launches to continue to build momentum. Mary just couldn’t catch up…
She finally hit a breaking point when she called me that day. She was tired, exhausted, and she wanted to quit…
First things first. I told her don’t quit her job. Her company is a great company. I also told her that a bi-weekly paycheck is nice.
Trust me, I told her that she doesn’t want to do what I do if she knows the number of hours I work. I also told her that I am also tired and exhausted ALL THE TIME!! I just happen to hide it well. She got to see me at night. I look like a panda with black circles around my eyes.
Well, it’s not about me, it’s about Mary. I told her that she needs to address her workload head-on.
How to Address Workload Issues on the Job
If you’re working through challenges at the workplace or at your job here are five strategies Pam recommends:
#1 Have a conversation with your current manager
Mary needs to explain to her manager what she has accomplished so far. She needs to let her manager know that she’s been working over 70 hours a week in the past several months to support the major product launch.
After the product launch, the hours didn’t decrease… It started to affect her productivity, creativity and work-life balance. She needs to prioritize her workloads with his approval.
Frankly, this type of conversation may or may not go well. Some managers don’t like to hear these types of issues, but you have to give it a try. It’s important to let the manager know. Having a conversation is a good starting point!
#2 Allocate budget to hire a contractor or an agency
I asked Mary if she has a marketing budget. If she does, can she farm out some of the work, not to take on herself? Sometimes, it’s easier to spend money or allocate budget to get agencies or contractors to help. The downside of that is to spend time to train them which, sometimes, may take more time. However, it’s certainly an option worth exploring.
#3 Set expectations with internal stakeholders
Talk to internal stakeholders. Mary has multiple major requests coming from internal stakeholders. I suggest that she talks to them and explains that she lost 2 people. Mary has been working for over 70 hours and it’s not sustainable. She needs to prioritize her and the team’s workloads and some stuff won’t get done or will be delayed…
#4 Change your attitude
It’s to put things in perspective. I told Mary at the end of the day, marketing is not life and death… It’s not like we are doctors. If we don’t meet the deadlines today, it’s not like someone will die. For digital, there are always some ways that you can go back to amend it, even if it’s a massive PR nightmare… Say, it’s a PR nightmare, we can still find a way to fix after the events. With life and death situations, it’s much harder to amend. I was trying to put things in perspective for Mary. Changing my attitude when I am stressed out helps me to relax.
#5 Let it out
I told Mary I was so happy that she called. I am also flattered that she called me. Talking to someone when you are super-stressed does alleviate stress. Talk it through. Talk it out. Don’t hold up.
Here is a quick follow-up to this story: Mary did talk to her manager and internal stakeholders. Her manager was understanding and allocated some budget to hire a contractor to help out the team.
Her stakeholders were annoyed and not too understanding. She had to get her manager to have a conversation with senior managers of internal stakeholders. Things are improving, but it was still stressful.
The point is that Mary is proactively managing her workloads and making adjustments on a regular basis. You go, girl!
I know how stressful it can be working in corporate America. I hope that you are making efforts to prioritize your workloads and take care of yourself.
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