For Glamour, by Suzannah Weiss.
Even the most hardworking among us get overwhelmed with work sometimes. Though asking your boss to lighten your workload may feel defiant, the truth is that they may not be keeping track of how much they’re giving you — or have a realistic idea of how long it will take. There’s a way to ask for a break without coming off as uncooperative, several experts said in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Here are some of the best tips they gave.
1. Consult a friend If you’re not sure if your boss’s expectations are unreasonable or if it’s just you, tell a friend or coworker what you’ve been working on and how much time it’s taking, and see if they agree that you’ve got too much on your plate, suggests Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-Mail in the Morning. Just writing it down might help you see that yourself. If it seems like it’s you, talk to your friends and colleagues to come up with a plan to manage your time better.
2. Seek time-management advice Before you request less work, you might want to see if there are more efficient ways to tackle your current workload, says Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done. Let your boss know how long a task can take and see if they have advice on how to save time in the process (for example, you could ask, “It is taking me about five hours a month to prepare this report for the finance department. Is this in line with what you would expect? Do you have any suggestions on how to streamline the process?”).
3. Explain what the problem is Be specific so your boss understands you’re not just trying to get more free time, says Morgenstern. For instance, you could say, “This assignment requires a lot of research, which is time-consuming” or “Now that I am managing a team, I am spending more time planning, and I have less time for day-to-day work.”
4. Propose fixes Don’t just complain — suggest strategies to cut down your workload. Teaming up with another coworker or handing a project off to someone else are two possible solutions, says Morgenstern. If you suggest the latter fix, Davey recommends offering to train the other person.
“Don’t just complain — suggest strategies to cut down your workload.”
5. As a last resort. turn to your coworkers If your boss isn’t able to cut you a break, your coworkers may be willing to help you out, says Davey. Telling them you’ve reached your limits with work can also prevent them from asking even more of you—or feeling let down if you contribute less than usual.
If you feel like a bad employee for doing this, remind yourself that what would really make you one is not completing assignments in a timely and thorough manner. “You overcommit because you are ambitious or you want to impress your boss, but then when you fail to deliver — or deliver work that is rushed or of poor quality — it sends a message that you are not reliable,” says Davey. “If you’re underwater and you can’t meet your commitments, you leave your team in the lurch.”
More from Glamour: